Given recent events most of us have or are spending time thinking about our larger and local worlds as a whole. As simplistic as the mainstream establishment media strives to make current events from my perspective the issue stems from far deeper roots than merely skin colour. Ignorance is not only taught but, conditioned with the ruling class consistently being the beneficiary.
I have a few, quite a few, social topics I intend to explore that are currently under self examination including if I am not more inclined to write exclusively on those matters via the Medium platform.
Writing puff pieces or “generating content” merely to sell products or services of businesses that have a history that pairs better with the establishment than the change they market themselves as being behind doesn’t interest me.
On the other hand I find a profound level of sadness behind the anger and rage which I knew would occur when I finally did watch the George Floyd video footage. It also pushed me to ask deeper questions of myself that I am still pondering.
My biggest question would I have been brave enough to intervene if physically present in such a case? Or even to vocally protest? We all like to believe that we would be brave or courageous in such manner but, those instances are rare. What shocked me is I came to the conclusion I wouldn’t have not because he was black but, because he was a man.
If this had been a woman regardless of color my internal voice screams you have an obligation to do something. Dated, obviously sexist and despite how conditioned we are to the notion of chivalry I believe there is no chivalry in exclusion.
This has sent me down another rabbit hole. Why would you not help a fellow man? Is it the myth (a bullshit myth) of the lone wolf male archetype? I still have no answer on this question or if it’s merely rooted in early teenage betrayals, etc.
All I know for certain is the systematic failings showed their ugly head the most during the two terms President Obama was in power. That the system is structured in such a way to benefit the few not the many. As much as many people wish to believe that it’s merely a black versus white issue it is equally as systematic a privileged ruling class issue.
A ruling class that failed to keep their end of the social contract deserves to be dethroned and vilified.
It is my belief that part of the universal condition is one of sharing, learning and understanding. There are natural tendencies that transcend all manners of identity from tribal to religious or philosophical, rare, sex or other identity. We are by our natural inquisitive and cautiously trusting. This despite the constant barrage of all things evil through modern media.
Yesterday I made the choice not to share specific wordings of my personal manifesto as it’s best for all of us to figure out our own core ideologies. Another reason are some individuals think in yes or no, do or don’t ways. Essentially you either live one way or not. Life is fluid and evolving if we are participants in it.
Most of us choose to be observers or only enter into participation when the group does. Courage is rare because it is hard. I believe this is why we admire those who do and also why we enjoy the same individuals being ripped apart for not fitting into some idealized construct of one dimensional humanity. You either or you’re not and if you aren’t then watch out for the viciousness of the pack.
If we’re truly grounded we understand our own issues be it self esteem, ego, need for approval or whatever. When the pack turns on us it shouldn’t surprise or outright anger us but, merely confirm we may be on the right path. It doesn’t hurt to look out ourselves or our way of thinking when called to task in such moments. Then if under calm mind we find ourselves wrong in thought or action moving forward to correct ourselves.
Striving to live a life rooted in action when all around us encourages living a life of compliance or obedience, most often defined by others who don’t live up to those ideals makes little sense to me. Breaking from the pack then rejoining when we have a solid understanding of ourselves, our capabilities and what needs to be done can only help but strengthen us all.
Deep engagement in all aspects and activities of my life with concentration, focused effort, clarity and purpose.
While not verbatim it would be remiss to not credit Cal Newport’s book Deep Work for his influence of what I define as Deep Pursuits above.
This is a guideline or goal not a statement of how every single moment of life should be lived. When paired with planning, reviewing and journaling the simplicity of such a statement helps guide me to stay on point.
Am I perfect in this? Hell no. At my age you understand no one is perfect in anything least of all those who present the illusion of perfection.
Our purpose here is to remind ourselves of who we are striving to be. I could even argue the word awareness sums up deep pursuits more accurately though I like the statement as we can easily replace the period with a question mark.
