Dancing on the underside


Thursday, September 26, 2013


My, how time flies when you’re having fun – even when you’re not.

I always think in June that the year is half over, but it is always at the end of September that I come to realize the year is nearly done.

Most things that matter come to an end at this time of year for me, the most dramatic changes that eventually lead to other changes, leave their mark on me and my world.

This was true last year at this time, and more so this year – and I’m not certain I am grateful; I am immensely sad.

Things rarely end on a positive note, even when the outcome eventually proves positive or even when justice is done.

There is always a lingering sense of unfairness, and often bitterness.

All change is the result of conflict and this often leaves unintended winners and losers, people who gamble on the right side, and those who misread the situation and end up with less than they started.

Sometimes, just holding on, preserving what you have in the first place, is a victory.

That’s been my situation for the last two years.

But conflict also tests your capabilities, and often teaches you lessons.

The last two years have been rich with both, glimpsing again the darker side of human nature I thought I had left behind.

Power and wealth draws opportunists the same way shit draws flies.

But in most cases, people with power and wealth are generally smart enough to swat away those opportunists that had nothing to offer them.

Once in a while, a real sucker comes along, unaware of the leeches that latch on, or that eventually, these leaches bleed him to death.

In most cases, it is a relatively quick death. Sucked dry, the victim expires and the leeches find another – most often less wealthy victim to settle on.

This, too, is part of the cycle of life.

Leaches as hungry as they are for power and fame rarely obtain it on their own, relying on a truly powerful person to feed off, suck up to. People stupid enough to endure leaches generally don’t hold onto power long.

The problem for confidence man is that a truly rewarding sucker comes along only once in a life time. Generally, those who you can feed off aren’t worth feeding off of long: losers who seem like winners or worse – confidence men whose scam you’ve taken for real, and you feel really cheated when the whole thing comes unraveled, and you’re forced to move on.

There is also entropy to consider. As time passes, the leeches fine fewer poor suckers to bleed, and so become like barflies, taking a drink from anyone who will offer.

This is a terrible lesson for someone like me who always believes that talent and hard work is enough to succeed, and that most people abide by the same rules, when they rarely do.

There are people who live on the upside of life, who win their positions through hard work and talent, and those equally talented, who live their lives on the underside. The underside is much more alluring, but also deceptive. While it looks easier – every scam looks like the easy path to wealth, power and fame – it is actually more competitive. The more vicious you are, and ruthless, the more you get out of it, but only for a time, as shark eats shark, so eventually only the most ruthless survive.

Most people never get what they think they will, and end up worse off than it they had played the straight and narrow in the first place. At some point, they realize this and simply go along for the ride, figuring to get whatever cheap thrills they can get while they can get them.

Then, there are people like me, who skim along the boundary between upside and down, tour guides, who observe the underworld from a relatively safe place, but seldom fall for any of its allure, but are intrigued just the same.

We rarely seek or obtain power. Sometimes, when we get caught up in the mix we fall farther and more permanently than most players.

Most often, we do as Springsteen pointed out, “the poets down here don’t do nothing at all,” just sit back and take it all in.

Yet, there are times – and I’ve had a handful of them in my life – when we see someone so worthwhile lost in the underworld that we are utterly taken back, helpless to do anything but watch at the loss, knowing that the souls we are watching fall are more valuable and worthy than many who make it on the top side. But these people are caught by the allure of something that isn’t real, and are near to drowning when they realize they can never get what they thought they could get.

And nothing in either world to be is as tragic as losing them.

Or so personally painful.




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