Sometimes the mountain is so high and my spirit is so low I wonder if I’ll ever make it to the summit. That fabled summit where I hope to find the almighty perspective I’ve been promising myself ever since 4th Grade. That’s when I was shaken from my adolescent cocoon by the 5th Dimension’s mystical song Aquarius. This portentous anthem heralded a new age of possibilities. I really thought it was “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” for everybody. Everybody, everywhere. It was the late 60’s and we were all going to take the Marrakech Express into the 5th Dimension where “♫peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars♫.” It was a simple calculus formulated by a mercifully simple boy then known as David. And he still is a simple boy known as David except he’s covered by all these words you see before you. Oh to be naïve again – or at least simple, without being a simpleton.
Despite possessing a spirit that soars at times, I’ve yet to reach that promised summit. In fact I’m still mouth-breathing down here at Base Camp with other aspirants who can’t seem to acclimate to the thin atmosphere either. And if I have to eat one more shred of pemmican I’m going to scream. As I’ve been planning my assault on the summit the conditions have deteriorated. My sherpas have stopped schlepping my baggage around altogether and now I’m responsible for it – and I have a lot of baggage. These and other privations have made me wish I’d pursued a career on Broadway instead of in spiritual mountaineering. Why expose myself to unbidden adversity when I’d much rather pull back the curtain to see how this Theater of the Absurd operates.
Meanwhile I’m stumbling around the stage like Helen Keller before she met her teacher Anne Sullivan. Ms. Sullivan was a real miracle worker. We all need an Anne Sullivan to drip water on our palms so that we may know what wet is. I’m told Anne Bancroft performed a similar service for Mel Brooks.
Again with the words. Words may soothe, agitate or tell someone where to scratch, but they’re never a substitute for actual experience. I forget this and I’m too weighed down by my baggage to get my boarding pass to the 4th dimension – let alone the 5th Dimension. I’ll never get my bags down under 50 lbs. – not with the weight of the world I carry on my shoulders. And I can’t afford the chubby baggage fee. My God, it’s more than the cost of an HP printer cartridge. Plus it’s sheer discriminatory weightism. The bag can’t help it if it’s forced to swallow everything its owner shoves into its big mouth. So I’m stuck here in this airport waiting for an airplane I can’t afford to board, bound for a place that may not exist. Well at least I’m at sea level now and can breathe easier than at Base Camp; plus Chipotle is a distinct improvement over pemmican.
Words. To recap, so far in this little story we’ve visited 4 metaphorical worlds which are in no way a substitute for the real thing:
- Taking a Marrakech Express train to another dimension.
- Hoping to climb a divine mountain to find some kind of Shangri-La
- Stumbling around a fictional stage looking for a stage manager to guide me
- Trying to board some kind of metaphysical airplane to whisk me away to Nirvana.
The metaphorical worlds are entertaining and they’ll do for now, but they’re just indicators of the deeper unseen wave permeating everything, everywhere. Hmmm. Maybe this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, if I could just tune into that wavelength. Let’s not go there yet. Let’s just stay here and smile at our dysfunction (maybe “limited ability to apprehend” is a bit more reader friendly). No one wants to be labeled “dysfunctional” even though, as it relates to the majesty of the universe, we kind of are. So be it. Let’s roll with it and have fun. I know I am, in my own way, and I encourage you to do similarly. Just don’t do it on my kitchen table with a friend you’re “benefiting” from. I hope I‘ve made myself clear. And if I have, please write back and explain it to me. I mean I’m on to something here, but I also felt this way about New Coke when it first came out.
As you can tell I don’t live a neatly curated life. If my life were to be in a museum it would be the Museum of Stuff Other Museums Refused. If only my baggage had wheels on it I could tote it everywhere with grace and ease. Instead I have to lug it around like a manhole cover (maybe that’s why it’s called lug-gage). The persistent onslaught of everyday events has forced me to seek comfort in the pages of Us Weekly’s “Celebrities are Just Like Us!” or by looking in a mirror and finding some kind of goofy solace in remarking, “Y’know, I don’t look too bad for 55.” These are not the significant moments I want flashing before my eyes when I die.
