An Echo of Reality

I came to a rather stark realization this morning: I don’t exist. At least, not in the way that everyone else around me seems to. So many people seem to have at least a vague understanding of who they are and what they are about, but I’ve spent my entire life struggling with what I want and who I am. After so much soul searching in trying to figure out what might make me happy in life, I realize that there is one thing that defines me as a person: the stories I’ve immersed myself in from the very beginning.

From fantasy novels as a kid to online roleplaying games as a young adult to binge-watching my favorite Dungeons and Dragons stream Critical Role over these last few years, as well as the hundreds of movies and television series I’ve experienced along the way, my entire life has been a strong desire to escape this mundane world we live in to experience something new and fascinating. I have lived through many adventures and stories in my own imagination, participating vicariously in lives far more interesting than anything I could ever find in the real world.

It is because of this that I struggle to find any passion here in the actual life I’m living day to day. The things I do outside of my personal time delving into new stories and worlds are the things I have to do to allow myself the ability to stay in that space. I’ve always wondered why I tend to detest almost everything, especially the relatively good jobs that I’ve had, and it now makes so much sense: because they take me away from the worlds I crave so much. My anxiety on the job or doing other “real” things comes down to that yearning to return to that space within myself that satisfies a burning desire for the next amazing story.

The consequences of this way of living are very costly, not so much to me but for the people who have wandered into and out of my life. While I have a strong desire for those relationships I’ve had, including the one I seem to be losing now, nothing trumps my need to experience something new and exciting. The idea of settling down into a mundane routine of the same things and the same people and the same grindy existence for the rest of my life repulses me beyond what I can bear. It is this inevitable boredom that causes me end up with everything in my life fading into the background in pursuit of the next amazing thing.

This way of being is in direct opposition to the lessons that life has taught me over the years. My upbringing and time in military service brought a pragmatism to my naturally dreamlike state, teaching me the skills and abilities I need to maintain what is necessary to not starve on the street. Like every double-edged sword in life, it helps me survive while at the same time stunting everything about me that brings passion. How many opportunities have I missed out on because my rational side told me they were ridiculous? Was I even capable of recognizing them even if they happened?

The honest truth is that I don’t know how to be a “normal” person, and I’m not really sure that I want to be. Everything about me is a desire to escape the boredom of the mundane. My entire time in the military was a struggle against conforming to the will of others, and my time since then has been a continuation of this internal rage against anything approaching sublimating myself in favor of what others demand from me. I don’t know how to be the kind of person who is satisfied with everyday life, but my life experiences have molded me into someone who doesn’t know how to break free from it. It is a gridlock of wanting something I don’t know how to reach.

This is the silent wailing of an echo of reality, a person who doesn’t really exist here in the real world, but in that ethereal place where imagination meets the soul. It is there where I find contentment, where I’m able to free myself from the bonds of all the things I hate about life; where I can separate myself from a world that holds no meaning for me and live the kinds of lives I always dreamed about. How can I be content with anything else after that?

I can’t help but hold out hope that I can somehow shed the kind of life I’ve led so far and figure out a way to make my life about the stories that have meant so much to me over the years. There is no way for me to know at this point in my life what that might look like, but I can say with absolute certainty that I will jump at the opportunity to move into a space that allows me to make my life about shaping something beyond what we have here in this life. Whether that’s through acting or writing or whatever I have the talent for, I yearn for the next phase of my life to be completely different from what I’ve had so far.

So the question is: can I?

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Successful Ignorance

“The world will always need ditch diggers.” This saying, or whatever version you might be familiar with, has been around for as long as we have had modern industry. As people have moved from primarily farm based activity to jobs in production, we have been constantly striving to move beyond the need for menial labor and into work that satisfies our souls. Few people are content with the idea that certain people have to do the dirty jobs that most of us avoid, and virtually no one wants to actually do them. Yet, until we enter into that utopian post-scarcity society where all our hated tasks are automated and work is no longer required, the saying still stands.

We human beings tend to be very good at learning new things, especially if it is taught to us by someone who has gone through it before. It is for this reason that we tend to look at successful people as masters of information who can provide us with insights that can move society forward. Unfortunately, many times this is the case, which reinforces the idea that we should listen to some people simply because they found success in whatever endeavor they happened to excel in. We forget that expertise in one area doesn’t mean even a competent knowledge in another, so we take their word for it, plunging ahead with ideas that have rarely been truly analyzed, simply imitated because it seemed good.

