Who are We Kidding?

HalsPoemCard

Just came back from a wonderful lunch at a great old Venice haunt where artists and locals of all stripes have gathered for the past 30 years. This little verse was displayed by every booth and, really, what’s not to love about it? It has all our favorite words: passion, dream, kindness, inspire, truth, love, and a healthy dose of our favorite modifier: your, which in these instructions means my. Breezing past this easy wisdom is like taking a shot of wheat grass juice—or tequila. Your choice.

Either way, that’s about how long the buzz of aphorisms like these will last—or help—over the long haul. Like when the love of your life has left you. When your dad has brain cancer or your mom has dementia or your baby has something wrong that no amount of wit or rank or determination can heal. When you’ve lost your job or your way and you find yourself disappearing more and more into a haze of booze or pills or sex because somehow—despite looking great in your yoga pants—your meditation practice is not bringing you peace. When you’re starting to suspect that it really might be you that is the source of your recurring troubles but don’t have a clue what to do about it.

In the land of sandwich board wisdom there is only one “hard” word even mentioned. Cry. Tucked in between laughing and loving it seems more like a salty reflex of living a fabulous life than anything anchored in real pain. But pain is a real thing. It’s not avoidable. Not even if your start-up becomes an IPO before your 30. Or your film gets Special Jury Recognition at Sundance. Or you figure out how to shed—even briefly—your incessant Fear Of Missing Out. Down the road, you’ll be forced to discover that there’s simply not enough Botox in the world to restore the infinite possibility of youth, or the primal rush of being desired, and you can nip and tuck and “speak your truth” of denial like a mantra, but it will not make heads turn or doors open. And it will surely not hold your wounded spirit in its hand.

The reminders to Be Here Now and to Live In The Moment are much needed, of course, given our collective and constant techno-twitch. More than that, though, I think they’re a wormhole into the ultimate lens of this “scripture” —to deny any reality beyond this moment. Your moment. Your truth. As if nothing came before, or will come after. All the world’s a stage and all the players are just potential followers of your life platform, right?

This notion of your truth has no precedent in human history. It’s a bit surprising that so many educated people cling to it when it defies all logic and reason. Either something is true or something is not true. Either your kid stole the cookie from the cookie jar or she did not. Either you closed the deal or you did not. Either there is a God who created the universe or there is not. We can pretend that it’s a choice that we make, but it is not.

Last month, Hal’s Bar & Grill announced that it was closing its doors. Across the social media landscape of West L.A. there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was sadness and there was shock: this was the cornerstone of the whole hipster scene of Venice, CA. How is it possible that life would go on without it?

Next month, next year—a hundred years from now— there’ll be a new crop of cool places to gather and new foods to rave about and new variations on the idea of being spiritual or transcendent or perfect or happy or saved.

We won’t be here to enjoy them. But the Truth will be.

Same as it ever was.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Either this is true or it’s not true.

Our preference for it to be one or the other is irrelevant—at least so far as Truth is concerned. As for the human heart, well, in that, my friends, it makes all the difference in the world.

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