The Pope gave his blessing to campaign finance reform. But does the Pope know about campaign finance? Campaign finance is an issue created by the two-party system culture, a culture which perpetuates the notion that their system is the one and only institution of electoral government. Any attempts to help us vote for “clean” candidates within this system, although good-intentioned, only serve to disempower and dumb-down an American populace that desperately needs to become more aware of the issues and, more importantly, how much power it truly holds to vote outside of this system. The influence of the two parties plants the fear in people that they should not “throw their vote away” on candidates outside of the ones compromised within the Democratic/Republican oligarchy. The obvious truth is that we do have the freedom to vote for candidates outside the two-party system. Our power needs to be exercised… through what we buy, where we bank, how we help our own communities, and WHO WE VOTE FOR, which is still the biggest factor that determines who gets elected, regardless of how much money comes from special interests.
A representation of reality.. surrogate for living. The digital opium of friends mashed up into a little screen. A concentrated blasting of relentless emotions, passions and boredom, false truths and true facts, passive aggressive sarcasm, takers, givers, and inspiration.
You make us feel good.
Ironically, you make us feel connected.
I just revisited the movie, The Godfather, and this line shared by Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro coincides with a recent measure I’ve enforced on myself, making myself an offer I can’t refuse. I’ve given myself no choice. I must be present, I must show up, or I fail. More and more people are doing it every year, and it’s happening across the world: We are addressing our primal need for danger and challenge.
Surfing, skiing, mountain biking, mixed martial arts, powerlifting, Crossfitting, entrepreneurship. These require your full attention. Your diligence. And once there, you find yourself in the ecstasy of presence, of productive bliss, of conquering and understanding. Of truth.
And you don’t need to go skydiving to experience this. What I’m talking about is getting focused at your task, like when the coders were “wired in” in the movie The Social Network. It’s called the flow state, as coined by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi from the studies he’s done with people. It’s a primal state of clarity. It’s simply when you flow from decision to decision, without fear, without confusion. You are wired in. You are fully present, and experiencing life.
So one way I put myself on the line is simple, harmless, but highly effective: I set a timer for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes. For each task I have: writing, a work task, reading a chapter, cooking. I click the timer and I go. I am “on the clock.” I don’t have any other options once I click that timer. And it works. There’s no time to think. Your bike crests the hill and gravity grabs you, nature takes hold, and there is no turning back.
The flow state is where we aren’t thinking of any other task but the task at hand. Anxious, fearful, impatient, embarrassed? Then you’re not in flow. Flow means we’re focused, we’re present, and we’re totally invested. There’s no time to worry. You’ve isolated a slice of your life. I’ve given myself a 15 minute mini-life. You see ‘death’ coming up, the end, and there’s no time to procrastinate. No time to think, “maybe this won’t work, maybe this will suck”. You just need to push off down that hill, you need to grab that breaking wave, and go, go, go. There’ll be time to judge yourself after you act.
The cost of not getting into flow? No bliss. Marginal levels of happiness. Imagine crawling when you could be running. Imagine a potted plant on a window sill compared to flourishing in the full sun of a meadow.
Can we soak up all the experience in our life? Can we live it like it’s going to end?
Of course we can. It’s going to end anyway, right?
Because we’ve all been given an offer we can’t refuse: Death.
Nick eats eight meals a day. He has little containers of food that he brings to work. He goes to Sam’s Club to buy the big bags of broccoli and diapers.
Kevin takes long bike rides with a group. They stop at a buffet after their rides.
Rick has 2 dogs which he misses every day when he comes to work.
So my story is… these people. Their stories become part of my story. The story of our lives is the background in our lives. The stuff that gets blurred out as we acclimate to the noise or don’t bother to ask.
As we get more focused on getting from point A to point B…apartment to house, house to bigger house, less pay to more pay, this partner to that partner, single to married, searching for the cool place to go and hang…we miss all the infinite points between. Those points are the people, places, and opportunities. They form the canvas of our life. When they’re connected, they become our life drawing.
That’s why when our actions are made without context, without others, without a why, without looking around first, then those actions become indefinite, their borders hazy, and after years of this, our life ceases to be meaningful.
The aim is not make a straight line. The point is not to hit each point, each milestone, checking the box, then seeking the next one. The point is to expand over our canvas, not stay isolated in our office, career, home, or family. The intent is to learn, and absorption doesn’t work unless you’re listening and putting yourself out there.
We do need goals. But what are the goals? Career, personal life, family life…how much effort to spend in each bucket? The tangibles can be met fairly easily, especially here in the US, but what happens when you realize that you’ve lost years of experience, potential friends, lovers, and new places, because your goals became your life, and living the moments fell off the list?
“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”
– Geoffrey Wolff
Choose carefully, but just make sure you choose. The tangibles are easy to measure. The intangibles are not. Thing is, we’re here for the intangibles.
I am watching the water crash on the rocks. It foams, seething, shifting its millions of molecules into a writhing mass before settling into the Pacific ocean once again. The sun was coasting into a radiant shower of gold and white and red on the horizon to my right. And then without fair warning, it was gray and raining and cold. Because it was Ohio, and I had returned home. And my spirits plummeted.
But then, almost as quickly, the melancholy lifted away, and I focused on the tasks in front of me, and it was easy. Everything was easy. My mind had changed, my tendency to immediately catastrophize was gone. Everything was fine, how it should be. This could be because of the meditation that I’d begun months ago, a regular meditation to bring control back over my mind and its racings and musings. It could also be the recent loss of friends who passed away and made me stop worrying so much and instead start doing things to enjoy the present.