It is interesting how it is always the successful people in the world who talk about changing society from what it is today into something that is more beneficial to everyone. Their hearts are in the right place, but this attitude shows a basic misunderstanding of human nature, more specifically the capability of people to rise up or be hauled out of where the are to a new level of existence. In their minds, if they could find a way to break away from the machine and live the fulfilling lives they have now, why can’t everyone do it? It seems so simple to them that we just need to shift the way we do things so that people have more opportunities to follow their dreams. The brutal truth is that most people simply aren’t capable of doing the kinds of things that these very successful people do.

First and foremost, it typically requires a certain amount of intellect to be able to manipulate your situation in a way that becomes advantageous for you. If you are incapable of processing what is going on around you and figure out ways to gain from them, it doesn’t matter how much heart you have, you’re going to fail. Stupidity is always punished, and if we’re honest the average person isn’t really all that intelligent compared to the kinds of difficult tasks required to rise up out of the muck of mediocrity. Most of us simply aren’t well equipped.

Assuming you can get past that first hurdle of recognizing opportunities and having a vague idea of what to do with them, you must then possess the courage to take the risk of acting upon them. Success absolutely never comes without some kind of risk associated with it. Never. It might seem like the safest thing in the world, but even if all you’re investing is your time and effort, that is time and effort that you never get back if you fail. It is time and effort you could have been putting into something else that may have succeeded. It requires a great deal of courage to see an opportunity and be willing to jump in feet first to try and make it happen.

While there are a multitude of variables that go into becoming successful in society, perhaps the absolute most important one is completely outside of our own control: luck. No matter how smart or courageous or hardworking you might be, it all comes to naught if what you’re doing isn’t happening in the right place at the right time. Successful people tend to believe that they got where they are through their own hard work and determination, and to some extent that is true. However, lurking beneath all that veneer is the fact that they just happened to be right where they needed to be to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself. Luck is an extremely important factor, and we all can’t be as lucky as that.

This is what really irks me when I hear a successful person trying to say that we need to tear everything down and readjust everything so that all people get to live the kinds of lives they want. We live in a world of limited resources, which includes things like natural ability and intelligence and work ethic and luck. Some people have more while others have less, and the world has shown us that resources tend to be allocated accordingly. Those people with all the right variables, not the least of which is that pesky luck, will always rise to the top while the rest of us wallow in whatever causes us to remain at the bottom of the food chain.

Does this mean I think we shouldn’t listen to successful people? Obviously not. There are many things that you can learn from a successful person that you can implement into your own life to increase your odds of becoming successful yourself. What I’m saying here is that we should never listen to the philosophy of a successful person when it comes to how they think other people should be treated or how they believe things should be changed so that more people can find success. The reality is that they have no clue beyond the field in which they found success. It is important that people stay in their lane, even those who have become prominent members of society. They simply don’t know much beyond their own expertise, however impressive that might be.

For those of us who have yet to find the success we crave, or likely never will, we must keep in mind that success is a finite thing, just like everything else. There isn’t enough to go around, and some people are going to get more of it than the rest of us. It simply is what it is. Armed with this knowledge, you have two choices. You can either buckle down and go after whatever it is you want with all your heart and hope luck is on your side, or you can decide to direct your efforts toward becoming content with what you have and figuring out a way to be happy in whatever life ends up having for you.

Regardless, it is important to remember that no matter how much success another person might find, they are no more an expert on what is best for you than you are. Only you can decide what your life is worth and what is important to you. It is important to learn from others, but take care in how you incorporate that knowledge into your life, ensuring it remains in its proper place and perspective. And if you one day find the success you crave, try to remember that you’re just lucky, not better.

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The Problem with Being Unrealistic

Human beings reach for the stars. It’s in our nature to be unsatisfied with what we have and constantly strive for something better. The drive to succeed and accomplish great things is what has propelled us from living in cold, dark caves to the fantastic level of technology that we enjoy today. There is nothing inherently wrong with being unrealistic because most of the things we have today wouldn’t be possible if someone at some point hadn’t decided to follow their dreams in the face of overwhelming evidence that it wouldn’t work out.

