Been awhile since writing. Started new job, putting the finishing touches on self publishing my first full length novel and continuing the adjustment to a life in a new city. Not having a social circle has left me with time to think…sometimes too much. As the aging process continues to be more unkind to my body (all a result of my doing) I can’t help but think back to days of the past. The hands of time can be very unkind and to most they certainly are. Our decisions set the course of our lives off in directions we often don’t have a map to navigate. For a healthy percent of the population – at least here in America, though I suspect in many other places – we will never gain access to an effective GPS system to help us along.
It was during a recent conversation at a coffee shop I frequent that I found myself in a conversation about life and more specifically what I refer to as our ‘achievement timeline’. Living in Silicon Valley I’m often surrounded by intellectually brilliant people who are fascinated by data and quantifying it. It was to a group of such folks I explained my (though I’m sure someone somewhere else has termed a similar theorem) achievement timeline and the value it would have in people’s lives; particularly those transitioning to young/early adulthood. While I’ve not made an extensive search for analysis of my premise there no doubt exists sets of data that offer precise probability of achieving certain professional & personal outcomes based on where a person sits in their chronological being.
As part of the often time failed strategy of career days, summer job programs, the hyper-obsessive university preparatory process, perhaps the time has come to sit down and share the facts with kids. Knowing where the stats lay coupled with a healthy internal inventory is the greatest gift both young and old people can be given. Going back to the GPS analogy from earlier – imagine if you would for a second being stuck somewhere in your life horizon and having a sense of how you should proceed going forward based not on intuition (an often terrible guide especially for those of us who grow up knowing only a survival mentality) but rather on mathematical fact. A ‘do this – not that’ if you will. This I explained to the group of financially and professionally well-off individuals is the only way those who are left behind can stay there in comfort.
Went with the girlfriend last evening to see the movie ‘Vice’. While I was well aware of Dick Cheney, his story, his rise and fall through the ranks of the Nixon and Reagan administration, my gf on the other hand was blissfully unfamiliar. Tied in with the type of humor Adam McKay has come to be known for the film did an excellent job of presenting facts while also being entertaining. Dinner after the movie we discussed some of the stories presented and while there was much political license taken at the core it accurately showed the piece of shit Cheney was..and likely is to this day.
The thing about Dick, besides the fact he was the ultimate one in real life, was the way he did things. He wasn’t the loudest guy in the room – in fact he was the type that tended to do things behind the curtain. ‘Fly low, fly straight’ – the advice of the fictional drug dealer Frank Lopez from Scarface – was his modus operandi. Like a virus he buried himself inside the otherwise healthy, yet vulnerable, minds and bodies of those around him and began to spread his poisonous thoughts and beliefs. While there isn’t much we can do to stop people of this nature on a grand scale there is a lesson to be learned on a personal level.
In our circle(s) we have several types of people. Family we are born with, friends we make along the way and acquaintances that come into our life. Some of these people will be of tremendous value. The love, support and guidance provided by them will be of great help navigating this thing called life. But beware those ‘Dicks’ that will undoubtedly weave their way into your world. They may be family, you may call them friends and there’s a breathtakingly good chance you’ll encounter them at the office (especially if you find yourself a clog in the corporate rat race). Keep an eye out for these folks. Again, they won’t be the loudest but their affect on your life will potentially hit like a ton of bricks.
I know what you’re thinking – how do I recognize these folks? While it may be tricky there’s some common clues to help shine light on the fact they’re in your midst.
- A new face inspiring a complete 180 in words/actions – this you’ll see from the highest level of government (ie. Obama’s magnetic pre-election rhetoric) to that special someone your brother or sister is now dating that’s got them suddenly going to church.
- An old face that looks/sounds strangely familiar but can’t quite be placed. Again you’ll find them in every facet of existence but in government and business they are incredibly common. The reason they’re so difficult to pin down is that like an empty plastic bottle they live to be recycled garbage. Being comfortable with a life like this takes a special type of sociopath and that’s why their impact can be so destructive. There’s often gaps during which they are hiding in plain sight – move to another company, semi-retire, etc – this is done so they are not shuffled into regular trash.
