You Are Dynamite

I know that not many people care about me.

I don’t say that hoping to achieve some subconscious reverse psychological response from people to say,

“Aww, that’s not true! I care about you!”

Stop right there.

Not that many people care about you either.

What even constitutes caring about another person?

I don’t like it when something bad happens to people close to me. Does that mean I care about them and would work to help them? Absolutely. Do I actively spend large portions of my day thinking about all of the people I like and how their day is going and how they are achieving their hopes and dreams? Probably not. Do I care about the sandwich they made or their promotion to middle manager at Boring, Inc.? Definitely not. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means that when it comes to you getting your shit together, that’s all on you. I know that any extraneous fake back patting from me is an exercise in creating bad behavior.

Too often I see people get excited about some achievement in their life. Whatever it may be. Losing weight, getting a new car, ordering the perfect taco platter, blogging daily (ehem). The first instinct many people have is to go running to the public, announcing their victory, expectant of obsequious praise.

I’m not some bitter troglodyte envious of the kid next door here. I’m questioning motives. Are you really proud of your gains because YOU achieved them, or are you more excited to get the loose praise of your oleaginous peers and family?

It sure feels good to get praise.

Well what’s wrong with feeling good you say? Nothing. Feeling good from external praise is fine and natural. It’s perverted when that praise becomes the main reason for expanding yourself.

I’m sure you’ve heard of some iteration of an experiment with rats given the choice between two tasks. One task rewards with a nice little food pellet, the other releases a fantastic little pellet of cocaine laced food.

Participation medals in junior high, likes on Facebook, fake laughs from coworkers are the cocaine pellets.

Are you a rat?

It disturbs me so much to see someone post a picture to Facebook of their latest hamburger with extra bacon and wait for the praise to roll in. Soon enough people come out of the woodwork,

“Ohhh! Great job you!”

Even Aunt Martha chimes in, “I always knew you were special!”

The itch for more attention grows. Incentives begin distorting.

The problem with pushing yourself to achieve sloppy praise as a large incentive is obvious to me. You are ignoring the most compelling reason the achievement occurred in the first place, yourself. You created the good thing. Thank yourself. Do not become a vapid attention vacuum. Vacuums are only good at sucking.

Be like dynamite instead. Outward explosive force. Make the headlines then move on to the next scene. Forget the praise or anger in your path. Whether the result is creative or destructive, you are the primary shaker.

You are dynamite.

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Too Dumb to Believe

I’m tired, hungry, and worn out after working eleven hours today in the field.

The last thing I want to do is sit down and write an expository piece on my views of the world for an audience of one.

Though as I wrote that last paragraph I realized it’s not the last thing I’d rather be doing. There are a lot of things that would be below writing on my list. Having my hands nailed to a table. Pouring Morton’s salt into my eyes. Making small talk with a group of PTA parents. The list is extensive.

Even as I write this I feel energy flowing into my heart and brain. Word blood is coursing through my body. I am more alert and cognizant of my existence on this planet’s surface. Pretty esoteric eh?

My tired hunger is only as powerful as I let it be. By choosing to write this, I am choosing creativity over resistance. Resistance is the enemy. Steven Pressfield taught me that in “The War of Art.”

Do you ever notice the best books are the ones that say exactly what you already knew, except were too dumb to believe?

That’s how I feel about writing right now. Tomorrow, and the next day. I will have some real shitty days ahead of me. Exhaustion, hunger, hypothermia, amputation. Well, maybe not that extreme. Suffice it to say, if I assume today as my most drained and incapable of creating, then I am creating a ceiling for myself.

While we all have ceilings, this is not it. Whatever you think your ceiling is, that is not it. Kind of scary to think about. What it means, if you accept it, is that you’re a piece of shit.

A beautiful, loving, kind, amazing, artistic, piece of shit.

You are your limitations. Keep it up and accept them or tip the excuse cart  over and kick the ever-loving crap out of them.  

Then start climbing, running, jogging, or walking. Just go.

 

So Too Shall This

I’m sure you’ve had a terrible moment in your life. I’m also sure that it has passed by now. If not, I’m sure it will pass at some point.

What insight! I know, I dazzle myself sometimes.

