Three Steps to Turn Everyday Get-Together(s) into Transformative Gatherings:A Ted Talk by Priya Parker
The following are excerpts that I wrote between 2013 and 2015, some of which were included in my novel, Between Transitions.
I skated through my twenties on the precipice of a series of "very nearly": I very nearly kept good jobs, and I very nearly nurtured good relationships, and I very nearly became the person that—somewhere inside me inching its way to the rise, and very nearly surfacing for air—I knew I was capable of being. There are glimpses of that person, they are probably too few and too subtle for anyone other than myself to have noticed, nevertheless I know he’s there, because I’ve seen him, and sometimes he and I meet at the purview of the precipice that never comes to be. I was thirty when I moved back home. Everything about it felt familiar. The two old houses nestled artfully surrounded by a nursed backwoods just out of sight of the dead end road. The small, German town secluded in obscurity, still lush with a small-town kindred, and the rolling river near the town center. It was exactly as I remembered it, everything, that is, save me.
I have had a guard up now for over a year, and I’m not sure how to get around it. Living with this kind of a demur is not something that I have acclimated to yet, and honestly I’m not sure that I ever will, so obviously I am having trouble getting around it; and, respectively, I open up only when queried, and even then it’s not really all that meaningful. I tried to work through it, literally, by throwing myself into my work:
Until recently I read and reviewed independently published books for a journal based in California, a job that I loved but couldn’t maintain with my growing list of projects, since my move back to Texas. I also write short stories with the intent of their publication in literary journals. I fell into the work many years ago while living in a small town in Idaho. I worked, for a short time, in a potato processing plant, maintaining a packaging machine from 8:00PM to 8:00AM, every day, and all week. The plant closed one weekend for Easter, and I drove the fifty miles to the nearest, largest town and spent the day, and ultimately the weekend in a coffeehouse near the Snake river. I wrote about it; a travelogue, if you will, and left it for the café owners. When they saw me again they asked me to publish it in the local monthly magazine - which I did, and I have been writing professionally ever since. I tried to write a novel shortly after I started writing for Idaho Falls Magazine, although it was considerably more challenging than I expected, and I ultimately chopped it up and rewrote the chapters to sell as short stories, hence my transition into short fiction. I haven’t even considered working on another novel until recently, when I moved back to Texas. And I’ve been writing it now for a month, or so. It’s surprising how much more straightforward the process has been this time around. I guess working as both a writer and a reader for a number of years makes a substantial difference.
I have learned that I write better when I’m surrounded by people, in public places, when I can feel the different energies of people that wander in and out of the café throughout the day. I’ll often engage in conversation with people, which can be counterproductive, considering it takes away from my writing time, but when I set aside, hide in the corner of the coffeehouse, and allow my thoughts to spill onto the page like an overflow of expression pouring out and onto the surface, I can feel both the complement of the people surrounding me and the recognition of myself, in the moment. As I reflect on the story later—and perhaps even years later, as an old man—I’ll remember always the feeling, the only thing routinely lost in retrospect.
I buried myself again in my writing, this time immersing myself into it entirely. Overthinking the situation I was more concerned that switching off that conversation, and reengaging with someone else would be overtly insulting, so, instead, I focused entirely upon my own expression of thought. Although, it felt, suddenly, as if an ominous wind had swept over me, a wind that had not affected anyone else in the café, except for me.
Instantly I became overwhelmed with a desire to know and to do nothing. I continued to sit, still, in the coffeehouse, my body seemed unaffected, although a fog had enveloped my mind, infiltrating my limbic system and paralyzing my emotions. I felt nothing, and yet I was consumed by a hopelessness. Feeling the nothing transgressed both my soul and my intellect; prescribing feeling nothing to a prospect of a meditative nothingness—actively thinking nothing, as if nothing could be objectively contemplated. I stared only, ahead. Occasionally I would turn and attempt to create stories about the people surrounding me. This, however, would turn out to be an exercise in futility. I gave up only to give the impression that I was watching people, in order to give the impression of normalcy. I believe that our routines, our lives—are made possible, or just, and more discerningly—easier, knowing that we are connected to everything, and to everyone; many people ignore, or have forgotten that idea simply because it is commonplace, and when a new standard replaces an old the new one will, eventually, become so normal that the old will seem peculiar. Depression occurs when our connection is severed. Depressives have a unique, albeit unfortunate, relationship with the network that our consciousness is hardwired to, because only depressives are capable of recognizing both the affiliation to, and the separation of that connection. Antidepressants increase the biological component, the serotonin, which bridges the corporeal with the ethereal.
There is such an incredible tool out there for all of us to utilize that allows us to live the most fulfilling lives as possible, and the vast majority of us are not utilizing it. I've read a number of proposals scattered about Facebook and other social media sites that promise to improve your life whether socially or financially or spiritually, they all claim that it's spectacularly easy and that they've discovered some secret that we are all capable of finding or that we already have and are unaware of that would allow us to finally reach the maximum potential, to be the best possible versions of ourselves, and then, of course, they hit you with the sudden realization that it's only going to cost you 12 easy payments of $129.99.
But, here's the thing: there is an incredible tool out there for all of us to utilize that will allow us to live the most fulfilling lives possible, and it's true that the vast majority of us are not utilizing it. But I'm not going to charge you for this secret. I'm just going to tell you, and then I'm going to write about it, or continue writing about it.
The secret is to...