- The strange outcome from the invisible hand. From the department head to the family head they operate indirectly to directly change the end game. They are the mysterious decision that either makes little or no sense at all. The course seemed to have had you (or your work group) heading West but now you find yourself due Southeast. The ‘underminer’ – their genius lies in the fact they are able to get other people to relinquish the original agreed upon plan in place of something mildly or altogether completely different.
My suggestion (should you care) is to be quietly vigilant. Don’t directly call out the person or the decision but after establishing some friendly interaction express a curiosity in the outcome. Allow the person or persons on the inside to give you a part of the story. People from every walk of life like to talk to varying degrees…simply find the one your able to extract the most useful information from. To catch a snake it’s oftentimes necessary to disguise ourselves as one. Once you know the source it’s completely up to you how to proceed. Whether you opt to be the chemo to this cancer or simply an over-the-counter treatment to the future symptoms caused by these dirt bags is for you to decide. All the best in whatever you decide.
“If I had a world of my own everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
For those of you not familiar with this beautiful and strange arrangement the above is from one of literature’s most interesting characters – Lewis Carroll’s ‘Mad Hatter’. While I won’t implore a person to read ‘Alice in Wonderland’ I would encourage someone to give this statement some thought. We live in a world defined by the very principles outlined in his words. Beginning with the fairy tale characters of youth – Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny (American folklore) – and continuing with the stories perpetuated by religion we are fed a healthy diet of nonsense until we reach an age where these myths begin to come apart at the seems.
For some the transition from denial to acceptance is as easy as skipping a stone across a pond. To a handful of unfortunate others the destruction of this fantasy can be devastating. The oftentimes cold and heavy nature of life can, and frequently does, cripple an individuals development, ultimately leading to an emotionally retarded adulthood. The lies upon which our existence are constructed creates a fragile and false ecology that with even the slightest change in conditions can become so severely altered that the potential for survival ends in a zero sum game.
Navigating through existence can be a breathtakingly difficult task. We are in a world with as little truth to it as the one we spent our childhoods in. You see time and space while constant are of little use in a reality governed by perspective. Ideas give way to ideology, facts quickly change to fiction and the only logic is being illogical. In the spirit of this way of existing there becomes always more to lose and ever less to gain. Taking chances is no longer a potential for second place but not even an option. Slavery becomes the new freedom.
But take heart, there is a way to find the center of the ‘maze’. The key is very simple and lies in only a simple understanding. And that understanding is realizing that life, your life, my life, our lives, are not a single map but a series of maps. Maps that when viewed separately seem completely unconnected…of having little purpose or function and fail to give even the slightest glimpse into the nature of anything. But as a person begins to stack one on top of another…on top of another, on top of another this beautiful pattern emerges. Parts of this map will seem perplex, having amazing color and lines though no definable image. Whereas others will have clear but callous constructs.
It is taken in as a whole that the totality of all this will begin to make sense and the truth will emerge. You will discover that there is no truth and no untruth. There is no freedom and there is no slavery. Neither joy nor sadness are real. All that exist are time and space and perspective. The first two will always make sense, we can see neither but we know them to be so because of what occupies our life giving credence to them. The last is nonsense because it is governed by how we feel about what we see. If you (and I for that matter) can accept that what we feel may or may not be appropriate to what we see then whether or not something even makes sense or not will be of no consequence. Up could be down, blue could be green and that still will be fine with me…as it should be.
Situations in life, as unique as we believe they are, share more in common with a used car than a shiny new pet. If there was ever a life item that stood out as a thread that binds all of humanity it would be drawing the line between complacency and action. I recognize, as the effigy goes, there exists a time for peace and a time for war but the question begs – how does one know the difference? For myself and the many underachievers of this world this question has likely plagued us for the entirety of our existences. Answer this riddle correctly reap the rewards, miss this question and prepare for the agony that tends to follow.
There’s tons of advice on how to realize this in ones life. The problem with this wave of self-help garbage is that it ultimately helps only a fraction of those that implement its strategies. Sold as a one-size-fits all solution to what ails you, most of the suggestions you’ll come across are little more than a load of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and serve as much utility as a size 16EEE sneaker does to Peter Dinklage. For those who have seen little to no success trying to ride the Tony Robbins bandwagon it seems giving the other end of the bell curve a crack is worth a shot.
