I kept up my old tradition of not writing once life became busy

I kept up my old tradition of not writing once life became busy. I didn’t know where to start. I quit my job, giving almost a full month’s notice. Then, on the fifteen year anniversary of my little brother’s death, my wife confirmed a second positive pregnancy test. Then, a company in Austin, with an opportunity I’d been on the fence about pursuing, offered me a full-time job. Then, my current employer started acting like they were going to make a play for me to stay. But, I’m pretty much gone from there.

I’m pretty much checked out of being a marketer, period.

The question is, do I want to pursue something much more hardcore nerdy, than all this flirting I’ve done with computer stuff throughout my career, while playing it safe as a soft-headed marketer, or do I want to go all soft and fuzzy and become a poet?

I have a year to think about this and work from home, and prepare for fatherhood. I have the opportunity to be one of those stay-at-home dads who takes random freelance assignments here and there, working when the kid’s asleep, and cleaning diapers when he/she’s not.

I’m at peace with this.

I thought a lot about my manhood again, about my identity, about the possibility of reincarnation. Who am I at the core? What am I? Some days, I hardly feel human, and other days I feel like I’m simply not well-suited for my culture, and other days, I don’t feel especially masculine at all. But then, I’m not extremely girly, either. Whatever identity is, may very well be a thing that is meant to be created from a single deciding point moving forward. Perhaps we all make too much of being who we are based on an entire pile of half-remembered things that could just as easily be shelved for something new. Is the notion that there is some kind of core, changeless I informing an ephemeral Me an absurd one?

I only tend to think that there is just because so many people I’ve known seem to have figured out who they are at the core by the time they were twenty. Either they are just fooling themselves, and unquestioningly accepting their cultural realities “as is,” or they are profoundly more adept at being human than I’ve ever been.

I’d like to have the privilege of growing quite old, but I can’t ever assume that this is going to be a given. Some days, I hate the thought of growing old. My mother had this superstition about not declaring that you never wanted to grow old–to declare such a thing meant you would die young. But, she died pretty young–relative to other people from her time and culture.

But then, I think that being old would actually be a profound experience, one that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve already started to note some of the differences taking place in me as I careen towards 40. I’m less full of energetic motivation to go for a run and lift weights. Part of that motivation was certainly due to being single, but I can sense a certain lack of energy in me. I stopped dyeing my hair about five years ago, and that alone has made a difference in how people interact with me. I’ve been blessed or cursed with premature gray hair, finding my first white one at age sixteen. The reaction I get, especially from people in their twenties is one either of contempt for a much older man still hanging around stealing work that should be theirs to have, or one of cold respect, as if they are back in the classroom or at home, falling into remembered roles of childhood obeisance.

Overall, being older and grayer has been a valuable tool for me. I no longer entertain any sort of myths about who I am. What you see is what you get.

I’m at an age where I would really like to use the rest of my time on this earth to help a few souls find success in life–namely my own child(ren) plus any individuals I encounter while volunteering. Then, the other side of the coin would be this examination of the inner life, and the continued attempts to purge the unwanted thoughts before I pass into whatever realm lies beyond.

If we do experience reincarnation, then the most pressing thing to ask would be: how do we remember what we remember and why do we forget what we forget? If you assume reincarnation is for real, then you can readily explain any number of child prodigies. You can explain why kids seem to learn so rapidly what it is they are supposed to be doing in social situations, and you can even explain why some can’t pick things up–perhaps they lived in a completely different culture in a past life. You can even explain some manifestations of homosexuality with reincarnation–if you were a woman who loved a lot of men in a past life, and you are now a man, then those feelings might have carried over.

One certainly can’t expect memories in the intellectual sense to carry over, since none of us can honestly recall a past life event in any detail. What seems to be more readily convincing for the argument of reincarnation are the ways in which humans at a very early age can know and do so much with very little parental guidance. The memories that get carried over into another life may be ones more closely related to emotionally charged events–great traumas of war and abuse, and moments of intense sexual bonding with others.

Of course, the argument to completely stop trying to think about existence on these terms is also a compelling one. For, if we were meant to see ourselves in terms of who we’ve been through the millenia, wouldn’t we be given better insight and richer, fuller memories of those past lives? One could argue that we are made to forget on purpose, because the entire point of being here is to develop and grow from the point of view of starting over again with a clean slate. If you are successful in ressurecting some of your past life memories, then you are simply mucking up your new path of progress.

