Everyone Can’t Do Everything

Since I was young, I’ve been told that I can be anything that I want to be. The implication that was silently included in that statement was that if I worked hard enough, there was no job or position or achievement that I couldn’t reach if I just did all the things required to get there. Nearly every member of my generation and beyond has been told this over and over again until we came to the unfortunate place of actually learning to believe it. For many, it is an immutable truth that no amount of evidence to the contrary can overcome. It is ingrained in who we are.

One of my favorite quotes in modern times comes from the political commentator Ben Shapiro in which he states the simple but effective phrase “facts don’t care about your feelings”. Like most things when it comes to politics and ideologies, I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of what Shapiro has to say on certain subjects, but we do agree on this one thing: no matter how you feel about something, sometimes things are the way they are and there isn’t anything positive you can do to change it. The only other option is to burn it all down, and that rarely leads to a good outcome for anyone.

There are many things in the world that people want to do that they simply aren’t capable of doing, no matter how hard they try or what they learn or how much help they get from others. When it comes to getting something done, some people are just ready made for certain tasks while others are so prohibitively misaligned with something that they do far more harm than good. It isn’t their fault that they struggle or fail at a task; it just isn’t within their scope of ability. There isn’t anything wrong with being unable to perform everything you put your mind to.

The mistake that many have made in the past has been attributing things that really have nothing to do with the performance of a task. The color of your skin has nothing to do with your ability to perform complex mathematics calculations, for example, and your gender has nothing to do with your ability to form a logical idea. For most of our history our prejudices have found limitations based on things that don’t really apply, and it is because of this that we are experiencing such an unrealistic revolution in things like feminism and continued race tensions. Because of unreasonable prohibitions that occurred in the past, the reasonable judgements of the present are unfairly questioned and people are labeled as prejudiced when the truth is that not everyone can do everything.

As an example, for much of my time as a Marine Corps musician I was on track to become a Drum Major. I spent a great deal of time leading the various units I was a part of in performances both big and small because I was good at what I did and I impressed my leaders with my ability to do the job. Many of my qualities were very much suited to performing in that particular capacity. I’m right at six feet tall, which makes me slightly taller than average and gave me a much better position to not only create an imposing bearing but also ensure that the band members in the back were able to see what I was doing. My voice, while not particularly deep or resonant, could be projected quite far which made me able to participate in large parades to communicate over long distances. I also have a strong sense of spatial awareness which allowed me to not only be aware of the band behind me, but also to have a natural ability to perform the specific movements with the ceremonial mace used to direct the band. All in all, I had a lot of things going for me in the pursuit of that particular goal.

On the other hand, there were some members of the program who wanted to be drum majors, but simply weren’t good candidates. Many of these were female, but it wasn’t their gender that made them unsuitable. They were short, so the back rows struggled to see them. They had feminine voices that wouldn’t carry, so in many situations they were difficult to hear. Females in general struggle with spatial awareness as compared to males, so their mace work was just not very clean or sharp because they were always struggling to know where it was at any given point without looking at it, and it looks terrible to watch someone who is supposed to look mostly like a statue swaying about trying to control a moving object.

This is a simple but applicable example of some people just not being suitable for certain things. Several of the drum major candidates I saw during my time were selected solely because they were female and not because they had any real talent or ability for the craft. I don’t really blame them because they just wanted to do something that looked interesting. It’s not wrong to have a dream. The fault lies with the leadership who failed to recognize that they weren’t optimized for that particular position, or knew but were too cowardly of potential social backlash because they didn’t want to be labeled as “sexist”.

Society today is abound with examples just like this one. People are placed in positions they have no business in because we have created racial and gender based quotas so that people don’t have to “feel bad”. This brings us right back to the top where Shapiro tells us that your feelings are irrelevant when it comes to getting things done. You’re either capable of doing a good job or you aren’t. No amount of wishing or hoping or anything else is going to change reality.

The harsh truth is that we were lied to as children; you can’t be anything you want to be. A more true statement would have been something like “you can be whatever you want to be so long as it’s within your natural abilities”, but that doesn’t sound nearly as inspirational, which is why no one ever said it that way. Again, sparing people’s feelings rarely results in a net positive, which is why our society is crumbling the way it is today. Until people stop prioritizing emotion over reality, it will only get worse.

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Living with Anti-social Tendencies

For many, it is a mystery why there is a portion of the population who just doesn’t like to be around other people. Human beings are social animals by default, and when we are alone for extended periods of time it tends to have negative effects on our mental state. Most people can’t bear solitude for very long, requiring regular contact with others in both physical and social contexts. We are a highly gregarious species, much like a single living organism that needs the other parts to live a healthy life.

For people like me, however, the situation is very different. Unlike most people who become recharged when they spend time around other people, the act of engaging in social activities is far more like work than pleasure for someone who struggles with anti-social tendencies. The anxiety that comes with having to spend time with people who have expectations that you might not be able to meet, or simply the fact that you have to behave in a certain way to accommodate the basic social contract requires more effort for some than others.

