Take it or leave it.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Reading my mother's AARP magazine, I came across a quote by 19th-century painter Katsushika Hokusai. "It was not until after my 70th year that I produced anything of significance."

My, the man sure was a late bloomer. And here I thought I was behind my time. I reached my adult stature at 14, but I have never really made it in the adult world, if you gauge my success by conventional standards (annual income, material possessions). I read recently that floor-side tickets for the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight were going for over $350,000. Such a sum for one measly seat in a 36-minute event (not including undercards)! Ungodly! And I thought about it. This is about twice as much money as I have made in my entire adult life! From my first job waiting tables at 18 until now. That's 24 years!

It turns out Hokusai (and I) are not alone. Van Gogh and Monet also made it later than you probably think. The prophet Mohammed, "unquestionably among the Illumined Ones of earth, who had attained and retained a high degree of cosmic consciousness," didn't have his visions until he was past the age of 40, at which point in life Jesus Christ was long since dead. Rodney Dangerfield didn't get his break until he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show at 46. Aristotle didn't establish his school until he was fifty-three. At 62 Jeff Goldblum will be a father for the first time.

The ridiculous and the sublime, at home together. As it should be.

As a writer my idol for a long time was Gregory McDonald. McD is an Aquarian like me, and author of the hugely popular book Fletch and its many sequels, which spawned a couple films that I for one found rather diverting. Fletch was McDonald's first big hit (although by this time he had penned Running Scared).

The author was 37 at the time the book came out. (Which is rather young compared to other late bloomers in the literary field.) I read most of his books in my late twenties, so to me McDonald seemed old when he made it big. Then my thirties came and went. And now it's my forties and still no success. But in the intervening years my definition of making it has changed. And I submit this: Success as quiet contentment. I look back and think, my how restless I was all that time. I think of the careless ease of a happiness that shines from within. And all the so-called successes who were anything but. The authors who are driven to drink and/or take their lives! Hemingway, for instance. And Thompson, and Chandler, and Williams and O. Henry and Faulkner and Poe. And Stephen King, once upon a time. Would I even want to write a best-seller? I think of all the book tours, and readings, the glad-handing and gabbing, and I get wavy lines. It's all a pain in the neck, really.

Sure I still write, but I do it for me. I write like an ambitious person - without having even a smidgen of ambition. Self-expression is an end in itself. And my idols have changed. No longer the scribes, it's the sages whom I admire. Ramana Maharshi is more my style. The man only owned a walking staff, begging bowl and loin cloth; he alternated between a cave and hallway his entire adult life, and he hardly ever spoke, much less wrote. But he was content. Such is the bliss of Self - provided you can access it. The Self is there for anyone who's interested.

Not many are. Not everyone is like me, I'm aware. Most are action-oriented. We have dreams, and we seek to realize them. To you I say that a wish and its fulfillment are like two sides of a coin. Heads and tails are separated in space, while a desire and its fruition are separated in time. One brings with it the other. But sometimes the wish changes. And sometimes a frustrated desire is its own fulfillment. Rather than carry around the same old dusty piece of nickel, trade it in for a new coin, one of pure gold. Gold is your true nature. It will never tarnish or depreciate (unlike common currency, which is becoming worthless).

Until you realize this, know that if you're a late bloomer who clings tenaciously to your wishes, have faith. Keep doing what you do. But remember, doing anything the same way over and over again expecting a different result is Einstein's definition of insanity. So learn from your mistakes. Reinvent yourself. Be open to experimenting. Again, have faith.

As Abe Lincoln once said, "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." And he spoke from experience. So fail nobly, my friend. Success is not just basking in glory, but how you deal with defeat. Be Invincible!

Damn if I don't feel better already. Nice chat son!

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