This is a reaction to a post by my friend Chris Clarke, a notoriously bright and creative guy whom I admire very much. Among many other things, he writes the blog Coyote Crossing.
His original post is about depression, but it also touches on his own life accomplishments. Both subjects strike a chord in me, and I had to comment. As often happens, the things I write elsewhere I echo here, just to keep a record:
Chris: Heh. When the rest of us start climbing trees and despondently waving our feelers about, you’ll know [depression is] really a parasite and you’ve infected us.
Seriously, I recently realized I’ve occasionally measured bits of my life against a standard absorbed from a boyhood friend, the “tough guy” a bunch of us ran around with. I’ve thought, “What would Cody think of this?” Or “Boy, when I go back to visit, I want to show Cody all the cool things I’ve done.”
Nothing conscious, but there nevertheless. Dragging this out into conscious light recently, I realized I don’t really even have reason to respect the guy, either then or now. He was an ignorant thief and a thug back then who beat his horses and dogs and abused his wife, and a loudmouth who browbeat everyone around him. Contacts over the past few years show him and his wife turning into extremely goddy conservatives, who appear to believe Obama is a socialist bent on destroying America, and Bush was a saint.
One of the many things he used to say: “Uh-uh! You ain’t gettin’ me up in one of them airplanes! That’s CRAZY!!” Cody was almost 45 before he was FORCED to fly … after which he loved it. But I was flying fearlessly by the time I was 16 or so, and I loved every second of it.
Looking back on it, a lot of the motivation behind his bluster was so obviously fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of being contradicted, fear of new things, fear of being embarrassed. Much worse than him, I was afraid of just about EVERYTHING when I was a kid. Nevertheless, I hitchhiked off to California and started an entirely new life. I jumped out of planes, I ate sushi, I tried whitewater rafting, I rode bulls, I met new and scary people, I tried out new careers, new experiences, new cultures.
And there he is back there turning to God, reliving that old, old pattern, like he never had one new thought in his life.
Thinking about it just a few days ago, I thought “Why am I dragging this little chickenshit around in my head? Hell, just leaving that cramped little culture where we grew up, going out and seeing some of the world, I’m twice the man he is.”
Bye-bye, Cody. It was nice knowing you, but I’ve got stuff to do, and having you in my head is like being tied to an anvil.