Archive for adventure

Visions of Me, Reading Visions of Cody

“Ah the mad hearts of all of us.” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

I have ran through many places, many times, worn many faces, I have started, stopped, and restarted time on several occasions, all in the daunting task of completing a read-through of Visions of Cody. At times, the days were cold and sent shudders to the very marrow of my bones, other times, the sun scorched my neck, reminding me of nature’s raw beautiful power and its indifference to my speck of functioning in the world. Jack Kerouac is my ultimate muse author, and having read nearly two dozen of his books, I still was not ready for the wild, free-flowing, at times seemingly disjointed and nonsensical writings that make up Visions of Cody, or at least I was not at first, second, or even third try. Visions of Cody, in all its 400 plus pages of spontaneous (I mean really meandering and spontaneous) prose, is a moment in my life, an accomplished feeling of having experienced an admired writer’s most experimental and complex piece. And in the end, I am better for it.

So what is this piece I am writing now? Well, it is not so much a book review, as it is a momentary snapshot glimpse view back into my experiences with Visions of Cody…my visions of me, reading Visions of Cody.

The first two sections, and approximately one-hundred pages, visually resemble the original scroll version of On the Road, long blocks of small type-font, with little room for paragraph breaks, a true stream of consciousness, and spontaneous prose tale. I was hooked right away. I went into the book knowing of its legendary (in a hip underground beat sort of way) reputation, but was still left in amazement by the hyper-stream of consciousness, and the beautifully, and often tragic, acute attention to detail, so much detail for even the most mundane of situations, that painted vivid imagery in my mind, transporting me back to this bygone era of America. Consider this, there is probably an easy one and a half, to two pages wholly dedicated to describing a countertop and chairs in a skid-row diner. This is part of what Visions of Cody did, it brought you so close to what would in any other situation be considered the dull and mundane, and transformed it into a passionate and somber look back at Americana, as it once existed from coast to coast.

“I can’t think of anybody…who knows the sum and substance of what I know and feel and cry about in my secret self all the time when I don’t feel strong, the sorrows of time and personality, and can therefore on all levels make it all the way with me” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

The next two sections, and nearly two-hundred pages,  of Visions of Cody goes even further down the experimental and avant-garde rabbit hole of writing,  transcribing, word for word, a series of tape recordings between Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and other various Beats. It needs to be noted that these recordings are painstakingly random, at times incoherent, confusing, and are the result of much intoxication by all involved. It is in this stage of the book, that I am conflicted, torn between my love for self-expression, spontaneity, the “out there”, avant-garde, and the generally askew from the norm, torn between all this, and my ultimate takeaway, that while the intent of transcribing tape recordings of people in true naked conversations is bold and exciting (in theory), the end result is disjointed (and not in a good way) and lacking in true Kerouac storytelling depth. It lacked heart.

Countless cups of coffee, seasons of the year, and a kaleidoscope of people, places, and things came and went in my life as I read this book- my ever-present companion, Visions of Cody. There was some sort of bayou hoodoo spell conjured up within the pages of Visions, for each time I read a segment, my mind raced with intrigue, icons, lost visions, teleportation, and a heart-warming fondness for the less than glamorous side of America, the hard-working, the down-trodden, the people who will not show up on any billboards, wont star in a Hollywood movie, and would not even make a footnote in their local paper. This is the true America, the one Jack Kerouac saw disappearing, that he thought worth saving, the Americana of the blues, of railroad yards, late nights in bars, road trips across the country, a seemingly simpler time that was fading fast. This is just as poignant today as it was then, that is the beauty of Jack’s writing.

The remaining pages of Visions of Cody continues in the stream in which the book started, forgoing the tape recordings, and holds some of the most powerful and beautiful sections of prose I have ever read. I am not one for hero-worship, but I will say that there are some brilliant flashes of storytelling tangled within the stream of consciousness behemoth that is Visions of Cody.

