Browsed by
Author: sylvainbbb

Different World View

Different World View

We all look at the world differently because we all look at the world from within our own heads with our own eyes and filter everything through our own experiences and beliefs.

This almost goes without saying but it’s so foundational I think we forget it. It’s like water to fish.

So we all have different world views. Some of us have similar opinions about politics or relationships or ethics or morals because we started from a similar place and some of us have similar opinions because we ended in a similar place but no one has walked the same path in the same shoes.

We’re all different and we’re all unique.

Keeping that in mind leads to a huge number of interesting things to contemplate and explore. Here’s just one.

If we all have different World Views because we perforce view the world differently, we will disagree about what view is correct. When this happens it may seem we have two choices.

We can think that our view is right and therefore everyone else is wrong. This is the way most people operate and why we live in a world full of conflict.

Alternatively, we can think that our view is wrong. This is usually painfully self-abrogating because when we negate our point of view we negate our self.

What if we reject the choice itself and instead toss out the idea of a correct world view or privileged observer status.

In science, specifically astronomy, the idea that there is no privileged point of view is called the Copernican principle and it’s adoption led to the Copernican Revolution where the sun replaced the earth in the center of the solar system. When this happened, a scientific revolution ensued.

Motion of Sun (yellow), Earth (blue), and Mars (red) according to heliocentrism (left) and geocentrism (right), before the Copernican Revolution

In a similar way, replacing the idea of a privileged world view can lead to a personal revolution. I’m not saying that you should set aside ideas of right and wrong forever, but there is enormous power in giving up the idea of right or wrong when talking to anyone, at least at first.

If you recognize that you are prejudiced toward your own point of view, just as they are to theirs, you can make huge headway toward personal discovery and interpersonal understanding if you are willing to step into another’s point of view as much as you can as you interact with them. Don’t let worry about being erased or overrun stop you from listening and learning. It seems to me that we worry to much about that. Nothing short of death will erase your point of view so why not try to understand the other.

Here’s a wild side effect. Since few people actually listen from nothing or to really get another’s point of view without imposing or defending their own, trying this out will usually gratify and disarm whoever you talk to.

So you learn something and achieve a new level of affinity with someone!

Try it out. Temporarily remove your World View from the center of your Solar System. Let me know how it goes.

Thwarted

Thwarted

I am very scared right now. Existentially terrified.

I am scared about the climate and about our country and the economy and technology and bioterror and nuclear weapons and age and money and that one step on the way up to my bedroom that looks like it’s about to collapse.

I feel overwhelmed, helpless and upset.

I also feel like I missed a turn somewhere and I’m stuck in an agist economy without a solid career. It looks like a big recession is looming and I don’t have money in the bank so survive it.

And I’m going to die, eventually, and the time between that event and now is probably less than the time between now and when I was born.

In other words, it’s going to happen within a timeframe that I can understand. And it’s not going to come in a way that is welcome and expected, at least not based on nearly every death in the history of life.

So…I’m scared.

But here’s the thing, what I’m really scared about it that it won’t work out the way I want it to.

I’m Thwarted.

That’s a word that stuck in my head recently. To thwart means to:

1 a: to oppose successfully defeat the hopes or aspirations of

b: to run counter to so as to effectively oppose or baffle 

or
2: to pass through or across

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

But why should I expect not to be thwarted? Why should I expect it to work out the way I want it to? Why should I expect to be permanently successful and safe and happy and immortal? Happily ever after never happens to anyone.

Not. Anyone. Ever.

The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths says that:

There is suffering

Suffering is caused by desire

Removing desire will remove suffering

Desire can be removed

The Buddha

The Buddha suggested non-attachment as one way of removing desire. In other words, one major manifestation of desire is that we are attached to certain results. We wish that things are different than they are. This is a major cause of suffering and pain. So much so that the founders of AA recognized that alcoholics reached for a drink in part to alleviate the suffering caused by this desire. Their prescription is to recognize that we really don’t have any business railing against the way the world actually is and we should recognize that life is unmanageable and we should pray for:

The serenity to accept the things we cannot change,

The courage to change the things we can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Neibuhr

Put another way, when we are thwarted we feel bad. When our hopes and aspirations have been defeated we feel overwhelmed, upset, helpless and, yes, terrified. Something is in our way. Something is athwart our path.

