Monday, November 29, 2010

when life hands you lemons...well...looks like you've got some lemons.

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all virtues..."
Marcus Tullius Cicero

I am thankful today, not anymore than yesterday, probably about the same amount. Today was core-day at the gym; my least favorite, to say the least. I've always got a kick out of the idea of 'ab' workouts. For those of us who have never seen our 'abs', such a concept seems futuristic and ludicrous. However, I know that good things come to those who wait; but I've also heard that the early bird gets the worm. Perhaps the worm is a bad thing, but I've always observed birds to be mightily-fond of such.

I drive a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport-it has 142,000 miles on it and has been a brilliant workhorse the past year or so. No, I haven't acquired a family since my last blog and no I don't use my van for 'cargo' or any other sort of work related issues. I just drive a minivan. And, believe it or not, for a 25 year old single male that's somewhat awkward and particularity creepy. I don't see the end of the "baby on board" or "expecting a family" jokes approaching anywhere in the near future; the van is a blessing a curse. A blessing if you like to sleep in vehicles that have ample space. A curse if your trying to find a girlfriend. However, I'm still very thankful for a fully-functional (besides the rear window) automobile.

I live in a house with a family. The family isn't mine. I just rent a room and share the facilities. It has been a really unique experience for me; the first time I've ever lived with a family for a prolonged period of time. Now, I'm not saying I didn't have a family upbringing. I did, it just wasn't the typical mom and dad situation that most people grow up under and it most certainly wasn't a 'christian' household whatsoever. I've learned a lot of things living in a house with 6, 8, and a 10yr old boys. I've learned that "stupid" is a bad word and that sleeping in past 6am is near impossible. I've learned that above all things right now, being single, without a wife, without a family, is a good place for me. I'm thankful that although I love kids; I don't want any, yet.

I've been fired more times than Lane Kiffin; almost. This year has been a weird one. I took a leap of faith, Evil Knievel style, just taking a shot in the dark so to speak. I landed on my face, American's Funniest Home Video style. I realized I wasn't much of a commission based salesmen; and found out I look bad in mauve dress shirts. I became substantially more astute in the ways of business operations and marketing ventures. Blockbuster kept my movie knowledge high; and Starbucks kept my energy level high. All these jobs, all these adventures, laden with failures and success embedded within one another and all intertwined into a unique concoction of developmental perseverance. I couldn't deny the reality that it all came in perfect timing; something to be truly thankful for, divine timing.

I love the weather in Southern-California. Although, I'm not gonna lie, I was sweating like Darryl Strawberry at a custody hearing when the summer hit. It came down like fire from heaven, setting my epidermis ablaze with its fierce penetration of what's commonly referred to as 'sun-block' but is better titled as 'doesn't block'. Of course the only air conditioning problems my vehicle has ever suffered was in the midst of a 114 degree afternoon in downtown Los Angeles; it was an epic hotness, like Baywatch or something. However, as the season went on the beach trips became less frequent, my tan grew lighter, and the heat wore off, like a Ross Perot, 'Ross for Boss' sticker off my dad's old dodge. I acclimated to the heat eventually and have become mightily-fond of the assimilated temperateness of so-cal.

It's been a long strand of habitual thankfulness that has led me to the place I'm in. Even as I sit here at my favorite Bucks' just flickin' away at the plastic-squares (keyboard?) I understand that even amidst true thankfulness we will still have our worries, our concerns, and our struggles. However, every enemy, whether physical or metaphorical, is so much more true-to-size when we battle it from a position of strategic-and-intentional thankfulness. So, I encourage whomever is reading this to examine your own life and look at the plethora of faults and shortcomings and find the best aspects of them, and run with it.

"If you can't be content with what you've received, be thankful for what you've escaped..."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Latitant Love

I woke up this morning to the intrusive beams of beautiful California Winter lights protruding through the openings of the blinds; exposing the darkness of the room with the presence of light. Rolling around on the bed getting lost in down-comforters just avoiding need to arise so early.
Battling physically and internally arguing mentally the idea of getting out of this castle of comfort; why does sleep have to feel so good? You know what I love? I love the feeling of waking up and going back to sleep, that's what I love.

Oh, and I love lamp. Love is an interesting concept that is so multifaceted it wouldn't make sense attempting to discover or uncover it past the surface level in a single-blog. Love is defined in so many ways, here are a few, "... a passionate affection, warm personal attachment, strong predilection, enthusiasm, embrace, infused tenderness, etc..." Love varies according to the source, the object, the situation, the motives, and many other variables. Love isn't as cut and dry as hate; that's why they are, in essence, diametrically opposed. Martin Luther King had this to say about love and hate: "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."