The solution for those brave souls moving forward on this call to action is precisely that – action. It doesn’t matter what sparks the battle, simply begin wagging war. War against the job you hate, the shitty relationship you have, the unceasingly circular direction life keeps traveling in. Better to fight and expel the entirety of ones energy against the almost Calvinistic nature of our existence than to live and die giving in to the unfair level of life’s playing field. I leave you with the words of the poet Dylan Thomas;
‘Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day, rage, rage against the dying of the light’.
In a world where most are in love with nothing, see value only in the temporary and blindly turn the entirety of ones existence to a mythological being, an agent of true change…a questioner of fallacy…someone that is able to see into the future is a dangerous and forsaken individual. Around me at this very moment are the same meaningless conversations, people ceaselessly engaged in mindless activity, floating aimlessly into the recesses of another day. The present giving way to the past without an inkling of novelty. It is as if time has faded and along with it a deeper, more meaningful sense of purpose.
If this is something you understand and have found defines more, rather than less, of your days it is because you are trapped. I understand how you got there – as of this writing I am still inhabiting such a world, but like Andy Dufresne I have began to tunnel my way out. Bit by bit, day by day I am chipping away at the prison my decisions have locked me in. It began with this blog, which I pay for out of my own pocket, as I stated earlier – not to make a profit – but rather to inspire commitment when there’s no gas in the proverbial tank. Next I began to place money back into what appears an overvalued stock market, willing to risk a healthy portion of my savings for the potential upside I know my courage and calculation will reward. The final two acts involve me publishing my second book and then going back to school for what will ultimately be a law degree.
I bring these up only for illustrative purpose and to ask the question – what are you passionate about? Doesn’t matter if it’s science or stripping – what speaks to you in a way as though it were a long lost loved one calling from beyond the grave. There is this endless fear perpetuated by the world that a person must do what’s logical. I say fuck that. Let someone else be a nurse, a doctor, an IT programmer. If you truly love something you don’t ever let it go. You don’t trade it in for anyone; not your mom, not your dad, not your spouse, not a single individual or deity on this planet or in this universe.
I’ll tell you why you don’t do this…because you will never be your most happy. Sure you can fill your life with substitute things but like the cavity of a tooth it is never gone, just merely covered. Slowly you will go through life with regret which will grow over time. Again those things you’ve added to complement your existence…spouse…kids…house…dog will all be there to hopefully continue to tow you through the thing that keeps snagging your line – that is the dream you gave up on. So before I close out this post I challenge you to take a chance, then take another one, and another after that. Keep knocking until the goddamn door opens and if it’s slammed in your face make like a Jehovah witness and keep on knocking. In time you will ultimately convert your most stubborn critic…yourself.
I was recently fortunate enough to have had a chance encounter with a higher up from my present employer. As I listened to him spew nonsensical buzz words out of his mouth for the better part of 10 minutes I had one of my many Michael Douglas ‘Falling Down’ moments. The filter between my brain and mouth has long be on hiatus but over time I have learned to tapper down the beast. This is a good thing as I’m quite sure if I had this conversation even just 8 or 10 years ago it might have been my last as an employee. You see life is an insane contradiction of terms.
In this particular case we have the classical conundrum of human redundancy actively seeking out efficiency. I took the time to point out my confusion before even trying to offer any insights. Insights to most people in charge are like having a second asshole…it seems like a good idea to help get rid of waste but really just acts as a way to flush out good ideas. Needless to say after pointing out why this ‘new’ problem exists in the first place I quickly made my simple yet elegant (I just wanted to use that adjective today…there was nothing elegant about it at all) suggestion. Now my current crop of co-workers tend not to be interested in things outside popular culture, gossip and talking about their children (all things I give zero fucks about) but for a brief moment I had all the entire crews attention. After making my suggestion and the supporting evidence as to why it was ideal everyone was in agreement that it made the most sense.