Success gurus and business coaches may say to smash through all the barriers or ignore them because they’re all in your head. This isn’t really true. What is true, however, is that reality will almost always run athwart your hopes and aspirations because reality differs from what we make up. I don’t mean that dreams won’t come true but I do mean that dreams won’t magically come true and the things we REALLY want, to be happy all the time and to live healthy forever, are not going to happen because they never happen to anyone.

Which brings me to my fear. I don’t think my frustration and terror is going to go away but if I acknowledge it (like I’m doing right, now…thanks for listening!) and recognize that it’s both inevitable and ridiculous, I can move on and do the very best I can with what’s in front of me today. I can set aside my fear and enjoy the day I have.

Life happens. It’s not under my control. If I aspire to get it under my control I will be thwarted. If I am thwarted I can either be upset by that or recognize that aspiration was foolish and try to enjoy reality instead.

I am not saying we should not strive and struggle and hope and aspire. I think that’s what life is about. But there’s no sense in being afraid or upset when we’re thwarted.

That doesn’t mean I have to stop being afraid, that just means that there’s no sense in it.

Perhaps we should aspire to be thwarted.

Or maybe the best way to live is athwart, which is a goofy sounding word that means (among other things) “in opposition or counter to the expected course.”

Which brings up another prayer:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is discord, union;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Saint Francis of Assisi

So live athwart life. Be the positive troll that stands athwart the bridge (rather than lurking under it) and wishes good on all the annoying Billy Goats who travel by. Where there is hopelessness be a voice of hope. Where there is fear, be courageous.

Okay, that’s enough. You get it, I get it. Let’s go do it.

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

One of my favorite podcasts is the West Wing Weekly which looks at each episode of The West Wing. It’s hosted by West Wing superfan and musician Hrishikesh Hirway and West Wing cast member and old friend of mine Josh Malina. They started the podcast soon after Netflix posted all seven seasons and they have writers and experts and stars weighing in on each show.

It’s great and I highly recommend it.

At the end of each episode they say:

“Okay,”

“Okay,”

“What’s next?”

Which is a reference to Aaron Sorkin’s repeated use of “Okay” in his writing and the last line of the pilot which the President says (and repeats on occasion) to indicate that it’s time to move on to the next problem.

So what’s next?

One thing that I’ve heard over and over again is that completion is a powerful thing. I have two things I am GOING to complete this year. The first is a game that I’ve been thinking about creating for over 20 years. It’s called COMMON KNOWLEDGE and the Kickstarter will be launching in a few days!

The second is the third book in the first Bobby Blinx trilogy. It’s time to get that last piece out there. People are actually clamoring for it. It’s not a huge number of people but they do exist and clamoring is not an exaggeration.

I haven’t got there yet but I can already feel the power that completing these two long term projects will give me.

One. Thing. At. A. Time.

One. Thing. At. A. Time.

This is my third day in a row blogging every day again and it’s made a huge difference.

It’s remarkable.

Here’s why I think it makes such a difference.

Taking a step of any kind in a positive direction changes the feedback loop

We are often either in a positive or negative spiral. If you feel bad about yourself you’re more likely to sleep in or overeat or snap at someone which makes you feel bad about yourself which make you more likely to ….etc.

On the other hand, if you feel good about yourself you’re more likely to exercise or eat healthy or say something nice to someone which makes you feel good about yourself which makes you more like to…

Action comes before inspiration

I’ve said it before but it’s always worth repeating because it’s counterintuitive. Taking action causes motivation, not the other way around. If you wait until you feel like it to go to the gym you will die long before you get there.

Also, it’s easier to move your feet than to change your mind.

I’ve written extensively about this in other posts so I won’t belabor the point here.

Writing is linear, thinking is not

One of the many reasons why your mind is a dangerous neighborhood that you shouldn’t spend time in is that it works on multiple tracks and is completely directionless. It’s affected by waves of hormones, random memories and sensory inputs such that you can’t really come up with something coherent and meaningful.

At least I can’t.

