Life Is (Still) Beautiful

Life Is (Still) Beautiful

How y’all doing? Y’all good? (Obviously not, yet we’re all grading on a [hopefully flattening] curve now.) Whew. March was one helluva decade. It’s weird to have one common, global talking point, no? This virus … It’s leaving nowhere unexplored and no one untouched. It’s humanity’s current lingua franca.

Yet, within the tumult and uncertainty, it’s been marginally uplifting to see so many of us help each other and warmly welcome each other in times of such total cold, clinical darkness. We may be apart, but we are together in our isolation. I’m thankful to be here with you, all around the world, and — since you’re reading this — I’m thrilled you’ve chosen to spend some time with me.

COVID-19 is, and will continue to, devastate us all. Yet, it will also provide us all an opportunity to radiate our glow as far and as wide as we ever could, spread our wings as far as we are willing, and let the magnanimous breeze catch us and lead us to where we’ll arrive.

We are living in dark times, but they are still extraordinary times … times all us ordinary people were built for.

Those so-called extraordinary people who wrongly plunder humanity for self-interested gain do not deserve our adoration or admiration. They are no better than us at anything, except at taking what they feel they’re entitled to. We must stand against them, united.

I’ve said this before, yet it bears repeating — now, more than ever. In dark times, be a light. And if you can’t be a light, be a mirror, so that others can see themselves shine. It’s a common refrain in my work and life. Our light is all we have. Our light is what keeps us all shining, and when you shine your light in the darkness, you will find your people. Even better, they tend to find you.

It’s also been said by others ad infinitum, yet we are, quite obviously, all in this together. So, let’s stand resolute in our values. Let’s stay curious. Let’s stay compassionate. Our lives are all we have, and we must all soldier on. Not as fighters, but as warriors. We don’t fight each other; we fight for each other. If we can do that, the darkness shall never win.

As for me (not that you asked), I find myself during this grand pause retreating back into things that make me comfortable. I’m making music again. I suddenly have an urge to skateboard. I’ve been cooking, a lot, most of it foods I enjoyed as a kid — soups, pizzas, pastas.

I’m listening to a lot of Pink Floyd, Springsteen and New Orleans Brass — stuff I listened to when I was younger. I do more math (for fun!), I write more, and I find myself being brashly confident with people in a way I’ve never been. I am more curious. I find myself talking to whole new groups of friends. It’s been fun to just sorta be a kid again.

This is, of course, good (and indicative of a disgusting volume of privilege)— minus the metric hellaton of wine I’ve been drinking, but I feel like a couple weeks of that is an acceptable trauma response. I also lustily crave sex from time to time.

I my first Zoom date with a woman who lives in New York, and I started thinking, “I suppose I could move there if I wanted to,” and just rent a flat in Queens or something and eat chopped cheeses and ride the train, and summer in the Hamptons. I’d never once so deeply explored the possibility of moving there. Why now? Why do I feel nostalgic for a life I haven’t lived yet, nor wanted to live before?

Id be lying if I didn’t admit the stir-craziness is setting in. I have, now, approximately 58 days until the earliest reasonable date that I can go outside again (June 1)— except for brief grocery and pharmacy runs. Each trip to the store takes 3 minutes of round-trip drive time. I have yet to spend more than 10 minutes in any store, and no store has more than 10 people in it at any given time.

I am, essentially, alone. I forget how much I love things like hugs, or eye contact, or the mere act of driving to the park downtown and walking or biking around it. I miss petting dogs. I miss drinks with friends. Zoom just don’t hit the same.

My beard is long. My hair’s askew. My brain, foggy from stress-drinking and eating, finally beginning to clear, as that course of coping has outstayed it’s welcome.

April will yield increased energy and clarity, and hopefully productivity. I’m way behind in what I need to do, and I hope folks understand that. I’ll get around to it. It’ll just take an extra beat. If you feel behind in what you need to do, that’s okay, too. No one’s not suffering. No one cares how you handle it, so long as you make it out okay and do right unto others.

I’ve noticed a lot of people I know — and, to be clear, if you have the capacity to handle it this way, you’re doing much, much better in life than you think you are — handling this pandemic in similar fashion. Quietly. Kindly. Gently. Even if they’re burning up on the inside. Maybe especially if they’re burning up on the inside.

Maybe you’re doing it, too? Maybe this quarantine and forced screeching halt of go-go-go, or the forced contemplation of our mortality, or the sudden awareness of the passage of time and life, or the sudden lack of necessity to do more, be more, spend more or make more, has forced us all to reexamine “what would I do if I had time, and money was no object?”

I wish this was under different circumstances, yet, as a result, I’ve felt oddly validated and vindicated regarding my writing over the past year. I’ve centered most of my explorations on a very simple hypothesis: Humans are not meant to be as productive and connected as we are.

Indeed, very few of us — myself included, sometimes — are doing what we were meant to be doing. Based on what I’ve seen from the outside world, it appears as though, if we could, we would all spend our time making more love and art and food. Love, art and food are worth immersing ourselves in, and worth being thankful for.

Maybe that’s a good lesson for everyone to learn. It’d be a great lesson for the monsters running the place to learn, at the very least.

There is, even now, still so much to be thankful for. It’s all out there, this beautiful, bountiful earth. This Earth. Wow. We get to have it! There’s fruits and oceans and science and art. It is all yours, because it belongs to no one … yet another great lesson for the monsters running the place to learn: to express appreciation for the life we’re blessed to have.

