Materialism

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When I had gone to the vision board party, one of the tasks was to dream big and find pictures that represent our wishes and paste them onto the board. We had piles of magazines that ranged from gossip to golf to science. Leafing through them, I could find pretty much anything my heart desired. But there was a problem. Leafing thought the mags, I saw nothing that struck a cord. Except a picture of Jason Momoa as Aquaman because I want more tattoos. But that’s within my reach. In other words, I didn’t need a vision board to help me manifest this.

I had a feeling that this was going to happen. Having it played out in front of me confirmed that I strive to live more like a minimalist; someone who doesn’t need excessive materialistic things. To be clear, I have things: caR, I’m Appled out, an iron horse. So in that respect I’m a hypocrite. In my defense, I enjoy all of the things that I own. However, they do not bring me happiness. To me joy and happiness are two different things.

I see so many people buy things for no real reason except maybe to fill some emptiness that lies within. Instead of addressing that emptiness, they buy things to try and fill it. I think there are two basic problems with this approach. One is that the emptiness is within the individual. Second, buying something gives people that endorphin rush. I’ve been addicted to new stuff. I totally get it. But it can hurt the wallet.

My sister has five different ways of heating food up. The oven. A microwave. A toaster oven. A hot air oven. And she recently bought a portable steamer.

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An acquaintance of mine asked me what I had thought about the new iPad Pro. I told him that I went to an Apple store and played with it. Very nice. But my original iPad Pro that I had bought three years ago still works well. I do almost everything with it. Writing. Blogging. I watch all my streaming services on it; I don’t have a TV. The new iPad wouldn’t do anything different for me. He said he was thinking of upgrading.

Why, I asked.

The processor is faster, he answered.

What do you do on it that you need a faster processor?

He shrugged. I draw on it sometimes.

Dude, how fast do you draw that you need a faster processor?

Another acquaintance came up to me in Starbucks a few weeks ago. He looked excited and told me he had good news.

You get a blow job, I asked.

His eyebrows lowered against his eyes. No, I bought a new car.

Don’t you have two already?

Yeah. I traded the SUV in.

He has a sports car that he daily drives and had bought and financed a new sedan. Because he needed more room than his sports car could provide? Which is why he got rid of the SUV? Or he needed a smaller car because his SUV was too big? I was a bit confused at this point.

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The issue is that the emptiness within a person is bottomless. That person could buy everything in the world and still have that emptiness within them because they’re not trying to find out what is causing that emptiness. Instead they’re trying to fill that emptiness with stuff, and that hole is devouring it up.

The new Netflix special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, shows how stressful people can be when they have a lot of stuff. After getting rid of the shit they don’t need, the people on the show feel relaxed and serene. We as Americans have too much stuff. I mean, it’s not a surprise that we have to either buy bigger homes or rent storage spaces in order to store our endless junk.

Hypocrites, raise your hands.

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I’m guilty. I have two cars. But at least I didn’t go into debt buying a second car.

The question should now be: What is this emptiness?

It could be anything. Lack of confidence. Loneliness. Living a purposeless life. The game is to explore yourself and find out. Honestly, that’s the fun part. For me, I knew I was a creative. So I explored different outlets before settling on writing and storytelling. That took a lot of time. For example, I delved into acting for three years before jumping out of it. But, man, that was fun. I learned so much about myself going on stage and acting. It was one of the big steps that opened me up to me. Since then, I have never left the deep end.

Vision Boards

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Out of curiosity, I went to my first vision board party last week. I’m constantly trying to meet new people and sometimes that entails me going to events like this. Another such example was when I had gone to a lucid dreaming and astral traveling meetup. I had locked the skeptic within me in his cage. He was rattling his tin cup on the bars, yelling at me, every time someone made a claim that he knew couldn’t be supported in any scientific way.