Writing for a few minutes every morning really helps me to focus a little and put things that are my head into a logical framework. Life and our minds are holistic but we can really only effectively act on one thing at a time. Writing things down helps me to remember that and organize my self toward action.

Perfect.

Next?

What’s Up?

What’s Up?

I think I’m in full-on, mid-life crisis mode but, as with anything I do, I’m not following the normal path and I’m paying attention to steps I’m taking and my surroundings.

(How’s that for hubris?)

I am not where I thought I’d be when I was young and I can see exactly why. I am also aware of my own mortality and age. I am no longer the young prodigy who started a theater right out of college. I’m the greying fuddy-duddy who doesn’t want to use Instagram because social media is mostly a time suck and why bother learn something new if it’s dumb. In my down moments I compare everyone else’s success to my life and think about where I went wrong.

I could give you a list.

But who cares? When I really look at where I am and who I am and what I’ve done, it’s amazing. And it’s not over yet. There will be rough patches and challenges and triumphs and boring parts. Life will keep life-ing along like it always has. The world will continue to fall apart and put itself back together in a new way. There will be cause and effect and there will be seemingly random events that come out of nowhere.

I can only control what I do and what I say. I can’t control the outcome. That has always been true.

Really, the only thing that has changed is that I am more aware of my own mortality than I ever have been before. The fact that I have a limited lifespan is now real to me in a way it never was before. Again, this has always been true but now I’m actually aware of it.

That just means that if I have something I want to do, I should try to do it now or soon.

Perhaps it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway.

That has also always been true.

And it’s true for you too so get out there and do it!

Reasons for Writing, Reasons for Living

Reasons for Writing, Reasons for Living

It’s been several months since I posted. There are dozens of reasons for this but it boils down to this. This blog is about happiness and productivity and for several months I have been unhappy and unproductive.

I just heard an interview with Jia Talentino on Sam Sander’s podcast It’s Been a Minute. Jia and Sam discussed a bunch of interesting stuff (she’s brilliant) including this idea of social media presentation and being “on brand” versus being “authentic.” I have struggled with this in relation to the Four Steps and this blog because, honestly, I want to seem happy and productive all the time so that my thoughts or advice will seem like it’s coming from an authority on the topic.

Of course this is pure bullshit. I am not happy and productive all the time. I don’t hold the key to the universe. In fact, my greatest strength is the fact that I have screwed things up and I’ve tried to learn ways of fixing things.

And it’s pretty clear that if I am honest about those screw-ups and stumbles in my writing, these posts will probably be more valuable to more people.

I hate to admit this but one of the things that happened was I relapsed with drinking. In fact I was claiming to be sober to everyone and secretly drinking for months. This finally came to light and I am very happy to say that I’m back in recovery and currently 135 days sober. I have a regular meeting schedule (you know, the anonymous kind) with a sponsor and I’m working the steps. I have a new understanding of my own self-righteousness and resentments as driving forces in my addictive behavior.

I have also realized that my self-employment gambit is not working out. To support my family, I need to make more money than I have been making as a freelancer and entrepreneur.

I also have been gaining weight and not exercising as regularly as I did before.

And there has been some tough news that has really bummed me out. Friends of mine lost their kids in a car accident and another friend has a bad case of cancer. I would say that I’ve been in a mild depression since I got this news.

This is all stuff to write about but I didn’t want to.

It’s funny, I just wanted to apologize for not writing about it but I don’t know who you are and I’m not clear that I owe you anything. Blogging is odd that way. Everyone on Earth could read this potentially or, alternatively, no one else could ever see this.

I blog for myself, actually. So I guess I really owe an apology to myself for not writing.

I’m sorry.

Apology accepted. Thanks.

I feel so much better now! I really do. I was really mad at myself for not blogging for months and now I finally did it! I don’t think I’m going to promote this one so I suspect it will be read by some Russian spider-bots and maybe my Mom but I know I wrote it and so therefore I’m a blogger again!

Yay!

I Am Not You and Vice Versa

I Am Not You and Vice Versa

One of the simplest and most powerful lessons that I am struggling to learn is that I have no control over anyone else and everyone else is different from me.

