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tolbiac

Making the Best of Better

8 min read

Along the [ongoing] process of figuring myself out, that is, gaining the existential foothold to work through life in what comes natural, I figured out that I took a lot of direction from the people who lived bits and pieces of what I was encountering. They more or less built their observations on a similar problem that could be applied to something I was mulling over or struggling with, and finished with a grinning, careless retraction back into the tornado. I could never tell if that attitude was the signature of experience and bravado, or a defeated scoff of "I'm already dead, but I may as well keep going."

Very quickly it became apparent, in a curious and morbid coincidence that always frightened those whom I told, that those who I found most humanity and sincerity in where those who truly gave it their all, and immediately afterward, through whatever circumstances — emotional, mental, legal, financial, — found it prudent to take their own lives right at the end of their peak or the middle of their downward spiral.

I have an odd relationship with the sentiment of suicide much more than the act. The act is a functional taboo, but the sentiment is a vast and rich ocean of reasons because it underpins all we do — even the disdain of it means something. The awful, mournful turn in our stomach connects to the cruelties we strain ourselve to ignore which caused a death, instead encouraging people to talk about their problems which have no words to satisfy one faction in the no-win situation of simply being done.

Its only right that we don't leave it to one hypothetical factor, that the possibilities and torments could have been plenty and overlapped significantly for those who did it. We can never properly appraise if it worked or not. But my approximation is that all these factors could have been under one emotion or sense of the change in the wind that influenced a finishing of both their life and work as one.

Let's imagine something. What different outcome of his life could we derive if Di Vinci's best work wasn't lost in any great fire in Florence, but was displayed perfectly all through the world and simply invalidated; rejected? What would be worse for him and better for us?

The sheer energy from all human reserves can only churn out so much, and only so much can exist in the social and spiritual fabric of each other's collective web of purpose, meaning, whatever... to comply with the point, the germ, the seed of the creation from those human reserves. The creator works in hopeful blindness, without clear reason or measure. Above all, overarching those factors was the noncompliance of the social fabric with the human output. That your work was unrequited or made for the entirely wrong audience.

So if you made the best thing for the right audience, but it was all lost to the flames, is that really so much a loss compared to your own personal masterpiece, with all the right combination of words and aphorisms to save the world a thousand times over, written in your own language separate from any other human tongue? Imagine coming up with a cure for cancer in the stone age and try keeping any hope.

It became clear after years of sleepless nights and aching, dark-eyed mornings that its a lie and a curse to be any kind of "best." I never strove to be a best, and I think I'm still working to justify both why I can't be one and why thats the best thing to settle for. For one thing, "best" is effortlessly subjective. Your best is not Tom in Ohio's best or Linda in New Mexico's best. And if its not someone else who you imbued with being the best, its yourself. Setting the goal for yourself to be the best, or a best, is how you guarantee failure in yourself and corruption in your work. The drive clouds the input and perpetuates that for everyone else, making a fickle social fabric that only the worst people will benefit from. The reason for this still perplexes me, but my best answer for now is that most people just have terrible taste and judgement.

Now, don't get the idea that you should set out to fail in order to succeed, because reverse engineering the cycle won't work. You won't reach your destination by driving in the wrong lane. Its apparent that valid participation requires playing by the same rules that contradict what we intend to get out. The only road to travel on to the only destination claims so much from our work along the way. To accomplish what I want, the solution is to change course.

By saying that, I've been invalidated, outed from everyone else. Creative people and communities strive to be the best at the same time and its just one race without a finishing line. Any other model is a fantasy to them. Institutions, jobs and coevals all have a winning and loosing spectrum that basically defeats the validity of people being themselves for being the best.

But even if you get to that in some way, the title invalidates any substance and contradicts a "best". Even if you're the most honest and substantive figure in a field, you're still only seen as the best and not the most substantive person. Rank defeats merit always. The way things are set up won't settle for less than a rigorous passion to what you do. Anything else makes it a mere "hobby", simply because the quota for dedication and procedure wasn't met.

Best only finds a way to kill itself. Best doesn't last, a new one comes along and it happens so easily that you'd think its programmed to do that. So my goal became to subvert the robotic instruction of catching fire and being rained on. To become a different element that can withstand, but also be relevant on my own terms.

I simply want to act in what capacities I presently have, and make the most of what I can produce. To matter because of what I can easily do to with a clear, working mind; and for the content to stay fresh with time and comply with the social and spiritual fabric of our various sense of meaning.

Its probably impossible to separate this particular angle in my own conscience from different issues, but since my developments in looking at social systems generally, my contention stays the same in all matters, including how content and merit flows: That there isn't a vertical structure of bests and mediocre types, but a level playing field of autonomous and unique entities sharing their anti-best sentiments in harmony.

Coffeeshop open mic nights and workshop readings are probably the best places to see this play out. Theres real community there, real mutual appreciation and security because there is no best or competition in sight. Contrast this with the unspoken bonds of writing on a certain subject among ten or fifty other people, or trying to become poetic in a new way.

But it isn't out of any romanticized vision of the underdog that leads me in this direction as much as a desire to have my cake and eat it too. To be a sort of Wallace or Swartz or Thompson, and the suicide is instead a peaceful retreat in my confinement where best doesn't have power, ideas can traffic in and out of me, and leaving that place lets me know that we're all just creating and sharing like an infinite commune of doers according to our ability with every bit being important.

Call it a cheap study in mediocrity or a disgruntled young creator among a thousand other hapless fucks rushing to the next unclaimed special point in culture, but it all comes from appraising what the cycle is for me: what drives me to do — and what I do to put back in it. If I could formulate any meaningful change, it would be where the ambition and the content bounce off each other instead of content alone being the gamble. People won't evolve to read minds or archive the emotions of the guy who wrote his seminal novel, but they can value the best of all the individual puts in, than appeasing a best within the whole. Where everyone can become better, and not the best.

My guess at the end of all this is that those creators who took their lives were experiencing the realization against bests and greats as a component of the social and spiritual fabric, but also an impossibility in reconciling a substitute form of expressing ambition. Additionally, with the other problems they were confronted with, having the projected meaning of their life and work as nothing important or valid to the public, they caught that infamous train we're all compelled to by being revolted by it.

Existential crises, creative insecurity, conformity and invisibility. They mix and build the worst barriers between an idea and breaking through. Instead of driving through those barriers and failing when you're killed in the crash, let's just go around them. Let's be better, and avoid best.