So, at the end of the day if I ask myself if I was deeply engaged and the answer is “not much”, then I know it’s time for a change.
Coming of age in the 1980’s it would be easy for me to hop on the current nostalgic band wagon and say it was the golden era of self improvement but, I can’t nor won’t. Personal improvement is inherent to the human condition alongside curiosity plus the pursuit of adventure. Otherwise we would still be predominantly agrarian using our free time for creative and hopefully scientific exploration.
Advice flows freely in the Internet era often repetitive and frequently repackaged if not redundant. Many unique individuals will tell you the same things others have only differently the advice is routinely the same or derivative of someone else’s work often dumbed down into pithy quotes or digestible sound bites. Originality is rare. Things that entertain or distract us are plentiful.
Still a teenager when First Things First and The 7 Habits of Successful People crossed my path I dutifully crafted a perfect sounding Personal Mission Statement.
Initially scoffing at the more modern variation referred to as a personal manifesto in part due to the widespread taming/commercialization of sixties action or change orientated language by the same generation who forgot to execute their very believes. I found laughable not laudable wrapped in hypocrisy.
A view that has changed only in respect to how I apply such things to myself. For me I now have a Personal Manifesto primarily because it infers action not statement. Statements are merely declarations mired down by hubris, a personal mission statement often is self aggrandizing more than action oriented.
For me my personal manifesto is grounded in complex simplicity then bound to one page. It has four parts:
My Creed. My personal code of how I strive to live my life.
Deep Pursuits. Inspired by Cal Newport’s Deep Work is a brief statement about how I wish to engage with everything.
Strength. While I search for the proper descriptive wording this could be construed as values or core moral code. It’s derived from something I read attributed to Pavel Tsatsouline’s with a few modifications including strength of character and strength of spirit.
A grouping of Latin Words. While words like courage, honor, love and compassion are powerful sometimes hearing or reading the word in a different language provides pause to reminds us of who we are trying to be or how we are trying to live.
Then I wrap this manifesto in the following two quotes, header and footer respectively.
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.
Maya Angelou once remarked “Words are powerful”. Hearing someone speak this known truth as she did impacted my life deeply. This applies universally and internally. Think of the words you speak to yourself.
For me a Personal Manifesto is a far deeper document than a values or vision statement will ever be. It’s a statement of who I strive to be and how I strive to behave. If I’m not living into this it becomes clear. Everything should be easy to remember and feel. When confronted with a choice that violates who I wish to be there is no need for confusion nor is there a need to give thought either rational or in prayer…I simply am and do.
March began as most Marches do for me with eagerness to get back out to the woods intermingling with partial self loathing for not having a go at winter hiking. This year was no different only with the addition of a Nerve Study/Neurological consult following up on last fall’s physiotherapy results.
A vague notion of what was occurring in China, Europe and beginning to emerge here in Canada but, no panic I was a aware off. Given my limited exposure to the mass media news cycle and zero social media presence I was comfortably ignorant to any panic.
Even now I am not panicked despite some minor inconveniences I stay aware of how fortunate we are here in the west with clean water, abundant food despite some hoarding and in Canada socially insured health care. I use the term socially insured given that even the supposedly establishment left refer to such programs as entitlements, a forecast of the future to come I suspect.
So today I seek to clarify some of the lessons I learned.
Listen To Your Body
Years ago following a severe car crash in which I walked away. Not much was done that day for a number of reasons which is another discussion. Within a week or so back and neck spasms became part of my life along with violent sleeping episodes from PTSD.
Some prescription muscle relaxants were given which resulted in a few bodily accidents and did little to remedy the issue. Whether due to obstinacy, depression or a disdain for a health care system appearing lax on the car part I didn’t follow through.
Regardless of pop culture, philosophy, spirituality or any other pull yourself up by the bootstraps societal propaganda battles are significantly hard to fight when your treading water with a ton of weight pulling you done.
