“Hey there boy. Sky's the limit. Aim for the stars. You’re a blank slate. There’s infinite possibilities ahead. You can be anything you want to be. You’re not constrained by anything or anyone. You just have to put your mind to it & it will happen. I’m right there with you.” - were the exact words my father swore he said to me when I was first born & brought into this big bad world.
As the years went by, he would stick with lesser versions of this message (updated on the passage of time, the law of diminishing returns, and the inevitable narrowing of the infinite possibilities at birth to a concrete narrow outcome at the point of death; the forward march of time casting an incontrovertible, irreversible shadow over the upcoming trajectory), but the crux of the message still remained:
that I am free to mold myself free of the socio-economic-political pressures plaguing the world, that I am truly free to be a 100% authentic version of myself, free from any influence from peer-pressure or wider society. As if the larger mosaic tapestry of society wasn’t part of their journey of success; as if they could achieve everything they did in complete thermodynamic isolation, with zero ripple-effects, zero external inputs, in a closed isolated system, with no entropy. As if no other factors were involved: human or otherwise.
I ended up being a “custodian” (a more “respectable” title for a “Janitor”). The only thing prestigious about my job is where I worked: at the “Eisenhower Executive Office Building”. That was the saving grace: the prestige associated with where I worked. The Janitorial Redemption - makes it almost seem like I have the gravitas of Andy Dufrense escaping from Shawshank. And through that iconic fist-bump, in that moment, President O’hare was my Red.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked the job (note the word “liked”; “love” is too strong a word here). But I wish I was elsewhere (like I guess everyone else wishes): at some place I truly belonged: where I would have a perfect blend of self-actualization, feeling like I belonged & participated in something larger than myself - put simply: a sense of symphonic harmony with the Universe.
I have an interesting take on the Maslow’s Hierarchy as adapted to making a living:
- A sub-par mediocre job at a dream/prestigious organization.
- A fantastic job at a sub-par mediocre organization.
- Your dream job at a dream/prestigious organization,
The lucky folks who got (3) are the ones who achieved that all-elusive “Ikigai”. They're the 1%: the folks who have earned the worst of Bernie Sanders’ ire.
Guess which one I was in: yep, you’re right. I made it to (1).
What greater pathological lie exists than: for a supportive well-meaning parent to assert that you’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted in Life (and then some). That you’ll achieve a “self-actualization” in one lifetime. That you are not bound by anything or anyone. That you have the free-will to make whatever you want out of your Life. That you can “will to power” (borrowing some “Nietzsche”), anything & everything you ever wanted to be. That you’re infinite.
That you’re the center of the universe (certainly during childhood; what they don’t say is that as your grow-up, orbital decay inevitably happens, and you’re soon cast-out into the outer orbits of the solar-system, as another “cog in the wheel” or as “another brick in the wall” in Pink Floyd’s musical terminology). That you’re “one with the universe” - an undeniable fact (in the words of the Late Great “David Foster Wallace”): that’s not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars — compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it … And I saw it (or at least tried to see it): in the positive, despite my largely downward trajectory.
Lawrence here. Not quite as legendary Lawrence of Arabia. But still consequential enough to register myself in recent/internet history, if only as a byline for someone else’s biography.
~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~
I was born out-of-wedlock. To a largely absent father (some would argue: a negligent father.
But I had an incredibly compassionate mother. An amazing woman who raised me with love.
“Hey there boy. Sky's the limit. Aim for the stars. You’re a blank slate. There’s infinite possibilities ahead. You can be anything you want to be. You’re not constrained by anything or anyone. You just have to put your mind to it & it will happen. I’m right there with you.” - were the exact words my mother swore she said to me when I was first born & brought into this big bad world.
My mother was trying to fill-in the shoes for my father as well, but it didn’t show.
She was a remarkable woman. As remarkable as they come on God’s green earth.
Instinctively, at some deeper level,I knew I was missing a parent. A father-figure.
But I was comforted by the loving support of this compassionate loving maternal figure.
I felt like I had the love of two people emanating from one body and soul.
What’s greater than the pathological lie that (conventional/majoritarian) society tells you:
That you need two parents to make it a wholesome upbringing.
That you need a father-figure to feel “complete”.
That without a “father-figure”, your Life is bound to go astray.
That you need to have a certain “skin-color” to “make it” in this big bad world.
That if you have a “threatening foreign name”, you cannot possibly:
win over the trust of people in their millions.
That you need to look a certain way, be named a certain way:
in order to get to positions of power & influence
Nothing could be further from the truth. I not only survived. But I thrived. I went on to achieve big things in Life. Things which only 43 people (in all of history) before me had ever experienced.
Of course, there’s a famous quote from Presidential Debate “Fight Club”, that:
“On a long enough timeline, the historical significance rate for everyone drops to zero.”
While this is quite true, I didn’t let that discourage me. I refused to allow “existential nihilism” to drain me of my drive to Live, to thrive, to fight, to matter, to belong & to endure.
