For the last five months, I lived with my parents and visited friends and family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
One day, I was reading from Jack Kerouac´s enlightening (buddhist) philosophical book, called "some of the dharma." During one writing-off-the-top-of-his-head moment, the author wrote, ¨The only perfect realization of personality coming when raving insane in a madhouse, saint guarded by sinners----every moment perfect ecstasy of self-expression ..." At first, this just seemed crazy to me.
But, at any rate, I began thinking. (As a result, few things exploded this time.) If my every moment was perfect ecstasy of self-expression, what would I do? And I began to make a list: love, meditate, dance, laugh, joke, swim ...
Certainly, when I was laboring to cross items off my "To-Do List," with ambition, I wasn´t often feeling like a happy, insane person. ... And I called this newest list of mine, "Acts of Spontaneous Ecstasy!" (dramatic DUHN-Duhn-duhn!)
Okay, so, the name is dorky - especially when it´s abbreviated to "A.S.E.´s." And the name confuses; you don´t know how many times I´ve had to yell, "It´s not the act that´s spontaneous, it´s the ecstasy that comes from the act!" But, when my brother triumphantly slides "ace!" through his teeth every time one of us does an Act, the name approaches coolness.
When I first made my list, I was disappointed by how little I did the items on my list. My buddy, Adam "Johnny" Rohr, commented: "What are we living for?"
On the eve of my twenty-seventh birthday, I made a vow:
"I, Justin Breen, on this, the 25th of October 2006, vow, out of dueful respect and love for myself, that I will partake in at least one activity from a dynamic list of ASE´s (Acts of Spontaneous Ecstasy) on every day of my 28th year of life ..."
A.S.E.-mania spread, to the Steak´n´Shake where I waited tables late-night. My favorite customers, a group of age-twentyish boys and girls, asked one night which Acts I´d done. When I said, "chased animals and climbed a tree," they surprisedly hurrayed.
For an activity to make my list, it has to always make me feel good while I´m doing it, and always make me feel better for having done it. As of today, here´s the growing list of my A.S.E.´s:
"dance, kiss, swim, snorkel, laugh, joke, meditate, baseball, soccer, chase animals, write a letter, go fishing, "Oh, hell!" (a card game), football in snow, snowboarding, tootsie jumble (homemade game), street ping pong (homemade game), climb a tree, climb a mountain, rock-climbing, hitchhike, read aloud to someone/be read to, catch (falling) leaves, write a Modern Oddyseus, make music, wrestle, teach, read/write/talk in French, practice handstands, heckle, watch Roller Derby, sprint, Czech (language), coldwater shower, arepas (a Venezuelan food), hide-and-seek, stick-in-the-face (homemade game)" (laugh, joke, and coldwater shower don´t count towards my vow, ´cuz I do them every day)
"make a list" didn´t make the list. neither did "acronyms". and neither did "yelling at people to make them understand the meaning of Acts of Sponataneous Ecstasy."
If you look at the list, you may be surprised to find the whole list could be done with hardly any modern technological devices. - except for "tootsie jumble", which requires an i-pod and a missile-launcher. (just kidding, it requires an electric circular fan and a ping pong ball.)
So, I went fishing with saintly (not religious) Grandpa Breen on Lake Michigan. My dad and Uncle Joe and a baseball and I played catch. My mom and I read ALL 824 PAGES of "Moby Dick" to each other (not at once). My favorite Steak´n´Shake customers and I went indoor-rock-climbing with my best friend. Friends Jason and Michelle and I volleyed a ping pong ball around a blowing-upward circular fan for "tootsie jumble". Olivia, my 11-year-old cousin as confident as a grown-up, wanted to play hide-and-seek often. And my bro took me crayfish-hunting and leaf-catching on my birthday.
... in non-ASE-related matter (as if it´s even worth talking about), I made a "book of quotes" for Grandma Breen for Christmas. Grandparents Breen are very progressive thinkers.
Here are some quotes:
"You say you´re tired and you just-a wanna close your eyes, and follow your dreams now." - Bruce Springsteen, "No Retreat, No Surrender" (song)
"Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you´ll end up in the stars."
"Smile in your belly." - Jack Kerouac
"So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him." - Mahatma Gandhi
"From the edge of the river, I watch as my father fishes. From this vantage-point, I see his casts as an act of faith. I see that you have to believe there´s something under the water, you have to believe something´s going to bite, I realize you have to be an optimist." - Kevin Breen (my dad), "Arctic Splendor" (a short story)
The two quotes I put on the book of quotes´ first two pages were quotes that directly aided myself while I was home.
You see, for most of my five months at home, I struggled to relate to new people and failed to make many new friends. I was floundering socially. Why?
Only towards the end did I realize that, by keeping my unique but strong philosophies secret from certain people, I was holding a barrier up that would keep us from having interesting and real conversations. Not only this, but also I almost feared some conversations, worried that the person might get to know me and not like me.
This was all very foolish. As a rule, people seemed to always like me better when I was open with them. So, I vowed on New Year´s Eve to speak more openly and confidently.
"Achieve freedom from other people´s minds." - J. Breen philosophy
"The fear of appearances is the first symptom of impotence." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Crime and Punishment"
I thus felt at east with everyone. And soon, I realized this applied not only to words but to movements. I would put my arm around people I cared about. I would stop wasting time and kiss girls sooner.
The stage was set for my last night in Michigan. January 16th: new snow on the ground, and a date with Amy.
Amy, who´d come into Steak´n´Shake two weeks earlier, and I probably never would´ve hung out if our communication hadn´t been so great. She was twenty and cute. Beautiful sunny nature shone in her face. She looked too young to be twenty - which may have something to do with that she´s basically never committed a "vice" her whole life.
We played sled football with my best friend, Chris. We threw a football down the hill, then sledded down to fight aftr it for a point. Once, Chris and I lost our sleds and bounced down the hill wrastling over the ball - one person alternatingly getting roller-pinned by the other´s weight, then flung into the air, as we tumbled. Football in snow is awesome!
Late in the night, Amy and I parked by a lonely lake and looked at the stars. She´s a soft, affectionate kisser: with long, straight brown hair, and yellow! eyes that became burnt-yellow on their circumferences.
peace, Grand Rapids.
- Modern Oddyseus
P.S. - Thanks to the Steak´n´Shake employees and customers for a lot of laughing and joking! Bye, friends.