There are plenty of dark and problematic things and people in this world. Yet, for just one moment, I’d like to focus on the very good, the pure, the unassailable. After all, life is — on balance — too wondrous to be so damned dark all the time.

An incomplete, and completely random, list, for example:

  • The Moog Synthesizer is an adorable, unassailable musical Swiss army knife.
  • Chocolate chip cookies and eclairs are perfect bite-sized desserts that work as both breakfast and snack.
  • The regal tomato was the avocado before guac became extra.
  • Velvet Underground was a perfect rock-and-roll band.
  • Wu-Tang assembled 10 of the best MCs on Earth at one time.
  • No one has ever made me laugh like Ali Wong.
  • The ending of The Usual Suspects is like watching a wedding cake get dropped off a skyscraper in slo-mo.
  • The gothic revival typeface in the Empire State Building.
  • The spellbinding skyline of Singapore.
  • Those dragon trees on the island off the coast of Yemen found nowhere else on Earth.
  • Sunsets at Big Sur.
  • Podcasts hosted by people with really relaxing voices.
  • Random acts of kindness, given and received.
  • Everything narrated by Morgan Freeman.
  • The Middle-Eight of the Fleetwood Mac song “Silver Springs.”
  • First Edition books and vinyls.

Kisses. Love. Rainstorms. Kisses with lovers in rainstorms. First loves. First kisses. The first drop on a roller-coaster. Sex. Art. Words. Poetry. Basketball. Nature. The Ocean. The Mountains. Endless sunflower fields in summer and the trees in Chicago in fall. Comeback stories, reunion tours and damning the odds to do it all, better than ever.

Y’all, the world is dark and dumb out there, and it’s not getting better. Still, there’s so much to be thankful for. Best of all, we get to connect and say hi to each other every now and again.

“Hey, just passing through. You?” Same. I’ve got like four decades left if I’m lucky, and I plan to make the best of them.

I saw an old picture of myself the other day. It was my sixth-grade school picture, September 1993. I smiled big and wide in my black Looney Tunes Miami Hurricanes sweatshirt.

I was a naive lil’ nerd back then. Loved geography, math, physics and baseball. Didn’t know nothing about nothing. Never been kissed. Still wanted to be an astronaut. Never touched a guitar. Never owned a cassette or CD of my own and was therefore doomed to endless Eagles and Elton on long car rides. I was probably a conservative. Dark times.

The world’s changed exponentially since then, and it continues to. It’s felt like the 84 Years ago that Old Rose said to Bill Paxton’s character in Titanic, which also came out 84 years ago. I changed, too.

I got into drums, guitar, singing, speaking, broadcasting, bartending, marketing, data analytics, ops management, startups, tech, writing, sportswriting, cooking, sex, love, hip-hop, eastern philosophy, French philosophy, metal, dad-rock, social media, socializing, booze, cannabis, psychedelics, wine, politics, running, Egalitarianism and sobriety. (Author’s Note: Loosely in order but who can be sure at this point.)

Point is: Life is long. People always tell you life is short, and in times like these when life is fragile and precarious and our demise and mortality is on our mind, it’s natural to want to rush, or wish you’d rushed, through things. Yet the key to living a great life, from someone who really only recently started after exhausting all other available options, is to just go slow and be kind, the way this pandemic is somewhat forcing us to do.

See the world at your pace. Soak it in. Taste your food. Think deeply. Feel even more deeply. Love hella deep. Put in real effort during sex … ahem, fellas. Read good books and essays. Listen to great music, particularly on vinyl. Be late to meetings, if you can. Hug folks who need hugs. Give generously, but don’t guilt yourself if you can’t.

During this time, everyone will deal with their own unique struggle, in their own unique way. No one way is better or worse than others. As long as you’re being a responsible, well-informed citizen, a kind and compassionate person, and doing net-positive for the world around you, that’s plenty enough.

Only 3 things matter, ultimately: the time in front of you, the people around you, and the body that contains you. Take care of those 3 and they’ll take care of you. You don’t have to militantly optimize every last remaining second.

It’s like surfing. You don’t try to catch every wave. You can just feel them roll up under your board and enjoy the warm weather and sunrise. None of us are (literally) going anywhere. Might as well stay.

I can’t wait until the day we’re all back out there, making our substantial social, professional and humanitarian inroads. I try to focus on what we can do and not what we can’t. If life’s taught me anything, it’s no matter what our limitations, we’re capable of a great deal. It’s a good lesson for all of us to learn, since we’re all so limited right now.

We can do this. Despite all the darkness, life is (still) beautiful. We’re alive, and human, and that’s the best we can be for now. We’ll figure the rest out when the sickness subsides.

An old friend of mine, passed in 2017, used to host a radio show here in Austin and he signed off each broadcast with this quote, grafted from a Bob Marley quote, which I will never forget and I will always love and use forever:

“Do something good for somebody today; the people who are trying to make the world worst aren’t taking days off.”

Even though we’re all on pause, and all feel like we’re losing precious seconds taking days off that feel like decades, I charge you with that.

This essay was originally published on PS I Love You. Relationships Now.

About the author

John Gorman is a writer and washout living in Austin, TX. Follow him on Medium here.

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