Maybe it sounds ridiculous to you, however, it is true. I cannot imagine what could be more satisfying than discovering what it is that you enjoy doing whether it be a hobby or a career or anything.
What do you enjoy doing?
And once you do finally figure it out everything tends to become more clear, and easier, and paths open up to you that you may not previously have noticed.
Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia, Inc. in 1973. He and some friends took a trip down the California coast line and continued through Mexico and South America to what is known as Patagonia, a region at the south most of South America. Chouinard is an outdoors-man: a surfer, a climber, and environmentalist who decided he wanted clothing and equipment that suited his lifestyle, so he made it.
Yvon Chouinard an example of someone who realized his passion and turned it into a career. Although discovering what it is that you enjoy, that your passionate about does not have to reap financial gain, sometimes it's just a bonus.
Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain were musicians, and they were incapable of being anything but, however they were both famous for actively criticizing the industry. Yes, they made a career of it, and yet, for them, it was like breathing. They discovered what they loved and they pursued it.
This is the secret that so many people cannot see, when you’re feeling stuck or trapped in a sort of purgatory it’s solely because you’re not actively participating in whatever it is that would otherwise drive you. We have all struggled with this at some point in our lives, and it presents itself in a myriad of ways.
Whatever it is that you enjoy, or the list of things that you enjoy figure it [them] out.
Discover what your passionate about and do it. And if you cannot figure out how to monetize it, yet, don’t worry about it, find a way to supplement your life that allows the means to pursue your passion until you can. Actively do what you love, and don’t let anything...anything or anyone interrupt you from doing it. Again, call it a hobby if you have to, if that’s what it takes for your parents or spouse or friends to offer your their encouragement; as long as you’re doing it.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is an amazing source to find a starting point and, in some ways, to help you realize your passion, but it’s not the only source, and it’s not the only way.
Getting to know yourself opens up avenues beyond interests, even. It's utility can improve your physical, emotional, and mental health, it can help you to develop your social skills, and it can expand the way that your perceive the world. Paying attention to how you feel, physically, and what foods (or ideas) improve your health and which decrease it.
I enjoy writing, bouldering, learning, teaching, books, music; I enjoy telling stories using traditional as well as atypical ways and the act of creation, and ideas.
What do you enjoy?
Myths and mythology for much of my life I found to be ingenuous and unworldly; myths went as far even as to annoy me, and I think that for a long time I saw them as unnecessary childlike guides that were intended to help us to interpret our world, and when it occurred to me that-that is exactly what they were the simplicity of it steadily grew on me, and suddenly I felt as if the necessity of myth was more important for our humanity than I was once able to accept, I began to perceive mythology from an emotionally intellectual vantage, and that changed the way that I perceive myself, and the world around me.
We tell stories to help us to understand ourselves and our worlds in ways more spiritual and emotional than we are--or were--otherwise able to acknowledge, however when we take those tales at face value when we ignore the intention and the power of mythology as it affect us spiritually and emotionally we ignore a guiding principle at the root of the human experience. Some myths we dismiss as fairy tale while others are so blindly accepted that we believe them to be literal and not parabolic, and from either perspective we lose a great deal of understanding, and of purpose.
“People say that we we’re all seeking is a meaning for life…I think what we are really seeking is an experience of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell
It became abundantly clear to me that we have rapidly abandoned a sense of self for the sake of convenience and diplomatic submissiveness, and we did so, I believe, from a fear of self-reflection, the great professor and writer Joseph Campbell coined the term “follow your bliss,” a modern manifestation of similar phrases such as “Know your own happiness,” (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; 1811) , “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing,” (Dale Carnegie, quoted by Jill Murphy Long in her book Permission to Play: Taking Time to Renew Your Smile; 2003) and others, and still for one reason or another it can be incredibly daunting being asked to find what makes you happy and then to do it [often], for a number of reasons, if not that people get stuck—we feel stuck. I know that personally I have struggled a great deal with the concept: the idea that once you discover who you are, and/or what you’re supposed to do everything should simply fall into place, which, of course, begs the question: well, how the hell do I do that? And, what if I never actually find out who I am, or what I’m supposed to be doing?
I have suffered from numerous creative blocks throughout my life that have affected me in ways: emotional, physical and intellectual, and every one of them was based the subconscious ideal that I really don’t have all that much to offer, and so I would kind of shut down at first and then that attitude would become a very real part of my personality. Like in the Jim Carrey Movie, Yes Man (2008). I actively sought different ways to change the way that I process thought and that I perceived that world. And yet the incredible healing power of myth has always been readily available, the issue has become that many of us have been conditioned to perceive myth as the childlike fairy tale only, and not encrypted parables developed to model and oversee our emotional and spiritual selves.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that mythology is archaeological psychology. Mythology gives you a sense of what a people believes, and what they fear.” ~ George Lucas.
Religion is a mythology that wears the mask of its own certainty, a parable which has been denied the possibility of evolution, and the only thing, the only idea since its inception that has been disallowed to evolve. Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll; if anyone adds to them God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. Joseph Campbell said something along the lines of: the narrative of Christianity can stay the same; the myths are based in truth, it just needs to incorporate modern myths in order to successfully associate with a contemporary ideology.
