Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I have come to discover that I learn best in the presence of others when I am having to explain myself. I had a conversation earlier this week that has given me something to chew on that I haven't thought about since a theology class that I took over six years ago. It's stuck out for me through out my week in other places.

It was the idea of consequences and how it is vital for our humanity to have consequences. Now pardon me for the next example because it is a little long-winded. People complain that we have late fees at Roger's (although they are nominal and drastically less than they used to be several years ago). Some claim that we are nickel and dime-ing them or if they do have fees they want them reduced. They think that we have them in place simply because we have the opportunity to steal away an extra buck or two. It's a very short-sighted thought. I mean, yes, we are losing money that we could be getting if the movie you had out was returned (and how dare we want to make some money), but it has to do the necessity of enforcing a consequence. If there was no penalty at all for not returning a movie, why you return it? You wouldn't. In addition if we want to have enough copies so that everyone who comes into the store to rent a given title can, then we want copies to come back. The late fee gets people to bring it back otherwise people would be perpetually complaining how we don't have enough copies. We surely wouldn't pay for enough copies for everyone who wanted to rent it because that means each copy would be rented just once. Then we've lost money on each copy. And after a while we are out of business and suddenly no one can rent any movie. So we have to get enough copies that finds the balance of allowing as many people to rent it as possible while depending on each copy renting enough so that it pays for itself and the business can continue. So a late fee (or at least the presence of a consequence) means more copies come back more often so that more people can see the same movie. I know for a lot of people this is all common sense and unnecessary for me to explain, but I'm making a point. We need that consequence of a penalty to make things function but a lot of people forget that. The funny thing about that is that the same people who complain about late fees are the same who complain that there are not enough copies to rent because other people didn't bring back on time.

I was thinking about this idea of consequences after watching the movie "Gamer" (which I would not recommend to people who dislike violence and an over abundance of nudity). In this world, they have a couple of games where players at home could take control of another person and have full control of their actions making them do whatever the player desired. One of which is a literal fight to the death where the people being controlled are death row inmates and the players are people who want to play a game. The other is a "Sims"-esque game called "Society" where the player interacts with other players via the people they control. What made this concept to me interesting is that it highlighted the need for consequence. The players, since there was absolutely no ramifications for them personally, would make their avatar do whatever they wanted and makes it a place full of soulless hedonistic activities. The avatar, who is a real person, had to take the brunt of the consequence to their player's decision.

Obviously it's not like that in our games presently because we are controlling animated non-entities as opposed to real people, but it allows people to have reckless abandon in a pseudo-world and not suffer consequences. Games that have this sandbox approach always have to put into the game as many things as possible for the player to do such as deciding to help protect a town or turnaround and blow it up. However, the only consequence to the action is minor, because the game's story cannot proceed if the character is in jail forever because he just murdered a bunch of innocent people. It lacks the need for wise choices in the game, because you will respawn or can reload on a whim.

Now, I am not saying that video games are bad, but it's one of those things that pull people away from living in a world of consequence (although I suppose the consequence would be not impressing the girls). There are many things that pull us away from putting ourselves on the line. There is also the anonymity of the internet, where vile, hurtful comments can be tossed around in the shroud of terrible made up names like "cougarhunter_34" or "f@bugrrl02" and then disappear into the night, putting the consequence of your action purely on the target of the comment. You have dating sites where you can browse profiles and pictures anonymously and say what you want about yourself without actually putting yourself on the line.

A life filled with no real tangible consequence may allow us to avoid punishment or pain, but it also lacks true joy and love. If I had a sandwich and I was also got a deal and got a second for free and then gave it to someone, it would be considered a nice gesture, but there is no real consequence. Contrast that with you giving up the only sandwich you had. One has sacrifice involved. True compassion is reflected in the gift from sacrifice, not in the gift from convenience.

People tend to shy away from facing consequences to their actions, but it is what allows us to function in community, it gives meaning to our free will, it allows us to enjoy life fully and love more deeply. Unfortunately, it also means that comes paired with being responsible for our actions and being vulnerable to pain.

As hard as it is love people after you've been hurt deeply, it is much better to love recklessly and generously than it is not try to love at all.

