By proxy, I was recently asked a unique question.
Now realize unique isn't one of those words I toss around lightly.
Sadly, I've found that the word has become one of those insipid buzzwords that the by-gosh-we're-so-intellectual set seems to delight in tossing around as a catch all for anything they can't find a section for in an Ikea catalog.
By definition, for something to be truly unique it needs to be singular, without precedent and, as gothier-than-thou as it sounds, more or less alone in the universe.
You don't adjective unique, it just is. No "very unique", "tres unique" and for the love of all things grammatically coherent you don't get to have anything "more unique" either. Sorry folks, to land the big U you've got to be willing to go with the meaning of the word as it stands, love it or lump it in the not-unique category.
Needless to say I get the concept on a deep personal level and thus am possessed of no small inkling of respect for the ideal. I'm a unique individual with unique experiences, unique perspectives and a unique penchant for stating the blindingly obvious.
"What have you really done lately?"
As previously stated, I got this most recent load of interrogative insomnia fuel by proxy. That is to say, I got it from a dead fan of mine.
The event lacked some of the theatrics of a traditional seance. I didn't have time to rent a turban, glassy-eyed medium or arrange for any tables to dance about of their own accord.
As a last minute replacement for Edgar Cacye, I had the late night air, a pack of cigarettes and my would-be mystic on the other end of a cell phone. Considering the general opinion concerning late-night calls involving death, I think all involved were fairly pleased despite the fact that no one got to chant.
Across the ley lines of the Cingular network was a mutual friend of the questioner. They were best friends, and as serendipity would decide it, both quite enamored of my artwork. Over the years they had both become collectors of my work, and had often self-described themselves jokingly as charter members of The Morpheus Company's fan club. Ironically, for all of these facts I had never been privy to their connection to each other.
As recent events had made it far easier for her to dial the phone, she took it upon herself to call the studio for both of them. So, in no particular order of priority, she called me to share a bit of bad news, a few deeply cathartic, laughter-filled stories and the formerly posed question that has had me thinking since it came down the wire from the other side.
Before I go any further, I feel compelled clarify something to those not in the know. Our recently mortal-coil-shuffled pal had known he was going to die a little ahead of schedule for the majority of his life. It was on account of this that he developed a rather lighthearted perspective on the subject of mortality in general. It is in honor of that rarified, perhaps unique, perspective that I treat him less like he's dropped dead and more like he's simply changed ethereal zip codes.
Which is to say, lay off the hate mail and let me tell the damned story.
So there I was, sitting on my back porch with a headset crammed in one ear at "sweet heaven what am I doing awake" o'clock in the morning, talking to one member of a fan club I didn't know I had about another member who had quite suddenly, though ultimately not unexpectedly, up and joined the choir invisible. As usual, the soothing calm of knowing my world was weirder than I thought settled in to provide some small comfort.
As I mentioned, we spent the bulk of the conversation randomly bouncing from topic to topic. While I now am in memetic possession of a great number of personal details I won't be sharing, we did eventually land on the question that's had my mind twirling of late.
"What have you really done lately?"
It turns out, this was our man on the other side's favorite question to ask of the people he really cared about. Of course, you have to keep in mind that he was running on a somewhat tighter schedule than the rest of us. So, rather than wasting time inquiring about careers and favorite restaurants, he just got down to the meat of the matter and asked point blank as to how your attempts to change the world were coming along.
While megalomania is a noble pursuit, and often its own reward, I've come to the conclusion that something more metaphoric was intended by the question. When you get down to it, much of of life is frittered away on essentially useless details. Let's face facts -- work is always going to be a pain in the ass, most events are just distractions from the grind and what you had for lunch yesterday won't really amount to much more than a roast beef sandwich in the grand scheme of things.
So, what makes the cut? What things really matter? If someone who barely had time left to listen to the answer walked up to you and asked this question, would you have a damn thing worth telling them?
Like I said, I spent a few sleepless nights after the fact thinking about it.
The question of the late hour did not come down the line from one of those great mentors of my life. I didn't scale a mountain to get a dose of deep thought from some orange-swathed mystic. Bluntly it came from an ordinary schmuck who, just like me, was trying to make some sense of the world for himself.
This may be why it didn't smack of bullshit when I heard it. An everyday person said something that had an effect. The right combination of words at the right time, such that it sank in. The comment got me thinking, with a sum expense of whatever the caloric burn is to utter a sentence.
Considering the comment came via proxy, it didn't even cost that much.
That's the funny part. What you are really doing doesn't have to cost a damned thing in the end. It just has to change the world a little. Even if the world you are changing is one person. Sometimes, specifically if its one person.
So, what's on your list?
06 / 05 / 2009