When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.
My life of joyful hedonism had stood me up. I’d gone searching for truth or, barring that, at least an excellent substitute. But so far I’d found neither. My life of happy materialism had lasted six days. My life of decadent sensualism, a day. My lives were getting shorter.
And now, sitting in that Paris café and drinking too much wine, I thought back on my failed loves. Or rather my failed loving.
I remembered living with my girlfriend in L.A., and drinking a lot of wine because we were 20. But the wine always made her sad, she said, because it reminded her she couldn’t trust me. Although I never was unfaithful with my feet. Only my head. She said there was no difference.
And then, like the wine, she grew too familiar. After she moved out, I did everything I could to be deep: Smoked a pipe and drank whisky. Typed a lot of poems. Watched things I hated on television until three in the morning. But the vacuum was on in my heart even then, and nothing could fill it.
I tried to remember her face, but her features had already begun to fade. Like a primitive polaroid, an instant picture with no depth of field.
And the wine? It was never really anything more than a reminder of how I already felt. If I felt good, then great. But if I felt lousy, it got inside my head and ran around shouting, “Boy, you sure feel lousy!”
So I tried pot, but that was only a variation on a theme (so much for the age of Aquarius). It either made me hungry or afraid of my own thoughts, or both. At which point I began to consume myself.
And the taste of myself was very bitter.
I mean, how could I like myself when I didn’t even know who I was? Sure, I might be a pearl, but then again I might just be an abandoned retread in some forgotten dump. Although I’d never really believed in reincarnation. I mean, how could you get it right if you didn’t know what you did wrong last time?
I felt like spiritual vagrant.
“What of laughter?” the Wise Man asked.
“It is madness.
And of mirth?
What is it for?
So I sought to draw my flesh with wine
that I might discover what happiness was.
But instead, I saw only madness in my heart
and evil, while I lived.
And after that?
Ecclesiastes 2:3 (paraphrased)
To read the next episode, click here.