This is the double-edged sword when it comes to being realistic. Almost all of the time it is in our best interests to weigh what is feasible against what is vaguely possible. Some ideas are just reasonable enough to be within the realm of actually happening, but are so remote that you are virtually guaranteed to be wasting your time and energy on it. Yet if you don’t try then it becomes literally guaranteed. It makes it quite difficult to reach out when you know that you’re very likely to fail at something that could change your life for the better if you succeed or completely ruin it if you fail.

Hope is what causes us to reach out for things that should be beyond our grasp, but hope flies in the face of reality in most cases. There are billions of individual people on the planet, each with their own dreams for the future, and only a very small percentage are able to reach far beyond their means to accomplish something truly great. Most of us forget about that when we start imagining what things might be like if we go after something we want. How many others tried and failed? We don’t like to think about the sheer number of people who are stuck where they are simply because the odds weren’t in their favor.

Of course, how many of them never bothered to try because it seemed so difficult? How much of that number of unsuccessful people is due to the hopelessness that comes from knowing that something is nearly impossible? We are not incentivized to ignore the numbers, our innate desire to play it safe preventing us from going out on a limb for that choice piece of fruit. Better to live with the slightly under ripe fruit than to dangle precariously reaching for the perfectly sweet treat.

Like most things in our life, the question of being unreasonable can’t be answered for you. As an individual with your own thoughts and desires, it is only you who can determine where you draw the line between what is realistic and what is beyond your reach. You are the one who will have to put the effort into whatever it is you’re trying to do, hopefully with the support of others, but ultimately the outcome rests heavily on your shoulders. And then even if you do everything right, you can still fail. That is the risk.

For most people, this thought process will seem far outside anything they have to worry about, focused solely on their job or their family or whatever mundane thing it is that most of us put our effort into. However, we can be unreasonable in a great many things, even the mundane. Perhaps we want a house that is beyond our means, putting ourselves into more debt than we can afford to get it. Our marriage might not be what we wished it were, and we seek attention from another who seems to be offering what we want. The job that provides what we need might be unsatisfying and we walk away in the hope that we can find something more suitable.

All of these things can be viewed as unreasonable if we are not in the proper position to do anything about it. It all comes down to learning to be satisfied with what you have while holding on to the hope that things can still get better. It is a tightrope of mental focus that allows us to reach some level of satisfaction in our lives, not throwing away what we have in pursuit of something else, but still continuing down the path of improvement even if it never happens. Hope is a good thing; expectations are not.

What do you think about unreasonable expectations? Do you have things in your life that you want to change that seem impossible? Are you sabotaging yourself in pursuit of those things, or have you learned to accept where you are? Can you hold out hope for the future while still being content with where you are right now? It seems like a huge contradiction, but if we want to keep moving forward without flying too close to the sun, we have to learn to find that feeling of acceptance and patience, waiting for a future that may never come.

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Inequity is Correct…For Now

It’s a word that just about everyone hates these days, like every other word that has become politically charged through the actions of one group who has decided something is bad. Some people hate what the word represents, railing against a system they see as unfair and exclusionary. Others hate it because it assaults what they have, a threat to their livelihoods from groups of people who can’t seem to get things together. Whichever side you land on, it’s unlikely that the word inequity doesn’t affect you in one way or another.

Many times it’s difficult to come up with a clear and logical answer to the problems our societies face. There are so many moral and ethical dilemmas that come with trying to answer questions that apply to large groups of people, especially in world power nations with hundreds of millions of people. For most things, it is impossible to define one clear rule that everyone should follow, and even some of the rules that we see as universal aren’t agreed upon by some. There are always outliers, and they are the ones who end up being forced to either conform or live as outcasts.

When it comes to the concept of inequity, however, it becomes very difficult to argue the idea as something that is either moral or ethical. It sounds great when you just say it out loud, the assumption that everyone should have a basic quality of life and no one should have more than anyone else. The reality, though, is that equity is one of the absolute worst forms of human oppression that one can imagine. It flies in the the face of the laws of nature and completely disregards what makes us human beings in the first place.

Inequity exists as part of the natural world. Some animals are born with advantages that allow them to hunt more food or find more mates or secure a better home. This lack of perfect balance weeds out those who can’t find a way to survive, pooling resources for those more fit and capable while leaving the weak to starve or succumb to the elements. Nature cares little for our ideals of equity, and it is only because we have advanced to the point that we can ignore it that the idea has any kind of meaning at all.

