Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Makes a Hero?

Last few weeks I have been ruminating on this here blog about man’s  stories, especially relationship narratives (not necessarily romantic in nature) and about self-perceived shortcomings that can be remodeled at will. Many posts are connected to song lyrics and all of them are things I think about when awake, and feel even when asleep. If you’re into this kind of tales go and see other posts with tag “On Relationships”.

And now, let’s continue.

Sometimes there is no need to invent the wheel again, so I can just share this wonderful story of how cool and simple is to be a hero.

With today's post so quickly out of the way let me just go back to dragonslaying ;)

Monday, November 17, 2014


Last few weeks I have been ruminating on this here blog about man’s  stories, especially relationship narratives (not necessarily romantic in nature) and about self-perceived shortcomings that can be remodeled at will. Many posts are connected to song lyrics and all of them are things I think about when awake, and feel even when asleep. If you’re into this kind of tales go and see other posts with tag “On Relationships”. 

And now, let’s continue.

My very favorite man’s story about fear of failure was written by Brad Arnold, one of my favorite lyricists and vocals of all times.

I first heard it long, long time ago, 3 short term partners and a husband ago, when it was released in 1999. I remember loving the beginning; the war drum and the ominous feel of something important about to happen. I remember pervasive feeling of doom I felt and still feel as he sings that first verse:

I took a walk around the world
To ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere
In the sands of time
But I watched the world float
To the dark side of the moon

I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah

Being both comic enthusiast and person quite fond of pop-cultural references I’ve always felt that I would love this song even if it did not draw out such intimate doubts. But it does. And those intimate doubts are perfectly interwoven with iconography so great and so male it would be completely understandable to go too far into theatrics and pathos. And yet it doesn’t.

If I go crazy then will you still
Call me Superman
If I’m alive and well, will you be
There a-holding my hand
I’ll keep you by my side
With my superhuman might

It is so rare to see mark of a true hero - humility - being a part of the western narration. Rarer still to see it presented as an understandable and everyday part of human relations.

You called me strong, you called me weak,
But still your secrets I will keep
You took for granted all the times
I never let you down
You stumbled in and bumped your head,
If not for me then you'd be dead
I picked you up and put you back on solid ground

I love how he shows commitment as strength and shows power as a tool, not an end in itself - and he does this through accepting vulnerability, through continuing and building his relationship with - no less than! - Kryptonite.

There’s a short quote on Wikipedia of Brad commenting the lyrics and he says:

"That song seems like it's really just kind of like asking a question. Its question is kind of a strange one. It's not just asking, “If I fall down, will you be there for me?” Because it's easy to be there for someone when they're down. But it's not always easy to be there for somebody when they're doing good. And that's the question it's asking. It's like, “If I go crazy, will you still call me Superman?” It's asking, “If I'm down, will you still be there for me?” But at the same time, “If I'm alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?”

There are a lot of unknowns in a man’s (not necessarily a male man) life - a lot of “dark side of the moon”s that present themselves with randomness we cannot exert our control over. Additionally, they are not always outside of ourselves either. Some unknowns even aren’t inherently bad things, but even they can introduce lot of disruption into relationships, sometimes much more than bad things.

To keep one’s head up and choose to be a hero against certainties and not odds, in my book that is what makes the difference between man and scenery. Person and still life.

And it’s never too late to become a hero.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Believing Makes It Easy

Jonathan Meiburg on KEXP

I love Jonathan Meiburg. I hate Jonathan Meiburg.

Of course, as I do not know the man, it is the idea of the man that I talk about. It is the familiar in the strange, jigsaw puzzle of accessible information and emotion. One would say one reacts most when confronted with close to mirror image of one’s own idiosyncrasy.

When Animal Joy was released I was not actually waiting for it eagerly. I have heard Rooks and The Golden Archipelago and they did not stink but they never spoke to me. Animal Joy, on the other hand, hit me straight in the plexus with strength of a beserker. Animal Joy, with its flare of renaissance fairs, visceral virility and unforgiving lyrics' paintbrush describing through images of emotion, moments frozen in time.

Even with Jonathan Meiburg’s notorious secrecy in the field of lyrics explanations there is some space for speculation of what’s really happening here.

