I’ve always considered myself a writer, though this may not have always been true. As a boy I wrote as a lark, silly stories about Praying Mantis P.I.’s and monsters from the center of the earth, arisen to battle the forces of pollution and man. I miss this time. The words ebbed as the years went on, as I took my work more seriously, until I finally decided to make it my actual profession. In reflection I think I was more a writer when I was seven than I am now, even though now I have a card in my pocket that reads “Writer” just below my name. Creatives are showered with platitudes about the challenge of persistance and failure, without really ever talking about what that failure truly is. I always thougt that failure was out and out rejection, the world, as one, in refusal of a point of view. This was something I was prepared for, something I actually craved. In this scenario rejection would serve as a fuel, a power source for my own personal “I’ll Show them!” inferno. Never in my wildest teenage imaginings did I envison failure as something personal, something that bubbled from within. These words do not live up to my standards, my talent does not live up to my taste. Failure is a burden, a stachel of shiny trinkets whose only purpose is to reflect the visage of your own personal mediocrity. They say that one must power through this, that with time the right words will come.
I didn’t- I hid.
My generation was promised a lot of things, none of which have come to fruition. There is nothing unique in a realization that the world is far more dark and far more cold than the one you learned about in your text book. Perhaps my failing to endure is more a general weakness than a product of the times, but I like to think that we got more of the rug ripped out from under us than most and that played some role in my lack of faith in myself and talent. The fact of the matter is that failure won, dignity died, and I have spent too many days embarrassed by my wounds, slouched in a dark hole. The words haven’t stopped coming, I simply ignore them. The ones that persist I spit out in loathsome fits of drunkness onto mispelled pages of half formed ideas that only serve to validate my sense of ultimate failure.
I was called a smart kid, some even said talented, no one called me disciplined. I was a terrible student with a B average who skated by because I was clever. For so long I thought that this was the problem. If I could only get the right routine, the right blance of exercise, work and ‘ME” time that the burden would be lifted the clouds would part and the words would flow as they once did, as they did when I was a child. Now I know that I was decieved into joining a religion of my own design. There is no salvation in discipline only efficeny.
There is no shortcut around failure. There is no automatic system to alleive its pain. Failure is a beast one must travel with. It is a warriors life, to strap on the armor and trinkets every morn’ knowing that today is death’s day. Failure is death and we must face it. Somehow the fact that there will never be a cloudbreak, a glorious dawn at the top of the mountain where I will drink wine with muses and tell stories with kings, comforts me now. Failure is personal- it is mine, like a scar gained in dubious battle. Perhaps this all seems naieve to you, perhaps this something you figured out long ago. I think I did too- it is easy to forget. That is why I am writing this all down now. Call it a manifesto, call it a mantra, call it a battle cry.
There is never enough time, there is always something more to say.
The passing of a hero has various predictable effects, one is instantly reminded of their own mortality, a creeping sadness invades as we realize there will never be another song or album (or book, or painting, etc), and memories attached to said hero are dredged up from the sub conscious- the happiness contained within doubles as the final punctuation for a life of a stranger who we knew all too well. The passing of MCA conjured this potent cocktail of nostalgia within us. However in the days that have followed Adam Yauch’s death, a deeper sadness infiltrates.
The Beastie Boys were a cipher for me and many- every sample, every reference, every rhyme guided us. Paul’s Boutique is not simply a damn fine LP it was crucial in crafting a pop culture lexicon, every beat was a battle cry, go forth and love things, geek as we geek. Every Beastie album provides an experience akin to finding yourself in your older brothers room, that perennial curio cabinet of cool, as one wanders they thumb through a copy of Mutiny on the Bounty, muse over Rod Carew’s baseball card, and pocket a movie ticket with the name “Dolemite” on it. The Beastie Boys are so much more than the soundtrack to our lives, they are our older brothers. They were there when we had our first beer, they took us to strange foreign films, and introduced us to music long forgotten. The passing of MCA goes so much farther than one man, or group, or memory his influence will ricochet throughout time through anyone who loves something enough to make it their own and share it with the world.
A life in 118 pages. In Roberto Bolano’s “By Night In Chile” Father Urrutia recounts his life story with a torrent of anecdotes from atop his final mattress. Bolano shoves the reader into Urrutia’s stream of consciousness rant. The result is much like life itself, a compacted ball of terrible beauty and divine horror. The mistakes of youth ebb into the bold missteps of early adulthood to be punctuated by the solitude of age. No grand tragedy befalls Father Urrutia, no great mystery arises. “By Night” meditates on life in the Chile but the themes explored are universal. Bolano’s craftsmanship emerges in his effort to keep Urruita ordinary. Despite the interwoven landscape of Chile’s political wastelands, the comings and going of generals and marxists alike, Father Urrutia appears quite plain. It was not until the final pages of “By Night” that I knew the Father’s fate was the same as mine. Some day soon, I will live my life in the past tense. The seasons of life unfold at a brisk pace. 118 pages to be born, to live, to love, to create, and to die.
Today, Planetary Resources Inc. announced their intent to explore and eventually mine near Earth asteroids. The cumulative reaction to their plan surprised me. Sure there was indifference, we all are keenly aware to the callouses America has built up against the fantastic, but in tandem to the apathy was a chorus of cynical guffaws. Wether it was a form of knee jerk corporate backlash, left over Avatar hate for James Cameron (one of Planetary’s main backers), or perhaps it is the fact that fiction has won out over reality. To many the task of mining an asteroid, a feat never accomplished by our species, appears mundane. We demand manned missions to Mars, laser guns, and hyperdrives, we already have those things right? No? Well can you at least give us an affable talking robot? The truth is that Planetary Resources (PRI) is taking an immense economic risk, billions of dollars are on the line, and yet, it is a risk that could prove to be the most lucrative investment of all time.
PRI outlined a plan to launch several satellites designed to scout out asteroids with the most economic value. Once discovered, an entire platform of probes, launch vehicles, and mining equipment will have to be developed. Here is where the logic breaks down for those of us in the present, the logistics of scouting, wrangling, and mining asteroids so that Bruce Willis can fill his space pick up truck with platinum and schlep the whole shiny pile back to Earth does not make economic sense. The rare earth metals harbored inside near earth asteroids will never actually touch Earth. The next step in manned space exploration will require much larger vessels, ships whose bulk would be near impossible to launch from the Earth’s surface. Metals on these asteroids will form the next generation of space worthy vessels to be built in orbiting dry docks. However the metals are really just a bonus, the chocolate coating to the creme filled center of our asteroid neighbors. The real value is the water within. Water is a clever fluid, it can hydrate space farers, provide breathable oxygen, and create viable rocket fuel. The key here is that once these resources become abundant in orbit and the price tag of launching the bulk of water, fuel, and rocket fades the enterprise of space will rise. Think of NASA’s missions and PRI’s early probes as a modern day Lewis and Clark. Their exploratory efforts eventually gave way to an intercontinental railroad and finally an interstate highway system. The government and industry cleared a path to the West and we flooded the frontier. Immense difficulty awaits this endeavor, but the tasks are feasible. The risk PRI has taken is not one of scientific possibility, the risk lies with us. Will we as a species dare to use the infrastructure they aim to create? Or instead will we turn our heads away from the heavens and leave the cosmos as a deserted highway with filling stations whose flickering neon signs read PRI. I am with Planetary Resources on this one. I bet on the future, and they are betting everything they have on tomorrow. It’s a good bet though, even if they lose everything, they will have succeeded in capturing our imaginations once more, and urging us to rush to the edge of what is possible.