We obviously can’t live by the same rules as animals because our society is built on the strength that comes from community. Human beings are the epitome of natural inequity, blessed with an intelligence and physical form that allows us to create technologies and cultures that place us far outside the typical realms of most of the animal kingdom. By our very nature, we exude inequity on a daily basis as we drive around in our cars and live in our huge houses and fly around in our airplanes.

Still, comparing human inequity to animal inequity doesn’t really resonate, regardless of how logical it is. We will always place far more importance on our own lives than that of any animal. It doesn’t matter how much evidence we see that inequity is the default in the natural world because we don’t really live in that world anymore. The argument can and has been made over and over it is in our nature to be selfish and place our own survival ahead of others, but that doesn’t satisfy our emotional need for justice, so the argument ends up falling on deaf ears.

One argument that can’t be reasonably argued against is the law of supply and demand. It is an immutable part of our everyday lives, determining the value of resources and who has access to them. In a world where everything is finite, not everyone is going to get everything they want. Either some people are going to realize their dreams while others struggle to get by, or no one ends up getting where they want to be and the hope for the future is crushed.

From what I’ve experienced in life so far, it seems like people need hope far more than comfort. It is the drive to realize the dream of “making it” that propels the human race forward. A sense of progressing toward something more is what causes us to yearn to create something new, even if it is perverted by our own greed more often than not. Without the hope that we can rise to new heights, how can we find the drive to do more than just sit around in the status quo? How much farther can our species go if we force ourselves to be content with what we have?

This is the dilemma of the human species. It is a fantasy to believe that in our current situation we can somehow find a way to provide equality of outcome for everyone. People simply want far more than what life can be extracted from the currently available pool of resources. Large portions of society might be content with simply having their needs met, but history has shown us that some will not and they will acquire what they want through force if there is no other way. We can’t escape the laws of nature, not yet.

So what do we do with this information? Are we doomed to forever live in a world where some people live far beyond the means of others? Not forever, but for a while yet. Until we come up with a way to provide everyone everything they desire, there will always be inequity. When we have perfect robots who roam our planet and the solar system harvesting resources and providing everything we need with no requirement for human labor, that will be the time when inequity can be abolished. Until then, the correct path forward is focusing on the word “equality”, because in a world of finite resources, equality of opportunity is the only truly fair way.

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Too Much Content

I think most people would agree that the internet is probably the single greatest advancement that human beings have made in the history of our existence. Never before have we had this level of connectivity, not just with those people in our immediate sphere, but with people from all around the world. Practically unlimited information is at our fingertips in a nearly instantaneous fashion, and as technology and ideas continue to progress it only becomes easier and easier to find what you’re looking for.

This amazing ability to transfer information in a nearly effortless way is both the blessing and curse of internet content. Whereas it required a nearly impossible number of factors to come together to get something distributed even just a few decades ago, the modern internet has allowed anyone with a voice and the ability to use a computer or smartphone to start posting things online for other people to see. In a way, we have gone from having not nearly enough content at our disposal to having a tidal wave of information that washes over us on a daily basis.

The problem with this is that much of this content isn’t the fresh, clean waves of a clear ocean lagoon, but a deluge of sewage that buries us in filth. The internet as a whole focuses on quantity over quality, and the result of this is that virtually all of the content we become exposed to has had little or no review by a human person with the ability to compare what society really wants to what is being distributed. In the past, things like books or television shows or other published works had to get through a human filter who typically understood what would do well and what would not. Now it’s just a computer algorithm.

All of these things combine to create a new type of barrier to entry to getting noticed in the public space, and in many ways it can be harder to get noticed today than it ever was in the past. Before internet algorithms, nearly all content went through relatively few channels in the form of talent scouts or publishing companies or whatever other organizations sought out quality content to sell to the public. An artist typically knew where to go to get noticed, and success came down to being good enough and a little bit of luck.

Today, this just isn’t the case. Because of the vast amount of mediocre content creators that swamp the internet with uninteresting content, there is simply too much out there for human beings to sift through. It is the reason that algorithms have been developed in the first place. As a result, it isn’t enough for people who have some kind of talent to simply be good enough and show their talent to the people who decide. We have to become marketing experts in our own right to have any chance of getting noticed.

Of course, sometimes people just get lucky out of the blue for no particular reason other than they posted something that “went viral”. This is incredibly frustrating for people who plug away every day trying to get through the massive wall that is the internet search algorithm, only to watch someone post something that required little or no effort and just happened to hit the right nerve out of blind luck. This obviously happened in the past, but the gatekeepers typically recognized talentless individuals and rarely propped up these “one hit wonders” with any amount of seriousness.