The phrase “no man is an island” is often used to encapsulate the idea that we all need each other in one way or another. While quite true, some people take this too far in an attempt to apply their own view of how people should behave onto others. I was many times guilted into participating in social events that I really didn’t have any desire for because I was made to feel selfish for not wanting to go through the inevitable discomfort that being around other people tends to cause me.

To be fair, there are certain social situations for which I have little or no anxiety that are quite social, so it really depends on the specific circumstances. For example, I never felt anxious when I was with a group of friends participating in a game of Dungeons and Dragons because my focus was on the epic story and playing a character rather than the social expectations of those around me. We all had a singular, common goal which was to participate in a fantasy adventure. The potential for awkward social issues was very low in such situations.

Perhaps the most dreaded event I can be asked to attend is a party or celebration. In the first place, I’m one of those people who never felt comfortable enough with my body to learn to dance, and no matter how many times people have tried to get me to put myself on display that way I have never been willing to even try. I don’t like feeling awkward; I need to be in control. Dancing is almost by definition the release of control to let your body do whatever. It is abhorrent to me.

Upon reflection I begin to realize that anti-social behavior, for me at least, is largely based on this need for control. When you are by yourself, you have nearly complete control over your environment and you never have to worry about what anyone else thinks of you. The moment you enter into a space with other people, you have given up a significant portion of your control and you are now negotiating for how much of it you get to keep with those you are spending your time with. For a person who likes order and discipline, this is a frustrating situation.

At the same time, no person can be alone all the time and be mentally healthy. We all need human interaction in our lives, even if it’s only a few hours a week. This requires being willing to give up our control for a while so we can get that much needed social recharge that even the most anti-social of us require. It simply needs to be understood that this comes at a cost for us, and people shouldn’t take it personally when we yearn to go back to our solitude. It isn’t you specifically, just our need to get back to the peace and control of our preferred environment.

I stated once before that the real difference between an extrovert and an introvert is the flow of energy when it comes to social situations, and I’ll repeat it here for those of you who might not have read that particular article. An extrovert draws energy from social interactions; a party is a place where they go to recharge their energy and fill up their spiritual cup. The introvert, on the other hand, expends energy in these kinds of exchanges, the people around them soaking up their energy, and it is only when they are able to get back to peace and solitude that they are able to fill up their respective reservoirs.

One of the hardest things to do is really learn something about yourself and come to accept it. While it would be nice for me to be able to waltz into a party and be the center of attention, that just isn’t me and it never will be. I’m the guy who hangs back by the bar, trying to minimize how many people I have to talk to and just waiting to get back to my nice, quiet place. While many will not understand that way of thinking, I’ve accepted it about myself and if this way applies to you then you should to. Never be afraid to be who you are; the only expectations that matter are your own.

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The Problem with Modern Video Games

I’ve been playing video games for a very long time now. As a nineties kid, I grew up just as they were really becoming a mainstream kind of thing. I can remember my first Nintendo Entertainment System, playing games like Super Mario Bros. and Iron Tank. When I was a little older my biological father introduced me to PC games like Heretic and Myst and Pool of Radiance. I came into the video game arena during a time when the focus was on creating new and amazing things; where the gameplay experience was based on previously unexplored territory and trying to find every possible way to enjoy this relatively new medium of entertainment.

Unfortunately, our society has changed so drastically from those heady times and it has completely changed the way we approach the art form that is video games. No one seems to have the patience anymore for something that is truly innovative and interesting. We have been conditioned to feel like we have to make the most of every minute of our day, which includes our free time. Because of this, even the various forms of entertainment we currently enjoy have an air of impatience about them; an attempt to cram as much into as little time as possible to feel like we’re getting the most “bang for our buck”.

The problem is adrenaline, really. It is only when we get that feeling of excitement that we feel anything anymore. We have become dead to the more subtle forms of entertainment, instead preferring only the brute force methods that get our hearts pumping and neurons firing rapidly. Everything has to be action these days, or at the very least a rapid series of events leading up to it. There is little interest left in today’s gaming landscape for games like Myst where you have to pour over an entire island looking for the one mechanism that opens the door to the next area, or Warriors of the Eternal Sun where you had to spend long hours on the first playthrough exploring the area and fighting off monsters. It simply takes too long.

The problem today is that very little effort is spent on quality story telling anymore. Everyone is fixated on rapid fire, fast paced games like Fortnite, which is a perfect example of what I’m trying to get at here. There is a vague story associated with the game itself, and die hard fans are aware of the lore surrounding it, but the gameplay itself just isn’t about a rich storytelling experience. You hop into a game, run around and kill as many people as you can, and then the round ends and you jump into another one. People can play the game for years and not even realize there is a story hidden in there somewhere. The focus is on the fighting, not a narrative.