This is obvious and, at the same time, not obvious. I have never seen the universe through anyone else’s eyes and I have never processed the input of my senses with anyone else’s brain. Since my own perspective is the only one that I am familiar with, it seems natural that I would assume that everyone thinks like me.

I don’t think I’m alone in making this assumption but I might be wrong. Maybe everyone else is much smarter and more evolved than me. Maybe everyone else figured this out when they were four and there is something terribly wrong with me.

I kind of doubt it.

I don’t doubt that there is something wrong with me. I know there is. I just think that we all assume that everyone should think like us. The fact that they don’t is frustrating. In fact, that’s one of the biggest sources of frustration (not to mention conflict, violence and war) in the world.

Let me stop the irresponsible speculation and bring it back to a subject I can speak about with some authority.

Me.

When I am upset with someone close to me, it’s usually because they have reacted to something in a way that is different than the way I think they should react. When I remember that they are different from me I can remember that communication is needed. Communication between two related but separate entities. That takes effort. It may take time and even some translation.

But it works better than the non-existent mind control or telepathy that I often try to employ.

Hope this is helpful to someone. If it isn’t, it’s a sign that I’m nuts.

Or rather, another sign.

If I Were a Sculptor

If I Were a Sculptor

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Michelangel

But then again, no…

Let me start again.

Yesterday we went to the beach.

It was, as usual, awesome.

I have never had a bad day at the beach. I imagine that it’s possible and I have met people who don’t like it but for me, it’s always good and usually great.

I went there with my son, Yogi and my 10-year-old niece, Lilyette, who is visiting from Maine.

Yogi and Lily spent most of the time in the ocean. I spent most of the time building a sandcastle.

I should say that Yogi and I are Sand Castle artists. I have loved building sandcastles since I was a kid growing up in Hampton, New Hampshire. I passed that love to Yogi and when he was about 7 we learned how to build really impressive castles, really sand carvings, from a company called “Can You Dig It.” Rather than building up, the way to make great looking castles is to make a huge pile of hard, wet sand and then carve a castle (or whatever) out of it.

While Yogi and Lily were swimming, I used a big shovel and built up a big pile of sand and mixed in water to make it hard. It takes a lot of physical labor for a long time before the final carving started and, as usual, I got a few looks and a couple of comments as I labored like a ditch digger. Just like a ditch digger, in fact.

After a couple hours, Yogi and Lily come out of the water to help me carve so the castle would look good before the tide came in and wrecked it.

That’s a big part of what we do. We actually like to start building right around low tide so we have a few hours to create an elaborate structure before the tide comes in and swamps it, creating our own epic disaster.

As we carve out blocks of stone and crenellations and windows and doors and stairs, the castle suddenly emerges out of the blob of damp sand. People start to comments on how awesome it looks just as we are finishing up. It’s very satisfying.

But it’s not why we do it. We do it because the whole process is fun and exciting.

But most of the process is not interesting to watch.

Which brings me to Rocketman.

We finally saw Rocketman, the Elton John biopic, this week before it left theaters completely and it was pretty darn good. I thought it was a little better than Bohemian Rhapsody and Shelley thought it was a little worse. I liked the stylistic risks the director took and I’ve been on a bit of an Elton John kick lately, partly because his catalog has been playing in public places because of the release of this movie and partly because his songs are fun to play on the piano.

When you start digging into his catalog, even just the hits, it’s pretty clear that Elton John is amazing. For the last month, the song Grey Seal (a weird cut from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that apparently nobody, including Bernie Taupin, understands) has been permanently worming around my ears and it’s only starting to drive me crazy after about four weeks of non-stop heavy rotation.

But what Rocketman (and Bohemian Rhapsody) deals with is the happy and unhappy effects and side effects of success. What we don’t see much of is the creation. In Rocketman, we see Elton John playing Your Song as he looks at the lyrics for the first time as if the chord progression was suggested by the lyrics and the melody popped out a few moments later. In Bohemian Rhapsody there is a scene where Freddy Mercury keeps telling Roger Taylor to sing higher as a way of representing Mercury’s perfectionist drive. As a result, Taylor keeps singing the same (correct) note with a bit more intensity each time. Neither snippet makes much sense as a representation of any creative process, let along the process of people we have come to revere as genre-defining (and smashing) geniuses.