But it’s an altogether distinct form of escapism (or coping mechanism) I employ to alleviate the frustration of feeling spiritually disconnected. I’m not always in the throes of spiritual despair, but when I am I often seek the narcotizing effects of Metrics. Pure, sure Metrics featuring reliable numbers, predictable averages and empirically-based trend lines that never let you down or need interpretation. Their truth is self-evident and not open to discussion. No one from the nattering class can degrade their unity. The Metrics of my life are always definable in clear and easily understood ways, unlike the unfathomable world of of…everything else.
As soon as I think about God I seem to push it away like some kind of perverse Inverse Square Law is operating – the more I focus on this concept the more distant it becomes. Sometimes it catches me unaware though, like when I’m driving down the highway and I’m overcome by a heightened sense of well-being surrounding my Taurus. I love that. I’m cured. That’s grace. But as magisterial as it is, it’s sporadic and undependable. Feeling alienated from God creates tension. The dependability of Metrics relieves it. It relieves the nasty indigestion caused by our temporary condition in these imperfect circumstances. I’m not trying to start a religion called Metrinetics, I’m just suggesting how I find relief sometimes. Why do you think nerds are so obliviously happy? – Metrics. They revel in the containable irrationality of pi 3.14. They swoon over the number of gigabytes that can dance on the head of a pin. And then of course there are the 32 models of blow-up dolls they never have to apologize to. Metrics – It’s what’s for dinner.
No one is going to be given the keys to the universe on a platter (they come in a doggie bag, which you invariably forget), but you can get soothing, dependable statistics that obviate the dyspepsia of contending with unsettling existential questions. Metrics can mask the plaintive call of the soul for a while. Just like over the counter analgesics promise to deliver temporary relief of minor pain. Eventually you get what you want. But first you get what you need. (Thank you Mick.)
Game-changing, Life-saving Metrics: Salve for the Soul
Resolved: I pledge myself to God, secure in the knowledge that by focusing on the meaningless metrics of my life, His will be done and I can cancel my Prozac prescription.
Meanwhile I content myself with what passes for progress by cataloguing the Metrics of my life. These are measurements of quantifiable items, events and felonies I’ve been involved with that speak volumes about my current state of play. Sometimes I feel like a human being reenactor, playing my part for the benefit of an unseen gamer operating me from afar. If so I’d like to tell him I’m getting a little low on energy here. Could you please capture the Pulsating Quadroon and lay some revitalizing Banshee Photons on me?
All of my herewith listed “Metrics” have been certified by the fast-rising accounting firm of Ernst & Yeast, who are able to provide verifiable quantification in the same way genealogical services always seem to trace your ancestry back to English Royalty or Kevin Bacon. Ernst & Yeast performs this service for about the same fee my palm reader charges.
Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927 and he will always have hit 60 home runs in 1927. That will never change. We may have revisionist history, but we can’t have revisionist metrics – no amount of Einsteinian time-warping can change that. You can run statistics through a cosmic black hole; and while its event horizon may expand my head to the size of Jupiter, it won’t change Tom Brady’s quarterback rating of 111.0 in 2010. Aaaah one truth. Indivisible. With reliability and surety for all. Suddenly I’m made whole through the immutable constancy of numbers. The Beatles had 21 #1 hits in the United States. There were 168 Hogan’s Heroes episodes and 12 jurors found OJ Simpson Not Guilty. Jury nullification aside, I find metrics so affirming. They allow you to hold onto something that will always be true in this fair weather world. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th 1826 on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. As Ira Gershwin might say, “No they can’t take that away from me.” So wherever I may be: at Base Camp, at the terminal, at the dawn of a new age, I’ll always bask in the comforting reliability of Metrics.
