The Missing Link

I was watching this YouTube video about a guy who goes through bouts of depression. He did a lot of drugs to expand on his artistic creativity, but that took him away from society, which he called an illusion. I tend to agree. The video didn't state how long he had done this, but he decided to re-enter the illusion and rejoin the human race.

At the end of the short video, he said that life has more to offer than happiness and that he wanted to pursue something more fulfilling.

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Before I started my illustrious career in writing, I knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort. So I tried everything from drawing, acting, poetry, martial arts, etc. before I careened into writing. Diving right into it, I wrote almost every day, creating my world, free writing to meet my characters. I asked cool questions like: How do these people sleep and have sex? or Where do they pee and poo? or What do I call an apple in this world? Apple was the answer. Deep thinking here, folks.

However, there were moments where I didn't feel happy nor content. So I naturally questioned my passion for writing, for storytelling. I should be grateful for having the freedom to pursue something, anything. But I wasn't.

Then it hit me. No. Not my writing. I was linking the activity of writing to happiness. Those two things should not be linked because they have nothing to do with each other. It's kinda like linking the climate control knob in your car to the volume of your stereo. The knob turns the fan on and off. It does nothing to modulate the car speakers.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. From his experiences of being a concentration inmate, he discovered that people are able to experience happiness or peace even in the direst situations. That circumstanth doth noth determinith yorth worldeth viewth . Sorry. Something was stuck in my teeth. Your circumstance doesn't determine your worldview.

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I had written about a woman whom I named Miss Hates Myguts. She had chosen her friends like how someone might choose their dining ware. The right cutlery flanking the perfect plates must match the serving dishes. The gleaming statues of glassware must highlight the richness of that setting. So, too, in this way had Hates Myguts chosen her friends. She surrounded herself with the right kind of people because they represented her in a way that matched what she thought her world should look like. And I'm the dirty, broken dish that did not fit in her world. But there's a fallacy to that thinking.

Famed life coach, Michael Neill, once said on his radio show, "Rearranging the furniture on the Titanic ain't gonna help, sucka." OK, I added some ghetto flare.

Often we link things to our happiness. If I get this job, I'll be happy. If I get this chic, I'll be the man. Once I roar down the street with my loud ass motorbike, people will think I'm the badass ass in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Think of it this way. A CEO of a Forturne 500 company is no more human than a homeless man ambling down the street. One has more stuff than the other. But that has no real meaning except that he has more stuff. And we already know money can't buy happiness.

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I apply this missing link to money with security. The more of it I have, the more secure I feel. That's OK for now, but what happens if I lose all of my wealth? I'll feel incredibly vulnerable, broken, worthless as a human. There lies the crux of greed. Money is not the root of all evil. It's fear. We fear not having enough. So what do we do? We hoard. And the only thing money is good for is buying stuff. Because security is an illusion. You can have all the armed guards in the world, but that doesn't guarantee your safety. And if you need all of that security, meaning the fear has taken over your life, then you'll never be happy or be at peace.

And money can't buy happiness because it's a state of being. Not a tangible object.

So why pursue anything if we can be happy no matter the circumstances? That's where the fulfilling part comes in. When I dove into writing, I was fully engaged with my creativity. There's joy in that. If someone loves farming, then they love working the land, tending to their animals, reaping the fruits of their labor. I know that last part is cliché, but I'm not a farmer and don't know what else they do. 

Being engaged with whatever moves you fills the soul. It's heaven.

An Exploration into Mayhem

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When an action/horror flick comes out called Mayhem, starring a male Asian lead from an incredibly popular zombie series, I have no choice but to watch it. Steven Yeun stars in Joe Lynch's movie about a virus gone wild in a law firm's towering skyscraper. The entire building gets quarantined until the virus runs its course, 24 hours. Although the virus, unlike on the Walking Dead, doesn't change their human hosts permanently, it does remove inhibition, leading to unhinged acts of violence, lust, and more violence. Yeun's character, Derek, is trapped in this building, an exec in said firm. And to make it interesting Derek is involuntarily chosen to be the fall guy for a costly mistake the law firm made. He decides he needs a face-to-face with the sadistic CEO, no virus required, to resolve this issue. So he has to reach the top floor, negotiating–fighting really–the corporate lackeys who are overworked, under appreciated, and fucking pissed off. Good times.

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I enjoyed the movie. I can relate. Not because Yeun is Asian, but because the character has to reconcile his choice of living the corporate life instead of delving into his life's passion in the arts.