Sometimes that terrible thing is a single occurrence. Like having to cross a raging spring-melt mountain stream holding an infant child. Only, once you make it safely across, someone throws a size 16 hiking boot across the stream, hitting the baby square on the head.

It survived. Don’t worry.

Sometimes the terrible thing is a drawn out period of depression from finding out your ex-girlfriend is fooling around with your best friend and roommate. You’ll gain thirty pounds and move into a tent for a while.

Those are trickier times, but guess what? It passes.

Some days you’ll wake up with worry and anxiety on your forehead for no particular reason at all. You’ll stumble through your day dodging subconscious thought goblins hiding behind every bush.

These days are perhaps the most troubling of all.

Then you go for a walk and eat some curried lentils for dinner and, you guessed it, gone.

This temporal emotional transience applies to the good times too.

I suppose I could save you the effort of reading this and instead post a link to George Harrison’s song “All Things Must Pass.” But it’s too pretty of a song to get across any kind of punch.

And let’s be honest, I like punch.

Untitled.png         Though Eric Clapton did steal his wife, and he did survive being chest stabbed.

So keep it up. Your life is somewhere between sucks hard and floating bliss right now.

Enjoy it. At either end of the spectrum, you’re alive. That’s more than I can say for some friends of mine. Some of yours too I bet.

You, I, we, must learn to embrace every single emotion that lands in our heads and weighs down or lifts our bodies. Because, they aren’t going to stop. And they are free education.
Only perfection is allowed to stop. Are you perfect?

Death is Too Easy

When was the last time you felt really creative? Too long ago?

When was the last time you worked yourself to exhaustion? The two are more linked than would seem.

I’m not talking about putting in ten hours at the office dealing with mouth breathing middle men. Though, that is exhausting.

I’m talking about sweat dripping down your hair onto your face, calves cramping, cottonmouth from dehydration, exhausted.

Are you complaining about a lack of inspiration in your life? Trying to get creative endeavors accomplished, but only facing insipid depression?

Go run five miles. Don’t stop running. Even after the first mile when your feet are dragging sloppily along  as you horse breathe your way down the road. Don’t die, but for god’s sake, don’t stop.

Yes, those are blisters forming on your feet. Keep going.

Every car that drives by is looking at you. Judging you. Then instantly forgetting about you as they swipe the donut crumbs off their shirt.

Your desiccated tongue is lolling from side to side as you pant like the fat lazy dog you’ve become. You start getting angry at yourself. Good.

Then that little voice pops up.

That sweet little angel of self esteem says “Hey man, back off. Be nicer to yourself! You’re not so bad! You’ve got good reasons for all of your shortcomings!”

Punch that little demon in the mouth and keep running.

Running isn’t good for you, you know. Bad for the knees, ankles, ligaments and tendons. Especially if you don’t do it often.

Your eyes start looking down a blurry tunnel with one clear point ahead. You round the corner on your street and puke in your driveway.

Now, you’re ready to create. This isn’t self flagellation. That would be too easy. You are doing this selfishly. To make your future better. Drink a sip of water and go inside.

Now go, create. Just don’t die. If you’re dead then you can’t create exactly what you need to. And then, what was the whole point of it all?

Smile Money

There is a real currency in this world and it has nothing to do with money.

Money as in dollars or gold bullion. Money itself is an abstract concept understood by less than 6% of the population.

A quick lesson in my beliefs on money. Money is a unit of value. Value is the real use of money. Everyone values some things over others. Those things are not always the same. The concept of value is objective. The perception of value is subjective.

I like pickles, you like candy. Both entail value, but the value is different. The thing is, you have a lot of pickles and I have a lot of candy. We need to exchange our goods to reach a happy situation. We do so. Good, now you have your beloved candy and I’m mowing down pickles like an insane brigadier.

The world rarely works so easily. The pickles I desire are often 43 steps removed from me in the economy to exchange my candy for. So money comes into play as an accepted unit of intermediary exchange. Like a tool. Much like a shovel is the intermediary unit to remove dirt from a hole.

I’m sorry if this is elementary boring/insulting to you. But from my experience, only 6% of people understand this while the other 94% parrot old aphorisms about money being the root of all blah, blah, yada.

