My neighbor looks like Rod Serling: Call Kafka quick!

#Trust30 Prompt: When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world buzzes about goals and visions. Focus. Create a vivid picture of exactly where you want to go. Dream big, then don’t let anything or anyone stop you. The problem, as Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling Upon Happiness, is that we’re horrible at forecasting how we’ll really feel 10 or 20 years from now – once we’ve gotten what we dreamed of. Often, we get there only to say, “That’s not what I thought it would be,” and ask, “What now?” Ambition is good. Blind ambition is not. It blocks out not only distraction, but the many opportunities that might take you off course but that may also lead you in a new direction. Consistent daily action is only a virtue when bundled with a willingness to remain open to the unknown. In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them.

[Dear Friends–stick with me on what follows. I promise it will go somewhere.–LA]

Do you ever imagine Rod Serling emerging out of the misty night, lighting a cigarette, and just holding it as the wreaths of smoke curl around his face? And he is smiling with his half-Bogie look. And then the spooky Twilight Zone music begins to play. When it’s time for the bongo solo the percussionist just goes on and on in a kind of eerie bongoese Wipe Out. And all the time Rod says nothing and smiles a wry smile, and you think…this is about me…I am the one who is going to be caught between space and time. Rod talks about you to the audience, but when he is facing you, the lab rat for this episode, he just grins as the ash on the end of the cigarette gets longer and longer. Did you ever experience that?

No? Well, I did right after I read the prompt for today.

I am not seeing any alternative paths right now because I am in the twilight zone. What kind of a question is this anyway: “What paths am I not seeing?” Perhaps it would be better if I asked “what if” questions. Like, “What if I were a painter instead of a writer? What would I paint right now that would provide a better forecast for my life?”

If I were a painter I would execute a portrait. The subject would be my unemployed neighbor because, well, he has plenty of time to sit, but mainly because he is not famous, or handsome, or athletic. He sells hot dogs and beers at football games, but if I painted him at the stadium your eye would be drawn to the field or the children in the stands. In short, he is not the kind of person who would be noticed by, say, a photographer who was looking to capture the essence of a vaporous moment. Now, he is just the kind of person Franz Kafka would notice, and I think perhaps Rod Serling as well. In fact, Kafka would turn him into a bug, but in this story he would be turned back–thanks to Rod. And I think Rod would say that he is debugged because he is not vermin. He is the meek who is to inherit the earth. I am sure my Bud-toting friend has secret ambition, but if I missed him in pursuit of my own ambition then of what value is my ambition when I cannot even see my neighbor? All I will have accomplished is to use the word “ambition” three times in a sentence and that cannot be good. So I will paint his portrait and one day someone who needs to know she is not alone will see his face and recognize her own.

My guess is that when I pursue my own ambition I fail to see my neighbor. When I hold others as more important than myself I actually do more than notice my neighbor. I become present and available–able to respond with readiness. No longer is he a minor character in my story, I see the truth that he has his own story, and it is just as important as mine. No one needs Rod Serling or Franz Kafka to speak for them if a guy across the street (me) makes him come alive by being perhaps the first non-family member to notice that…hey! He looks like Norman Fell!

The alternative path to the one I have beaten on my own is the one you are on. Wherever I go I want to go with you. Let’s invite Rod to join us and walk the new path together. But, “Put it out Rod, those things will kill ya!”