Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reset

Reader, for this post, you must know something about me...

I grew up with 8-bit Nintendo. We just called "Nintendo". When Super Nintendo came out, good ole 8-bit went from Nintendo to regular Nintendo. That's what superlatives do. They take something that was once good, and make it no longer good enough. This is a topic I want to explore at some point, but not today.

Today is about a button on my first video game system that put a new word in my vocabulary. Today is about a button with little benefit, but a word with great value.

Today, I'm hitting Reset. Here's why:

  • I've missed some posts. Not a huge deal, but if I was loving this as much as I had hoped to, I wouldn't have missed them. 
  • I am having a hard time writing about things in my life, because I'm worried about offending people that read this blog.
  • I am having a hard time writing about things in my life because so much of my life is spent at my job, and I don't want anything I say about my job to be misinterpreted by any coworkers that stumble upon this site.
  • Through writing in this blog, I have discovered a lot about myself that I'm not satisfied with. I need time to sort those things out. 

I still don't know why hitting reset was better than turning the power off and then back on. Something about data saving, I don't know. I want my readers to know that I'm not sad, and I'm not depressed. I'm just tired. Having faced instances of my own hypocrisy, having faced instances of self-doubt, and having faced instances where the gleam of give-a-shit was not found in mine eye, I decided that this project has to be what gives. Not forever. Just until February. 

Until Next, Reader.

Reset.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ideas

Howdy hey, Reader!

This post is about ideas.  Ideas are nifty things--  we create whole worlds inside our brain holes using ideas.  We can make things, do things, start revolutions!  Or, we can be like me, and have a lot of ideas and do a lot of nothing with them.

On Seth Godin's blog on January 2nd, he said that saying "here, I made this" is difficult and frightening.  For me, saying I made something is easy.  Saying I'm going to make something is mortifying!

Those of you that know me will wonder why I say I find sharing my ideas so frightening when I do it so often.  You'll be amused to find out that I share a lot of ideas with you, but the ones I think are really good are the ones I keep under tight security.  It's not a fear of plagiarism or idea-theft.  It's a fear of my idea fizzling.

I often say that when I share my ideas with the world, they lose power.  I've felt this way for a long time, but I didn't start articulating my feeling in this manner until about a year ago.  I have given a lot of thought to why this phenomenon exists...  I always hear of people sharing their vision and bringing it to life, I hear of think-tanks getting together in great salons to discuss making the world a better place and actually making it happen.  And then there's me, sharing an idea, watching it fly free, like a butterfly-- and be eaten by a bird.  Or a bat.  Let's go with a bat.  (I like bats).

The best answer I can come up with is that when I share an idea with someone, I have just created an expectation.  I'm a master of projection, so I acknowledge that the expectation I've created is my own.  Next time I see that person, I'll feel obligated to provide them with an update, whether they asked for one or not!  I've also created a framework for my idea.  So let's say my project starts out exactly as I described it, but then I'm struck with a flash of genius, rendering my original idea obsolete.  Do I change the idea, or do I stay the course, worrying the while about what other people will think of me?  Neither!  Haha, no false dichotomies for me!  Instead I just abandon the whole project because the existential crisis is too much to bear, and in my mercurial melancholy I've likely latched on to another project by then anyhow.  I think it's a function of a person's security...  The likelihood of taking a shared idea to completion is directly proportional to the confidence a person possesses.  On a more metaphysical level, perhaps sharing an idea gives all of the creative energy into putting it into words... perhaps the Universe accepts your creative energy as you speak your creation, and then you don't have any left for the material creation.

I hate to make all of these self-deprecating posts, but it's so necessary.  I'm not trying to be sneaky and put myself down to fish for compliments.  I'm not trying to lower your expectations in order to more easily dazzle you.  I'm just trying to be authentic and vulnerable, all in an effort to find out who Melephant is.  I don't think that journey will ever be complete, but along the way maybe I can help someone else find out something about their own self.  Also in the spirit of realness, I really want pudding right now.

So, think about your ideas.  Give some thought to the ideas you choose to share, and then deeply ponder the ones you don't.  Examine your reasons for not sharing.  Instead of an "assignment" for the comments section, I'll leave you with my favorite quote from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (emphasis added):

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Until Next!





Sunday, January 13, 2013

Paying dues (with dues)

Hello Reader,

I am remiss...  I didn't post Friday.  I can make a lot of excuses, but instead I'll just give the due reasons.  I have not been pleased with the content of my posts.  I have not made writing a priority.  That's it!  And, as said in The Last Unicorn, "I'm here now".