We have here one J.M. (36) college graduate with English and Religion majors who went (on a grant) "to study daily life in remote human communities to Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego, the Aboriginal settlement of Kowanyama in Australia, the Chatham Islands of New Zealand, and the Inuit settlement of Kimmirut in Baffin Island, Canada”, geographer and bird enthusiast keen to express himself through music, seasoned traveler, scientist highly trained in perceiving his surroundings and person with the experience of marriage and its resent dissolution writing all lyrics for an album.

What (and how!) can it be about?

To me, this is a conceptual album. Storybook. Coming of age.

There are many reviews of this album noticing that something new is here, something not seen before. There are also many interviews with lots of chaff to go through.

There is this new both firm and pop sound, so differing from artsy disconnection of previous albums. There is this storytelling, this aura of beginning in the beginning (with Animal Life) and going through the moves, learning his way around (Breaking The Yearlings, Dread Sovereign, You As You Were), being suddenly confronted with the unexpected (Insolence) from an unexpected source (Immaculate) and forced to re-think and re-conceptualize (Open Your Houses, Run The Banner Down, Pushing The River), until some sense is introduced to hurt (Believing Makes It Easy) and new path opens to show that it is growth, rather than loss, that which is happening (Star of The Age).

“Yet no matter how personal Meiburg gets, he’ll still be a long way from truly confessional songwriting, the kind of let-it-all-hang-out lyrics that share (and sometimes over-share) life’s triumphs and disappointments. “Well, no, you’re never going to get me there, I don’t think. I have a distrust of confessional songwriting. It can seem so unsophisticated and dull,” he says. “But on the other hand, it can go that way if you go too far away from the personal also. You end up with the same problems.” , tells us one of the interviews.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this English professor is in no danger to become unsophisticated. I’m also suspecting he knows that there is no better way to hide personal than in plain sight.

Why Believing Makes It Easy? How did I single it out as my favorite on an album with 10 more excellent songs, with each song invariably contributing to make the story whole?

Because to understand that believing makes it easy is the single most important realization of any person’s life.  Realization that gets you through thick and thin, through conflict, through sorrow, through loss of trust, through everything.

Through everything.

I believe in the rush
I believe in the gathering radiance
I could walk alive
through a burning wall
believing makes it easy

And it comes from someone I see as an epitome of an escapist.

I love Jonathan Meiburg. I hate Jonathan Meiburg.

I am Jonathan Meiburg.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How To Get Rid of Fear of Failure?

I took this picture of cake top in one of Zagreb malls. I love how they look each other as if speaking without words :D

I had an interesting discussion yesterday about the issues of love and, more closely, issue why I see this question of fear of failure wrecking relationships so important.

“It is a question of expectations.”, my friend said. “It is a question of you being hurt by someone so it grows into resentment that makes you see men in an unflattering light.

Well, no.

I have been hurt by that at some point, but I have been hurt by other things too. And being bisexual I have been hurt also by girls, and I would say that I liked being hurt by girls far less than being hurt by men. But that is all just personal preference.

As I have already said before I like men’s stories more because I feel them more comparable to my own. It is not resentment, it is compassion that determines my emotional reaction to them. It is that I feel I can understand those experiences better because I too feel them firsthand; not at the receiving end of the hurt, but at the giving.

Even though I usually don’t give the impression of having fears of any kind (or so I am told) I do harbor a fear or two that could be classified as crippling fears that f%#k up performance. And they have cost me both gratification and relationships.

That I really did not like.

I did not like the losses, I did not like the consequences and I especially did not like being responsible for allowing the fear to control me.

That was just unacceptable.

I come from the long lineage of people who do not rock the boat and are perfectly content to live their whole life in unsatisfactory conditions all the while complaining about them, but not changing anything. I am in position to see firsthand what are the consequences of choice of that lifestyle and how my life would look, decades into the future, if no changes are made. As all men must make that choice for themselves - to proceed with life by inertia or to swim against the current - I made my choice and I’m living this choice now.

How do you get rid of fear of failure? And, even more - how do you get rid of fear of responsibility? (what used to be my biggest problem, and sometimes still is)

You start by baby steps;

1. Identify the behavior that causes the problem and admit that there is an emotion of hmm… unpleasantness that propels that behavior. Understand that emotion you may not be able to tackle directly, but behavior is completely in your power to control. You could carry that emotion with you for some time more, even after you change behavior, but this will not last forever. You should know this and should not let yourself be discouraged by this lingering feeling. Everything in life takes time (as it also took time for your fear to disrupt your daily life) so it is understandable that this does also.

