Choose a discipline or one will be chosen for you.
Disciplines have many ways of finding you if you don’t choose a way to govern yourself. There are many disciplines in life you can choose or can be placed upon you. For instance, if you are unable to control your impulses, society offers the discipline of incarceration and, if necessary, execution. If instead, you choose to manage your impulses in a manner acceptable to society, then you have chosen your own discipline, whether motivated by fear of the law or ostracism, religious imperative, a strict moral philosophy or narcissistic compulsion to feel superior. Being undisciplined in your job will eventually lead to the discipline of unemployment– which requires the discipline of spending less money than you did when you had a job, or facing the discipline of bill collection and bad credit, etc.
It’s best to choose your own discipline, a set of beliefs and practices that benefit yourself and those around you. You may borrow another’s discipline if you want, become a “Body for Life” devotee, turn P90X into your morning stretch, do whatever Oprah tells you to; but choose them yourself, don’t let someone force them on you.
You should never expect another person or group to necessarily follow your discipline or standards. If you like a clean kitchen, then clean it. Bitching about someone not doing their part doesn’t solve anything. Your disciplines are yours, keep it that way.
Most of all, remember that your discipline doesn’t mean you have to be an ordered person (although it may help). Look, if you want to store your socks on the floor, it’s your room, especially if you are an adult, just keep it to your room.
Do not judge, assess.
My neighbor Dale, heard an ER nurse friend of his make this statement (I still need to get her name so that I can give proper attribution) and it’s a good one. She must’ve had to apply this rule to do her job every day– someone’s been stabbed in a domestic abuse: whether the victim is the husband, wounded in self defense by his SO or the woman herself, as her partner’s violence has reached a new level involving cutlery. It is important to set aside judgement to assess the situation–lives are at stake.
It’s very easy to judge. We do it all the time. A person does something you wouldn’t or doesn’t do something you would under some circumstance, and the judgement is that they are bad. They are Bad. Reaching this conclusion really does nothing, it’s not as though the label is going to change anything, not their behavior and certainly not by any external agency, such as God.
The necessity of assessment is that it allows you to react. The circumstances may require that you protect yourself or others, whether emotionally or physically. It may require that you do something as simple as mop up some water by the sink so that no one gets hurt rather than gripe about it.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t identify something in negative terms. For instance, your assessment of some person might be that they are an asshole. Doing so is not a judgement, it is an assessment– you merely have by that other person’s actions come to group their set of behaviors with a label: ‘asshole’. I have been, continue to be and probably always shall be an asshole in many people’s eyes.
When you expect some punishment from on high or karmic justice to repair or discourage the asshole’s behavior, then that’s judgement. It ain’t gonna happen. Knowing that someone is an asshole (a perfectly valid assessment) just helps you manage how you have to deal with such a person.
If you must judge, it’s best that you delay it. Hasty judgments are always wrong, while considered judgments are required when punishment must be meted out to to violators of laws and social mores.
Most of all, remember that all judgements require a modicum of hypocrisy. Jesus spawned a shitload of bad religions (money making enterprises though they are), but his admonitions of “judge not lest thee be judged” and “thou who art without sin may cast the first stone” are dead on.
You are a bow, what you want to do is an arrow.
Don’t forget it. Everyone has talent, the hardest part it finding it and then using it. Pointing all that talent at the right target or targets (if your quiver contains more than one arrow) matters, but remember that you always contain that drawn energy, ready to be released.
What will be your target?
I love working with young people. They have such potential. Sometimes they experience fits and starts, but they are always ready to take another shot, sometimes blindly feeling their way, others knowing just what to do the next time. They are young and they have a lot of next times ahead of them
As you grow older, you will find that you are unable to draw the string to your cheek– you will have less potential behind your shot, all that youthful energy only lasts so long.
Most people go through their whole lives as a drawn bow, never firing at anything or even realizing that they even have any potential at all.
Life is difficult (M. Scott Peck).