In the end, Visions of Cody made me feel accomplished, rewarded for having made it through. It also left me inspired, inspired to continue writing, seeking adventure, living life on my own terms, and focusing on the little things in life, for they are what make up our memories (stories) we take with us forever. Perhaps, even more than any of those takeaways, Visions of Cody showed me a new level of pride in America (Americana), in the simple hard-working truth of the nation, and the unmolested beauty that still remains down every back-road, if we are just willing to let go, travel, and see what we have flown by blinded for too long, and for that, I am grateful that Visions of Cody is here.

“…the great black bird broods outside my window in the high dark night waiting to enfold me when I leave the house tomorrow only I’m going to dodge it successfully by sheer animalism and ability and even exhilaration, so goodnight” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Winter Remembrance

The winter rushes in like drops of sweat on a furled brow. The winds cut through the town as razors through air. Windblown mind freezes of collective shivering mind states. When you look back, everything happens so quickly, it is the nature of being. Still, I continue to be amazed by this. The train rolls on and I recount my autumnal now winter remembrance- trying desperately to slow it down, to capture the moments, get it all back (what?), and in the process I remain blind to the truth, an erroneous life mindset of false separations and inconsequential barriers and holdings. The truth swirls all around and within, yet we remain concrete in our views and separation. So many emotions and thoughts, they weigh me down, although I strive to float free. You cannot help but reminisce- it is natural (un?) to want to remember, glorify, romanticize it all, and find special purpose and meaning. The rat scurries past the back alley skid row whino at dawn- what beauty is in recounting that?

The baby is born, the first blooms of spring push through, breaking the earth’s barrier- a child becomes and adult, a hill becomes a mountain- a geriatric ancient wise sad soul is taken into the void, a mighty oak crumbles and becomes one with the earth (again)- between all these expected times of life, there is an infinite stream of bliss and sadness- the truly triumphant, followed by the most wrenching pain and misery- a chaotic beautiful masterpiece that will crush even the brightest soul if we are not careful. I am guilty the same as anyone, I hold too tight and crave too much meaning, allow and falsely create too much control. We wouldn’t be the storytellers, the people that we are, if we did not recount and hold tight to the bosom. It is inherent, yet untrue- realizations of wiping the slate clean, only to realize the slate was never full, and the slate was never a slate- mind weary wanderings.

Things are different now- perhaps they always have been. Looking out over the moving car, only to realize that it is all separation and isolation. Sometimes I look back with fondness, happiness and joy, but more often it is with regret, dissatisfaction, sadness, and an overall blunting of life. Why? Even in this moment of writing flow escape, I stop, tap the pen, pondering the reason- the weight bears down on my chest- the weight of eons of existence and action (no action) to forgo this contemplation is to forgo my truth- no matter how flawed. I turn the page and it is blank, for a moment I want to stop, leave it in its (im)perfect Buddha mind-state and call it my greatest work- instead I scribble this all over it and continue on with my meandering ways.

Taking it all back, what is my remembrance?

It is her- it is mainly her. It is all of them, but above all others, it is her. It is the great times from youth through adulthood that I vividly recall. I remember that which I do not remember. It is feelings, emotions, connections- it is hurt and pain, it is days with my brother and dad sinking model ships at Bode Lake. It is seeing my son’s face for the first time and praying for his safe arrival. It is all that has come, but especially that which has yet to occur. I remember past, present and future. It is that nagging hope and at the same time fear that when I look back on my life as a body of work the story will be incomplete, unrealized. It is hoping to have one moment of pure writerness adventure seeking joy spontaneity. The lone observer immersed in the most interesting of settings, recording it all with hyper-focus. It is the smallest of and the grandest of moments- the moments I did not even realize were moments.

What is my remembrance? Perhaps most importantly, it is my mortal struggle to understand change’s truth- the ever evolving force that binds it all together. Change in its purest most understood form can be a catalyst to set one free, release from mortal confusion and blindness. We hold tight that which we hold dearest, convince ourselves that it can last forever, or at the least never change until it is gone. This is flawed. Family, relationships, careers, possessions- we cling to these and spend energy and waste moments trying to dictate something that we have no control over. To have complete control in life is to let go of and realize you in fact have no control- the illusion of a life in balance. I am reminded often about change’s power and will, including the these first winter moments, where the landscape has changed seemingly in the blink of an eye, into a world almost forgotten. This is my winter remembrance.

