Character

Character is what you crave because authenticity is what you lack. Character can only be developed through the slow grind of real life; being put to the test and succeeding or failing on one’s own merits.

It is not to be found in sterile confines of a safe shoebox life.

It is bodily fluids on concrete.

It is realizing there is nothing to be done and yet trying something anyway.

It is failing spectacularly.

It is staring death in the teeth and surrendering to its will; then leaving that moment alive, realizing you have been spared until another day.

The artificial patina of photo filters overlaid upon your phone’s window to the world does not cut it. Nor do you tattoos. This is all product.

Bullshit.

You know it.

Live.

Get the fuck on with it already.

 

Natural

Baby birds fall out of their nests to be devoured alive by ants. Wildfires vital to forests’ health burn up all the critters, cute or not. Look at nature, really see it and what it does, and realize there is nothing in the universe that entitles you to anything beyond sure death.

Many think that everything must naturally work out for them because the universe or God or some benevolent spirit has a special plan for them. Maybe it will work out. Maybe it won’t. Maybe they are one of the baby birds that manages to stay in the nest. Maybe they aren’t. Do the birds that live to fly away think it is because they inherently deserve it? Perhaps they do.

Take in a mountain scene and it is beautiful, is it not? But in of itself it is not beautiful. It only is interpreted as such when it is processed through our minds. We decide what it is and so project our notion upon it. So it is with everything in our lives. Society. Culture. Religion. Money. All of it only has meaning because we all decide it does.

However, these fantasies of ours carry real weight. I can’t be with my wife unless some bureaucrat says it is okay. Because we were born on different sides of imaginary lines humans have created, we must pay office clerks special paper we’ve traded our time for in order to get other pieces of paper stamped. This permission is needed to live our lives the way we want. If we were to go together to certain places on this earth, I might be killed as a race traitor, because we were also born on different sides of another imaginary line.

This is all heavy. We have made it real because we have all decided that it is. But none of it is natural.

The power of our mind in our lives is absolute because, for us, it is the universe. Realize that the only thing you are owed is death; this is your only birthright. So between those two sure events, do your best to enjoy the fantasies you like, try not to take part in the ones you don’t, and if you find yourself on the forest floor covered in ants, try to take some comfort that there really was fuck all you could have done to prevent it.

Intersections

Of course loyalty is in play. Principles. Ideals.

But what of conflicting loyalties? Which are the higher loyalties?

What of different principles that run to cross purposes?

When at these intersections of life, what shall we betray?
What loyalties and principles are inviolate?
Which are disposable?

Often the only way to choose is to move in the direction that hurts less.

Make that choice and live with the consequences.
Accept the pain along with the joy.

Such is life.

On Judgement

If you are unable to find respectful, kind, and intelligent people to be with, this means that the respectful, kind, and intelligent people are avoiding you. Turn your gaze inward and try to figure out why that is.

This is not some kind of nebulous or ambiguous concept, like karma or the law of attraction. This is a reality born out of the simple relationship of cause and effect.

A popular theme among the young of mind is that of judgment. Don’t judge people, you have no right, is the general gist of it. But I think in the interweb land of groupthink enabling, the act of judging is getting a bad rap.

Without making judgments, we can’t function as human beings. “That looks like a shitty movie, so I won’t waste my time seeing it.” “That guy seems like a toxic asshole, I’m going to avoid him from now on.” “The road seems icy, I’d better slow down.” These are all judgments. The ability to quickly assess people, places, and things, and adjust our behavior accordingly is a critical factor in a person’s success and happiness in life.

“Yes, Captain Obvious,” you may well be thinking, “but we shouldn’t judge people for their personal choices and behavior (unless they’re conservative). That’s wrong!”

No it isn’t. How are we supposed to judge someone other than their behavior? Their eye color? The words people speak, the ideas they support, and how they treat themselves and other humans is all behavior. We make judgments on that behavior in order to categorize people into groups: friends, assholes, dangers, necessary bores, and whatever else.

Proclaiming: “I will not be judged,” is nonsense. Of course you will be. We all are. Never forget it. Much better to say: “I don’t want to hear your judgment of me, so shut the fuck up, asshole!” That is perfectly valid.

Making the distinction is important. We make judgments, and that is normal and necessary, but telling people what they are is another matter. In ninety percent of cases, our judgments and opinions are not something other people need to hear. No one gives a shit, and nor should they. If you are qualified to have an educated opinion in a matter, have been asked what you think, or are a real judge with legal power in a courtroom, then by all means, communicate your judgments to the world. But, otherwise, shut the fuck up and let people get on with their day.

The difference between making a judgment and being a judgmental asshole is the ability to shut your mouth.

Now there may well be times when it becomes necessary to communicate our judgments. For example: when a friend started pushing me into joining his family for a marathon viewing of the Star Wars prequels, which they all think are fucking awesome, I finally had to tell him that I think the movies suck. And what a fun argument that was to have!

In your life, perhaps your friend has graduated from blowing strangers at parties to blowing strangers at parties for meth that their boyfriend gives them. You may feel it is time to say something; to make your preexisting judgments about their choices known. Keep in mind, though, that saying something at this point is entirely about you feeling okay about you and your behavior: you have to speak up because to do otherwise would feel wrong. That’s good, just don’t expect this to go well or alter your friend’s behavior. Then, once you’ve spoken your mind the once, it’s time to shut the fuck up about it. If it’s too difficult to be around them, then say goodbye as respectfully as you can manage.

