April 17, 2004


I woke up in the hotel room, relaxed and grinning happy. I yawned and stretched, shuffled to the curtain and threw it open.

The day was grey. Grey sky above grey ocean. White sea foam. The waves, after a full day of rain, pounded the land, chaotic.

I thought about the waves, how I'd never really considered the physics until the day before:

"Why do the waves break on land, but not out to sea?"

"Well, uh...hm...ah. The earth slopes upward, and the tops of the waves run up and over the receeding water, and suddenly, they don't have enough to support them anymore, so they break and receed themselves..."

As I stared and thought of this, the waves became dismal allegory. My life was like those waves: my decisions, my directions, my being. I felt like I was constantly running one way, and parts of me were going the other: I was doomed to trip over myself. How can we know we're doing the right things in life? What if we're going the wrong way? What if there is no right way? How come things aren't easy?

No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.

I was suddenly so unsure of myself, the things I do. What was I doing with my life? While my friends were getting married, having kids, moving across the country, making good money, I was doing none of these things. I had no desire to get married, no drive to father a child, no wish to leave my beloved home state. And money never seemed so important to me. What shallow ground my water had run upon.

My reflections browsed my life and leisure pursuits. I love playing bass, and spend much of my time on it. But I don't practice enough to be a professional. Certainly no one would listen to me and use the phrase "accomplished bassist." "Capable" and "passable" are more apt terms. And I'm pleased for it. But I'm not building a great life out of it.

I experiment with web development, and I love that too: it's the perfect creative environment for someone with my creative strengths. The blank canvas terrifies me, to be sure...but put the tiniest flaw, a little splotch of color, an accidental mark, and I can tweak it until it's something pleasing. Web development provides me with enough structure to let me do good things. I love the challenge, and the learning. But honestly, can I really expect to turn it into a profitable business? Perhaps. But perhaps not. And that day, it seemed likely to fail.

And yet, if I shouldn't be doing these, then what? Pissing away my life on TV and games and junk food? And I realized that what was really bothering me was the sudden realization that my life wasn't going to amount to anything. I'd always assumed it would. People always told me if you were smart, you'd do great things: invent something, write a book, help the needy. And I'd always tried to reflect on that hope when I was depressed. Somehow, no matter how bad life was, I maintained this expectation of grandeur. Sure, I'm smart! Great things are headed my way! And now that expectation was seeming like a delusion, and with the realization, I was stripped even of the comfort of delusion. My intelligence was a mirage: the "book smarts" of the American Educational System. Sit in this desk. Read this text. Explain. Take a test. Repeat. It was like waking up from a nice dream.

I'd hit the shore, turned, and run the other way, tripping over myself. I landed face-up on the cold, wet sand, and felt a tugging at my feet. I was dragged out to sea, back under the water. It covered up my face, and weighed heavy on me...the weight of a long, mediocre life looming ahead.

I was stunned, numbed. Paranoia gripped me. And the negative emotion became like the sea: ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, but always present, unignorable. I moved through the day like an automaton, thinking of nothing but my impending lame, meaningless existence. Not to be enjoyed by myself or others, to leave no lasting mark after it was gone.

Then I thought, "Wait: who am I to think I deserved a grand life in the first place? What makes me so fucking special?" Ah, the grand existentialist question. Somehow, it just made me feel worse, so I left it unanswered.

Eventually my mood softened. I smiled, made conversation with those around me, took interest in food and travel. But the knowledge remained, like a stain on the wall covered with a painting: no one may see it, but you know it's there. It's there. It's there. It's there.

Posted by Chris at April 17, 2004 05:42 PM | TrackBack

Too tired to write in death so I cut an pasted these two things from Illuminati and Skull & Bones that I read about a while ago...

He is asked 'whether that is the skeleton of
a king, nobleman or a beggar.' As he cannot decide, the president
of the meeting says to him, 'The character of being a man is the
only one that is importance'".
The slogan appears above
a painting of skulls surrounded by Masonic symbols, a picture said
to be "a gift of the German chapter." "Wer war der Thor, wer Weiser,
Bettler oder Kaiser? Ob Arm, ob Reich, im Tode gleich," the slogan
reads, or, "Who was the fool, who the wise man, beggar or king?
Whether poor or rich, all's the same in death."

anyhow- you're richer for taking the time....

Posted by: Dana at April 17, 2004 08:56 PM

Before I go farther: This was a very well written post. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with me.

Chris, you are one of the most talented, intelligent, cool people I know. If I were pressed to find a flaw or fault in you, it would be that you are too modest -- you sell yourself short, by so much.

I WOULD call you an "accomplished bassist". Just because you're not Victor Wooten doesn't mean that you're not still a damn fine musician, whom I'm ALWAYS impressed and appreciative listening to. I may not have as broad a musical range to test my palatte against as you do, but I'm also still no slouch, so please don't bother pointing out X Y or Z players whom you consider leagues above you. ;)

Contentment is the enemy of progress. And of happiness. Sometimes, in order to get the truly great things out of life, you have to be willing to risk what is simply "good enough". If at any point you decided that you wanted to try and pursue something you love, to try and get out of that "meaningless life" routine, I think it's safe to say that all of us would support you in any way we can.

Be well, talk to you soon.

Posted by: Nabil at April 17, 2004 11:41 PM

Thanks guys :)

I'm glad you thought it was well written. That was more my goal than a sort of "please praise me" or a cry for help. The emotion was mostly gone by the time I wrote it (though the fear of the mediocre never really leaves me). I wanted to capture that moment, even though it was days later. I wanted to express how the hopelessness washed over me, and how incontrovertible the depression was. More a writing challenge than a "yeargh, I'm losing it!"