My lesson here is that regardless of how you may feel about yourself in the darkest moments you must summon every bit of courage to battle for your well being be it physical or mental. It will be exhausting and worth it.
Your Mind Is A Brutal Enemy
Winter’s cold ushered in the most violent sleep episodes I have had in a number of years. Sure around key times and dates sleep has always been a challenge. Violent visual imagery pretty much is always existent while awake and distractions mentally or otherwise work relatively well.
Perhaps the hardest thing for someone more introverted is the cognitive fog from severe sleep deficits pairing with a body that feels like a punching bag every morning. Simply drawing the energy to get up can be challenging.
Given past periods of episodes I found comfort in the knowledge that eventually these times come to pass and I remind myself of this when in the throws of such events.
Your Mind and Body Can Be Your Best Allies
Even with excessive coffee consumption I am aware of my mental fog but, this awareness shows me when to accomplish more mentally demanding tasks even if not at my cognitive best.
I like to view this similar to cruise control. While I know how to drive and enjoy driving sometimes having a bit of automatic help adds more enjoyment to the times I don’t need it.
Exhaustion can be overwhelming and the last couple years has taught me severe physical pain related exhaustion differs considerably from the normal sweat soaked violent thrashings of quickly forgotten nightly flashbacks.
Moaning yourself awake while gentler than being physically thrust awake leaves a low grade deep in the bones tiredness. I speculate this is how we all feel when we reach a certain much older age than where I am right now. That would be a tiredness earned from a life lived no less sucky merely different.
I do find that even forcing myself to do the smallest amount of physical activity lifts my spirit while improving my general physical situation. Maybe it’s simply walking around the block or a few bodyweight exercises. No matter what it is the result is a feeling of accomplishment, of moving forward.
Work the best you can with what you are capable of doing in any moment then remind yourself that you did something. Don’t fixate on what you should do or once could do. Just do your best.
Find The Humor In Your Situation
Society has this image that depressed people or people fighting any number of mental illnesses fit neatly into a variety stereo-typical labels. Depressed people were consistently portrayed as down types who made everyone down which couldn’t be further from the truth and in part contributes to the spiral down into suicidal ideation I posit.
I considered myself optimistic for most of my life while battling what came to be labelled depression then bought into the concept that you can’t be both optimistic plus depressed. Yes, you can. Even with my bouts of misanthropy and general disgust at how groups or individuals can behave I fully believe we are capable of improving our lot as a species.
My results from the nerve study (which I have my doubts about) are shoulder tendonitis, mild carpal tunnel syndrome (I suspect most of us behind keyboards have some of this) and de Quervain’s tenosynovitis aka Blackberry/texting or Mommy thumb(s). While I’m not in agreement on the third diagnosis and consider arthritis more likely I refer to it as mommy thumb because it makes me both smile and laugh.
Humour is always to be found somewhere. I’m also one of those guys who can laugh at themselves when making mistakes. None of us like making mistakes but, it’s far less painful when you see the humour in everything.
These are a few quick off the top of my head lessons which I plan to add to or perhaps write a part two at some point. Stay safe everyone.
Often when I first begin writing posts I veer off into some pointless rant which thanks to editing you the reader don’t have to endure. Anything emotionally driven often finds intersection across numerous issues especially during the creative process.
Writing allows me to let my emotions free; editing shows me how detached rationality can lift both my writing and emotions to a higher place. If only regulating our hearts were so easy.
No Such Thing As Too Sensitive
Toss me into the group of people who endured the advice about being too sensitive or the favorite business equivalent of things not being personal it’s only business. Everything is personal and there is no such thing as caring.
Many people don’t care enough and I think I’ll start using the term maybe you are too insensitive as a proper response to a stupid comment.
“…it’s hip to care.”
In a paraphrased variation of Huey Lewis and The News’ “It’s hip to be square” I believe it’s hip to care. It’s cool to give a damn about others. It’s cowardly not to. Selfishness or absolution self-centeredness isn’t either. In essence by your own caring self.