I thought the vision board party was some sort of MLM, multilevel marketing, recruitment. I personally hate those schemes. I’ve been involved in one. They’re a fucking cult. I don’t want to promote this particular organization, but the organizer had us meet with the cult leader. He stated that he had helped create thousands of vision boards. That he manifested things into his life using them. He told us to think outside of the box, so dream big. Want a big ass house? Put it on your board. Want those red pumps on your feet? Paste it on your board. Want that man with eight-pack abs? Put an inanimate picture of him up on that piece of inanimate cardboard. Vacation in Hawaii? Hell, yeah! Then put a picture of a beach, any beach, on that minced up tree and let that manifest into your life. Praise the cardboard!

The next important point that he expounded was that we must look at the completed board every day. Just look at it. Bask in it. Make love to it. OK. He hadn’t said those last two things. But he did say that we must look at it every day. And then bam! No further instructions were given past this. Do we speak to the board? Plead with it that the things on it would happen? Caress the pictures we’ve pasted on the board?

He kept talking about the law of attraction. The power of it. That we can all wield it. That as long as the universe knew what we wanted in our heart of hearts—my heart has more than one heart?—then we’ll attract it into our lives. Because the unimaginably vast universe cares what piddling sacs of water and goo—humans—want.

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I rolled my eyes. To be fair, if he had used the word prayer, faith, summon, cast a spell, concoct a potion, wave a wand, human sacrifice, I would have rolled my eyes regardless. Well, if he used that last one, I would have bolted out of the party, screaming like a little girl.

I used to be “spiritual”. I explored that realm a lot. I thought I could manifest things into my life, too. The issue is that people think they manifested it when they actually did something to bring that thing about. In plain words, the law of attraction is false. There is no scientific evidence to back that up. Unless we’re talking about magnetism or gravity. I’m not a physicist, so there might be other things that involve attraction. And that’s the thing! Spiritualists like this individual use scientific words with new age jargon to make them sound more authoritative. Law of Gravity. Law of Attraction. One is supported by mountains of scientific evidence. The other is supported by...nothing.

Here’s a video that explains better than I what I’m talking about:

Vision boards do very little to bring about our dreams. It may be a reminder for people to put forth the effort toward them. If I wanted to go on a Hawaiian vacation, then I’d save up for it and make the necessary logistical choices to make it happen. The vision board does nothing. It won’t save me the money. It won’t schedule the flight. It won’t call the hotel to make the reservations. If I wanted a pair of red pumps, then I’d save up for it and go to the store and buy it. Some people would call that process manifesting. I’d like to call it taking action. And no, I don’t actually want a pair of red pumps. Black is fine.

Now, can things happen with no effort on my own? Yeah. But I chalk that up to coincidence. Coincidences happen on the daily. To everyone. Everywhere. People have a hard time believing that because the chance of some coincidence happening can be rare. That doesn’t make it impossible. And it doesn’t mean that the universe made it happen. The lottery is a perfect example. There’s a reason why the lottery can grow to millions upon millions of dollars. Because it’s astronomically difficult to win it for an individual. But people do because millions upon millions of them partake in it.

Imagine a cardboard target with a pinhole slightly bigger than a grain of sand. Stand about six feet away. Take one grain of sand. Try throwing it through that pinhole. What’s the likelihood of accomplishing that? Pretty damn small. Now, take a fistful of sand and throw it at the target. The likelihood is now better.

A lot of these spiritualists tout anecdotal evidence. A long time ago, I was listening to a spiritual program. The host asked his listeners to try to manifest something: Imagine an amount of money and see if you can manifest it into your life. Why not, I told myself. What could it hurt? So I thought of $20,000 dollars. And then I waited. Bam! I got a check for around $15,000 green backs. I’m not sure how long I had waited, but months had gone by before I got the check. I was stunned!

Shazam! I said to myself, let me try this shit again. I thought of another $20,000 bucks. Months passed. And bam! No large checks came to me.

What had actually happened was that I worked for a company that skirted the California labors laws. Unbeknownst to me, a coworker of mine had filed a law suit. He won. A year or so later I got a letter stating that I was owed a settlement.