Being a single man its not easy to be a beneficiary of love; outside of family and friends. Romance is like algebra to a single man; we've read about it, studied it, but still don't know have a clue about how the hell it works. I've heard it's 50% brain, 50% heart, and the other 20% luck. But, on a mathematics level that just seems off, theirs 10% not accounted for? Right? I like romantic comedies just like nerds like Magic the Gathering; its all fantasy, fiction, far-removed from reality to me. I used to be insanely optimistic but now I'm happily realistic. Mark Twain said, "...when you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain..." So, I don't use my brain and all anymore. (joke)

I love talking about being single because it will be great ammo for my future wife to use against me; and I'm sure that so many of these horrifically inaccurate presumptions will be addressed sooner than later, through trial & error. I get a plethora of opportunistic exposures to single females but rarely ever pounce on any of them with any true vigor or desire. I've realized that I'm a driven person in many areas; relationships are most assuredly not one of them. I like the idea of relationships much more than relationships themselves. I enjoy other people's happiness in relationship and live a seemingly mundane single-life vicariously through their relational-contentedness.

I get by with some help from romantic comedies and 90's soul music. I find my relational needs met partially via facebook; relational, not romantical' (not a word, fyi). I was recently asked by a set of awesome&beautiful barista's at my local coffee house about what my 'girl-situation' was and what is 'going-on-there.' I really didn't know how to answer their probing questions regarding my love life, or the lack thereof. It's not like they were asking me to solve a mathematical equation-it's just a girl. Right? I guess although it crosses my mind often I've always had a dodging the arrow mentality about the conversation; this time it was more confusion than delusion.

I've watched friend after friend get married. I've seen friend after friend having kids (I didn't witness it, I just know they had a child, that's all I'm saying...) I've also had the not-so-awesome opportunity to witness friend after friend get divorced; the most painful and empty experience I've ever seen someone endure. I've always thought singleness was lonely; its a whole-different type of loneliness that sets in once you've been with someone and then your suddenly, not. I guess it's been so long since I've dated I've somewhat forgot what it felt like to be with anyone; I've become seemingly comfortable with this concept of singleness. Not content, but comfortable nonetheless.

So, I'm working diligently to bust out of this shell I've been in for so long. Shedding off multiple layers of selfishness; attempting vigorously and fighting militantly to overcome my drastic imperfections and settle mentally with my shortcomings and somehow embrace them. It's not easy building up the courage to make yourself vulnerable; put yourself out there to be knocked out. However, if you don't fight, you can't win. It reminds me of a childhood friends dad and how often he talked and dreamed about winning the lottery; funniest part was the fact the man had never, and would never buy a lottery ticket. I will keep on striving towards companionship on a deeper level and focus a wee-bit more on being less selfish; I think that's a step in the right direction. SUGGESTIONS-WELCOME.

Friday, November 26, 2010

a nebulous nebbish.

Thanksgiving is an interesting concept; we are celebrating our thankfulness for the founders of our country. We are celebrating their unique ability to trick and trap the natives so we could take their land and massacre a few hundred thousand of em' along the way. Now, I'm not saying I'm not thankful for that, but then again, I am saying I'm not thankful for the methodology therein. But, it just goes to show that America has a way of moving forward despite potential road blocks; i.e. 'U.N., Indians, environmental safety, etc...'

I felt like a circa 1621 native at work yesterday; I worked ten-hours and got completely shafted by a bunch of sly-people, and their trickiries. Except, their tricks included 6% tips, which, according to multiple studies done throughout the United States, conducted by myself of course, is considered, "cheap." I understand the economy is in the midst of a wee-little hiccup, however, that doesn't justify your inability to be courteous. I am glad you decided to join me for your Thanksgiving Day meals but I am not glad you thought only of yourself. For those few people who were actually thankful on Thanksgiving-thank you. And, to all the others, get bent.

Ok, so I'll refrain from ranting any further, for now. Out of all the things I realized yesterday the most important was how much I missed being with family during the holidays. I watched facebook-status after facebook-status beam lights of excitement from friends and family at home, all joyful to be around those they love. I noticed picture after picture being uploaded from the various feast's occurring around the world; all people I love, surrounded by those who love them. I wasn't saddened too deeply by the vast-mileage that separate my family and I because I believe soon enough that gap will close; temporary, but it will be glorious nonetheless.

All day yesterday I had customers apologizing to me and telling me how 'sorry' they were that I had to work; I let them know I wanted to be there. Guess what!? I wasn't lying. I love the opportunity to make money and put some cash back for a rainy day; or for a trip north, either way, they'll both involve rain most likely.
However, I'm sure I was one of the few people who actually appreciated the opportunity to make some extra cash; so many people's attitudes were a direct reflection of their lack of thankfulness. Even after the worst night I've ever had at a job in the past few years, I was still thankful, maybe not for the atrociously-cheap tippers, but thankful that I wasn't alone on thanksgiving nonetheless.

