Watching the decline...

Tag Archives: Life Lessons

Random Thoughts – Genius Hesitates

The fact that I’m a chronic delayer has nothing to do with the above title. I’m hardly a genius and I know that. Although, admittedly I saw a glint of myself in the statement. To hesitate, when discussing, thinking about or planning something that has many parts moving or otherwise is in a way the sign of pre-genious. Not all people are so deliberate and not everyone who isn’t is deficient. Conversely deliberation is not the sole sign of a sharp mind.

This whole line of thinking started when I started listening to 7 Brief Lessons on Physics this morning on my way in to work.

Stoned thoughts.

Now I’ve smoked some pot in my life, that isn’t either unusual nor is it news. Under some unique circumstances where a lot was consumed I’d bordered on paranoia, reaching out as the thoughts I tried so hard to corral slipped out of the gate with me standing in the corner unable to stop their escape. On some other occasions where I consumed a smaller but still substantial amount, the thoughts lined up in neat rows of disparate complexions, the need to arrange the thought cows by breed or by color erased by the ability to see what else they had in common. Yeah, thought cows.

I recall these times in this context because the need to guide every thought that usually rules my daily life was unchecked by THC.  I didn’t think that every thought was genius but some seemed pretty great and on those occasions I would have been nice to allow my untethered brain to run free but circumstances didn’t allow that. I’m sure most of what I was coming up with was shit and I had no illusions that it was all “good stuff” even in that state I knew enough to judge my thoughts for what they were and to try to hold on enough to them so that in the cold sober light of day I might logically disseminate the gems from the coal.

Still, after the burst of random creativity there is always doubt.

Einstein-Bohr as a model.

In matters of importance, whatever the realm might be, to think you have the answer yet be still critical of not only the conclusion but the question itself is key to growth.  Arguable theoretical questions at whatever level, be it what team is best or what is the nature of reality, benefit from the willingness of the person trying to answer them having the ability to self correct, self check and yes, self-doubt. The book presents the Einstein-Bohr debates as proof of that and the necessity of malleability of thought that doubt engenders.   Now I’m not even going to begin to pretend that I understand what they are arguing, I know it has something to do with at least in part the existence, nonexistence or semi existence of electrons, that’s about all I know.

What the exchange does show is that having a sliver of doubt, not being so absolutely sure of your assertions, especially if they have implications beyond you and your field is at the very least as aside to genius. Deliberation in your conclusions and the willingness to be wrong is hardly weakness.

I have never trusted anyone who has all the answers, or who says that they can fix all the problems. It’s really too bad that a significant number of people in this country don’t feel the same way.

Today’s Lesson: Everything Doesn’t Always Work Out

I used to think I was lucky. I’d delay and put off and push away the scary stuff and somehow things would just work themselves out. I thought I had luck on my side because when the stakes aren’t really that high, you don’t really care that much.

Well, as I got older and the “luck” started to wane I realized it really wasn’t luck at all but instead just a case of not really having much to lose. You acquire things, debt, friends, family, ex friends, ex lovers, ex stuff…if you are lucky you get the chance to go through a few of these and slowly take the training wheels off, but by the time they do come off you realize how much “on your own” you really are. You start taking things to help you sleep, start worrying about losing weight and all the assorted other mundaneties that never would have entered you mind when you thought you were invincible.  You begin to simultaneously begin to care, and care less.

Slowly but surely you realize that everything you do, every interaction, every conversation you have ever had has consequences.

And you realize that, no, things don’t always work out because they never did. You just had to grow into realizing that they didn’t. And now, in the middle of the journey, you see how every decision you made informed where you are right now and that for better or worse the decisions you didn’t make were as powerful, or more so in some cases, than the ones you did and you hope that you get enough life left ahead of you to steer the ship into a safe harbor.

You wish the body was as learned as the mind has become and you wish you’d done a few things just different enough to be in a slightly fresher hell.

Life is still good, but it always can be better.

Always.

Counterpoint

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/4/17311452/gun-rights-black-lives-matter-michigan-siwatu-salama-ra

 

Are We Really That Divided?

The more people I encounter, the more it seems the difference between the political poles is a social construction. Aside from the prominent examples of ideological contradictions (Liberal Racists, Conservative Welfare Cheats, etc., and everyone knows at least one), there are some very real reasons that people seem to adhere to beliefs, act upon impulses and support policies that may do them harm in the long run.

We are manipulated, especially the bottom third of the economic scale, into believing we belong with those in power but are being sold an ideological package labeled “Liberal” or “Conservative”  and anything that falls outside those preconceived broad definitions is filtered out of choice.