It’s difficult to say whether the old way was better, or if the current way of doing things makes more sense. The creative part of me despises having to capitulate to the conformity required to make my content easily “searchable”. I prefer for the things I write or create to simply be what I want them to be, not what works for the algorithm. As I stated in a previous post, the reason we have such a sea of sameness is exactly because you can’t really get noticed if you don’t format your posts in a way that makes sense to the programming. Balanced with the abysmal quality of content we have today, I personally feel it was better when there were real human gatekeepers.

Regardless, we obviously won’t be going back to the way things used to be. Anyone who wants to enter this space will have to learn and adapt and figure out how to break through the barrier to entry that is the almighty algorithm, either by conforming to the system or figuring out a way around it. My hope is that I can find a way to do the latter, preserving the way I write so that my readers can see the authentic me rather than the veneer that results from shaping content to the algorithm. Until more people start to value this and take an active role in supporting that idea, we will continue to be stuck with the sewer brigade.

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How Do You Find Work You Love?

Clearly, there can be no standard answer for the title of this article. If anyone had actually figured out a short and simple way of finding and getting into a career that you love, everyone would be doing it. The unfortunate reality of life is that most of us will be forced to labor under tasks that aren’t fit for the kind of person that we are, scraping a living by soullessly performing work that has no meaning to us and provides no enrichment to who we are as people. There simply isn’t enough to go around to allow everyone to do whatever it is they dream of doing.

As sad as this fact is, it is the hope that perhaps we might be the one to get lucky and find the work we love doing that keeps us going every day. If we laid down and accepted the spiritual slavery that comes with toiling away for someone else’s dream, not many of us would choose to keep on living. It is our drive to see our dreams come true that keeps us getting up every day and going to work. The spiritual sustenance that comes from hope staves off the despair that would end us otherwise.

So how do we get to the point where we find something we love doing? The simple answer is to just keep on trying different things until you find something you like. Most of us are afraid of what is new, and I am certainly amongst the foremost in the category. It is exceedingly difficult for me to put myself out there and expose myself to potential embarrassment or failure. Failure isn’t something that sits well with me, and many of the ideas I’ve had for different things I might do were stopped before they ever got started because I didn’t believe I would succeed at them.

Unfortunately, it is quite rare for anyone to simply have their dream fall into their lap. It is only through getting out there and trying things that we experience something that meshes well with our talents and interests. Just like searching for a job requires effort, finding our calling requires significant amounts of work beyond simply paying the bills. It requires putting ourselves in uncomfortable places, exposing our vulnerabilities to the world in the hope that we can find something that enhances our lives through meaningful accomplishment.

Much of this comes down to being willing to learn new things. Many times we think we already know what we want, but most of the time this is just a lie we tell ourselves so we don’t have to get ourselves into potentially uncomfortable situations. It is for this reason that some people succeed where others fail, because they are willing and excited to go experience new things and figure out what it is that makes them feel fulfilled. You can’t find this kind of thing if you aren’t willing to go out and experience them.

As an introvert, I struggle with this every day, and most of the time I fail. I tend to prefer sitting around at home, not really getting anything meaningful done and just passing my time uselessly. My brain knows this is a waste, but the part of me that hates going out and dealing with the world almost always wins against the part of me that yearns for something more. I can tell myself that my current situation prevents me from doing the kinds of things I wish I could do, but the reality is that I am simply my own worst enemy.

Perhaps one day I will find the strength to get over my own issues and strike out to find that thing that will finally fulfill me. For now, though, this blog is the only thing I can muster at that provides me with any sense of doing something meaningful. While I can’t be a shining example to others, I can at least provide the perspectives of what I’ve learned over the years so that my readers might find some bit of value and add it to their own lives. As the cliché goes, those who can’t do teach.

Regardless, information that helps others is always worth sharing, and even if I can’t be the one that people look to as a model for their own lives, I can at least share what I think might be the truth. If it helps even one person, then it’s worth the time and effort. As much is I struggle with the idea, it is almost always when we are doing something that includes other people that we find meaning in what we do. Though we might prefer our safe little caves, it is only out in the open under the life giving sun that we find that feeling that makes us crave living.