Repetition and Routine- Bringers of Negativity- How We Turn it Around

Coming Up:

  • Repetition and Routine as the hidden handicappers of embracing life
  • How routine and repetition impacted me recently
  • Considerations for how they can impact you and what you can do

 

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, or so they say. I am not here to debate the merits of that statement, although it would be interesting. There are things else in the world outside of idle hands that are some of the largest proponents of woe and misery today- repetition and routine.

Coming from a family that leans heavy towards the obsessive compulsive mindset, routine and repetition are our closest neighbors, we wave hello to them every morning and invite them over for Sunday brunch. Branching out further, expanding the scope to society as a whole (at least the American society I am familiar with), it can be easily seen that routine and repetition have not just pervaded our lives, but have infected it, captured it, tortured it and ground us down. The worst part about all of it is that routine and repetition are so sneaky, so conniving that they have brainwashed us into believing that they are needed, a simple fact of life, just how things are. They do not have to be.

Variety is truly the spice of life (to be cliché).

My journey over the past few months has been eye opening. I have learned more about myself than anticipated (and I expected a lot). My view of the world has changed drastically. It is not just about career change (that is part of it); my world in the past few months has been riddled with unexpected loss, undo stressors, uncomfortable situations that have forced me to confront deep seeded notions of who I am, what I believe in, and how I impact the people around me. The road has taken many twists and turns as of late, and along the way I have brushed against some thorny undergrowth on my way to truth.

One component of that journey has been my realization regarding the toxic nature of engraining oneself in routine and repetition. This dangerous duo can manifest in countless forms: taking relationships for granted, bad dietary and or fitness habits, accepting sub-par working conditions, avoiding dangerous health symptoms, being oblivious to others’ desperate outreach, and perhaps most tragically, a general and overall apathy for life and missing out on the possibility of the true wonder and amazement that can come with each day.

Life is overwhelming for all of us in some way or another, to varying extents. Routine and repetition are what some may call tools, others will call crutches, there to help us avoid having to see each day as a unique life experience, equal parts exciting and terrifying. In general, we are not equipped, nor do we have the energy (unfortunately) to approach each day as a new adventure, open our minds up to the possibilities, see every item, even those most commonplace fresh and rediscover life with each moment. As a society we have set up our lives in a way that will not allow for this type of fresh-eyed childlike approach. I will acknowledge that there are benefits to routine and repetition in certain niches and situations, but as a whole, when taken to the extremes that we have become accustomed to, they deprive us of a baseline satisfaction and appreciation for life and learning.

In my most recent revelation, I discovered that routine and repetition were impacting my daily life in serious and negative ways. I found myself doing what was comfortable, not challenging myself, taking relationships for granted, accepting life situations that were a hindrance and contributors to negative mental states simply because they were convenient and easy. I was slipping and forgetting how to see each day as an adventure, open my eyes and see the wonder and excitement that encapsulates existence. It takes energy, often times a lot to approach each day anew; it is easier to do what is known, what is comfortable, what is right in front of us, even if it hurts us.

For myself, I have found that it takes daily intention, constant recalibration to avoid the duo of repetition and routine. It has only been a few days since my revelatory refocus, but it has been a godsend. As an artist and a creative mind, I am always thinking abstract in so many mediums; sad to say that the basic premise of living each day had started to be excluded from that list. No more. I am dedicated to allowing routine and repetition to have their proper places in small doses for select situations, while recommitting to opening my eyes and challenging the status quo of what makes up a day.

Consider for yourself, what do I do each day that falls into a routine and repetition cycle?

What things are appropriate to have routine and repetition for? Which life segments are hurt or not allowed to flourish by routine and repetition?

Once you have established your starter list, it is time to commit and take action. The action will be different for each of us. It may be that we need to avoid certain situations, approach people differently, take a risk on something that scares us (the unknown), or we may need to have tough conversations and cut out items that we once believed were vital in our life. Whatever the case, the overarching message is of a fresh approach and a moment by moment appreciation for life. It does not matter if it applies to your career, your family, or you as an individual, the message remains the same.

