Tag Archives: philosophy

Birthday Wisdom and Tank Drift 2016!

Quick note… I went to the beach to watch the sun go down on the Solstice. Which is also, frequently, also Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday.

solstice

Summer Solstice was accompanied by a full moon, which hasn’t happened since the year my dad was born. To make an already memorable day even more fantastic, we saw three whales and a dolphin, spouting, tail-flipping, and more than one breach. The clouds looked like an oil painting, casting a rose-colored glow over everything. I wish I could have recorded it all, to convey the depth and breadth of the open beach — the pine and sea smell, the waves, and birdsong — and yet feeling cradled by mother nature in perfect peace.

Each year, I request wisdom rather than gifts for my birthday. Here are the collected thoughts and musings of 2016.

  1. Get off the line of attack, blend with the force directed at you.
  2. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.
  3. Be as kind to yourself inside your head as you are to your friends.
  4. Plan for success as well as you plan for failure.
  5. Live as though the world were the it should be, to show it what it can be
  6. We have as much power to sculpt reality as environment and situation provide, though we can always grasp further.
  7. It’s okay to realize that some responses are instinctive rather than considered, especially once you become aware of that.
  8. You can’t save other people. They can only save themselves. You can only help. You can save yourself. You should ask for help.
  9. Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.
  10. Show people you love them while they are here.
  11. Being ethical in your business conduct is more important than making money.
  12. Obituary columns are filled with love, while most of our lives are filled with minutiae. Tell people what they mean to you while it still matters. Also, if you really like a bit of wisdom, neck-tattoo that mofo asap!
  13. The Girl Scouts have a saying, that we should leave a campsite in better condition than it was when we arrived. It means, as we bravely forge a new path into the wilderness, not only do we have a responsibility to tread lightly and avoid doing damage but make a place better by our presence.
  14. Force and flow. Sometimes you need to use force to move obstacles in your life, but sometimes you need to just flow around them. Be the river, which is both. 
    knifeknife
  15. As you go through life, ask yourself, “What am I doing to positively impact the world?” I have struggled with this one, and it took me years to realize that “the world” doesn’t mean it needs to have a global impact, but really means to think beyond yourself and see the impact you make around you. This can be on any scale: global, national, regional, local, your community (whatever form it may be), friends, and/or family. When I’m having a bad day in one area (at work, for instance) I think about where I may be having a positive impact somewhere in the world (bringing joy to friends on FB, providing housing to local bees, being a loving pet parent).
  16. Focus on what you love, and what you can control. Keep trying. Surround yourself with kindness.
  17. The hardest part of any task is starting. It gets easier after that. Also, the world is full of bastards and backstabbers. Never let them grind you down.
  18. You can have anything you want, you just can’t have *everything* you want.
  19. Things are never as bad, or as good , as they first appear. It is amazing how as we get older, mature wisdom begins to resemble being too damn tired. Don’t sweat small change.
  20. The Dick abides.
  21. Never date a man who owns a white van or knows all the words to Monty Python.
  22. Dear sister! I learned from Terry Pratchett that as soon as you finish writing something immediately, without pause, wrote at least a little of the next piece. That way you don’t get stuck between projects.
  23. Only you can make yourself change. Also, everyone gets Stuck. It takes a lot of work to get Unstuck, but the work can be done in little pieces. The best way to get something done is to begin.
  24. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter what troubles you encounter in life… there are nine hundred million people in India who really don’t give a shit. So you might as well be happy.
  25. No matter how cold and wet you are, just as long as you’re warm and dry…
  26. Kelly Shiflet Treat yo’ self! Especially with high tea, warm scones and cream!
  27. When faced with big decisions think about others and then yourself. Also, syrup is good on pancakes and everything else.
  28. Elders ‘taught’ me (sometimes with a sledgehammer…) that it isn’t about achieving what you want or acquiring things or attaining goals, it is about thinking and doing the right thing in the moment of decision that is Now. Most everything else is an illusion.
  29. This is a simple one, but when I wanted to go backpack around New Zealand and Australia for a year and was getting overwhelmed by everything I needed to do to do that, my mom told me “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” I’ve kept to that motto for the twenty plus years since.
  30. Three pieces of wisdom from the same brilliant source: 1) there isn’t any dream so huge that it can’t be divided up into manageable steps; 2) “Because if you are yourself as loud as you can be, you’ll only find yourself in places where you’re accepted, and then good things will happen….. LIKE WHALES!”; 3) “so feel your feels the way they feel/ and don’t fight them too hard/ all the flowers plants and cacti too/ all have their place in the yard.” Oh and this one, from the same brilliant source as the above. Reduce your tolerance of fuckery yearly, possibly with treaties and a fuckery reduction council. If you are approaching your fuckery tolerance limit, it is sometimes acceptable to share with friends who have not yet reached their fuckery quota, but proceed with caution and the understanding that we all need to gradually eliminate our reliance on fuckery and make the transition to a zero-fuckery-powered society. And while we will probably fail in the short run, in the long run this will be better for everyone. This has been a carefully considered attribution with commentary.
  31. Honestly, Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s gotten me to finish more stories than anything else. And while I’ve never seen the marked-up drafts of the Empire script, hidden away in a Lucasfilm vault as they are, I have always deeply suspected that line was one of Leigh Brackett’s.
  32. Remember why you do what you do…and tell the people you love that you love them.
  33. Always consider the alternative point of view. And fail a lot — you learn better that way.
  34. Dance.
  35. It is never too late to have a happy childhood.strawberries
  36. Tell the people in your life you love them. Every chance you get. Also be as positive as you can. You will have bad days but when you share something Positive, it helps others too. You never know whose lives you have touched by being a positive light in the world. Yes it is sappy but true. I know because I have had it hit me when I was told “You inspired me to do X.” That’s the best. And very humbling, too.tank girl
  37. Always create. The time will go by anyway. Create even when you doubt. You never know who you are inspiring.
  38. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself – just a bit better than you would feel about yourself without them.
  39. When you feel like you really get it and your technique is working, you are not learning, just practicing what you’ve learned. When you are struggling and confused, that is when you’re actually learning. One of many useful lessons from my Aikido instructors. It’s helped me to be patient with myself through the learning process (on and off the mat), which is often daunting.