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Fighting with Yourself

I think most people struggle with living with who they are. We are brought up to believe that we should be good people, striving to help others and participate in society in the way that everyone else seems to. For some people, this comes quite easily and they are able to set aside their selfish tendencies, at least to the level where they can cope with others in a meaningful way. People like me, however, will always struggle with the balance of needing to be with others while also having a fervent desire to be apart from the inevitable chaos that results from including other people in your life.

It is this paradox that has plagued my life from the first days I struck out on my own. No matter where I’ve gone or what I’ve experienced, I will never get away from the burning desire to quiet the noise around me and find peace. Perhaps it’s because my own inner monologue never seems to stop, and I find myself forever looking for ways to distract myself from it. Video games have always been a go to for that kind of thing, focusing my attention on a singular objective and avoiding the chaos that rages in my own mind.

The unfortunate part is that the people most important to me always seem to suffer as a result of these flaws in who I am. No matter how much I might care for the people I love, there is an almost unshakable desire to maintain control of my environment, to push back the chaos that results when you add variables like other people to the equation. It is they who end up suffering as I continue to try to shape them to how I want them to be, my prideful impatience with the ways of others stomping on their spirit until they stop caring anymore and leave.

No prophecy is more powerful than the one you create for yourself, and my inability to get control over my need for control simply accentuates how much of an illusion control is in the first place. I might find a way to get some level of peace, perhaps for a short while or even for several years, but in the end life will always find a way to intrude on my sanctuary and throw things back into chaos. There is no escaping it, and throwing away all of the good things in life trying to hold onto this fake sense of control makes absolutely no sense.

Understanding and doing are two different things, however, as many times it’s easy to understand what you should be doing and far more difficult to convince yourself to do it. There is a reason why evil is so prevalent in the world: it’s just easier to do it that way. Our nature is to find the path of least resistance, and without some strong motivation to do otherwise we will almost always default to that instinctive way of doing things. It is one of the reasons we take so long to change; the effort involved many times just isn’t worth the effort.

This leaves me in a quandary. On the one hand I have the knowledge that keeping to myself isn’t a workable long term solution, but on the other I have the unquenchable desire to avoid the chaos that comes with leaving my safe little sanctuary. Many people would tell me to lean on others, but I’ve rarely had good experiences with that, which makes it all the harder to convince myself to change anything. Like most paradoxes, there is no clear solution. It’s a risk, just like everything else in our chaotic little lives.

For someone like me, all I can really do is hope for some true understanding from those people most important to me while I do my best to find whatever middle ground I can. Some will understand and others will not, but I suppose the people who really care will always find a way to set aside the bad parts of me to see what I have to offer. Those who can’t likely didn’t really care in the first place. That doesn’t absolve me of a need to change, but most things are a two way street: I need to change, but others need to understand me as well.

It is a delicate balance, I suppose, trying to set aside a terrible impulse while understanding you can’t live with totally abandoning it. There will always be a strong desire for the peace that comes from solitude, but human beings aren’t designed to be on their own and I can’t stay in that space forever. I want the things that come from having loved ones in my life, and that means stepping out from the sanctuary as often as I can manage it to maintain those relationships. Though I might wish I could have it both ways, it just doesn’t work like that. You have to occasionally leave the cave to find your sustenance.

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Leading with Compassion

We have seen a drastic shift in the way our culture perceives what is right and proper in how we deal with the people around us. Much of this has to do with how far we’ve strayed from having to struggle against the world simply to exist, the conveniences of life allowing us to wallow in the luxury that is our modern life. It is easy to understand that when there is no goal or objective that we collectively share, we end up splintering into factions because at our core we just need a good fight.

However, it isn’t necessarily a given that human beings must exist in a constant state of conflict. In the end, our compulsion to fight is driven by our primal need to acquire. The particular things we desire aren’t standardized, aside from basic needs like food and shelter, and this makes it difficult to insist that wherever humans happen to be there will be a fight. Despite our biology, we have the capacity to channel that energy into something more positive and bring our society to places that lesser species can never hope to achieve.

It is unfortunate that we live in a time where our leadership has withered away to the point that moral fortitude is no longer relevant. American society used to be based first and foremost on the Judeo-Christian values that have been the best way of creating communities that most people see as being good. While we definitely do not want to have any religion in control of our politics, it is important to realize and accept that much of what made America a great place to be was heavily influenced by what the Christian faith has to offer.

