The Path to Clichéd Salvation

I read somewhere that wisdom is hidden, wrapped up in the blanket of cliches. It is fortunately or unfortunately true.

On the upside it means that all you have to do is look up a list of cliches or read “Poor Richard’s Almanac” by Ben Franklin and have your life made.

On the other hand, we all know that is bullshit. We have passively imbibed enough platitudinal fluff from inspirational posters of the 90’s to know that any edifying effects are close to non-existent.

      Ahh Ziglar. Much wisdom, if enacted. Otherwise… cool eagle

So where does this leave us? Well, you can agree with my sentiments thus far and say “I’m no rube. Take your elementary wordspiration and shove it” But I think that is like leaving the sponge only partly wrung out.

Creators, more specifically, writers are professional straw graspers. Anything that pokes it’s head out from the ordinary is fair game to smash with our blunt tools of insight and harnessed to carry us one more day. It’s not pretty, but hey, here we are together.

What I propose, if you are ever stuck is to peruse the cliches that stick out to you and ignore their vapid context. Take the meat of the wisdom and find ways to apply it to your frame of reference. What have you directly experienced that speaks to truth?

Don’t expect for it to be the first time the earth has ever been blessed by such intuition and wit. Whatever your message may be, I can almost guarantee it has been broadcast before. If every creative let that fact get them down, we would never discover the .00000001% that is actually new. It is somewhat akin to throwing soldiers into the breach. Ugly, horrifying, terrible, and necessary to overcome the tyrants of mediocrity.

What I desire to see is old messages presented in fascinating wrapping, think about the original Star Wars versus every new dumb iteration of The Arthurian Legends. George Lucas took ancient mythology encapsulated by Joseph Cambell and created a literal galaxy of characters and stories to tell the tried and true hero’s journey.

I can’t imagine what these hacks still pumping out another iteration of the almost six-hundred-year-old “Le Morte d’Arthur” think their doing. Actually, I do know. They’re selling sex, violence, and dragons, following a deeply rutted path of film dogma.

Let us enjoy their fruity and lascivious creations for what they are. Head filling guff.

You and I have another task. To discover the unknown. The greatest plot of them all: The Journey.

I’ll leave you with the classified ad Ernest Shackleton posted looking for people to explore the Antarctic circle with him. It is parallel to our mission of delving into the world of ideas.

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.


Neologisms, Five-Cylinder Words, and Farty Diction

School writing sucks. It’s rigid, turgid, and farty. Have you ever gone back and tried to read any paper you wrote for scholastic purposes? Can you remember those dumb rubrics with arbitrary grading metrics?

I get it. Math teachers have a hell of an easier time marking an equation right or wrong compared to a literature teacher. School teachers have their hands tied in determining pupilistic success. The almighty GPA and standardized tests run on numbers. That doesn’t excuse the hordes of illiterate college graduates being pumped onto our streets.

I’m no literary elitist by any means. I can wind down with some Netflix glarp any fine evening and find valuable insights comparable to any fine prose. The text doesn’t have to be full of “five-cylinder words”, as an old Texan boss of mine used to say, to be enlightening. Hell, I don’t mind if the words aren’t even in any dictionary yet.

What’s the last word you made up?

If you can’t recall, that’s probably because it’s been years, if ever. No worries though, neologistical pursuits are verbosa-non-grata in our pretty little Prussian school system. Or, put another way, don’t try to be different. Give at least two concrete examples, with an MLA formatted bibliography. Be sure the have proper propositional clauses, and try not to swallow your tongue out of boredom. And for god’s sake, use the most sophisticated word choice possible (even if it sticks out like a canker sore) and certainly never invent a word!

Faulkner once chided Hemingway for using such simplistic diction in his work to which Hemingway responded,

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

I’ve never heard Hemingway directly advocate word invention. And please do not assume that I am advocating puns. If you must make a pun, then go ahead and get it out, but never speak of it again.

Neologisms require a purpose to be effective. Simply barfing out letters in unison without a reason, or for a cheap joke, is a path that leads to the dark side. Academia. In fact, I don’t even think there are that many notions that occasion word invention. All I want to emphasize is that there is no shame in creating new ways to express ideas.