    Transplanting the feathers from a snapped arrow to a limping one.

    Transplanting the feathers from a snapped arrow to a limping one.

  40. Get a kitten.
  41. I don’t do wisdom, but always remember you’re awesome and ther
    e are people who get you…not everyone, but then some use different definitions of the term.
  42. I’ve always lived by this “koan” from British humorist Spike Milligan’s science fiction play, The Bedsitting Room: “Happiness is egg-shaped.”
  43. All things in moderation. Especially Moderation.
  44. If you try to be anybody but yourself, you’re going to fail. Be you. Be the best you possible.
  45. You can’t “should” people into doing what you want them to.
  46. You can’t bully someone into loving you.
  47. Think carefully on the negative archetypes within your own personality. What positive aspects do they have? For example, an addict’s determination and perseverance.
  48. If someone were to ask you why you work hard in those areas, and if you were to answer “to give to others”, how would you respond if then challenged with the question, “Then what are others here for?” This year on your birthday, think long and hard about what things you accept as virtues, and why it is you see them as such. Who in your life reinforces the perception of those things as virtues? Do those virtues truly serve you or do they serve the people who perceive them as virtues? …In short, look for the most subtle ways in which others might be exploiting you, and put an end to it for a while, just to see how it feels.
  49. Much satisfaction can be found in the intersection of the serenity prayer and the oracle’s command to Socrates.shuriken
  50. (In response to, “my sail has become a tablecloth/my shuriken have become coasters.”  They –and you — exist in both states. Shuriken were hidden as belt decorations and deadly weapons. We are, none of us, just one thing at any one time.
  51. Perhaps they (and you) are not so much domesticated as lying in wait for the next opportunity.
  52. What I should have had was a plan. What I should have done was examine why I felt so small that I had to prove anything at all… There’s a god in you. Be like him. He’s the coolest motherfucker you will ever meet. The more you act like him. The more you become him.

Finally… these are the two bits I figured out on my own and want to remember this year.

First, the only difference between the heroes of good and evil is that evil has resigned itself to what must be done. Good mourns.

Also… There are people that will make me feel not only unloved, but unlovable. That is not a reason to change. That is a reason to get as far away from that person as possible.

tank drift

Happy birthday. Happy Solstice. Happy 2016. Despite its brutality, despite the losses we’ve suffered, hold close the truth that the planets do align… and there are whales.

pair02

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How Irony Is Ruining Our Culture

Irony is ruining our culture

Twenty years ago, Wallace wrote about the impact of television on U.S. fiction. He focused on the effects of irony as it transferred from one medium to the other. In the 1960s, writers like Thomas Pynchon had successfully used irony and pop reference to reveal the dark side of war and American culture. Irony laid waste to corruption and hypocrisy. In the aftermath of the ’60s, as Wallace saw it, television adopted a self-deprecating, ironic attitude to make viewers feel smarter than the naïve public, and to flatter them into continued watching. Fiction responded by simply absorbing pop culture to “help create a mood of irony and irreverence, to make us uneasy and so ‘comment’ on the vapidity of U.S. culture, and most important, these days, to be just plain realistic.” But what if irony leads to a sinkhole of relativism and disavowal?

The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

Shortly after “The Real World” spawned dozens of other reality shows, the format reminded me of the coliseum in Rome. American Idol was the worst of the lot, where the first episode is a blooper reel of the worst auditions. Mass media encourages us to feed on each other, savoring the humiliation of others who could have just as easily been us. Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll’s article is an excellent analysis of the intersection between irony and sincerity in art at the nexus of fiction, television, rebellion, and commercial interests.