There are some hot-button issues that are determined by our closer communities. If you are White and rural, you are more likely to feel X, or Urban Black and Gay, Y, but after that, I’m always surprised at the level of nuance people show when they have discussions with people with opposing views who are willing to engage them. Being able to have conversations between my fiscally conservative friends about a topic like gun control is a whole lot easier than being able to talk about the subject with a rural hunter, but not impossible.  Speaking to a Melinneal liberal arts college kid about not understanding the new gender definitions or why “safe spaces” exist is a hell of a lot harder than discussing it with a moderate, but older LGBTQ ally who is still in the process of understanding all of the above him/her/themselves.

As a friend of mine recently said “I don’t talk about politics on social media anymore, It’s all a matter of where you come from and how you see it” truer words…. But we need to have those conversations, preferably face to face, in each others presence without our “Hi I’m a Liberal” or “Hello I’m a Conservative” stickers attached.

There is no doubt that we are what we are primarily because of where we grew up and what we were surrounded by.

There are other factors,

But, I’d say, mostly you have to be exposed to new people, and new ideas to at least know they aren’t the monsters you have running around in your head.

Even if Conservative, Libertarian, and Liberal brains are “different” don’t we all need each other’s perspective to live with each other?

I think that even when we come up against issues that we are steadfast on, especially so in some cases, we need to listen harder and assume less.

I think its the only way we’ll ever possibly learn to live together.  Our existence as a species depends on it.

The Case for “All Lives Matter”

Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!

Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”

Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.

Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?

Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?

If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.

When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.

There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.

For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.

I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.

One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.

Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.

It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”

My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:

but is was certainly better than this:

Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.

It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.

So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.

Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?

Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.

Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.

Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.

Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.

In the world of spin, anything is possible.

 

 

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On Approval

Edited on 8/8 for glaringly obvious typos.

Have we just become a bunch of approval seeking heroin rats? Are we so wrapped up in other people’s lives that we forget to have our own? Why are we so able to share the intimate details of our lives with relative strangers on Social Media yet can barely look each other in the eye on the street.

We are so focused on getting our opinions across and our relationships “approved” that sometimes we forget the reasons we have relationships and beliefs in the first place. I love the people in my life, and I love to share them with my wider circle of friends but not at the expense of my relationships with them. I’d much rather have a relationship than the appearance of one.

Through trial and loads of error, I’ve learned that there are some pretty standard principals for governing yourself, and your image, online. I try my best to adhere to them as closely as life and occasional emotional upheavals, allow. Use what you find useful, discard what you don’t.

Love and Relationships:

If you want to share a happy moment, please do so, you shouldn’t have to worry about who’s watching, but if your “sharing” is covering up a flaw in your relationship, or worse, causing one, promptly stop. I have someone in my life currently whom I adore, no pictures of us exist online together. Not to say that they never will, but for the moment we are not on social media as a couple. This is a mutual choice. It is one that not only protects our relationship, but also our relationships with the rest of the world as individuals. Friends who know us as a couple see the hints, others just see us as people.

Politics, Loss and Assorted Other Opinions:

I’ve contemplated leaving, Facebook, in particular, sometimes, usually when the loud opinions of a few people drown out he animal videos, kitten pictures and real life cries for help from people I care about that need answering.

When someone loses someone they love, or a national event requires a collective sense of empathy that platform is a wonderful way to feel cared for and a bit less lonely, it’s no substitute for real arms and real tears, but it is a comfort.

When we suffer depression or a disease, this format is a perfect place to feel less alone in that, but it isn’t a replacement for a real ear or a real shoulder.

When the needs of a few people to be the center of attention crowd out the compassion (in my feed it’s not usually my friends, but THIER friends who do this), I seriously think of cutting the cord. Life is too short, don’t worry about other people’s happiness unless you intend on sharing it. And if you plan on sharing, do so with an understanding of the potential consequences, try to be gentle. People will be looking from the outside in, exes and friends who disagree with you. Unless you are passive aggressively trying to sever those connections, be understanding of how they feel or make it explicit that there will be something following that might hurt or offend. In other words, try to play as fair as you can.

Reactions to all of the Above:

Life is also too short to worry about people’s petty hatred. Sometimes the most reasonable argument can seem like a torch to a powder keg, or the slightest mention of a new relationship can be (of course) painful, but that is the cost of keeping oneself out on social media.

Don’t let anyone else’s fears and anger get you down and don’t believe that every single smiling face doesn’t have its share of pain.