Hate, Anger, Ignorance
Anger even hatred can lead us to fundamental changes both personal and professional. It can also lead to fundamental social change when directed at the failings of the system. It’s rarely any broad group of people to blame for anything and such blame finds roots in ignorance alongside a lack of personal self awareness.
In this era we can find any number of individuals or small groups of like minded hater mongers emboldened by a false belief of more support than would be factually prevalent in the real world. Even major media sources use questionable camera work to obfuscate the fact that there rarely is a great number of people promoting any particular level of hate.
With the right angle and zooming it’s possible to make a small group of even a couple hundred look powerful and sinister but, when scale is shown we see that there is no mass only insignificance. Fear, chaos and pain sells. Ethics and morals don’t.
Remember when you read, hear or see something hateful filled with generalities on or off line someone is usually reaping some benefit, it isn’t the reader, watcher or listener.
During these challenging, difficult times as our emotions run high there will be, always has been, morally hollow individuals seeking to take advantage of both the moment and the people. I believe outside of rare diagnosed psychopathies the default mode of humanity is one of curiosity and openness to other people.
We wouldn’t have advanced this far as a species if not for cooperative efforts. Yes, some (maybe most) of these cooperative efforts over the past half millennium involve darker shades of our psyche but, our species has been around longer than recorded history.
It is imperative for us to remind ourselves that despite differences in appearance, identities, beliefs, etc. we have a level of interconnection rooted in similar ground. When confronted with a negative belief we must ask ourselves what is this reflecting back on to me?
Pandemic responses globally have centered around self isolation a term I choose to use over the popular term quarantine. Seeing how so many people have been making shopping or going to any number of fast food drive through windows an outing calling this a quarantine induces eye rolling on my part.
For a hiker who finds early spring hiking one of his favourite times of the year the closure of trails has been frustrating. Despite the knowledge and clear examples over the past couple months of why this is necessary it still exasperates me.
When I hike in late March or April you typically only see locals or more serious hikers not your average person looking for the perfect social media picture in order to appear deep or woodsy. This is one reason why I try to avoid popular areas at specific times of the year. Another reason are scads of people who proclaim they hike or walk and do nothing of the sort. Often they refer to themselves as nature lovers. I refer to these individuals as meanderthals.
These individuals don’t stroll they dawdle, wobble and saunter about the trails absentmindedly and often unaware of trail etiquette. Encountering them in congested areas doesn’t involve making way for someone quicker to pass but, the requirement of others to bow to their schedule…if they even have one.
Frustration gives way to exasperation then inevitably trying to find less populated or popular areas to hike during less popular times. I enjoy hiking early morning even in heavy dews simply because I’m able to avoid these encounters.
Sunset hikes usually involves the odd meanderthal or two but, for the most part anyone not serious about hiking is fearful about being out in the woods as it darkens. I enjoy the different sounds and rare encounters with more nocturnal creatures. Nature has so much beauty it’s hard not to find something wonderful at any time of day or year.
I guess this is a long way for me to remind myself that everyone has been cooped up for the same period of time and to be more mindful of my response. Finally, when I do finally get back out on the trail remember the most important thing to pack this year will be patience and kindness.
While I don’t nor ever will consider myself “woke I have a natural inclination to think of others’ feelings first and considered myself intelligent enough to do my own thinking independently. The term aware more aptly describes my self perception. Toss in a bit of naivity in youth which can sour one on the system.
In the process of learning and growing with age our self awareness begins to assert itself with more clarity the inevitable result being a realization of how impactful social conditioning is. Be it institutional, familial and religious systems or doctrines actual. Even in adulthood you feel the constant pull of conformity to ideals that many espouse; yet, so few live up to.
Most of us I believe are aware of this and either choose to ignore these things or simply dull our sense of it via any number of modern means of escapism. Sure we may blow up on occasion or even join in on your standard social media dogpile onto someone we detest. After enough we never feel better and see how fruitless those uncontrollable outbursts actually are.