I don't miss the normalcy of my family because such doesn't exist; I love my family because of how unique they are in both manner and mannerism.
I miss my aunt, her petite 4 ft 6ish frame, white hair frazzled, thick brim glasses and a thermos full of box wine, lipstick stained menthol cig just hanging loosely about her mouth, skipping about the kitchen getting food for everyone but herself of course. Uncle Ray, face of a man whose lived a life full of adventure-heart of heaven, mouth full of hell, just giving everyone a hard time and making this whole Turkey-Day fiasco that much more entertaining. Uncle Denny is moving strategically to and fro the kitchen with various electric hand tools; slicing and dicing that turkey viciously all while wearing a checkered-shirt and suspenders. The rest of us sit there with a deer in flashlight (headlights seem dramatic) look just patiently awaiting our feast.

This blog is so disorganized and chaotic thus represents my family perfectly; leaves one somewhat razzled about what they've actually encountered. I am thankful that I can have really bad days followed by super good ones. Here I am, ready to embrace another week (& weekend) of awesomeness, good work, healthy living, etc. I hope you've had a phenomenal Thanksgiving and it was all you hoped for and more; but, if you didn't then we dine together in awkwardness and partial-letdown. In the words of a famous South-Central Rapper/Poet, "better days, better days, better days..." (Tupac). And remember the words of a far-more important and influential man, C.H. Spurgeon: "If the Lord makes your cup sweet, than drink it with grace. If the Lord makes your cup bitter, than drink it in communion with Him..."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Sir Issac Newton was known for his accomplishments as a Mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, theologian, and alchemist. His knowledge and understanding in such a vast area of studies led him to what we know today as, "Newton's Laws of Motion." Through these laws we've been told that, "every action has an equal and opposite reaction..." The idea that every action is accountable to it's reaction is something that to ponder takes an understanding of consequences and repercussions. In life we realize in many ways that our movement, or the lack thereof will eventually define us; that is the action, and the opposite reaction.

I've always been a fan of the word stagnant, by definition this word means; not circulating or not flowing, sluggish, dull, not developing, not progressing, no sign of activity or advancement, etc. Something about just reading those descriptive words about the term 'stagnant' just make me want to climb a mountain, learn Portuguese, and run the Boston Marathon. Our movement and progression is such a intricate part of our placement and importance in society that we dare not sacrifice our success for stagnancy. Not to say that society can determine our worthiness, but we mustn't think that our actions don't have significant consequences and long-term impact on the impression we leave on it.

I use the word 'monotonous' religiously in my blogs; it tends to be one of those roll-off-the-tongue type of words that seemingly fit into a plethora of perfect places in my writings. However, one of the many reasons I use the word (and it's various forms) is because of its strong meaning. The word 'monotonous' can be defined by such terms: lacking in variety, unvarying, having minimal inflection, tediously repetitious, tiresome, etc. Whoa! If that doesn't crawl under your skin like the intrusively obnoxious pitch of a bad set of brakes I don't know what will. Who, in knowing that definition would ever want to live life as such?

We don't look back on history and ponder retrograde within great societies and discuss how their regress has made those good civilizations great. It wouldn't make sense to complement someone on their retrogress either. The concept of applauding a lack of progress is completely absurd and I'm almost sure that no one would do such; however, the idea of promoting stagnancy seems quite common and accepted throughout culture. It seems quite easy to give up your dreams and chase the money when their are companies offering such lucrative payouts for jobs that none of us would have ever dreamed doing. So, at the end of your lives we may have money, but have we accomplished our dreams? Have we progressed? Did we choose payment over progress?

The problem with money is that their is a lot of it. In America, as of 2007, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (also known as the BEP) printed approximately 38 million notes a day with an estimated face-value of around $750,000,000.00. So, we can rightfully assume that the number printed has grown exponentially and could be significantly higher today. So, with all this money out there to be made we'd be foolish to think it doesn't have a bit of a stranglehold on society as a whole; the overall progress in more means that financially. With the economy is such a desperate state-of-being it's a massive paradigm shift for us as American's. We might have to consider the realization that we may have to actually pursue something we are gifted in and enjoy and be content with the reality that it may not make us 'MC Hammer' rich.

I used to dream of hitting the lottery as a kid; heck, I still do as an adult. I used to watch my friends parent's spend $50 a day on scratch tickets when I was a kid. They'd win $20 or $30 a day and feel like they'd 'progressed.' Somehow, someway, and through some means they'd been convinced that it was easier to win money than to work for it; most likely because they'd been on welfare so long they forgot what work felt like. I heard a quote from famed American Cartoonist Kin Hubbard a while back in regards to gambling, "The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket..." Something I was able to realize at a young age is that nothing good comes in life without a good amount of work; my dad worked 25 hours a day it seemed like, minimum wage jobs, and his countenance was never based on his bank account.

So, why get caught up in the ugliness of movement when we can be captured by the beauty of monotony? Right? Wrong! Their is a diligence required in progress; it isn't an innate characteristic that pushes us forward but more so a habitually trained desire for something better. We don't get captivated by movement when we allow ourselves to conform to the monotonous. Ralph Waldo Emerson had this to say in regards to progress: "Progress is the activity of today and the assurance of tomorrow..." What we bind up today will be loosed tomorrow. So, be caught up in movement and continuously strive towards greatness and never settle for less than your best, and always remember shortcuts, aren't.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When it Pours...It's Because It Was Raining...