Looking back, I want to (need to be able to) say that I saw the wonders of life; I embraced the day, the choices, the options, and the great unknown.

Looking Back:

  • Routine and repetition pervade our lives, often times in negative ways
  • By taking some time to reflect and open ourselves up to new approaches, we can combat these negative impacts

 

Scott Norek

Blogger and Freelance Writer at scottnorek.com http://bit.ly/1KOSW02

Ten Week Reflection on My Path

Upcoming…

  • Self-reflection on the first steps in my new life path
  • How it has impacted me and the people around me
  • A tidbit or two on what we can all do to find truth

 

It has been exactly ten weeks today since I stepped out of the office of my corporate compliance position I had held for the last ten years for the last time. As of that day, I no longer was required (are we ever really required- we make choices even if we do not think they are choices) to come into the office, complete my corporate duties, and contribute to a for-profit publicly traded company, that today seems a distant memory and eons away from who I am right now, in this moment. Sure, the departure from corporate life was not on my own accord, my hand forced via riff, but it was welcomed, it was needed.

It has always been in me, writer, artist, and I have always known that a corporate life, while rich with many material benefits and comforts, was not me, not deep down to my truth. It is possible (and probable) that there is a corporate career out there that would align directly with my true-self, my core beliefs and passions. I will not deny that. What I will say is that I am and have always been a writer, artist, and a seeker of adventure and truth. The world is a wonderful mysterious place and it calls to me, beckoning me to explore it, experience it, and to understand (try to) its infinite mysteries and truths.

This is where I need to be, this is what my path needs to be, a primary focus on life, experiences, and a continued searching of truth and beauty. I was not doing that from my desk in a corporate office, focusing on regulatory compliance.

I feel more alive today and more satisfied in each day than I have in a very long time. Many would look at my situation and see an unfortunate individual laid off from a (seemingly and was for ten years) stable, very well paying corporate position, which provided an excess of financial and material comfort, evidence of career progression, success and promise for the future. These people would see all that and conclude that it was a tragedy, a worrisome situation, one difficult to recover from, and wonder, “what will he do next?” “How will he match that success in the job market today?” and I get it…I do. I understand that mindset.

It is a mindset I have had to battle and explain away to so many of my closest friends and family members. As a husband and father to a one year old son, the traditional standard of success, comfort and safety are hard societal tags to shake.

But there is a different type of success, a different standard for life, a more fulfilling and true ideal to strive for. That is what I am going for now. The path to live it my everyday as my true-self, to pursue my passions, my dreams, the components that I most closely identify with at the core of my being. My wife Laura and I have always fancied ourselves a little bit different, slightly left of the mainstream, neo-hippie types caught up in a corporate suburbanite world. In between morning commutes to the office and painstaking repetitive maintenance of our suburban sprawl, I dreamt of escape, of running away, leaving it all behind, going simple, primitive, free and living away, secluded, perhaps a remote rustic cabin tucked deeply into a woody pine, the fresh mountain air in the morning, the simple and true reality sounds of birds, insects, a babbling brook…and us, just the family and peace.

So now and for the last ten weeks, I found myself able to escape, able to explore this path. With the support of my wife and a desire to take this leap, I have experienced a lot.

It is no easy task to go from amateur (still am), casual writer in my free time, writing pieces only for myself, or at least only seen by myself, the hidden work of an artist at heart and mind for the entirety of my life (as far as I can recall), to choosing to leap into the public eye and make my works, my emotions, my truths, and my very being available for public consumption. Our emotions, identifiers, and stories are very personal to all of us…imagine taking your journal, spilling your desires, fears, insecurities, struggles and accomplishments out into the world. This is what I am doing, this is what I have chosen to do…and I love every second of it.

I miss no part of my former corporate career. I miss several people, but nothing else. That is not to imply I am not grateful for the opportunity, the company, the experience, or the path it took me on for the last ten years. That part of my life brought me many great memories and provided in a particular way for me and my family. It also led me to where I am today, sitting here, literally recounting my past years in a creative writing form that has always been primary to my true-self. I am not ungrateful, but I also do not miss any part of it and do not desire to return down that path. That path is done; it is no longer part of my current or future story (as far as my limited perspective can see).

