When I first heard "Ghost Rider", it struck me that Neil wasn't just writing about the way he coped with his grief and his pain; he was also telling his listener about what it meant to live as he did, cut off from the living world around him, living a ghost-like existence travelling a road seemingly without end, trying simply to stay alive. He was writing about the struggle of a deeply introverted man to stay alive in a world that did not seem to need or recognise him.
And in the process, he taught me something very important:
The reality of the deep introvert, particularly the red-pill-aware deep introvert, is that he is, and will always be, a stranger to everything around him.
I had to face up to this reality during my recent trip home to visit my family. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I had a great time; most of my colleagues talk about going on vacations to exotic places like Costa Rica or Colombia or parts of darkest Africa, but as far as I am concerned, my favourite vacation spot is the couch in the living room of my family's apartment in Singapore. However, this trip also had its fair share of frictions, and two of them in particular caused so many issues that we had to have a sit-down discussion with all four of us to talk through them.
As I've noted on this blog many times, I've long since taken up eating Paleo and living, to the extent that I can, in accordance with primal principles. That means that I hardly ever eat rice or bread any more- and these are staples of the Asian diet. I like my vegetables green and leafy and raw; I like my meat in large quantities and often still bleeding; and I eat huge quantities of both. So you can imagine what happened when I went to Calcutta, where vegetables are turned into this horrible sort of mush and otherwise tasty river fish is either deep-fried in vegetable oil or turned into a curry, and people's idea of a good desert is essentially pure sugar, eaten with sugar, with more sugar as a side. I simply could not eat very much, and I undoubtedly offended people by refusing to eat certain foods. I made occasional exceptions, simply because I had to, but overall that one week in Calcutta was pretty miserable from a culinary standpoint (and for other reasons besides), and it was with a profound sense of relief that I left to return home to Singapore. (Things didn't necessarily improve there, particularly from my father's perspective, but at least I could actually eat a full meal with proper food.)
The other issue that came up was the question of settling down and getting married. My views on marriage are simple: don't get married unless you really know exactly what you're getting yourself into. After a few days, my parents sat me down and asked me whether I planned to settle down. I didn't really have a good answer for them, mostly because I didn't want to hurt them more than I have to- they're my parents, dammit. My refusal to give a real answer sparked off a long discussion; I pointed out, repeatedly, that men today face extremely unpleasant choices when getting married and no man should ever enter into marriage lightly. My parents dinged me repeatedly for refusing to compromise on certain key aspects of my life, such as my insistence on staying fit and strong, and what they consider to be my highly inflexible dietary habits. (Though I didn't say it, I find this deeply hypocritical considering that my father used to be a consumer of Herbalife products for many years, and that is about as inflexible a dietary approach as one can find.) In my turn I pointed out that marriage today is in many ways a massive losing proposition for men, from a legal, social, financial, and (though I didn't mention this to my folks) sexual standpoint. In other words, I put forth as much red pill wisdom as I could without making myself sound like a complete lunatic.
It didn't go well even then. The discussion lasted until 1am, didn't generate any kind of outcome, and generally left me wondering why the hell I'd even bothered.
My parents now insist that I need to find someone with whom to settle down, even though I've told them both repeatedly that I don't really know exactly what it is that I want in a wife and am not going to risk myself in a relationship, much less a marriage, without knowing what I'm getting into. And in many ways, this makes me an outcast from my own family. My eldest cousin is married- has been for about ten years. In fact he is a perfect illustration of what I was talking about when I said that marriage is a huge risk for men who are not prepared for it- he has never held down a job properly for very long, his wife is a bit of a harridan, and my niece, who for whatever reason absolutely adores me, lacks both a strong father and a nurturing mother in her life. Most of the children of my family's closest friends are married or are getting married soon, and I've not the heart to tell my parents or these family friends that most of those marriages are likely doomed to loveless, sexless, miserable existences where the woman lets herself go fat and the man becomes a sackless, shrivelled husk of his former self. I have little doubt that sooner or later, the cost of the red pill will need to be paid in full.
Some of you have undoubtedly had similar experiences. Most of you probably have your own stories to tell about how the red pill has fundamentally destroyed your ability to fit into the rest of society. When a truth like that hits you between the eyes like a freight train, there simply is no going back. A great many men choose to try to ignore what they've seen, to return to their former sheep-like existences, but those like us, who choose to live with our eyes open, know that we cannot unlearn these things. Sometimes, in your moments of deepest loneliness and even of outright despair, you wonder whether it might be best to simply conform to what everyone else expects of you, to give up what you are and what you have become; and then, sooner or later, you realise that you can't- that going back would diminish and demean you as a man. And you realise that even if the road before you is all you have left, it is worth a great deal more to you than you realised at first; travelling down that road is your fate, and you cannot escape it no matter how hard you try.
Whether you were born a ghost rider, or you become one with time, take solace in one thing: you are not completely alone, as I discovered to my very pleasant surprise last year. There are others like you out there- others who have become outcasts from their workplaces, their societies, even their own families. (I am greatly relieved to say that despite my deep disagreements with my parents on a number of subjects, I am still very close to them; with the good Lord's help, may that long remain so.)
You may feel that you travel this road alone and in solitude, and that you may never truly find peace, but know this: we are out there, all of us travelling the long road, all of us trying to find our way through the shadows.
And in time, with hard work, perseverance, and no small measure of faith, we find that the price we have had to pay was worth the treasures that we have found along the way.
(No, I'm not a big fan of ICED EARTH- beyond the Night of the Stormrider album and the work they did with Tim "Ripper" Owens, anyway. I just really like a few of their songs. Otherwise I generally think of them as being a tenth-rate IRON MAIDEN/MEGADETH rip-off band.)