Thursday, April 29, 2010


There is more here than we can perceive. As humans, our tissue-synapse based senses are woefully limited in their abilities to detect the world around us. As members of a society ignorant of this fact, we are taught to ignore our other perceptive abilities, and therefore lose them.

If you've never considered this, don't dismiss it simply because it doesn't appear in scientific or medical journals. This isn't just mysterious metaphysical pseudoscience. Take magnetism, for instance: it cannot be seen, felt, heard, tasted, or smelled, yet as a scientific society we know full well that it not only exists, but is a defining force in world we live in. The structure of the atom and the interaction of molecules to form everything from the basic compounds that sustain the chemical systems in our bodies to the weather resistant properties of that stain you just put on your deck would all be considered fiction to a society less scientifically advanced than ours, all because of the attitude that something needs to be seen (heard, felt, tasted, smelled, etc.) to be believed.

Well, don't believe it. We were all given the ability to detect the world around us in more terms than the five senses afford. True, there are forces which are beyond both our perception and our understanding, but this isn't what I'm talking about. Every one of us has an internal antenna that picks up signals the people and things around us are broadcasting, absorbing, or reflecting. The mood in a room, the serenity of a hidden waterfall, the calm of a place deep in the earth, and the joy of a child are all examples of these signals. Can you think of any that you've experienced? Focus on them a moment, and you'll start reaching for the tuner knob on that antenna.

It is one of my greatest goals to broaden my ability to perceive the world around me, and therefore more fully appreciate the gifts I've been given in this lifetime, in this place, with these people around me. Please, join me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Rules

This is something I've worked on intellectually for many years. When I was younger, I could tell you lots of these from memory. I think there were more. Obviously, they didn't all stick by the time I decided to write them down. Dated 28 October 2008.

The Rules

1. The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

2. The Ketchup Rule: Even if a little is good, more may not necessarily be better, no matter how tempting it may seem. (May also be called the Peanut Butter Rule.)

3. The Iceberg Rule: If you see a bit of something, chances are good there may be a lot more to it than you can tell. Akin to the phrase 'where there's smoke there's fire.'

4. The No-Fault Rule: Don't use other people's mistakes to excuse or justify your own.

5. The Control Rule: You're the only (adult) person you can control. Period. End of story. Any efforts or expectations otherwise will only lead to disappointment. The basic premise behind this rule is RESPECT. The corollary of this is don't expect or allow anyone else to control you. Respect yourself and others enough to take care of your own business and keep it at home, without interfering with others' lives and/or their (in)ability to do the same.

6. The Reciprocation Rule: Don't expect someone else to do a thing for you just because you'd do it for them. This does not override the Golden Rule (#1) because of the Control Rule (#5).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What If

Something I dug up, written for fun and originally submitted to (and rejected by) McSweeney's, dated 28 March 2006:

Imagine how the great moments of history would be different if...

- the library at Alexandria hadn't burned
- the Seahawks had actually made an effort in the second half of Superbowl XL
- L. Ron Hubbard had lost the bet
- Cornwallis hadn't surrendered, but made a final charge and defeated Washington's forces
- zombies really were imaginary
- Adolf Hitler's career as a street artist had paid off
- Lucious Malfoy hadn't handed Dobby that book
- Julius Caesar hadn't crossed the Rubicon
- Firefly hadn't been cancelled
- Deagol hadn't found the One Ring at the bottom of the Anduin


(16 November 2009)

It is beginning: my tween son has declared a crush.

He did so nonchalantly, and, to his credit, to his mother. This is a great indicator of self-confidence, which is actually the best part of this whole business. I don't have to explain to anyone of the male persuasion how ominous a prospect it is to let your MOM know you like girls, let alone any adult, or any of your friends, or anyone outside the family- or friends circles...because this opens you up to judgment. And becoming vulnerable to anyone at age eleven simply is not a choice made without a great deal of self-reliance.


No Can Do

(19 February 2010)

As a depressed person, I know there is only so far I can go in life. I say this in the face of the "can-doers" who would tell me that, no matter what, I can do anything I set my mind to, those who would say, "If it is to be, it is up to me!"

Sigh. Of course, they're right. But that take-life-by-the horns mindset comes with a necessary set of personality traits and social skills, many of which are, by definition, not part of a depressive's emotional repertoire.



(15 May 2009)

I tend to overplay my hand.

I'm used to losing, you see, or at least being the underdog in any given situation. Of course, that's more related to my personality than any actual game being played, but that's really beside the point when perception is your reality. So when I am inadvertently dealt a decent card or two, I blow it.

It's not that I lack a poker face. I'm no pro, to be sure, but I know enough about body language and panic reactions to keep a cool head when I need to. My downfall is my confidence: I just don't know how to play my bets.

When I think I can win, I start strong. Compared to my normal demeanor, this creates suspicion. I rush the game, and by the time the river comes around my effort to draw a high pot has only resulted in everyone but the real players folding. Then underdog kicks in again: I doubt my abilities face with the prospect of 'true' talent, and either fold myself or brace for the inevitable double slap of luck and odds.