Knowing all this is easy but, learning how to move from passively observing life to actively participating in it has been my biggest challenge, I suspect I’m not alone on this. The increasing popularity of doer individuals actively living out their lives at least partially within the public eye via videos, podcasts, blogs, etc. Indicates people are seeking to find out how to be the creator, the adventurer or the participant.
How do we get ourselves there? Simple question with easy answers that rely on us making an actual effort that is grounded in participation. This became clear to me while editing the previous sentence.
Goal setting would be the most popular answer based on experience it isn’t. Goal setting becomes a form of active observation or passive participation. In the moment it makes us feel good but, for most people it leads no where. Other than those who benefit selling the books, the “systems”, articles, seminars or whatever the odds favor the very mention of goal setting leads to confusing.
For myself picking one thing then simply taking action towards whatever it is has been the only solution. Not some pie in the sky fanciful notion about where I may be in five or ten years or “visioning” my ideal life.
I didn’t have a goal when I started Aikido I simply made the phone call then showed up. Then I continued to show up until my body indicated I wasn’t able.
When I wanted to get better sleeping habits I made getting up at the same time a priority. Everyday I get up at the same time and eventually my body told me when to go to bed. The result is the beginning of more restful sleep.
Habits, systems, rules or whatever you wish to call them serve me better than any amount of self serving pie in the sky goal setting session ever will. We learn and grow by doing not discussing about doing. A foundation lain in daily action will serve us far better than dreaming sessions about what if’s or a future that probably won’t be.
Goal setting has a place as do dreams or perhaps wish lists but, our goals should be more immediate, tied to the present and actively engaged in daily, weekly and monthly.
How many people set goals for this year on January 1st? Or longer? How’s that working out for you?
There is no way to plan any further out than short term and despite how safe it makes us feel the most accomplished in life who have come from nothing are those who actively engage with life.
Beginning every day I must ask myself how will I engage with life to accomplish what I most want to. How will you?
Curiosity innately present with us from the moment of birth underlies our collective predilection to seek, to learn or to simply understand. Parents can attest to the sanity reducing power of a steady stream of questions by their young ones.
Most of us through social conditioning or the absence of answers eventually learn to stop asking those questions outright despite deep persistence. When I was young books helped assuage this curiosity and my sense is in the modern era children and teenagers turn to the Internet for answers.
A curiosity that leads to deeper understanding and focused effort in pursuit of learning is beneficial; however, curiosity undisciplined or unfocused is horrible advice equal to the thoughtless but easy sounding follow your passion or bliss quip that dominates much of the Internet.
Everything popular is wrong.
As the day wears on and our cognitive reserves begin depleting we notice how our minds not just drift but, wander — more aptly meander. Any given second our curiosity can take us down a rabbit hole that would have kept Alice firmly entrenched in Wonderland.
Those of us who can hold their focus more effectively for longer periods are the ones I think most likely to succeed in their endeavors. Given this decided edge in our modern millisecond driven world it really shouldn’t surprise us that those most focused often are most triumphant. Possibly a topic for another day.
Social Media, modern entertainment including YouTube, blogging modern mainstream media and any number of other platforms present numerous avenues of exploration for our curiosity.
Rarely (if ever) does this type of curiosity venture forth towards something meaningful. It merely wanders about mentally akin to what rural Australians would call a walk-a-bout, exemplifying at it’s best procrastination, at it’s worse escapism.
Left to our own devices our minds will simply flit from one interesting thing to another never really delving deeper into anything.
Focus Your Passion, Focus Your Curiosity
Think of passion and curiosity as planting seeds in the soil of your mind.
Traditionally farming and gardening required planting more seeds than anticipated plants with the expectation that many seeds wouldn’t sprout let alone bust forth through the fertile soil.
