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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Cash is Still King

Despite the title of this article, I hate cash. The convenience of being able to carry a card in my wallet to access my funds is something I nearly grew up with. Cash was still a significant part of my life in my teen years, but debit cards were firmly in place by the time I truly began my working career. One of the more irritating parts of my month is the fact that I have one service that I pay for that will only accept cash for payment, so I end up having to make a special trip to the ATM to cover the cost of it. Cash is not my favorite way of paying for things.

Unfortunately, we may be entering a period of time where relying on digital currency might not be the best way to protect ourselves from monetary problems. With the current political climate leaning very hard toward more authoritarian control over the people, we’re starting to see new initiatives by those in power trying exert control over everything from our ability to defend ourselves with firearms to direct control over where and how we can spend the money we work so hard to earn.

What sparked this particular article was the news that online payment services such as PayPal are beginning to work with certain groups in an attempt to block service to particular groups of people who have been labeled “extremist” or “dangerous”. At first glance this seems perfectly reasonable; we don’t want dangerous groups having the ability to spread their influence any further than necessary. The problem arises when we consider who is in control of these kinds of policies and who is defining what is considered “dangerous”.

These days, the mainstream segments of our media and government have labeled anyone who has a more conservative point of view as extremists out to bring about the downfall of America. If you’re reading this article or the rest of my blog and agree with even a significant portion of it, you fall on that list. There is no tolerance for different ideas anymore because the process of compromise slows down the process too much for impatient progressives who yearn for a utopian society. They never learn from history that human beings wouldn’t know what to do with utopia even if they somehow got it. It wouldn’t last long.

At any rate, one of the cruel ironies of life is that most of the time a convenience typically comes with a dependence on whatever the source of that convenience is. The credit and debit system has made our lives incredibly convenient, but it comes at the cost of putting our trust in the various banks involved in the process to not do evil things. In this case, it is a huge financial system that has aligned itself with the government in order to exert the most amount of power and influence it can in the world. This is great for them, but not so much for we little people who just want to be able to live our lives the way we want. When your money is in the hands of the bank, what is to stop them from taking it from you?

Knowing this, what can one do? Well, the first thing is to just be aware that there are things going on that might affect your ability to spend money in the future. I can’t provide any sort of financial advice, since I’m not an expert, but the various sources I’ve been reading are all warning of a potential collapse of our financial markets anyway, so perhaps investing in something a bit more real might make sense. Gold is the knee-jerk suggestion by most, but it may be more realistic to invest in things that people will find valuable in a world where just surviving is the goal. That may be overly pessimistic, but it’s reasonable to at least consider.

Forgive my little tangent, but these days it’s difficult to not see things going down a very dark road. At the very least, putting ourselves into a position where others can’t necessarily exert specific control of our money seems a reasonable course of action in any situation. While I hate the idea of carrying cash, it’s starting to make more sense to start shifting my assets away from digital to more real valuables. Who knows when we might find ourselves in a situation where the phantom currency that resides in our bank is no longer ours to control?

What do you think about digital currency? Is it likely that you might lose control of your finances in the near future? What services do you use today that rely on transfer of funds by government aligned institutions? It might seem paranoid to worry about such things, but when it comes to your ability to pay for the things you need to live, being concerned about such things isn’t really unreasonable. Take a look at your own finances and how you store your treasures and decide for yourself if the convenience is worth the risk.

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The REAL Way to Combat Toxic Politics?

If you follow me at all, you likely know that I’m not a fan of click-bait titles, which is why I’m prefacing this article with an explanation for what sounds like a click-bait title. Today’s topic is based on logical reasoning, but can’t be definitively stated as the magic solution to all our political problems today. The reality is that our modern societal systems are so complex that no one solution is enough to put things right again. However, I believe that this one concept may be a key part of turning back the tide of insanity we’re experiencing today.

In the past, inaction has caused serious problems as certain powers around the world decided they wanted to grab as much as they could. The most obvious example of this was Nazi Germany under Hitler and Neville Chamberlain’s refusal to stand up to an obvious threat. His lack of courage and inability to make a decision gave an evil man the opening to plunge the world into a devastating war. If our goal is to learn from history, it seems to make sense that we should tackle our problems head on to stop them from growing too big to quash.