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Let’s look at the Law of Gravity. It’s called a law because we can use it to predictably calculate what happens when we drop something, for example. But to determine why or how a law happens, a theory is given.

The law of attraction is false because it isn’t constant. It’s nowhere near constant. Spiritualists and snake oil salesmen call it a law to make it sound legit. But it ain’t. That’s why anecdotal evidence can’t be used. These cult leaders cherry pick stories that support their position, and ignore those that falsify it.

It’s sort of like this: Ever think of a person, and then all of the sudden that person calls you? It’s a miracle, right? No. We find this significant because we’ve ignored all of the other instances that we thought of that person and nothing happened. Most of the time we can’t recall those moments. So when this miraculous thing happens, our minds assign significance to it, and then try to make sense of it: I manifested this person to call me.

If we as human beings want to create something or make something happen, then we have to take the steps toward that goal. Luck is probably involved in every step of the way. I want to become a best selling author. Sitting around wishing for it won’t do a thing for me. I do have to write the book, get an agent, and then that agent has to sell the book to a publisher. All of that takes a lot of effort and luck. Once my book is on the bookshelves, more effort in marketing and luck is required to get readers to buy my book. I often tell people that publishing is a crapshoot. I have little control over my book’s success. All I can do is take the steps necessary and hope for a lot of luck. Maybe I should just buy a lottery ticket.

I Hate You, Dad!

I'd just watched a great movie called Man From Earth.  The premise is awesome, and without it I wouldn't have watched it.  But during a good-gye party, friends learn that the honorary guest is a caveman who has lived for 14,000 years.  That's right.  A bonafied caveman, cro magnon, to be exact.

It was written by famed science fantasy writer, Jerome Bixby.

It's a fantastic premise because what the caveman reveals is just earth shattering.  I'd suggest watching.

One of the things John, the caveman, reveals is that he was a well known religious figure.  Everyone in the party at this point doesn't really know whether to believe his story so far, but to claim to be this certain figure seems heinous.  Until John explains how this religious figure got his mythical status.  How history can apply layers of mythicism on an individual.

And that got me thinking.

I'd had the pleasure of pitching to Donald Maass, the famed New York agent who wrote How to Write the Breakout Novel.  This was my first book on writing.  I'd attended his one hour lecture at the San Francisco Writer's Conference.  His whole thing is to write with emotional depth and make your story big.  Big with emotions.  (Wow.  I'm using a lot of fragments today.)

Some examples are betrayal, retribution, and the all time favorite "I hate you, dad!"

In my book, my hero has severe issues with his father.  His father left him without saying good-bye after being convicted of a murder.  With this, a lot of people assumed that the father was guilty, despite his fervent attempt to prove his innocence.  Kinda like OJ hurling down the freeway at 152.5 MPH.

My hero is left with the question of why.  Was his father guilty?  Did he not love my hero enough?  What did my hero do to make his father leave?  As the days pass, my hero is forced to answer these questions and begins to layer greatness upon his estranged father.

Sorta like someone breaking up with you, and you can't stop thinking about all the good times you both had, even though there may have been a lot of bad.

Maass said these past parental issues tend to manifest themselves in other parts of your life.  For example, if your father was a perfectionist, forced and punished you to be a perfectionist, then you grow up and torture yourself to be a perfectionist at work.  Your relationships go bad because you're trying to find the perfect man or woman.  You can't seem to settle on any home that you visit, driving your real estate agent crazy.  You go into deep debt, buying every electronic device because they keep getting better.  You get ten plastic surgeries trying to fit the perfect mold.  All because your father prodded you to be perfect.  Then, all of a sudden, you yell at a picture of your father, "I hate you, dad!"  But what you actually hate is the person you've turned into, and, hopefully, as up-lifting stories go, you realize that his world of perfection doesn't have to be yours.  And you begin to live a life that's true to you.

The point is, when writing stories, sometimes childhood issues bubble up without the character knowing it.  He may never know it.  She may scream at a jar of honey and remember when her mother yelled at her for spilling honey on their new carpet.  It's a great way of deepening a character.