I work a day job in the cold, ugly corporate world, which is soul-sucking. I'm a bit fortunate because I get to work from home. But I still have to act within the confines of political correctness, which I absolutely despise. At night I ride my mechanical steed to a Starbucks, sit down in my spot, and dive into my world of fantasy. Freedom!

The film Mayhem seems to pit corporate life and passion in a fight to either drain Derek's soul or save it. So what does one do? Work a black hole of a day job to pay the bills? Or be a starving artist and try to live life to the fullest? Derek's trek up the building seems to symbolize this internal conflict. Kind of an homage to Bruce Lee's Game of Death, the actual version, not the one that was released by Columbia Pictures. So what would you choose? Soul-sucking job? Or starving artist?

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One of my favorite stories is Michelangelo's day job. They had day jobs back in the fifteenth century? I know, right? Looking at his paintings and sculptures, it's almost impossible to see that his true passion laid in sculpting. To say he was a master at it is insulting. Many argue he was the GOAT. No, not a four-legged sheep with horns. Greatest of all time. So what was his day job? Barista at an Italian bakery? No. His regular day job was a painter. And not the kind that painted your house. Well...unless it was the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel. And from what little I know, when the Pope commissioned him to do this, he had to finagle the deal to ensure that Michelangelo would finish painting the Chapel.

Now Lynch wasn't clear in his film that quitting your day job was a requirement to follow your passions. That would be a ridiculous notion. And parables such as this doesn't paint a clear map of how to negotiate life. That's our job as individuals. But the film does illustrate something that I've always prescribed to. And that is to follow your dreams. The opposition always states that the chances of making it is really, really, really low. Three really's indicate how low the chances are of being successful, according to pundits and pessimists. However...

"Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” –Alex Noble, author.

In other words, the journey is the reward.

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Hell naw. I want riches. Fame. Glory!

As a not-starving writer, I totally get wanting people to read and love and know my work. I crave it. It's probably why I love my writing group. They're the few people who've read my stuff, and I get to hear how awesome...or bad my work is. (Listen to a podcast where we talked about the writing process, our group dynamics, and how masturbation is very similar to writing–for me anyway.)

The fact of life is that not everybody gets to make it big. But most people don’t even try. And to make it big the work has to be done. So why not enjoy the work–the journey–as we stroll toward whatever life may present?

It's a lot like sex. The goal of sex is rarely to make a child. Hence condoms and birth control. Though, sex is the only way to make a child. That's the reason why it feels so good. It pulls the curtain to the Hell that will come when the parents have to raise the child. Sorta like having dessert before dinner. Joking. Eh. Kinda. But sex feels good because we're connecting with our partners, exploring in adult play, trying to get each other off. Again the reward is in the journey.

To Conform or Not To Conform

One of my friends read my post Don't Be You where I talk about conformity. He messaged me later saying that he felt good about conforming to societal norms.

The bratty little boy within me rolled his eyes and said, "Of course you do." He tends to be afraid of rocking the boat.

Then my grown enlightened self, dressed in a nice sun dress—don't ask, reminded me that I'm not a rebel. And she was right. I stop at stop lights. I don't go around beating people up. I open da door for da ladies. I work so I don't have to steal food.

There are moments where I'll follow the rules because it's advantageous for me. Like stepping on the brakes when seeing a red light helps prevent other cars from colliding into me. But a lot of times I tell it like it is, even if it hurts, because I feel it's the right thing to do.

When I hired my writing coach, she told it like it was, like a cold machete shredding my pages. Did it hurt? Hell yeah. And that's perfectly fine because I learned so much. She was never discouraging, however.

Living your life, ignoring what society tells you what you should do, is something I always preach. In other words Be You.

I think the divorce rate is so high because so many people get married because they think they should at a certain age. And if you ask people at what age is marriage appropriate, you'll get wildly different answers. Or they'll get married because they've been with this person for this long so why not?

On the flip side, the divorce rates during your grandparents' generation may have been low because it was the norm to stay with your spouses till death parted them. And they could have been better off by breaking their marriages.

I think the worst thing that could happen is if you live a life society, or your parents, has dictated. You may be missing out on a big adventure. Will mistakes happen? For sure. So what? Mistakes can guide you, help you see far enough to make corrections. Imagine a baby trying to walk. They'll fall a thousand times. And they needed to in order to master the art of walking.

I remember learning how to snowboard. Gazing down the bunny slope was like looking down from the top of Mount Everest. I must have fell a hundred times my first day. Now, bunny slopes feel like the shallow end of the pool. Good place to warm up. Not the best place to find excitement. Unless you're having sex there, but that's a different thing.

I've told my boss that I see my job as a job, a means to earn money so I can eat, have a place to call my own, and the freedom to write. You'd think that was a mistake because if there are layoffs, I'd be the first one on the beheading block. Eddard Stark!