When seized by that kind of argument, I tend to take it to an even greater extreme — why not start each day anew, each moment anew–why bother holding near and dear to yourself the things in the past that you accomplished or screwed up?

Such is the point of creating my new narrative, but such an implementation can be almost impossible. Where do I begin? It’s like I’m getting ready to operate on somebody, and I don’t have any training on where to make the first cut, or even how deep the first cut should be. Should I begin a new narrative of how I stopped worrying about how to become great and learned to love just being alive? Or should I continue to try to find that one single thing that I can spend the rest of my life obsessing over and getting good at?

The idea of learning a programming language or database or operating system or something has its appeal in that it is completely divorced from any sense of being vital to the health of the soul or humanity. It’s the modern equivalent of learning to be a skilled factory worker or mechanic. You plug in, chug away at it, unplug, and who you really are and what you do is defined by how you spend your time away from work. You go hang out with friends, you play with your kids, you play video games, you get caught up in the simple sensual delights of being a middle-class American in this century. You don’t take yourself too seriously, nor do you fret too much about the environment or the economy. You are checked out of feeling as if you share responsibility with everyone else to fix the planet.

You are no longer walking around with the world on your shoulders, and anyone who would criticize you for taking this approach is probably still quite charmingly young and full of ideals, or frighteningly old and full of ideals.

At some point, you can only beat your head against the wall so many times

I’ve put in some hard years. I don’t really know why, actually. I guess it was mostly about what I valued, or thought was really important in life. You know, things like having a career and achieving a certain level of…”somebodyness” by a certain age. This past year, like so many in the past ten years, was a real eye opener. Headhunters would reach out to me on LinkedIn with job openings that I could have done in my sleep ten years ago. Meanwhile, the jobs I was really qualified for, and had worked so hard to be ready for–these jobs were met with an almost immediate “no thanks” kind of response when I applied or them, if someone bothered to reply at all.

At some point, you can only beat your head against the wall so many times before you realize that some things just weren’t meant to be.

You have to move on, otherwise, you’ll end up like Willy Loman–a failure at what you thought you were meant to do, but also a failure at what you were meant to do because you never bothered to do it.

Too many times I’ve asked myself: why should I be working this damn hard for this damn little money? There was always supposed to be a payoff, but this never happened.

There are too many books to read and poems to write before I die. Why should I continue to give myself over to a broken, stupid system whose only god is mammon? I know enough to make a little money when I need to, doing random, menial web dev jobs, and the rest of the time I can read and loaf at my ease. I should be able to get up at 2 AM and do some work, and sleep through half the day. Why not, who cares, as long as I get the work done and don’t become a burden to my family?

Working 8-5 and being a good little company drone, wearing the uniform button down shirt and khakis, and showing up at the Monday morning meeting of death–that’s a life for suckers, and Lord knows I’ve lived it for way too long. Fifteen hard years.

Fifteen years of having crazy, irrational and unintelligent bosses. Seeing “company turnaround” fools brought in to bark orders at everyone or create expensive Powerpoint presentations because they have MBAs from Wharton. Having little daddy’s girls just out of college swoop in and impress the powers that be with their pep and school spirit (and watching them get the six figure salaries for doing next to nothing). At some point, you can call it bad comedy–stories from the death of American civilization and culture, and hope these fools learn at least a little bit by the time they are running for high offices and claiming they know what’s best for the country.

My problem is that I had something to prove, and I thought that listening to people in positions above me would make a difference. My happiest moments in life have always come from listening to my heart and shutting out those so-called sage voices that think they know what they’re talking about. The outside world shouldn’t be shunned to the point where people don’t matter at all, but if your primary motive for getting out of bed in the morning is to prove something to someone else instead of yourself, you are surely on a shaky ground that will take you down to depression faster than you can hit send on that email declaring your retirement from your so-called career.