I considered Life as a “Buddhist Mandala” - to be lived with a sense of visceral passion & intricate painstaking efforts, conjuring up the most elaborate plans that man can dream of, while still maintaining an insouciant distant dispassionate objectivity at the impermanence of it all.
I rose to a position which many dreamed of, but very few ever ascended to.
A very prestigious position: One for the history books.
I’m President O’Hare & I approve this message.
~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~
Somewhere above the clouds, in the “Kingdom of Heaven”, God addresses the “sentient products” at the end of his long manufacturing assembly:
“Hey there boy. Sky's the limit. Aim for the stars. You’re a blank slate. There’s infinite possibilities ahead. You can be anything you want to be. You’re not constrained by anything or anyone. You just have to put your mind to it & it will happen. I’m right there with you.” - were the exact words God said to pretty much everyone who was ever born & brought into this big bad world.
It’s like a pre-recorded message from the big guy above.
Every time this address plays, it turns out God is having an internal monologue:
What’s greater than the pathological lie that you at once possess the free-will to make whatever you want out of your Life, as well as the free-will to shirk-off responsibility from Life’s wanton arbitrariness (most of which is out of your control)? In this sense, I must admit I’m the greatest pathological liar out there. I bring people into this imperfect, unequal, deeply flawed world, and expect them to live up to their unbridled potential. I give a thousand visions to a hundred people - about what they can be if they set their mind to it. All of it rests on a tenuous House of Cards.
Everyone is free to make of it what they will. Most strive for perfection, but fall far short & settle for survival. Some aim for the stars & almost get there, at a whispering distance of it - so near, yet so far - burnt by getting too close to the stars - in the vicinity of greatness, but just short of it. A “chosen few” end up in the “Goldilocks zone” - in the sweet-spot: the intersection of hubris, ambition, expectations, rewards - where the magic happens, where history is made, where notes are written, where names are recorded in Tableau (and now on Wikipedia).
All of it is one giant poker game. Fold if you will. Bet if you must. Take a gamble if you feel your Life depends on it (which it does; all of Life’s a gamble after all). In the end, there’s no answer.
I’m the greatest pathological liar out there (for pretty much all of Humanity): I created this byzantine maze - this Game of Life. I put people in it & I expect them to find meaning. And to find patterns (among the random tapestry of Life) where there’s none.
Someone gets Cancer. Another scales Mount Everest. Someone runs marathons at age 50, despite numerous setbacks. Yet another falls in Love. While another withdraws inwards & runs away from all the Love in the world. To be yourself is all that you can do.
I’m Keyser Soze. The greatest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world that free-will exists. And that everyone is truly, authentically free to transcend the socio-economic-political limitations placed upon them. And most importantly, to defy whatever “fate” or “destiny” has in store for them in their lives. My pathological lie is an “illusion of control” - I admit that none of it makes much sense & none of it ever will.
You’re all still forced to play this “Game of Life” one way or another.
Take solace in knowing that its creator is a Pathological Liar.
The creator at a collective metaphysical level (God) is a Pathological Liar.
The creator at the individual level (parent) is a Pathological Liar.
Remember: you at once possess the free-will to make whatever you want out of Life, as well as the free-will to shirk-off responsibility from Life’s wanton arbitrariness (that’s out of your control). Life is Non-Linear. Don’t expect Linear outcomes. A Linear Trajectory is the greatest lie.
My plan is like parallel lines intersecting at infinity: the infinity of the Space-Time continuum, the peripheries of consciousness, the vastness of empty space (and other existential hokum): the
“grand unified theory of everything” that explains everything (in some grand abstract way) while revealing nothing of substance (in the specifics). It’s unknown & unknowable.
I’m the greatest DDoIS hacker out there: DDoIS: Distributed Denial of Imagined Service.
A universal “DDos” attack on anyone & everyone: every person (soul) alive & dead.
Where your Life is totally unexpected & different from the one you imagined.
And you have no choice but to accept it nevertheless & keep playing.
Don’t wait around for a “music-synchronized kick” to wake-up.
Accept that you don’t have much control. And have the courage to roll the dice nevertheless.
You might not like the game one bit. It might not make any sense to you whatsoever.
It might not conform to your expectations of what you imagined your Life to be.
But play it you must. Till the very end. Till your last breath. Good luck!
~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Rajiv, You crammed a lot of thinking into this short story and I really enjoyed it! You also referenced some of my favorite films and some great moments from them. This is a very thought provoking read! Thank you for sharing. -Ron
It’s an interesting take on the limitations of being human. We can do whatever we want if it’s legal, as long as we can afford it, as long as our bodies and minds and capable, as long as we were taught how, if we’re not too tired or sick. We can be heroes, just for one day.
Rajiv, I liked the humour, research and a fantastic voice you have used here. And I'm not lying. Good luck in the contest!
That's a wild stream of conciousness rant on the nature of existence. "music-synchronized kick" is actually how I get moving every morning. Congrats on making the recommended list this week under 'science fiction'.