Read the book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. The condensed version is just the statement that Life is Difficult. Do you remember before you were born? Of course not, unless you believe in reincarnation (ok, so how many people claim to have been Cleopatra in past life? What, did the queen have multiple personality disorder?). You don’t remember before you were born (or conceived if that is your rant) because you did not exist.
That was easy.
Death will be easy, too. You’ll love it. No stresses, no search for the next meal, no worries about dying, it’s never too hot, too cold– nothing. Maybe there’s something else, but whatever it is will be so radically different from your meat existence as to give you no point of reference to compare it to (but that’s another discussion).
Living requires effort.
As someone with clinical depression, I can tell you that life takes a hell of a lot of effort. It’s tough just chewing through the straps so you can get out of bed and go to work in the morning. Honestly, suicide is easy, it’s the damage that its successes leave behind that’s hard, and life does go on whether you do or not, uneased by your escape from it.
And for “normal” people? How about your job? That’s tough, too. Have kids? Raising them is tough. Keeping up with the bills is tough, so is not do so.
Learn a musical instrument.
Better yet, learn 2 or 3.
You don’t even have to learn how to read music– I can’t very well. I play by ear and even though my neighbor Dale a longtime musician, I’m entirely happy without being able to sight-read music. Sure, I can read the individual stacked up notes on the sheet music and say, “oh, that’s an A-minor chord” (like a word in the English language composed of letters, but I have to re-spell it every time), but just looking at it? Bug poop in stripes.
I’m not very good at any of them, but I play the piano, the guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukelele. Doing so helps me think. When I play I’m in another place not attached to this world (it like that when I write or sculpt, too). I reach a level of concentration and downright ecstasy that few other things relate to. Writing code used to be that way for me, but I no longer think of writing code as an art, and I’m just one of those persons who has to craft something.
Music has saved my life more than once. It can always pull me out of a mood when people, no matter how hard they try or intend to help cannot. Music does not judge either does it grant you nor need your forgiveness.
As FZ says, music is the best.
Speak a “foreign” language.
Americans are dipshits. The world revolves around the USA, and everybody should speak English
Have a family language. One you can speak to one another
Better yet, have a language you share with a person or small group that allows you to communicate with each other (but beware the consequences, especially since other people may speak the language you chose). My brother and I spoke German around our parents (who spoke only English) as teenagers to arrange escapes or escapades. Later, when he married a rather difficult person, we spoke German when we called one another so she could not listen in. Really.
I speak German and know Latin (who really speaks it anymore?), I know some classical Greek from translating the Iliad from Greek to Latin as a class exercise in my last year (of 4). Knowing these two languages helps me immensely with my vocabulary. Since English is an amalgam of Germanic structure, romantic (Latin) and French influences understanding its etymological roots helps me know not only which words to use (occasionally very badly) but sometimes tell a story behind the word in its origins. Words tell stories themselves.
Since French, Italian and Spanish are more direct descendants of Latin, I can usually understand their written forms and speak some. I also can understand someone speaking Dutch if they speak it deliberately, Dutch being so close to English and German.
I can understand Yiddish, it being a dialect of German. Funny, the first culture to accept Jews as equals did the most to destroy them. Germany was more a collection of people who spoke the same language than a country even before the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, but more so after the 30-years war– a bunch of petty baronies with little interest in petty pogroms, since it was easy for the persecuted to flee a few short miles to where the people were friendlier, the business was better, and the language was the same. It all contributed to the creation of a dialect spoken in the home. In 1812, Prussia (a German speaking nation) was the first European power to grant full citizenship to Jews– it was a big deal for the time.
I know enough Russian to know how to the pronounce words in the Cyrillic alphabet (a variant of the ancient Greek alphabet). I know a few phrases– enough to piss off anyone from Eastern Europe by uttering them.
Confident, Cocky, Lazy, Dead (Tad Williams).
There is a series of books by Tad Williams that I would highly recommend called “Otherland.” It’s not on my list of SciFi even non-geeks should read, but it’s one that comes close. It’s a four part series stretching to about 4000 damn good pages. The essentials of the story without ruining it are that crimes will be committed in cyberspace, some of them heinous and civilization-threatening, a team of adventurers enter cyberspace to root out such an organization.