A good example of story versus action is the sad example of the Neverwinter franchise. I can remember when the game Neverwinter Nights was first released, and I spent many hours absorbing every aspect of that game. I recently went back to play through it again, and the story was just as engaging today as it was when I first played it. My brain doesn’t really hold onto details for very long, so I can go back an re-watch old television shows and movies, or play through old video games and it can feel almost like the first time. Neverwinter Nights is a game I return to every so often.

On the other side is the similarly titled Neverwinter, the MMO version of the same world that deviated from the mostly turn based style of the original game to conform to the “action RPG” style that exists in nearly every modern game. Like most heavily action centered games, there is definitely a story that you’re playing through in the game, but that just isn’t where the focus is. Even if you’re like me and playing games is mostly about enjoying a narrative, you get sucked into the grindy action aspect of just getting your character to the maximum level rather than really paying attention to what’s going on with the characters. There is little effort into making you care about any of the non-player characters in the game, presented as little more than an interface to use to activate a new “quest” and move to the next step in the game.

This is the truly sad state of video games today. In Neverwinter Nights, I cared about the main characters of the story, developing an affinity for Aribeth and Fenthick and feeling a true sense of sorrow watching the story turn very dark for the both of them. I enjoyed my dealings with Aaron Gend as relationship between my character and his grew. There were great backstories for the non-player companions I could bring with me which allowed me to have favorite characters based on who they were rather than what their stats were. The MMO Neverwinter has none of these things.

I find myself moving away from modern video games, returning to the classic games from my youth. For most things I would say this is simply nostalgia, but when it comes to one of the major passions of my life I can only look around at the current offerings and see the objective and abject failures of creative developers who chase dollars rather than quality. There is little desire to create something truly engaging when people are willing to spend their money on garbage. We have this amazing technology that can create mind-blowing experiences, but we continue to waste it on shiny flashes and empty game play.

The struggle for me is that the shallow part of me struggles with going backward. When I go back to play the old games, it is impossible to not notice the comparatively horrible graphics quality of what was available in those days. It was cutting edge at the time, but impossible to enjoy compared to the visual quality of modern gaming. I yearn for the best of both: great graphics with a truly awesome story and gameplay.

Perhaps one day people will finally get bored with the way things have become and yearn as I do for a return to when videos games were all about something new. Games today are all cookie-cutter. If you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. Games like World of Warcraft or Neverwinter or Fortnite are just the same old games with different art work. I’m tired of the same old thing. It’s time for something new.

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Faith Vs. Recklessness

One of the most prevalent ideas in society is the notion that we aren’t alone. It’s written into our DNA to believe that there is something out there other than just we humans. Most of us believe in some form of non-human intelligence, and faith in a higher power is by far the most common way to satisfy this seemingly primal need. Whether you choose to believe in God or not, there is in our very nature something inside each of us that calls us to look for something more than ourselves. Some of us choose to believe it’s biological; others feel it comes from the outside in a very spiritual place. Regardless of how you choose to see it, few people can honestly deny that there is some form of calling to something bigger.

Either path you choose requires some form of faith. Hebrews 11:1 gives very clear and poignant definition of what the word faith truly implies: “It is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.” At first glance it seems that God is requiring us to just blindly jump into whatever it seems like we’re being called to do, but that isn’t really the way it works. There are two key words in that simple phrase that tell us all about how we are supposed to approach faith.

The first word to key in on is hope. No matter how bad things get or what our circumstances might be from moment to moment, there is an ever present part of us that looks toward the future to something better. You may not believe in God, and your situation may have beaten you down to the point that your hope for the future is just barely hanging on, but something inside you convinces you to accept that the future can be better. There is a real substance to this hope that gives you the strength to keep on living, even though your circumstances might seem hopeless.

The second word is evidence, and this is the truly important part of the verse. At no point in the Bible do we see God asking anyone to do anything without some sort of proof of His will for it to be done. The Old Testament is replete with physical examples of this, from the burning bush with Moses to Gideon requiring specific proof that God was there. Even if you only see the Bible as a silly religious text, it can’t be said that the God of the Bible isn’t willing to give us proof. Faith might require belief in something unseen, but it is never truly blind.

At this point, you might be wondering what all this talk of faith has to do with a blog on politics and philosophy, and I can understand this confusion. I don’t typically make a big deal about the fact that I am a Christian, and that’s mostly because I tend to struggle with it a lot myself. It would be a huge lie for me to present myself as a “good Christian” because I simply don’t live my life that way. However, at my core I do believe that God is there and there is something I’m being asked to do, and I can feel the compulsion to do it. It is for this reason that this post is being written.

You see, many people get ideas in their head and start to think that maybe there is something more to it than just being an idea in their head. Their attention is grabbed and the focus in on whatever it happens to be, allowing it to gain strength and form into something bigger and more durable than it really ought to be. Infatuation with the concept takes hold and before too long they are convinced that it is the correct path forward. They jump in feet first with little or no real soul searching, fully believing that they have been given a vision for their future.