"When it rains, it pours..." Oh Really? That's what is happening? I guess it makes sense now, that it would have to be raining in order for it to pour. Oh wait, I think Cpt. Obvious is going to come next and tell me, "...when it snows, it's cold!" I guess maybe I'm a bit of a rarity in the sense of not appreciating the normalcy of such foolhardily statements that insult the intelligence of us all. I think often times we take things as truth without salivating to the untruth therein; we tend to absorb and ingest with minimal filtering.

I was just realizing today that labor and focus are so often overlooked in the formation of us as people in today's society. We tend to overvalue the intellectual and undervalue the practical. We substitute the power of thought over the prowess of labor. We put onto a pedestal and glorify certain positions within society and simultaneously humiliate and discourage from others. We look at the landscapers and assume they've dropped out of colleges. We look at the lawyers and assume they've worked hard enough, for long enough to lie for a living and make a lot of money (joke). Oh, and that they 'didn't' drop out of college like those measly landscapers.

This quote sums up the situation at hand: "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves..." (Carl Jung, Founder of Analytical Psychology). It makes me wonder at times whether or not people from particularly well-to-do circles are intimated by what manual labor stands for; what it entails, the nature of the individual involved. Also, in reverse, It has always concerned me the approach that folks from lower income backgrounds take towards white-collar people. They seem to have a highly-misconstrued view of wealthy-people and how they've achieved such. Wealthy people think poor people are where there at because they are lazy and don't work hard. Poor people think wealthy people were given everything and don't understand hard work.

MLK said it best about our own preconceived notions and presuppositions about one another:
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity..." Our ignorance about others only feeds into our own superciliousness and increases the gap between us; distorting any idea of unity beyond recognition. I've been called a lot of things in life; close-minded is one of those things. I would have to agree that I could be, in many aspects categorized as such. However, it's not a position that I find myself relishing in but more so one that I fight consistently and militantly to remove myself from.

None of us are holistically absent of ignorance, It would be ignorant to think such. I used to have a friend in college who tried to convince me one day that he was humble, I encouraged him, and informed him that by telling me such he had just refuted his own argument; he still didn't get it. The reality is that we all come to the table to eat already full from our own biases; we don't come on empty, just accepting whatever is presented, nor should we. We must overlook the ignorance and embrace the reality that we are all on this earth together fighting towards greater good, hopefully. If we cannot bypass our bias and proceed past prejudice we just fail to complete the work that's been started in us and we fail-fully to gain what was intended in our creation; to glorify and magnify our creator who's image we were made in.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ignorance isn't bliss; it's brisk.

I often times wonder how thin the line of differentiation between strong-willed and stubborn is. I've heard it said so many times in life, " must choose your battles wisely..." I used to love to argue. When I was in college I would look for just about any reason to get into a debate; I lived and breathed and eat argumentative conversations. I would play Devils' Advocate to the most horrific of clients in a situational-sense; just to see if I could bury someone in their own lack of knowledge. I had a sneer and a legitimately immature nature about my approach to apologetic's and intellectualism in general.

I came from humble beginnings, and had a GPA damn near lower than my BAL (blood alcohol level) my freshmen & sophomore years. The need to argue seemed to stem from a necessity of being right; a desire to not be fooled. I still had so many selfish and unannounced insecurities that I was unknowingly battling subconsciously to keep undetected; it was a fermentation of self-righteousness. Somehow in my upbringing I'd struggled with a substantial inferiority complex and it was rearing it's ugly head yet again.

Growing up I always compared myself to those around me; we were the richest poor kids in our whole neighborhood. However nonsensical and paradoxical that may seem, it was true. The only kids with more stuff than us (my sister & I) were the Native kids because their parents would spend all the money from work on alcohol-cigarettes-and scratch tickets and just use the Government Reparations checks for new Seahawks Jerseys and Air Jordan's. So, when my circle of influence was limited to East Marshall Avenue I felt pretty good about myself and all my awesome possessions; bike, food, hat, moon-boots and sweat pants, etc.

However, elementary school served me a cold-dish of reality; along with a 2% chocolate milk box and some tater-tots. I started noticing that kids thought more about what you didn't have, than what you did. So, all those years of caring about the essentials left me feeling pretty unfortunate in consideration to the vast array of novelties these kids possessed; Gameboys, name-brand pencils, fancy manila folders, etc. I tried to act like I didn't care because their wasn't a night that I went home to my family that I felt unloved, or unappreciated, which I know many other kids couldn't say. So, I realized that although I didn't have everything I had plentiful.