2. Find example to emulate; someone who you would like to be like. Someone who shows consistent behavior that reflects values you would like yourself to reflect. It can be real person or character from a book, series, movie, game.

3. Imitate. Imitation is first stage of acquiring any new skill and it is also sincerest form of compliment. Mold your behavior to look like behavior you admire and grow closer to the person you wish to be.

4. Build on that. Be vigil to feedback, every some time ask yourself is there something else you wish to change or simply stop for a while and admire the good work you’ve done. Reward yourself with some experience you thought inaccessible to the person who you used to be.

Some people will not support the change and you will have to leave them behind. Don’t worry, everyone who really is your friend and not a parasite will welcome the improved you. Some parasites will also join you later, learning from your example (and showing you how excellent your quest really was). Some days will be easier than the others and some will stink and be boring and hard and “Why the fuck am I doing this?!” but they will grow fewer and fewer and further apart from each other and you just need to persevere.

Once or twice you will “fall of a wagon” and fuck up a situation or three but in time you will learn to enjoy those instances because they will show you how far you have come in your quest to be…


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Aurora Gone

While we’re on the subject of men’s stories I thought to say a few words about my favorite song and relationship narrative from last year’s Midlake album Antiphon - Aurora Gone.

To start at the beginning I first have to say that I love this album more than any other Midlake album before it and that I love how (it looks like from available sources that) it came into existence.

Antiphon is greek orator and album is named orator because Midlake main songwriter and vocalist Tim Smith has left the band in the middle of recording a new album. We do not know much about this breakup but we know that Smith told Pulido and the band that “they can have the songs” he recorded for new album, and yet, material could not be used (for reasons unknown). Furthermore, we know Pulido and guys wrote new stuff and ended up creating one of the most beautiful, coherent and melodic albums of 2013 and also best Midlake album in their career so far.

Incidentally, album opens with title song - Antiphon - with very visual lyrics that can easily be interpreted as explanation to how things “went down” between Smith and the band. Of course, this does not have to be the case (even though Pullido himself admits to a degree of connection), but it is a truly interesting food for thought. Not to go too far into all the songs and imagined meanings (isn’t it funny how the rest of the album after Antiphon is enveloped into  Provider :D) let us return to Aurora Gone.

Among this collection of songs, one better than the other, Aurora Gone stood out for me from the very start. Glistening with pure gold. Gentle but heavily inter-weaving classical instrumentation with fusion jazz sound, evocative of braid hairs and fertility rituals and at the same time of smoke-filled rooms in which bachelors die alone while escaping life through complex tunes.

Did you know that fear of failure, most commonly presented as self-handicapping or as fear that one will be “seen through” is one of the most common and paralyzing fear for men?

This song has such a wonderful storyline presenting this horrifying fear:

All of me that gave unto the fold of a wave,
I could not bear to be up under, while knowing all along,
My faith would fade away and she'd see me just as I am.

I love how they picked the title Aurora Gone as Aurora, with its smell of Greek gods, adds to credibility and word gone lends to such heartbreaking finality.

But to have such a tragic loss first you have to believe success can be achieved:

I would get home and she would greet me,
Sit by the fire 'til the morning comes,
Telling of stories, how we could move off,
Leave the others, start anew at once.

Building our own with those who join us,
Celebration, celebration!

And then your faith (in yourself) falters and you predict your own downfall:

Oh this thing will never come to us,
The world is done,
Aurora gone.

I love how there is a dose of sarcasm in this discovery that escapism is lousy life strategy:

Many before me saw the peril,
I ignored the error of my ways,
Who would defend one void of caring,
Looking beyond to start anew at once?

And yet, this clarity does not last for long and self-fulfilling prophecy easily takes over:

Building our own with those who join us,
Celebration, celebration!
Oh this thing will never come to us,
The world is unglorious,
Aurora gone

I love how this quite common (and yet rarely acknowledged) male woe is put in so little words that spell such a well presented and complete tale.

And I love how this tale already contains everything that one needs to know to find his way out of this predicament: no one can defend one void of caring. To be able to enjoy your life one has to live through bad times as well as through good. To escape life is to lose it.

It is that simple.