This is probably the truest definition of recklessness. Any time we take action that is based solely on a feeling in our hearts, we are gambling with our future. It is this mistake that has caused the word faith to become something of a dirty word in the more secular parts of society. People who claim faith in a higher power end up taking actions based on personal experiences and insisting that it was God who told them to do it.

In reality, God rarely moves without putting out multiple streams of confirmation for the person He is trying to convince to do something. These confirmations won’t be overtly obvious, but will be just enough to show that there is something more going on than just random chance. We will be guided specifically toward whatever objective we have been assigned, not beat over the head with it but gently nudged toward whatever it is we have been destined to do. God never forces; he implies and hopes that we choose to follow Him.

This is the difference between faith and recklessness: it is following what we believe to be true, not based on hunches or gut feelings but on external pieces of evidence that we can bring together to get an understanding of what we’re supposed to be doing. Too many people believe that faith is supposed to be this giant leap into the unknown; the reality is that it is a long and arduous process of questioning God until He provides us with what we need to act. Rarely are we expected to go from complete unbelief to becoming a spiritual warrior overnight. Moses spent forty years in the wilderness before he was ready for God’s call.

One of the more important tools I use to convey an idea is giving a real world example that exemplifies a concept, so for this topic I will use my desire to buy a boat and sail around the world. For many years I have had the dream of buying a boat because one of the activities I truly enjoy and find a significant measure of peace in is sailing. There is something about being on the water and harnessing the wind that truly appeals to me and makes me feel content. The idea of shifting my entire life into a place where I can do that all the time fills me with a hope for finding true happiness.

Unfortunately, there are many variables that come with even finding a boat to buy, much less the many tasks that come with owning one long term. Depending on a couple of other pre-requisites I won’t cover here, I have two paths before me when it comes to buying a boat: I can get a loan to buy a newer boat with fewer problems or I can pay cash for an older and cheaper boat that I have to spend a couple of years fixing up to get ready. Each side has significant pros and cons and there are several reasons for which I tend to lean toward going with an older boat.

The most obvious reason is that I would prefer not to obligate myself to a very large monthly payment for the next twenty or so years when I can’t be sure what my financial situation is going to be over the long term. It was one thing to make that jump with my travel trailer because I can just move it to wherever my job happens to be, but if I’m going to live on a boat I have to be where the work is, and that might not be near the water. And if my ultimate goal is travelling around the world, then my options for work become far more limited. Having a boat payment isn’t ideal in such a circumstance.

On the flip side, there is a huge list of problems with buy an older boat that stack up in such a way to make the decision very difficult. Older boats require a lot more work and few of them are in the kind of condition that would be acceptable to most marinas. Since I don’t make enough to pay for a boat to be parked somewhere while I fix it up, I find myself in that catch twenty two situation of not wanting to buy something acceptable and being unable to find a boat I can pay cash for that will allow me to move onto it right away.

One of the voices in my life has been urging me to strongly consider going with the loan option, and I understand his point. He works on the water and knows all about the problems that come with old boats. This man has been an important spiritual advisor in my life, which would normally lead me to believe that perhaps God is trying to move me into exactly the situation I want to do some kind of work, but this is exactly the time where one needs to be very careful when moving forward. He has made some effort to help me find an option for getting on the water and this seems to be some sort of push toward where I want to go, but it is important to remember that a single confirmation is rarely God making a move in your life.

The reality is that before I can really do anything about a boat there must be several things lining up toward that goal that proves to me that there is something there more than just my personal desire to go live out on the water. An opportunity must present itself, perhaps in the form of a great paying job that I don’t have to be in one place for, or perhaps a specific line of work that would utilize the boat in some way. It doesn’t have to be a sure thing; God rarely gives us that level of confidence. However, it must be something that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that I’m not just moving of my own accord. There is something more to it.

All of this is meant to make clear a very important point when it comes to the idea of faith: it’s not about your feelings. If you are ever seriously considering making a major decision in your life and the only reason you can find to make it is how you feel about it, then you’re just gambling on the vague hope that it will all work out somehow. Even if you have no faith in a higher power, it is a terrible way to make decisions. It is through logic and reasonable evidence of opportunity that people find success in their lives, and we should all strive to find more than just what is in our hearts. The Bible also gives us a very profound point about using the heart in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

In the end, whether you believe in God or not, never be reckless with your decision making. Even if your faith is only in yourself, you should always be looking for some kind of confirmation or good reason to take action on anything. It is through reason that we are able to make good choices, and that requires setting aside how we feel and finding reasons to say no. We should be overwhelmed with good reasons to overcome out doubt. Otherwise, we are simply taking that ridiculous “leap of faith”.

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The Danger of Free Money

There has been a lot of serious talk in progressive circles in the last decade or so about something called “universal basic income”, the idea being that if everyone is provided with a basic living they will be free to pursue whatever interests their hearts desire. This utopian idea, like many others, is an amazing concept that at first glance seems like a great idea, but is ultimately doomed to failure. In theory it makes perfect sense, yet when you consider other variables like human nature you begin to see the cracks in the armor.

