2.286. Reflections on a Saturday Night

Good day today. Real good.

I had an opportunity to get a close up look at what my daily life could be in a few years. I liked what I saw. A lot. I’m pleased to be constantly reminded that this is not as good as it gets. I am likewise pleased to be reminded that my kids are developing into men and I get a front seat to all of it.

At some point last night I closed my eyes to sleep and found the familiar void waiting for me there in the darkness. I was terrified for a brief moment of the idea of death. Then, I breathed. I listened to my meditations and thought, yes, this too shall pass. This life shall pass. However, this moment also will pass and I should live in that moment and be completely in the moments of my life. There are so many good moments. There are several bad to balance my scale, but overall that scale tips towards joy. Today’s glimpse was yet another reminder of that.

Some Thoughts:

  1. Just read through a really stupid list ranking the last 51 #1 NFL draft picks. Really stupid. I say this because it feels like these guys have both lost touch with reality and, in absence of common sense, fallen to open contradiction and needling. For example, Myles Garrett is listed at 50 despite being one of the best DE’s in the game right now. Meanwhile Courtney Brown, who in his career had 10 more sacks than Garrett has in the 11 games he played is ranked at 25. The rationale? Garrett isn’t a QB, so… This speaks to the nonsense that is speculation. I’m done with it.

2.285. On Image and Reference

Yesterday I took a stab at our modern society. I called us a referential culture. What I meant by that is we are obsessed with maintaining the image of what we thought to be cool, acceptable, or special, and hardly at all willing to push forward on our own to create something new. In thinking about this blog I found myself listening to rappers talk about the trappings of what makes them successful. Almost everyone I listened to referenced the same set of items and achievements that qualified them as a success. In fact, all of the songs pointedly referenced the same stuff without doing much more than changing the cadence of the words. Their efforts were no more extraordinary than the gaggle of girls I see every single day wearing versions of the same outfit or men acting in almost the exact same way as half a dozen youtubers. It’s become a running joke in my house that all youtubers open in exactly the same way (what’s up guys?! or Hey, guys. It’s your boy “whoever”). We’ve gotten so used to being/providing a version of X that we no longer stop to ask why–or even consider being Y. Moreover any individual that shows even a basic ability to be better soon becomes treated like a hero. Look for evidence no further than the sport of baseball. Recently a Japanese pitcher joined the American baseball league. He, being a legit athlete, can hit and throw. He is hitting home runs and pitching near perfect games. Here in America, we expect a player to be able to do one or the other. As he is doing both, the sport is losing its collective mind.

Note: It isn’t that people cannot do both skills, it is simply not expected because it hasn’t been expected in a very long time. We got locked into specializations and forgot that from the age of little league kids were expected to do it all. I’m not saying this dude isn’t an awesome player. I’m just saying that nobody tries to do anything except what is expected and already tread ground, so him doing something different is likely to land him as rookie of the year.

That is how things are now. No new and reward for maintaining the image best. I personally remain unimpressed.

2.284. Some Thoughts

I have nothing but thoughts.

Some Thoughts:

  1. Trevor Noah doesn’t read the books. Once upon a Daily Show, Mr. Stewart read the books in advance and often brought in people he wanted to give a platform because what they had to say was profound. Noah seems more mainstream in his guests, with the obvious desire to get more black guests out there to say their piece. Still, you gotta read the book.
  2. I find the growing referential nature of our culture extremely upsetting. All we seem to do is take something that already exists (either in entertainment, business, even sports) and then riff on that in a fairly ridiculous and repetitive way. Rap, for example, is largely void of new sounds. Every song sounds like a continuation of the last one–yet another wack verse.
  3. Done with another season of school sports. It is fun to watch the boys grow and learn and compete. This is the last year that any two will be in the same school for a few years.
  4. Snapchat represents how kids are going to communicate in the future. Like Facebook it is a social media platform that originally was about the youth. As the non-youth start using it, the kids will find something new. Kids will always find the new and the trendy and the private. Adults will always try to monetize it.
  5. I find it very interesting that any public star (athletes, models, etc.) is almost expected to start a fund/foundation and or find some way to give back to the community. The hyper rich of the business community have no such expectations.

2.283. On Age and Understanding

This morning, as I was driving my son to his bus pickup, he looked at me and asked, “Why does your car say 2 million 192 thousand over there?” I studied the readout he was following and recognized that he’d misjudged an abnormal space for an extra digit spacing. I explained that the car only had 219,000 miles on it. This lead to a conversation about the car being older than he was and lead me to a startling recognition. I have a car with over 200,000 miles on it and I’m wondering why parts of it are starting to sound rough–why the car seems like it is breaking down. I can count the number of times I’ve taken the car to the shop for something other than tires on two hands. This includes all the oil changes and maintenance I’ve given it over the years. I have not taken care of the car and didn’t quite recognize that it was even getting old. Then today I recognized that it was already old and I hadn’t cared for it hardly at all. Then I recognized that I am old and I’ve cared for my own body far less than the car I drive.