Myths allow us to conceptualize feeling and our spirituality in ways that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible for many to understand. These stories offer us a way to relate exactly in the only way that we are—or were—capable, as a reflection of the physical self. Consider the Roman or Greek pagan Gods, for example, and specifically the fact that there were so many: God(s) of the Sun, God(s) of War and of Love and others, many of us who have been raised with the perception that God is a being the origin of our image, whether we believe in God or not, and we attribute that to the Roman and Greek Gods of myth, but, in reality, these gods were merely vessels, the personification of what we might not understand in order for us to relate to the myth, and to our world. Campbell refers to them [God(s)] as an energy, or a reflection of the Sun or of War or of Love. Myth opens us up to the energies of the universe so that we can relate, and experience our universe on an emotional level.
Unfortunately we canonized the ethos of our myths, the space holders—the characters—and allowed the truths that, “All the Gods, all the Heavens, and all the Hells are within [you] us…” To be appropriated and manipulated and turned into fairy tales and further for our general perception of what a myth is to be distorted.
Have you ever wondered why we accept the standards from which we build the foundation of so many of our ideas upon? Have you ever looked at a definition, for example, and wondered why it was necessary to suggest, as an addition to the definition, that something might be, “A widely held but false belief or idea?”
Myths offer us only an opportunity to relate to our world and ourselves in ways that we otherwise may not be able, by inviting us to explore the energies and the many experiences that we are capable of in our lives, experiences that, without our myths, we may otherwise neglect or be guarded against.
I was sitting on my couch last night listening to the rain, and reading; something that I read distracted me from what I had been reading, although I did continue for several paragraphs before I realized that I hadn’t actually retained a word of anything that I read after losing myself in thought. I started thinking about my life, and more specifically how I live my life and the day-to-day routines or anti-routines that are the makeup of my waking hours. A great deal of my time is spent working on communiteabooks.com, on my website. If you’re wondering what that actually looks like it is: ordering books to build my inventory, uploading books to the website, looking for new ways and new platforms to market, as well as maintaining, and building on my current marketing and social media marketing strategies, coming up with new creative design ideas for the website and implementing them, reading and studying up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices, learning to write code--not very well, or at all really--in order to create the best possible website that I can—I am currently working on figuring out a way to alphabetize my inventory by author instead of the first letter of the product title, because that is a bit of an issue for browsing, and overall customer experience on the website, I’m kind of losing my mind trying to figure it out—writing blogs, and taking, packaging, and shipping orders (I may have overlooked a few things).
I’ve been feeling anxious lately because...well I thought it has been because I have not yet seen the same return for the work that I have done on the website, as well as a growing anxiety that includes, but is not limited to the idea that I am not meeting certain expectations that some people might have of me, or that I have of myself—in my family and social life. I have kind of thrown myself into this project, well, this career head first, and entirely. The only consistent social experiences I follow through with during any given week are my workout schedule—which in, and of itself is a solo activity, I just happen to be surrounded by people while working out—and our Monday night Trivia game at Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., and I haven’t been enjoying that as much as I once did. It’s not the game, or Cibolo, or the people really it’s just that the intrigue is fading a bit. Also, for the last few years I’ve been thinking about the things that interest me, and I may have covered this briefly in a previous blog, but I’m having a difficult time thinking of anything that I actually enjoy doing, like given the scenario: “what would you like to spend one evening every week doing?” I think about bouldering, camping, hiking, biking, reading, making music, painting, photography, writing, I can think of a dozen or more things that I have enjoyed at different points throughout my life but I’m not currently doing any of them, for example: I have a nice cycling bike, when I lived in New York and Santa Fe I would commute by bike (and train), but it was a significant part of my life, my bike currently has two flat tires, and changing the tires on one of these bikes is not exactly as straightforward as changing a tire on a Huffy, still I could do it—I just don’t.
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, last night I realized that I have been sabotaging my own happiness. Not to an extreme or anything—partly because I don’t really do anything to either extreme of any spectrum—but, sabotaging it nonetheless. Here’s another example: I spend a lot of time uploading books to the website. When I first built the site I spent three months (at least) eight to ten hours a day doing nothing but uploading book after book after book after book. When I upload books I type in the title, the author, a synopsis, add a picture, write some SEO, figure out an accurate representation of the condition of the book, decide whether it’s new, used, remainder, rare or collectible, and the genre, and determine a fair (or better than fair) market value price and I save the finished product to the site. I do this for every book. At the time I also watched all of The Office, Parks & Rec, Numb3rs, and something else, I can’t remember. I took a break from uploading books to the website and started developing Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Buzzfeed sites, and working on technical stuff and marketing for the website. I recently came back to uploading books, and I’m only doing maybe twenty a day, unless it’s Tuesday because I’m uploading my own books as well as the New Releases of the week (new books are released on Tuesday’s). Anyway, I realized that I actually really enjoy uploading books! I love going through each book, figuring out the condition, researching the price, discovering again if it’s signed, just everything about why I love books in general I get to do every day. I also love building the website! I love developing new design techniques, figuring out SEO, and all that crap—I’m not much for technology but the design aspect of it and coming up with new ways to direct people to my site, it’s so much fun. What I don’t actively like, granted, is that I do all of this on a computer, which I’m reminded of constantly when the damn thing doesn’t want to load something, or the internet randomly stops working, or if I move from one tab to another and when I return the first tab has to reload again often causing thirty seconds of anxiety riddled silent belligerence. Nevertheless, I am really enjoying the creativity and the experience. And, I never noticed how much I enjoy until now. Instead, I worried only about the tens of thousands of people that will one day visit Communitea books someday...