However, that realization didn't come to me as a kid, I think it came as an adult. I think I was in college when I started really understanding that possession is 9/10th of the law, and the other 1/10 was what I had, whatever that was, it sure wasn't 'possessions' (That was a joke, fyi). I laughed out of minor-insanity throughout college; somewhat stranded in disbelief with the amount of blessings some kids had bestowed upon them. I'm not talking blessings like natural athletic ability or an abnormal academic prowess; I mean possessions ($ included of course). It took me by surprise because it never really bothered me much in high-school; I felt fairly content with what I had, and with what I didn't.

I found myself on a slippery-slope of self doubt throughout those first few years in college; overcompensating on a logical level where I lacked on a financial one. It sounds awkward to those who haven't battled those same demons but I assure you it's as prevalent and dangerous as any other internal-struggle. I so wanted to be on that same level as others that I felt a need to elevate myself to meet them at their level and attempt to beat them at their own game. However, all I did was alienate myself by categorizing everyone else as unappreciative. In a comical reverse of roles I had seemingly become the person that I despised the most.

It's been a few years since I graduated college and I find myself thinking fondly of those times in life regardless of all the irregularities and struggles therein. I know that going through that transformation of humility I came out on the other side a much more gracious and thankful person. Occasionally I'll still find myself fighting a strong urge to argue and debate, but now so more than ever it tends to be for much more legitimate purposes. I catch drifts and whiffs of many debates, primarily theological, within my own circle of influence and I tend to dodge them like McGwire on trial. I find myself caring less about arguing and being much more interested in being a source of encouragement as apposed to a source of discontent to the people around me.

"He who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted..." (Luke 14:11). The reality is that it's tough to enjoy the benefits of living a humble life when you've fought so diligently to be exalted; in the eyes of others, and most importantly, yourself. Our culture has built up a false understanding of success that is based more on money than merit; so we have all at one point or another striven to achieve such. However, as we embark towards a life assimilated upon the splendor of humility and thankfulness we only leave peace in our wake; not destruction. Thanks for reading and have an awesome day full of reflection.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

homogenezed hilarity

"The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter..."
-Mark Twain

We've all seen Patch Adams, even if we can't stand Robin Williams horrific acting we can still appreciate the message therein. The film is based on an unconventional doctor who uses laughter to help bring patients out of a multiplicity of sicknesses and ailments. He had to overcome some hurdles in his philosophy and faced intense scrutiny when his practices had seemingly failed him; however, the overall success ratio was undeniable and noble.

We've all been through trails in life and the severity varies according to your upbringing, circumstances, and tragedies. Their isn't one of us who've been unscathed by the difficulties of life to some degree or another; whether mighty or minute. Everyone possesses their own methodology in approaching the reality of life's harshness; some cry, some laugh, some laugh and cry. For me, for whatever reason I've faced tragedy in my life, which has been quite a bit, primarily with laughter. I've shed far more tears out of laughter than out of sorrow; even when embedded with grief.

I think when many people hear my story they're discombobulated with bleakness. However, when I look at what I've gone through I tend to be mightily opportunistic and optimistic in the knowledge that I've endured so much and overcome it. I have used laughter as a tool to both cope, and to mask. I've used it as a tool to utilize it's ability to accomplish feats I never thought possible. However, I've always used it as an escape mechanism from reality; used it to cover the real problems.

Comedy is mutli-faceted and has a unique ability to interact with the human spirit in a way that few things can; including tragedy. Where tragedy may only brush minute elements of struggles; comedy is a wide-sweeping mechanism capable of healing to the deepest levels. I feel like sorrow is a lone hitchhiker just looking for some companionship whereas comedy is more of a community built to induce the splendor of life, not the spite of life. People have drastically misused comedy so much over the years as an instrument of humiliation instead of an avenue of positivity. Granted, theirs nothing wrong with razzing people a bit, but doing so with class is a challenge that many have avoiding mastering.

I love to see people smile, therefore, I have an innate ability to make people laugh. I don't think I've worked hard, or prayed hard, or slayed any goats and sacrificed them to various gods, or anything else to be able to make people laugh; I just think it comes natural. I don't say that from an arrogant or pretentious place, everyone has a calling, everyone has an area they exceed in, that seems to be the one place I feel the most at peace. Something about watching people get utterly-lost in laughter is unquestionably one of the greatest feelings I've ever felt.

I struggle sometimes to see how comedy will fit into my future. I've been dipping and dabbing into a plethora of endeavors relative to my desired career path, however, it's an industry of uncertainty. I've attempted some stand-up comedy here and there; really felt comfortable in my efforts but for financial reasons had to take a step-back and reconsider. I've enjoyed writing and working on some potential future-comedy-pieces; we will see what pans out with those attempts. I have realized that in life forcing things doesn't help them, it hurts them. So, I resist the temptation to extort my future for immediate results; holding my potential ransom due to a lack of patience.

I'm still believing in bigger things...not trading my dreams for compromise...I hope/pray none of you will sacrifice the 'swat' for the 'sure.'