Ultimately we present the face we want the world to see, in my case I’m living the vast majority of my life offline now. Life isn’t perfect, but it is damn good.

I Woke to Find Everything Vanished, and I Smiled a Little

I’m finding myself again in a particular state of consternation over other’s expectations of me. Everyone seems to have an idea as to what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.  People who don’t seem to realize that I’ve done and continue to do my level best to fulfill my obligations to them keep demanding more, so much so that this stone is about out of blood.

I’m looking down the road to a potentially major life change that will affect all my relationships going forward. When I mentioned this potential to a certain parental figure I got a disinterested sigh and a couple of self-serving questions about relocation, then there was a call telling me to do something that I’d been doing more of anyway. Yeah, I couldn’t be vaguer.

So in the past two weeks, I’ve received calls, text messages and email imploring me to take up some forgotten task or fulfill some unfinished obligation or to chide me for some life choice that someone else close to me does not agree with. It seems to have spread to my work life as well, as one of my coworkers had the nerve to, without irony (she’s a talker), tell me that leaving early one day “fucks the rest of us.” Unironically because she does about as much talking as she does work, more likely more of the former than the latter, every single shift she’s on.  She also has no idea who I am or how much I work. Assuming your small window into a relative stranger’s world shows you the entire picture is a sin punishable by a hearty “fuck you!”

So yeah, this is a bitching post, so let us get right to the bitching, shall we?

I’m wholly sick and fucking tired of everyone asking still more of me than I already give. Whether it be assuming small financial obligations out of the kindness of my heart or giving my attention to someone else instead of them, I’m done with being motivated by the expectations of others. So many people in my life live in their own little bubbles, surrounded by the comforts I’ve provided and have grown entitled because of them. They feel entitled to be rude to me, demand attention of me, and request of me things that I have no capacity to give at the moment, all while ignoring the things I’ve asked of them.

The very worst part of this is that all but one person in my life (two actually, but he’s always been appreciative of me) at the moment does not regularly say thank you for what I do continue to provide unless prompted to do so,  unsurprisingly, she is the person who gets the majority of my limited free time and attention. She is also the given or implied reason why the rest of them are so damn unappreciative.

Let me say this, I’ve learned about myself one thing. If you offer me appreciation for what I do, I will return in kind. If you continually complain about what I’m NOT doing, it won’t end well.  I’ve lost my tolerance for others putting their needs above mine and now my needs come first, unequivocally. I’m not looking for my ass to be kissed, but when I’ve done any of the things I’ve alluded to above, don’t take that shit for granted. It’s a sure way to get told to go to hell when you need something from me and fail to ask in a way that does not indicate you have a total lack of self-awareness.

At some point in everyone’s life, they realize that a turning of priorities may be in order. They fumble over what that means and sometimes actually come across something that works to better their outlook, enhance who they are and create joy in their lives in the most simple way. It could be a person, a job, a new point of view or any combination but when they do come they change who we are.

Reviewing one’s life you can see catalytic patterns. Times when one event leads, directly or indirectly, to another, and that to yet another still. Yes, there are choices in-between that move those patterns forward in the direction hindsight reveals, but there are often direct lines from a to b that reveal themselves as time goes on.

Hence the title.

When I wake up throughout the day, in the examination mode of memory and contemplation, I see these paths like routes on a map. There are arteries behind me that vanish, paths not taken, roads left behind never to be visited again, ahead there are splits that lead to other splits, that lead to still others. Not quite the infinite paths we like to believe there are, but as infinite as our little brains can handle. Infinite enough to know that even if we chart a course, the wind or a landslide will deviate us at least once. As our past disappears into memory and the present is lived in every moment, we only have so much say, only so many fucks to give.

I’m choosing mine wisely, with intention, giving attention to the things that I choose first and then allowing the rest to intrude when I will it. It’s the only semblance of control we have, and even if it is an illusion, I’ll take it.

For now, here are some general thoughts:

There is more than one way to love, live and leave.

I am not your world unless I say I am. And even if I do, not always, and not forever if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.

I may love you, but I don’t owe you shit.

I choose what’s important to me, I’m not even slightly sorry If you can’t handle that.

Do not assume that you are at the top of my priority list unless I explicitly say so.

Do not EVER take me for granted.

Finally: Don’t be so fucking vain, this song is only partially about you, whoever you are.

A Quick Note for a Rainy Friday

I’ve been off job 1 for the past week and that is about to come to an end. It was a great week, and as great weeks go, it went way too fast. It was a week full of lessons and revelations. Of figuring out, both literally and figuratively, how to navigate. A week of re-learning how to operate the heavy equipment that is my life.