With advances in plant breeding and experimenting farmers were able to improve the fertility rate substantially. Now we understand when to sew the seeds when to properly fertilize and expect growth. Most of the activities take place before sewing the seed with a plan of action once it is sewn.
We need to create our plan for nourishing our minds plus selecting the seeds of ideas we wish to follow through on. Having a solid plan involving questions or a framework would be a good start.
I’m becoming more conscious of not pre or post qualifying statements; in some ways there is a level of arrogance and potential for unintentionally insulting the reader. If someone is prone to personalize things they simply will. Given this is a Writing specific publication my assumption is people understand I’m not referring to making a living but, what I pursue on a personal basis. We all have our feelings and view points, this article was merely my own.
If you’re into writing then the advice hidden behind the paywall probably justifies the $5 per month or around $7 here in Canada. Given the broad cross section of everything and a substantial reader base I find the cost justifiable. Heck, I’ve easily paid more than that for two magazine subscriptions and Medium has some serious in house publications that would easily cost more in a normal model.
Lately I have been pondering many things with writing, in particular how I wish to use my personal insights and abilities best to the betterment of things. Don’t get me wrong I’m not naively altruistic with daily struggles over many ego centric things.
Whether being liked or being wealthy should be where I direct my energy? Ours is a conflicted species absent of focused, honourable and inspiring leadership. In my most cynical states I cringe at revelations of how everything is about money or how much people suck. This despite knowing that not to be true.
Still a few more bucks wouldn’t hurt just not at the cost of betraying my values and selling my soul.
Fixation On Writing Process And Craft As Procrastination
I have come to realize that probably the most common form of procrastination amongst writers of all kinds is talking about writing, writing about writing and simply avoiding getting down to the actual writing. There is great advice right across the board but, it’s meaningless if all I do is read or write said advice.
Dabbling Across Genres
Awhile back I submitted a piece to a satire publication which was rejected for some now obvious reasons. While I hold no delusions or intention to be a great satirist or humorist there is elegance in boiling down things to the most essential; often is the case with great satire. Why say something in a thousand words that can be said in one sentence.
The process of distillation to it’s essence required by satire is beneficial to all writers given our natural love of the written word leaning us to elongate subject matter— such as this post. Getting to the heart of the writing in a timely manner is highly appropriate when it comes to short form fiction and non-fiction writing.
On the creative writing front I have done nothing this year and would like to write more fiction as a means to improve my story telling process. It may be a good teacher of how to build more flow into all my work going forward regardless of what my goals eventually become.
…figuring out what your voice is can only come from the act of writing not the discussion of writing.
While I haven’t begun engaging in more research oriented non-fiction writing the process has been on my mind. I have begun outlining many of my narrative non-fiction ideas.
Lately I have also given thought to pursuing a course of study involving investigative journalism using the process put forth by Scott Young in his book Ultralearning. Investing years of study where I can abbreviate the process makes no sense to me. Just as wasting words shouldn’t either.
These have been just a few of the genres or areas of interest in my consideration of late. I don’t think specializing in one genre or the other can be predetermined until a person starts publishing more work; getting feedback and figuring out what your voice is can only come from the act of writing not the discussion of writing.
Vague Goals Won’t Push My Writing Growth
Then I became aware that having a simple goal merely to write, hit a word count or post everyday or some other formulaic approach to writing had done me a disservice all around.
My writing skills, thought processes and overall story telling prowess won’t change if I don’t push myself to pursue deeper endeavours.
Given my tendency towards non-fiction and interest in pressing issues impacting humanity it most likely would be best to recruit my old research skills then turn my pen and intellect into encouraging serious discussion on a variety of issues— potentially even the beginnings of change. Naively optimistic I suspect.
What is certain is the need for specificity in goals beyond word counts or post volumes; this requires more thought on my part perhaps even the nerve to seek out writing assignments or even propose articles before undertaking them.
Clarity will only come when I take action, thinking and writing about writing while comforting is pointless.