Rich Man Poor Man

Last week on my way to some half-ass short-lived job I saw the same bum on the corner.  He picked the perfect spot – at the traffic light just off the freeway exit leading to the city.  He could barely walk to make his hopeless stumble along the cars.  His long dirty grey beard seemed to blend in and attach to the blanket wrapped around his body.  I said something like this to my friend, “You know what?  We are all not too far from ending up like this guy.  If I didn’t have some support I could be right there along with him.  I only hope that I would still have the sense of dignity and awareness to go up to the mountains for the long eternal rest.  There is no way in hell he will ever be able to dig himself out of this hole.  No one will ever hire this guy.”

I wondered what his story is and what events or decisions led him to where he is now.  I began to reflect on my own situation.  I grew up and lived a charmed life up until the age of about forty-one.  Then the shit hit the fan.  I can outline all the steps that led to where I am now and they are all mainly my own doing.  This decision caused that and that decision caused this.  The patterns of decision-making can be traced back to when I was a young boy and later a young man.  More importantly, the thoughts and feelings behind those decisions have even more clairvoyant patterns.  Although I can justify and stand by most of those decisions, thoughts, and feelings, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is how society views or interprets those decisions, thoughts, and feelings.  If society doesn’t understand or agree, and you haven’t prepared for war with conviction and determination, eventually you will pay the price.  During youth such decisions and society’s interpretation of those decisions carry fewer consequences for youth has inward and outward armor.  But when one approaches the ripe old age of forty times around the sun, the outside armor begins to melt which exposes the inward armor.

The real test begins now.  In the evening I walk among the streets and look into the restaurants I used to enjoy not so many years ago.  I see the people in their nice clothes sipping on wine and enjoying a variety of dishes without any concern for the pending bill.  All the various flavors permeate the city air.  During the day I observe people rushing to and fro with a sense of purpose while I wander aimlessly and confused to my not so important destination.   I worry about having enough money for a quarter tank of gas or a bus ride.  I have to make decisions about whether or not to get a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon or some Top Ramen noodles.  I don’t have the means to maintain my pride nor the humbleness to seek available assistance.  My living conditions are despicable and uncomfortable. 

Despite my plight, I realize there are millions and perhaps billions that are worse off than me.  I understand that these same people may have never enjoyed the luxuries and simple pleasures I enjoyed for some forty orbits – pleasures and luxuries that I sold out for rather than endure the harder and more true course that my being called for.  I also realize many of these people may not have the luxury or education for higher thoughts and dreams.  And I envy these people who never knew such luxuries and pleasures to some degree.  They are tougher, stronger, used to their daily struggle to simply survive.  They aren’t concerned with dreams and visions or contemplations.  I on the other hand, am like a helpless born baby with a dreamy grown up mind punted into the middle of the ocean without any diapers or a pacifier.  I am like the guy in the Matrix that just had his chords ripped from his spine and can’t swim in the reject toilet bowl because the muscles in the body and mind suffer from atrophied. 

The road ahead will be long and difficult – the comfortable middle ground no longer exists.  I will see whether or not my inward armor is made of metal or just a bunch of hot air that simply needs to be released with a long disappointed sigh.  This will be a very cold, lonely, and lean holiday season – a perfect time for some long thoughtful walks, reflection, and perhaps some laughter and tears of joy.  I think it might be the perfect occasion to begin reading true works of art once again.  Time to pick myself up a copy of Steppenwolf — somewhere during the last twenty orbits I lost my copy of this little golden nugget.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

33 thoughts on “Rich Man Poor Man

  1. We are right there with you. This year has been hard, and if not for family/friend’s support, we might be out there on the streets as well. My partner recently lost his job. So many people (some of which are the kindest, smartest people I know) are out of work right now, are losing their homes, are struggling to support their families. Even yet, I am thankful for all I have. For my education. My health. It certainly could be worse. So Merry Christmas to you as well. Wishing you happiness and good fortune in the new year. Perhaps this one will be better than the last.