What I have today is brilliant, special, engaging, and beautiful. I have a purpose and a path that makes me feel alive and deeply satisfied in a life fulfilling way. I am a writer.

In ten weeks on this new path, I have learned many things:

  1. It is difficult and can seem impossible at times, but being true to yourself as deeply and honestly as possible is liberating. There is nothing like it.
  2. You must first discover what being true to yourself really means. We may think we know, have convinced ourselves we know what we desire, what we need, but it may be a wall, a facade, a compromise we have made in life to deal with and accept our circumstances. Take time, find solitude for however long you need, listen to yourself and discover the silent voice within that whispers to your soul. Hear what it has to say.
  3. Following a path that veers any degree from what you have done in the past, what is expected of you, and or is unconventional for whatever slice of society you are a part of will be misunderstood and met with a great degree of confusion. Be true, honest, open and frank with those that you feel need to, or you care to explain yourself to. Even if your decision is not for them and they do not understand, if you are being true to your core, they will understand and feel that. People will respond to your vibrations you set out, as long as they are pure and true.
  4. We can all do it; we all need to do it. We can find ourselves and make it work in our life. It will not happen overnight, it takes time. Finding truth starts with desire and unbreakable determination. Never lose sight, even when times may be their darkest.

It has already been, but also has only been ten weeks since I have pushed down this new path. I still have so much to learn, so much to experience.

I welcome comments (comment link at bottom of each blog post- may show as “no comments”). Let me know a way you have followed your path that others can learn from.

There will be more recaps to come, for now, adventure on my fellow life travelers. Find your peace.

Scott’s Excellent Adventure

Upcoming…

  • Making the most of the day
  • Slowing down life enough to have a moment
  • Adventure in many forms
  • Finding joy in the everyday

 

Author’s Note…

  • I talked with my wife on this topic last night and today it is my blog

Adventure. This topic was front and center primary in a late night talk between Laura and I last night. I have been finding myself pontificating so much during the day, having so much I want to let loose and riff on with Laura, by the time she comes home, settled in, we have taken care of our son and put him down to sleep for the evening, and finally have a moment to just talk, I am a damn ready to burst in my mind, having played out parts of the conversation (stop Scott- be in the moment) and I could go a million miles an hour- speedy word genius of forgone (Neal Cassady) staggering down the winding road, jumping from topic to topic. The ever elusive and mad ramblings of a man possessed. I have trouble holding it all in recently- a whirling dervish of mad riffs, long winded expulsions and stream after stream of intricately laced story. On this night we traded off points on adventure- having both realized that we are in good spirits individually and as a couple as of late, we dissected that fact. Discussed the whys, the hours, the experiences, and the outcomes. A sense of adventure and of experience, searching each out and devouring them whole in each day was our primary takeaway. We all need adventure, as often and as madly as possible. I had almost forgotten (and am sure many others have) how to do this on a day to day basis, how to find time, even if just a moment to be wowed by the day, to be amazed by life. My former professional life in corporate compliance did nothing to facilitate this, and in many ways was crippling. I realize I am in a special kind of situation being able to be a stay at home parent and aspiring writer that facilitates these ambitions. But we can all do it. We have to be able to…

(I took a rather lengthy pause here to stop writing, hear the music, and absorb the nature that I had immersed myself in.)

Adventure will mean something different to everyone, but the primordial need and the baseline effect are generally the same. Life is made up of moments, and within each moment that we bridge we choose to either be present or mindlessly follow suit- we can either seek out truth and connectedness with the world around us, or we can continue on mindless, numb, oblivious to the preciousness. This is what was happening to me- too caught up in the grind, the routine, the have-to-dos, I had forgotten how to enjoy, how to be simple. Recently we have been seizing this though- two individuals both in desperate need of release- finding that groove, peeling back the veil just a bit to step into the shallow waters of tranquility and the liquid essence of adventure. Truth seekers.