Fast forward several dozen meetings and months from now and what will the solution be? It will of course be any one of hundreds except the obvious one I made. Why is this you ask? The answer is simple – life is a breathtaking array of contradictions. This small, seemingly unimportant (because it is) example can easily be followed up by dozens of others. Take any of a wide ranging number of socio-economic issues. Lets start with taxes, because beyond death and mythical religions this works up Americans the most. Political parties and certain media personalities spout off about the virtues of low taxes and modifying the present structure to something simpler. Huge problem – we have hundreds of thousands of jobs predicated around the complexity and never-ending changes surrounding the current system. Why would any of these people, or the likely millions depending on the income generated from these jobs want to be suddenly jobless? They don’t, on the same token nor do the developers of drugs for type two diabetes (life style caused) want people to really eat healthier or exercise more – your problem represents a multi billion dollar industry.
This leads me to the quintessential paradox of our existence – the problem solving/problem creating paradigm. I’m not intelligent enough to speak on the exact genesis of this – be it rooted in evolutionary biology, the occult, etc – but I can say with great certainty this fascinating contradiction drives the human species in all sorts of directions; some good, some not so good. Perfect example is in the defense manufacturing industry. The right to defend oneself and the general sovereignty of a universally recognized nation is a very legitimate concept. The problem lies in the fact that how does one both a) know they are properly equipped to do so and b) continually support the people who make this possible? This is where we slide into the right side of the curve, problem creation, and in this particular case, with this particular human en devour, it involves playing off two of our favorite emotions – insecurity and greed – to create a problem with someone else — in this case another country, or more recently a rouge, border-less group of individuals we call “terrorists” with the result being casualty filled warfare.
The aforementioned is of course an extreme example, quite possibly the most extreme, but an effective one in grabbing our constantly drifting attention. You see we are unknowing victims to this paradigm on a daily basis simply by the things we say and do. Our actions, or inaction, push the balance toward one direction or the other. Having to participate in this game at times is inevitable because some (perhaps many) people we interact with choose to remain unaware of this phenomenon or even secretly get off on the self-created drama that is the resulting byproduct. The key is taking a moment to analyze a nagging situation or a new one that pops up…or even ideally taking a few moments to look to the future. See the possibilities, potentials or eventualities and strive to position yourself in a position of problem solving. Better yet study, observe and be an ‘future issue identifier’. This will unfortunately require a tremendous amount of energy and isn’t likely to be successfully accomplished on a grand scale but at an individual or even family level is certainly feasible. Besides in the end you should be looking out for number one anyway.
Took a recent departure from writing, as is often the case, to think more about things. As ideas for different topics swirled around my head I kept returning to the theme of reality-setting. What I mean specifically is identifying the true nature of ourselves and relating that to the society in which all of us operate. The one, unequivocal truth I keep arriving at is we are all assholes to some degree or another. If at the reading of this you find yourself taken aback, in disbelief or ideally even offended that’s a good thing. Collectively put together it means you are quite sane and that the garbage programming you received growing up is open to being re-written.
As I’m once again on the road I’ll make an analogy to something relatable. Think of our need to be dicks as a light switch. Most of the time just enough to illuminate our view will do the trick, say getting up to take a leak during the middle of the night. Whereas there are other times where we are required to turn it to batman signal magnitude. The key is assessing the situation and starting at an intensity under where we initially might suppose. By doing this it alerts second parties of our intention to convey something they were likely blissfully unaware of – or possibly didn’t give a shit about. Once the light is on we can begin to adjust accordingly.
One key drawback about this is that your internal light will always need to be running – like the alternating & direct currents of electricity. This can be exhausting and an exercise in futility. Take heart though, I once attempted to be a world of smiles, rainbows and metaphysical sunshine. It didn’t work and it won’t for most people because we are most people. The odds are not in our favor and chances our they never will be…and that’s okay. Embrace the dark side of the force. Contrary to what religious tards and other do-gooders may want you to think the world isn’t a good place – it’s not a bad one necessarily either…it’s just a place.