What this is all leading to is that money or currency need not only be measured in greenbacks, yuan, seashells, or platinum.

I was in the airport last Monday afternoon in Austin, Texas. I got to my gate early, made sure the flight time was kosher and sat down. Good. I was content. But my flight wasn’t for another hour and a half. So I got up and walked end to end in the airport six times. I saw many things. Many people saw me several times and assumed who knows what about my sanity.

What I noticed most is that hardly anyone was smiling.

I counted less than five people who had a smile on their face out of the hundreds available. I know that smiling does not equate to happiness outright, but it’s a good indicator. Especially when it’s a free smile not dictated by an external stimuli. Just a damn person smiling and walking around.

So that’s what I became. I was in a good enough mood, but was not smiling. So I did. Not a creepy insincere “I want to know what’s in your purse smile”, but a genuine “I’m in a good  mood, how are you doing smile.”

Like a dumb puppy I paced the airport six times making eye contact with the other humans. No one smiled back. And I don’t care. It made me go from feeling good to feeling great. Which led me to value smiling as a valid and worthwhile currency that afternoon. I suppose the happiness it unlocked was a subsidiary currency.

I was the richest person in that airport at that time that I knew of. Those poor fools worrying about selling products they hated or texting unworthy mates were too busy to lock eyes with me. 
I wish they would have looked up so I could have thrown a few units of smile currency their way.

Allow And Let Go

I had a truly great day yesterday.

After a long week of traveling and interviews. I was glad to be home.

I’m upbeat and happy to see my co-workers and boss when I come into work. Though I had got back home at 2am and had to go to work at 7am, I was surprisingly unaffected by any degree of somnolence.

My boss turns to me and says, “Oh, by the way, there is a new guy moving into your house tonight.”

As some may know I work with the Nature Conservancy in northwest Minnesota. I live in a house they provide along with my grocery bill. It’s pretty alright. Provided that I live alone.

A new friend reminded me the other day of a Sartre quote I had long forgotten, but hold true for myself: “Hell is other people.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I like you, but most people tire me out and I need to recharge by myself often. I also like to eat chips and salsa in my underwear when I get home from work, which is a lot of personal exposure for anyone not acclimated to me.

“New guy?” I ask.

Here’s the thing. I can get outright mad here, I can get passive aggressive here, or I can accept the truth that I do not own the house and this is a fact of an agreement I subscribe to.

I say OK, and allow 90 seconds to feel indignant and self-righteously pissed.

How could they do this to ME? Who do they think they are? Don’t they know how much I bust my ass for them, asking so little in return except for the peace to eat my chips sans pants?!

Then I let it go.

I listened to a good podcast the other day where Tim Ferriss interviews Tony Robbins. A great interview through and through, but there was one part that really stuck with me.

Tony Robbins is an accomplished person whether you like him or hate him. But at one point in the interview, he is talking about while he does consider himself successful, he has a few personal hurdles. He believes that life is too short, precious, amazing, and full of opportunity to feel sadness, anger, fear, negative emotions in general. Yet he still has bad days. Or at least bad parts of days. He is sort of a superhuman. Research him on your own time if you wish.

So, he was telling Tim that he has a new rule for himself that he allows himself to experience negative emotions for 90 seconds only, then he has to let them go. No time for that shit. Next!

I leave the office surprisingly chipper, as my daily mission is to be a solo one.

My assignment that day was to take twelve photographs in total, in three separate locations, of a graduated PVC pole I would carry with me. Why? Because nature.

I went out alone and parked illegally on a country road about five miles from the Canadian border. My goal was to travel about half a mile to a point due east and take four photographs of the PVC pole from each of the four cardinal directions. How hard could this be?

I followed my handheld gps which led me to trespass through one cattail ditch and a face-scratchingly thick willow aspen forest. Then I emerge and see the swamp.

For miles all I see are cattails and waist high muck water. The photopoint is still a third of a mile away. In we go.

At first it’s up to my shins, and very quickly my knees. The rubber boots which so often keep my feet dry, are muck-filled anchors, resisting every step. Soon, I’m in up to my waist. I like a good physical challenge, so I go on, singing made up shanties, to entertain, and scare away any imaginary bear or moose that would be daft enough to wade into this quagmire.