To flip this coin over, we get to being judged. It is never pleasant when someone tells us how they think we’re fucking up. However, whether they are an asshole or not, or even right or not, this person is doing you a service. Most people keep their judgments to themselves (albeit fewer and fewer these days). In eighty percent of cases, an asshole will never know that they have offended someone. People make a judgement, reassess their opinion of the offending party, and move on with their lives. So when someone makes their judgment known, you don’t have to accept it, but you can be assured that many other people feel the same way and are not saying anything about it. Indeed, most will not even tell you what they are really thinking even if you ask them to. Consider the judgmental asshole in your life as your canary in the coal mine.

(As a related aside: Germans are very useful in this regard.)

This brings us back to my original thought: that if you are unable to find respectful, kind, and intelligent people to be with, this means that the respectful, kind, and intelligent people are avoiding you.

I have known many an asshole who engages in all manner of douchebaggery, and they invariably believe that the silent suffering of those around them is acceptance and enjoyment of their bullshit. Then, when someone finally tells them off, that person becomes the villain. “How dare they say that to me! It was just a joke! I’m a funny guy: all my employees laugh their asses off every time I make fun of them.”

Just because an asshole has found a group (usually their family and coworkers) that have to tolerate them, it doesn’t mean they are tolerable.

This is the central idea to my original point. Birds of a feather flock together. So if every person you date winds up being a toxic asshole, and all your friends are toxic assholes, then, I’m sorry to tell you: you are a toxic asshole too.

Now I don’t mean to say that this is a totally universal phenomenon: there are overlaps of social circles, of course. And judgments are being made back and forth even if they are never articulated. And these judgments have very real repercussions in our daily lives; both good and bad. Some people call this karma. I prefer to think of it as interpersonal consequences.

Say my company is looking for a new employee. This is a good, entry-level job that has real room for advancement. I am in a position where who I suggest for the job will probably be hired, because I have a sound reputation there. I have a number of friends, from different walks of life, who are unemployed or hate their jobs. Who do I get the job for? Well, I’m going to have to make a judgment call, and it’s a serious one, because whoever I choose is going to reflect on me. So, that’s too bad that your job sucks so much, Biff. I’m sure something will come along soon for you, just keep looking. And, yeah, that’s a really awesome new tattoo you got of a flesh-eating zombie on your neck! Good work, buddy! Have you thought about going back to school to be a welder? It’s a good gig and you’ll fit right in.

It’s every person’s right to behave however they want, within the bounds of the law. But all of our behavior is judged, constantly, by everyone we meet and talk to. This is life. If you are feeling the lack of a certain kind of person in your life, the only remedy is to be that person yourself, and then you will find who you are looking for. Because that type of person will stop avoiding you.

Do what you will, it’s your life. Just don’t act like you are powerless to change your life and the people in it.

You are anything but.

Ikea Ball Pit

Like so many, when I was a kid I really, really loved the ball room at Ikea. It was a special, magical world; so tactile, lurid, and fuckin fun!

I believe I was four years old the last time I went into one. It was a formative experience for me.

Now, the time before my last was special too. It was during this visit that I finally worked up the courage to go face-first down the slide into the ball pit. I’d been watching other kids do it for a while and really wanted to myself. But I lacked the guts. It was not until the very end of this visit, with my dad hollering at me from the parents’ area to, “come on!” that I finally did it.

I went down head-first into all those marvelous plastic balls and it was everything I had dreamed. Then my dad poked his head through into the ball room to yell at me directly and I really had to go.

I became completely obsessed about getting back to that ball pit to do the slide again. I could not stop thinking about it, and would not stop pestering my father to take me back. After about a week of this, he obliged me.

Everything about that visit is etched so clearly in my memory. Rushing in the entrance. Seeing all those balls through the play room window. The glorious slide standing so majestic above it all. Me struggling to take my shoes off as quickly as possible. And, finally, climbing to the top of that slide, getting down on my belly, and going face-first down into the beautiful colors.

All exactly like I had been imagining.

Except, it wasn’t just like I had imagined. These balls were wet. All wet. And the wetness is on my hands. And face, And some is in my mouth. It was at this point that I realized the wetness was piss. Some kid had pissed in the ball pit at Ikea, and not just a little bit.

And I had just slid face first into it.

Joy turned into claustrophobic, disgusted horror inside of a second. I remember my visceral reaction so well: the rage that something so pure and so fun should be ruined so completely by someone else’s ignorance.

But I realize now that I was looking at it all wrong back then. This experience was really a chance to get a head start on understanding how our world is. I should have been thankful! Thank you so much, fellow humans! Thank you for preparing me so well for life, in such a succinct, easily understood physical metaphor.

Oh boy, little me! I bet you can’t wait to go to school! It’s going to be so much fun! (Face first slide down into a pit of piss.)

Hey, a girl actually likes me! I get to have a girlfriend now! (Face first slide down into a pit of piss.)

At last, I’m going to university, where I can interact with intelligent and motivated people and be judged for the quality of my ideas instead of people’s fucked up preconceptions! (Face first slide down into a pit of piss.)

Hey, I’m getting engaged!

…well, you know the drill.