Monday, November 15, 2010

perpetuity palimpsest

Their is something truly unique about viewing life through words on a page; regardless of the uniqueness of words used it is one-dimensional. Such a vast amount of knowledge can be conveyed through words on a page; but experience isn't something that's consumed and understood by merely being a bystander. I have always been intrigued by the term 'innocent bystander.' Something about the fact that the bystander needs the term 'innocent' attached; as if they did anything to help, which in reality should make them more guilty than innocent.

I love to write and will always feel its fleeting pleasure in my fingertips when truly engaged in it; but I could never absorb that splendor with the mere-thought of writing. It is in the action itself that I'm captivated and peacefully-discombobulated. I don't doubt that one can learn immeasurably prominent things through attaining knowledge from words on a page; but it's in the experiential form that such is tried and proven/or disproved. So, what I am saying in short is that when you read someones writings whether terrible or beautiful, put them to the test in the bank of your memory and in the sweat off your brow.

I had a friend in college who was one of the most insanely talented musicians I've ever met. The guy was also all around brilliant and understood people so thoroughly it was often times intimidating. A phenomenal listener. A great speaker. Just watching this man live life was an adventure; his words, his candor, his lighthearted attitude. But, if their was one thing that stood out above all other things to me was his writing. Not the quality, nor the quantity, but more so the method. He would, in the ancient fashion of a palimpsest, write and then rewrite every single paper. Never to my knowledge in the four-years that I attended college with this guy did he turn his original paper in; it wasn't a modified version, it was a completely different paper, every time.

So, I can see you scratching your heads, asking how that makes any difference whatsoever. It was never about the paper; it was always about the discipline. The amount of work that went into the 1st paper was the same amount that went into the 2nd; both "A" quality pieces of work. Nothing was done nonchalantly; he wasn't lackadaisical in his approach to writing because he had created a discipline in life of not being casual about life, in general. It was habitual as was everything else he did. Paying such close attention to the minute details of life helped him to understand the necessity of doing all things to perfection and encouraged a consistent-strive towards excellency in all things; even menial college papers.

I've discovered in the past year that their is an insurmountable amount of freedom found in discipline. I understand how paradoxical that sounds, but nothing is truer. When your life is lived under discipline you free up those areas of the unknown and place them categorically into your life in the appropriate places. For instance, healthy living. I've realized in the past four months that my health had been casually swept aside for years and was in dire need of maintenance; so, to the front of the line it goes. It's as if discipline has a way of prioritizing things on it's own, all we need do is activate it and hand over the reigns.

It's been said, "anything worth doing is worth doing well...." The reason I felt inclined to write this blog is to encourage those of you who may get caught in the monotonous and mundane life that we often times have created for ourselves through a desire for normalcy. However, in reality, their is not one of us who want to live a boring and unimportant life; so, take the life you have and make it great. It's not too late. It isn't too late to pursue your personal best in all areas of life. You haven't crossed the threshold of fixture; you can still find that excellency you've sought after. Not perfection, but excellence. One thing I've been told a lot in my life and will always hold close to my heart is this: "Tough times don't last...but tough people do..."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ostentatious authenticity

Ode to joy my friends, tis' happened once more and here we stand at the banks of the shallow waters of authenticity abandonment. Yes, even us, those few so true to ourselves are here gathered together to converse about the muck in the water; the yuck on the beaches. The pretentious conceptual lacking that has led to these crowded waters is obvious; a lack of identity. I would say many here could be sued for defamation of character; but who's you ask? Their own!

I warned those 3 or 4 of you that read my writings that we'd talk about identity again. Its not as if I am throwing you a curve ball here folks. How can we not talk about such an advantageous-atrocity that is attacking the very being of our self-identity; infiltrating it and manipulating it. What do we end up with? Its simple: a bunch of walking and talking zombies, all puppets on a string, a unique-concoction of talking heads. Craniums filled with other people's motives, desires, holistically void of any independence.

I am not an artist. I'm not a skater. I'm hardly a hard-core gangster. I'm clearly not much of a goth. I'd be a terrible surfer. I can't fit into GAP capri's so that rules out a yuppie. I don't wear black-brim glasses so I'm clearly not a writer. I'm not rich so I'm obviously not a rich guy. Out of all the things I know I'm not, I've found out what I am. I think their is a unique aspect of discovering self that occurs when we uncover what we 'aren't.'

I knew from a young age that I'd surely be a fire-fighter or a cop. You know? As I grew up I realized that only male-strippers get to be both of those in the same night; and they get to dance for a job. Not a bad gig, except for the obvious negative aspects involved therein. I figured when those two didn't come true I'd most certainly play in the NBA or join the special forces. I've told you before that their was a plethora of opportunistic moments in my life that were never seized as such; they were hardly even seen. I was busy hooking people on Mortal Kombat while the true NBA potentials were outside throwing up hook shots.

