A Nerd Operetta. . . sort of
I mean . . . this is so retro it might work. It’s an idea completely soaked in 1970’s TV.
A Cereal Commercial
But first a message from our novelist, Peter Arango.
Talking about Emily St. John Mandel’s apocalyptic novel Station Eleven, Peter Arango says, “…survivors believe that art, beauty, and Shakespeare are necessary to life, even in perilous circumstance, and travel through this world is one perilous circumstance after another.”
This is true for Station Eleven but it doesn’t matter to me what Arango is directly speaking to. This is true for me all the same. His words are true to what I’ve experienced about surviving in a world that has been…sometimes lacking in beauty and Shakespeare.
And, yes, it is practically a Sci-Fi convention because it is a real-life thing: This world is one perilous circumstance after another. The movies Bladerunner 2019 and Ridley Scott’s original 1982 movie, and certainly other films, take a close look at this idea.
I took a closer look, too.
Not that I’m unsure if I’m a replicant or not, but honestly it’s still been true for me―this world is one perilous circumstance after another. I may sound like I’m complaining but I’m noting and allowing. Noting my part in my circumstances, allowing myself to be open and honest about it, and receptive.
Receptive to moving forward from denial and away from resistance, from the fight to acceptance, all the way to recognition and resilience.
And Now, Back To The Show
Survival is insufficient. This notion, from Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek, is iconic. Survival is insufficient because living in a constant state where your primary, or only focus, is self preservation―it’s exhausting. Been there. The way out―the way through―took what I call my Courageous Combination. I know this is some straight up Saturday Morning Cartoon material right here but it’s about moving forward. No matter what. It’s about resilience.
To move forward, because I was literarily homeless, with resources spent, no prospects and nowhere to go, I spent 4 months in an outreach center. And I did move forward.
I did so by playing.
Having the space to think through my process and current circumstances, I played with the elements of storytelling and then connected them with the other facets of my life. My life had become that of a homeless man in a shelter.
So, having lived this life of mine all upside-down and paradoxical, I chose to play with my Courageous Combo:
- I took a hard, real look at my perilous circumstances and retold my story.
- I counterintuitively broke down labels and stereotypes of what it meant to be a homeless person for myself and my new friends who got it. They’re back on their feet, by the way. I’m proud to know them.
- I redefined vulnerability from “in need” or “at risk” to what it really is―a form of very human strength.
There were consequences: My deepest essence was no longer contained in the mechanics of experience. It was a ceasing. Since I ceased to be homed and was now homeless, let it all cease.
I was no longer Student Pete, Dad Pete, Wage Earner Pete, PlayStation Pete, Boyfriend and Lover Pete, Nobody Pete, Maladaptive Pete, or even some no-name homeless dude. Ceasing to exist as a label because I rejected those.
It was a very positive period in my life―having any form of identity evaporate. I welcomed the dissolution because what is left was understanding.
Weird as all get out. I know. I got there by playing. That’s the goofy part.
I was told to play with my thought process. To not be afraid to think differently. In fact, to challenge myself to do just that. It had an impact on my resilience.
Resilience is what I want to give.
A former co-worker often said, laughing and shaking her head, that I play too much. Without an apology. Almost never really sorry I might add. Zero apologies. Well, statistically somewhere around .0021 percent apologetic. Because yeah, that’s right, I’m a Vulcan.
These days when I hear a knock at the door, I expect to find an angry Phoenix standing there, embarrassed by me. The bird, not the X-Men. Which can annoy me.
I have started over, reinvented myself, risen from the ashes plenty. Unapologetically. Inappropriately, too. And that’s how it goes. I can’t apologize for the life giving, for the light giving. For who I was. For who I am now.
My ideas on the role of relationships, the experience of freedom, redefining success, making space for commitment, the awesomeness of love, of living broadly—they’re not the usual stuff.
After surviving my own Station Eleven, they couldn’t be.
I repeat so often that everything that has a front has a back. Well then, what stands behind survival is thriving. Or does it?