However, times change and the solutions to our problems must inevitably change with them. What worked a century ago doesn’t necessarily work in today’s fractured and highly complex social structure. In the days of the World Wars, individual countries were unified under common principles, mostly because those people only ever experienced ideas inherent to their geography. In today’s vast information marketplace, this just simply isn’t the case. The myriad ideas floating amongst the “cloud” has created an environment where even next door neighbors might have radically differing ideas about how the world should be.

How do you confront major issues in such a landscape? You can certainly band together in common cause, attempting to subdue the opposing viewpoints with the power of numbers, but the crazy thing about our society today is that there are so many varied positions on even broad, general ideas that gathering enough people who completely agree on a topic is nearly impossible. Even our largest political institutions are highly partitioned into subgroups who each disagree on many of the most important sticking points. Use of force in the face of this kind of discourse seems fruitless. It certainly hasn’t worked in the last several decades.

If force isn’t a viable option, then the natural assumption is to take a look at the opposing method. Obviously, laying down and simply accepting the other side’s way of doing things doesn’t accomplish our goals. We don’t want to avoid a struggle; we want to find a method that stops the advance of the opposing ideology or, even better, advances our own. With the decentralization of ideas that we have today, what method can we turn to in order to at least stop the rising tide of progressivism?

The most logical idea that forms in my mind is an analogy to a non-violent way of dealing with a bully. For many children, fighting back just isn’t in the cards. The antagonist is simply too big to effectively combat, and any attempts to do so simply stoke the fire that fuels a bully’s entertainment. For a bully, the goal is personal satisfaction by negatively affecting the state of mind of the other person. There’s an effect that results from his causation, and that feeling of control gives him a sense of power. Power can be a highly addicting drug.

One way to combat this kind of behavior is to simply not give the bully what he wants. Sure, he can push you around or call you names or maybe even shove you into a locker, and while those experiences are certainly unpleasant, they don’t rise to the level of criminal behavior. In the end, the bully has to satisfy himself with what he can get away with, and usually that’s low level harassment. If the target chooses to simply ignore the harsh words or not resist and give the desired reaction to the physical abuse, the bully has only two options left: either escalate things until he gets the desired reaction, or give up and move on to someone else who might be better entertainment. He will eventually realize he’s wasting his time with his current tactics.

His most likely option will be to simply give up and move on. The risks of escalating things past a certain point become untenable for him, the consequences being far higher than anything he’s willing to risk. A bully has far less courage than his own puffed-up sense of self importance convinces him he has, and most will only go so far to satisfy their desires. At some point, they learn to accept that being a bully no longer fills that void they’re hoping to fill and they finally decide to turn their attention to more productive things.

The current political climate is much the same as this scenario. There are small but very vocal minority groups running around trying to bully the quiet majority of people who just want to live their lives. Much like the bullies of our youth, their methods are to try to force us to capitulate to what they want so they can have the satisfaction of having what they want at the expense of everyone else. They care little about how their methods might be hurting someone else; it’s all about satisfying their perceived needs. If you get run over in the process…well, the ends sometimes justify the means.

In reality, these groups only have the power that we allow them to have. Sure, they can run around pushing and prodding and harassing, but the only way they can get the results they want is if we give in to them. Perhaps the best way to combat these crazy times we live in isn’t to fight back with all our might; maybe the best way is to just see them for what they are and ignore them. If enough people stop taking them seriously, the likely result is they’ll realize their energy is being wasted and maybe they’ll turn their attention to more productive pursuits.

Obviously this isn’t a cure all solution. There are many situations and variables to be considered, not the least of which is the current trend of violent behavior that seems to have become acceptable in our society. What I’m really saying here is that, while we can’t really commit to completely ignoring political insanity until it goes away, the mental thought process should be there in our minds while we continue to navigate these treacherous waters. If we can adopt this anti-bully mentality and face the world in a calm and collected frame of mind, perhaps we’ll find that these political bullies run off to find something more fun to do.

What do you think about political bullying? Can we turn back the tide of insanity in which we currently live? What methods can we use to combat this sort of negative behavior on such a major level? Sometimes the solutions to our problems are very complex, while other times they can be quite simple. Many times we overthink things to the point that the obvious answer simply eludes us. Maybe the resolution is right there in front of us.

