Tag Archive: family

Hello Grandpa, this is your grandson Mark, aka Marco Polo. I hope you are feeling well; surgeries can’t keep us Sheedys down!

I’ve been a busy, yet productively self-absorbed young man the last several years. So many alternate ways of making a living attempted or at least semi-attempted: fiction author, musician, radio host, fashion model, voiceover artist, recording engineer, political activist. Each one bears some resemblance to the time I came down from my room in high school and told my family I would be very focused on buying model rockets for the next several years, possibly the rest of my life, never to look at or buy another model rocket after that day. Yet each interest stayed with me in part; I never quit, but moved on. Life is too full of options to quit or focus on any of them. Yet mastery of anything seems to deprive that thing of its luster. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never be a master of my own life, as much as I seem to want it, as much as society tells me it’s important. Were I to suddenly know what I was doing, why, how, and in what timeframe, and then suddenly to SUCCEED at that thing, and to continue on doing it and succeeding upon it and adding to it, my life would be deprived of its meaning, its freedom, its possibilities. So a multitude of ideas replaces the singular material reality, none worth more or less than another, any more than one aspect of my character is more important than another. They are all me. And when people ask me, “Who are you?” I can honestly reply, “The world, the great, wide, rich, world.” The Tolstoy, the Peirce, the Wollstonecraft, the Althusser, the bell hooks, the Orson Welles, the Lenny Bruce, the Kant, the Nietzsche, the Philip K. Dick, the Scorsese, the Marx, the Picasso, the Geoff Emerick, the Dworkin, the Frank Zane, the Baris Manco, the Huey Newton, the Plato, the Fanon, the Malcolm X, the Flaubert, the Rimbaud. All of these, and more.

And yet, who am I? An idea, or a human being? Society expects a person to “join the human race,” i.e. join “the world,” by relinquishing all of these non-realities and focusing on one thing. “Find your niche, get into it, do it for forty years, get to know the people involved in it, use it to get a salary to get what you want out of life, and be known to your peers as the person who did ‘that thing,’ who did it well, and who did it without fail.” I have a multitude of niches, I’ve gotten deep into all of them, I’ve done some of them for years now, I know many groups of people specific to each of them. But I’ve never made a salary for them. I’ve never gotten material things from them. I’m known to my peers as a passionate albeit scatterbrained character with not-great time management, yet one who passes easily for 24 despite being 30. I’ve ridden a long road leading nowhere, and I have only more ideas to show for it, more names to add to that list. No house, no wife, no money of my own, barely a sense of place or purpose, barely able to calm down.

But I would say that I would rather be cultivated than efficient, aged than light and fluffy. I would rather see the meaning of the words, of the events, of the times, than see only what they can get me. I have the great, great privilege of time to contemplate, to explore, to assess, and while the knowledge sometimes weighs me down and makes me feel inept and burdensome, I know deep inside that, with enough time and patience with myself, I can overcome that feeling of ineptitude and obtain balance, confidence and competence around MY LIFE ITSELF, not one or another trade, one or another niche, but around existence as it is. We are expected to know who we are too early, and unfulfilled passions lead to unfulfilled people. And the world is quite unfulfilled, and pissed off about it.

I hope you know that I attribute some of what I describe about myself and admire to you and to my mom’s side of the family. Society expects us to focus, and we Sheedys say, “NO.” Society expects us to move, and we stay put until we’re finished with our thought. Society expects us to seek “happiness,” when any rational analysis of life reveals that happiness is about as much life’s purpose as pollution is the purpose of air. It’s practically incidental, a much smaller part; extant, but hardly the totality. And I don’t think I like that kind of happiness, anyway.

Just so you know what I’ve been up to, in concrete terms, I’m graduating in August from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in English. I’ll either go into the field of personal fitness training, or, if things go the right way, paid student activism, which will involve agitating with student groups on campus for lower tuition. I’m a member of a socialist group called Socialist Action; leftist politics have made a huge impact on my way of thinking, both clarifying and complicating it, as any good doctrine should do. I’ll keep writing fiction, no matter which career path I enter; I aim to publish a novel in my lifetime.

I’m in a relationship with a young woman named Caitlin Rosen, who teaches at a Quaker private school for children with learning disabilities. She is a long-distance ocean swimmer; in June she’s competing in a swim comprised of two 8-mile “runs,” with no resting. She’s quite inspiring; Caitlin is a wonderful, sweet, talented, loving girl from a good family. We’ve been dating about 3 1/2 months now. I met her on OKCupid, which is an online dating website. Technology has its purposes.

