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’.
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.
While on my way back from a family visit (the main reason for taking some time off from writing) I had the privilege of sitting next to a very opinionated man during the unfortunate return flight back to Chicago. He and a colleague of his were speaking on some socio-economic issues they both apparently felt those around them needed to be aware of. As is often the case the dogma spewing from his mouth was as one sided as a boxing match between Helen Keller and Mike Tyson in his prime would be. I could almost see the Politifact meter failing off the left side of it’s accuracy curve. I listened intently as I knew at some point the opportunity to engage this grossly misinformed individual would happen and little did I know I wouldn’t even be waiting to take off.
Thanks to a momentary ground stop of inbound traffic into ORD this fine fella and I were able to first exchange glances and as soon as he noticed what I was browsing through on my Reddit feed in his mind I must have been fair game. As the seconds ticked off the clock of life I could see the anticipation building on his face. Finally, I turned to him with a look that must have conveyed the statement ‘you can begin speaking your non-sense now’ because the dogma began to flow like diarrhea. After first lambasting my preferred sources of news – The Guardian, Mother Jones, the CBC and Reuters (The Wall Street Journal received his approval) – he then proceeded to go on about the topic I currently had on my feed, a report demonstrating how a series of large corporations could in fact afford to pay their employees more money in lieu of massive stock buybacks.
His position was that as a public company it was completely up to the executives and shareholders to determine and approve such a strategic decision. While in principle I agreed with his position I followed up his statement with a query – what were his feelings on such programs as SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, etc.? Not to my surprise he was vehemently against the entirety of them. To which my response was that if the minimum wage was increased to say $14/hr many of the people who depend on these programs would a) make enough to be self sufficient and b) no longer qualify for these programs thus reducing the tax revenue necessary to support these discretionary programs. Also, it would help to reduce Medicaid enrollment (currently @ 64.9 million people) as a small percent of people could thusly afford to purchase insurance in the marketplace.
The gentleman paused to take my little spiel in. I went on further to explain this is how most of life exists – not just in terms of politics, sociology, finance, etc. – that the answer lies in looking past the obvious, foregoing the process of emotional attachment and seeing that the problems of life can go around and round in an endless circle, never resolved only argued over, or a solution can be sought. This part is incredibly difficult though as it requires a skill that many of us lack, myself included, entirely…pragmatism. It’s hard to say what keeps us on this bus ride to nowhere…pride, lack of education, indoctrination…who knows? Regardless of what’s to blame and at the expense of a lot of wasted time let’s just assume that we’re never truly correct about anything. This sounds counter-productive, and at some point along the road it is, but to second guess what we think…what or how we approach something can be a very valuable tool in breaking the circle and the chains that bind us.