Human beings are a strange animal. Unlike the rest of nature, we have an advanced capacity for reason and logic and an eye for the future. Our intellect and ability to create world changing technologies places us far ahead of any of the other biological creatures on the planet, yet deep within us still resides that primal nature that drove us out of the mists of antiquity and into the forefront of our planet. No matter how hard we try to deny it, we are animals just like the rest of creation; far more advanced and dominating, but still ruled by instincts we feel are no longer relevant to modern living.

It is this huge, underlying part of our makeup that makes certain seemingly perfect ideas dead on arrival. Any vision of a utopian future has to combat human nature, which by its very composition is directly opposed to any kind of completely peaceful existence. We are ultimately driven not by dreams, but by the competition of others. It is only in environments of conflict that we are able to truly tap into who we are and fully realize our potential. Whether in wars of physical violence or simply economic competition, it is the hunt that truly drives humanity forward.

Of course, this particular viewpoint is overgeneralized on a macro level. The Christian Bible describes humans as sheep to be led, requiring a firm yet gentle hand to get us to where we are supposed to be. It only takes looking back through millennia of recorded history to confirm this to be the truth. Time and again we see powerful leaders rising to the top of social structures to dominate their once peers, molding nations and sowing chaos and strife at the behest of their whims, their citizens happily going along with the insanity in the hopes that they would reap some reward off the ambition of the powerful.

If history has taught us anything, it is that true ambition is quite rare. The average human being is quite content with a reasonably comfortable life and will even suffer the restrictions placed on him by others as long as the benefit is worth the cost. It takes an unusually driven person to break free of the complacency of the existing system to carve out their own path, and there simply aren’t that many of them out there. They have the vision and drive to see a path to success that few others can, and it is this primal need to conquer that propels them forward into greatness.

For those of us without this particular trait, it is only when we are forced out of our comfortable lives that we find the drive to do more than just sustain what we have. Sometimes we are inspired by those who blaze a trail and it stirs up that primal urge to hunt, but most of the time the changes in our lives are driven by simple necessity. In our need to provide for our own lives, we are forced to become better and more driven, seeking more in an attempt to provide some sense of security and stability in the chaos that is human existence.

This is the insidious danger of a concept like universal income. It removes the requirement for the average person to seek out a means of survival, thereby eliminating any real external force that requires them to seek improvement. It is quite logical to think that if a person was free to do whatever they want they would seek some sort of self improvement or find a way to contribute in a meaningful way to society, yet human nature itself belies this unrealistic expectation. Some people might, but most would simply degrade into laziness.

If you need a real life example of this, you can simply look at the last decade of my life. Since I started my career in administration, I have worked for two companies which paid well but had little in the way of actual work for me to do. This left with with a great deal of free time to perhaps seek another degree or learn things that would allow me to invent something new or any other thing that might contribute to my life or others in a meaningful way, yet I have spent that time doing none of those things…until recently at least. The majority of the last eight years of my life have been spent watching YouTube.

At first glance, you might be confused as to why this would be the case, but if we pay attention to human nature we start to understand. I’ve been given a good living for basically no cost on my part. I haven’t had to work for it; it’s simply given to me. I have to come in every day, sure, and sometimes there are actually real things for me to do, but more than ninety percent of my time is spent sitting at my desk trying to find ways to pass the time until I can go home. There is no ambition, no drive to push beyond where I am, and no reason to change anything. I’m comfortable and mentally trapped where I am because I don’t really need anything more, so why bother?

Obviously I’m only one example, but the point is to illustrate how something like this works. If you look at society as a whole today and contemplate the sheer number of hours wasted on things like social media or television rather than accomplishing anything meaningful, my example looks a lot more reasonable. We live in a society today that has already been hamstrung by a lack of any real challenge in our lives, and without an external factor forcing us to grow, most of us will stagnate where we are.

Universal basic income is by default a terrible lie that will destroy far more people than it helps. Certainly some people will take full advantage of the opportunity and go on to do things with their lives they otherwise might not have been able to, but the vast majority of people will simply grow fat and lazy on their couches, watching inane content in an attempt to pass by their dreadfully boring lives while they wait for death. You may not like the way that sounds, but this is the truth of biological beings of any kind: most of the time we seek the path of least resistance. True value has to be forced on us, and that’s the only way our lives can find any meaning.

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Finding Your Creative Spark

As a fairly new writer of regular online content, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with things to talk about. I am a naturally solitary person, preferring not to waste a lot of time talking about unnecessary things and putting as focus as possible on doing things that I find fulfilling, or at least entertaining. My hyper focus on basically not being bored soaks up a lot of my attention and leaves me with little in the way of what we typically call the “creative spark”. For a writer, this is a critical part of coming up with engaging content that people want to read.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll already know that this is a problem for me. While I have thus far been able to push myself into keeping up with a regular posting schedule, this is mostly because I keep my writing in line with the way I think: short and to the point. Most bloggers are going for word count, and this is important for maximizing your exposure due to the way that modern search engine algorithms work, but I’m simply not able to bring myself to submit to that way of writing. When I have a point, I just want to make it in the clearest possible way I can. Wasting your or my time expanding on a subject that we already understand keeps us from moving on with our day.

