On Success

I happen to be sitting just outside of the “Twilight” movie premiere right now. This was not planned, at least on the personality level of existence. I keep hearing people screaming about Pattison and Kristen and this and that. I’ve actually never been this close to something of this magnitude of celebrity worship. It’s a first.

The first thought that hit me as I rode by on my bike was–a little surprisingly I must say–yuck.

The throngs of people waiting for a sight of these stars make me understand why political theorists develop terms like “the masses.” And it’s interesting because being the center of attention for this group of people has been seen as the pinnacle of success, at least by me.

I feel like all kinds of notions around success are kinda up in the air for me right now. I actually feel slightly confused, moreso than usual. I’m still in LA, longer than I expected, and this is not how my life is “supposed” to be going. I’m also not really street performing. I mean, in my head I am. I go out there and I show up and then I don’t do anything. I keep practicing and learning but I didn’t street perform at all last week.

I am occasionally in my weaker moments attacked by feelings of doubt and the sickly sister of success, failure.

“I am Such a Loser”

What am I doing with my life? I have nowhere to be… I have nothing to do. At least for the moment, and this feels more solid each day, I am out of “the Matrix.” I don’t foresee ever “having” to get a job or “figure out” the bills ever again. I know these are probably famous last words but bare with me. I can imagine working for money. I can even imagine paying bills on a regular basis. I just can’t imagine having anything like the level of stress around these things I once experienced. I find it almost impossible to take them seriously anymore.

Like all the old objections right…

“But what if you lose your place to live!?!?!” Well, a new one will appear.

“What if you don’t have enough money for food!??!” Someone will show up who will have more than enough food.

“But you are a mooch then!!!!” I (and you) have many things to offer the world other than money.

And it’s like… if you’re not worried about food and shelter and you ride a bicycle and take the bus like I do, what’s left to worry about?

To get to the point, dare I call myself a success, right now, as I am? What proof of success do I have?? Have I won an Oscar or a Tony? Has my video gone viral? Have I won a Nobel prize? Has some institution publicly justified my existence through grants or funding or tenure or awards?

I mean, what have I done to be worthy of calling myself a success?

Let’s Dig Deeper Into This “Doing” Thing

I had a vision on ayahuasca. I saw this society in the Amazon and they just did things, built sculptures and temples and art. For no reason. To worship life. To celebrate existence. To create beauty for its own sake. The food grew on trees. The houses were made of the trees the food had grown on. There was no money. The people were at ease. I then saw a plague spread across the planet and then here we are. Me and you, at the end of plagueville, watching it crumble.

As I keep repeating to anyone who will still listen, all around me the people I know are becoming famous. Yesterday I opened my Starbucks app and it beeped at me to download their free song of the week. And it’s my friend’s band. Gee whiz Beav… At the same time, here I am, writing this stuff, doing God knows what with my life… theoretically this performer, but one who isn’t performing… still? yet? ever?

Dare I let go of the need to do something with my life? Dare I look at my life how I would look at it if it was someone else’s life:

  • traveling when and where I want to
  • expanding fortunes
  • doing whatever feels fun
  • endlessly training and practicing and learning
  • occasionally even performing
  • helping people who need help when they need it
  • happy marriage
  • awesome friends all over the world

What I would see is someone who is by my standards successful. More than that, I would see someone who is totally rad.

And so what comes up when I run that through the old gullet… is NO! That is not success to me. I refuse. Success to me means out there performing. No ifs ands or buts.

This Disappearance of the Universe

Jenny is all into non-duality right now. She’s reading and doing “A Course in Miracles.” Everything I say to her she keeps telling me is just a reflection of something in me. There’s no universe, there’s no other people, there’s no outer conflict. There’s just you. All alone, projecting your own psyche out into the world, being shown yourself over and over.

So then, this success thing. Why do I hold myself away from success? Why is my definition of success contingent on me street performing? On being good? On being revered…

It doesn’t seem to be a working strategy. It’s not like I’ve pushed myself and called myself a failure and now I’m performing all the time. I mean, I’ve been writing this same sad story for like 4 1/2 years now. If you go back and read what I was writing in Brooklyn in 2008, I bet it’s remarkably similar. “Any day now I’ll break through and start performing.” And then my existence will be justified and then I will be successful.