The irony here is that I rely on my car to survive. I live in a desert environment 16+ miles from any real city. That being said, I rely on my body even more (having no ability to replace it eventually, as I intend to someday do with my car). Yet, I take so little care of my own vessel that it is a small miracle that I haven’t had more problems than I already do. I went to the gym today and worked a 30 minute circuit in hopes of continuing the slow-build momentum I expect to carry me into a healthier lifestyle. The workouts aren’t as hard as they could be, but I fear pushing myself too hard–especially at first–will drive me towards quitting. I don’t want to quit. I want to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I believe all three are linked and feed off each other in ways that can be beneficial or harmful based on the way an individual is being responsible for any of the three. I have not been very responsible for anything as of late and it is long past time I start.

I suppose today is part of that starting.

2.282. More

A day removed from my mid-kid’s birthday I find myself thinking about the concept of happiness. For most people around me happiness is simple, yet elusive. For some it is entirely modeled on what their siblings want. If one has a baby then that is what they want. If another gets a fancy car then that is what they want, as though mirroring their success manufactures a type of happiness. I myself live on the edge of a chasm that is the happy. I can peer down into it and know at the bottom is a great many things into which I may fall. As such I am happy in waves and often for different reasons.

What I seek presently is to find the joy in routine; to turn the necessities into a morning run along the edge of that chasm so that I may feel joy as wind against my skin as I run. I want to be happy in everything that I do. This doesn’t mean I expect to eschew sadness. One fuels the other in an endless cycle. I just want to sink in more and release the expectations of worry, wear, and sadness in order to embrace a deeper sense of joy from the simplest parts of my day. In essence, I want to enjoy it all, even the knowledge that I am not doing all I can, as it points to the notion that I can still do more.

 

Some Thoughts:

  1. Behind the words: I recently started listening to the book ‘Continue Online’ which has opened in me a wealth of questions about how I feel about online interactions and the possibility of AI. In truth, I feel intrigued. I would very much enjoy interactions with AI and learning to understand their ‘way’ as well as understanding the possibilities of becoming a digital entity. I often wonder if this consciousness is in of itself a form of executable programming built from our human experiences. If so, can it be copied?
  2. While this book is taking up precious brain cycles I remain interested in understanding a great many other things–namely the draft and Minecraft. Why those two? There is a sense of balanced creation at play there where I don’t entirely know what I am trying to make but have a vague sense of things, depending on what I discover to be possible within the confines of the world I’ve discovered. Likewise my team has a concept of what they want and the draft is the execution of that concept modified by variables outside of their control. In both instances we have a certain amount of control but also must wait and see if our monster becomes what we hope it will.
  3. Yes, I was in fact reaching… Not mad about that.

2.281. On Minecraft, VR, and the Dangerous Future of Gaming

I love gaming. I love games that give me the opportunity to build in an interactive world where the only limits placed upon me are my own abilities to acquire materials and, ultimately, to think of something to create. Still, a drawback of the platform is the very basic nature of the AI that I deal with. These AI respond to danger and to finance. I can scare them or trade with them. They don’t exist beyond that limitation. We will hit next gen when in-game characters have their own agenda. Add this to the ever improving graphics capability of consoles and other platforms and we are looking at immersive gaming that will eventually rival real life activity.

In some ways it already does, and that is what makes things dangerous. We are already peeled so far back from reality as to live in our own silo’d versions of truth that allowing for full rig immersion would serve only to reshape the social landscape further–leading us deeper into the silos and pushing for more tribalism and division.

Beyond the rise of thought tribes comes the very real fear that we will stop pursuing an advancement of the beauty and well being of the planet, becomes it becomes less critical than the game. Unfortunately we have largely lost our ability to think ten steps ahead. Two is about all we can muster anymore. If those two steps are what is my next digital fix and how can I improve my tech, then the issues of the environment never get served.

 

Some Thoughts:

  1. I’ve established ‘bare minimum’ as blogging. I won’t ever do less than that in a day. This is obvious by action, but it is also important to articulate and reflect on.

2.280. Easy like Sunday Evening

Somewhere in the depths of my brain a chime went off, alerting me to the positive impacts of actually working out. Two days in the gym in three days. The space between the visits parsed by a slight amount of physical activity with a yearning for much more. With any luck I’ll spend the next few years of my life building up to a decent reserve of physical stamina and be able to handle whatever the world throws my way.

This does not include zombies. I am not prepared for zombies.

