Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Some people will tell you that they fear becoming “a statistic.” I have no fear of that. You have been quantified by somebody somewhere the second you were born, you will be quantified again when you die, no matter how you die, and in between you will–whether you realize it or not–be laid under the flaky crust of pie charts, you will be the mean or the median or the trend or the outlier. You are a statistic right now. You cannot stop it and it does you no harm. What is there to fear?
I am fine with being a statistic. My anxiety, because I will not call it a fear, is that I end up a cliché. Two seconds after my body goes cold against the pavement the gawkers gather around and sum up my life with the contents of a Magnetic Poetry package. The jury deliberates very briefly and then returns with a unanimous verdict, that I be filed under “N” for “nondescript.” The sentence handed down is incomplete. I have been convicted of my own life without the possibility of parole.
It is, I admit, an anxiety as irrational as the fear of being most cruelly statistic’d. I have no reason to believe that I will care about how I was remembered after the time comes for others to make that decision. And a cliché, after all, is subjective to those who perceive it. I am pretty sure that worrying about becoming a cliché is itself a cliché to somebody else. It is quite possibly even cliché to me, except it lacks the frequency of occurrence that most often causes somebody to refer to it as a cliché. The anxiety has happened only once but has not ever subsided. It has metamorphosed from cliché to constant.
Two statements that describe who I am right now:
- I have never been in a physical fight but I have always wished I could be.
- I have responded to the stress of personal and national economic downturns by eating too much.
Both are fact but neither are all that rational. And both statements, boiled down to their bare essences, are expressions of undeniable cliché. Chuck Palahniuk, Jim Uhls, and David Fincher spent a lot of time better explaining the first than I could, and a hundred thousand physicians and episodes of Oprah easily explain the second.
On Wednesday I began to shadow-box again, after having given up the activity for years. I pulled my black-and-white TKO’s from storage, placed them on my fists, ordered the iPod to shuffle through fifteen minutes of hard rhythms and muscular guitars and took out my aggression on the air at arm’s length. Twisting my jab, following through on the hook, attempting to distract the phantom fighter with weak lefts until ready to throw a hard right. Days later my back and biceps felt the strains of the effort, sore from anger and impotence. I used to do this same activity with a large canvas heavy bag, and instead of these pains I would instead spend the next few hours with my fingers crooked, stiff, every articulation agony.
I have never been in a physical fight and so I shadow-box in part to beat the hell out of myself; it is not a forgiving activity, even when done alone. It is punishment, of a sort, a penance exacted for the latent violence within you that leads you to place value on the ability to hurt somebody.
But I also do it in part to counter the weight gain, the indeterminate amount of poundage, indeterminate because I refuse to accurately observe the damage, that has seeped back onto my body as the weather chills and the job hunt stalls and I find myself sitting at home trying to gain control over any part of my life I can. And perhaps I’m beating myself up for that as well.
And again, yes, this is all a cliché. Writing about it is cliché. Self-analyzing in a public forum is cliché. I think I’m trying to avoid becoming a cliché by using other clichés against that outcome.
In a bout, you might often see boxers smashing their own fists into their head as the fight goes on and the contenders grow slick with sweat and their eyes swell shut. In part this is to try and rattle their senses back into place after one too many of their opponent’s punches have connected. In the other part, this is an admonishment:
Block, fool. Keep your hands up.
I’m writing this down to remind myself that the other guy is still up and throwing punches. I’m writing this down in public because I need to have other people in my corner.