There are still many questions left unanswered, from the practical (how the fuck am I going to get through this summer?) to the philosophical (how the fuck am I going to make it through this summer?)  I feel like some of the bigger ones have been at least broached, but there is still a ways to go before everything is hunky and/or dory.

Not that the more personal posts will be ending, but without some of the uncertainty of my personal life  I will be refocusing more on the external. Which, unfortunately, means “still more fucking Trump.”  But I’m hoping to find a basic balance between the two. After all, man does not live on politics alone.

On Becoming ….again

It’s not a problem, I believe you have to reinvent yourself to keep moving forward, but sometimes during the reinvention you realize that there are parts of your former self that have transmogrified in a way that only your side can be resolved.

 

You’ve moved on from a friendship and want to remain indifferent to the difficult parts but reclaim the good, or a romantic relationship where you’ve moved past the romance but want to hold on to the friendship, kinship, and good memories but don’t know how not to get them all scrambled up in past behaviors.

 

You leave a job you love and there are  people who became such an intimate part of your life that you miss them so terribly that you want to scream, but you just can’t reclaim those days, you shouldn’t try, you are different, better or worse in some ways.

 

Becoming sucks, but it’s also great. New is wonderful; I love new, haven’t had really and truly new in years. New is scary and unstable, it’s full of pitfalls and traps and the lack of years of context means having even less to go on when that text is non-committal, or the smileys lack a certain warmth.

 

Conversely, the old is a comfort, even if a lot of the joy is gone there are still memories and attachments and time…

 

I’m finding it hard to reconcile these right now.

 

I never want to go back again, ever. Not in my jobs or my relationships. Yet…I do not want to abandon what it was that made these things special, lasting (I thought) and part of what made me….me.

 

I now have about an equal amount of old and new in my life at the moment. Much of the old has had time to settle, the past being firmly in the past, but some of the freshly old, not so much so.

 

I have no intention of ever going back. I’ve found new relationships in my life that satisfy what I need at the moment and am trying to build on them patiently, slowly, that in and of itself takes so much effort for me. I’m a zero to sixty kind of guy, always have been. But the sustained effort to control myself, govern my passions, stay the course AND do it all in the NEW, is really hard. I feel that sometimes, by just putting in the effort to slow my ass down, I neglect the things already established in my life. The hardest things to reconcile are the things surrounding and penetrating my heart. New and old.

 

I only have so much energy, working so much and spreading myself too thin. I only have enough effort in me to concentrate on the existing and the new, so the old suffers.

 

I’ll never forget. But right now I just don’t have it in me to actively remember.

 

I’m sorry if anyone is suffering for that, a piece of myself is missing from me too, and I’m doing my best to find it. You should know this though, that missing piece will come out of the pod quite different, so different that the person emerging may be unrecognizable.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t build the new while gumming up my life with the old. That sounds way harsher than it should, but that is the bottom line. I am building a new life, a new relationship and a new outlook, and it HAS to take precedence above the old ones, HAS to. I’ve not been this true to myself in so many ways as I am being now and my priorities and my needs and my wants and MY LIFE have to be put first.

 

There is no other way.

Sometimes I’m full of shit

Edited on 3/30 @ 1:43pm, because sometimes I’m also full of grammatical errors.

Yep, admittedly sometimes I’m not 100% on the right page. I’m a fuck-up and an asshole. I believe what I’m saying at one moment only to have it change in the next, and in some cases I’m completely full of shit.

I think at times I come off as being calculated, when its more like misguided. Sometimes I come off as manipulative when its more like I just have no idea what I want at any given moment. Sometimes I tell myself that what I’m doing is for the best, even when it comes out totally, the worst.  Sometimes it seems like I’m reading from a script, others it’s just simply that I’m making it up as I go along.

In my writing life here, I comment on the foibles of others, their obvious flaws and the pitfalls of their myopia. I can’t do that without recognizing my own blind spots and where my selfishness supersedes all else. I generally don’t apologize for being selfish as we in our humanness need to be selfish sometimes. But when it hurts people I care about, it’s really hard to justify it.

My life’s journey feels like its beginning again, and with that new beginning there will be a shit-ton of mistakes. I’ll be hurt, friends will be hurt, potential romantic partners will be hurt, family will be hurt. The only thing I can do is be less full of shit as the days go on.

Because, sometimes, we are all a little full of shit, and I am definitely no exception.

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