Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gatsby: The Great? or Not so Great?

After reading this classic novel recently, as an introspective, thoughtful adult, followed by the new movie adaptation, I've spent some time pondering this "Great Gatsby."  Does he deserve the title?  Was he a great man? soul?  businessman? lover?  son?  friend?
The older and more experienced I become with life and humans, I have come to realize that there are so many different perspectives on practically anything and everything.  We are left to come to our own conclusions which may change or not change as we continue to grow, learn and live.  As I read this book in college, I don't think I had a chance in hell at having much thought about the book or the characters at all.  I was so young and naïve!  Now, I think my thoughts hold a little weight.  Here are some of them:
Gatsby had some shortcomings and flaws.  Who doesn't?  Vanity jumps out at me right away with his clothing and great care of the appearance and impression he made upon others.  He had some sort of God complex about himself, believing he was destined for greatness.  He had no attachment to his family (as they were not deemed great in his mind) and left them behind without a thought as soon as he could be out in the world on his own.  Not a great selling point on his character for starters.  He also made up stories about his past and his life to others quite chronically.  A bit shady.  Certainly not honest or open.  Did these lies harm others?  Perhaps not so much.  Mostly white lies.  What about his bootlegging profession?  Illegal.  Definitely illegal.  However one could argue that banning alcohol in the 1920's was really ridiculous.  This one may be up to the individual's stance on alcohol and the sensibility of Prohibition and maybe one's religious beliefs on alcohol.  After Daisy married during his absence during the War in Europe, he did covet and attempt to lure a married woman out of her commitment to another man.  Obviously some people would look down upon this "sin."  However, in his defense, in his unique mind, he had felt and believed Daisy and he were already married.  In his heart of hearts, the commitment of marriage was there and always present.  For some rare people, it does not take a signing of papers or a declaration before others to be "married" in their own minds and hearts.  It is a state of mind and of the heart when looked at from an honest point of view. 
This man also had some endearing qualities.  When he met Daisy and fell in love with her, his love was true and pure.  His love and commitment towards her never waned.  Not for a moment.  How refreshing!  He created a vision of a life with her that was centered upon their love and the goodness of it. He did well in the war, became a Captain and was respected.  This bodes well for his character.  Although after the war and his experiences traveling the world with Dan Cody, Jay Gatsby fell in with some very shady and corrupt human beings in his business dealings. However, most peculiarly, he was not seduced by the usual temptations:  excessive alcohol, casual sex, gambling, harmful intended dishonesty, abuse of power, disrespect towards others, greed.  He seemed to retain his "purity" of spirit and character even amongst heavy and many bad and evil influences all around him.  I personally marvel at and appreciate this particular tid bit about Gatsby.  It says a lot about who he really is inside to me. 
I think Gatsby's downfall in this tragic story was that his commitment and vision of his love and life with Daisy was too rigid.  He wanted the past 5 years since he had seen her washed away as if they never happened (aka all things Tom).  This makes sense based on his personality, but does not leave any room for the whole messy truth of things or for organic growth or change in relationships or beliefs.  It's good to have goals and dreams, but life is life.  It is completely unrealistic and unhealthy to try to make our dreams come true EXACTLY as we imagine them.  It's preposterous really.  And there most certain is some of the preposterous in Gatsby.  He was a man living on some other planet in outer-space in some ways.  So naïve.  A part of his goodness is an element of this innocence and lack of wisdom of the way of the world we live in and of way of a majority of human beings.  Why did Daisy have to say that she never loved Tom?  Why was this necessary?  In his mind, it was to maintain the purity of Gatsby and Daisy's love.  One feels sorry for him really.  If only he could have really listened to Daisy and tried to understand where she was coming from in all of this.  I believe they could have had a beautiful love story that lasted the rest of their lives if he had had more wisdom.  But aren't we ALL guilty of that (having handled things improperly due to lack of wisdom and insight)!!!  I am, over and over and over again...
Once one looks at Gatsby both close up and from a distance, I believe he was Great in a very unique way:  His pure heart, his innocent mind and his ability to hope and dream big.  Maybe I've met one or two men in my life vaguely resembling Jay Gatsby's character.  Maybe.  I believe he meant no harm.  I believe he truly loved someone for the long haul, as in forever.  I believe he was good.  All of this being said in the awareness that he was certainly not perfect and did not always make wholesome choices.  I feel sorry for the old sport.  Did he ever have a chance in this world?  Upon giving my judgment, I say that he indeed was The Great Gatsby.  Not perfect, not a god, but a very unique and special man with a light within him I wish I have seen more of in others in my life.  I would like to be the recipient of this epic smile he gave Nick Carraway.  "He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey." Perhaps one day I shall be so blessed.  :)

Monday, July 15, 2013


"Take me back in time maybe I can forget; 
Turn another corner and we never would have met.
Would you care?" -George Michael

