What exactly is a “Meistaramánuður”?
On the occasion of the last day of October, known by some as “Master’s Month,” blogger Charlie Marlowe recounts his mostly futile attempts to become a master.
October 07, 2014: The day before yesterday, in honour of the glorious tradition of Master’s Month*, I decided that I would take the necessary pains to acquire a slew of new and useful habits—habits that would put me on the road to becoming a more successful, a more likeable, and altogether more estimable version of myself. A better me, in effect; a better better me. Having made this decision, I set my alarm clock for the early morning and promptly went to sleep.
- THE HABIT OF RISING EARLY–06:00
At six o’clock in the morning, I arose to the swelling crescendo of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”—and at once regretted my choice of alarms. In retrospect, “Ride of the Valkyries” has an entirely too militant sound and one which grates harshly against the tranquil texture of the early morning. It was like some prearranged marriage between a boisterous German general (Wagner) and a pacifistic, silk-wrapped Asian (dawn) and I, the unhappy love child of their brief union—was delivered into the world at six o’clock sharp.
- THE HABIT OF FINISHING WHAT ONE STARTS–06:05
Jumping to my feet in a state of drowsy bewilderment, I put on my pants backwards and stumbled to the bathroom in the fashion of some miserable loser attending a Kriss-Kross concert.
I then emptied my bladder, waltzed into the kitchen and proceeded to pour a liberal amount of Cheerios and milk into a bowl—only to discover that I had poured neither Cheerios nor milk, but rather an unfortunate concoction of Cocoa Puffs and orange juice.
Had this been any other month, I would have disposed of the egregious blend into the garbage and went on with my day. But seeing as it was Master’s Month—such a thing was inconceivable. For,“If a Master is a starter, he is also, by way of logical necessity, a finisher.”
Thinking this thought, I wolfed down many spoonfuls of the unpalatable mixture and vomited loudly, before flushing the toilet triumphantly, standing over it like a victorious and gloating Napoleon.
- THE HABIT OF RUNNING–06:15
Lacing my shoes, I stepped outside for a run. I had not been on a run for some time, and was not entirely certain that I still knew how. But I found that running is a simple thing, really: a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and pretending that one is being pursued by some large and ravenous beast, whom one has also kicked forcefully in the shin. I ran through my neighbourhood; I ran uphill and downhill; I ran like a TV marathon; like Forrest Gump; like Prefontaine—like a 24-hour news story. I ran for what seemed like an interminable expanse of time, but was surprised to discover that, according to my watch—and by some unaccountable miracle of nature—time had been compressed into a slight and embarrassing ten minutes. I could not comprehend it. But I was determined to make the best of it, and so I rationalized my poor performance by channelling Tennyson:
“’tis better to have ran and briefly – than never to have ran at all.”
- THE HABIT OF CLEANLINESS–06:30
In the shower, I rinsed meticulously, probing every orifice and every crevice with long and soap-stained fingers; I dried myself; put on deodorant and cologne; clipped my toenails and trimmed my beard; brushed my teeth and combed my hair; and having transformed myself into a pleasant vision of cleanliness, I composed an impromptu witticism—in celebration of my recent sterility: “Cleanliness is next to godliness, and to the godless—next to nothingness.”
I then exited the bathroom like an off-key Andre 3000 drunkenly singing “So Fresh, So Clean.”
- THE HABIT OF PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY–06:45
Grabbing a cup of coffee, I sat down at the living-room table with a book and an air of stubborn determination. I had long been meaning to make sense of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique Of Pure Reason’, and felt that now was as good a time as any. I read about two or three sentences before being struck with the indomitable urge to check my phone—for the wretched device had been beeping incessantly since I left the shower.
Opening some social media appliance or other, I was greeted with a video of my friend inexplicably fingering himself in the asshole. Startled, I shook my head in the manner of an indignant schoolmarm and began reading again from the top. I read about two or three sentences before being overcome with the desire to check my phone, whereby I was confronted with another video of my friend—this time licking one of his fingers in a most ironic and erotic fashion. I shook my head again and began reading from the top. And so for the better part of an hour I alternated between the surreal reality of my phone and the incomprehensible hieroglyphs of Kant’s intellect, before calling it quits and leaving for work.
- THE HABIT OF TRAFFIC EQUANIMITY–07:45
Moving at a slow crawl through traffic, I made an earnest attempt at keeping my composure, and looking back upon it now: obviously I overreached. During the disturbing fifteen minutes that it took me to reach Reykjavík, I had become guilty of honking violently at an old man; waving a prominent middle finger in the face of a frightened teenager; and extravagantly exceeding the speed limit on three separate occasions. I was a danger to myself and others, but I suppose that,
“Some habits are so foreign to one’s nature that they have no hope of being granted a permanent visa: unless, of course, one were to become a different country altogether. But I am too patriotic of myself to change.
- THE HABIT OF FEARLESSNESS–08:05
Pulling up to the office, I imagined walking through the doors like a kind of rebellious Hemingway, tendering my resignation and catwalking to the nearest coffeehouse, before ordering a rich whiskey and penning The Great Icelandic Novel. But I, of course, did no such thing—for I am a coward and cowards are always amorous of the status quo. Instead, I walked through the doors like a kind of anonymous bureaucrat, and in silent acquiescence to my subordination, slithered to some nondescript cubicle and authored a raft of clichéd and forgettable emails. As my spirit gradually waned, I began thinking of that thing I once read:
“Every man must at one point do a thing which he does not enjoy doing; to make a career out of such a thing seems unreasonable—and yet it is not uncommon for men to do so.”
Tapping away on my keyboard, I thought to myself: “with each passing day this excerpt sounds more and more like the synopsis of my unpublished autobiography.”
The rest of my day was like a long ellipsis inside a cruel parenthesis.
( ………………………………………………………….. )
- THE HABIT OF EATING WELL–17:15
Having betrayed my literary aspirations for yet another day, I drove home with every intention of bypassing the neighbouring Burger Joint. “I am a rational man with a functioning prefrontal cortex,” I thought, “and will not be made powerless by the prospect of fried meat on a delicious bun.” Furthermore, “I shall drive home, heap salad into a bowl and dive into it with all the wild enthusiasm of a cartoon bunny.”
And I was surprised to learn that by addressing myself in this manner, as if speaking authoritatively to an unkempt dog, I could in fact command myself to do the most unlikely things—like choosing a bowl of salad over a fine hamburger—which is precisely what I did.
I briefly considered marketing this technique in the form of a clever self-help book, but I soon thought better of it:
“The last thing that the world needs is another luxurious mansion, built with the blood money of bad writing.”
- THE HABIT OF NOT BEING IDLE–18:30
Following my feathery and altogether inadequate meal, I was determined to seize what was left of the day in the spirit of some industrious do-gooder: like a kind of a young Benjamin Franklin on a mega dose of speed. I imagined throwing myself to the floor and completing 1,000 push-ups; then throwing my fiancé into bed and lavishing orgasms upon her; before finally throwing my clothes back on and writing something profound.
BUT I DID NO SUCH THING.
I threw my back out on the floor and staggered into the living room, where I threw myself onto the sofa and threw on seven episodes of ‘The Office’ in the manner of some middle-aged and obese disappointment. Before finally passing out, I was indicted by some obscure and clever quote:
“Television: a major part of the minor life.”
*Master’s Month: In Iceland, the month of October, annually transformed into a 31-day festival of self-improvement, and, very often, self-disappointment.