So it is in personal situations, too. I learned early that humility is a virtue, and though I had my days of experimenting with that notion (turns out Dad was right) I mostly keep my ideas and words to myself. Though not technically related, this personality trait is tied to my confidence.

The whole sour stew puts me at an automatic disadvantage when compared to others with more confidence, and less humility. Even when I have an answer or solution, the loudest person in the room is usually heard first, and when their idea inevitably fails, and my time has come around, I am criticized for holding my tongue too long. So it goes, but I've learned to live with it.

So when I find myself holding an ace, I'm set at unease. Unused to having any advantage, an awkward confidence sets in. The thing teeters like an amateur tightrope walker, and by the time I've figured out how to play my advantage, it's fallen and my opportunity to win is gone. I step before I know where I'm headed, and rush right into a hole.

But not this time.


Left in a Facebook discussion for the US Army fan group, 15 March 2010:

When those ignorant of what it means to be an American express their disdain for our country's government, people, or armed forces, it's an insult to anyone who's ever known or loved one of those True Heroes who ensure our freedom, and a vilification of those who have died for it. The right to exercise freedom of speech comes with the responsibility of knowing how to do so responsibly and respectably. If you're lucky enough to have this right, and fortunate enough to be completely unaware of what it takes to provide it, count yourself in a privileged minority, and consider just saying "thank you" to a veteran, or attending a Memorial Day service. America has never been perfect, but we've more than earned our place at the global table, and helped preseve that of many other nations. Repeated for posterity: If you can't stand behind our soldiers, feel free to stand in front of them.


(16 April 2007)

All in all, I like to consider my brain as very functional in all the traditional ways, and then some. I can critically read Dante is its historical context as well as appreciate the humor of the Knights of the Pactoganal table in Dragon Fable. I occasionally win chess games without the forethought of a Master, and understand the complexities of sequentially casting Divine Plea, Avenging Wrath, and Sacred Shield *before* engaging a high-level monster in melee combat. I equally appreciate my progressive metal Dream Theater epics, the Moonlight Sonata, and an hour of either Ira Glass or Garrison Keiler (even if I don't know how to spell his name). I see harmony in a combination lush gardens and natural overgrowth, the beauty of a 100-year old fountain nestled in the middle of nowhere. I can explain how benzoic acid fragments under electron ionization in LEGO terms without being condescending.

In the everyday game of life, I consider myself a low level Renaissance man. I have many strikes against me which I will not recount here, but most can be undone with (unfinished)


(10 February 2010)

There are days when you tell yourself what kind of man you're going to be. Some of these days are major milestones in a man's life: high school graduation, first day of college or boot camp, college graduation...or the day you decide not to re-enroll, the discovery that you'll be a father for the first time, the day that child is born, the day you irreparably disappoint a mentor, the day a loved one dies. And many more.

For me, it's not uncommon to set very similar expectations on every such day, though as I get older they just become more mature versions of themselves. Sometimes, you decide to drop a bullet point or two, whether because they may no longer apply to the man you'd like to be, or maybe because you've come to believe such an expectation is no longer realistic. Those days, depending on the abandoned expectation and the reason, can be little life-changing tragedies.

In my experience, what matters most are not the conclusions you come to on those days, but the actions you take after the decisions are made. A man struggles his whole life to define himself, and any day he commits to becoming one kind of man or another is a pretty major event. Though some may be hasty or spontaneous, no decision is made lightly.

But more than drawing an idealized future version of yourself, it's an even bigger personal struggle to make that man a reality.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Excerpt from 26 April 2006 piece:

I think it's fate that we all find ourselves alone at this time of our lives. It's a lesson that tries to teach that we, ourselves, are really the only people we have on this earth, in this life, and that to rely on another human for anything is a gamble at best. Then we're confused by what a healthy partnership really is. One thing it is NOT, I know, is to meet the others every need. Some needs, probably most, can only be met from within. It's a tragic thing that with all the people on this earth, and all the reaching out, and after thousands of years of timeless philosophy and poetry and religion, that it comes to this: we are still ultimately alone, too confused about our own nature, too afraid to ask for help. And if we're lucky, it takes one whole lifetime to understand and find the key to our happiness. Most people reach the end without even knowing there's a difference. I am luckier than them, but maybe not as lucky as the ones who find the answer. I can only hope.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Diminishing Returns of Self-Discovery

Personal enlightenment is a fabulous thing, at least in theory. It's something I think all intelligent people strive for at some time in their lives, to one extent or another, and through a combination of that effort and various occurrences beyond their control, I think most people achieve some degree of it, or at least enough that they reach a kind of equilibrium between the things they wish for and the things they have.

In my own journey, I have a long list of both intentional efforts and accidental consequences (cataclysmic and otherwise) that brought me to my own state of self-awareness. It hasn't always been pretty, but I think I can safely say that it has been effective. I know myself pretty well; I think better than the average person of my age and background. I can't always tell the difference, but I know people around me notice from time to time, and that's a more accurate measure of growth anyhow.