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You Are a Business, Not an Employee

Perhaps the most insidious concept that public education has convinced us to accept is the idea that we gain some amount of safety and security by becoming a part of large organizations. It makes a lot of sense on the surface because it seems to naturally follow that when we band together in common cause we have a lot more authority and power to leverage against whoever the opposition might be. In many cases this is true, but depending on what your goals are, this way of thinking might be hurting you in the long run.

There are certain principles that apply to every aspect of our lives, regardless of how disparate they might seem at first glance. From the price of goods to relationships to even just having quality air to breathe, it’s all about supply and demand. Someone else has something that we want and it is going to cost us a certain amount to obtain it. Even if what we want isn’t owned by another person, there will be some amount of effort that we will be required to expend to gain access to it. Nothing is ever truly free.

Successful people in the business world understand this cold, hard fact of human existence. They have no illusions that every action they take will have some level of cost associated with it, and what makes them successful is their ability to ignore situations where the cost meets or exceeds the expected reward. Even in their dealings with their employees, the first thought on their mind isn’t having a quality employee; their primary concern is maximizing how much money they can make off your labor. In a successful business model, your feelings are irrelevant, regardless of how much they might try to convince you otherwise.

As employees, we tend to put far more of an emotional investment into those who hire us than the other way around. Part of this is out of gratitude that we have a job at all, but a lot of it is simply that we have put ourselves into a submissive role to someone else in exchange for a piece of their prosperity. For us, it isn’t a business arrangement as much as it is somewhat of a family dynamic. We are the children and they are the wise father providing us with an acceptable lifestyle.

This mentality is exactly what allows large corporations to have the kind of leverage that they do today. Employees simply don’t see themselves as what they truly are: a microbusiness with a valuable skillset and a range of customers available to them based on the current level of demand. In the same way that your employer seeks out customers to sell their services to and have to convince people to pay money for it, your individual goal is to convince an employer to hire your services in exchange for payment.

What most people fail to realize is that they tend to give their services up cheap. We all tend to understand that a business wants to minimize cost while maximizing profits, the general idea being to “get the best bang for their buck”. In simpler terms, a business wants to spend the least amount of money to get the most amount of benefit. In furtherance of this goal, they want to minimize how much they pay you and maximize how much you give them. It makes so much sense when we apply it to a business that few people really question it. This is just the logical way of doing things if you want to make money.

When it comes to we employees, however, we tend to have a very different way of thinking. From our point of view, the job is our means of making a living, and while the goal might be to get as much money as possible from our employer, we tend to ignore other factors that are just as important. When we start seeing numbers that truly grab our attention, we forget to think about the unanticipated costs and expectations that come along with that hefty new salary.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself throughout my time in the working world is that different people have different priorities for different things. Society convinces us that it’s all about money, and I certainly won’t disagree with that idea completely. Money is what really “makes the world go ’round”, and if you want to have any significant level of happiness or contentment you’ll need a fair bit of it. However, once you reach a certain point, more money doesn’t really help with that anymore. Where the point is will be different for each person depending on their goals, but eventually you reach a point where money is no longer the primary concern.

For myself, I have learned that the most valuable resource by far in my life is time. After serving more than a decade in the military, I’ve experienced a great deal of my life being wasted by waiting around for things. Military service is well known for the “hurry up and wait” mentality, rushing around to get things done and then sitting around waiting for the next thing to happen. I was never much of a fan of it, nor was anyone I served with. It was just part of the way things worked and we all just had to “suck it up” and get through it.

Now that I’m in the private sector, I’m much less patient with people who waste my time. Every minute I’m spending doing something I hate is a minute I’m not spending doing something I love. Unlike money, you’ll never get your time back. Once that minute is gone, it’s gone forever. As you get older, you begin to understand the value of your time and it becomes ever more important to minimize the amount of it being wasted on things that aren’t important to you.

Obviously the person who places the maximum value on your time is going to be you. Let us be under no illusions that anyone is going to care much about how much of your time they might be wasting. Like many things in life, value is determined by the consumer, not the provider, which is why there is always such a harsh negotiation when it comes to salary. My time is worth a certain amount to me and a certain amount to the employer. Our agreement depends on many factors, not the least of which is the ratio of time versus benefit for both sides.