Everyone is different (already said) and everyone’s level of awareness is also. Life can be a slow twisting knot, becoming ever more tight as each day passes by, until there is no more slack left and you are trapped in a life and in a way of living, approaching each day that is a far cry from your true aligned self. Take a moment, discover something new in your everyday routine. Notice the person you have never noticed before, see the beauty in the flower garden you blindly pass every day, read a new book, hear a new song, build a campfire, tell someone you love them, sit in the grass (and do nothing else besides sit), take a new lover, say yes to that party invitation, take that solitary walk at night, play ball with your dog, live, adventure, experience- fully, deeply, madly, passionately, and as frequently as possible. For it all comes to an end- times change- moments are lost- people exit your world- life continues on. Finite yet endless. Each day does not need to be a wild madcap adventure burning down the city- all you need are moments, experiences to feel the touch- the touch of glory- of truth. Peace. I am trying more and more to do this every day. I feel beyond being right, it is almost a cliché prerequisite for the writer/artist.

Devour life.

For me, most recently, it has been putting my words out in the world in a very public way, meeting new people at a wedding, playing in the pool in my backyard with my son, taking a walk on my own, taking a risk pursuing a desire, and taking a moment to take pride in my wife’s accomplishments and praise her for it. All different, all experiences, all micro adventures in their own right. All took me out of the daily routine, tested my boundaries, showed me something new and reminded me about adventure in life (that is life).

 

Looking Back…

  • Adventure and excitement in life can be found every day
  • It just takes us a conscious effort to find it

Inspiration and A Hard Day’s Work

FullSizeRender (2)

Upcoming…

  • Inspiration and Mood Setting
  • Outdoors
  • Suburban Ideals
  • Good Ol’ Fashioned Hard Day’s Work
  • Going With the Day

Author’s Note…

  • This is a short piece that I am including to display the nature of my day-to-day life as a suburbanite, parent and partner. You will also get a glimpse (very small scale) of my drive to seek adventure and go for the unknown in each day.

Instincts and going for it. It has worked so far this morning and afternoon (also the day of Ryland’s 11th month). After an inspired writing session fueled by Grapefruit Sculpin and ambiance and by incense and psychedelic music, I rushed outdoors just having dodged the rain to start to unbury my backyard from the overly earthy attack of overgrown shrubbery and weeds- in a place like Bartlett Illinois, we must be seen as having the scarlet letter for how we maintain- or in this case do not maintain our yard. Two (now three)out there neo-hippieesque souls swimming an endless sea of cookie cutter, drones of well to-do cogs in the suburban idealism wheel- we need to get out- get back to the land and live in the mountains. We are out of place here and it goes well beyond our unkempt yard, peeling house paint, untrained dogs, lack of interest in playing the “hey how are you doing neighbor”, it is partially these things, but more- deeper- it is our outlook, our beliefs, our passions, our goals, our dreams…and our disgust for all things expected and cookie cutter. Having cleared my yard the best I can in an hour or so time frame I return indoors, shirt sweated, mud streaks cast about shoes and socks drenched with stagnant remnants of the day’s monsoons we have gotten. It is in this moment I feel a sense of pride. First for having accomplished a chore, it was overdue, but there is also something primordial, earthy, basic, savage, and manly about working in the yard, using tools, sweating, lifting stone. I am man in this moment. A quick shower washes away the glory and I am back down to modern era, the alpha brute stomping through the mud washed away swirling down the shower drain. I call my dad to see if he wants to grab lunch. The plans seem initially foiled by the fact that my dad is amidst a chain of to-dos hoping from place to place and is catching lunch nearly a half hour away from me. We end the conversation as we will meet up some time soon, but then I think, hell, why not now? I text my dad that I will be driving out to him to meet for lunch. The long and short of it is a great adventure of time with my dad, including some great finds for Ryland at a local thrift store and some more than decent food. Post lunch I head out looking for my next stop to write, and here we are, beer in hand.

 

Looking Back…

  • The mood and atmosphere is critical to the creative day
  • So is the willingness to break routine and go for it