Goodbye -LF

He died Saturday morning, June 27th while I was working a brunch shift and I cracked. I yelled no, no, no, as I ran behind the door and down the stairs leading away from anyone who could hear and into our basement. I cried for a minute or two, composed myself and shut it down again. Numb. But it didn’t last long. When a friend asked what was wrong I told her;

 

“My friend just died. I was expecting it, but it still hurts. He wouldn’t want anyone to be sad. So it’s hard to not laugh.”

 

That was Larry. He’d be mad at you for being upset, because he was so incredibly sentimental. People may not understand that because he didn’t seem it or mention it, but he absolutely was. He was sentimental about the things worth being sentimental over, the things that were actually worth our sentiments. Larry made me glad I yelled and got into screaming matches with him. He made me proud of the nickname “Blobbo”, and made me forever remember lemon ginger sandwich cookies with the same sort of warmth and glowing divinity that would make Proust run back to editing again. He taught me to do hospital corners on my bed, how to breathe (I’m not kidding, most of us don’t really breathe), how to eat properly, when to eat, how to treat strangers, when to laugh (always, always, always). Most importantly, he taught me how to behave in every situation you can find imaginable: with kindness. I can’t say I always do it, and neither did he for that matter, but he tried.

There was one time that I was trying to explain to him that I knew what I was doing, he just didn’t explain himself very well. He called me “fuckface squared” and I’ll never be able to forget it. It’s still one of my favorite insults, like something a child believes is the insult to end all insults. The last time I saw Larry, his wife Susan said “our boy is growing up” and he corrected her, “he’s not our boy, he’s a man”. I think they were both right to some degree. He was happy. Right until the very end, when cancer and medication left him bed-ridden and his once boisterous and cantankerous demeanor was reduced to a whisper that he still tried to shout with. He was skin and bones, but the smile was still Larry Fagin. That smile that had laughed at so many cheap jokes with me, pined over Sid Caesar and Jonathan Winters sketches, and taught me how to teach myself.

 

For the past three weeks I’ve cried like I haven’t cried in years. That spontaneous sort of crying where you feel fine one second and it’s complete vision-blurring tears the next. I don’t know how to grieve, because the last time I genuinely did it I was about twenty years old. Before that, I was nine. I’ve learned to endure loss pretty well, so it all ends up coming out on the major ones. I’m not selfish enough to think I’m alone in this loss. The world lost someone wonderful. There are people who’ve known Larry longer than I’ve been alive. I envy them. I had five years with Lawrence Henry Fagin. I know that I would never be satisfied, so I’m just thankful for the time I had. He knew that too. “You just consume, everything, don’t you blobbo?” He understood people and loved them as they were. It was a beautiful thing that we could all learn to do and better the world in doing so (myself included).

The few poems I wrote and shared with him, he barely edited. I’ll always be proud of that. The thing about learning from him was he didn’t just teach people, he invigorated them. He had this special way of bringing out the You, in You. But you wouldn’t stop being his student once he did, because that really pissed him off. I’m laughing through all my tears after that one. He taught by conversation and direction. He’d give you a list and then you’d talk to him about it, but you were never done. There was never a sense of a “course completion” or getting an A. With Larry, you just learned. That was all there was to it. You didn’t need to be the best at anything or even teach some college course on the subject at hand. You just did whatever your day job was, and kept on going with art and history whenever you could, because you could; we all have to, need to, want to. I learned through him that we don’t make art as our sole purpose. Instead we live, and the art comes from what we’ve lived. I met him as a bookish, sheltered video gamer. If I wasn’t trying to read something above my comprehension, I was probably overanalyzing whatever I could read and retain. He made a point to tell me constantly how juvenile what I was reading was. I didn’t believe him then, but I see the importance of it now. I’m sure the scattered essences of him are laughing in molecular languages right now knowing that it took me this long to understand. Then again, knowing Larry he probably would’ve just told me to pick up another author and try them on for size.

 

I will miss him every time I read a new book, see a new movie, eat a new meal, meet a new girl. I will miss him when I get married and only invite his wife. I’ll miss him when I have kids and they don’t get to meet the man that taught me how best to treat and respect their genius little minds. I’ll miss him when I make tomato soup, when I stop to breathe and meditate, when I take out the garbage, when I’m late for work, when I’m eating a burrito and no one says “YOU’RE a burrito”.

You can miss someone and not want them to be alive again, just by remembering them fondly. You can learn anything you want to as long as you go at your pace and stop trying to impress anyone, chances are they’re not paying attention and you’re stressing for no reason. You can go out into the world and treat strangers like they’re your closest friends, it will confuse them and make them believe in humanity. You can be mad at the world and still love it, with all your heart if you decide to. You can pretty much do anything you want to, even if you think you’re not capable of it, as long as you decide to and focus on that one thing, with both hands.