I related a number of things in my life currently to this sabotage of happiness, and it clearly affects me in a number of ways, all of which are easily recognizable but unconscious nonetheless: attitudes, behaviors, choices, thought processes, actions and more what I do and do not do. it's present in almost everything that I thought about, in some way. Do you know that feeling when you are putting so much thought and effort and intention into an idea or a dream or a goal and you’re applying yourself actively in the process in as many positive ways that you possibly can, but that goal always still is just out of reach?
I've begun to correlate the concept to developing an open-mind. You know? Like, how do you do that, really, how do you train your brain to be open-minded? A lot of people out there think they know, they just simply accept all progressive ideas and tendencies as truth in the extreme form, and unabashedly argue the merits until they’re blue in the face. However, I don’t believe that the unconscious demanding of compassion is actually acceptance or understanding, your just think that you might want it to be—"fake it till you make it". I was watching some stand-up special on Netflix the other day and the comedian was telling a story about something that I cannot repeat in a blog aimed to market for a small business, but it challenged the way I thought about something. A lifestyle that I didn’t have an issue with before, and I still don’t, and yet the way I consciously thought about the idea—that I have been a proponent of anyway for as long as I can remember—provided a new perspective, and a new understanding. Basically, I don’t think you can develop an open-mind until you really stretch an idea in favor or against as far as you’re able, you know, until you have reached the furthest point of your own level of acceptance that you are personally capable, and then to stretch your mind further until the idea itself is stripped of meaning entirely. It’s like actively thinking about the universe expanding, allowing your mind to stretch itself into a space that you were previously unaware of.
I have put so much intention into developing something for such a long time that I never really stopped to let it expand, or to see what it was capable of expanding into. I was just going through the motions, and so monotonously that I was no longer aware even that I was enjoying myself.
And then, of course, I started thinking about how long I’ve been doing this to myself, and the obvious answer is sense my last serious relationship ended while living in Santa Fe, and that’s true in the sense only regarding how intensely I have been sabotaging my own happiness but, in reality, I have been doing some form of this for years, and ultimately it goes as far back as when I decided to drop out of college. Coming to that realization was interesting because I do believe that our society has learned to ignore the efforts and creative developments of the individual in exchange for a system of machine-like functionality.
“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, which prevent us from living freely and nobly.” ~ Bertrand Russell
I left university in response, largely, to the very concept. I didn’t want to be another cog in a machine, I didn’t want to think with narrow-minded un-intention, and therefore blindly falling into that possibility made me nervous. However, simultaneously I could not ignore the fact that I was, nevertheless, a part of this system. I couldn’t just will myself out of it. And I didn’t have enough guidance or understanding of that system to maneuver in or around it, at the time. Unfortunately I spent the next five years systematically destroying everything that would have allowed me to create exactly what I would eventually need to create. I essentially lived somewhere between the systems of man and of nature, like a little mouse scurrying about looking for food. I believe that I began to sacrifice my happiness, but I cannot be sure exactly what I was sacrificing it for. Somewhere through my short string of very memorably bad relationships I sacrificed sacrificing my happiness for the more adult like, and responsible action of sabotaging my happiness.
Are you familiar with Time Release Therapy? The idea is that you consciously, and unconsciously let go of certain behaviors or emotions, such as depression or anxiety, by going back to before when they took root in your psyche and you allow yourself to feel what you felt, and then to “come back to the present,” with those negative behaviors or emotions having never existed—that’s somewhat of an oversimplification but the idea is getting across. I had a conversation not too long ago with someone who referred to Confirmation Bias as pseudo intellectualism, I think he even went on to list several other negative adjectives, and I have not yet been able to get that out of my head. I have, of course, come across people with ideas like that before, especially living in Texas but for some reason this one conversation affected me a great deal. If he thinks Confirmation Bias is pseudo intellectualism he would have a field day with Time Release Therapy. What do people actively do then to work through their issues, you know? I mean we live in a society where we are taught--whether directly, or indirectly--that we have to actively do something in order to change or fix it, but we’re also taught what it means, and looks like to actively do something, and it correlates with disregarding what many would consider pseudo intellectualism. Affirmations, for example. The act of affirming is actively doing something, but I was thinking last night as I was reciting some affirmations, “what the f&$k am I doing?” And, thinking about where the belief that an affirmation would not work came from, like why did my doubt of affirmations even cross my mind? So I started affirming to affirm.
“Affirmations do make a difference.” ~ Me
…and then I started laughing, because I realized that “It’s OK for me to happy...
In point of fact America has always been great.
I believe that it is insulting to the American people to suggest otherwise, regardless of whether it is in the form of a media debate or a campaign slogan; however, America was never great simply for the sake of being great. Many Americans allocate greatness for convenience in order to validate something, or themselves; attributing our greatness to a flag and a pledge, in honor specifically of a military that may or may not feel contempt for the manner in which Americans express themselves. Our greatness does not rest entirely on the shoulders of our military, our politics, or our sociopolitical perspectives. Our greatness is not the contract that is our constitution, the foundation of our greatness is within the written resolve for which the constitution has allowed us to be, and to become.
America is great because we aspired to do great things—because we aspired to greatness. The American people never waited for the government or the media to tell us what to think, or how to act, or who we were; we did not need everyone to agree with us. We are not great because of our personal ideologies but, rather, because we have been idealistic. America is great because we aspired to be educated, to be artistic and analytical, to be compassionate and resolute, challenging and supportive, and to be open-minded and critical. America discovered greatness in people and our ability to connect with one another in our compassion and our understanding.