It’s actually quite the happy day when you can wake up and kill that part of you that you trained so carefully to work toward the place of VP or Director. That is to say, it’s a happy day if you haven’t completely killed off that dream-making side of yourself from your teens and early twenties. The cast of characters from whom I wanted to prove something to just grew and grew, you know? At first it was just my parents and some random teachers, along with a select group of kids from high school who were never impressed with me when they knew me. And then, with each job I left or new peer group that didn’t quite accept me, I added in more folks who made the list of ones I wanted to show just how exceptional I was. That lovely day when I could announce on Facebook (or even better, they’d read about me in a news feed) that I was now a Somebody of a Very Important Company. That would show all those women who ignored me, and teach all those bosses who passed me over for promotions, and make all those teachers who gave up on me in frustration think twice!

I just about completely traded in my poet’s soul for the soul of an asshole.

What an awful thing it is when you don’t know yourself completely yet, or at least haven’t completely reached that solid space inside yourself that connects your core Self cleanly with some outer personality. You end up being pushed and pulled by powerful personalities who convince you that they are giving you advice that is in your best interest.

Oh, most of them mean well, of course. They don’t understand why someone would want to be single, when you are happily single. They don’t get why someone would prefer long hikes in the park to carving out a manic social schedule. They can’t believe that someone would favor a work/life balance over being able to tell his friends that he’s a manager at some company and not even thirty yet. They think that your talent is going to waste if you are using it to read books and draft irresponsible short stories. They think that you, like them, would want nothing more than to be married with at least two children and deeply buried in work and mortgages by the age of thirty.

And, you start to think that maybe they are right. Your Peter Pan friends in Austin have gone nowhere for decades and there they are, doing the same things you’re doing but they are ten-twenty years older than you. Maybe the responsible, wise adults in your life do know what’s best, and so you start to believe that maybe the most important way to spend your time is to read books by Tony Robbins and hunt for new jobs and attend local networking functions. Once you start to volunteer for a few groups, it seems like the floodgates open, and suddenly the entire world wants you to help them promote their causes and attend their meetings. But, it’s all okay, because you are creating that illusion for yourself that you are now going somewhere, and becoming a somebody.

People in the corporate world can spot a sucker from a mile away.

If you haven’t dropped a firm stake in the ground that says you are content to be a lifer admin, IT guy, customer support, developer or some other such neckbeard, then the sharks smell blood and believe me, they pounce hard. You either walk into the office the first day ready to crank out a million powerpoints and spreadsheets full of projects and ideas, ready put anyone in any meeting in their place who tries to snow you over with internal acronyms, or you walk into the office the first day ready to be somebody’s bitch indefinitely until you can start to crawl out from under their force field.

For that matter, when I say corporate world, I really mean any business, private, public, NGO, etc. that has a structure and set of processes where it makes sense to be an asshole to climb your way to the top. Non-profits, schools, churches–you better believe that there are some mean-playing politicos inside these organizations as well. Don’t think for a minute that your favorite local large passthrough charity is full of people who just want to do good and sing kumbayah all day long. If anything, they are the worst, because there are always at least three foxes in those henhouses taking everything they can get at the expense of the community’s good will.

Let me be clear–every company, school, church and non-profit is full of the salt of the earth. There are people who don’t have a mean bone in their body inside every single aggregate of four or more people. But, the point is that you gotta be clear which side you’re on up front, when you walk in the door, and don’t expect to jump sides later once your term of employment gets underway.

Sometimes I think the only group of people worth knowing are your own family. Then I meet up with some nice folks in a volunteering engagement, and I think that this is a bit extreme. The issue isn’t really a matter of avoiding politics altogether, either. Politics, when played to get something for the downtrodden, disenfranchised, impoverished, disabled, etc.–that’s good politics. That’s righteous politics. It’s all the bullshit politics that takes place inside little cliques and circles of people which is simply played because people want to feel like they are winning, have power, or are capable of manipulating other people. Or, all of the above. Once it’s boiled down to my side vs. yours, then why I’m on the side I’m on makes little difference–it’s just another game with two opposing teams trying to win.

At any rate, who’s to say how much you will influence or change the world when you start down that path as a community organizer? How did each of those souls benefit? Did the community organizer come in and make a splash, wow and impress, and then leave? If the organizer were to return today, would they see that the community doesn’t look that much different than it did before? Would that politician see that his activities mostly benefited his own self, his own career, and not much of anyone else’s?

But then, is he still a better man for trying to do something, anything, than the rest of us who sit on the sidelines year after year and bitch and piss and moan about how bad things are, but do little to change the world around us?