"The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old lady's eyes
Just for fun he says 'Get a job'
That's just the way it is
Some things will never change
That's just the way it is
But don't you believe them"
- "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Just Happened?

Today was a strange day. I was happy. I was sad. I was angered. I was twisting. I was hopeful. I was jaded. I was laughing. At the end of it all, I am just sitting here. I don't know what to think of it all. Some days just pass with nothing that happens. The day ends as it began. This day was not like that. Things have shifted. It was like today was really significant but I don't know how. Like there are a bunch of red herrings and only later will I realize what was really significant after the mystery has been solved. It's strange and yet a good place to be. It's good to be wondering what will happen next instead of knowing what to expect and dreading it.

"And I walk out the door
Get blown wide open
By the things I'd put away
And I wasn't even warned
Just blown wide open
By the mess is where I lay"
- "Blown Wide Open" by Big Wreck from their album "In Loving Memory of..."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Temporary Return to Status Quo

Tonight, the small group from my church got together for the first time since Christmas and I noticed something different. I was actually participating quite a bit again. Which is good. Things are kind of going back to a sort of status quo.

I mean, it's a status quo that I really want to change, but at least I feel somewhat content right now. Uncomfortable, but content. Kind of like when you're holding someone's hand and it's all sweaty because you've been holding too long but it's not so bad because hey, you're holding somebody's (assumably a girl's) hand. I do realize that the metaphor in this case is not perfect but this is not some metaphor off, so screw it. What I am getting at is I want things to change for sure and progress forward and I have plenty of challenges ahead, but my emotional state is back to normal. It has settled for now.

I have received positive reinforcement about my plan to teach. With that I am facing some of the biggest financial and time management challenges that I have ever had to deal with. I don't know how it will all shake down, but I really need it to work out and that's why I am hoping that this is where I should be going. I am presently looking into my options to see what is possible.

For the last three weeks, I have been going to the free comedy nights at the King's Head Pub to see what it's all about and I am going to try to get in there and see what I can do. They have an alternative comedy night once a month and I would really like to see if I can pull it off in that context. It's essentially the style that I do when I perform at church, but this audience doesn't like me innately (except for, perhaps, my hot body).

So all in all, things are normal for me. I will still be haunted by what could have been but that has gone into the vault alongside so many other things that you really can't do anything with but learn from and accept. It's good to have my focus on moving forward because if I don't start pulling it together now, I will simply be adding more regrets to the list and that is something that none of us need.

"Where do we go, nobody knows
Don't ever say you're on your way down
When God gave you style and gave you grace
And put a smile upon your face"
- "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" from Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head

Friday, January 08, 2010

...and Perhaps a Sixth Path?

As I just recently posted, I was thinking about life paths that we all journey down (on a broad scale anyway), but each one of us focuses on a different one. I got a response from Brett, who pointed out one that I had missed and it made a lot of sense and thought I would add an addendum.

The missing path is one that she called (and I think is a suitable title) the Self Improvement path. It is one where the individual focuses on improving themselves either intellectually, physically, and spiritually. It may be learning about the arts, reading a wide array of topics, going to classes and learning new skills. It may be exercising, eating better, presenting themselves better and becoming stylish. It may be serving others, going to church, prayer, reflection and meditation. This path is about becoming a more well-rounded person and focusing here can improve the other areas of life. The other advantage to this path is that it can give you a better self esteem and autonomy. You can be content by yourself.

This path has a lot to do with your down time. In fact, I see this as very much related and very much opposed to the Selfish path. The Self Improvement takes your time off and will typically improve the quality of your life, while the Selfish path is potentially destructive. Self Improvement will benefit you in the long run while the Selfish is usually about immediate satisfaction. If vice appears in the vacuum, then keeping yourself busy with other endeavors that actually build your spirit, then you are less likely to spend that time destroying it.

I should point out that there is admittedly an occasional overlap between the different paths, because the Adventurer may pick up a variety of random skills and are exploring the world out of a spiritual drive, but I think there is a distinct difference in that one is going out in the world and discovering truths from others and different cultures and the other is to themselves trying to become better able to make it in the world. There are similarities, but they are differences.