“We stood for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars…We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easily. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step to solving any problems is recognizing there is one.”
America is great because we stand for one another, not against; we did not paint right and wrong as a portrait of personal preference or belief—we became one despite of our differences, and stronger because of them. We discovered greatness in humility, and intelligence; for a time we allowed religion, science, and intellect to coexist and to develop not as one, or together but besides one another, because we were accepting of one as well as the others. Our scientist did not do things just to see if it could be done, we did so for the sake of our development or survival, and we didn’t use or conceal our advancements solely for profit. We admire artistic endeavors, and stand suspended in awe at our achievements; regardless of the medium. We found integrity in our identities complete only if accomplished, and educated in the arts. We found dignity in drawing, painting, photography, dance, writing, and music and more—and we continue to, only we disparage the education of the arts.
We are more than capable of greatness, because we have never ceased to be great; Americans have always adapted to-, and felt empowered by challenge: we are twenty-second in scientific achievement, with intent and direction—we have the means to be better. We are third in median household income, because are idea of what work is, and what it means to work hard has been influenced—we have the means to be better. We are seventh in literacy, because we belittle education, and don’t recognize the need to reform and develop—we have the means to be better.
Many Americans have allowed the intention of a powerful few to dictate their morals and their beliefs; we have been exploited in exchange for our convictions, governed to direct our own authorities towards one another; pitted against unity, and detached from our purposes. We are not manipulated by a specific party affiliate, as American we are being handled by our government in its entirety as they use the intent of our own greatness, and capable passion against us. Our affiliated parties have many of us believing that they alone are the means to better our situations—that is not true. As Americans our liberation is not in disunion. America is great, and always has been great because we stand for one another.
People develop as a product of their time believing their childhood years to be among the best of their, and therefore anybody’s life. It is easy to look back on a time with the imagination of a child and see greatness, and that greatness may not seem to exist during any other point in our lives. I believe that our present is one of the most difficult times for America, there have been periods of struggle throughout our history, when many people could rely only on hope—many had nothing; I know that today we have more than we have ever had before, the benefits of developing technologies and sciences, but still so many people belittle and discredit our sciences in reaction to a perceived threat against their religion. I cannot help but to feel trapped in-between a culture of fear and/or invalidation, but for what? To what end?
I cannot understand why someone might listen to another human being offering philosophical or psychological guidance or direction and it being brushed off as, “pseudo-intellectual bullshit,” or “bushwa decadence,” why are we so dismissive of information? Why can we not accept one anothers perspectives in open-minded understanding? Whatever concept of greatness that any of you have come to revere about America our greatness is, and always has been a representation of our ability to concurrently be artistic and analytical, to be compassionate and resolute, challenging and supportive, and to be open-minded and critical. America discovered greatness people and our ability to connect with one another in our compassion and our understanding. America is great, because we have always managed to find cohesive contrast in our understanding, and perception of our world, and ourselves.
We have never before been so eager in our absoluteness and judgment of another as we are today, and regardless of whatever reason you may think you have to predicate and undermine those that behave or believe differently than you, it is not enough of a reason to dismiss the characteristics that help to define, and allow to endure what American greatness tenaciously is.
Those of you whom follow my blog likely recognize that I am fascinated by human behavior. The way that we interact with one another; what we communicate; what we choose not to communicate; how we communicate; how we choose to perceive others, and why? Every one of our interactions and the people that we disregard and befriend and fall in love with all of it is based entirely in the foundation of a simple choice: whether we want the good to outweigh the bad in our perceptions of another, or not. As our various relationships develop more seriously we do begin to focus on how the behaviors of another might affect our own, and whether or not a person is more likely to bring the good out in us than the bad, however by that point we more often than not have established an intellectually abiding perspective of a person that will only be intermittently affected by how we might sometimes feel.
Most people do not recognize our interactions—whether positive or negative—to be a cognizant choice, we have a tendency to acknowledge the insight that our emotions offer without really understanding why we might feel a certain way about something, or someone. In essence few of us are capable of consciously acknowledging our emotions and the affect that they might have on us—our emotions are not built-in sages or an oracle subliminally ushering us through life’s incalculable isles leading us towards one’s eventual, and metaphorical ‘seat,’ as many of us innocently accept. Our emotions are only, and quite simply emotions and they are as easily influenced by our experiences as our political affiliations or a propelling intrinsic desire to play golf after you retire (regardless of the fact that you’ve always hated it).
I suppose this thought is why it is recommended to try to avoid worrying about whatever it might be that people think of you. It’s such an encompassing rabbit hole. Perhaps there is a healthy medium somewhere in the middle, and no, no I do not, by any means, mean to imply that you should find its moderation, I cannot stand the idea—there is a terribly fine line between moderation, what some might call reason, and inherent objectivism—don’t lost yourself to “the middle.” Unless, it’s the middle-of-nowhere in which case I’ll meet you somewhere in the middle.
I do think about what people might be thinking about me; or, more to a point, what people might be saying about me. Although I do not necessarily worry. And I do not think that you can overthink something as long as you preserve direction. However there is a pygmy of a setting located an inch or so below my solar plexus that revels in frustration over the thoughtlessness of a person negatively influencing my reputation over misconceptions, or anyone for that matter. I cannot stand listening to people engage in pointless banter about the hypothetical's of another's situations without the direct acknowledgment or rebuttal of said person. The negative influence is proliferated by means of the ripple effect that outlasts a collective, and truth, as well as time. I believe that it is immanently and intellectually irresponsible.