As I stated before, the employer will be looking to maximize their cost to benefit ratio based on the services you will be providing. For them, it isn’t really the final number on your employment agreement as it will be the amount of production they get out of you per unit of time. You might be making that magical six figure salary, but if you’re working eighty hours a week instead of forty to get it, then you’re basically working for half pay. It’s a great deal for the employer, but in retrospect not so great for you.

When I look at my career, I’ve shifted away from worrying about how much money I make to really considering my work/life balance. My approach to this is exactly the same as how the employer does it: maximizing the ratio that is important to me. However, instead of worrying about the amount of money versus how much I have to give someone, my primary concern at this stage in life is getting the most amount of money for the least amount of time. As my most precious commodity, it has become the primary factor in how I approach my work.

Unfortunately, this approach isn’t going to make you popular with your boss. When you decide that putting in all that extra time and effort to impress your employer just isn’t worth giving up the time, you’re not going to win any medals at the office. If you’re like me and the opinions of others are far less important than your personal peace of mind, then this isn’t much of a problem. You simply go in and do your job and then go home; I rarely think about work once I’m off the clock. However, if climbing to ever higher levels of success and income are your goal, then perhaps this philosophy isn’t right for you.

In the end, what I’m talking about here is a choice between becoming hyper-successful or choosing to prioritize your time over money. It is up to you to decide what is important to you, and that can only happen if you take a step back and really think about what you want out of life. If it’s millions of dollars and a super yacht, then obviously nothing in this article will apply. However, if you’re like me and you just want to have as much time as possible to do the things you want, a change of perspective might be in order.

Just remember that you are a business, not a slave. If the customer won’t meet your price, you don’t have to sell to them, just the same as they don’t have to hire you. Regardless of how scary it might feel, there are plenty of other customers out there willing to pay for your services as long as the terms are reasonable. Don’t give up your time out of fear. The sacrifice should be worth the compensation. Only you can decide how much is worth it.

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The Pervasive Indoctrination of Systems

I’ve spent most of my life in one system or another. As a child, I was subjected to the tacitly nationalized public school system, indoctrinated in the ways of putting the group before myself and taught that conforming to the rules is more important than valuing our freedom. When I spent more than a decade in military service, I was proud of my contribution to the nation, and I still am, but it was yet another system designed to teach me obedience over individuality. Almost all of my life has been spent in some form of structured thought process.

After so many years living in structures that laid out what I was supposed to do and when I was supposed to do it, I’ve found myself quite lost since leaving the military. There is an underlying desire to find some way to become independent of the resources of others and do something on my own to make money, but no matter how hard I think about it or what ideas might float across my brain, nothing ever sticks. I’m stuck back in that world of waiting for someone to tell me what I should be doing.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to just do something that is uniquely mine. I’d love it if I could somehow turn it into a career, but the odds of that happening are infinitesimally small and if I made that the motivation for coming back to write every day I’d never have lasted as long as I have. Most people fail within the first month; I’ve been writing for for nearly seven. It is the one thing I have that is fully mine to control with no authoritative input from anyone else. It is the only real creative outlet I have.

The problem is that I desperately want to figure out a way to move my professional life into a similar configuration. I have never been happy working for someone else, abiding by their schedules and conforming to their way of doing things. My time in the military was successful, but I imagine if you sat down and talked to anyone I served with they would tell you I had a bit of an attitude problem. Military structure and I never truly got along very well. I tend to think my way is better.

The issue for me is that for three quarters of my life I was immersed in a system that robbed me of my ability to think outside the box. There is a part of me that yearns to go off on my own and start some kind of business, but the practical and indoctrinated part of me just holds me back. Part of it is that I simply haven’t found anything that piques my interest enough to put in the kind of effort required to make it successful; most of it is just a lack of belief that it could ever work out. Despite my desire for freedom, the primitive part of me that wants to feel secure struggles to work without the perceived safety net of steady income.

Of course, we can rationally understand that there is no such thing as truly steady income. At any time we can lose our job for any number of reasons, from downsizing to making a mistake or simply from the company we work for going out of business. There is no sane reason to continue submitting to system of false security, but somehow most of us still seem to want to do it. Despite the fact that the odds are even either way, we still convince ourselves that we have a better chance of survival by being part of a larger group.