The reality of today is that we just don’t see much of that anymore in the people we put in control of our government. As things have moved more and more back toward a caste system of the powerful versus the people, we see pandering and platitudes rather than people who truly believe in serving others. The philosophy of our republican form of government was designed around putting the needs of the people they represent over our own view of how we think the world should be. Putting others before ourselves is compassion at its very finest, especially when it forces us to give up something we treasure.

I imagine most of us struggle with the idea of those in power today being willing to make a significant sacrifice upon the altar of America. Perhaps a few would be able to put forth a few symbolic gestures, but how many would be truly willing to just sit down and humbly accept the will of the people? No matter how much we wish they would simply do their duty as we think they should, the sad truth is that power corrupts and even the best of us will succumb to it. Most of us can’t seem to avoid the daily vices that bog down our lives; how can we expect people with access to the ability to rule over our lives to give up that control without a fight?

We desperately need this. We need people in charge who don’t want to be there, who are thrust reluctantly into positions of power and abhor the idea of exerting their ideology upon others. People who don’t believe they know better than everyone else and are willing to truly listen to what the people who voted them into office desire. In short, we need people who are compassionate and empathetic enough to believe that they are no better than the people they represent, humble and contrite in their service to those who put them in their hallowed place of power.

Our biggest duty is to our fellow man, be that in the form of family or community or nation. No person can make life work on their own, and everything we do affects someone. Too often we view the world as a vacuum of our own ideas and ambitions, oblivious to the suffering we cause to others as we insist that things be our way. Choosing compassion over arrogance is the best way to propel us forward as a nation, as it has for most of our history.

America didn’t grow to be the amazing country it is today through selfish ambition, though there was plenty of that. It was the carefully cultivated image of the premier good nation of the world that we projected over many decades that brought us the power we have today. If we can return to that place where we put what is right over what convenient, what is good over what is profitable, and what is best for the “little guy” over what puts a few more yachts in our possession, perhaps we can truly make America great again.

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Spend a Little Now to Save a Lot Later

Few people are content with spending money on things that don’t add value to our lives. We would much rather buy something fun or exciting, or maybe we live paycheck to paycheck and it’s hard to just put food on the table. Whatever the reason might be, we tend to want to procrastinate spending money on some very important things because it doesn’t seem like we can afford it right now or we have other priorities. There are times, however, when this approach ends up costing us more money in the long run.

One example of this is vehicle maintenance. No one likes having to fork over north of a hundred bucks on getting something as basic as an oil change because it’s a significant sum for most people that doesn’t really do anything that directly makes us feel like that money went to something meaningful. It’s just a regular expense that comes with owning a car, and we resent that we have to pay it. The problem is that when we don’t, we run the risk of something even more expensive becoming a problem as a result of our lax attitude toward keeping up with regular maintenance.

An important person in my life is going through this right now. She tends to procrastinate on taking care of her car, and in all likelihood that is the cause of the current situation in which she finds herself. The details don’t really matter, except to note that the issue likely would have been identified during the most recent service, had she taken the vehicle to get it done. One look at the battery would have indicated a fairly serious problem. If the hood never gets opened, it’s hard to notice any issues.

At any rate, the car broke down and had to be towed home at a cost of more than $150, and then she’ll have to pay a mechanic to diagnose the problem and get it fixed, and there is no telling how much that might be. And then, of course, it will need an oil change on top of all of that anyway, which always had to be paid anyway. It’s quite shocking just how quickly the charges can start stacking up when you’re dealing with something as complicated as a vehicle.

I can’t really chastise her about it, though, because I’m not much better. My car has been having transmission issues for quite a while now, and I haven’t taken it in to get it looked at. The suspension for my car is also really old and probably needs replaced, and it likely needs an alignment. All of these things are relatively small expenses that, had I taken care of them when they were single issues, would have been relatively affordable. My lame excuse has been that I can’t really afford to have my car at the dealership for several days, but we all know that’s not really a justifiable reason. I just don’t want to spend the money.

At the bare minimum, I do always remember to be sure and do my regular maintenance, partly to keep the car running at an acceptable level, but also partly because I know the people performing the service will be looking for things that are out of place because they hope to charge me for a repair. I can sort of justify not replacing my suspension for upwards of a thousand bucks because that’s a fairly major expense that I’d have to save up for. The same holds true with the transmission problem, because anything related to that is going to also be up there in the thousand dollar range. It’s pretty thin, I know, but it’s also the truth.