Thanks for reading, fuckface squared.

Who should i be?

TLDR;

If you don’t like who you are, then start being the person you want to be. Pretend it’s who you are, and catch the things about yourself you don’t like. Squash those things. And If you want to get better at anything, read, practice, watch YouTube videos on it. Subscribe to email newsletters about it. Write about it. Listen to music that makes you feel closer to it. But don’t fucking sit there doing nothing and pretend it’s changing. No one ever felt fulfilled while going with the flow.

My best friend lives in Germany. He’s been married a few years now, and they’re planning on having kids down the line. He just bought a house, and did it right too. They took out a loan for more than what the house costs, and spent some money renovating it, this way they can make it as they see fit. He and his wife each get their own “hobby room” as well as kid’s bedrooms. He’s on his way to being a father. He’s already a home-owner and on the path to inheriting a decently successful business. There’s nothing really important about that, other than this one issue:

He wants to know what a successful life is.

As much as I love my friend, I don’t know how to explain to him that he is already on that path. Maybe the issue is that having a wife, a home, and moving towards having kids isn’t exactly success. Really, it depends on what you’re doing with yourself if you’re going to feel successful. But more than that, I don’t think he wants to know how to feel successful quite as much as he wants to feel fulfilled. You could be wildly successful, but if none of it fulfills you then how could you feel glad for it? Success is so broadly defined when it comes to our language, that it’s hard to really pinpoint what it means for everyone. To hit the nail on the head, you’d have to be playing whack a mole. What I believe, is that self-evaluation can help, for certain. I know what my friend needed, but it made me think about people as a general rule, and how we all sort of need that bit of focus here and there. So this is for all of you, as long as it helps even one of you.

My buddy is creative. He’s extremely creative. He’s so creative that it makes me feel like i’m not creative enough so I start creating more just to keep up with all the creating that he does. Not sure what that says about me, but it makes me value our friendship. Lately, he stopped writing. He stopped drawing. He wasn’t even writing or playing his guitar anymore. All he really had left was building lego sets, playing tabletop games, and video games (admirable hobbies, no issue there). The problem was he wasn’t creating anything of his own anymore. He was building on other people’s work, instead of his own. So here’s to all you creative types out there who no longer write because they’re too busy. To all those people who don’t draw anymore (kudos to Coco for picking up the pad again), to anyone who has put down the instrument they used to play, start again. One of my favorite rappers has an entire song dedicated to the idea of giving up on art and the regret which comes with it.

“i let my fears materialize,
I let my skills deteriorate
Haunted by the thought of what I should’ve been continuing
a mission that was rooted in a 20-year affinity….
… I left some work to bury alive,
I let my means of being dissolve
I let my person curl up and die” [Aesop Rock, Rings from The Impossible Kid, 2016]

So to reiterate, when you’re creative and gain pleasure from your creativity, don’t give it up. I tell you this from personal experience: I’m writing this for you right now, and it makes me feel fulfilled. So with an example on the table, let’s discuss what exactly that means. And before you ask “what if I don’t have any creativity in me?” We’ll get to that.

Success is defined first and foremost as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. Then, it is defined as “the attainment of popularity or profit”. So why do we focus so damned much on that second definition? It’s easier to shoot for a concrete idea than it is an abstract one. With the first definition, Success is just accomplishing what you set out to do. But you would have to actually figure out what you want to accomplish first. The second definition gives you the answer, “popularity or profit”. So either you become very well known, or you become rich. Easy right? Fuck no. But it’s a better start than a blank slate. That’s the problem. Alan Watts had a great little snippet on this idea which I’m leaving for you to watch, but I’ll summarize.

Alan Watts on School/Music

We spend twelve years in school being told that at thend we’ll become something. Then we’re told we’ll go to college and become something. Then we join the workforce, and we’re told to climb the career ladder and we’ll become something. Then we wake up 40 years later realizing we became something alright. We became the same mistake everyone else made. What mistake? We didn’t do what we really wanted to. We did what worked for us at the time and went with the flow. Fuck. That. My buddy had been allowing things to happen to him instead of making them happen. That’s the root of his issue. And it’s likely the root of yours too.