On the other side of things, however, is the other forms of creative writing I would like to get into. I believe I mentioned in the past that I wrote a full length novel, which was placed in a mixture of science fiction and fantasy. While I was able to get the book completed and I even self-published it on Amazon, it is the only major writing work I’ve been able to get completed. I have outlines for two additional books to complete the story, but the urge that propelled the first book into completion simply hasn’t extended to the rest of the story. The motivation just isn’t there.

This has been the status of the work for a couple of years now, and isn’t really the reason I’m writing this today. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a new idea for a story I think would be very interesting to read, and a part of me feels excited to start over with a new work. However, I find that when I really start to think about sitting down to write it, I am unable to summon that creative energy I had when I sat down to write the first book. This is a wall that every author has to climb over each time they have an inspiration for a new novel, but for me the situation is a little bit different.

A good writer has the ability to pull readers into whatever it is that they’re putting to paper. When you read their work, you are pulled in a very natural way into whatever subject it is that they are writing about. Each writer has their own voice and approach to conveying information, and deviating from that rarely results in a work that people enjoy reading. For a work to be truly interesting and engaging, it has to conform to the way the author can write in a natural way. Anything else will come across as stale or fake or any other number of negative adjectives.

For myself, I have always enjoyed fantasy adventure novels because they take me to amazing places I’ll never see in my real life. It is the seed for my current desire to get out of the normal daily grind and go see some of the world. I grew up on adventures and I’m ready for my own. These are the kinds of things that inspire some of my more interesting writing ideas, and because I identify so heavily with the genre it seems natural at first for me to want to sit down and write stories in that same vein.

The problem arises when I start to realize that my writing style and creative energy simply isn’t compatible with that kind of story. I’m great at coming up with interesting ideas and fleshing out the mechanics of a story. In my youth I was a fairly prolific Dungeon Master, leading my friends through epic adventures in the supremely popular Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. It’s one thing to tell a story from such a high level and allow others to develop the story; it’s quite another to actually do it yourself.

One of the critical parts to creating a successful work of fiction is understanding how to reach people on a personal level with your characters. No matter how interesting the world or storyline or major events in your story might be, if your characters aren’t relatable then you will be unable to gain any serious attention from your readers. Epic battles lose much of their intensity when you don’t really care if the participants live or die, and few people will find interest in a romance between two very underdeveloped and boring characters. No matter how creative you might be in other areas, if you can’t pull it all together with a genuine sense of emotion you will be unable to make the story work.

This is where I find myself in my writing. Like many things in my life, I have a firm grasp on the technical aspects of writing and I’m fairly creative when it comes to thematic ideas and coming up with an interesting arc for a story. The problem arises when it comes time to actually get down to the gritty details of developing characters and making them genuine. As a fairly anti-social person, I don’t have the emotional experiences required to convey the kinds of things that make adventure novels truly interesting to read.

Perhaps the hardest thing a person can do is learn to accept his limitations. While I would love to become like the great fantasy writers I grew up admiring, the truth is that I just don’t have the abilities required to make it happen. Just because one wants to become an actor or singer or other such thing doesn’t mean they have the basic minimum requirements to be successful in that venture. In the end, there are simply doors that are closed to us based on our talents and abilities. Sometimes you can break through those doors and even find the success you crave, but the sad truth is that most people end up just wasting their lives pursuing things that were never meant to be.

One of the great things I’ve learned about myself is that I am very self aware and I know and understand where my strengths are. Although I enjoy writing, it is important for me to remember that my talents lie not in creating fantastic adventures but in conveying complex information in a way that is easy to understand. My gift is the ability to teach others. This is the reason why I have been able to keep up with writing so many posts on this blog; the complex topics covered here are difficult to understand without being broken down in certain ways, and I have the ability to do that. Thus I have come to accept that I need to confine my writing to those things that mesh well with the way my mind works.

Too many people go on and on about following your dreams, but sometimes the dream you have isn’t the dream that really works for you. It’s nice to fantasize about being someone other than who you are, but it’s a dubious proposition to believe that you’ll be truly happy living a life that isn’t really you. Being creative doesn’t mean fitting yourself into the image of someone else; by definition it’s the exact opposite of that. Learn who you are and figure out what works for you, and then build your dreams based on that. Chasing the dreams of others rarely works in your favor.

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Knowledge Versus Wisdom

On the surface, it seems like knowledge is always a good thing. The more we know, the more prepared we can be for the various things we might encounter in our lives. In our modern day, we have amassed so much knowledge that it can sometimes feel like there is no situation that we can’t deal with simply by looking it up from the vast databases that comprise the global internet system. “Knowledge is power” as the saying goes, and there is some truth in that statement.