My favorite character, I’d have to look up his name, is an aboriginal Australian serial killer. His motto is “Confident, Cocky, Lazy, Dead” and it keeps him out of trouble. It is quite simply the path of progress to failure.
If you are confident, you have a pretty good chance of getting cocky, which causes you to become lazy in your actions, leading to your eventual death (at least in a metaphorical or situationally relative sense). The serial killer antihero was very cautious in covering his tracks, always taking the most extreme measures to avoid apprehension or even recognize a pattern in a highly inter-networked world. The one time he doesn’t…
You don’t lock your doors. The neighborhood watch is pretty good, in fact it can afford to take a couple of days off while everyone on the block is on vacation. Time for a robbery.
I’m pretty safe. I’m a depressive, so I don’t usually even have a problem falling into the trap that is confidence.
Read. Never stop. Read things that challenge the way you think. Read things that scare the shit out of you, like “Finnegan’s Wake” or “Metamorphoses”. Read gum wrappers, read bumper stickers.
Sure, you can still use the Internets, but reading (a book in particular) gives you context. Read the book before you see the movie– own your vision of what the words form in your mind. It neither diminishes nor degrades the movie, but its your imagination that created that vision, and imagination begets imagination.
Looking for suggestions? See my reading list blog.
Remember you can’t write if you don’t read, which brings me to
Being a better writer makes you a better person.
I’d be a real asshole if I did not follow my own advice here.
All right, so you don’t think you can sing. You couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Your singing voice is the aural equivalent of eating ground glass.
You’re comfortable singing in the shower, maybe? How about in your car when your groove tune comes on (“Radar Love” anyone?)? You don’t warble at the top of your lungs when you’re home alone? How about when you’ve vacuuming?
Guess what? If you can do that, you’re good enough to do backup vocals. Really. Even if it’s a bum-bum-bum-bum base line. A good and forgiving lead singer can fill for you. Your confidence grows, maybe you join a choir or go caroling next Christmas.
Sing. It’s good for your speaking voice, and it boosts your pulse-ox.
Creating takes imagination. Imagination is simply thinking of the world the way it could be. Creation is simply bending the arc of imagination (iArc) and the arc of reality (rArc) toward one another if not entirely together.
For example, the artist sees a block of stone and a has a vision of a couple in embrace, from it he sculpts “The Kiss”, the reality was the stone, the imagination was his vision and his talent is what allowed him to bend to two arcs together. The writer cannot make Middle Earth a reality (don’t get me started on that Peter Jackson hack) or revisit the horrors of war, but can write it onto the reality of paper, inspiring the imaginations of readers and the abominations of screen writers and critics.
So, Rodin chose sculpture, Picasso chose sculpture and painting, Segovia chose guitar, O’Keeffe the canvas, Hemingway the pen (and later the shotgun, but that’s another story). All of these people chose a medium: a means to express themselves, sometimes more than one. Don’t, like Dorothy Parker, let one of the other media of expression be booze or heroin like it was for Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
The model is always the vision, the reality and the medium to bend them together. Certainly, talent is required, but it is merely the outgrowth of practice. Practice is only learning how to apply the very crippled brains and bodies we inhabit in this existence in ways they are necessarily suited (I give you the bagpipes).
Most importantly: Laugh Dammit!
Seek out laughter every day.
There is no humor without pain. Pain plus time equals humor. Greater pains may take more time, but someone is going to laugh about them sooner or later.
Having your head in the sand puts you in an odd position
Literally putting your head in the sand puts you in an awful position: with your head in the sand, your ass is up in the air. There are only two things people are going to do with your butt when it’s up there like that– kick it or fuck it.
Having your metaphorical ass in the air leaves it up for kicking and fucking, too. Without awareness, people can take advantage of you or your talents, or take them for granted; you can go through a potentially dangerous situation (drive to work, anyone?) “on automatic”, placing the lives of others and yourself in jeopardy (“What is an auto wreck?”, Alex. I’ll take “Pustulent Skin Eruptions” for $600…).