    • Ditto to you and yours and I hope your partner comes out ok in the new year. But hey…at least I am contemplating going back to the dusty shelf for a little bit of ammo and energy 😀

      If you haven’t read Steppenwolf it is a great read…I remember my brother told me to get my hands on that when I was young and I still remember passages from that text. Looking forward to a re-read.

  2. Rarely have I seen such honest, heart felt writing TC, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, in fact I know you will, because you have a good heart, material possessions are not everything, indeed it sounds to me like you have more riches inside yourself than any rich man could ever want, take care ~ AP

    • Ha ha…the heart (soul) is what has led me to where I am…LOL…of course if I listened to it all the time I would probably be in a better place. MC to you too!

  3. Raw and real. Just the way life can be. Loving your share, I, too, am there. No job since autumn 2010 and nothing much forthcoming. Living on graces of credits in the meantime. If they expire before I find work, my hair may well blend with my street blanket, too. Communal living is becoming more and more attractive to me as the curb nears closer with every pinching day. Have never read Steppenwolf but did buy the album, was once my fave. Born to be, that is for sure, wild…not so sure I want to be. Hang in there and know you do not walk alone, my friend. Merry Christmas, Happy 2012 and thank you for your message of hope.

    • My pleasure for message of hope…glad you see it that way. Hang in there on job search or try some manual labor…that is what I am currently doing…feels great…get paid for using my body…not much pay…but pay that is equal to the mundane task.

  4. This deeply resonated with me. This will be my first year not celebrating the holidays at all, or even putting up a tree. There’s a sorrow that comes with introspection and your voice clearly conveys it.

    • I will raise a glass to you on Christmas Eve and send you a note Fountains. Yes, I think sorrow can be a great means to growth. I have never known such deep and lasting sorrow and I know it will not last indefineatly.

  5. Easily one of the best passages of writing I’ve ever seen come from you. I know it’s been arduous for you, but at the same time you should be grateful for the extreme poles of your Odyssey. You are so much more fortunate, so much richer because of your experiences. We become too soft and flowery if we are severed from our roots. There’s nothing I truly love that doesn’t have something of the outcast, the pariah in it. Try to imagine what it would be like if you had never known these things, if you lived your entire live in the padded cells of “success” and “good fortune”.

    “The real test begins now.” You are exactly right, my brother. The great thing is that now, yes, you are a naked babe, an orphan abandoned in the wilderness–and so, you are truly the Creator of your self. There are those, like the Buddha, who deliberately place themselves in this position–a Prince who had everything renounces it all. Why? To find out who he really is. I think, subconsciously, you have done the same thing. You subverted all your “successes” because you knew deep inside they were superficial, false, and ultimately, not truly you.

    You and I were supposed to be “Princes of this World”. We had it all. Everything was laid out before us–all we had to do was tip toe down the red carpet being adored by the crowd of toadies and fools. But what we truly wanted was the lightning and thunder in the midnight sky above that carpet, and the worm and insect infested soil being suffocated beneath it. We wanted real life, and real battles; real triumphs, and real defeats–and no guarantees. And that is exactly what we have. So revel in your fall my kindred spirit, for without it, you could not truly rise.

    Salubrious Solstice and Prosperous Perihelion.

    • You hit the nail on the head. Ten plus years at a desk making lots of money wasn’t my idea of life or living…it was so boring and unfulfilling…and then you have to witness lowly human behavior dressed up business casual…so strange…so detached…so disengaged…and I know for a fact I am not alone…ask most people about their office job and they will say the exact same thing if they are being honest. As you said, there is not lightning and thunder…no blood and sweat…no adrenaline or true risk…it is so sedate and sterile. I just don’t know a way out when money is made in offices and money is the blood of society. It is so god damn restricting and fabricated…makes me want to blow it all to shreds to free the people to begin living.

  6. Holiday Greetings,
    Steppenwolf can be a tough go, though there’s redemption in the end. Not altogether conducing to Holiday cheer though. Ever tried Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer? “I have no money, no resources, no hopes, I am the happiest man alive.” Sheer Miller exuberance in face of all that is us!
    And by the way, this blogging game is packed with the feminine song; nice to hear a male one.
    It’s a wondrous ride, enjoy.

