On Becoming Nothing
There was a time when I was still a touring musician that I would jump all over the stage. I was actually taught to do that when I was a student at the School of Rock. We were taught that to really get an audience’s attention during a live show, you really had to work on your stage presence — the bigger the better. Big gestures, moves, jumping, running, and posing — the people will love it. Sell that ass, aspiring rock stars, sell that ass. And so, we sold that ass. But, this lesson turned out to be utterly misguided and false.
Rather than playing naturally and moving only as much as much as your body inherently does, we were encouraged to act how some of the most pompous musicians in history have acted. We were encouraged, in essence, to be someone else. And so, I grew into an adult musician who stomped around the stage like an asshole. Some people liked it, and in my defense, my movements were spastic and large, but still natural. But overall, I felt like a jester, a sideshow, a goddamned distraction– so, I fazed that part of my performance out. Because I let the ham part of me wither and eventually die, I began to feel like I would rather not even be seen on-stage. Strangely enough, the being seen aspect of playing had nothing to do with my eventual departure from that band and performance altogether. I just felt like who I was didn’t matter, that I was merely another device to produce sound. I still feel that way. I wondered why I had to satiate my ego at all by being seen on a stage, why my stage persona or any persona needed to be seen in order for the music to be received. Couldn’t I be seated? Couldn’t I be behind the amps, or unlit, or better yet, off-stage? I don’t need to prove to anyone that I’m actually playing, I know I am.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this would be the beginning of my quest for nothingness. I so often don’t want to be the focus of attention. It has nothing to do with feeling worthy of attention — I’m certainly worthy of that, my natural personality practically demands it. No, I just would rather not be the singular focus of anyone’s attention while there is group present or better things to discuss. It seems rude to me. Regardless, upon taking notice of this behavior, I realized how denying your ego what it wants can really put things into perspective. Starving your ego reveals exactly what matters and what doesn’t. Once you let go of the idea that you’re important, that you’re special or better than anyone else, the real work can begin. When your ego is no longer driving your behavior or your work, you only do things that matter, you mean what you do.
All of this played out in different ways for me. For one thing, when I left Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in 2014, my main motivation was that I couldn’t stand to post pictures about books I was reading or records I bought. Why was I doing this? Why was I acting as though my menial act of reading a book needed an audience or approval? How embarrassing. And so, I left that whole world. I returned to Instagram in 2018 or so, but in a strictly artistic and professional capacity. Regardless, the notion of doing anything simply to be seen doing it was one I was hyper-aware of. I could identify when I was doing something disingenuously to seem a certain way, and I would cut that out. Anything that felt like a put-on, anything that felt like I was building a character or a persona — that had to stop. If I was going to live honestly and starve my ego, I couldn’t do anything merely for the adulation.
I was and am trying to kill off my ego, to deflect those temptations and become simply a brain in a sack. This phrase came to me while driving, “brain in a sack.” I waxed poetic on the phrase into my phone’s audio recorder, and I kept pulling the thread. If I was really going to live without ego, I must be as a brain in a skin sack. The skin would merely be a vessel for a mind — not a persona, but the natural state of that mind. I am something, Christopher Goodlof is something, but to really be the best and most benevolent person I could be, I need to become nothing. Christopher Goodlof is a character, but I need to become a brain in a sack, truly nothing. Becoming nothing isn’t easy, and I haven’t done it yet, but I’m working on it every day. I’m taking stock of my thoughts, but more importantly, I’m taking stock of the way others behave. I’m getting better at seeing just what is motivating people, what they’re feeding off of. I see it, and so I recognize those behaviors within myself and I try to put a stop to them. “Wow Chris, you must be a saint of a person to know.” Incorrect, I’m a real bastard, but I’m working on it. Although, in starving my ego, I think I may have discovered that I simply am a real bastard of a guy.
I digress, but my point is this. Our egos drive so much of what we say and do. Take notice in your own life of when you’re doing something so that others can see you doing it rather than just doing it for you. This disingenuous behavior is toxic, and must be put to rest. Only when we’re reduced to our natural minds without affect, when we become brains in sacks, when we become nothing — only then can we achieve benevolence. When we don’t matter, our world takes precedence.