I recently read a story (tall tale, urban legend) about a man in a mall food court who tried to pay for his meal with a two dollar bill.  I've seen several versions of this story--  Basically, the story goes that the kid behind the counter thought the bill was fake.  The manager of the store (also, presumably, a kid) confirms that two dollar bills are surely fake, and calls mall security.  The security guy shows up, is told the customer is trying to pass counterfeit money.  The guard confronts the customer, who shows the security guard the two dollar bill.  The guard and the customer share a laugh at the "idiots" who think two dollar bills are fake.  The commentary at the end of the story adds some incredulous bitching about "can you believe these people can vote!?" or "and these people are running our country after we die" or "and they're going to have babies!".

Every time I read a version of this story, I get upset.  You see, I've often asked questions of people and been greeted with "you mean you don't know that!?" or some such sardonic statement.  We tell eachother there's no such thing as a stupid question, and yet when people ask something, we treat them with derision.  Knowledge is power.  Knowing is half the battle.

Apparently the other half of the battle is being an asshole.

It's all about paying our dues.  Many of us live in a culture where we have to prove ourselves before we can be respected.  We have to earn our credibility.  And as part of this ritual of paying our dues, we either learn how to be tremendous bullshitters while we carefully observe and study behind the scenes, or we utter the very painful words "I don't know".  Admitting you don't know something takes a lot of bravery, but is rarely ever rewarded as a courageous act.

In and of itself, this situation isn't terribly upsetting.  What is upsetting (at least to me) is that we expect that everyone we encounter has the same cookie cutter set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that we have.  So, when we see teenagers that have never seen a two dollar bill, we don't take into consideration that it's a not-oft-used denomination.  Instead, we just assume that everyone knows about two dollar bills, and therefore, these teenagers are idiots.  Our logic is unassailable.  We have both halves of the battle.

The take-aways from this post:

If someone asks you a question you know the answer to and you think it's something everybody knows, take a deep breath.  Then answer.  And if you're really that bothered that they didn't know, share with them how you came to know the tidbit you've just shared.  Maybe their history is different from yours.  (And by maybe I mean it definitely is.  And quit being an asshole.)

If someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer, don't bullshit them!  Instead, be very candid that you don't know, and offer to learn together.  Look it up!

If you ask a question and someone starts bullshitting you, call them on it.  But do it nice.  You're trying to get one half of the battle, no need to display the other.

If you ask a question and the person answers with one of the two methods I described above, ask if they've read this blog!  Chances are, they haven't.  Direct them to read this blog...  I kid, I kid.  Instead, just thank them for being very helpful.

If you ask a question and you're greeted with derision, you have a couple of choices...  You can just ask someone else.  You can smile and say something that'll make them feel guilty.  You can laugh with them.  There's no cookie cutter answer to this situation!  Just like we don't have cookie cutter knowledge and experience.

We're all on different journeys.  Don't go out of your way to make it harder for someone else.  And feel free to comment on your advice and experiences in these situations   Or on what you think the second half of the battle really is!

Until next!

PS: the wordplay in this title is a little abstract.  Paying dues.. with dues..  as in, an Americanized plural of the Italian "due" which means "two".  As in two dollar bills.  aaaaand....  when I said "I'll give my due reasons", I gave two.  Reasons, not bills.

I love words!



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tastes Like Chicken



Oh, Reader, what a day...


Today was a day of comparisons.  

I don't enjoy comparing myself to other people...  I don't enjoy it because I suffer with many cognitive distortions, and tend to see myself in terms of how I fail to be other people.  Did that make sense?  It shouldn't have, because it doesn't make any sense.  I look at other people, and feel like I don't measure up.  I feel the need to adapt myself to their personality, their interests, their identity in order to "fit in".  I've been this way for so many years that sometimes I can't even figure out where my "original self" has gone...  I even got a tattoo of a chameleon to represent this issue.  And the really neat part?  We all do this!!!!!

Each and every one of us goes around comparing ourselves with other people.  We have to.  Our brains are hardwired for comparison and analysis.  We view everything new we encounter in terms of something we're familiar with.  Don't believe me?  What's the first (cliche) thing someone says when they try a new meat...  Ah good, you've got it!

Tastes Like Chicken.

So, comparing ourselves to others is not just normal, but necessary.  It's all part of Social Comparison Theory.  We grow and develop by comparing ourselves to people we perceive as being "better" than us.  We maintain our self esteem by comparing ourselves to people that we consider not to be as good as our own selves.  As long as we have a healthy understanding of ourselves, an awareness, these comparisons are an effective way of improving ourselves, and others!  Through downward social comparison we can identify a fellow human being that needs help, and then offer it.  Upward social comparisons can be used to inspire us and propel us forward.

But note, I said this only works if we have a healthy understanding of ourselves.  So if you're like me, and prone to bouts of debilitating insecurity, then when someone asks you casually in conversation whether you've seen a movie, you'll find yourself close to tears thinking that you're stupid.  And yes, this honestly happened to me.  I'm not proud to admit it, but someone out there in the world needs to know they're not the only one having silly thoughts like this.