That said, I much appreciate the positive thoughts. My hope is that I'll be able to look back on this the next time such an emotion overcomes me. And I'm pleased that I managed to make something creative and helpful from it...it used to be that I just wallowed in it and allowed life to suck. This is better :)

Thanks again, guys.

PS: I'll spare you the list of bassists, but I did recently come to the realization that--with VERY few exceptions--I only like music with really great basswork :) Like Dave Schools or John Entwhistle or Mike Gordon or Tony Levin or Jaco Pastorius or... :P

Posted by: Chris at April 18, 2004 09:27 AM

...Michael Anthony?

Posted by: Dana at April 18, 2004 10:15 AM

Hate being slow to get to the posts. My lines have been said, and I find myself lacking for the words to express the ones unsaid.

I'm glad this wasn't a slump, but mearly a moment. Had many of them. Just remember if/when you need it, even if you don't want to talk, but want a distraction, give a call, and come out to play. Hanover is nice this time of year, and your regular company is sorely missed.

Also, I must second Nabil on the bassist part. Having skipped watching you grow over most of the past year, I was blown away that first time I came down to Tony's recently. All of you had improved so much and worked so well together. You have the touch, and if you want to make use of it, I really hope you do.


Posted by: ehunt at April 19, 2004 08:39 AM

Great post. Makes me hungry to write again instead of journal. Something I haven't really done in a while.

Martin Seligman PhD (think learned helplessness) says that to strive for something greater is to be ultimately unhappy. Not so sure I agree with him. But there is an interesting point. For me it just came down to the simple question, "what do I want to do?" and then I went and did it. Sounds like you're kind of doing the same thing. And you use beautiful imagery to boot. :) What is life if nothing more than a bunch of mediocre people holding up the exceptional to damn them as not to feel so bad about being mediocre. Perhaps you're one of the damned ;).

As for your bass playing you've always been among my favorites to play with. Technique is learned, you've got that certain "I don't know what" personality which ultimately makes you listenable and I think potentially great. The thing that I've always appreciated about playing with you Chris is that you make me want to play more. You don't intimidate or belittle me, you inspire me. What could be greater in a musician!?

Take it easy bro.

Posted by: Tim at April 19, 2004 11:07 AM

ok I just saw the Michael Anthony post... lol right on! Now there is some ASTRONOMICAL bass playing! *grin*

Posted by: Tim at April 19, 2004 11:08 AM


Posted by: Dana at April 19, 2004 01:03 PM

Tim: Happy to jam whenever :) Looking forward to the next time.

Eli: Thanks for the compliments :)

Dana: I'm pleased to admit that I had to look up "Michael Anthony" to see who it was...Good one :P

Posted by: Chris at April 19, 2004 03:47 PM

it's 5150 time baby! :p

Posted by: Tim at April 19, 2004 04:11 PM

CHRIS: "A man's character is his Fate." --Herodotus

Posted by: Ann at April 20, 2004 09:35 AM

ahhh- I was perusing my vast collection of records (at least half of which I've yet to hear) and found a new bass Idol for you- his name is Mark Evans and appears on the AC/DC album entitled High Voltage. There are many a Michael Anthony style bass lines- but within songs so simple that it was almost a waste to give each one a different name.

Posted by: Dana at April 25, 2004 10:50 AM

Just out of curiosity do you like Alien Ant Farm? I've found them to be an aquired taste and now it's like heroin. Every once in a while I just need to get a fix.

Posted by: Tim at April 26, 2004 09:13 AM

The only Alien Ant Farm I've ever heard was the Michael Jackson re-make, which I liked a lot...but not quite enough to investigate further. As you may have gathered, it's somewhat outside my general musical taste. But I'll take your comment as a recommendation, and at least try to listen to some more of it...I imagine someone I know has a cd.

I was in Music Matters the other day, because one of the employees was leaving and yelled over his shoulder, to the remaining one, "don't listen to too much moe. while I'm gone!" And I was all excited, because so few people have heard of moe., but of course, the guy who was leaving LIKED moe., and the guy who stayed didn't. So I'm standing at the counter with this flabbergasted expression, and I say "you CAN'T have too much moe.!" And he comes back with "as long as you're talking Three Stooges, I'm with you." Then he put on a punk CD, because he knew I'd hate it. And not a common punk cd, something really eclectic and weird. I'm not sure why I bring this up...I guess it's been on my mind. I feel like going back with a few moe. cds and trying to enlighten the poor bastard, but it's probably a lost cause.

Posted by: Chris at April 26, 2004 09:23 AM

lotsa luck with the enlightenment...usually when I go into that store (they do often have a decent selection of unusual things that I like and for relatively cheap) they've usually got some god awful screeching old guy hippie music on like Dylan or Zevon. Makes me puke. ..and I'm an old guy.

Posted by: Dana at April 26, 2004 02:15 PM

Oh damn... not the punk! That's one of the few music forms that doesn't really give me any sort of enjoyment.

Moe rocks. I've only heard one of their albums, the one with the nail in the dude's head, but I really liked that one.

Remind me and I'll burn you a copy... or hell do you have high speed internet? I could just send the whole album to you directly via IM or something. I've got their second album as well although I feel it lacks some of the personality of the first one.

My Aol handle is guntzta (creative I know)

Also have you checked out Silverchair Diorama? It's actually really good and very dissimilar from their first two albums. It's got full jazz orchestra and a blend of heavy and show tunes kind of vibe thing. Odd but good. I've got that one too if you want it.

Posted by: Tim at April 27, 2004 03:44 PM
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