Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pumping Irony

I'm no Joe Piscopo, but I would like to be in shape (someday), so I work out pretty regularly. Recently, I've started using free weights. This would have the added benefit of making me look super-cool if I were lifting significant amounts of weight. Unfortunately, I'm not, so it has taken some guts (and humility) for me to move from the "machine zone" to the free weight area at my gym.

The Machine Zone is for the civilians, those people who want to be in shape, but don't wanna put a lot of thought into it. There's also the Cardio Zone for people who just wanna be skinny. The free weight area, however, is for those who are truly dedicated to the craft of body-building. Their level of dedication is sometimes frightening, but you can't question their commitment. (You can only question whether they should be committed.)

Through brute strength, they have "raised the bar" (get it?) for entry to the free weight area. Most people are too intimidated to venture into that "sanctum sanctorum" of physical fitness for fear of having their relative weakness exposed in public. But not this guy! I've proudly stridden into the domain of the not-at-all-doughy and displayed my lack of strength next to those brawny behemoths.

Seriously, though, it takes some gumption to do an incline chest press at the gym when you're only lifting the bar. Even on a regular bench press I've just been putting one 2.5-pound weight on each side. It's kind of embarrassing. One question for the equipment manufacturer: Why do you have to make the bars so freaking heavy?! I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation, but, frankly, I don't want to hear it.

So far, no one's made fun of me or kicked sand in my face and run off with my best girl. Therefore, I think it's safe to say that, like many of life's obstacles, this barrier is self-imposed. Nor is the free weight area an exclusive club that confers social privileges to its denizens. In other words, if I wanna get laid, I'm still gonna need confidence and social skills.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Delusions of Grandeur

In my youth, when inspiration struck me, when it really pierced me to the heart, plunging its spear to the core of my being, I was sometimes overcome by the feeling that God was speaking through me. "I am your vessel, O Lord!" I would exclaim (in my head). "Do with me what you will!" But then, a few days later, I would read what I wrote and think, "Well that sucks."

Such is the outrageous hope (and arrogance) of the young artist. Or so I'd like to believe. I'd hate to think I'm the only one who has harbored such extravagant delusions of grandeur. But these flights of fancy are necessary (fingers crossed) to give many artists the courage for the giant leaps into the unknown that great art requires.

My forays into the void have largely been fueled by that supreme (some would say "delusional") self-confidence. Of course, the grander my delusions, the more vulnerable they are to puncture. The work of which I'm most proud is also the work I can least bear to hear criticized. It's a paradox that has kept me from sharing much of my writing.

But what kind of confidence is popped by the tiniest needle? Not a terribly useful kind, that's for sure. It would be better to call it "self-importance" rather than "self-confidence." I invested too much of my sense of self-worth in my art. The truly self-confident artist would submit their work for review and use the feedback to refine their craft.

I just wanted people to tell me how good (and great) I was. The art was merely a device to cultivate external validation.

Funny how my insecurity manifested as an artistic Messiah Complex: "The world needs to hear this! No longer can I keep these works of genius to myself! I was put on this earth to share my vision with Humanity and lead Mankind to a glorious new Golden Age!"

Recalling the proportions of those fantasies, I wonder about the depth of my pain. Is that what inflated my delusions? Or was it just the arrogance (and ignorance) of youth?