But I center my life around writing, spend a lot of my free time working on my novel. I wake up early to go to work so I can get off early. I go to the gym before it gets crowded by the 9-to-5ers. Then I eat and head over to Starbucks and write.

Being a writer is pretty unique. Yes, I'm tooting my own horn. You tend to find a lot of people that want to write or have a book inside them. Not literally, of course. That would hurt and cause indigestion. From that group you find that many have started the process. Then a smaller group may have written a first draft. Then even fewer who have done rewrites and edits. Still fewer are those who hire writing coaches and workshop their books.

And I think that's why we love celebrities. We celebrate their courage to achieve their own dreams. Because living a conventional life of conformity ain't gonna do that for you. I'm not saying you need to live an amazing life by society's definition. But live a life that amazes you.

Game of Life

Have you had dinner with a relative, the one who talks down to you, but you go anyway because you feel obligated to sit and chew some sustenance and withstand the sleep-inducing conversation that will cap this most exciting experience?

To me, my whole family is like that. I love them (obligatory sentence this is). And I make it sound bad, cuz it sorta is, but they're family. I said that at the beginning of the paragraph. I know! Stop nagging me!

Taking a chill pill 'till my will for anger will subside like an ill-running car puttering up a hill.

Yeah. I'm not sure what that means either.

My life centers around my writing. So I wake up early for work so I can get off work early so I can rush to the gym early and then trudge into the shop (coffee that is) and write. During my workout, I run into my brother and he invites me to dinner. I haven't seen him in a long time, so I agree. Why not?

We sit down at a table and the first thing he says is, "How's life?" Then before I can respond, he jokes, "What life? Right?" And laughs.

Fabulous. Love you too, bro.

In my family, having a life means locking yourself in marriage, growing children, tending to a single family abode, while clawing the ranks of the corporate world, saving for retirement (waiting for death that is). In other words, being a zombie.

The above blurb should show you that I'm not married, have no kids, not clawing up anyone's ass in the business world, treading is more like it but barely. 

Now, I'm not saying living that life is bad. I wouldn't offend anyone like that on purpose. But when my big bro throws shit at me, I can't help but think about my life and wonder if spending thousands of hours on writing is really the way to go.

Is writing my stories and throwing it out into the world (my dream that is) a worthy life goal?

Most positive thinking practitioners state yes, pursuing your dreams, your passions is a life well lived.

Every man dies, not every man truly lives. -William Wallace

But what does truly live mean?

Does it involve risking your life like the military? Or doing stunts like jumping out of a plane? Or pursuing the arts and creating something that shows your soul? Or raising children and hope that they wont blow up the world?

That's for you to decide. But for some reason, being a cog in a corporate machine is not the way to go, unless you really find a thrill in being a cog in a corporate machine. I said that in the beginning. I know!

Love

I had written an article about know it alls. Now, since I'm the sole author on this website, I sound like a know it all. But if you've read those articles, I do point out mistakes that I've made and don't hide from them because I'm human, and humans make mistakes. Cuz we be humans.

In that post I had talked about reading my friend's book, her first. She had asked me to, and I asked her what kind of feedback she wanted. Honest feedback, she answered. And that was what I had given her, and I was very conscious of any judgements that had welled up. In those moments, I usually put her book away and turned my attention back to mine. When I critiqued her novel, I had focused on structure, major grammar faux pas, and story and character development. I did advise her to take any suggestions that I had made with massive grains of salt. Well, massive grains would really be chunks of salt. Whatever.

On Memorial Day, I had sent her an email to see how she was doing. Not necessarily wondering what she thought of my notes, but to see how life was going for her. She lives in a different state. We had been friends for a long time, around twenty years, I think. We had met at the martial arts school that I used to attend. And we've experience each other's ups and downs.

She has yet to return my email, and she's usually pretty quick with those.

As I've written in another article, sometimes chapters in our lives end with the writing off of certain friendships. And maybe for her, she has closed the book on ours, which saddens me.

However, if it was due to my feedback, then I completely understand. Essentially, I attacked her baby.

I've heard this said many times. Writing the book is the easy part. Getting it out into the world is the hardest. That doesn't make the author's work less important to that author. Despite the number of books being published per year, each one is precious. That also doesn't mean each one will see the light of the public, nor is the public's response any real measure of success. Though, it'd be nice!

Writing a book is a lot like love. Being in a relationship is risky business. We risk our hearts, our sanity, our very souls for love, not to mention time. But the risk is worth the reward. What we get back from another human being, that connection that we all seek is oh so amazing and beautiful.