In Orwell’s “1984” the dystopian English society prides themselves on decreasing that verbiage in their lexicon annually. The language is known as ‘Newspeak’ with a delicious irony as the purpose is to limit new thoughts and keep the despotic society stagnant. Orwell may have invented Newspeak as a literary device and idiosyncratic dialogue flourish, but the idea of limiting language to control ideas is powerful.

Us real people aren’t necessarily facing a planetary word count shortage, but I can’t help but notice in passing conversations the amount of insipid diction tossed about. Sentences riddled with intransient “likes”, “you knows”, “kinda-sortas”, and other squishy imprecise words are common these days. We don’t have to have a shortage of variety to have a restriction on idea tools. Because that’s all words are. Vehicles to exchange our brain juice with one another.

I know all this language talk comes off as haughty and somewhat admonishing. I am just as guilty as anyone of sloppy discourse and unnecessary word play. What would life be if we couldn’t relax every muscle in our body occasionally? Including the tongue. However, there is a point where relaxation becomes de facto procedure and eventually, diabetes of the mouth runs rampant.
So make new words! Look up the crazy ones you don’t know as your reading. Insouciant. Mellifluous. There is beauty is exercising the word machine which is inextricable from your idea pool. The more tools you have, the more of the pool you can access, and I’d sure love to see what you got.

Stress and Illegitimate Thai Children

I’m moving to San Francisco in a few days and do not have the amazing level of stress many of my friends and family want me to have. Yes, it will be hard. No, I do not have mountains of money to guarantee security. I have something better. A reason.

I have already made it this far. I have a paid apprenticeship that, if I like and do well at will turn into a full-time job. Or the economy will crash and I’ll lose my job, or the company will sell and I will probably lose my job.

Here’s the thing, all of those scenarios are far outside of my control. What I can control is my drive. My drive is to learn marketable skills and to become a better problem solver and listener. That is what I focus on daily. Not the economy. Not Trump. Not gender roles. Those are beyond my purview.

I have and will continue to be called naive. But is it naive to not worry about things that are outside of your control? If you follow the fearful news centers and demagogical bloggers, then you assume by now that I’m a wide-eyed idealist. Or if you’ve really drank the kool-aid then I will appear as a self-interested, racist, corporate apologist. If I manage to succeed in learning useful skills only then will I finally reach the level of greedy, heartless, capitalist.

All the better for me that I don’t care.

Life is far from guaranteed. Let alone all of the desires we gather for ourselves along the journey. We all want the best things to happen to us and our loved ones so we assemble plans and insurance to provide for these desires. Meanwhile, the universe is a swirling ball of chaos that likes to intercede at hilarious and tragic moments. Enter stress.

Stress is only useful up to a certain point before you trade any dignity or hope for security. Living the secure life of an IRS claims inspector, eating sugarless oatmeal every morning, and taking two weeks of vacation a year for forty years may keep you alive, but it can also take away your health and vigor. Anyways, the stress will only be deferred until you are sixty and then hit like a freight train in the form of a messy divorce, a new BMW,  and an illegitimate child in Bangkok.

We will never eliminate worry from our lives entirely. My receding hairline proves that thesis. But when fear and stress start creeping in because other people impose their scare tactics on you, take a step back. Breath in. Ask yourself if you are following the path that leads to the future you want. If the obstacles in the way are out of your control, keep smiling. Exhale.


The Over Examined Life

We have all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living. Supposedly Socrates uttered those words during a trial for his life. Socrates was also a little bitch for giving in to a bunch of pompous corrupt officials. Though his faults don’t necessarily make his erudite musings completely null. In the case of living an examined life I believe he was spot on, which of course means that millions of people have taken the nugget of truth in his proclamation and totally bastardized it.

Lifestyle design tacticians, self-help shysters, life coaches, and numerous other players have made a comfortable living for themselves capitalizing on the fact that we are insecure little monkeys and there is always something else in our lives to quantify. At a certain point the examined life quickly turns into the over examined life. Between hot yoga sessions and tabulating the pace of your walk three days ago you can lose sight of being content right now.