Isn’t There Something Out There

I feel a sort of desperate hope that salvation will arrive. I will all of a sudden be more than what I see in front of me right now. I will be a ladies man, chatting up women everywhere I go, so very clever. I will be the center of attention in the coffeeshop, meeting people and changing their lives, leaving them charmed. I will launch into performance at a moment’s notice, wowing everyone around with me with my skill and ingenuity. And yet here I am, year after year, mostly the same guy.

Occasionally a ladies man. Occasionally the center of attention. Occasionally launching into performance. Mostly not though. Mostly hanging out at coffeeshops. Traveling. Wandering. Exploring. Practicing.

Dare I call that success? Me, right now, as I am? With no improvement. Just this guy I see looking back at me. No six-pack. Almost always a slightly imperfect outfit. Often just a bit shy and sensitive. Dare I call that success? I mean, no six-pack!?!?! I gotta have a six-pack before I can call myself successful. What kind of a loser doesn’t have a six-pack and calls himself successful. I can’t do the splits. No handstand. No cartwheel. No international dance competition championship trophy. No writeups in Time or Newsweek.

I Think I’m Starting to Get the Point of Why I’m Writing All of This and If You’re Still With Me I Think It’s Worth It

See. From a non-dualistic perspective, I just placed myself next to this Twilight premiere for a purpose. My own personal reason. I don’t want that. I have just shown myself that I don’t want what I have up until now considered success. Groupies are great until you’ve actually got them. Then it’s mostly just awkward…

So Time and Newsweek then. I mean, the reality of it. Not the clippings. But the spending time doing the interview with that reporter and all of his or her worldviews and the photo shoot with them trying to get me to wear makeup or powder with their toxic chemicals that I refuse to put on.

Jenny will say I’m getting way ahead of myself. I’m not getting way ahead of myself. This is what happens at the end of linear time. You wake up and realize that the values and concerns of society as you know it are meaningless. Ken and Barbie dolls playing dressup, trying to put on enough perfume and lights and get big enough throngs that it still seems real. All around it is falling apart. The rainforest (temporarily) coming down. Manhattan and Venice, Italy covered in water. The shores have been breached.

So How Then Do We Define Success?

So if we lose Time and Anna Wintour and Malcolm Gladwell and the various other tastemakers, what do we have left? How are we to find the way?

Well, obviously, it’s all inside. What’s the most exciting thing you can imagine doing right now? For me, it would be to step outside, setup my gear, and go perform. That’s too overwhelming. So as Abraham would say, back off. Don’t enter into that realm of overwhelm. What’s the next most exciting thing. Drink my drink, look around, sit here, watch some YouTube. Publish my article.

And that’s that line… That’s where the decision is made. Is that successful or not? I’m not doing what most excites me, so I do the thing that most excites me that isn’t overwhelming. And when I decide that that’s success, then I am a wildly successful person and I am riding the wave of joy into eternity. When I decide that that’s failure, then I’m a failure who’s kidding myself and my luck might run out at any minute.

Making a New Decision

So I’m just going to say here, right now, in public, that I am successful. My life is a success. As it is. No six-pack. No throngs. Not even doing what most excites me without being overwhelmed. I am going to say that’s good enough. I’m going to say that even if I never perform again, I’m still successful. I’m going to let go of the thing that makes me feel unsuccessful. If it never comes back, it was never mine to begin with. And if it does, then perhaps it will never leave again…

So yes. This is my declaration of my own success. Success in creating and living the life that I have always dreamed of, whether anyone else ever becomes aware that I’m doing it.

A Little Request

If you have made it this far, will you tell me what this all makes you think about your own life? How are you feeling as Rome burns and the clock ticks ever-nearer to Now? I’m interested…

Comments (2)

  1. Otis, keep on.  Reading this on the library computer. On foot from Burbank to Van Nuys. What a failure. No car, no bike, NO BUS! I feel great. Inside, after 20 years of hearing the same monologue in my head… it’s gone. Stillness at the center, and the Intelligence that runs all hs given me the Worldview where everything fits. (Deep breath) Ahhhh. Whith a still heart, I know where I’m headed, but not where it will take me. Keep on, keep on.

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