I'm sure I will be thinking about this stuff for a while, because I'm a nerd like that.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Five Life Paths

I am a fan of categorizing things (bet you think this is going to be a terribly boring entry) and I find it very easy to compare things I see in my life to things I see in movies or stories. Or vice versa. Perhaps that's why I can really get drawn into certain movies. Like "Man on the Moon" which is about Andy Kaufmann who was this strange comedian who liked to mess with people. There were some moments where I was right there and could identify with where this guy was coming from.

I like things being defined. I like to know where I stand. I want to know how I can move from this position and move to a better definition.

Recently as I've been contemplating my next moves, I have thinking about where I am and where I should be. I know that various people are at different places and they are living their life with a certain level of success. However, success is defined differently by each individual as what they want out of life is unique.

It seems to me that in general, there are five different life paths that people choose from and pursue. These grow out of four basic ideals that a person may hold. People go about their lives advancing themselves down these four ideals with different focuses in the different areas.

The first is the Professional path where a person does what they do to earn money. This is their career. This is not a some job at the burger joint, this is their career. If these were defined by levels (I'm borrowing from video games here) then the lowest level would be doing a job that has nothing to even do with what you want or doing a job that means nothing to you. As you go up in levels here, it turns into you getting a career you want and advancing yourself in it. The advantages to focusing here is that it gives you income, a sense of belonging, and improve quality of life.

The second path is the Family where a person tries to pull together a home with a spouse and kids and a home. As people advance down this path, it goes through dating, marriage, kids, home and improving the relationships therein. The advantages here tap into the core of humans and that is that we are social beings, looking for people to love and be loved by and to leave a legacy of sorts. It also provides a sense of emotional security.

The third path is the Adventure path where a person explores the world around them and does things that expands their knowledge and experiences. This can be very open from people who go and do missionary work to people spending time in nature to going into places that a normal person wouldn't find themselves. The big advantage found here is the enlightenment and wisdom that is found in the unfamiliar as well as capturing the innate spirit of curiosity that a person holds. This is definitely the rarest path for a person to follow because of a lack of financial and emotional support. Although those wandering spirits out there get over that and thrive here.

The fourth path is actually not really a positive path, but is rather selfish and that is why I will call it the Selfish path. It is one where the person lives to fulfill themselves with things that are temporary but are more importantly immediate. They can usually be outright destructive, but can also be more subtle and corrosive. That said, they can also be used in moderation as a temporary relief. These things can range from things as simple as watching TV and playing games to full on drugs and buying prostitutes. Whatever brings relief. The danger here is that this lifestyle is a leach on the other good things in life. Used appropriately, it can help us cope in a world filled with disappointment and pain. People who focus there life here are usually plagued by a life unfulfilled, a life wasted or a life destroyed if it's really bad. Unlike the other paths, you want this one to relatively low.

Obviously, people are not purely defined by one of these paths, but people have one maybe two that they focus on and are doing well at. And all people have a different level in each of the four. And that's fine. But most everyone has one that is at an appropriate level. Maybe the Professional has a job in his chosen field and is doing well for that, but the one who has focused in the Adventure side for as long has a life with many interesting and good things too despite maybe not having the purchasing power of the Professional. They are both successful and content but for different reasons.

That said, a person who lacks one of these paths (with the exception of the Selfish path) may actually find themselves unfulfilled. Not necessarily, but possibly. It's common in a lot of movies. You have the married professional who is miserable because he feels like he missed out on his youth and goes on road trips or bangs the secretary or what have you in order to reach for the Adventure that he has been lacking. Or you have the successful playboy who is miserable because he has been missing love in his (which I am pretty sure that that is every single Matthew McConnaughey movie out there). Or you maybe you have the good old boy from the country who heads to the city and tries to make in the city and get a big time job. And if people do not bring in their lacking path, then they may turn to the easy, yet possibly destructive Selfish path.

This brings me to the fifth path, which is not really a path, but rather a lack of one. These people are the Bystanders. These are the people that don't really have a career, they don't really have a family, they haven't really ventured out, but they aren't really destroying their lives either. The difference between the Bystander and the Selfish is that they are in a relatively stable position in their life, whereas one who has embraced the Selfish lifestyle is in a place that might be harming their chances of success in the other three paths.