Honest assessment of your actions and a motivating personal story arc are absolutely necessary to learn and grow. The tricky part is knowing where your line should be drawn, otherwise you will be facing the long rabbit hole of anxiety and a fridge full of stool samples you are waiting to get tested.

So, how to balance the ever-gnawing urge for self improvement with the simple pleasure of being happy? Luckily, I can’t tell you. But if you find yourself stressed out about enjoying a hamburger, sitting and reading a book all day, not going out and doing that thing with those people, or any other iteration of pleasure, you are existentially biting the nails of your soul down to the cuticle.

I used to bite my nails until I chipped one of my teeth doing so. That was my alert to stop. I don’t want to imply that something crappy has to happen to catalyze change, but man are pain and embarrassment great motivators. Our task is to be accepting of the great motivators as teachers and not looming dementors.

Once you are comfortable with yourself and have a few scars, a peculiar thing starts happening. You begin to see the pain as it’s coming your way. It may not be avoidable, but it can be given purpose.

You don’t have to measure your sleep cycle with a Fitbit to know that you shouldn’t drink caffeine before bed. The lessons become less obvious and more sticky as you grow, but if you are paying attention and desirous of real improvement, foresight can flourish as an actionable skill.

And if all else fails, check your gratitude. Do you have ten fingers and ten toes still? If so, you are doing great.


Dirty and Glorious Creation

Creation is such a hot messy bowl of soup. It is also like a muscle.

When I first started writing everyday, I was terrified. With good reason. After reading what I was writing I was horrified. How could my beautiful, pure, elegant thoughts, be transcribed so poorly through such hairy paws of mine?

And then I’d have ideas that weren’t so good, yet still had to be expressed through these clumsy mitts. Then the real kicker, I had to publish it.

I was sure that everyone I knew would disown me. Or at least have a few superior inches on me the next time we met.

“That poor Kelly has really lost it this time.” And maybe I have. But whatever I have given up has only been poison, and has made me happier in the process.

Not caring, and just creating could solve a lot of people’s problems. Of course, way easier said than done, but so are all the things worth doing.

This is why I like to stress the messy, silly, arduous nature of achievement. Becoming something doesn’t mean writing a 500 point plan then setting out to conquer the list when the time feels right.

The time is never right. People you love will say shitty things to you. They mean well, sort of. In fact, be thankful you have people in your life who aren’t afraid to express their exact thoughts, no matter how vituperous they may come out.

Thing is, those people are just projecting their own inadequacies and failures onto you. They’re still writing out a list that will only gather dust and bitterness.

Real creativity is habit. Dirty and glorious.

Routines determine your future, so make good ones. Make them as close to what you want to be and follow through. Day after day. The ugliness begin to smooth out after time and repetition. Just make sure that your practice is constantly stretching you. If thirty push ups has become easy, you better start doing 40. Then start lifting weights eventually.

Understand that practice itself is not the ideal. My middle school band director liked to say “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

If a stagnant cloud of dissatisfaction and depression starts to surround your routines, stop them. I’m not talking about temporary pain and discomfort. Those are signs of growth. I mean when the goals you so admired a year before start feeling like heaps of dung up to your neck, get out. Move on. A few of your detractors may have been right. Let them wallow in their smugly stank while you move to the next, and more honest, version of yourself.

And for godssakes, have fun. If your final goal is to become as turgid as an eggplant and chastise anyone else attempting to do what you did, please stop that right now and join the IRS. Those are your people.

Welcome to my hot sloppy bowl of soup. The flavor is just right for now and always improving. I hope to enjoy yours someday.


The Cascade Effect of Heroism

Sometimes, when discussing economics people accuse me of endorsing “trickle down” policies. Aside from that phrase sounding kind of gross, I don’t really understand the implications. Usually, the person disparaging me is attempting to draw a straw man of me by comparing me to Ronald Reagan whose ideas are far from my own.