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Starting to Take it Personal

Have you ever just had shit go so wrong for so long that you start to think a target is on you? I have been having some strange thoughts lately, like perhaps someone put a curse on me, or I was a monster in a previous life and am paying for it now. Even more horrifying, I've started to get a strong sense there is no "God" at all, which leaves me with an eerie feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. After a solid year and nine months of rolling the dice of life, I have found I've hit brick walls at each and every turn. My friends, as good friends should, have been staying positive along the way, telling me to hold on and keep breathing. Good things will come soon. Well, now I know I'm in trouble cause they are finally stumped. After the last bit of bad news, I was met by a long silence on the phone with each of them, followed by a scramble to try to find something positive to say, and ending with a flat out, "wow,that sucks." Now I am starting to take things personally.
Before the proverbial shit hit the fan, life was good. After a turbulent time in my 20's, filled with heart ache and health issues, I finally figured out who I was. I learned how to life custom fitted to my personality, spirit and quirks. Each night I went to bed in beautiful Southern California with a peaceful mind and a healthy body. In the morning, I awoke with a smile as the sun shone into my bedroom and my cat jumped on my bed excited that I was up. I loved my job, I appreciated my friends, I noticed the miracles of nature and I took pride in owning my own place. I had embraced a deeply held belief that it would make the world a better place if I were kind and caring towards each and every person I encountered. I walked around most days with a big smile on my face, a radiant aura and I constantly stopped to "smell the roses."
And then the storm began. I was deeply betrayed by someone who went to great lengths to assure me he truly loved me. I lost my condo, and soon after I lost my good health. Now facing a life time of a debilitating and chronically painful auto-immune disease that has developed, I find myself spending most days lying in bed (in my parent's house in NY) in agony. Doctors have tried at least 20 different medications and therapies and symptoms just continue to worsen and become more complicated. I feel completely isolated, massively depressed and just keep breathing in hopes of the Universe throwing me a bone here sometime soon. I go to bed each night thankful I get to escape the pain of consciousness for a few hours, and I awake each day bracing myself for another impossibly painful lonely day.
Having a lot of time to think, the realization of all the suffering in the world has really hit me. My suffering is great, but in comparison to good people who are being abused, tortured, those who are starving, dying and crippled with worse diseases than mine, I have it lucky. So what is the lesson here folks? We are fed this line in life that adversity is the path to building character and a deep appreciation for the good things in life. Well, what I'm wondering is was I a person that the Universe decided needing to greatly improve my character and integrity? Are all the good people in this world who are suffering also in dire need of some enlightenment by way of agony? I think God's Intel is about as accurate as the recent CIA debacle. I'm sure all of us could provide a list of others that could really use the character building lessons. I believe I was in a great place spiritually, mentally and physically in life. I was a good person seeking further enlightenment through experiences with other amazingly spiritual friends and acquaintances. Is all of this pain in the world really necessary?
At this time I don't have the answer to that. Maybe in time I will look back on this hell on Earth experience and see why it had to happen to me and to others. Truly, I hope that one day the mystery of life as we know it is revealed to me and I have an "ah-haaa" moment. I pray that all of our hardship isn't in vain. But for now, I admit, I am starting to take it personal.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What is real?

"Character is who you are when no one is watching." I read that quote a couple of years ago and it hit me hard. It was like a light bulb went on inside, and I really got the meaning of the word in every fiber of my being. I was wondering, do you ever wonder what is actually real in this world?
This topic has been on my mind a lot the last couple of years. Sometimes I wonder if anything is real at all. But most of the time I marvel at my experiences with other people, people I thought I knew and that I thought I could trust. I'm certain every adult has been betrayed at some point or another, and I also know some people have been betrayed more deeply and more frequently than others. My heart goes out to each and every one of you that has struggled with this painful issue.
I'm kinda on this quest in the world. I wasn't able to put it into words until recently, but basically, I'm searching for something real and true in this crazy place. I've been left very frustrated in my searching so far. You know, frustrated doesn't cut it. Try sick, depressed, disgusted, bewildered, deeply hurt and angry. I have many personal experiences to speak about and a million others of friends and acquaintances as well, that seem to keep proving to me that human beings, in general, are seriously lacking in character. It seems there are lies covering lies covering cowardice, and I'm not sure anymore if there is anything of substance underneath it all.
My hope is to find someone who knows who they are and tell the truth about it. And avoiding telling the truth counts as a lie in my book, just so we're clear. Is that so difficult to do? Are other people out there desperately looking for something authentic and real as well? Am I all alone in this? I can honestly say that I know who I am when no one is watching, and it is the same as when others are watching me. I can truly say I have developed an excellent character through much adversity, but I am left wondering if that even matters at all in this society any more. Please tell me if I am all alone here.