And they just said "but my thoughts aren't silly..."

Today I compared myself to a person who lost a sibling.  Today I compared myself to a person who suffered a sudden stroke.  I compared myself to people that are experts in their fields.  I compared myself to people who were asked to leave their fields.  I compared myself to the organized, the competent, the angry and the mean.  The loving.  The humorous.  The enlightened.  And you know what I found out?

Hate to disappoint, but I didn't find out a thing.  I just realized that everything is relative.  Nothing is permanent, and it's all an illusion anyway!  I don't mean this in a depressing or self-pitying way.  I mean it in a freeing way.  

The take away here is that you are going to compare yourself to other people-- get used to it and get over it.  I'm not going to suggest that you stop doing it!  I'm just going to suggest that you don't read too much into it. It's like peeling an onion...  you uncover layer after layer trying to find what's underneath it all, only to find yourself in tears with nothing to show for it.  

I'll leave you with this final glimpse into the mercurial mind of Melephant.  I often criticize myself for being sloppy and disorganized.  My system of note taking, for example, is something I often try to "improve".  After today's round of comparisons I realized there's nothing to improve.  My note taking works for me.  

Would this work for you....?



Until next!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book #1!

Hello Reader,

Today I was a Reader as well!  I completed the first of 52 books that I shall read in 2013, Reincarnation and the Law of Karma by William Walker Atkinson.

I hate to say it, but I found the book rather disjoined and confusing...  As such, I find it difficult to write about it.

Atkinson attempts to introduce the reader to the concepts of reincarnation and karma by showing the history of belief of both concepts.  He divided his book into chapters based on the beliefs of several cultures, including the Egyptians, Romans & Greeks, the Hindus, and even Christians!  The unfortunate thing is that he often quotes passages of other works, but rarely credits the work or the author.  He introduces these quotes by saying things similar to "a famous man once said" or "in a work that is authoritative on the subject".  This might have been an oversight, but I find it to be a little cowardly...  If he doesn't cite his sources, no one can challenge his interpretations.  I find my attitude a bit combative though, so I'll give the benefit of the doubt and go with the oversight suggestion!

Reincarnation is a tricky subject to write about.  It's not a theory that can be tested with the means we have available today, therefore much of it has to be based on Faith.  I think Faith is a beautiful thing, but philosophers tend to use a lot of "God-spackle" to cover holes in their logic.  (An aside, I really wish I was clever enough to come up with that on my own, but I have to credit my philosophy professor Brett Miller)  Moreover, we have to identify what reincarnates!  Is it the mind?  The Soul?  Consciousness?  To decide between these items (and any other options) we have to define these things.  What is the mind?  Is it sentience, in the fashion of Descartes' revelation of cogito ergo sum?  And what of the Soul?  Atkinson wrote of many cultures with 3-part and 7-part souls-- how can that be proven or dis-proven?  And finally, consciousness baffles us with its complexity...

Unfortunately, all of the struggle and confusion that I just mentioned is not made any clearer in Atkinson's book.  I can't blame him-- it's not easy!  Not all stories can be gems.

Final thoughts on the book:  It was worth reading for the sake of the journey, but compared with the amazing work of David Darling and Evan Harris Walker, I found this book to be lacking.  I know it's not fair to make comparisons, so I'll frame it differently.  This book did not meet my expectations-- I am unable to alter my expectations, and so am left disappointed.  The moral of this story?  I'll approach the rest of my 2013 reading list with the child's mind that I wrote about in my last post.


It is as if Atkinson's writings on karma have reached across time and space to slap me in my brain-hole...  I find that I can't express myself-- I feel incredibly lacking as an author right now, so I'll end this post.

They can't all be gems.

Until Next!


By the by, David Darling's Zen Physics and Evan Harris Walker's The Physics of Consciousness were the works I referred to earlier.  I even linked to the latter!

 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Interesting Things

Do you like it when I follow a posting schedule, Reader?

Today I am sharing a question I used to hate.

"Tell me something interesting about yourself..."

This question comes up for various reasons, but it's usually intended as an ice-breaker, something to start conversation.  As much as I love to talk, I usually find it incredibly difficult to come up with something.  In this regard, I am not unique-- most people find it difficult to come up with something interesting about themselves.  Simply put, we find our own lives to be boring.

For instance, consider that every day I wake up before dawn, go through my morning routine, and then drive to work, usually witness to the sunrise.  I work in a nuclear power plant as an instructor.  I teach leadership training!  Before I took my current job, it didn't exist.  I do all of this with only a high school diploma…  (and ten years of experience in the US Navy).  In the Navy, I qualified as a reactor operator on December 18th .  I got my driver’s license on December 19th...  To my knowledge, this makes me the only person to have been legally able to independently operate a reactor before being legally able to operate a car!   I was on USS Enterprise when she went dead in the water in 2005.  I was once told by a self-proclaimed psychic that I was the most well-balanced person she had met.  When I laughed, she countered that most people are either artistic or technical—she clearly saw me as a 50/50 split of both— Note: for the first half of my life I lived as if I was going to be a musician/artist/writer.  The second half of my life I've lived as if those dreams couldn't ever come true, and devoted myself to technically based careers.