However, like most things in life it’s the deeper and more difficult part of how to use that knowledge that tends to get overlooked in the hectic and impatient society we live in today. It’s one thing to understand how and why something works; it’s quite another to figure out the best way to use that information for the best possible outcome. To the woe of many people who place knowledge at the pinnacle of existence, in the end it is experience that gives value to information.

This is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Information is critically important, and without it we would have no ability for even basic survival. Knowing how to find food and shelter and defend ourselves from danger are critical elements of human existence. However, it’s one thing to know the steps required to do something and another to actually have done it and figured out how to be successful at it. Having a checklist doesn’t mean you’re actually capable of accomplishing the tasks. It’s only once you’ve done it that you know.

The interesting thing about wisdom is that it teaches us things we never knew we had to learn. No matter how complete a volume of knowledge might be, it will never include all the little details that one learns by actually performing a task. You might get a high level summary of the major steps, or even a partial list of the minor elements involved, but a book has no way of telling you how you will individually cope with performing a task. It is only through experience that you are able to learn what your abilities are.

In our modern day arrogance, experience has become far less important than adding to our checklist of things we “know”. We used to believe that older generations held far more value than we did because they had already gone through all the things we still have to experience. They knew about love and life and how to find happiness because they already did it. Now, however, we think we have the magic key to the perfect life in the form of a shapeless mass of conflicting information. We forgot the lesson that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Information without context is completely useless. It’s one thing to know that two plus two equals four, but if we don’t have some understanding of how to use that information to make it productive in some way, that knowledge does no one any good. Experience using this simple mathematical equation in the real world is what makes this theoretical information something important to know. Anything that can’t be moved from the realm of intellectual thought into practical application is a pointless endeavor.

Obviously, there are some things that on the surface don’t appear to have a practical application, and this is what clouds the issue. Things like art and music aren’t particularly practical from a productivity standpoint, but they have real world value in what they can inspire us to do. Philosophical debate led to the rise of the concepts of individual liberty upon which the foundation of America was laid. Esoteric thinking in the fields of mathematics led to amazing discoveries in the field of physics, which is opening up fantastic new doors to world changing technologies.

This is where the confusion lies. How do we determine what kind of thinking is useful? Wisdom has already provided the answer. We have to experience it and go through whatever the consequences turn out to be. Unfortunately, this means that some are going to have to suffer to learn the lessons of things we haven’t figure out yet. Sometimes these can be very serious consequences, including death. Many times there simply isn’t any way to know how things are going to turn out. You just have to jump and and find out.

Where we run into problems is when we already have the wisdom at our disposal and choose to ignore it. The problem with our modern knowledge- and theory-centric culture is that we no longer place any value on what people went through in the past. In our arrogance we’ve decided that they simply didn’t do it right in the past, and we know what to do now to make it work. Rather than accepting that certain ideas simply don’t work in the real world, we ignore the consequences of the past in pursuit of ideals that were never viable in the first place. People continue to suffer because we can’t let go.

In the end, wisdom is far more important than knowing many things. It is wisdom that allows us to apply what knowledge we have in the best possible way. Knowledge should be something we acquire to enhance our own experiences and provide us with better ways to move through the world, but not be a false shield against things we’ve decided we don’t like. Until you’ve actually lived through whatever it is you’re dealing with, you can’t know for sure what the right course of action is. In almost any case, experience will always trump knowledge.

What do you think about wisdom? Do you know many things but have little experience? How has access to vast amounts of knowledge improved your life? Can you learn more from actually going through things in life? We tend to favor the acquisition of information over participation, but we do this at our peril. It is better to learn how we deal with things ourselves rather than hoping that a single bit of information will allow us to cope. This is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

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Mass Psychosis

I found another video that I wanted to share with my readers, as I think it’s extremely important to learn things like this to counteract the insanity going on in the world today.

How Do You Respect Your Opposition?

The history of our nation is replete with heated debates over many topics ranging from such controversial topics as slavery, abortion, labor laws and other such topics of strongly held beliefs. In almost every case there has been strong, emotional pleas made by both sides in an attempt to gain support for their cause, usually resulting in a division of ideologies as one group struggled for dominance over the other. America has been called the melting pot of the world, and while this is true on a cultural level, it usually hasn’t been so on a political one.

At the same time, for most of our existence we have been able to settle our heated debates through either reasonable discourse or by understanding that very simple concept of making compromises that both sides can live with to move in a forward direction. America is a nation of compromises, and by its very nature has to be to have any chance of moving into any kind of a positive future. It is only by respecting each other and being willing to give in on some of the small things that we can get any sort of advancement at all on the larger issues.

In a society where we have become hyper-partisan in our thinking, it is easier than ever to simply ignore anything that someone from an opposing viewpoint has to say. No matter how reasonable their arguments might be or how good of a person they have been, we tend to automatically discount the validity of their arguments simply because of the moniker they choose to bear. It is sad then that so many people will miss out on truly amazing thoughts and ideas simply because of the source.

