Monday, November 24, 2014

Of Codes, Outlaws, and Family

Part of life is establishing your code. Who or what determines your actions? What guides you in life to make your decisions?

If you're honest, you sooner or later have to confront your values. Then you're forced to separate what is right from what is merely legal. This puts you metaphysically on the run. America is full of metaphysical outlaws. - Tom Robbins, "Still Life With a Woodpecker"

"Metaphysical Outlaw" would make a simple, kickass tattoo. It's an underlying principle, not a "thou shalt."

I think my code evolves. Loyalties may change. Priorities change. People prove themselves worthy or unworthy. If you write your code in stone at age 18, you are likely either going to spend half your time trying to re-carve the stone, or you are going to live your life in ways that your soul knows are antiquated and ill fitting. At 42, I still can't foresee what life may hold that I haven't considered.

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance."

Codes are not something that can be handed to us. That can't be decrees, or laws, or commandments dictated by someone else. Though they can be based on them. But our codes require self-reflection.

In society we agree to certain understood rules. But the people I admire and respect the most are those who have their own sense of life that isn't as muddied, or bureaucratic or political as the bullshit we navigate in our daily lives.

That's one of the reasons I've been pulled into the show "Sons of Anarchy." I don't think we benefit from everyone being above the law like Steven Seagal. But I think there is something to not accepting spoon-fed values; to turning a critical eye both outside and inside to determine a code that comes from and speaks to your soul. Jacks Teller is a thinking man's outlaw, not blindly accepting society's rules, but also questioning the motives and actions of the Sam Crow motorcycle club.

The first comic book that grabbed my attention in middle school was "Daredevil." Matt Murdoch is a blind lawyer, working for justice in the courts (blind is a billy club over the head metaphor), who then distributes his own form of justice as "the man without fear." I scooped up every issue I could get my hands on and it was the first magazine/periodical I ever subscribed to. I got them in the mail before I subscribed to Thrasher Magazine or Sports Illustrated.

Graphic novels, movies, literature are full of protagonists who operate within their own codes and do the right thing because of their own motivation, not because that is how they are supposed to act. I've been reading Warren Ellis's "Moon Knight" and Ales Kot's "Zero" lately, which are both character studies for this kind of "hero."

How I view singular actions will likely change over time. But there are some things that seem foundational. Our younger daughter Ava had the flu Sunday and is on the mend, but still struggling this morning. I quarantined her in my bedroom yesterday and she slept all day. I checked in on her repeatedly, sometimes just to hear her breathing, since she is never that quiet. Her sister Anna is 12. Anna and I went a couple verbal rounds yesterday as father and adolescent daughter. We came through to the other side, laughed together, said our standard "I love you" before bed.

That is background to say that if someone threatened serious harm to my children, the force that I would direct back at said someone would be 100 fold. I like to think that I would not hesitate, and good go to sleep at night feeling no remorse to protect my family by any means necessary.

Family is a foundational part of my code.

This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It is knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work. - Mitch Albom

Trailblazing has always felt a part of my code.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Emerson, Self-Reliance

It could be that this blog is just me rehashing my own shit and re-telling the same stories. So I hope you'll bear with me when that happens. I started reading Emerson, "Self-Reliance," "Nature," and other essays in my room at N.C. State when I was supposed to be in class. It was Emerson, Whitman, Mark Twain, playing chess, and watching "Northern Exposure" and "Chaplin" starring Robert Downey Jr., that comprised the bulk of my last semester in Raleigh. It didn't help with grades there, but laid the foundation for the learning that would come at Chesapeake College and Washington College. There are easily a dozen Emerson quotes I could turn into tattoos (note the theme? ;)

Self-Reliance should be required reading for humanity. But I also like some of the zen nature of Ralph Waldo, the idea of not being hung up on your past. Maybe that's a good way to begin our week of being thankful.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. - RWE

Self-examination. Family. Trailblazing. Self-reliance. Reinvention. Maybe having a code encumbers you too much in and of itself. But if it's your own code, it's still better than someone else's. Let's hope.

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