I missed a lot of opportunities in my life by avoiding the reality of my own potential. I've gone to 3 colleges but only possess 1 degree. I'm not saying 1 out of 3 is necessarily bad; a lot of things in life are 1 out of 3. I don't want to stifle the awesomeness of the 1 out of 3 ratio, it's not fair to give that a bad name just because it didn't help me. I've come to realize at the righteous (or not) age of 25 that life is not as black and white as we sometimes want to make it; or as black and white as Kanye West/or/George Bush want to make it.

I used to think you had to get a college degree to pursue your dreams; after graduating college I realized that was my dream. It was not only my dream but it was the dream of my father; one of the last things he asked of me was that I finished school. I still remember the weeks following my fathers death, a somber time in life. My dad, in a story book ending sort of way left a video for my sister and I to view after his death. He was going in for a surgery where the success rate was surprisingly high but must have had a feeling that things weren't going to end well. The video is personal and private and the details are to remain as such; I can however, in good conscience disclose that his will for me was to finish school and to finish strong.

So, your probably asking yourself why in the world did Ben just throw a downer like that into this writing about identity? Well, I did it to show you that I'm as much of a hypocrite as the next guy. I'm a hypocrite in the rawest sense of the word, I am an 'actor' (Greek definition of 'Hypokrites'-an actor). I'm attempting vigorously despite an abundance of life's trials and tribulations to overcome the mutiny of mundane living with a sense of joy and thankfulness. I am throwing into the mix an Academy worthy portrayal of uber-contentment despite the world throwing every sting of uncertainty and disdain in my direction.

I guess the reality of identity is that at the end of the day it's all open to interpretation. People looking from the outside in like a surgeon with a scalpel ready to play a game of 'operation' on your identity; not holding back on the buzzer, just going at you with everything they have. It's almost old school Soviet to consider people open to our identity-experiments-but we do it on a day to day basis when we judge people unlawfully with our looks, our words, and most sadly our actions. Where is grace in the understanding of identity?

We as individuals and moreover as a culture have softened our reigns on the important issues of identity and gone Rambo on the menial issues. I want to live a life where I see people around me pursing their dreams but not pursuing their passions. I guess many folks will disagree with me here, even going as far as saying you cannot separate the two. However, if I chased every passion I've had in my life I'd be locked up for life in San Quentin Penitentiary; along with the rest of western civilization if they'd followed suit. Our passions and our dreams are often times so disenchanted with one another it feels like we've got the Jiminy Cricket complex. When we follow our passions we are following the immediate desire. However, when we chase our dreams we are advancing strategically, like Patton on Rommel, with militaristic vigor to achieve something far more than a mere-emotional accomplishment.

Thoreau once said, "our truest life is when we are in dreams awake..." Their is something inspiring, on a deep level, when you see someone operating in holistic-cooperation their divine gifting. It is so rapidly apparent when you see a person who is so at peace with their profession; knowing they are doing what they love, and love doing it. I know that life isn't always so simple. We want to define ourselves and discover who we are amidst a world throwing such a vast-multiplicity of thoughts and opinions our way. Although we mustn't lose heart in the journey towards unveiling the great mystery which is our authenticity revealed.

Monday, November 08, 2010

familial familiarity

I don't miss a lot of things in life. I have grown in the past few years to a strong affinity of letting the past go and pressing onward towards the future. However, one thing that you never forget and always have (whether biological or non) is family. It's that one thing that as humans we don't live well without; we can surely live, but not well. Everyone who values family knows that it is always an "as-is" approach to the relational understanding of family; you take your family "as-is".

Donald Rumsfield once said this, "You don't go to war with the army you want, you go to war with the army you've got..." That's how I see family. You don't necessarily grow up with the family you want, you grow up with the family you've got. Now, I'm not saying anything negative about my family; the opposite is truer. I am simply stating that their is probably not one of us that sees our family as 'perfect'. We've all got a crazy aunt, or a drunkard cousin, heck, I've got an Aunt Mike (don't ask)

Our families often time define us; but not always. Many of us, for good or for bad, can claim to be products of our environments. We can hide behind the sins of our fathers for generations and generations. People can justify horrific things by boldly proclaiming their lack of love as a child; they weren't held enough, beaten daily by an abusive father, touched by an uncle, etc. We see it all day every day in media and in societal structures everywhere. People are constantly looking for justification for wrong doings and looking at the family upbringing as the answer to their questions.

Our families are meant to be a pivotal instrument used to build a firm-understanding and obedient recognition of not simply what 'love' is, but how to use it. However, due to a sincere lack of personal responsibility our culture has turned families into a scape-goat for the wacko's and an irrelevancy for the normal Joe's. I vehemently disagree with this modern thought of families and would encourage you to fight it as well; not just in blogs, but in your minds.

