Monday, June 23, 2014

Smokey Mountain Redux

Yesterday I decided to go home instead of going to the Upstate museum, not attending a lecture on the war of 1812, electing not to go to the gym as well, preferring to exercise at home. I brought my bike into the living room and attached the stationary gadget so I could workout while watching a documentary on Appalachian parks. I realized I watched this show before, but I saw it with fresh eyes after spending a few days in Gatlinburg in the midst of the Smokey Mountain, riding the Smokey Mountain train in Bryson city and traveling through sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway during my vacation. I enjoyed the show despite seeing it for the second time, due to my new understanding as now infused with meaning. After dinner, I wanted to attend my online courses but feel asleep after updating my writing and reading about the scandal of 1812 (surrender of Fort Detroit) in Wikipedia, the subject of the lecture I missed, figuring that I could learn about the subject without wasting time going to the museum, discovering the ill-fated invasion of Canada that ended with the British incursion into Washington DC and the burning of the White House. I always thought the 1812 war was started by the British, but instead was in retaliation to an American attempt to wrest Canada from the British. After a short nap induced by a full dinner of chicken soup and strawberry crepe, I wasted time surfing the Internet from 11 pm to 12 midnight.

I keep piling up activities to keep me busy, as if afraid to write a novel, fearful of failure in creative projects, thereby resorting to distraction. I also have insomnia, preferring to keep the mind busy, thinking of the impeding trip but not doing anything, instead surfing the Internet, watching television or attending online courses. My father’s stroke changed my thinking, letting me see  frivolity for the first time, similar to the period after my relative’s heart attack, the realization that your time on earth is limited. But the motivation to be serious, to start meaningful work is always side tracked, the devil of procrastination striking every time; the distraction keeps piling up: to watch the new cable series, to read the latest book, to attend the latest lecture; it is the fear of being unqualified to be a writer or an entrepreneur or whoever you want to be. Perhaps it is also a fear of returning to your homeland, to dredge up family feuds and old mistakes, to clear up the mess one’s clan started, to face the difficulty of losing one’s parents and heritage. It is always easy not to go, not do anything, let things crumble and fade away; in the end one cannot fight the ravages of time, the inevitability of decline or the wasting of things. Just let it all go since the experience is painful to endure, just drink your alcohol and numb your feelings away.

I am starting to enjoy Nassim Taleb’s book ‘Anti-Fragility’; initially I was turned off by his righteousness but I started to appreciate his anger, like a philosopher raging against the state of things, the last man standing with common sense. His logic is like a jolt of electricity, his words have periods of perfect lucidity, and so one appreciates his fury, similar to the resentment one feels in his circumstances: too much work, no support from colleagues, gossip, stupid actions, consumerism, sickness, aging, lack of sleep and wasting time. One is not saved by shopping, to spend money as therapy, by distraction. It is important to do what is right, is the subject of Taleb, without compromise, to strive for anti-fragility (a new concept) instead of robustness. Sometime it seems erudition trumps everything, but it is a mistaken notion, a snobbishness that can result in delusions. During moments of confusion, envy and stress, work pressures and impending death, the strong voice is soothing, giving solace to the confused mind. Stress is self-inflicted, like shooting yourself in the foot, having too many desires resulting in foolishness. His book is like a tonic for the mind. At the end of the day, one can only rely on oneself, on one’s logic and values, to act with the feeling that it is the right thing to do.

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