I remember that when I was in CEGEP (“college,” which is your schooling in Quebec for what would be equivalent to year 12 to 13, 14, depending on what your degree was, pre-university) there was a friend I had made. Lets call him [Spike], after the character from Cowboy Beebop.
Back in those days, I spent equal thirds of my time in the anime/manga club; the arcades; and the martial arts club. Spike was someone who was a diehard for the anime/mange club and the martial arts. We credit him as one of the three founding members of the original Martial Arts Club (MAC), the other two being [StrangerInBlack] and myself.
Spike loved japanese manga, anime and videogame culture. I think that’s why we got on so well, because he always had this modern day samurai spirit to him. In fact, we bought him a white pine shinai as a birthday gift one year. That’s a rather rare gift, since I think most shinai have a dark brown colour to them.
He always admired the same types of characters in video games– Spike Speigel from Cowboy Bebop; Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid (the first PSX one, since that was all that was around at the time); Heero Yuuy from Gundam.
It’s natural that when you hang around people with the same interests, your passions resonate. I don’t know whatever happened to Spike, to be honest. He dissapeared from College suddenly. I heard that he had gone to a different CEGEP for some reason or another. I crossed paths with him briefly when I was doing my undergrad at Concordia… he’d taken to wearing cardigans all the time, and he’d put on a lot of weight around the waist. I remember that meeting him was shocking.
I remember that we, his friends in CEGEP, always had this sense that Spike was somewhat disconnected from reality. Maybe that he was in denial. I always got this sense that hew as unhappy with life– and that’s why many of us turned to fantasy worlds and martial arts. Here were worlds that were glamorous, cool, exciting, and awesome– the real world demanded so much! But with enough friends? With enough friends it was possible to maintain a constant illusion that we’d never be responsible for anyone or anything. We could go on living as if all would continue forever.
There are a few ways that this scenario could have played out for us. For all of us who floated between the anime/manga club, the arcades, and MAC I mean. [Zanshin] is one of the few of us who “got out” quick and on time, but the vast majority of us had a lot of growing pains when it came to becoming responsible people out of that and didn’t graduate on time.
When I ran into Spike again some years after CEGEP, it was a random encounter during my undergrad degree. It was strange– he always had a certain energy to him, but suddenly, it was gone. He had put on a lot of weight, and seemed really out of shape. Instead of his bombastic big smile, it was a tired, almost guilty one.
I couldn’t believe it. MAC was one of the prides of my youth– although that original MAC had probably by that time closed, I was still always doing some martial arts in some form or another. But he had gotten… fat. And more severely, the fire in his eyes had died.
It wasn’t something I had noticed because we were specifically talking about martial arts– it was just that he seemed tired.
Now, I realise that there are a lot of things in his life that I likely didn’t know about. But that’s one of those things that I never thought would have died out from anyone’s eyes– that struggle, that fire, that want of being the protagonists.
It goes without saying that life s a very difficult thing, for a number of reasons. It’s difficult, first of all, to figure out what we want. But once we know it? Then it becomes apparent that it’s difficult to get what we want. To make matters worse, if getting what we want is difficult, then we start reevaluating what we want– we start wondering if it’s not something we really wanted anyways. So we make compromises
If we’re lucky enough to figure out what we need, then we can go after that whole heartedly– but it takes a lot of courage to do that.
My life has been a contradiction of two opposing forces– at one hand, this philosophy of being the hero of my own story. Forward, towards the goal! Take no prisoners, make no comrpomises.
But at the same time, experience has been showing me that I actually need very little in life. Pursing things without any respect whatsoever for reality can be very self-destructive. In fact, it is one of the components of psychopathy.
Despite everything, I wonder– have I really figured out what it means to be happy? Is happiness a state, or a process? Is it counting your blessings and being able to say “wow, that was a good run,” or is it to say “I know, finally, where I want to be”?
I do know that without things that we’re passionate about, life is pretty boring. But with passions, at the same time is the possibility that in wanting something, or deciding that we need something, we’re doomed to not be able to get it. So do we content ourselves with the struggle? Is it just to go down gloriously?
Who decides by what criteria a high score is determined? And if it is us– how would we score it?
Maybe this empericism is my problem. Maybe I should just ask intuitively how I feel, and if it’s good, then things are good, and that’s that.
Maybe it’s not just about what we want or need, nor if we’re there yet– maybe it’s whether it’s enough to be facing the right way, even if we don’t have it. I don’t always know. So many questions.