I understand the basic notion of what is implied with trickle down politics. Tax breaks at the top will create more wealth for those at the bottom. To that notion I say, maybe but I doubt it. Corporations earning tax breaks know how to hide and reinvest in themselves so as to diminish any possible crumbs for the poor.

I do agree that less taxes absolutely make a more prosperous society, but trickle down policies are usually just a guise for corporations to suckle off the teat of taxpayer subsidies.

So let’s forget that silly notion and terrible tinkling phrase. Now, that being said there is philosophical truth to the idea that when one gets more wealthy everyone around them also shares in this prosperity. I will henceforth re-brand and clarify my stance on this topic as the cascade effect of success.

How best to illustrate this idea though?

Data points and myopic obsessions are not really my style. If I wanted to write research papers, I’d have stayed in the collegiate dungeons with all the other iguana-thumbed intellectuals. I prefer intuitive analysis based on common sense, because my goal is to speak with real humans.

As much as any political tribe likes to decry the state of the American economy, they do so with tunnel vision. I’m not going to rant about patriotic American exceptionalism, because it is patently untrue. But it cannot be ignored that the poorest humans in America are more wealthy than 90% of humans in other parts of the world. This is not because of government subsidies or “job creation” it is because our system of exchange pivots on helping other people. Apple cannot sell you a box filled with raccoon excrement and take your money. Starbucks cannot exist by putting a knife at everyone’s throats and making demands. Not for very long at least.

Business prosperity only works if they make people’s lives better. As Henry Ford figured out, you get even more wealthy by courting the needs of the poor. So there are people driving Model T’s and some in Mercedes. If that is supposed to raise my ire and cry of injustice it fails.

The difference between the rich and poor within the U.S. is trivial. Lawyers and waiters both work long hours, drive cars, both sleep in climate controlled rooms in comfortable beds. Every other difference is one of status and jealousy.

Yes, the waiter will need to earn more if they dream of retirement someday, something the lawyer is doing, hopefully. Fortunately, we live in a country where possessing an earnest desire to learn and earn more is absolutely possible. Difficult? Always.

This learning is also part of the cascade. The more you learn and apply your education to your life the more you can teach others willing to listen.

All of this will fall on deaf ears if you view human pursuits and life as limited as rain in the desert. Instead, join the cascade and follow it to the sea of abundance where everyone is welcome.

Happy Holiday Day

Merry Crimbus and all the other tidings that I may bestow upon y’all!

All I wish to impart on this international day of feasting, arguing, and sloppy joy is one thought.

Do you have the ability to stop and listen to the rain?

It’s harder than you think.

The Power Of Tragedy

I know a lot of depressing songs on the guitar. It never hit me though until this old man at the Second Street brewpub in Santa Fe said it to me.

I used to have a couple of beers there every night after work. Thing was, I worked everyday. So I got to know the crew of regulars at Second Street rather quickly.

There was Pablo the guitar-teaching descendant of Spaniards. John #1 who was a retired software programmer. Older John, who just liked to listen and offer insight. Scott, bartender extraordinaire. Colleen, the beautiful employee mystery girl. And several other intermittent players.

I got to spend so much time there that I eventually just started practicing my guitar out on the patio. I am only semi-ashamed that I was that guy who brought his guitar out in public. You see, I was cohabitating a small trailer with my father behind the Silver Saddle Motel and working seventy hours a week opening a restaurant. Guitar practice was a luxury I couldn’t give up.

So during one night of revelry under the clearing monsoon August skies, guitar in hand,  older John says to me, “You ever notice that you play a lot of sad songs?”

He was right. I did, and do. I know happier ones too, but the vast majority have an elegiac streak.

I can’t fully explain why I am drawn to the more morose musical aspirations. Or why so many people have published sorrowful verses over the millennia.

Perhaps it is because there is a depth of character in the emotions we all possess but do not embrace. Everyone has bad feelings. Everyone has had tragedy. Maybe a big one, maybe many small ones. Yet actually delving into the unclear and volatile nature of sorrow is icky. We get self-conscious about being vulnerable.