Thirty minutes, an hour, two hours roll by. I am dehydrated. I am exhausted. I smell as bad as the rotting peat that squelchs with every step and deposits an oil slick on the water’s surface.

I reach down for my phone to tell the time, and it’s gone from my pocket. Ensue confusion, anger, panic, five minutes of frantic retracing my steps. How could this happen to me? I never lose phone. Ever. My pride hurts. I think of all the reasons I am an ass. The cost of an iphone could feed a family for half a year in some places on this planet! And I, so cavalier, go out and throw that away in a godforsaken swamp. I am starving families all the world round! Monster!

Then there I am standing alone in the swamp, breeze through the reeds, calling myself a monster. The phone is gone.

IMG_1874My phone is probably in tech heaven with this flat screen

Gone. The word echoes through my head and reminds me of the 90 second rule.

Detrimental emotions be gone! Life has happened. I can live with it or analyze and pity it.

The emotion of loss leaves me and I take the photographs of the PVC stick in the middle of the swamp.

The journey back to the truck is as hard as the initial one complete with more swamp slogging and thicket thrashing.

It was all good. I know I’m close to the road, but can’t see it, as I hear a truck go by. I am exhausted and struggling through a particularly dense brush tangle. I know I look like a cartoon of a drunk pirate holding two sticks of PVC, stuck in brambles up to my neck, raging. The emotions of unfairness are arising again.

I oughta go tell my boss a thing or two about how dumb this whole mission is. Really!? They are paying employees to go and photograph an endless swamp. I am fairly certain that no one will ever look at these pictures. And even if someone did there is close to zero scientific knowledge available from them. What a stupid bunch of smug nature goons!

Just then, as my head began to fill with vitriol,  a fat little wasp came from some holy place and gave me a nice sting on my cheek. Pain! Rage! The injustice of life!

Then it is all gone. I relax my shoulders.

This is it. Peace. Feel the emotions then let them go if they do not serve you.

I stop struggling, extricate myself from the brambles and push ahead out onto the road where my truck and water are waiting patiently.

I drink deeply from my nalgene, my cheek swelling with the warm glow of wasp venom. I get in the truck and start driving.

Two more of these photo points to go to today, I thought, then I smiled.

It was truly a great day.

 

I Love The Blues

I love the blues. Chances are you do too. Blues music is the root of 96.8% of all popular music. Taylor Swift? Check. Modest Mouse? Absolutely The Beatles? Duh.

But I’m really talking about the original blues. The 1-4-5. 12 bar progressions, heavy with pentatonic improvisations and low down funky underlying rhythm. Think B.B King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters. Mississippi John Hurt.

There’s something in the way Sonny Boy Williamson makes a harmonica scream that gives me literal goosebumps on my flesh.

Sound to skin contact. That is as close to magic as I know.

I don’t know if it’s because of the primal simplicity of the chord progressions that I love; much like an engineer would admire the structure of roman arches.

Lester Young, an influential jazz saxophonist, said “If you can’t play the blues, you can’t play shit.”

I tend to agree. The blues are the building blocks of modern music. And while most just play with the building blocks for a while before progressing to the next creative phase, it is those who take the elementary blocks and make masterpieces out of them that fascinates me.

Isn’t everyone fascinated when someone builds a huge replica of the star ship Enterprise out of Legos? Or creates elaborate sand kingdoms on the beach?. Of course it would be longer lasting and more refined if the medium were more permanent and illustrious, but that misses the point.

The blues do not aim to be accepted and renowned in rich concert halls. The blues are a moment. The blues are the heavy heart of anyone who has known the depths of trouble. The blues are for anyone who feels happy on a sunny day after the rain. The blues are elemental: fear, anger, lust, joy, admiration, respect, sadness. It’s all in the blues

Sometimes it’s nice to simply feel without inspecting the feelings. The blues are a prescription for getting your head out of your ass.

The blues always leave me feeling like I’m sitting on top of the world. Yes, that was a cheesy way to insert that hyperlink. Get over it and listen to some blues.