But I think the way I adapted to the muck of my current atmosphere was due mainly because of my vacation…two main things about it. It was long enough to immerse myself into where I was. After day 7, I was all there, not thinking about the future and returning. Instead, I was in the moment, so I truly experienced my get-away, instead of the usual 5-7 day scheme of the standard vacation. Second was the vastly different landscape from the the unremarkable flatlands of Ohio. It was new and uncommon. It was a fresh perspective on what it means to live. The earth was presenting itself to me like never before.
So take a long vacation from what you’re doing or wherever you are. You don’t need to go across the country, but you do need to get out of whatever it is you’ve acclimated to, whatever safe haven you think is permanent, and take a bite out of some new food for your brain. The risk and potential discomfort of that adventure are nothing compared to the resilience you will develop for those familiar gray days. Days that will always be there, wherever you reside. We’re here for new experiences. They not only keep us happy, but they keep our mind limber and fit to keep going in whatever our day to day presents us.
I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Too poor to vote Republican.” After laughing at the joke, I thought that it was kind of insulting to the Republicans who are poor. But then I grew serious, because this divisiveness is exactly what the Democratic party apparatus would like us to follow. Where do they get their millions of dollars to run for office? Do they cobble it together from the poor? I would guess not. Does it matter? Do they still fight for the poor? Yes, they do. But in recent years, they’ve tried to help the poor while they’ve promoted the wealthy to concentrate their wealth using a growing, unregulated banking industry…an industry that helped bring down the whole economy because of their dishonesty and greed. Of course, all of our 401k’s are with these banks, and we benefit from their dishonesty, but the question is, if we know they are dishonest, what does that make us…?
Heaven is perfect. Everything to be understood is already understood. Any choices we make don’t change our happiness. We’re perfect. We have nothing to strive for. There is nothing more to know. A constant state stretching into infinity.
Heaven, perhaps not coincidentally, sounds like death.
Your actions are insignificant since everything will turn out as it should. During death, you become disordered into the system. But in heaven, everything is ordered. And since there is no disorder to shy from, the order is meaningless. And if there are any changes in heaven, they become meaningless, too.
This is why we must make choices with positive or negative consequences.
To have significance, our existence must include taking risks. There must be a negative outcome to suffer, so that there is a positive state for us to value. We must have a little suffering, a little wanting, a little desire, to make life worth living, actions worth taking, love worth making, and friendships worth building, because…
No desire means no love
The argument for a heavenly state is that we need to be content…we need to have gratitude with what IS before looking to what more can be. Desire leads only to more desire, unless checked by gratitude. Gratitude gives us peace. It keeps us grounded. It allows acceptance of what is, so our identity does not become wrapped up in what we do. Our selves always come before our job, or home, or looks, or our friends. If those things are stripped away, our gratitude for our humanity, for just having the dumb luck to be born, to exist, this profound truth will sustain us.
Gratitude allows us to value life. And valuing life itself gives us the reasoning for how we will use this life. Why we do something is as important as what we do.
But a heavenly gratitude without the passion to act is a divine lobotomy, stretching timelessly into oblivion
Human nature ties us all together. After we recognize that we all grow angry, fearful, happy, anxious, peaceful, lustful, needy… then we…then we can decide how to act. Will I be driven by my insecurity? Or by purpose and confidence and love?
As much as our natures are alike, our behavior differentiates us. Yes, we are all special, but only because of our behavior.
Our behavior makes us who we are
Our behaviors are based on our decisions, and we decide based on costs. Costs of how much we want to suffer, how much we want to risk losing something for what we love…Do we shoot for the love…or not?
Heaven is perfect. But that just isn’t good enough
So, don’t lose that desire. Carry heaven in your mind, but realize there’s more to you than the passive contentment behind those pearly gates.
To a new year of risk. To days that end with a resounding “hell yes!” or with a little fear because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And ultimately…doing what you love.
Cheers to 2013, friends.
I just saw the movie, The Avengers. It was a disappointment to me, but this scene was so different from the rest of the movie. Really, I felt it to be the best part. It delved into defining humanity…a quest that men have faced since men became men. Do we lead, or do we follow?
In the video, Loki tells everyone to kneel and follow, because he believes himself better than the rest. Only one man stands up against Loki.
As in most movies, only a few are willing to stand up, leave the safety of numbers, and face the fear, the danger of changing things, making a difference, and doing what’s right.
Life is not the movies. But if we want to be in a movie, let’s act like we are the hero in our own movie. Maturing is not only about accepting the way things are, but accepting your responsibility over them. Each of us lives in his own world, and makes his own decisions, but those decisions contribute to the sum of worlds from all the humans around him.
Loki is everywhere: The criticism without encouragement. The norm that keeps you safe and distracted from improving anything. The fear of the unknown. The culture that keeps us investing in irresponsible corporations and choosing leaders who encourage their existence.
There is no select few who can be superheroes.
Superheroes are just people who show up and do the right thing, for themselves and for the world they live in.
And it’s time we all stand up to the Lokis in the world.
When someone speaks reasonably about unreasonable things, they are either a genius, or a madman. Cast your vote carefully. If a person talks about spending money they don’t have, putting value in something that has no inherent value, taking away your liberties to fight an unseen enemy to protect your liberties, find another person to vote for. Gridlock ends when we elect people, from president to state rep, who will do the right thing, not follow what was done before because that’s the way things were always done.
Remember: There are many who are thinking just as you are.
When government representatives allow immoral but technically legal corporate practices, are we being just as immoral in re-electing those same representatives back into office? Does more regulation help our moral standards or just focus on legal standards? Does it matter? Why do we need legal standards when the moral thing to do is not give our business to those who are doing wrong with our money?
The government announced that starting this month, they will be buying $40 billion worth of near worthless bonds from the Wall St banks every month to try to save the economy. Using our money.
Think it will work?
Willing to bet your retirement on it?
Because if you have a 401k, you already are.