This makes sense from a biological standpoint. Larger tribes had greater odds of success back when we had to fight each other for resources all the time. Safety in numbers was a real thing during those times, and you were crazy to try to survive on your own. It was through tribal loyalty and conforming to the expectations of others that we ensured our mutual survival and prosperity.

This just isn’t the case anymore; at least not from a standpoint of moving ourselves forward. Innovation happens when someone decides to go do their own thing and figure out something new. A popular definition of the word “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting a different result. Progress is defined by doing something different. Conforming to the tribe causes stagnation. There needs to be a willingness to take a risk on something new.

I understand all this, and in my head I believe it. There is a large part of me that knows that if I just took a step out there and started doing something, it would likely succeed because I am a very capable person and I take great pride in doing things well. I am a self-starting person who becomes very particular and demanding of something when it is something I’ve decided is important to me. Endless hours have been spent on tiny details for things that I have a serious interest in simply because it was something that was able to hold my attention. I yearn for a career that grabs me by the belt.

Therein lies the core issue. My problem isn’t a lack of confidence in myself, it’s a lack of interest in anything with a serious chance for profit. Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to jump into fields of work where their true interests lie. For you to earn any kind of living, you have to produce something that is useful enough to others for them to pay for it, and I haven’t come across anything yet that pays decent money and still grabs my attention. It’s all just a grind to me.

I’m grateful to live in a place where all I have to worry about is grindy work and that basic survival isn’t something I really have to think about much. There are much worse situations to be in and I certainly recognize that. However, what many people don’t understand is the very real needs we have the extend beyond just finding a way keep breathing. There are levels of existence, and once you’ve met the needs of one you are automatically drawn into seeking ways to satisfy the next. We aren’t made to be satisfied with what we have; there’s always something better.

This blog is one avenue I’m taking to try to satisfy that next level of need. My basic survival has never really been an issue, but I’ve never been in a place where higher values have been truly satisfied. I continue to hope that I can take this thing I’m doing and turn it into something more, but the indoctrination of the system that has dominated most of my life continues to tell me it’s not going to go anywhere. The fight for me is to continue doing it anyway despite the odds, hoping that my efforts eventually yield the rewards I’ve always sought.

May it be a small inspiration for others.

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Homework is a Ridiculous Concept

School was never something I enjoyed. There were parts of it that were somewhat intriguing, but for the most part I spent my youth yearning to be free of the classroom so I could pursue more interesting endeavors. To be honest, in those days those pursuits were mostly video games, but these days I tend to balance that out with a lot of research into topics that I’m interested in such as physics, cosmology and other topics that grab my attention. School rarely had anything to offer me aside from a list of things I was supposed to know to be acceptable in the workplace. It was important, but decidedly unengaging.

Perhaps the single most unreasonable concept that to this day I strongly disagree with is the idea of homework. I am nearly forty years old and I still look back on my time in school and remember how much I hated coming home from school only to be dragged right back into that world with mounds of homework to get done. Kids of every generation can relate to this feeling, as I’m not the only person who couldn’t stand it. We just wanted to have fun, not be saddled with a bunch of extra work.

As most adults grow up, however, they start to see the value in reinforcing information for kids in the home. I am not one of them. Rather than an additional means of ensuring that kids are really learning the information, I see it is an insidious method of teaching children that it is acceptable to be sent home with extra work that should have been completed during the day. It convinces them through repetition that the concept of working outside of normal hours for no additional reward is perfectly acceptable.

Having worked in both types of pay scales, salary and hourly, I can say without doubt that I prefer to be compensated in a way that encourages my employer to minimize the amount of time I spend at the office. Exempt positions are nice from a consistency standpoint since you can count on getting the same paycheck regardless of how much you work, but the tradeoff is that you’re expected to stay as long as is necessary to get the job done. Hourly positions generally mitigate having to stay late, but you might sacrifice some income in the process.

My favorite arrangement is a guaranteed forty hour work week, where you are paid hourly but you still get a minimum paycheck every week. At least, that’s what it is in the normal working world. The unicorn for me would be a job where I just have a list of tasks that need to get done and a deadline to finish them; then it’s on me to figure out when and where I work to get it done. Of course, those jobs are very few and far between, so the guaranteed forty is my favorite from the available options.