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The Meaning of Your Life

I really do not intend for all my posts to be about such serious topics.

It’s just that nothing funny has happened around me in the past few days to spark any ideas.

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                                   This kind of serious.   

So, back to serious.

It’s amazing that people have no idea what they want to be in life. There are so many people and so many things to do. The options are close to mathematically infinite. You either love infinity or hate it. But, that’s another post altogether. You’re, just looking for what you want to be when you grow up (this concept has very little to do with age).

Under the age of fourteen, it’s easy. The football playing, aeronautic engineer who also speaks Japanese version of yourself is tight. That person’s going to be awesome.

Except they’re dead now, murdered by the societal gauntlet you are assaulted by daily, the fatal stab provided by yourself.

I know, you just want to be a “good” person, who makes large amounts of dollar numbers to go into your number account. That’s why you tried to get good grade numbers in school, so that eventually you’d earn more money numbers someday. There was no final, life-defining reason behind earning the numbers back then, so why should there be now?

Oh, sorry, YOU’RE here, I nearly forgot. YOU love your life and are living with fat saucy purpose, free of existential guilt. YOU can stop reading here, because YOU truly know it all.

Man I hate that person. Anyways…

You don’t know how to earn money doing what you love. That’s fine. I bet you know a few things you like, start there. Though, more importantly, I bet you know a lot of things you don’t like. Excellent. Don’t do those. Listen to Isaac Morehouse when he says “don’t do stuff you hate” or better yet buy his book of the same name.  

Not doing what you hate is a great place to start. You know these things. If you don’t, then get out there and start failing!

Failing sucks.

It’s a great teacher because of that fact. Just don’t stop trying because you’ve been hurt by failure. If you stop because you hurt, then you don’t know how to learn. Find a reason for the failure and turn that into the most grateful lesson of your life. It’s ok to exaggerate here. Just be positive about it.

Positive exaggeration is a good way to forget the bad shit. Just don’t go around shoving it down other people’s throats. No one likes super positive Sally smiling and bragging about the tourniquet on her severed leg. Don’t be fake.

Keep trying. Something you can tolerate will stick eventually. And that’s where most people stop. Not you.

You want to be part of something you truly enjoy. I’m not saying this necessarily has to be how you receive monetary compensation. There are accountants out there who like they’re job alright, but they really love that it provides them monetary freedom to write music at night. They love their life. Is that a problem? I don’t think so.

You’re job does not have to be the reason you are happy, but it can easily be the reason you are unhappy.

If this is the case with you, leave it. You found another thing you hate. Sweet painful success!

Keep finding out who you are. This process may never end for the rest of your life, and no one else will find the answer except you. You’re the only person who has to live with you for the rest of your life.
Are you really going to keep living with a pissed off you inside your head?

Why You Hate Your Job

I’m sorry, I wasn’t speaking to YOU. I know YOU love your job. YOU can stop reading this.

Now that they’re gone, we can chat.

So, you hate your job? I’ve been there. I’m close to there currently. I dislike my job right now. I don’t hate it yet, but if it weren’t a seasonal position that was about to end anyways, I could see hate as the next logical step.

Oh well, you gotta make a living right? Yes, and no.

You must provide for your own material existence and those who are dependent on you. Yes.

You must do something you dislike or hate to provide said material existence. No.

Ah, and now you think I’m going to suggest you do something you looove to provide material necessities.  Yes and no.

You want to be a singer/dancer/musician/painter/naturalist/athlete but either none of them pay enough or they require exceptional talent that few possess.

Well then, I guess YOU should go back to your cubicle/service counter and stop reading this also.

Let’s take a trip into your mind. Better yet how about you do that yourself. I’ll stay out. But go in with this question:

What choices are immediately available to me, that go in the direction of what I love, that I am ignoring due to what someone else might think?

Could be your father, your spouse, your boss, your friend group, yourself, anyone whose opinion of you would change. Really it is everybody.

My god what would they all think of you? How could you quit your job, sell your car and not renew your lease, then have the audacity to move to Colombia for three months to learn Spanish?! You selfish monster.

Or sweet Jesus, she’s lost her mind. She’s going to night school to learn welding? Coming back with burnt trousers and burns on her fingers? Why can’t she just be satisfied taking customer complaints all day? She will fail.

