Friday, January 15, 2016

The Blog About Jihad

You know you're getting old when you don't know any of the performers on Ryan Seacrest's Rockin' New Year's Eve.

#crossfit2016 became #ouchfit2016 in two weeks.
I haven't felt much like writing lately. Months even. Which is difficult because both my income and happiness depend on it. The way I write is also non-traditional and possibly Darwinism in action: I walk around Manhattan, earbuds in with music on, and tap away in “Notes”—like right now somewhere in Midtown West, dodging cars, 37°.

I don't mind the cold. I don't even feel it. And therein lies my problem. I don't really feel anything nowadays. I get up at six, make coffee, and work until later when I have plans with friends or the girl I'm seeing.

My life is sane, stable, and affluent. And I hate it. Because the serendipity of what New York has to offer is lost on someone with a growing savings, a mortgage, and a $50k unused credit limit that offers airline miles for free travel.

And no I'm not trying to show how big my dick is. (It's big enough.) I'm trying to sort it all out mentally right now for me because every night I go to bed with a headache and when it comes to pushing pen to paper, or at least continuing the motion of fingers on a keyboard, the desire is not there. Which is sad because writing used to be like sex to me, where I used to get this sensation when I'd write, free and open verse that seemed to resonate with people because it resonated with me. Like some fucked up Tibetan singing bowl after a bomb ass yoga class with a hot girl (or guy for some) in downward dog in front of you.

But now when I write, or at least try to, I get this weird headachey feeling in my third eye that stares forward waiting to be inspired by something it sees but it sees nothing and as I wait for that sight I decide I should probably be working and making more money. And then I come across something about the Syrian Civil War and ISIS, since that’s my beat, and begin to write about that but not for me, and end up covering up that new headache and the fear I’m losing my creativity with a glass of wine with a Xanax mixer.

Except this time the headache did not go away. This time when I went to work instead of write, the word "jihad" was used a lot on this terrorist Twitter feed I was following and it got me thinking: that's how I feel.

And no, I don't mean I feel or have any terrorist inclinations or sympathy for the Islamic State. I'm a proud and happy American (USA! NSA!) who just happens to work in extremism journalism and right now actually know the traditional definition of “jihad”:  the struggle for one’s self, for one’s own soul. It's the same sort of feeling Thoreau had in those Massachusetts woods when he tried to break into Eastern esotericism, or if you want to stay in the more familiar Judeo-Christian sense, the same sort of feeling Jesus had when he sat and contemplated God in Gethsemane. (“Why are you sleeping?”)

If everything was going so well, why didn't I feel well?

Because I wasn't living up to my true potential. And to write that, to say that, on paper for me is the same as having it tattooed on my forehead like some prayer bump on an Islamist zealot.

"Are you unhappy? Depressed?" My doctor asked me at my latest physical.

"No." I said flatly.

"Good. Drop your pants."

He massaged around my balls, checking for a hernia. “So you want the Advair refill,” he said, making small talk about things we’ve already discussed for no reason other than he was an assumedly straight man currently jiggling another man’s genitalia. “Do you still want the Xanax refill?"

“I wouldn't be able to fly without it,” I said, referring to the fact I am usually on a transcontinental flight about every other month.
There's some good shit in this book.

But then it hit me: I can't fly with it.

The headache at the end of every day that I managed with a glass of wine and the panic of impending doom I squashed with Xanax were manifestations of real emotions, but not my traditional ones that inspired me to write.  But they were still emotions that I could write about.

And now here I was at the end of the day contemplating writing and all I wanted to do was crack a bottle of wine or pop a Xanax but I knew that wasn’t the answer. I had read enough and had lived far too many places to know that. And still, the same question lingered in my head: If everything was going so well, why didn't I feel well?

The Quran says, “And he called out within the darknesses, ‘There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.’” And I’m going to say what I think it means as a Midwestern-raised, middle class, white, American, male, with no Islamic theosophical knowledge other than that I realize I’m one who’s forgotten to question the darknesses.

I think it means I’ve got to get my ass in gear for 2016.

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