At any rate, I’ve never held homework in high regard, and I’m not a fan of it for my children, either. Fortunately, my kids have been homeschooled for most of their life, so homework isn’t really a thing for them; they’re home already. It just irks me that children are being taught that it is perfectly acceptable to bring their work home with them to get done on their time rather than just getting it all done at school. This kind of thinking is what leads to sixty or eighty hour work weeks trying to stay on top of things. It’s what makes employers believe this kind of behavior is normal.

I understand the idea of “just get it done”, and many times I agree with it. Sometimes things come up and you just have to put in extra time to get it all done. However, for many people this is just a regular part of life and they sacrifice so much of their time trying to bite off more than they can chew at work. Until people start realizing that this is simply corporate America taking advantage of effectively free labor, it won’t change. And as long as our school systems continue to promote the concept of homework, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

What do you think about homework? Is it an effective way of reinforcing information for kids, or is it an unnecessary indoctrination into becoming overworked? We live in a time where people are really starting to learn what they want out of life, and for many it isn’t slaving away for someone else for sixteen hours a day. Perhaps it’s time to stop teaching our children to bring their work home with them.

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Be a Man

I’ve mentioned once or twice in the past that I am a 90’s kid, having grown up during the era when the generations switch from “Generation X” to “Millenial”. Depending on which definition you choose, I’m either at the very tail end of Gen X or the very start of the millenial generation. As such, I tend to be a mix of highly contrasting ideas about many subjects when it comes to society. I like to believe that my natural tendency leans toward the old ways, but I’m self aware enough to realize that many of my views are skewed by a childhood tainted with certain ideas designed to change the status quo.

This new millenial generation has been taught some very unconventional ideas about what it is to be a man. It is a logical thought process to want to make improvements to any system, and I personally take a great deal of pleasure in finding ways to make something better or more efficient. On the surface, trying to revamp human relationships by making either sex more understandable or better makes a lot of sense. However, like many things in life it’s never as simple as we hope it will be.

Human beings still have a lot of primitive processes that get in the way of our ability to positively interact with each other. The primal urges that still reside within us fight for dominance over what we have decided are the higher ideals of our existence. This is fine because it allows us to maintain a certain drive to do more or be more, the baser part of us never being satisfied and propelling us forward to new levels of greatness.

Where we run into trouble is when we start looking at this primitive side of our being as a negative and begin to believe that we can somehow train it out of us. The reality is that it is a part of who we are and it makes up a very large portion of what has made us the most successful species on the planet. Were we to truly take out human aggression, it’s quite possible that we would stagnate into self-extinction as we lose that drive that forces us to keep moving; to keep improving.

Growing up in the 90’s, I was taught many conflicting ideas between my home life and school and media and various other sources of information. In the home, I was exposed to more traditional male qualities, much of it very negative from an objective standpoint, but in retrospect I value it because it taught me to be resilient as an adult. Steel can only be hardened by fire, and the same is true with men. However, this process was highly tempered by the softer message of the progressive propaganda that has been pushed for the last several decades that men should set aside their “toxic male attitudes” and strive to be more like women.

Much of the conflict we see in our society today has an underlying source in the drastic change in relationships between men and women. At some point we decided that it made sense for men to stop being what we truly are and capitulate to the female way of thinking. Men no longer act with confidence and aggression and dominance; we’re too afraid of offending someone anymore. Rather than standing firm in what we think, we bend and flex and contort until we no longer recognize what we believe in and just follow the crowd, hoping that we can find some form of acceptance in our platitudes.

Recently in my life, I have reached the point where I am no longer satisfied with just “getting through” things anymore. I have a certain way that I want things to be and I am no longer willing to compromise on them. It no longer matters to me whether anyone approves of who I am or how I think about things or if I behave in the way that they think is best. A man is a natural born leader, even if it just means leading himself. Despite what the more communal minded amongst us might try to plead, there is nothing wrong with going your own way. Many times it’s the only way to satisfy your soul.

I started writing this article with a vague intent of listing some of the qualities that makes a man a man, but the truth is that it is unnecessary. Both genders intuitively understand what being a man is all about; we respond to it when we see it and secretly yearn for it when it isn’t present. The confidence, competence and even slight arrogance of a strong man is something that real men admire and strive to become, and women secretly find attractive and compelling regardless of how much they try to deny it. It’s hard wired into who we are.

