Infinite Possibilities at CheckoutJanuary 12, 2006
I often find myself overwhelmed by the possibilities. When you stop for even a second during any of the routines that weave together like threads to make a life, it's easy to get a sense of vertigo at the amazing amount of variation possible in even the most pedestrian routine. I'm a Dad and a husband, a brother and a son, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a stranger and even a threat (maybe to someone out there). On another plane, I'm also a songwriter, a programmer, a designer, a handyman, tech support, a confidant, a recording engineer, a consumer, a promoter, a boss, a voter, a blogger, an intellect and a newb. If you take even this incomplete list of roles and multiply each one by the infinite number of ways to play all of them, it starts to make you giddy and a little queasy.
Let me give some examples of why this fascinates me. Take one of the more inconsequential roles: a consumer. Let's say I'm standing in line to buy some Organic milk at Kroger. Well, I could go through the automated, scan it yourself check out line, or I could actually interface with a human. I choose to automate. There's a very old man in front of me frozen in front of the touch screen, visibly challenged by the "Touch Here To Start" button. I could roll my eyes, and wait for the next available one, or I could offer to help him, but then once I've helped him, maybe I've escalated into yet another role: the good Samaritan. I could go to the manager and file a complaint lobbying for a minimum age limit, or a required BS in computer science to use the automated check-out OR I could file a complaint and kick off a revolution of Luddites bent on stopping the Orwellian take over of the machines. Finally, I could strike up a conversation with the woman in line next to me and convince her to start buying Organic milk so she does not unwittingly pump hormones into her kids.
The not-so-subtle point is that there are a nearly infinite number of ways to live your life. In the times that I am conscious of this (and not feeling queasy), I marvel at how I can sometimes feel like a 3-legged mouse in a maze with blinders on. I don't think I've ever written a song the same way twice. I know lots of songwriters and some claim to have formulas. Some sit down to execute as if it were a program to be written in Java. Others start with a scrap of a verse on a napkin and finish 3 years later when they find the napkin stuffed between the seats of their car. It's been said that the biggest challenge in writing is putting your ass in the chair. Because there are so many possibilities in the grocery checkout alone, how do you ever pick a vein to mine as a writer without even having the framework of: "I need to buy this milk?"