Unfortunately, the dispelling of dishonesty in life isn’t going to come about by being honest, which would appear to be the natural progression of the process. No, honesty is only going to come about by first us being a-holes with one another then after a decade or two this will give way to the self-correcting measure of honesty. It’s a strange paradox but what about being human isn’t strange…or paradoxical? So, in signing off I encourage you to do your part now to get our species on track toward a brighter future for all. A future in which more people are prepared for the reality of existence – one that unreturningly states life isn’t fair, all things are not equal, that silver spoons are in short supply and that Santa isn’t real. Who would’ve thought we could accomplish all this simply by embracing our inner asshole?
The greatest distance a person will ever travel is the space between perception and truth. While there’s a myriad of reasons for this the only one I’d like to bring up is the foundational principle of honesty. Honesty is part and parcel a core concept in child rearing and (in theory) a fundamental element in establishing trust. Herein lies the problem, from the very beginning of our existence we are lied to – be it about a big, all powerful, all loving (yet sometimes vengeful) creator, or mythical characters that leave presents if we’re well-behaved individuals, the stories presented to us when we are most vulnerable have the greatest effect distorting the later eventualities of life.
As these systems work their dastardly worst we become further separated from any approximation or semblance of truth. This perversion continues until our lives become an uncontrollable array of paradoxes. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ becomes a living mantra. I write today on this topic in light of a recent series of personal events but will highlight only one. A close family member of mine is struggling with the dynamics of a parental relationship. Her father is in advanced age and like those who have suffered loss and heartache (and will continue to do so) she struggles to connect to those who have gone before her through this relationship.
The problem is this relationship has some very unhealthy components to it – the most unfortunate of which is the controlling, manipulative nature of her father. For every brief flicker of good that emanates from this man comes an endless barrage of posturing, verbal judgment and ridiculously off-putting demands. The youngest of seven he is a byproduct of clear favoritism from his father and this special treatment likely re-enforced his behavioral pattern from an early age. His modus operandi appears to have always been about gaining leverage with those closest to him and exploiting it.
I’m confident many of us have relationships in our lives similar to this, with the majority yielding to this type of calculating individual until the day they (or we) die. Is there an answer to breaking this cycle? Of course there is…and it involves taking on the challenge of what was presented in the opening paragraph – bridging the gap between perception and reality. One single true thing, that’s all it takes and let it come completely out of the blue. There’s no need to notify this person of what’s about to hit them; in fact it’s better you don’t. Strike first, strike hard, no mercy – it’s of no consequence whether the individual is a so-called love one; if respect isn’t given it must be taken.
If anything was worth fighting for, worth waging battle to win, it would be in establishing ones self-worth. Protect the integrity of yourself. When others treat you like a number act in a way that turns the answer of the equation to 0. For that is what they ultimately see you as, nothing, and so to them they become nothing. The law of reciprocity exists everywhere in the universe. Newton’s third law states this – ‘for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction’. Yet for some reason humans in their behavior attempt to circumvent this. Likely inspired by guilt, they seek to take the high road – as if there was something wrong with the ‘low road’ – often at their own peril. Understand this – when it comes to managing relationships – if you capitulate, you lose.
Knowledge, when actively and correctly applied, is power. In an earlier piece I spoke on this at some length. There is though one caveat I failed to mention…being right can be a very lonely place. Fields Medal recipients, Nobel Prize winners, celebrated individual geniuses such as Elon Musk and others; they are so far beyond most people in terms of intellect who can they relate to and how do they make sense of a non-sensical world? I’m reminded of the character Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt) from ‘The Watchmen’ and a line from the film in which he states “the only person with whom [he] felt any kinship with died three hundred years before the birth of Christ…Alexander of Macedonia or Alexander the great as [we] know him”. Though fictional a person can’t help but wonder if this burden is something truly felt by the special few upon which the transformative ideas of the world are built?
As someone filling the rank and file I find myself quick to complain about the alienation of being part of the proletariat struggle (though this is self-induced) never thinking that there is an equally difficult struggle existing on the other side of the Bell Curve. For the sake of illustration, it’s worth noting this doesn’t just plague those of great mental ability. Take the superior athlete for example. As a native Clevelander I’ll use an easily relatable example, LeBron James. Regardless of how a person feels about him personally or as a teammate there’s no denying his skill level is far beyond the majority of his peers. It’s in that separation a great sense of personal isolation has to exist. For someone operating within a team sport, or a corporation for that matter, having a vision and aptitude beyond the next closest subset of colleagues can be crippling. As the saying goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown.