I’m saying no. After 4 months in an outreach community, I’m saying that what has survival’s back is not thriving in the sense in which you define it.
What has survival’s back is moving forward. Improvement. Especially going from homed to homeless, and leaving the city where you’ve lived for 21 years, improvement becomes relevant. To say the least. Mad old-school word, I guess, but I continue.
In June 2017, after recently becoming homed and renting a room, with a job and a bus pass, I contracted a deadly infection. It took a month to recover my health.
It took two more months and a new gig to feel like something positive was happening with my wallet. Then it was hurricane season. After Irma, there are new setbacks, new tropical storms in the Atlantic. One perilous circumstance after another. And still, I travel through this world. Eyes fixed on improvement. Committed to moving forward.
I think an awful lot about relationship. To me, a relationship is conversation as propelling action. I take William Glasser’s dictum, that all we can give another person is information, a little bit further. You know, because I’m a VuIcan.
First, this information is about our actions and about being expansive and dynamic. Let’s face it, information can be limited and static. We want what we give one another to change our future. There’s nothing we can do about a failed past but we can share a vision of a positive future. I don’t want to keep doing this if its not moving me forward. I want to find out what a new “that” could be. Let’s do that!
Since I have called relationships conversations then commitment is about exploring propelling actions: inviting others to join empowering conversations, mindful authenticity, relatedness, choosing how we impact people, moving beyond “shoulds” and judgement―essentially, serving the conversation.
It is this form of conversation that is essential to life. It builds our resilience, moves us toward thriving in new ways no matter the circumstances. We are not our circumstances after all. Once you see that in action, it’s very freeing.
We are not our circumstances
And it’s hard getting there, beyond circumstances as a human being when you’re homeless. There’s nothing easy about it. You learn just how bad failure sucks.
It’s a painful life to live, this life of a Phoenix. You already know.
But there are powerful conversations to be had when we engage with one another. It’s human conversation connecting our humanness with the humanness of others. That’s what matters. Rising out of the ashes is my artistic expression. Yeah. Again. This ludicrous, beautiful, annoying, growth conversation is my canvas.
It isn’t always pretty and that’s too bad. I’m an artist at living―my work of art is my life, as Suzuki (not Shakespeare or Roddenberry) famously said.
The insufficiency of survival has within it a kernel of what is sufficient. Yeah. I’m back to that. Because conversing—in context with relationships, how this connects with our experience of freedom, our definition of success, our space for commitment, amazing love, living broadly—these are the things.
These are the things. The moments. Our experiences coax it all out. Then realizing the coaxing is what thriving is. That’s consciousness.
This is so retro it might work: Survivors Believe.
It’s a 1970’s TV soaked idea. The one-hour program, The Survivors Believe Show.
Survivors believe in thriving, process, that we’re not our circumstances. We believe in growth, change, and development. We believe in love.
Okay. But what does it mean to not be contained within the mechanics of experience?
I have no idea. Edmund Husserl talks about this experience as the ability “to liberate oneself from the captivation in which one is held by all that one accepts as being the case.”
The mechanics of experience is about the limits of our personal nature and temperament, the order we impose on our world, how we organize our personal reality and how we allow that to pollute the moment and our present set of circumstances.
It’s an issue of mindset.
To not be contained in the mechanics of experience is to step off, in a sense, so that we may begin from where we are. Homeless? Yes. In an outreach center? Yes. That was then. So, being present in the moment, we start now, with what we have right where we are. Go! This is the moment, moving forward.
I took some steps in my Courageous Combination. And I still say I was playing.
◦ First I detoxed from self.
◦ Then I was in recovery from my life.
◦ Now I accept or reject things based on what resonates with me now.
This is how I try to work and live―in self-relationship beyond the mechanics of experience. Start here. Dwell less on the past. Fear less. Don’t stop living. Learn not to apologize for who you were, who you are, who you’re becoming.
All this is a consequence of having been homeless. And wanting to give resilience in my post apocalyptic world. Living to embrace our humanness, we are warriors and failures, survivors and thrivers, transitioning and evolving, fearful and fearing less.