The Metrics of My Life: as certified by Ernst & Yeast (all figures are as of 4/20/16)
- Why can’t you love the sin and the sinner? I know I love both, because as a teenager I masturbated like a fruit fly. I may have slept 11 hours a day, but my sexual stamina was like Chuck Norris at a kickboxing tournament. According to Ernst & Yeast’s audit of my testicular scaring, I experienced 612 orgasms…in 1975 alone. For my lifetime I come in at a respectable (by whose standard?) 10,398 orgasms. Unfortunately for 8,139 of them I was alone. And of those 8139 solo acts I’m including the 12 instances in which I was on the phone with a “friend” and the 78 times I was asleep (good morning to you too). I’m even including the time I joined the Mile High Club while soloing in my Beechcraft Queen Air (it later gave birth to a little Beechcraft Prince Heir). And of all these numerous ejaculatory trajectories, only one of them was on target and produced a zygote, who has brought me great happiness and cost me $4200 in orthodontia. At least one zygote that I know of (let’s just say it’s fortunate humans can’t get cows pregnant). I could go on and on about orgasms, but I usually need to rest for a couple of hours in between sentences. So I think it’s appropriate I limit the whole experience to about a 5 second shot.
- Further examination of the metrics of my life reveal I’ve inhaled 10,398,677 times and yet I’ve exhaled only 9,076,136 times. You’d think they’d be equal but they’re not because I possess a rare form of bronchial dexterity. I’m ambilungstrous which enables me to operate my left and right lungs independently. This is not an easy thing to achieve as I’ve got to close my mouth and activate each nostril individually.
- In my life I’ve bullied 6 times and been bullied 6 times thereby proving what the Beatles already told us: “And in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
- Having stifled 42 yawns, mostly in conversations with distant relatives, I’m left to ponder the worrisome adage that Every time you stifle a yawn an angel loses its wings.
These measly Metrics are no measure of a man. I mean technically they are if you define man as that *sshole neighbor who’s always running his leaf blower. But in the greater scheme of things we are spirits in the material world – at least that’s what Sting tells me.
Wisdom can sometimes be found where you least expect it. A bracing and epiphanic sagacity can be borne of the most inauspicious event (which is essentially an unnecessarily prolix version of what I said in the first sentence). And maybe it’s not wisdom per se, but how it hits me. In Judd Apatow’s book Sick in the Head, he interviews various comedians over the span of 30 years. In an exchange with master comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry calmly offers nothing new in the spiritual arrangement of things, yet his words reverberated greatly with me. Perhaps because his TV character and he enjoy a reputation for being a bit smug or even arrogant, the bar for unexpected spiritual wisdom was set low. So when Mr. Seinfeld cleared it by leaps and bounds it was all the more memorable. Here’s the exchange I’ve quoted from the book without permission (and if somehow there is a nasty lawsuit over my purloining this exchange I’d welcome it because at least it would mean I finally got something published). The seemingly earthbound comic Jerry Seinfeld issued some very telling and numinous quotes in an honest and unremarkable way that registered greatly with me. And all without my crutch of Metrics. There’s hope for me yet:
Judd Apatow: I read a lot of Zen but it ultimately makes me unhappy because I don’t want to be one drop in the ocean.
Jerry Seinfeld: I do.
Judd: How do you get over that hump?
Jerry: You look at some pictures from the Hubble telescope and you snap out of it. I use to keep pictures of the Hubble on the wall of the writing room at Seinfeld it would comfort me when I would start thinking that what I was doing was important.
Judd: See I go the other way with that. That makes me depressed.
Jerry: Most people would say that. People always say it makes them feel insignificant but I don’t find being insignificant depressing. I find it uplifting.
Judd: Insignificance is a hump I have trouble getting over, but maybe that’s because my parents were crazier than yours.
Jerry: Maybe. Or maybe you think this is your only life, and this is the only stuff you’re ever going to do. Which, you know, I don’t subscribe to that.
Judd: What do you subscribe to?
Jerry: That this is just one chapter of thousands of chapters.
One chapter of a thousand chapters. Hmmm, kind of like this story. Well now I can’t wait for my next installment. Thanks Jer.