This is the part of my rant where I try to tie it all together. If as you go along in life you should happen to discover that you are one of these rare birds take heart. The road to achieving your goals will be an uphill battle, not merely because of what you’re attempting to accomplish but because in your way will find a slew of folks whose only existence appears to make your job harder. Prepare yourself for the burden of being different, of being special…of being great. I can’t profess to be one of these people, weird yes, gifted no, but what I do see and recognize all around me is that this world is overrun with DNA (do-nothing assholes). They control and dictate the situation of far too much economically, politically and socially. Know that the uniqueness you possess will be a one-way ticket to a deserted island, learn to swim with the sharks and everything will be okay.
Chances are if you were born before the 1990’s you’ve heard the above expression. While part of me wants to chalk it up along with many of the others I’ve mentioned on this site as having little to no value the older version of myself sees some unspoken wisdom in this notion. Having spent a part of my youth living with my post-depression era grandparents it’s easy to identify the obvious financial undertones of the statement but it’s in the extension of this ideology to the other areas of life that a reward just as great can be reaped. Allow me to share a pair of examples.
The first example that comes to mind is oddly enough intimate relationship(s). Take the man or woman that has [recently] been dumped by an otherwise uncaring, asshole partner. Whether or not they’re a physical or emotional gem is a matter of debate but odds are 50/50 that the person is. Now throw the fact they are leaving an otherwise unhealthy experience – which likely has lead them to engage in things such as questioning their self-worth – there is a strong chance they will be putting their best foot forward with their next ‘at bat’ while simultaneously making some beneficial personal changes…making them an ideal mate. Just as one places an empty candy wrapper in a waste receptacle people are equally disposable. One person’s relational garbage is potentially another person’s treasure.
A second example, and for the sake of being brief the last in this article (though there are several more), is a person’s career choice. Though this could be considered an extension of an individual’s financial actions I’d like to draw attention to the non-monetary side of this life consideration. The inspiration for this example came from a chance encounter with a passenger I had on a flight recently. Though I hardly consider anything chance; more like the law of averages in operation. The gentleman, a D.C. attorney, had recently graduated from Georgetown and was working in his first year as patent lawyer for the US Patent Office; a fact I cued in on from of all things a pen he was taking notes with. In the majority of cases I don’t care for engaging on a personal level with customers as I find most, particularly in first class, to be uninteresting middle management clogs but I have a penchant for law so I took up the chance to speak further with him.
After several minutes in dialogue I discovered a very interesting facet to his line of work. The first was an existing shortage of patent law lawyers. Having a sister who is an attorney and formerly having considered law school myself I knew there wasn’t a shortage of trial attorneys, corporate lawyers or even family attorneys but never gave much thought to intellectual property. During the middle part of our conversation he said something that struck me and ties directly back into the topic of this piece. Somewhere around his last year of law school he began collecting feedback from his classmates, gauging where their focus and interests within the field lied. What he discovered was that the overwhelming majority were hellbent on corporate, securities or criminal law and just like that he knew what he wanted to do. He went on to explain further the logic behind this – you see patent law was boring, required as much if not more case reading and interpretation than other types of law, paid well but not house in the Hamptons well and possibly most important lacked any prestige.
It was the last part of what he said that got the small motor between my ears I’ve mistaken for a brain spinning. Patent law felt as though it was a career middle child of sorts…easily overlooked and in some circles considered a garbage part of the profession. Once again, one person’s trash another person’s treasure. No struggling to find work, working 100+ hour weeks to make partner and even the healthy possibility for starting a family if that was a person’s desire. These types of nuances, personal and/or professional, exist more often than people think. Whether discovering the rebounding and wounded partner or the what’s behind the curtain of a professional subset, life can be like a giant estate sale with hidden prizes to be found underneath the surface. In order to access an awareness to these things all a person merely has to do is listen and be diligent. Time and a level of patience affords every one of us the opportunity to discover some type of trash we will soon discover is a Rembrandt.