So the lesson here is exactly what’s in the title: spending a little money right now can save you a lot of money later on. This is true in many situations, not just vehicle maintenance. The recent car trouble is simply the catalyst for the topic, and there are many situations where this idea applies. Hiring a lawyer can save you from expensive fines, or paying a dentist to clean your teeth every six months might save you from thousands of dollars in dental work, or perhaps replacing that one part on your computer might save you from having to buy a completely new system because you didn’t let it set it all on fire. Whatever the situation, most of the time sacrificing a little bit now will save you a lot of trouble later.

What do you think about spending money on the little things? Would you rather just deal with problems as they come up, or do you try to stay on top of things? How much is too much when it comes to taking care of the regular expenses in your life? We tend to ignore many things that should be high up on our priority list, mostly because we convince ourselves they aren’t really that important. It isn’t until things go wrong that we’re forced to realize that is a mistake. It might be a good idea to reevaluate your own list to be sure you’re not putting yourself in a position to have something truly bad happen to you.

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Living With Algorithms

The internet has become pretty boring, if I’m being perfectly honest. Like most things that have been around for a while, you get to the point where if you’ve seen one thing, you’ve seen them all. Part of this is our natural tendency to become desensitized to things over time, but there is another aspect to how it all works that makes this phenomenon even worse. No matter how creative you might be, this thing makes it incredibly difficult to do anything innovative or new because the odds are if you aren’t adhering to it you won’t get noticed anyway. Of course, I’m talking about the almighty search algorithm.

There have always been gateways to content, so the internet isn’t really anything new in this regard. For most of history it was simply that getting anything published was nearly impossible because the technology for mass distribution wasn’t there. When we finally did learn how to spread information on a mass scale, it was up to the people who were able to print documents to decide what was worth putting to paper. In the last century, it was producers and book publishers who decided which ideas the public had access to. If your quality was good, your chances of success were fairly high because it was the work that determined your ability to get recognized.

This just isn’t the case anymore. With the ability for anyone to put anything out into the void that is the internet, there is just too much content out there for any one idea to rise up out of the murk solely on the merit of what it is. It is directly because of this that search algorithms were born, so that we simple humans can sift through nearly infinite information to find exactly what we’re looking for. As the programming has become more streamlined and intelligent, we don’t even really have to actively search for things anymore; the system does it for us.

While this is a blessing in many ways, it does have some unintended consequences that may not be worth the convenience. If you know anything about publishing content on the web, you are aware of the concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is a set of principles that website developers follow to increase the chances of their content being recognized and displayed by the various algorithms being used by the major search engine providers. These rules govern how websites are ranked and judged, completely devoid of anything except the crunching of numbers.

This makes sense from a technical standpoint. With so much content out there, we definitely need a way of going through it all in a way that is much faster than what any human could ever do. Some sort of system is required to make it all work. The problem is that this is ruinous from a creativity standpoint because it forces those who do things like writing or making videos to conform to a single set of variables to get the best chance of their product reaching the intended audience. While it is certainly true that vast amounts of content will result in a certain amount repetition, it is this unavoidable conformity to the rules of the algorithm that causes the majority of so many videos feeling like the same old thing over and over.

As someone who doesn’t know enough about programming to even begin to tackle this problem, all I can do is complain about it with no solution. That’s not my favorite way of doing things; I was always taught to bring up a problem along with a proposed solution. The problem is that if people much smarter than I am can’t figure out a better way, what can I really add that would be meaningful? I’m sure there is a solution out there to the problem, but it likely won’t be figured out by those of us on the content side.

What makes all of this sad is that creators are at their best when they can simply focus on making good content rather than having to pigeon-hole their ideas into a single format. Quality will always suffer when it is forced into the assembly line process, and the algorithm has certainly converted what was once a free place to share ideas into a meat grinder of content. If you want to have any chance of getting noticed, you had better check all the boxes. It’s creativity by checklist, and how can we avoid boredom with that?

Like many things, technology has given us great things that has changed our lives, but sometimes the thing we come up with end up hurting us more in the end. While it’s great to have access to unlimited amounts of information, perhaps we should consider the idea that it’s all just an illusion. A lake might spread across the horizon, but if it’s only two feet deep then it isn’t much fun to swim in. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to have our cake and eat it too, being able to focus solely on content creation that is uniquely us while still getting the benefits of advanced search techniques, but until then we will simply have to live with the same old boring internet.

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