Soon, I’ll be living with John and some of his friends. I also make hard rock music in a band called SYKA; I’ve now been playing drums for 22 years, which is somewhat incredible to me. I love to work out and lift weights (notice Frank Zane’s name above). I went vegetarian again in June or July last year for political and pro-animal reasons, having been a meat eater for the previous ten years.

This message is quite long so I’ll wrap it up here. I hope you’re feeling well and strong and that I manage to see you soon. I sincerely miss our Sheedy Christmases; my childhood was elevated by them. Even that one time I got totally shitfaced on wine at your Syosset house and made something of an ass of myself. Even that one. All the experiences, all the reflections…these are what life is. Not happiness. Fullness. And just enough to remain hungry.

Talk soon. With love, your grandson,

Family of Oppressions

Do you feel satisfied with your life? Are you paying close enough attention? Do the things you have and hope to obtain in the future offer enough promise, or do you need more? Do you need to feel loved by someone who needs you, rather than waiting for appreciation from a world that couldn’t care less if you died?

Well then, do what we humans always do. Have children. How are you supposed to feel safe in this world of shitty healthcare and gutted Medicare if you know that no one else will be around to take care of you when you get old and gray? With your busy work schedule, how are you supposed to eat healthily, exercise, and stay off the couch? After a long day at work, nothing feels better than that bottle of Budweiser, that fresh new Jets game or hospital drama, and those old cushions stained with years of comfortable familiarity.

Yet when your spine bends inwards, your stomach grows ulcers, your liver turns into a piece of shoe leather, and your legs look like two broken sticks, who will be there to help you up? Help you to the bathroom? Help feed you bland food? After your busy work-day, that pays for the clothes on your back, the cable on your telly, the gas in your car, the lawn and chimney and rooms in your house or apartment, the Perdue Roaster in your fridge, you deserve a break, a time in your life to stop working, to stop thinking, feeling, fighting the inevitable collapse of your world around you, that forces you into a life of work for the purpose of things, items, stuff.

And what makes this break possible? The federal government? No. The obvious thing that, despite all these cyclically unfulfillable needs, will make sure that some aspect of your life has meaning, has resonance, and that all of your stuff and bodily functions will be duly taken care of, before and after you pass from this earth.

Children. The values of work, and possessions, will guide him or her or preferably them towards the wonderful places you have found yourself over the years: feelings of inadequacy, wanting more and not getting it, resentment towards your parents, all the betrayed intoxicating promises of “you can be whatever you want to be,” before the equivalently sobering mantra of “you won’t make any money with THAT major on your college degree” is shoved in your face like a deed on your future that someone else owns, not to mention respect for your elders, the same elders that told you the same things you’ll tell your own children in euphemism: “you were born to amuse me, for me to take care of, to add some meaning to my drab and unfulfilled life, to let me know what my children would look like and what kind of people they would be, to stand for some abstract promise of a future that I denied myself, and that will eventually be denied you, too, before I get old and need to be taken care of due to some stress-induced disease, the result of living a life where dreams rest safely in my youth, as yours will someday.”

Dreams, all of it, dreams. But children are real, solid things, with feelings and needs, and if you don’t tend to them, they will die. Not like the rest of the problems of this world: war, hunger, poverty, exploitation. These are but abstract issues, hardly real or solid, without inlet, without routes, without reconciliation to myself, for were I to address them, I would be forced to take responsibility for them. For these values—family, and possessions—these are the ways in which people like me ignore the suffering of the world, and focus our concerns on the “here and now,” the fulfillment of perceived needs, while the politicians and trillionaires create the conditions by which such misery and suffering are perpetuated. Yet I have no power, I have no voice except my vote….but my child will.

Ah-ha, not the power to confront, organize around, and defeat these conditions—that would take them away from me—but to be my way of feeling powerful, influential… he or she or preferably them will be shaped and molded by my “policies,” my “reforms,” to reproduce the same conditions that drove me rightly to act against my dreams and in my own material self-interest, which is a value that has never yet failed me. Perhaps one or two of my personal failings will be corrected, but in general, I will be important to this little tyke, loved, necessary, and not helpless or anonymous as this unaddressable world would have me be. He or she or them will be a mirror that can help me when I’m too weak to stand, too hungry to eat, too riddled with angst and unrest to even act civilly anymore, who will tend to me no matter what, and whose own dreams—needs, desires, impulses to address the world I know to be out of reach—can go by the wayside, while my house and car and things I’ve bought and held onto will all be dealt with, and “self-sacrifice” stands as the cardinal “family value,” while the real sacrifice is that of a world worth living in, where I don’t justify the starving and misery and death with my own sense of helplessness, where I don’t rise to the arrogance of a self-fulfilled prophecy, and wonder why those who suffer most hate me, and my child, and my definition of freedom.