So it is for authors. We risk our hearts, our sanity, our very souls, not to mention time, to put into words what life can portray in a single moment. But the risk is worth the reward. What we get back from the process, a better understanding of ourselves is oh so amazing and beautiful. For all us authors out there, let's put everything we have into our books because doing anything less would insult the love we have for our stories. 

Our Souls

I told a friend that it was good to see her. She totally agreed and said it was good for the soul. Several of us had gone out to dinner, and we reconnected and talked about life, how work sucks, and love. I love how I put 'work sucks' in between life and love. I'm always curious to know what people are attracted to, what will end relationships, and it's always interesting to hear your friends' perspectives. And how we all can get caught up in everything that seems important and forget to take care ourselves.

I think we don't take the time to reflect on our time here, and not think about our time here, both of which are important. What the hell do I mean by that?

I write a lot of posts about hanging out and meeting new people. I've formed what feels like lifelong friendships, though am not concerned whether they are lifelong. I've also met people that for some reason I don't connect to, even a nemesis here or two, but do put too much time into why I don't connect with them.

What's the plural of nemisis? Nemisi? Nemisises?

What I don't see is people with hobbies. Or passions, or anything that feeds their soul outside of friendships. And this is what I mean by reflecting on our time here. Art helps us do this. Whether it be abstract, writing, painting, film making, sculpting. All of it is an expression of our souls.

Famed photographer Rodney Lough Jr. has said, "Art is the language of the soul."

It's the reason why cave paintings have been a part of our early history. We can tell by those paintings what was important to them. We can tell what occupied their minds, what drove them.

I'm sitting here outside on a sunny day, enjoying a cup of mass-produced coffee, writing this post, working on my story, and feeling content. And it's unfortunate for me, but feeling content has been a rare occurrence. It's only when I write or spend time with close friends do I feel fulfilled. So it sucks that from time to time I have to cut friends out.

I mean, I have nice things, I have a place to live in, I have a day job, but none of those things feed my soul. Except my midlife crisis caR. Joking. Those things may facilitate it, like my job helps pay for this mass-produced coffee, but it doesn't directly feed my soul. I think the problem for me lies in over thinking things.

Our minds have evolved to process complex information, and part of that skill is analyzing what has happened to either learn from our mistakes or to try and solve a problem. Sometimes our minds will dive into an endless loop of analysis and never get out. And this is what I mean by not thinking. There are so many voices in our heads, or maybe just mine, that we need to sit still, or take a walk, and let those voices go. You can't force them out, they'll just multiply like rabbits or get louder like my mother. Usually a mindless activity will help quiet those voices. It's probably why I take long walks. Or write.

But I yearn for peace. For connection. For happiness. And don't we all?

I Don't Know

I was at work attending a training. And lucky for us the company had provided lunch so we didn’t have to spend our hard earned pennies. At lunch one of the attendees sat next to me, and we started talking about what kind of jobs we would be passionate about. She had graduated from the university only a year ago, and she needed a job, so here she was. I told her I was a writer and needed a day job so here I was.

“How long have you worked on your book?” she asked.

“Five, six years,” I said.

Her jaw dropped. “And you haven’t given up?”

I laughed out loud.

I tried to explain to her writing was something I had to do. She didn't understand, so I wanted to use the sex example: Don’t you wanna have sex with someone just for the simple pleasure of it?

But of course that would invite a call from the human resource department, and my day job would see its sunset. I’d welcome it but eating food and having a roof over my head is kinda important.

So I had to use the watered down version: Haven’t you seen a beautiful man and have a yearning to talk to him, get to know him, see what’s he like?

She thought about it for a moment, and I could feel the veil of conservatism drape over her. “I don’t know.”

This woman had graduated from UC Berkeley, a renowned university in California. Tens of thousands of high school grads apply to be a Cal Grizzly every year, and only a select few (thousands?) are admitted, the best of the best. Some of the finest young men and women. We’re still talking about high schoolers, right? And this fine university doesn’t talk about passion? Maybe in their philosophy classes where it dies at the end of the semester.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t students who are passionate about what they’re studying, but they seem to be in very specific fields like math, history, or drama as examples. But the majority of the students have to study something that is practical, something that will earn them a living. Cool. But is that all life is about? Earnin’ a paycheck so we can go to the local brewery and chug it down? Or go to parties and have small talk all night only to come home wanting more?

I may not make it as a writer, but having passion, or doing something you love, or at the very least having a hobby is vastly important. Because no matter the material riches that anyone hordes, once they die, they leave it behind. So the experience of loving something, such as your children, your book, your sculpture, helps give meaning to being alive.