I am prepared for manufacturing, modifying, and sticking to routines that lead to the overall betterment of myself. I am prepared for trying to live long enough to see my kids have kids and to hold those kids and tell them about all the wonderful stories I’ve written. Maybe they’ll sit and listen to me spin new tales of fancy and fiction. Maybe they’ll listen to me tell them about my life and they tell me about theirs. Above all I want to hold hands with the woman I love and sit in a hot tub near the beach when I am 80 years old like in some commercial (like the ones advertising erectile dysfunction… isn’t it sad how that is what we associate with men getting old. That and, “get off my lawn’) .All in all, I want to be around for a great many things, and I intend to put myself in the best position to do so.

Some Thoughts:

  1. I should’ve been working out all along. I’m going to make sure the kids keep staying in fantastic shape.
  2. I’m really wanting to get a neighborhood game of capture the flag going. I am excited to see my own kid play in the coming weeks.

2.279.

I’m in my office, catching some zen, and hanging out with my son’s cat. Just being in the space reminds me of more productive times, and encourages me to discover a mindset where that kind and breadth of production is not only possible but common. I think I fled from the room because it reminded me of the things I needed to do in order to be successful and the weight of all of it was more than I wanted to manage at the time. I still do not want to be in here. I’ve considered painting it or changing it in some other way in order to find a way to use the space again. I think the key is literally to stay in the space and face those demons that reside there.

Calling them demons gives them too much power. In truth, I’m talking about a disorganized desk, a pile of mail that needs to be read, and a row of books chosen to inform the life I crave, the classes I teach, and the writing I do. So, I need to just do it.

Some Thoughts:

  1. Having a loaded gun in the room only makes me feel safe if I trust the person holding the gun. That is where I stand on the gun issue. I am not against guns. I am against gun owners who subscribe to a very narrowly drawn sense of entitlement that always appears to speak to a type of protectionism that doesn’t include people who look like me, think like me, or even have my level of income in the us who deserve guns. I remain convinced that it is this self-same sense of entitlement which has school shootings becoming very trendy again.

2.278. On the WWW

This year my students are doing research on the powers of connectivity–specifically they are looking at the communities that sprout up primarily through network gameplay and may examine how that affects the local societies they inhabit in real life. This one is near to me, because I’ve watched video games snatch my kids away from me for days at a time. I have the pleasure of enjoying my boys every weekend, but more and more that time has become me walking by as they play Fortnite on various devices. We often try to play a game together or watch a film together, but it is always clear to me that they’re trying to rush through it in order to get back to what really makes them happy. This, unsurprisingly, doesn’t make me happy at all.

I originally backed off of controlling their gameplay. I figured I’d give them a week or two to completely burn themselves out on gameplay. That did not happen. Play intensified. At one point the boys were each playing somewhere between 4 and 8 hours per day on the weekends–barely stopping to eat or poop. The interactions between the boys and with their friends online are fraught with the kind of lightly malicious banter that is toxic and all too common among boys who have no empathy for other people. The game itself does little to build cohesive teamwork and relies on basic internet memes and cartoonish physics in order to suck in an audience of vapid game players who themselves want little more than to show off to anyone and everyone who will watch and listen. To say I am underwhelmed with the positive effects would be giving the game too much credit. In fact, I am most disappointed in how willing they are to tune out everything else in existence to the point where anything but playing online with their friends seems like black and white in a world of stunning 4k color.

I am at a loss here. I don’t know what there is to do.

2.277. Maintenance

The more I consider what has me run down and often behind these days (most days?), the more I am forced to look at the times when I am at my best. The difference often isn’t how much I play or how much work I have scheduled to handle. Instead the difference often falls to maintenance.

It is really that simple.

When I handle my business on a daily basis; when I pause to reflect and make sure stuff is getting taken care of, I do well. When I don’t, I don’t. More often than not as of late I have not done well, because I have not taken care of what I need to and handled the daily chores and responsibilities of life. Instead I’ve allowed little things to pile like dust in a corner (or clean laundry at the foot of the bed) and build until they become a problem–several problems–that weigh me down completely.

I have also failed to enlist my kids to do their part. They’ve gotten off pretty easy–especially when it comes to the stuff I had to do as a kid–dishes, laundry, etc. It is once in a blue moon that a kid vacuums and I’m not entirely sure that any of them could pick a broom out of a lineup. This too is going to have to change if I intend to keep on track with the writing and improving and life transforming. Everyone needs to pitch in and pull weight. Those who don’t run the risk of making my life harder than it ought to naturally be, and I cannot afford that.

Some Thoughts:

  1. Had the opportunity to see Post Modern Jukebox again (thank you, my heart). I remain impressed at how talented these performers are and how they manipulate pop music to resemble the old standards. Equally impressive is the fact that they’ve done all of this touring and production of music without a label ever being involved. Dope.
  2. Getting excited about the coming summer and the opportunities this affords. I intend to get a ton of me time in and use that me time to do me, and by me I mean write my ass off.
  3. The desert landscape is beautiful this time of year–especially at night. As I write under a canopy of stars I am reminded why I still live here.