Cheer. All these stories tell the story of my life. Most true stories are sad but mine isn't. Most true stories are sad because the world is so sad. The human world has always been sad. My life has not been sad; far from it. I've been an unusually cheery, optimistic guy all my life. I can thank booze for most of that, but not all of it. I was cheery and optimistic before booze and I am cheery and optimistic after. But they're three different kinds of cheer. The natural cheer of childhood, the fake cheer of booze, and now I have an ability to love the sad world the way it is. A melancholy cheer. If I don't love the sadness, I can't love the world, because the world is saturated with sadness. Pretending otherwise is just, well, sad.
Plot. The story of my life has a relatively simple plot, a story arc that all these separate stories fit under. I was born in 1951. My life was going well till it got derailed by drugs: alcohol and pot. That happened in Kenya, in the mid 1960s, when I was an adolescent. My life then took a sad detour. It went underground for more than 50 years until I stopped drinking in 2016, then got all the way clean of drugs at the end of 2019. The story of my life up to then is the story of my escape from alcohol and then addiction. For me alcohol and other drugs are incompatible with making progress. I'm different.
Comeback. The life that went underground in the mid 1960s resurfaced in 2020 just as the pandemic was beginning. What's interesting about my life is how all the tales from my underground years are about making my way back above ground, back to love, back to who I really am: my wisdom. My wisdom is love itself. These stories are about how with love's help I still made progress with love all through those underground years. Making progress with love is the only thing worth writing about. It's the only thing that gives life meaning.
Love affairs don't give my life meaning, much as I like to think that when I'm feeling sad and lonely.
Help from the pandemic. My wisdom made sure I was awake and free of drugs just in time for the pandemic. Now that I'm back in love's arms, the world is my friend. Everything about the world, including the pandemic, is helpful to me. I was forced to give up my crutches and find a new way to walk, with my wisdom's abundant help. I made a radical break from old habits and ways of being I needed to accelerate my progress with love. The pandemic gave me a double dose of aloneness: I had just broken up with my sweetheart when it hit. We'd been together almost ten years. Our love affair began to crumble, at first imperceptibly, when I quit drinking in 2016. By 2019 we were struggling. The pandemic forced me to be alone and stay alone. It took a flirtation with homelessness to boot that to living alone. I needed to discover a fundamental truth: feeling sad and lonely is an internal matter, not a situation. Plenty of people in relationships feel sad and lonely. I'm pretty much in control of my internal world, via my wisdom, thanks to a lifetime dedicated to the spiritual quest. I have persisted in meditation, at first spontaneously, all my life. Despite what seemed like little or no progress once I kiboshed spontaneous meditation, the best kind, by polluting myself with booze and pot. I developed inner resources by sheer persistence.
Pay attention. I tell stories to call attention to attention. Nothing is more important than attention. My story is a story of paying attention. I can't make progress without paying attention, without being silently present. Attention is the greatest secret, and the one I'm least capable of writing about.
Writing is my only well-developed artistic skill, and these stories are a work of art. I'm not the artist here; my wisdom is. The more I work on this the clearer it is this is not my work, it's wisdom's. Maybe it's that way for all artists; I don't know. I'd like to think it is, but I have serious doubts. Storytelling is the only art I feel privileged to write about in this regard. Over a lifetime of reading stories I read a few that seemed actively antithetical to wisdom. I don't mean nihilism. There's wisdom in that. I mean storytelling that seeks to debase human striving by denying any possible form of the spiritual quest. This is a topic that befuddles me. I don't feel I have it right yet, but I'm leaving this here as a marker. Something to come back to.