A Bystander, however, just does not have any advancement on really any of the paths. It's probably one of the hardest to be in as you get older because it doesn't seem like life is going anywhere. They may want to be more advanced than where they are, but things didn't land well for them or they wasted too much time. I feel I am in this category. Currently that is.

A person my age should be at a certain level in one of the three. Some friends of mine are literally doing the thing they wanted to be doing when they went to college and they are in their careers. They may be at the start of their careers and they can still move up, but they are there. Others my age are married and some even have kids, although I would say the no kids scenario is more typical. As for the adventure side, my friend Del has to be right in there as he has been to so many places and met so many people while others have travelled the world and been in the some of the craziest scenarios. Some friends are even up in two of the categories.

As for me, I am not doing what I really want to be doing and I didn't know for the longest time what I really wanted. I never had a super strong desire to go anywhere. As for the family thing, I mean, you really can't force that and frankly I don't know what I'm doing in that part of my life. I know I want to be married and have kids, but that doesn't mean anything. As for adventure, I would love to pursue that more, but I can't really mess around with that. I don't have anything to fall back on financially. To a certain degree, I think I have earned a few stripes in this category anyway.

What was the whole point of this long explanation of my weird understanding of things? Well, I mean isn't that the point of a blog? And secondly, I have woken up recently, looked around and have realized that life is slipping by me. I'm missing out somewhere and I don't want to do that. I want to be successful, I want to love, I want to adventure. And I'm not doing that. I am spinning my wheels.

Now it's time to suit up and figure out what to do before it really is too late.

"Life ends in a stereo, pack me up and let's go
Put me anywhere, please don't think of leaving me behind
Whatever happens to you, I'll get on just fine"
- "Stereo" by The Watchmen from the album Silent Radar

Friday, January 01, 2010

Facing Down a New Year

So here I am on New Year's Day. Shortly after midnight, I can hear people downstairs chatting about I don't give a crap. I can hear a couple very much in love softly talking in the next room. I needed to get away to a place away from the others for a few minutes and reflect.

Rebecca didn't show as just as I assumed she wouldn't. I mean, I admit that I hoped she would've but I have no idea what I would say if she did. But that is done. I don't have to give hope in that field of my life any more attention.

I don't know exactly what to expect in the new year. I feel cautiously optimistic. I know I am, in essence, starting from scratch. I have to cover some ground this year and really start pushing myself.

At this point, I feel school is on the horizon for me (although it feels like I'm changing my mind weekly). I figure that if I can get an education degree and start teaching then I can finally settle into an actual career. A career that I could be very good at.

My money situation is not in a very good place either. I really need a roommate. I need to double my efforts and help take the edge off of the strain. Despite this, I do not feel panicked about it, but I know that it is going to make my whole school situation even more difficult.

I need to embrace hope a little more and deny cynicism and pessimism. I keep being reminded of how I am turning 27 soon, which is the age a lot of major rock stars die. I don't know why that little piece trivia keeps surfacing like that (although do not worry, I am swimming in a lot of random trivial information). I need to reach out to my fellow man. I remember how I've told other people that you can't get wrapped up in yourself in the face of pain or you're going to wind up imploding.

For the first time in my life, I am looking at a new year in front of me that seems to have a lot of stacked challenges as I also bring with me a few too many wounds and disappointments from the previous year.

I can not be mad at God for my situation. I have been slowly for my situation. I have been slowly settling into this place and it would be silly of me to blame anyone but myself. Some times I merely hit some bad and unfortunate breaks but I have made my home in the shadow of my heart and my broken will has made me less of a good person than I once thought I was and would be.

My prayer for this year is that God gives me the insight and ability to rectify who I am and get back to my imagined persona of honour. I also pray for either the grace of God or my own innate insight to bring something good. I don't what that good thing should be. I used to think I knew, but I think I need help on this one.

All this said, I still stand by what I said. I am cautiously optimistic. I will need wisdom and determination this year, but I am looking for God to reinforce my weakening being. I believe He will and I hope that I am paying attention when it comes.

"Dear Prudence,
See the sunny sky.
The wind is low, the birds will sing, that you are a part of everything.
Dear Prudence,
Won't you open up your eyes?"
- "Dear Prudence" from The Beatles' White Album