One of my favorite turns of phrase is the idea that “you can’t legislate behavior”, the idea being that no matter how many rules you put in place, people are ultimately going to do what they want. The same thing applies to gender roles in that you can try to legislate and propagandize human behavior to shape what people are, but in the end we are going to be what we are and no amount of brainwashing will ever get rid of it. It will always be there under the surface, ready to burst forth and show what we really are.

So we have two choices, really: we can continue to try to appease the ridiculous idea that the genders should try to be something they’re not, or we can embrace what we are and learn to maximize the benefits of that way of being. Instead of wasting our energy fighting against nature, we should be using it to further enhance who we are as a people. If we can learn to recognize and appreciate the things that make us different, perhaps we can stop finding reasons to hate each other.

It’s the differences that makes life interesting anyway.

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Cycles and Repetitions

The title of this post is somewhat cryptic, but really the subject isn’t particularly complicated or mysterious. I simply like to be a bit vague with the labels for these articles to encourage people to have a look and maybe learn something they didn’t know or just didn’t think about the way that I do. What I want to go over today is the fact that our existence is filled with things that repeat themselves over and over, and while we do get new things from time to time most of the things we encounter are repetitions from things we’ve experienced in the past.

It isn’t a new topic for me personally, as I realized long ago that much of what I experience in life isn’t anything new. This is especially true when it comes to things like music, where there are only so many configurations of notes and chords and rhythms available, and it’s simply a matter of time until modern artists are just repeating the themes of what the pioneers did in the past. Some people are honest about it and simply do remakes, but many either don’t know they’re recreating something already formed or just steal it because people don’t remember it anymore.

What made me decide to write about it today was watching through a “Let’s Play” of an old PC game entitled “Betrayal at Krondor“, a story extracted from a series of novels about the Rift Wars. I never read the books, but I did play the game a bit when I was young and always had a latent interest in it. As I have been watching the story unfold and the mechanics of the game be revealed, it reminded me of a time when video games were still fairly new and clever ideas were still being tossed about because it was more about innovation than profits.

Betrayal at Krondor was one of those games that did quite well from a review standpoint, though I have no idea how much money they made off it. The story is very engaging and the gameplay makes you constantly feel invested because it is quite difficult and the consequences for failure or death actually have meaning. When you play this game, you aren’t just trying to get through it; you are drawn into a storytelling event that happens to include an interactive component.

The point of this article isn’t to be a video game review, however. What sparked the writing of this article was a desire to highlight how time passes and eventually what was once new has been reduced to a series of patterns that are replicated over time. Betrayal at Krondor was a truly original game, but over the years this style has been iterated on to the point that one can never really be surprised anymore. Any game of this genre is basically the same: run around, get into fights, there may or may not be a fun story, and you fight a boss at the end to justify all the time you put in.

There are many reasons for this, some of them understandable and others are simply greed. It takes a lot of time and money to develop even the simplest of professional quality video games, and developers have to balance their end vision with the budget. Most game designers start out with a grand vision of the perfect game, but as bugs and time start getting the better of them, features are removed and story elements are pared down to meet the publishing deadline. Even if deadlines didn’t matter, the fact that technology moves at such a rapid pace means that games eventually get left behind as new features become available and make even relatively new games obsolete. It’s a mad dash to keep up.

Of course, perhaps the biggest reason is the one we already covered: it’s all been done. Are there any truly unique story ideas remaining? What about clever game mechanics or combat systems? How many more new types of magic systems can we come up with or monsters can we dream up or evil villains can emerge from our fantasies? There’s only so many complex ideas such as this available until we start repeating things from the past. As was said so profoundly in Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

As I look back on the nineties, it was an era of truly unique and original ideas regarding computer games, not because anyone came up with something that no one else had ever thought of, but because we had a truly revolutionary technology at our disposal that allowed us to branch out into a truly new area of development. It’s easy to come up with something new when you’re in completely unexplored territory. Once you’ve spent a bit of time there, however, good old repetition rears its ugly head again and you’re back to doing the same things over and over again. It’s simply a curse of time.

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