However, not all progress is permanent. I have the unfortunate flaw that I am human, and so frequently relapse into previously unenlightened States of Self. I am prone to the effects of brain and body chemicals, as well as core input, that alter my states of well-being. Many a potentially life-changing resolve made during the morning shower or commute is lost to fatigue or minutia by the end of a day. This is why I haven't yet painted the hall, finished my degree, made a stock portfolio to speak of, built a 50" chest with 17" biceps, bicycled across the state, or written my many novels.

Of course, this is one major reason I maintain this blog: to stick pins into those ideas and experiences I think are worth saving in the hopes that they won't fall off the map, and maybe (just maybe) they'll help me figure out what I'm doing on this rock. In a discussion with a friend about her own very similar journey, it occurred to me that despite my best efforts, I may never quite reach my Optimum Self, if only because my brain/core capacity isn't high enough to hold onto everything I learn along the way. I suspect that once I reach a certain level of self-discovery, diminishing returns start to kick in.

As an analytical person, I naturally think of this in context of the phenomenon's origin: mathematics. Diminishing returns is the idea that a thing's effectiveness will decrease after a certain amount of it has been gathered.

See Figure 1. Point α along the x-axis theoretically represents the optimum point of self-awareness, after which the relationship between the self-awareness and the benefits thereof is no longer linear (assuming it begins that way at all), and learning more about oneself has less and less positive effect.

Figure 2 shows the many possible shapes of the graph after point α.
  • "A" shows true diminishing returns, where the y-axis continues to increase, but at a decreasing rate. It continually takes more and more self-awareness to have the same effect as a lesser amount previously.
  • "B" is what I imagine happens in an environment without diminishing returns, such as a monastery. Obviously, these are ideal conditions, and not a realistic scenario with a modern Western lifestyle.
  • "C" is what I typically do: get to a certain point of understanding, then become distracted, or disenchanted. Whatever the cause, I fall off the wagon.
  • "D" is what I'm going for: even if my quality of life isn't continually improved, I want to keep learning who and what I am. I think if this path is followed, the graph will eventually turn north again and I will reach another period of growth.

Well, now that I've beaten this horse to death with imaginary mathematics that probably don't apply anyway, suffice it to say that I'm still learning not only what's happening inside, but why I even make the effort. It's a noble one, to be sure, but I still have a lot to learn about how to apply the lessons I gain along the way. Wish me luck.

Another disclaimer: It may have become glaringly obvious during the reading, but I don't have an education in philosophy, psychology, theology, medicine, counseling, or energy healing. I write what my gut tells me. While I welcome your input, any disrespectful attempt to call me out on a point of my own ignorance may result in undesired consequences. You have been warned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Vision

(25 July 2006)

A three year old girl plays in the fountain. A light rain begins to fall, but she pays no mind. She marvels at the falling water and laughs when her cheeks get hit with raindrops. Her tiny feet splash, wetting the cuffs of her rolled up peach capris, while a man sitting on one of the low steps with her sandles smiles. She calls him Daddy. A warm breeze carries lavender and marigold over the water, and the cardinals call in the courtyard trees.


(15 August 2006)

I'm falling down again. In the last 3 days I've seen increasing changes in my mood and energy, and today the light came on. I'm scared as hell.

I'm on the verge of a major commitment and I'm unsure whether I should make it. I'm on my own at work and I'm not sure I can handle it. I'm missing a dear friend. I'm unsafe at home, or at least I perceive that I am.

I don't want to go back on medication. Self-administered has been restricted, which is in itself a good thing, but symptoms reappear like so many gophers popping their heads up to ensure the coast is clear. And once those suckers start chirping, the whole colony heads out unhindered.

There is a relationship I've abused, and at least two jobs I've fallen down on. The relationship needs immediate remedy; the jobs are urgent but just jobs. Energy-tapping devices (biking, music, hard labor) should be in full force this week. But I'm not sure I'll pull myself out that quickly. The yard sure could use it, though.

My Drug

(18 October 2006)

My drug is free. I can catch it in small doses on TV commercials or magazine ads, internet news sites and billboards on the side of the road. My drug is handed to every mainstream adult in America every day, and they don't even know they possess it.

My drug is legal. It's used to sell everything from cars to clothes to sports drinks and beach toys. It's plastered on labels and posters. Anyone can have my drug without fear of incarceration, even minors.

My drug is invisible. When you have it with you, nobody can see it, and if you told them, they wouldn't care. They might even show you their own stash. You could look at my drug a hundred times a day and never see it.

My drug is clean. It doesn't smoke when it burns or make your clothes smell bad. It won't stain your fingers or give you cancer. After using, I look and act just the same as before. Even when I'm high on my drug, I integrate socially with the best of them.

My drug is silent. Using is a quiet affair and easy to conceal. It's not time consuming and can be done alone or with a partner. And the destruction it renders is something you can never detect.


This will not be a proper post.

Beginning with that previous post, Poem, I will periodically publish content written long ago. It will be dated. Though the original reason for writing may or may not be apparent, the reason for posting is simple: posterity.

I maintain this blog only because I must write, and the stuff I produce are breadcrumbs. Sometimes those crumbs lead me back to a place I was happier, other times they show me how far I've come. Sometimes, they are a contrast to better places I've been when I find myself lost in the woods.

The posterity posts will also be breadcrumbs, though not necessarily placed in order.