There are a handful of accounts throughout my life that I do kind of dwell on, none of which were considerably impactful these accounts were nothing more than events which I have accrued over the years like any other, but for one reason or another there are a few that have stuck with me. The senselessness of the preoccupation is irrefutable, and I know this because I have, at one time or another, returned to them intently to reconcile, if you will, the matter. And, more often than not each account reveals itself inasmuch the way that the following unfolded:
“So, several years back now, and I mean like many, many years ago you asked me if I would like a few of the Goosebumps books for Christmas; at the time I was reading them, and you were very excited, like you had put some thought and effort into this. And, for reasons that I still cannot understand, my response was, “I like Goosebumps, but I’m not sure that they would be, like, a good Christmas present. You know?” I’m not really sure what that even meant. And you just burst out crying. I felt so bad. I have felt bad about it since then, I still feel bad, and I’ve thought about that multiple times every year for the last 25 years, at least. Do you remember that?" ... "Nope.”
The most recent of my accounts that will likely haunt me for many years to come is slightly different and when it comes to mind I physically shake my head, as if to say “Geezus f@%$ing Christ what the hell is wrong with you [me]!” I had a pair of friends not too long ago, and I fell unabashedly in love with one of them, though she was—and shall forever remain—inconveniently unavailable. Throughout the course of a particular happenstance I had either succumb to jealousy or was plagued by an unfortunate knowing about a new friendly party to us all—or it was quite possibly a mish-mash of the two—and I made quite the ass of myself, however I did venture to redeem myself, and was fairly successful until, that is, one evening when I boomingly exemplified each and every negative characteristic that I had accused our new friendly party of. The characterization was almost artful, as if I was intentionally wisping myself away like a leaf in the wind, blithely making myself irrelevant in a single flourishing display of indifference. But, of course, what I was really guilty of was overcompensating, which is something that I occasionally do when I feel something—an emotion—that I am momentarily unable to recognize, or that I am suspicious of. The inconvenient love began to ignore me after that, and shortly after the pair adventured towards new and pageant things. To be quite honest I’m not entirely sure that-that is why she stopped talking to me, but it seemed a reasonable inference to me, and furthermore it has contributed, like many things before, to developing a better and socially unique understanding of my emotions.
And, now to bring this insight full circle: I suggested before that our emotions are not some kind sage-like oracle providing angelic guidance from…wherever, but, I don’t know, maybe that’s not entirely true—however I would posit that unless you are capable of acknowledging and recognizing your emotions they will be more likely to lead you blithely into irrelevance than they will inspire some artistic and creative means to channel our inner hole-in-one.
I have always envied people whom are capable of speed reading, and retaining all of the information, the extreme side of the spectrum is an eidetic memory, otherwise known as a photographic memory. Many scientist agree that you cannot develop and eidetic memory, but I am not so sure about that. I read an interesting fact about eidetic memory that I shall share with you is that: the memory does not rely upon visual input, but rather it utilizes the capacity of the other body senses (Koka, 2016). And, with that in mind, there are exercises that you can do to improve your memory, such as: working on visualization skills (e.g. memory recall in greater and greater detail), playing card games (learning to count cards, etc.), encourage active reading (reading something with intent to discover information), chunking information into smaller bites, learn to make [memory] multi-sensory (explore your surroundings with all your senses, consciously), the ‘Duel n Back’ game (which can be found at brain scale), and the method of loci, or ‘places,’ which is spatial memory (walking around your home with zero light using only your memory to guide you without running into anything).
Another method that presented itself one evening while I was watching Road Trip with Sean William Scott, Amy Smart, Tom Green and others: a key to learning, and retaining information quicker and with greater ease comes by relating new information with information that you already have.
“Rubin: “What Class is that again?” Josh: “Ancient Philosophy” Rubin: “Well I can teach you ancient philosophy in 46 hours.” Josh: “Really?” Rubin: “Yeah, I can teach Japanese to a monkey in 46 hours. The key is just finding a way to relate to the material.””
Many of us do not realize however that we actually do have to teach ourselves how to learn, and memory, as most of us were fortunate to realize at some point in high school, is a huge part of learning, and understanding that we are capable of stretching our memories to retain information that we do not really want to have. We never have a problem remembering things that we are interested in—those things that intrigue us—but all that other crap, all of that everything else, that we would rather not deal with—do we really need that? And why does it so often stick with us anyway? When I was growing up it was easier to separate the two, however now, with Facebook and our media—having changed as dramatically as it has—useless crap is spilling out of our ears. I, for one, have no interest in political memes, although one did help me to recall the correct response at trivia last week, nevertheless it occurred to me that if my brain has to retain that one piece of useless information that popped up on my Facebook feed that I could not care less about, I would much rather my brain simply remember everything that it sees, reads, and hears all of the time, exactly.
I watch Criminal Minds: Behavioral Analysis Unit and, for those of you who are also fans you already know where I am going with this: Dr. Spencer Reid is an f@$king badass. Dr. Reid has an eidetic memory; the especially fantastical episodes or scenes are when he hits a switch in his brain and we watch him recalling information, even conversationally, verbatim. I want that! I read two books fairly recently that were incredibly fascinating, and I would like to come back to them once that I have made certain deductions about memory, I have a feeling I will get more from reading it with [those] in mind—you know by employing that thing I mentioned earlier called active reading—they were How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, a book which many people are familiar with, I think that it is required reading now in many college courses, and Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.