And all I can think about all of that is, so what?  

To you, these facts might seem neat.  These facts might stir up interests or questions.  You may want to know more.  You may want to share similar stories.  For you, these facts are tools used to build connections.  But to me, these facts represent small events in my life, events that were surrounded by much bigger ones.  Some of the events were painful.  Some still are.  To me, these facts are just facts.  Data points in the slipstream of my travels. 

This double standard is one of the many obstacles to communication.  It’s a lesson in Empathy.  From now on, when someone asks you to share something interesting about yourself, approach your life from their perspective instead of from yours.  In fact, don’t even wait for someone to ask you!  Imagine the sense of wonder and amazement that can be renewed within you simply by changing your perspective of your life and your routine!  By keeping a child's mind, a mind open and free from preconceived notions, you can experience unbridled joy and awe...  It's a beautiful thing.  A humbling thing.

I challenge you to think of an event in your life that you consider mundane, and re-frame it in the vantage point of someone you've just met.  Feel free to share your event (ahem, your tool used to build connections) in the comments!

Until Next!

PS:  I just realized that I started by saying I was sharing a question, and yet quoted a request that was clearly not worded as a question.  I could have edited that, but then you wouldn't have gotten to share a chuckle with me!  Tee Hee!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reading List

Reader,

This post is going to be short!  This post is where I unveil my 2013 reading list for my 52 books in 52 weeks goal.

I've been asked how I came up with this goal.  I can't pass up an opportunity to tell a story!

When I was in the Navy, my at-sea routine included a lot of reading.  One year I was able to read over 70 books!  Since then I have made several half-assed attempts to read 100 books in a year.  I made the mistake of not having a plan, and not tracking my progress.  The year I read 70+ books was the closest I came to having an organized goal; I kept track via sticky notes and other terribly inefficient methods.  This year, I knew reading 100 books was not realistic-- I'm starting many new activities and am not willing to put in that many hours per day reading.  I used Chris Guillebeau's goal setting template, which you can find here. When I read his post with examples of his goals, I noted one of his goals for 2008 was to read 52 books.  Challenge accepted!

Now that credit has been given where it's due, in no particular order, here's my 2013 reading list!
Titles with an asterisk are books in the bibliography included in What Dreams May Come

Title Author
7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey
$100 startup Chris Guillebeau
Autobiography of a Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda
Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
Madmen & Martyrs Glenn Parkhurst
The Secret Teachings of Plants Harold Bruhner
Sex and the Intelligence of the Heart Julie McIntyre
Renaissance Soul Margaret Lobenstine
The Holy or the Broken Alan Light
It Can't Happen Here Sinclair Lewis
Freakanomics Steven Levitt
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Mary Roach
Joseph Anton: A Memoir Salman Rushdie
The Way of the Wizard Deepak Chopra
Equations of Eternity David Darling
The Holographic Universe Michael Talbot
Jennifer Government Max Barry
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein
Cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson
The Stranger Albert Camus
The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein
Lamb Christopher Moore
*Your Psychic Powers and Immortality John Appleman
*Reincarnation and the Law of Karma WW Atkinson
*The Other Side of Death Raymond Bayless
*Apparitions and Survival of Death Raymond Bayless
*Life in the World Unseen Anthony Borgia
*More About Life in the World Unseen Anthony Borgia
*Here and the Hereafter Anthony Borgia
*In Silence They Return Judy Boss
*Incarnation W Brandon
*Love in the Afterlife W Brandon
*We Knew These Men W Brandon
*Open the Door W Brandon
*Unfinished Symphonies R Brown
*Life After Death Hugh Lynn Cayce
*Men in White Apparel Anne Ree Colton
*The New Revelation Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
*Intimations of Immortality Robert Crookall
*The Next World and the Next Robert Crookall
*Incarnation and Reincarnation Dr. John C Daniels
*Glimpses of the Beyond J B Delacour
*You Can Speak With Your Dead Shaw Desmond
*Spirit World and Spirit Life C Dresser
*They Knew the Unknown Martin Ebon
*The Tibetan Book of the Dead W Y Evans-Wentz
*When We Die Geoffrey Farthing
*On the Edge of the etheric Arthur Findlay
*The Way of Life: A Guide to the Etheric World Arthur Findlay
*The Life Beyond Death Arthur Ford
*Unknown But Known Arthur Ford
*Through the Gates of Death Deon Fortune

As I finish these, I'll cross them off and include a date completed.  I look forward to sharing this journey with you, Reader!

Until Next!