The thing is people assume you will fail if you try something new. Or worse they’ll softly and falsely wish you luck, waiting for you to fail so they can justify their own lack of ambition.

The thing is, you might fail. And that’s ok. I’m not here to motivate you and give you reasons to keep going. Either you have them inside or you don’t. All I want is for you to ask the question to yourself:

What would I do if I listened to no one else’s opinion about what I REALLY want to do?

I know what you’re thinking, what does this have to do with my job?

Imagine: You’re looking through a telescope at a crazy beautiful mountain peak of what you desire.

fxfxfgzzf

When you take your eye away from the lens you get the perspective of all the shit in the way. That peak is FAR AWAY! There are seas between you and it. Those seas are full of sharks! There are dark jungles full of venomous snakes disguised as branches.

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                                    Or worse, you could run into this guy:

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The jungle turns into freezing high plain steppes with no water. Then treacherous foothills traverse crevasse laden glaciers full of skeletons. Finally you’ve got to climb vertically with an old worn out cotton rope for safety and your bloody raw frostbitten fingers.

mnt

All of this to get to that happy peak of perfection that you saw from far away. From where it looked desirous. You might not like it when you’re there. You might end up not liking it 1/10th of the way there.

The real secret is that, in the end, the peak was never the purpose.

Right now you are sitting in a plush chair surrounded by friends doing the same. Probably drinking cold drinks and laughing at the latest binge-worthy content. You can take it easy forever. A paycheck is the soft pillow beneath your ass or worse, it could be a pair of gold handcuffs that you’re still $89,000 in debt for. Why should you get up? How could you?

A job is a social signal that you are ok and no one needs to judge or worry about you. And if you are truly happy knowing this then I love you for it.

Liking where YOU are in life is not bad at all. But why are YOU still reading this? I thought I told YOU to stop reading this at the beginning.

Anyways…

I’m talking to you.

You know you can do more. You might even know what it is and can see it in the distance. You might have no idea, but are scared to begin the introspection to find out. And why should you? At least there’s a check in the bank account next week.

This is why you hate your job. It’s easier than hating yourself. At least hating yourself leads to real answers.

 

Burned to Learn

You need to get burned to learn.

I don’t literally mean you must touch fire to understand the negative consequences of heat. I’m sure there are plenty of people that never touched the stove in innocence only to recoil in pain and horror at the injustice of physics.

Though, I was not one of those kids. I definitely touched the stove.

What I mean is that in order to learn the lessons you really need to learn, you better get ready for some pain. All kinds of hurt: emotional, physical, philosophical, existential.

The secret is…you cannot avoid it.

There are two types of alcoholics. Both types wake up one day and look at the shitty shell of themselves they’ve become. One type keeps drinking to suppress the shame, the other gets up and does something about it. What would you do? Drink to ignore the facts or put the bottle down and walk 5 crying miles through the rain? Sometimes a long rainy walk is the cathartic fire extinguisher we all need for any problem.

This metaphor applies to people obsessed with politics, bad employment, negative relationships, etc.

Personally, I would probably still be following politics if I hadn’t made myself sick for four years getting upset at so many things outside my control that led to poison in so many other aspects of my life. Because one fire starts other fires. The burn only spreads until you train yourself to leave it alone or put the damn thing out!

Not everyone needs to learn the same lessons in life. Most don’t need to learn any at all for certain things. I’ve never needed a real life visceral example to know not to murder someone. I’ve never had the real urge, and honestly the whole business seems a bit icky. Though murder still happens. Some people struggle with it. I cannot relate to their specific problem, but I can relate to having problems.

Wouldn’t it be so great if at the age of nineteen we knew exactly what would make us happy by the age of 87 and we followed that plan step by step smiling the whole way. Improving the world as we skipped merrily along, feeding poor children and petting abused animals. I already hate this smug person I just invented.

fine

Most people have a urge to change the world! For the better! YES! This is a great urge. So they go about it in the means they know of best! 99.99999% of people fail. Some right off the bat, or some 30 years into the game. What do you do after the burn? Keep touching the fire or get a bandage and a fire extinguisher?