I dated a girl not too long ago that could open a book and within hours have finished it, and I am not talking about one of those pleasant ‘one sitting’ novels, I mean a novel that is, on average, three- to four-hundred pages and I suppose that she remembers a good bit of it, probably because in those hours she allows it to consume her. And now that I am thinking about it that thought, actually, might explain a lot. I envied that about her, but it was all that I envied about her, and now knowing that a novel, in as many ways as is possible, became, for those few hours, her reality and she became, for those few hours, whichever character she deemed fit, and as she would come out, many of those characteristics, those that she either shared with a character or wish she had, would become a part of her, and after a time, and many-many books, she had become a puzzle of a collection of pieces each of which allowed her to experience something about this world she was afraid to actually touch.
“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” William Gibson
My memory is unusual, I cannot make sense of it. I remember behaviors well, and intentions, and ambitions, alongside useless facts, and where at a table people sat, however there are some things that my memory does not seem to have an inclination for and the reason escapes me, but probably only because I am looking for it. The ultimate irony is how can I look for a memory that is behind me, and only in shadow?
“We take it for granted that life moves forward. You build memories; you build momentum. You move as a rower moves: facing backwards. You can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way.”
I think, when it comes down to how I perceive the world, in our humanity, and as emotional creatures it seems obvious to me that we are bound to our moods, and our feelings, and our emotions too entirely they affect us profoundly in a moment and then in the next moment that feeling is fleeting, and we are different. Memory, which lives in such high regard, as if memory in-, and of itself was a being of our own creation that we are indebted to and that follow us, and yet our memories are as fluid and fleeting as the feeling that inspired our behavior in the first place, I think that is why eidetic memories are so intriguing to me, because they are balance; imagine a space between logic and emotion that collects the pieces that are left behind, and that space is neutral—remembering everything as it was, exactly and not how our emotions wanted them to be. From my humanist perspective that would astounding, but, on the flip side of that it would also be pretty great to locate a single passage from War and Peace on a moments’ notice just for the hell of it from my head.
For as long as anyone can remember reading, or being a reader has been synonymous with being smart. As a child if you enjoyed reading in school you were a nerd, inasmuch as being good at math, or science, or what, I don’t know, being able to build a *lamp. I wasn’t this child. I did not have a particularly normal childhood. The dynamics of my schooling did not fit within the confines of the stereotypical Jr. High, High School drama. I was kind of a nerd jock: which is to say that though I played basketball and tennis, and I ran cross-country and track at different points throughout those six years, I was labeled as being smart—though I never understood why. I wasn’t particularly smart. I hated reading the assigned reading. I pretty much hated doing everything that I was expected to do, and as an unconscious result I lived as unexpectedly as I cou…well, as unexpectedly as I wanted, at least inasmuch as the unexpected would fit into the purview of how I thought I might want to live my life, someday—yes, that’s seemingly paradoxical, but if inquired I will always explain the unexplainable when explaining me.
Of course I did, eventually, come to enjoy reading once I had escaped the invisible bubble of the accepted, and expected societal constructs of systemic humanism, which is to say that once I no longer had anyone telling me what to read, how to read, and what to think about what I was reading. Still I could never shake the concept of the synonymic between readers and intelligence. I thought about it for a long time as if working through a math problem in the back of my head over the course of years, and years (I would do the same with religious and political ideas, as well). See, there were adults in my childhood who were apparently intelligent, I mean, based on a series of mutually accepted societal measures these people would be considered, by all means, intelligent. Yet, I could see through them. I thought back to Jr. High and High School and this apparent impression of intelligence that surrounded me, and how I did not actually fit that construct, and then how at the present time, I was an avid reader, I had become synonymous with the construct, and still I could not accept the identity of-, or measure that intelligence granted. I could read every book that I got my hands on, and enjoy it, and want to know more, and still anything that I might learn from picking up a book was equally accessible to everybody.
One day—I cannot remember where, or when, or why—it occurred to me that the way we perceive and measure intelligence itself is simply wrong. I mean, think about our IQ: it’s supposed to be fixed, it’s supposed to never change, but considering how often we change that’s ludicrous, and we base our intelligence on a series of ostensibly calculated questions that have been accepted arbitrarily by an academic minority in order to organize us, but it’s all entirely academic. How can we possibly base the ‘intelligence’ of a persons’ humanity on our hypothetical academic agility? The idea is based on an academic cast system establishing ranks with the understanding that the top tier, at the highest level of humanity, is chaired by college professors. Yet we still put so much stock in the idea. Politically even, the Alt-Right and many Conservatives are not classically educated, they are vocational and business oriented, and they often mock the more classically and liberally educated left while still maintaining the idealism of an academic intelligence, as if they accept IQ as the God of the classic liberal, and they revere Him.
But look, our humanity does not exists entirely in our head. Our bodies are not vessels designed only to carry our brain from one place to another. We are social creatures, by our very nature. Everything in our lives changes: the jobs we keep, the ideas we share, the beliefs we hold, the facts we covet, the environments in which we live, the people that we know it will all change throughout our lifetime, however the one thing that will never change regardless of the extent of our effort is that there will always be people in our lives. This is unequivocally the one thing in life that never changes, so would it then not make sense to define our intelligence by the way that we act, and react towards people?