Commercial vs. Eternal Writing

There seems to be a big philosophical split between commercial writing and eternal writing. If you’re in one camp, you tend to think little of the other. For every web-site describing the Eight Steps To a Successful Novel, there’s another that emphasizes the purity of authentic expression in all art forms (because grammar is The Man’s way of keeping us down). If you’re open to what each side has to offer, the next thing to consider is whether you’re eager to publish, or eager to publish this story.

Say you want to publish just to get your name out there. Commercial success requires collaboration. Collaboration (even in ideal situations) requires some compromise with your editor, agent, publishing house and/or scriptwriter and director. You may have to demonstrate flexibility and versatility in order to maximize your access to opportunities.

On the other hand, if you have a soul-deep connection to your story as it is – you must honor that connection. Compromising on your baby hollows you out. The more specific your needs, the longer it may take you to find a dream team that doesn’t want to change what you have. If you’re committed to telling this story, then that’s the only story you can tell.

Ultimately we’re pursuing mastery: the balance of technical expertise and purity of expression. A ballerina will practice dancing thousands of routines in her lifetime. Only a few of those will be opening nights with giant crowds. As he hones his craft and develops technical excellence, he’ll be better able to express his art at will. His greatest and most breathtaking performances may take place in the studio, with only his reflection as a witness. Does that make the standing ovations less gratifying? Is commercial success or highest excellence more important?

I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.

The more you write, the more you read, the more you study – the more you hone your craft – the closer you are to excellence: your ability to manifest your dearest aspirations. Whether skin-deep or soul-deep, your writing is always yours.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
― Aristotle

The ludicrous element in our feelings does not make them any less authentic.”
― Milan Kundera


(Fun fact: the Greek arete and the Chinese gongfu are similar terms; the former expresses manifestation of one’s full potential, and the latter describes any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. It is implied that athletics are an integral part of arete
, and the word gongfu/kung-fu has become synonymous with martial arts in its modern usage.

Healthy body, healthy mind, eh?)

Yes, Everything IS Trying to Kill You

http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID378/images/BikeWreck2(1).jpg

Linked from The Examiner

What makes a healthy cookbook like a motorcycle manual?
They both end every instruction with “do this, or you will die.”

They’re absolutely right. Everything is trying to kill you. The burnt bits of your toast cause cancer. You think drinking tea is gentler than coffee? Millions of people have died over both plants. We eat heart disease. We drink diabetes. We breathe cancer, and fry in an easy-bake-melanoma oven every sunny day.

Despite all this, you still need to leave your house, eat, and caffeinate. You have bigger battles to fight.

Think about all the little risks you take. Drinking. Drug use. Fast food. Picking a fight online. Eating off the floor. You’ve done it. You’re fine.

Now think of bigger risks you’ve taken. Sleeping with a psycho. Moving to another state. You’ve done it. You’re fine.

There are even bigger risks on the horizon that you’ll need to deal with. Writing a sex scene that your dad will read. Deciding when to say no to an editor. Budgeting. Interviews. Public speaking. Standing tall while “you fucking suck” web sites crop up to defame you.

When you realize how many things try — and fail — to kill you, your baseline for reality shifts. Dangerous things become non-issues. Your priorities shift. Your focus shifts.

Every time you do something that scares you, you transform fear into knowledge. You’ll trust yourself more and fine-tune your instincts. Your job is to record what happens when the world tries, and fails, to kill you. That’s where the stories are. Get out there, take risks, and come back to tell the tale.

Mobile phone cancer is more common in the city. So is everything else — including sex, coffee and conversation.”
— Dylan Moran

Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.”
— Antonio Machado

Deli Guy Philosophy 03 – Greatest Person

Deli Guy

When I go pick up a coffee and bacon egg & cheese croissant on my way to work, I stop at the same deli. Each day, my deli guy has a philosophical question taped to the cash register.

Question 3: “Who was the greatest person that ever lived?”

I thought about it while he made my breakfast. I thought about famous people, heroic people, politicians and kings, generals and spiritual leaders. In the end, I told my Deli Guy that my dad was the greatest person who ever lived.

He followed his heart and worked his dream job as a news cameraman in NYC for thirty years. He’s artistic, musical and can read a 300-page book in two hours. He’s open-minded and engages new philosophy and technical details with equal enthusiasm. He can be a little paranoid when it comes to security and preparation — he always reads instruction manuals cover-to-cover — but he isn’t overbearing. In fact, he laughs easily. He’s never mean-spirited with his jokes.

He married a woman he’s still madly in love with (our mom). He gives good advice. He reads Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance once a year, and gets new meaning out of it each time. There’s nothing Electra about this. My dad’s a really neat guy.

He did have a rotten temper when we were children; but trying to wrangle three brilliant kids who made bad choices in clever ways would drive anyone up the wall.

I couldn’t choose a big famous world-shaking hero because I don’t know them. We cover up the flaws of history’s heroes. Maybe da Vinci was a jerk.

What do you think constitutes Greatness? Can an individual be Great without being a prominent public figure?