I don't look back at the hallway of pictures of my life and see a family of five with a dog, picket fence, and a sweet mini-van. I look at my past and I see a mother who was far from my heart, even further from my eyes. I see a father who was the best thing that ever happened to me; a man who worked harder than work itself. A sister, two years older than I, struggled through every minute of her teen years; constantly and consistently fighting the pain of lacking a mothers love. A strong cast of characters in my family is what I see in the portraits of my past.

It's like a long successful marriage, all the good bad, bad, and ugly are part of the deal. Family, it can be good, it can be bad, and it can get ugly. However, we don't forsake that which created us in the fashion we are; taught us nearly everything we know about life. I can only attribute the good to my family; however unconventional it is. Growing up with a hard-working single father makes more a man out of you than most things ever could; the life perspective is so different than the majority. I remember although we fought daily, my sister, in all her grief and struggles, was always there for me. We all fought our addictions. We all fought our pain. But, most importantly, we all fought together.

It wasn't until after my sister ran away, my father passed away, and my addictions took me away that I started to realize that life without family isn't life; and if it is, it's hell on earth. I gave up on my family for a while after I lost my dad. I think I didn't know how to face them; I had no solution to the sorrow. I really wanted with everything inside of me to be strong; be a support system to them. I wanted to be the backbone but I was spineless. An incredible uncle and aunt who would have done anything for me; I just left them hanging in the balance; drowning in their dire uncertainties about my potential recovery.

Life without family; isn't. Even when you think you've left everything and everyone behind you, all it takes is turning around to realize they're still there. Nothing in life, not pain, not troubles, not strife, not family, nothing just 'disappears'. It's always there; ready to take you back, ready to take you over, in due time if you let it/them. I chose to run to my family after running from them; it's not like a Maury Povich reunion episode, nor is it like a story of the Prodigal Son. It's so much simpler then it's made out to be; it's normal, it's natural, when your family it's expected.

I am an open book when it comes to my life. I love to share the amazing story of redemption in my life. I am honored to be able to be a walking story of grace and favor; fortunate to be where I'm at, even if that is 'nowhere' according to some. I have so many friends with awesome parents--people who will never know what they have until it's gone. Family isn't something we should take so lightly. I have been given an awesome family; awesome under what category? Under everyone I think. My family extends far beyond biological connectedness, far beyond a simple similarity-in-name, way past just a geographical placement.

If you've been family to me in any fashion ever than you're a part of me and I thank you for everything. Thank you, wherever your at, whatever your doing, whomever your with. I know that in my life when I look back I'll be able to count on one hand the people I would die for, but couldn't count on one-hundred-hands the people who have helped me live.

Thanks for reading my scattered and often times unending-disorganized thoughts on family and what it means to me...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

clawing back. climbing in.

Sometimes I drive home late at night, cheap .50 cent cigar hanging from my mouth, windows down, just blasting whatever the radio has on, just caught in thought. I wonder and ponder about times that have been better, times that have been worse, and try to stretch myself to understand that better days will come. When things are good we want to be excited. Also, in return, when things are bad we want to be sad.

However, I'm not entirely convinced that's the nature of the beast; I really want to believe that the opposite is truer. That, in spite of trials, being positive and optimistic is really the only antidote for fighting the pain and misery. When depression rears it's ugly head often times our only way to successfully thwart it is to be honest with it; who are we? What do we have within us? What have we overcome?

I can't speak for the majority nor can I give you a 5-step-path-to-success or tell you how to overcome your trials and troubles. Although, I can most assuredly say to you that dwelling your weakness and throwing pity parties isn't gonna expunge your grief; it will only expedite it to greater depths, lower lows. How do I know? Because I have done it, and every now and then still slip into those horrific patterns; seldom, but it does occur.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that I've been poorer than poor for a long time; financially speaking that is. I always come to that unique and pivotal point of rebuilding right before another crash. It's a pattern but its not habitual. According to wise counsel and internal consideration; I truly don't feel it's something I've caused. I've worked hard, but maybe I haven't always worked smart. I used to think that hard work could get you the response you wanted in life; and I'm much more convinced now that smart work is the only way to get ahead.

What I mean is this. You can work 85-90 hours a week at just any job to pay the bills; or you can work 1 solid job and make the same amount of money. However, you can't find that one solid job while working those 90 hours a week at dead-end-jobs. So, what is the key? Patience!!! What I'm learning in life right now is that nothing comes at the pace we desire it; all good things take time. Money, family, careers, experience, etc. Nothing that helps, nothing that is good, none of these things come without a little hard work; without patience.

So, I sit here in Starbucks typing away, thinking about the mistakes I've made and how to grow. The failures I've had an how I plan on making the necessary changes for good. I know that every-night I drive home from my job saddened by the lack of finances, every time I look in the mirror and don't see the person I want to see, every time I chose despair over hope I will end up emptier than before. So, I chose to choose hope over fear, optimism over pessimism, and faith over the lack thereof. I pray that I grow stronger everyday and make the necessary corrections to live a life that is worth talking about in a blog like this; consistently combating the bad to overcome it with good.