Be aware. Try not to be naive. Don’t run on autopilot. Don’t be afraid to reexamine your life, your habits, your friends, your vocation, your place in the world, and so on.
There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch! TANSTAAFL. (Robert A. Heinlein as Lazarus Long)
Never Whistle while you’re Pissing (Robert Anton Wilson)
Have a Confessor
Someone to or with whom you can tell or share anything.
Confession is good for the soul.
Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. (Shorty Roth).
Specialization is for Insects.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly (LL).
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood (LL, AKA R.A. Heinlein).
The universe is not only far stranger than you comprehend, it’s far stranger than you can possibly comprehend. (JBS Haldane)
Figgers (figures) don’t lie (Foghorn Leghorn)
One of my favorite scenes from the old Looney Tunes cartoons was the rooster Foghorn Leghorn trying to pal it up with his soon to be step-son, a small an brainy (he has glasses!) chicklet that draws a diagram that Foghorn finds impossible. The kid scratches some more on the paper and shows it to FL again, who replies “I know, I know, figgers don’t lie!”
And indeed they don’t. They may suffer from inaccuracies and imprecisions, but they don’t lie. People do, and they often twist them– there are lies, damned lies and statistics as Mark Twain said.
“Code is truth” is an axiom I have often used as a programmer. It does not matter what you wanted the program to do and the comments (little statements embedded in the instructions that attempt to tell future readers what you were thinking) are an out and out lie. What matters is looking at what it says and saying “well, this is what it is really doing.”
No matter how much you would deny the facts, facts is facts. They cannot be denied. They are often (about 50% of the time if you are lucky in this life) not in your favor. Interesting fact number one: you are going to die. That’s just the way it is. Evolution is real, the Earth is billions of years old, Obama is not a socialist, and you’re not going to be able to take the guns from the gun nuts.
Get the fuck over it.
This is why that I believe that Faith and Fact to not intersect in any way whatsoever and faith has nothing to do with religion; but that is a topic for another blog.
Pets: when the need arises–and it does–you must be able too shoot your own dog.
Don’t farm it out–that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse (Robert Heinlein).
- There is one promise you must always keep to a pet. It is the hardest. Keep it. You’ll know when that is.
- Pets’ lives are short and intense, hopefully you have kept the second promise: being kind and loving, a loyal and fair friend.
The most common element in the universe is stupidity (Frank Zappa).
Never chalk up to evil what can be explained by stupidity, especially when it is backed by greed, fear or hatred (“the top 3 human emotions are greed, fear and greed”– Hawkeye Pierce). The universe is far more lazy and stupid than it is wicked, that’s why we have entropy.
The universe likes inertness, dumbness. Life itself is anti-entropic, especially intelligent life. It goes against the flow of the universe (from order to chaos) from warm to cold-death (maybe).
So, there’s a lot of entropy out there to fight against, a lot of stupidity just looking for the easy way out.
Besides, no one wakes up in the morning and says “I’m going to be evil today” without finding themselves on a 24-hour hold in the psych ward sooner or later. Everybody, even people you might think as evil don’t think of themselves as such. Adolf Hitler thought he was improving the world by removing untermenschen from it, again stupidity and blindness.
Ultimately, there is no evil, just people who lack consciences or have twisted beliefs, who do not recognize the pain they cause or even that they do so, which is certainly a form of stupidity.
Carpe the Fucking Diem! (my brother, Steve Osborn, Jr.)
Seize the fucking day. Steve had this hand-made sign hanging in his kitchen after I moved in with him for a couple of months when I returned from Texas back in the ’80s. Good advice.
Grab that motherfucker like it owes you money and wring every last erg, breath, heartbeat and movement you can from it. Squeeze the juice you want from it.
Treat every day like it is your last, for one will be.
Always take time to stop and admire the shapes of peoples’ skulls (Hunter S. Thompson).