That’s why there is power in embracing the dark and wrestling with it. For comprehension. It is a scarce trait, that needs light shed on it. Scarcity demands attention until it slips from consciousness through popular adaptation.

I don’t know if my desire is to eliminate tragedy, but I believe that embracing it does not require endorsing it. No emotion you have is entirely up to you but you can determine if you want to lead in the dance or be helplessly dragged along.


Fear’s Death Foretold

“Let’s make them remember why they need us.”

One of the best lines from “V for Vendetta” spoken by the despotic chancellor. He intuits that the citizenry is becoming empowered, something entrenched power hates.

This is the state of our collegiate system. They know their signal of value, the diploma, is sliding down into the pit of inanity. For some reason people are waking up to the fact that paying $50,000 to $250,000 dollars to be lectured by career academics does not increase your value in the market place.

So the establishment tries to slander the idea of markets, exchange, and passionate exploration. They surround students with the idea of being well-rounded individuals. Never mind that to obtain such a shape means removing any unique angles and perspectives a child might have. Professors rant on ad nauseum denouncing all the things they never pursued to kids who have hardly any life experiences. Their message often fear-laced and self-serving.

I can’t say that the education system is unique in this regard. Any long established social construct can smell its death foretold, and will claw desperately to survive. This applies to the current state of politics, central bankers, and religious zealots the world over. A few fervent followers will go down with the ship but everyone without the perverse instinct to try and control others are already on the lifeboats. It is hard to wholeheartedly celebrate a victory with so many victims. And more than ever we must be vigilant to those who wish to keep the status quo. Sinking ships cause turbulence and wounded animals can lash out with their last breath.

Fear is on the decline. We must never let anyone try to convince us otherwise. Luckily fear can only rule us if we believe that humans are puppets to be controlled and made into well-rounded objects. The best weapon to defeat tyrants is to be weird.

Write that graphic novel. Eat hot dogs for two years to finance your night classes to be an electrician. Go learn yoga in Singapore. Read 100 biographies next year while working as a barista. I know, you have debt. I’m not sorry for you. That is a disservice to all you can achieve in spite of the obstacles.

It’s easy to get angry, and perhaps impossible to shed that reaction entirely. The problem with anger is that fear understands it. Fear can work with anger to divide and conquer. We must instead, endeavor to become ourselves in the face of fear. Every beautiful notion and passion inside that head of yours is the future. All you have to do is become it.


Stop Caring So Much

Stop caring so much.

If you are truly doing everything you can, then you shouldn’t have to worry about the future. What context is this all in though? Every context.

I have heard it said with several different attributions that he who cares less, wins. Often this is said in the realm of negotiation. It applies to much more.

I was talking with a friend who worked at a large company, where people were pressured to take work home on the weekends. He liked the job and the work enough, but work was work for him. Life was too important to give way to a bunch of tedious paperwork. On the weekends he went out to his land, read, drove his tractor, you know lived his life.

At work on Monday people would brag about how much work they got done over the weekend. These pandering sycophants meant well. They assumed that all their busy posturing would assure them more money, status, projects, etc. It may have, but my friend was promoted too.

Think of the movie “Office Space.” It’s a funny satire of the 90’s tech boom cubicle farms, but it also exemplifies the care-free principle. Once the protagonist, Peter, loses his drive to impress bosses who could care less about him, he starts winning. Raises are thrown at him, management positions are offered. In the end he turns it all down to do work that rewards his happiness.

Of course life isn’t a movie, and not caring doesn’t mean giving up on your work ethic. It is simply being honest with yourself about your boundaries. If you don’t want to work on weekends, don’t. An don’t do it out of some perverse expectation of a reward. You must sincerely not care if you get the promotion or not, because you are happy living your life the way you want it. This may even mean turning down the promotion if it is offered.

It’s a funny thing that people just can’t seem to take their eye off what they can’t have. It is a principle of scarcity that dishonest people will use to influence you. That you can use to persuade people. A technique that will corrupt you if you misuse it.

Now you know something that you already probably knew, but didn’t how to use. My suggestion, don’t use it. Be it.

There is a reason the Dude abides.