[the next bit is POINT A, if you’re not looking for a bit of helpful advice, skip to POINT B]

We’re not passive creatures. There’s a reason you feel excited when you finish cleaning the apartment. The same reason it feels good to get all your bills paid, to have finished food shopping, to finish that major project you’ve had on your desk for weeks, or that thesis paper that you slaved over for months. You felt FULFILLED. You felt like you completed something. Those moments are success, those moments are the embodiment of pure fulfillment. Now, of course, there is the issue of making this happen constantly enough that you are actually feeling it. What is the easiest way? Personally, I like keeping a daily notebook. Just a small little pocket book that you can jot down in. It doesn’t even need to be a book, there are tons of free little apps you can get on your phone, tablet, whatever device you choose and be productive. It’s not that keeping a to-do list or a notebook will make you successful, it’s that it will help you to pinpoint what you need to be successful. Now i’m sure a few of you are thinking “well, yeah but I don’t really think that is going to help”. Well:

You have never heard anyone say “I tried keeping an agenda/schedule, didn’t work for me”
The least organized people I know and the most organized people I know have both tried keeping journals upon my constant recommendation and urging, and no one has yet to be at a loss for it. It only helps you get better. It only helps you improve. You don’t need to jot down what you’re feeling or what you’re thinking. It could be as simple as “laundry, sweeping, shower” and I assure you, you’ll be more likely to get it done than if you had not written it down. Now, what does this have to do with fulfillment? Success? In writing these things down, you have a go to source for accomplishments. I know multiple people who feel more accomplished when they keep a notebook and cross out the things they’ve listed in it.

POINT B

Now this is just a minor tip and it’s not a huge one at that. Chances are you’re looking for a little more of an answer than “keep a notebook” so here’s something. If you haven’t already been reading books on how to better yourself, then you should probably start to. Even if you just read one chapter every month, it’s still doing more for yourself than if you didn’t read it at all. The idea being, you could stand in this same place your whole life, or you could take it one extremely slow step at a time and still get somewhere with it. We have this sort of strange dilemma where we don’t want to work hard, we want it given to us, easily, and simply, but that’s just not how it happens. It’s not going to hit you on a Tuesday in January, especially not after the fifth year in a row of failed new years resolutions. It’s going to hit you when you start reading up on how to improve who you are. I highly recommend checking out Alan Watts, Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Holiday, just to springboard you. If those three don’t trigger something in you, get you moving in even the slightest bit, then I’m not sure I could do anything to help. But I will leave you with snippet from Vonnegut:

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be”

 

Coming back to Facebook

Hey there everyone!

It’s been a while since you’ve all heard from me. Here’s a little explanation:

While I enjoyed being the source for many people to have unbiased and focused commentary of both sides of the American political coin (as well as memes and other internet vomit), I found that Facebook was time consuming and kept draining me of the energy that I knew belong elsewhere. I took the past few months to let go of Facebook and figure myself out. I spent time with my girlfriend, and less with my phone. I played some of the one hundred and fifteen video games I own, read some of the eighty-four books that i own and haven’t read, and wrote in three of the six different blank notebooks that I wasn’t using before. I realized that I have most of the things that I want, I just wasn’t where I wanted to be. Most of my problems stemmed from poor time management and my inability to fight distractions and actually do the things that I wanted to do.

“This is the real secret of life—to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” –Alan Watts

I watched a lot of different people on YouTube, listened to some podcasts, spoke with some friends who were taking charge of their lives and doing shit, and realized that I wasn’t doing the things I wanted to do, but I was definitely helping my friends as best I could. That means I was doing one of the things that really made me happy, but I wasn’t doing all of the things that I knew would make me happy.

1. Helping You Guys. Friends, family, fans, etc.

Then I made a little list of the things I knew I really wanted to do:

2. Study Video Games and write for them
3. Write on a regular basis, and hopefully help strangers through it.
4. Read more and understand the things I was reading from an author’s view
5. Understand what frustrates me, instead of letting it frustrate me.

These things line up and intersect to a degree. In writing regularly I can let off the steam from what frustrates me and look back on it. In reading more I can find the books and writers that cover Video Games in a way that helps further my understanding of it. There are more goals of course. I am pursuing my A+ certification and looking forward to a day-job career in computer repair/configuration. I’ve recently started a small business called “Rabbit Repairs” that also hooks up home systems for people that want to live a better connected and simpler life using technology. I started selling stuff that I don’t use on Ebay (thanks Gary Vee! everyone should check him out too), and began to organize my money so that I’m not spending on anything that isn’t helping me further my goals.

This all probably sounds like some self-help bullshit, but it’s not where I’m headed. I’m just sharing with you where I’m at right now, and where I’m headed. I’m always glad to help people get themselves back on track, but you can only help people that want to help themselves. Essentially, if you want help then by all means reach out and I will always do my best. To this day, I still pride myself on being there for my friends in any way that I can, but I’m also trying to focus on myself more than I used to and get shit done.

Five years from now, this post will be something people don’t read anymore because there will be much more important and relevant stuff to read by me. But I also want to say thanks to all of you that did read it, because it shows you care and are here with me for this journey. I love you all, as I always have and always will. You can always shoot me an email at mathewrabbit418@gmail.com and we’ll set up a time to grab coffee or lunch somewhere. There are few things i enjoy more than coffee with a friend or food (food is always good), so please, be the reason I get to enjoy either and your company.

Today, tomorrow, and always
-MG