when i dropped out of university to pursue a means of funding my gambling habit, i felt a palpable joy at having severed the shackles of essays and exams. the receptionist job began at a set time and ended precisely seven hours and thirty minutes later. punch in, punch out, bring nothing in, take nothing home. at night, i was free of all anxieties, except the one that was blowing a chasm in my bank account.
come exam season, the gambling had stopped. my friends spent long days and restless nights cramming, practising and preparing, spent their hours stressing and complaining. i played xbox. the contrast made my liberty all the sweeter. coolio sang to me. the canteen gave me free breakfasts. i had stumbled upon the most important of revelations - that obligations hoover up all the joy, that the future is too remote and uncertain to plan. foremostly, that guilt-free pleasure is the greatest good to the mortal individual. immediacy, experience, presence, minimum pain, minimum cost, maximum benefit.
well it transpired that the reception desk itself sucked too much joy out of thirty eight hours of every week, so i canned it and ultimately wound up back at university. this time, though, i chose an easy degree that required only a small amount of effort to navigate. i was growing up.
now, four years since graduating, i find myself bound by a rather considerable set of obligations courtesy of teach first. why would i shelve good old lucrative brainless recruitment for essays, long days and work that follow me home on evenings and weekends? I have strong enough faith in my convictions - that is to say, the convictions that i will instinctively and successfully gravitate towards the path of least resistance - that i see no reason to answer that question. i must at some point have considered my options at great length and, perhaps using some kind of model to project the relative probabilities of mindless joy, have chosen to follow this path.
when a five thousand word essay looms, my faith does waver ever so slightly, but then i do a laughing gas or drink a beer or play a video game or eat a dinner and think yeah but. a couple of weeks ago i saw yo la tengo at the barbican with my brother. having watched them at primavera last summer, i expected something good but never great, like sex with a friend, familiar, worthwhile, an interesting point of discussion. however, it was incredible.
ira kaplan’s face looks like a waxwork, but his stage presence was fleshy and vibrant. they felt like your best friends between songs, and everything they played was immaculate. the venue is superb and i can’t wait to go back for whatever good they have going on in the near future, and yo la tengo were the perfect band for the setting. when they broke into sugarcube towards the end of the second set, i thought to myself i hope this never ends. that sounds clichéd but i swear just listen a moment, because usually i feel near the end of a show that i’ve got my money’s worth and i’m about ready to go home sit down reflect then sleep. with yo la tengo, i wanted to stay there forever. sure, the comfortable seat must have played some part, but boy oh boy did the music blow my comfortably seated body’s mind.
these experiences endure. they join the savings account in your joy-bank, easily accessed and withdrawn in an otherwise dull, empty moment waiting for a bus or stuck in a training session. this is an invaluable property for a thing to have.
the game i just completed, bioshock infinite, shares that property. kind of similarly to house of leaves, it weaves a dark, convoluted and shattering story around the love shared between a disfunctional parent and child. it ends extremely powerfully and leaves a note of melancholy hanging in the space it abruptly vacates. would it were that my abrupt endings could have such an effect.