Daniel Goldman wrote a small handful of books describing the different intelligences that we, as humans, share however Mr. Goldman based it all on the idea that our original measure for intelligence is true, and that academia somehow casts a shadow over us in dominion, but our present education system was designed in the early 20th century to accommodate farming families and industrial workers, it was not designed to develop well-adjusted, informed, innovators, artists, and thinkers. We have let the system dissolve without reform and now our education system is a f%#king disaster, and that is in part because we have developed the belief that our bodies are only vessels to carry our brains from one moment to the next; Daniel Goldman would suggest that basing our intelligence on our ability to interact well with others is Emotional Intelligence, however I would suggest that, if there is such a thing as emotional intelligence that it should be recognized entirely by how well we act, and react to our own emotions, not the emotions of others, and definitely not by the means in which we interact with one another.
I believe that reading is identified with intelligence because the means in which we measure intelligence is based not only on outdated concepts, but concepts that may not have been appropriate to create parallels with in the first place. We inherently recognize a problem with the means in which we base the foundation of our entire society, so we avoid it, and as children, during school, we find ways to separate ourselves from intelligence. We create negative stigmas around ‘smart’ people and reading. And not only has the act of reading taken a loss because of those parallels but are humanity has as well, and it continues to. Until we decide to change the way we perceive the world around us.
Reading is deeply personal for me, the act of-, and the subject has always come from a place of familiarity. It has never mattered, either, what I’m reading, or what I’ve read. There have been a number of people throughout my life whom have inspired to engage with me about books, and stories because I’m a writer, an avid reader, and a book collector. However, I don’t enjoy talking to people about the stories that I read. Even when describing, or explain a plot, I have never felt comfortable opening up to a person about the subject of any book that I have ever read. Still, people try, and they will never not want to converse with me about what I have read.
I will, instead change the subject, slightly, to similar books or authors, and if at all possible about parallel philosophies, anything that will redirect the conversation.
I have been asked many, many times to review books for people. Just today I read a message on LinkedIn from a publisher asking if I would consider reviewing, they have several ARC’s out this month. And I have reviewed books, in the past, and I enjoy it—which is strange. I’m a writer, I enjoy the process, and the means in which ideas, philosophies, and themes come to life from a place within ourselves, and sometimes, depending on who you ask from elsewhere. From above. The Great Creator…from somewhere else.
Sharing ideas, even someone else’s idea in a way that is both illuminating and developing simultaneously intrigues me. I have always preferred expressing ideas more when I write them then I do when I verbalize them. I have had a long-time internal conflict with that process. Our society has led us to believe that there are very specific, and exclusive behaviors that are more acceptable than others, and those that not only accept but prefer those means are rewarded. And though I enjoy talking to people; I love the art of conversation, it can never compare to how I feel, and what I’m capable of expressing when I’m writing.
I recently, watched a TED Talk with Matt Goldman. He described his 3rd grade music class: everyone was brought into a room, with a piano, and the teacher played ‘C,’ the 9 year olds were all asked to sing, to hold the ‘C,’ and after each student stood and sang they were asked to stand in one, of two groups. Finally, after everyone had finished singing, one of the two groups, the group that Matt Goldman was in, was asked to leave, Goldman explains that he did not have another music class until Middle School. Similarly, in an English class years later a paper he had written was returned to him, he received a C+ on the paper, which, apparently, he was pleased with, because it wasn’t a C-, or a D. Except that underneath the lettered grade, written in pen, was the note, “As good as could be expected.” Which, Goldman says, stung a little. Matt Goldman went on to cofound the Broadway sensation, Blue Man Group. Making a career of writing, music, and almost everything else. Sir Ken Robinson gave a TED Talk titled Do schools kill creativity? In which he describes a young girl who was often getting into trouble in school because she could not stop moving. Finally, after trying a number of things, her mother took her to a psychologist. The three persons sat in his office, the girl struggling to keep still, but being very respectful and kind. After several minutes of talking the psychologist asked to speak with her mother outside. The two stepped outside and he explained to the mother that he didn’t really want to talk to her, he wanted to see what the young girl would do once the adult left the room. Inside the girl was on her feet, and dancing away. The psychologist turned to her mother and said, “There’s nothing wrong with your daughter. She’s a dancer. She needs to dance, to think.” That young girl is Gillian Lynne, who went on to earn more than 60 stage credits, most as Choreographer for notable shows such as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Neither Matt Goldman nor Gillian Lynne may not have accomplished what they had if they listened to, or were met with an opposition that may have paralyzed them.
When I write I think differently, more creatively, more introspectively, and when I’m reading there is a similar relationship with the subject. People, sometimes, well, often, don’t understand that. When I review a book—with the exception of one situation—the author has met my review with great gratitude, and that’s, most likely, because of how intimate reading is for me. When writing a review I attempt to keep my review as commercial and unbiased as possible, but as a writer and a reader, as someone who feels a deep connection with story, and the written word, it’s exceptionally difficult for me not to relate to something, and in a very personal way.
I love to read, but I do not love to talk about what I read. I don’t enjoy sharing my experience with the book. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard, or maybe some words and thoughts and feelings, for me, are not meant to be shared or expressed. The way I relate to people, in this way, is by putting a book in their hand, telling them to forget the world, and to read. To just read.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.