Of course, the reason for this is that the actual creative process is dull as dishwater to watch. Most of it is ditch digging. The flashes of insight come out of the details and happen internally when they happen at all. From the outside the interesting stuff comes at the end when the finishing touches make the sandcastle or the song or the novel come alive.

Creation is boring to watch and mostly boring to do. I worked with a bunch of people including Dick Clark (briefly) and Spike Lee (very briefly) to create a reality show based on Instant Film, the festival I created with Peter Lebow and Charles Papert to make movies in two days. It was hopeless because making a movie is mostly boring, grinding work if it goes well. If it doesn’t go well in some interesting and spectacular way, the movie won’t get finished.

The takeaway is that anything worth doing takes a lot of grinding work. Even writing a blog post.

But it’s worth it.

And it’s worth it, not because of the success that comes when people like it, it comes from the act of creation itself. Once you know that, the ditch digging part becomes fun.

If I was a sculptor, for example, it would take a long time to get to the point where anyone, including maybe me, could tell what I was making.

Fantasy Versus Reality

Fantasy Versus Reality

Fantasy: Tonight I’m going to go to bed early and get 8 hours of blissful, restful sleep.

Reality: I have a growing problem with insomnia that is getting worse rather than better. I now associate my bed with being awake. I need to make some serious changes to get better rest.

Fantasy: Starting tomorrow I’m going to be incredibly focused and get a lot done.

Reality: Every day I spend a lot of time driving around and when I’m not doing that I don’t have a good habit of getting focused.

I could go on and on but it’s a boring story already and the point has been made. Fantasy is fantasy. Reality is reality. I actually live in reality so I’d better deal with that.

By the way:

Fantasy: You read this and change your life completely because once you realize that you live as if your fantasy is reality, you jettison the fantasy and become incredibly focused, productive and happy.

Reality: ??

Fan Service and Guilty Pleasures

Fan Service and Guilty Pleasures

Recently I was scratching my dog’s butt. He likes it quite a bit.

To be clear, I’m talking about the area above his tail, really analogous to the lower back on a human.

“Scratch my butt? Please?”

Most dogs like being scratched there. Porthos really loves it and often demands, sweetly (with big brown begging eyes) a scratch.

My friend Norman noticed and said “my cat likes being scratched there as well.”

I said, “how does it make you feel?” Scratching my dog’s butt is nice because it’s nice for him but it doesn’t really feel like I’m getting much out of it. His head is faced away from me and I kind of feel like I’m doing him a favor without getting much in return. It kind of feels like I’m giving him pleasure in an obligatory way.

Norman replied, hilariously, “it’s a little like fan service.”

I understood what he meant, exactly.

Kind of like how superhero movie makers have to put in certain references for the die-hard fans of the original comic books. These tidbits don’t serve the story or flesh out the characters. They just bring jolts of recognition to those of us who read about these characters 22 pages at a time back in the late 70s.

Scratching my dog’s butt is pandering and it feels good for him just like Flash Thompson in Spider-Man feels good for me. If you know what I mean you know what I mean. If you don’t, it really doesn’t matter.

Here are some other things that I love guiltily because I feel like I’m being pandered to.

Jack FM

This format/station plays exactly what I want to hear every time I turn it on. I don’t do it that often because it makes me hate myself for being so predictable. I thought I was an individual with wide and divergent taste but it turns out I’m just part of a demographic that loves REM, Prince, The Rolling Stones and Daft Punk and then is delighted to hear my favorite Soft Cell and Def Leopard songs that I didn’t know I wanted to hear (but Jack did).

It makes me feel dirty.

Ready Player One

I’m talking about the book which was not really very cinematic but was really aimed precisely at geeks who were born in the sixties.

I’ve never resented loving something so much.

Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s

I just discovered this band. They do punk covers of decidedly non-punk songs and it’s fantastic. Take the catchy melody of and touching lyrics of “Seasons In the Sun” and shred away the shmaltz with heavy drums, crunching guitars and howling vocals.

It’s heaven.

And it makes me feel dirty.

And I love it.

Please keep scratching my butt.