It’s way better than sniffing the roses. One rose pretty much smells like any other, but the shapes and variations of peoples’ faces in particular are amazing. I never cease to be amazed by the unique and wonderful shape of everyone’s face, the variety and feeling that “of course, there should be a face like that!” like you’d known such a face was possible but never thought to see it.
Whatever you like to admire (and I prefer the other end than the skull of the opposite sex to the skull), stop and take it in.
You are going to die and you are going to be dead for an awfully long time.
Lucky you! In fact, you already have been dead– you were before you were born. “But I don’t remember anything from before I was born!” Precisely. All you are and can ever be is confined to these few short years you possess. Life is indeed a gift– and your most precious non-renewable resource is time. Whether you do good or ill, it will echo throughout the time you are here and if powerful enough, long after you are gone, like a stone cast into a pond. Softly or loudly, one splash or a series of skips, the ripples will attenuate and cross those of others like a billion raindrops or voices raised in chorus, each with its own song to sing. As all things do, the ripples still and the melodies fade into the background, part of an eternal chorus and chord. In the end it will all be B-flat 74 octaves below middle C (really). One signal.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair)
It’s why we have global warming deniers. My wife works with a reasonably intelligent man, but when it comes to issues involving the oil industry, where he worked for (too) many years, he’s a denier. “There is no climate change,” “fracking doesn’t cause any harm,” and “the Keystone pipeline is a godsend”– these are the things that dribble from his gob. Why? He’s convert (that’s where someone pounds their lies into your ears until they start spilling from your mouth) from years of drawing money from people who have to believe them.
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” is only good if that same hand isn’t trying to beat the shit out of you at every opportunity.
Follow the money, it’s usually a well-spring for belief. (And there we go back to religion again!).
Never fry bacon naked.
Never trust anyone who says they have your best interests at heart.
Trusting a soul who says they have our broader or professional self interests being at heart should be considered with a jaundiced eye (I give you government, businesses, your boss, HOAs, laws, non-public health care, etc.), but should not be dismissed out of hand. Regardless, the phrase “I have your best interests at heart” should make your hair catch fire, especially if the speaker is referring to your personal best interests. There is no fucking way they can even know what they are let alone have them at heart.
Don’t put your dick in a wringer
And try to know when you are about to do so.
Beware of people who kiss your ass.
‘Ware thee sycophants! Flatterers are only good for narcissists, so if you seek them out it’s time to find professional help.
Keep in mind: everybody is doing the best they can.
Why get upset? No one is out there to just piss you off, unless they are (at least temporarily) out of their minds–I give you road rage and the Tea Party.
But for the most, part that lady at the license bureau is doing the best she can, she’s not really a pitchfork-wielding devil overseeing the particular pit of hell you are confined to while awaiting your turn.
Cut everybody a break. Who knows? Maybe somebody will cut you a break, too.
It’s far better to keep your mouth closed and be thought the fool than open it and confirm the fact.
There is nothing better than when a mouth that desires to expound remains closed.
To young men:
- Girlfriends (and their subsequent relational variations) are expensive. Make sure you save up to get a really good one, if they are your thing.
- If you are gay, you’re in luck. Men are easier to please. You probably even have the same interests.
- Men are after only one thing. You know it, I know it, there is no denying it–sex.The heart yearns for what it is denied, men don’t control sex so they want it. This is true in all cases. A man looks in the mirror and wonders if he will ever be laid again. Men don’t care as much for other things outside sex except as vehicles to more sex, but with rare exceptions they have complete control of everything besides sex in the world. The
To young women:
- Men are after only one thing, however, women are interested in everything else but that one thing. The heart yearns for what it is denied. Women only control sex, so they want what they don’t control, which is everything else: power, credibility, fairness, justice– try to deny that these entities are not almost entirely the realm of men (by design). Just think– some man or other has been trying to crawl up every woman on earth since she turned 13 (sometimes that’s a high age). Sex is easy for women, they get far more offers and opportunities than men. Women control sex. A woman looks in the mirror and says “I can get laid any time I want to.” Women don’t care about sex because they control it, but they desire everything else, which is largely controlled by men. Catch-22.