Maybe. But, as one grows older, the path of Wu Wei becomes more and more appealing. Which is to say that action for it’s own sake seems to be a noble thing when one is twenty, but by the time one is forty, one sees action for it’s own sake more often than not end ultimately in destroying more lives than it saves. What would have been the outcome of the past ten years, had we never set foot in Iraq? How many people would be more significantly and effectively touched by Obama had he opted to rise no further than being the head of a large, local non-profit? No one can say for sure, because no one is God, but God.

I went through a period in my life

I went through a period in my life where I felt qualified to give advice and wisdom to people ten years younger than me. During this time, I made many revisions in my head for what my life would be like, had I only known what I know now. I even imagined how I could live a much grander life, were I do carry with me some scant amount of memories of my present life into the next one.

Then, I lost this feeling.

I hit an age and time of my life where most anything I said or did did not seem to make its mark upon the people around me. Life became baffling, and then it reached a point where I felt like I was becoming with each passing year less wise and less smart about how one should conduct one’s life. I had marketable job skills. I knew how to maintain my finances so I didn’t end up back on the ledge of bankruptcy. I met my wife-to-be and married her.

But, I still feel like my life has continued to edge toward a place where I will wake up one morning and know nothing at all. I turn on the television, and I can’t understand any of the shows. I don’t get why this stuff is considered entertaining, much less some kind of important information I should stay on top of. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the news, a reality show, or some stupid sitcom that thinks they are being clever because the show is shot with handheld cameras in the faux documentary style.

I mean, sure I laugh now and then. But, I’ve had a few nights when the wife was out of town and I could drink that extra beer or two without her wanting to stage an intervention, and even when I’m mildly intoxicated, the stuff of my culture just baffles me.

I think perhaps this side of me was always lurking underneath me, and I denied it because I knew it wasn’t cool. I wanted to be accepted by my peer group like everyone else. Now that I’m old enough not to care whether I’m ever accepted by a group of humans again or not, I let this side of me come out more frequently, and frankly, it seems as if our culture has been on a downhill run for generations, if it ever was really that great to begin with. Each week that I turn on the TV for a walk up and down the channels to review the available fare of entertainment, I find myself thinking that the IQ level of the person who appreciates these kinds of shows drops a few points with each passing week.

When are they going to hit some kind of a rock bottom plateau, where the majority of people in the US will actually declare that the entertainment has become too cheap and stupid for them? Like, take that Honey Boo-Boo show, for example. I would expect that the IQ of someone who can appreciate this kind of show would be lower than the national average. Wouldn’t that network want to class up their offerings just a bit, so that they don’t lose their core audience? Or, am I highly mistaken, and the shows to come that follow Honey Boo Boo will actually exemplify people and situations that are attractive to an even dumber audience? It’s like the movie Idiocracy is happening over the course of 1-2 generations instead of a thousand years.

But, it’s not just a matter of being intelligent entertainment or not. There’s something more fundamental happening here that I can’t quite pin down. I see any number of hipster snobs I’ve friended on Facebook–ones who’ve adamantly asserted their superiority over the television long ago–and these people are also creating a kind of culture of their own that I can’t quite follow.

It’s as if people have all gotten together and agreed that what really matters, what’s really worth paying attention to, is the style rather than the substance of living. An experience worth having is one that you can share in the form of a quick sentence and photo or video clip; one that gets you at least a handful of friends and family paying attention to it. All life that is lived away from anyone’s attention is a life not worth living. I see a lot of people who seem to be pretty empty or desperate in the places behind their online personas.

There also seems to be an unspoken and acute awareness that almost everything we do and say is the outward manifestation of a throwaway kind of life. The top ten things that mattered the most in 2013 will be completely unknown by young people coming of age ten years from now. They will look at someone like Miley Cyrus and scratch their heads, but they will likely offer up their own shooting star icon who is just as forgettable to the people who come of age after them.

To some degree, I’ve started to feel as if the oral history, the collective memories that we pass on verbally to the next generation, are the only ones that matter. All manner of information that is otherwise recorded, be it written down in longhand form or typed across the virtual page of an online word processor, is information that is subject to being lost from the heads of future generations.