    • I will look up Miller’s Tropic of Cancer…but in a strange way I want to experience Holiday sorrow…almost like mourning a death…and then rising up to joys of laughter and tears. I don’t want to be happy and inspired…I want to sink lower and grow angry…tough…strong…and then get to a more joyful place through the struggle. LOL…indeed…there is a strong feminine song here…I love the women…they are very intelligent and supple beings…you might enjoy my post “What Happened to Men”…I like to have some degrees of seperation for I think variety is healthy…a little old school perhaps.

  7. Awareness, enlightenment, having your eyes pried open – whatever you want to call it is what you are talking about and the real drag about this state of being is that it comes whenever the fuck it wants with no regard to seasons. But for God’s sake man- Pap’s Blue Ribbon? Kindly remember that in our Utopian throw down, we will be making wine, not malt liquor. Those junkies down the mountain in the next utopian village might be making beer but… My brother I feel you. I sat next to my aging mother in church yesterday watching her sob through the whole thing. She had a minor stroke last week and I’m it as far as care giving goes. Did I see myself on a yacht in St. Bart’s by my 45th trip around the moon? Nah- I never saw myself anywhere actually. So I’m here and you are there and as Buckaroo said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Smile, you have friends and your beard doesn’t stick to your clothes…yet. Steppenwolf be one of those yarns I carry forever in my heart. So I’m with that Dragonstand fella – even though I don’t know you two. I wasn’t exactly handed everything on a platter but being a beautiful woman in Los Angeles who doesn’t want to model, who loathes the entertainment business and sought awareness always…well I’m just an aging flower in a mad cap world. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will be a servant to my mother until she drops and I will do it with style. I bow to thee Sir.

    • And I bow to thee…rare does a person with outward beauty display inward beauty…these days. Yet…I have seen these two aligned in this blogesphere and have been pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t say I am enlightened…but I have all throughout my life known the difference between honest people and fake people…and I hate to say this…but the fake people are rewarded…but I am no good at being fake or making compromises…this flaw has cost me dearly. I have always known these things…probably because I was fortunate to live in places where natural beauty spoke to me…nature and the universe is true and honest and harsh and direct…somewhere along the line we learned to become merchants and actors and models and entertainers…you understand what I am saying I think. I relate to your dedication to your mother…I felt the same way about my grandfather…often spent more time with him in his apartment on a friday night in highschool rather than going to those frenzy parties…I like older people…they know more.

  8. I wish you the strength you need, to do what you need and want to do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed. When I was at my lowest and deepest I found help in unexpected places and ways.
    Confucius already said it well: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
    Good luck.

    • Thanks Gilraen for the kind words. Yes…the great men of the past made the choice to fall…much to be learned from them. I have fallen before and spent many years playing the game of baseball where you fail more often than you succeed…I have resilience…if I know there are more attempts and i believe there is a path forward…but honestly I question if what the majority (which creates strong momentum) sees as forward is this…I lose motivation and will to join them…and in my heart I want us to move generally in the same direction with beautiful variety.

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  10. Your words, and the words of everyone who commented, are the deepest and most heart felt I have ever read in any posts since I began blogging. I am grateful to you all for your clarity, honesty and inspiring insights. When I began blogging I was unsure of the purpose and meaning of my action. Tonight I understand the power of on-line communication and of its role in social thinking and change in the world. Everyday I pass many homeless souls sleeping in the doorways of business enterprises. The irony of this doesn’t elude me. I help where I can but it is never enough. There is a more fundamental need here in our society that is being ignored and this is mostly what the Occupy movement is reflecting. However badly off we all think we are we still are amongst the lucky people of the world – we can still afford the luxury of owning these machines that enable us to share our problems, we obviously have our own living space in which we house our computers and we obviously have the education and ability to express our frustrations in words that inspire and move each other. There are always people who are better off than us and there are always those who are worse off than us. So what can we do to level the playing field?
    I fear that the answers to this question are too scary for us to contemplate. How much are we prepared to sacrifice to realize Utopia?