As a more conservative leaning libertarian, I struggle to listen to modern liberal thinking. It has gotten so bad that the moment I start hearing certain key phrases, my mind shuts off and I stop listening. You can quickly identify a person who is simply repeating the talking points of the far left within moments; simply wait for a statement about racial injustice or a “living wage” or what personal pronoun to which they “identify”. These are the cue cards for someone who has no rational thoughts within them and are simply following the crowd. Feel no shame in putting their voices on mute.

However, there are some individuals from my opposing viewpoint for which I have a great deal of respect, not because I agree with their political philosophies, but because they stand up for what America was always supposed to be. In this case, Bill Maher is the impetus for this article because lately I have found myself watching much more of his content, mostly because he has no fear in standing up for what he believes is right. His videos condemning cancel culture show his true colors, and while I don’t care much for many of his political philosophies, I respect his position that America is all about letting people be people.

It is quite possible to respect someone who has very different ideas from your own. Some of the greatest friendships in history were between people of diametrically opposed viewpoints. For example, James Carville is a staunch Democrat who married an advocate for the Republicans, Mary Matalin. Two people from opposite sides of the same coin coming together with respect for each other despite their radically differing views of the world.

What we need to remember is that even though there are certain topics that we very strongly disagree on, we are all Americans with a common heritage and a basically uniform way of thinking. Our disagreements are really trivial when we consider the balance of the remaining things that we all agree on: peace, love and a pursuit of what gives our lives meaning. There is no bridge we can’t build together if we can stop seeing each other as enemies and open our eyes to the truth: we aren’t so different after all.

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Living Without a Dream

I’m not exactly sure where I recall the statement, but in the last few weeks I heard someone say something to the effect of “you’ve been given this dream; it’s a crime to let it go”. The statement hit me pretty hard with the simple truth of it, striking the core of my being with something as immutably pure and direct as one can possibly be. This is partially because we all have some desire to live out lives of meaning and moving away from that seems criminal, but there is also another reason I was so strongly affected: I don’t really have a dream.

My life has been a series of interests and hobbies, some of them interconnecting and others having absolutely nothing to do with anything else. I’ve never been able to focus my attention on anything long enough to make it part of a lifelong dream. The only true constant in my life has been video games, but even that is mostly just something to pass the time. Occasionally a video game comes along that consumes quite a bit of my time because it has cool mechanics or a really great story, but for the most part it’s just something to do. I can’t stand being bored.

This approach to life has left me with quite a negative attitude about my personal path. It is very difficult to take satisfaction in anything because nothing I do really has any meaning. There are just a series of actions to be taken that result in another day marked off the calendar. No forward progression or anything really accomplished; just the passage of time. The longer it goes on, the more it eats at my soul and makes me feel a continued sense of uselessness, perhaps the worst possible fate for a man.

The reason the quote from the beginning of the article hit me so hard is that it revealed perhaps the biggest reason why I struggle so hard with my career: I’m not doing something I care about. It’s great to get a paycheck and to have a minimal sense of job security and all of those things, but ultimately a man needs to feel like his work matters. There has to be a force pushing him forward toward something that actually has meaning for him, and nothing I do really does that for me. It’s all just tasks to be completed with no grand plan.

The majority of people in the world today live with this kind of pall over their existence. As pawns in a greater game, we struggle to find happiness, not because we don’t have enough to satisfy our needs but because we don’t have enough to satisfy our dreams. Like everything else in the world, opportunities are finite, and there is only so much to go around. Some people are going to win while others are going to lose, whether it’s money or power or even the fulfillment of talent.

At this point, some of you might be thinking that I just haven’t found my dream yet, and perhaps you’re right. However, if you never find your dream, it leads to the same result as not having one at all. People search their whole lives looking for that one thing and never find it, and at some point you have to make a decision about how much effort you’re willing to put into satisfying that inner need for something more. Most people end up accepting that their lives are doomed to mediocrity. It’s simply the law of averages.

This isn’t a particularly inspiring post because I’m not feeling particularly inspired by the topic. There is a huge struggle within me that tries to balance a strong desire for more out of my life with a mindset that seeks to minimize wasted effort. The catch twenty two for me is that in my desire to not waste time or energy on things that aren’t likely to happen, I pass up chances at the very thing I want in the first place. There is no resolution except to either accept spending those resources on unlikely dreams, or live with the knowledge that I will never see my true potential. Depending on your own personal mindset, the advice can vary wildly. In the end, who knows what path I’ll take.

What do you think about unfulfilled dreams? Do you have something that burns within you that won’t go away, or do you struggle to find any meaning in the things you do? What kind of life do you envision for yourself? Too many of us are unrealistic about the kinds of lives we want, and not always toward the extravagant. Sometimes we settle too easily, or don’t try hard enough. Other times we reach too far. The struggle is knowing how much is just right.

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