Even if none of the libraries are ever burnt to the ground by future despots, and all of the digital information is carefully recopied before the hard drives and server tapes erode, such information remains “buried” and remote, not instantly accessible and made ready for the person living in the moment. Even if they design some kind of a chip that contains all of the knowledge found on Wikipedia, and this chip interfaces directly with our brains, it seems as if such valiant efforts to preserve and transmit knowledge across generations will be lost and wasted if the first generation that gets the chips implanted doesn’t feel strongly compelled to make sure their children get the chips implanted in them as well.

In short, it would seem to me that only the memories you can share face to face with your children are the memories that matter. Nothing I write here matters within the context of it becoming shared wisdom or knowledge. Writing is simply an awful addiction that isn’t as harmful to me as other addictions.

But, what then of me and the rest of my life, and how I should live it, given that I no longer seem capable of relating to my fellow human beings at certain levels where I might successfully participate in prolonged social activities outside of the workplace and the home?

There is certainly much about living in this world that is to be enjoyed. One could live solely off of meager meals and some small allowance, and take joy in reading all the books in the public library. If one has more financial means than this, one could rather cheaply consume whatever art, music, knowledge, information, etc. one wants to all day long, and never become completely satiated. This kind of life, of course, has its drawbacks. A life lived in books begins to feel a bit convalescent, cloistered and otherwise unimpressive. One starts to see one’s self as being a bit of a miser and glutton, consuming much in the way of information, but giving little back to the world around him.

With age comes less knowledge and wisdom, not more

I went through a period in my life where I felt qualified to give advice and wisdom to people ten years younger than me. During this time, I made many revisions in my head for what my life would be like: “if I had I only known what I know now”. I even imagined how I could live a much grander life, were I to carry with me some scant amount of memories of my present life into the next one.

Then, I lost this feeling.

I hit an age and time of my life where most anything I said or did did not seem to make its mark upon the people around me. Life became baffling, and then it reached a point where I felt like I was becoming with each passing year less wise and less smart about how one should conduct one’s life. I had marketable job skills. I knew how to maintain my finances so I didn’t end up back on the ledge of bankruptcy. I met my wife-to-be and married her.

But, I still feel like my life has continued to edge toward a place where I will wake up one morning and know nothing at all. I turn on the television, and I can’t understand any of the shows. I don’t get why this stuff is considered entertaining, much less some kind of important information I should stay on top of. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the news, a reality show, or some stupid sitcom that thinks they are being clever because the show is shot with handheld cameras in the faux documentary style.

I mean, sure I laugh now and then. But, I’ve had a few nights when the wife was out of town and I could drink that extra beer or two without her wanting to stage an intervention; and even when I’m mildly intoxicated, the stuff of my culture just baffles me.

I think perhaps this side of me was always lurking underneath me, and I denied it because I knew it wasn’t cool. I wanted to be accepted by my peer group like everyone else. Now that I’m old enough not to care whether I’m ever accepted by a group of humans again or not, I let this side of me come out more frequently, and frankly, it seems as if our culture has been on a downhill run for generations, if it  was ever really that great in the first place. Each week that I turn on the TV for a walk up and down the channels to review the available fare of entertainment, I find myself thinking that the IQ level of the person who appreciates these kinds of shows drops a few points with each passing week.

When are they going to hit some kind of a rock bottom plateau, where the majority of people in the US will actually declare that the entertainment has become too cheap and stupid for them? Like, take that Honey Boo-Boo show, for example. I would expect that the IQ of someone who can appreciate this kind of show would be lower than the national average. Wouldn’t that network want to class up their offerings just a bit, so that they don’t lose their core audience? Or, am I highly mistaken, and the shows to come that follow Honey Boo Boo will actually exemplify people and situations that are attractive to an even dumber audience than the one that can appreciate Honey Boo Boo? It’s like the movie Idiocracy is happening over the course of 1-2 generations instead of a thousand years.

But, it’s not just a matter of being intelligent entertainment or not. There’s something more fundamental happening here that I can’t quite pin down. I see any number of hipster snobs I’ve friended on Facebook–ones who’ve adamantly asserted their superiority over the television long ago–and these people are also creating a kind of culture of their own that I can’t quite follow. They say stuff like “humblebrag” and take pictures of the food they eat. They make sure at least one grainy photo of a concert or comedy show gets posted each week. And these are people in their mid to late thirties.