    • Clinock…your comment means a lot to me. In fact, the people that commented are all people that I have great respect for on this blogesphere and was surprised to receive so many comments with content. From what I have seen on your blog…you are a man that has been true to the arts…which requires a very brave and determined spirit…something which I truly admire. And your comment is right on the mark. You have extracted from my short post exactly what I was trying to convey in few words…only a man of the arts could see this so clearly. The problems and obstacles so immense to leveling that playing field…that is not to say we should all be equal…I may be an exception…but I would be very fulfilled and motivated to expend my energy on what needs to be done…IF…IF….IF….I believed in the general direction and vision of humanity. The OWS movement is very powerful and I believe it will be back in full force. I don’t think people in power and people that are very comfortable realize the scope and severity of the problems that exist. To boil it down to a simple point…given our high intelligence and know how…there is no excuse or reason that a man or woman should be homeless…how can we see a human in the picture presented in this post and simply go on about our business? It is insane. We have the means and tools and intelligence to set our course and make sacrifices to help eachother move forward…given the right structure…no one should be outcast and left to die on the door step of a 1 billion dollar enterprise. I am willing to devote my energy for a grand purpose…but how many others are willing to do the same?

  11. What a provoking thought. Your perspective is quite stirring, and I appreciate the questions it raises. “how much are we prepared to sacrifice to realize utopia?” Perhaps the question really is “how much are we sacrificing now…for no apparent progress whatsoever?”

    Great thoughts my friend

  12. On the rich man – don’t you just envy those filthy rich men of affairs who could always make more money and do not know what to do with it? Funny how they find it a relief to find something of consequence to spend it on just because money bores them. Ahhh!

    What a very honest post. Thanks for sharing. I’m also checking out Steppenwolf right after hitting the Post Comment button.

    • Interesting thought…I think of men like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet…clearly two of the most wealthy men in the world…and both are trying to give back. I am kind of caught in between here on my judgement. Often, the high profile liberals or do gooders come from a position of wealth because they can afford to be the good guys…Hollywood stars come to mind. These folks that are multiple million and billionaries still maintain their wealth and lifestyle and give some slices back which makes great publicity. If they were to give it all back and become like Jesus or something I guess I would consider that remarkable…but they don’t…and I don’t blame them…I am just saying they can afford to appear like men of consequence when in fact I don’t really consider them to be so…they have simply accumulated a lot of paper that we have decided is equal to value…which I argue has immense inflation…many other posts on this topic.

  13. How honest and sincere. I respect your courage in sharing with us this part of yourself. There are times I’ve heard so much on my heart that I’ve written only to have it stay in the drafts folder. Much respect to you. I know it’s been said – and it surely won’t butter your bread tonight – still, you are not alone. For whatever that counts. As you say, the real test begins now; it seems to me a lot like you’ve had some preparation and steeling for the rough tumble. On a lighter note, should it all seem to dove-tail, head over here. You’ll be regarded as an investor, the banks will give you good rates, and the government wonderful tax deductions. Or even no tax at all. All based on the colour of your skin. (Okay, and maybe the nature of your business.) No, I won’t play the blame game of who got them into this inferiority complex business. Silly Africans. They don’t regard home-grown ‘investors’ as they do expatriates, give their own a much harder time starting businesses, importing, et cetera. Forgive me for taking a little rant on your hearty page:) Fresh fruit is cheaper here compared to the west, I hear. Need airport pick-up?:)

    Here’s to hoping the next year brings much more than hope. It has got to be a much better year, it simply must! I’ve found this one too tough. There has to be a brighter dawn!

  14. Steppenwolf! Harry Haller is the man. You are not alone.. Most of the people I know including myself live similarly.. There is a dignity and simplicity to life with less.. Yet gratitude at not having things worse.. It is a balance.

    • Yes…something I have always known but ignored. I bought three books today…Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and Heraclitus “Fragments”…read forty pages of Steppenwolf today…so many nuggets in this piece. I took a long break from reading after my year of freedom in Europe…and only now return to the great works to kick start my sleeping brain.

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