August 14, 2007 | HARMLESS UNTRUTHS

Just play another chord

I don’t believe in any supernatural mumbo-jumbo like astrology or fortune telling, but, perhaps out of sheer capriciousness, I’ve long been fan of the website Facade. Facade allows you to perform all kinds of superstitious readings and introduced me to terms like stichomancy and bibliomancy long before you could look up pseudoscience on wikipedia. I find a lot of this quackery to be pretty entertaining, but if I needed proof that the Facade readings are inaccurate, I found it yesterday.

I have been feeling kind of down lately, for a variety of reasons, and was inspired to check out my “biorhythm” on Facade. The theory (if you can call it that) behind biorhythm is that throughout your life, your physical, mental, and emotional levels shift up and down in regular cycles. Here are my results for yesterday:

My biorhythm for August 13

Steady emotional upswing, eh? Nice try, biorhythm! But at least you give me a little hope!

In reality, obviously, we do go through emotional ups and downs, but I don’t think they have anything to do with the number of days since our births, except in the sense that, hey, it is getting to be quite a lot of days since I was born. So I think feeling a little old is part of my problem lately. But it isn’t so much the aging part — I feel physically at least as good as ever, and I don’t have enough ambition to care about the race for a good career, house and kids. It ain’t the years, it’s the ennui.

David Bowie : Always Crashing in the Same Car

I feel basically happy, overall, but just tired of being so thoroughly aimless. There really isn’t too much that I desire or require in life, and at 30, I find myself wondering what else, if anything, I need to do with myself. Pay off my student loans, I guess? Finish my master’s degree? These are not particularly inspiring goals.

Not too long ago my friend Flores introduced me to Marcus Aurelius‘s Meditations. It’s a classic of stoicism, and strangely addictive reading, full of choice gems like this one:

“Many grains of frankincense on the same altar: one falls before, another falls after; but it makes no difference.”

Stoicism is an interesting philosophy. From what I have gleaned, it seems to advise you to shrug things off, not let the world and all its problems get you down, and just focus on living a good life. Cue up the Cmaj7 chord.

A stoic outlook seems bleak but it has its own beauty at the same time. Maybe austere is a better word. I think of Björk’s character in Dancer in the Dark, singing “I’ve Seen It All”:

“What about China? Have you seen the Great Wall?”
— “All walls are great, if the roof doesn’t fall”
“You’ve never been to Niagara Falls?”
— “I have seen water, it’s water, that’s all”

It’s maybe also about being comfortable in your own skin, unconcerned about others’ judgments or expectations. In that sense, it is a pretty suitable philosophy for me, but I don’t think I’m quite a stoic. Stoicism seems like a cop-out, a way for me to avoid doing anything with my life. What I really need is a flash of inspiration, a galvanizing moment, a whip to my back or the crack of a starting gun.

But I don’t think those moments will really come, and instead I will have to soldier on somehow. I think the only philosophy for me is rockism, and for all the great songs about ennui out there (and I have written some of my own), I was surprised at the one that inspired me the most.

U2 : Numb

Lately I have been listening to Achtung Baby-era U2, and during this time period of feeling lower down the emotional cycle than my biorhythm would indicate, I thought I would listen to their song, “Numb”. I like this song a lot and I tried to see if the lyrics would give me any insight (it’s like my own version of stichomancy). Scrolling through them, I found this:

Don’t fall on your sword
Just play another chord
If you feel you’re getting bored

This is pretty much my philosophy, “keep on truckin'”-style. Just play another chord. Maybe that is stoicism, after all.