It’s as if people have all gotten together and agreed that what really matters, what’s really worth paying attention to, is the style rather than the substance of living. An experience worth having is one that you can share in the form of a quick sentence and photo or video clip; one that gets you at least a handful of friends and family paying attention to it. All life that is lived away from anyone’s attention is a life not worth living. I see a lot of people who seem to be pretty empty or desperate in the places behind their online personas. There’s a kind of deep loneliness that no amount of attention can fill.

There also seems to be an unspoken and acute awareness that almost everything we do and say is the outward manifestation of a throwaway kind of life. The top ten things that mattered the most in 2013 will be completely unknown by young people coming of age ten years from now. They will look at someone like Miley Cyrus and scratch their heads, but they will likely offer up their own shooting star icon who is just as forgettable to the people who come of age after them.

To some degree, I’ve started to feel as if the oral history, the collective memories that we pass on verbally to the next generation, are the only ones that matter. All manner of information that is otherwise recorded, be it written down in longhand form or typed across the virtual page of an online word processor, is information that is subject to being lost from the heads of future generations.

Even if none of the libraries are ever burnt to the ground by future despots, and all of the digital information is carefully recopied before the hard drives and server tapes erode, such information remains “buried” and remote, not instantly accessible and made ready for the person living in the moment. Even if they design some kind of a chip that contains all of the knowledge found on Wikipedia, and this chip interfaces directly with our brains, it seems as if such valiant efforts to preserve and transmit knowledge across generations will be lost and wasted if the first generation that gets the chips implanted doesn’t feel strongly compelled to make sure their children get the chips implanted in them as well.

In short, it would seem to me that only the memories you can share face to face with your children are the memories that matter. Nothing I write here matters within the context of it becoming shared wisdom or knowledge. Writing is simply an awful addiction that isn’t as harmful to me as other addictions.

But, what then of me and the rest of my life, and how I should live it, given that I no longer seem capable of relating to my fellow human beings at certain levels where I might successfully participate in prolonged social activities outside of the workplace and the home?

There is certainly much about living in this world that is to be enjoyed. One could live solely off of meager meals and some small allowance, and take joy in reading all the books in the public library. If one has more financial means than this, one could rather cheaply consume whatever art, music, knowledge, information, etc. one wants to all day long, and never become completely satiated. This kind of life, of course, has its drawbacks. A life lived in books begins to feel a bit convalescent, cloistered and otherwise unimpressive. One starts to see one’s self as being a bit of a miser and glutton, consuming much in the way of information, but giving little back to the world around him.

The hubris of the old man

The hubris of the young man is easy to forgive, or at least laugh off and dismiss if you don’t want to accept that the young man may have something new to say. Within the hubris of the young man we see both the novel ideas that humanity needs to survive, as well as the laughable pretensions that the young man is inventing something new. Over time and the fire of experience, the successful young man will become sharpened and powerful, keeping the novel ideas close to his heart so that the old men may not steal them and claim them as their own. Of course, for every successful young man, there are a million failures who become brittle and bitter, and miserly in their need to hang on to moments of youth ill spent in decades no scientist can recover.

But, among these million failures there are a few thousand old men who develop a kind of hubris of their own. And the hubris of the old man is the most poisonous thing of all. The hubris of the old man is most exceptionally embodied in such men as Donald Rumsfeld, a man most of us have quickly forgotten. This kind of hubris is born out of the uncompromising belief in their own wisdom and experience. The only novel ideas an old man has to offer are ones he’s hoarded from his youth or ones he’s stolen from the young men who work under him. To make up for his inability to innovate, the old man asserts that everything has already been done, and he knows best because he’s seen more of it than most. This is a different kind of mentality than the wisdom of the elders cherished by indigenous peoples. It is an old man’s cockiness that attempts to cover up all of the confidence he lacks in himself–a lack of confidence created by his ever burgeoning impotence and his inability or unwillingness to learn new things.

The hubris of the old man is the kind of hubris that sees America into unnecessary wars and destroys once great companies. The hubris of the old man creates economic crises, and the young are left to clean up the mess and carry the burden of the blame for the lingering fallout that comes with the messes these old men make.

In short, the hubris of the young man is pardonable, the hubris of the old man is not.