Creating Connections

As mentioned previously, I’m in the process of turning my writing hobby into a career. Mind you, I don’t need to do this, I want to do this. I’m getting older and want the accoutrements of a career. After six years of writing this blog, I’ve proven my ability to generate a constant stream of content — so I’m all set in that regard. The missing ingredient, the part I’ve been avoiding, is connecting with an audience.

I’ve been writing to an audience of one: me. In essence, this has been a personal diary, entries were succinct and ideas were dense — everything tightly packed and difficult to digest unless you brought a whole lot of understanding to the table. So congratulations if you’re a regular reader — you’re an impressive individual. But from this point forward, I must broaden the appeal of my writing, stop the self-centered approach, and actually think about others while I write.

Hmm… deep breath. Aha, see! Right there! I found a weakness! It’s you. I default to fearing you. I suppose it IS tough to write while considering that people will read what I write or even worse: respond! Luckily, I’m up for the challenge. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’ll do. I no longer believe in a dangerous world that’s hell-bent on my destruction, so I no longer believe that every audience is a sadistic horde attempting to tear-down content-creators in order to shatter their self-esteem.

In fact, in my analysis of content-creators, I’ve often seen them lovingly refer to their audience. “This is OUR success, and none of this would be possible without YOU.” There’s a mutual respect, a bond, and a shared goal of lifting each other up. It’s a family of sorts. And sometimes Uncle Steve gets a little tipsy and yells profanities in the comment section, but so what, no big deal — we compose ourselves and move on to bigger and better things.

And that bigger and better thing is THIS. Connection. In a sense, the content doesn’t matter, it’s simply an excuse to connect. “So what are we doing Saturday night guys!? — Movies? A party? Go bowling? Eat at a restaurant? Karaoke?” No matter what it is, it boils down to meeting-up simply to hang out. And that’s what content-creators facilitate whether they’re blogging about food or fashion, whether they’re live-streaming a video-game or vlogging — it’s all an opportunity to connect.

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Foggy Start

Oh man, what a morning. Ugh, and last-night too. Not the best. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was rough. My first thought and interpretation was: “this is definitely not going to be my day today, bad-day here I come.” But do you know what interpretation I settled on instead? “Witness my power, ye mighty, and despair!”

Through my ability to manifest the world I experience, I created a tsunami of unpleasant scenes. The sky itself was overcast while the streets were masked in fog. That’s true power right there. Of course it’s a dumb way to wield my creativity, but at least it demonstrates my ability to shape the life I’m living. If I want a horrible time, then so be it! It is done! Voila!

No, I didn’t specifically wish for a bad time — but that’s the problem. I didn’t specifically wish for a good time either — and the turbulent mind, when left on its own, undisciplined, will take you on a wild ride filled with dips and dunks. And boy, did I let my messy mind lead the way. Unpleasantness was the product of my unconsciousness.

Later that morning was a lot better, I had a fine time walking my son to school, then met up with my wife and we walked around town for about an hour. It was great. I couldn’t have planned it better and the temperature was just right. And the fundamental thing that changed was my attitude: from helpless pawn of life’s cruel game to absolute creator of my own reality.

Cellar Party

It was basically a party thrown by some organization my mom belonged to. We walked downstairs to where it was happening. A room with that classic checkered linoleum flooring — essentially the basement, but at least it had some small casement windows near the ceiling.

The food was laid out on long folding tables covered with tablecloths. I was spying the dessert table, no doubt. That’s my home away from home. Of course I didn’t start there, I was a good boy. I had a plate of ham and whatever else they served that night. Nothing spectacular, I mean what do you expect food for fifty to be like? It simply got the job done.

But now it was time. Dessert Time. I’m not a forward fella, but when it comes to dessert, I’ll certainly lead the charge. I sauntered over and took a look. Primarily cookies on plates sitting around one of those stainless steel coffee dispensers. Do I dare? Shall I partake of such delectable treats? Why what do we have here? Some chocolate chip cookies? Haha, you little delights, you look so good tonight.

I picked one up, ready to savor that ooey gooey chocolatey sweetness. I bit down, gently chewing the fine texture… wait. What. Why were these chocolate chips so chewy? And where’s the chocolatey taste? As a matter of fact, these cookies seem awfully granular, not smooth at all. WHAT THE F*CK ARE THESE!!! Blahhhgrgrrr! I spit it out.

I brought the remnants of the cookie over to my mother and told her there was something wrong with it. She informed me it was an oatmeal raisin cookie. Not only that, but there were no chocolate chip cookies on the table AT ALL. I would be going cookie-less and I was not pleased. It was on that day I swore a vendetta against oatmeal raisin cookies — how dare they masquerade as chocolate chip. They were a lie and should not exist!

Ne’er would an oatmeal raisin cookie touch these lips. And not only the cookie, but the raisin itself was mine enemy. Whenever I saw that bonnet wearing Sun-Maid on the red box, I was struck with a tinge of rage as she sat there mocking me. I held that grudge for almost two decades.

It turns out that oatmeal raisin cookies are pretty tasty. I like the cinnamon undertone mixed with the gentle fruity taste of the raisin. Or “dried grape” as I like to think of it. Heck I can even eat a whole box of raisins, although I usually prefer the golden ones. But you see the point right? Why waste so much time and energy being mad at something so silly? Ridiculous right?

Well, unless you’re talking about cheesecake of course. For one, it’s not cake, it’s pie — the cake is a lie. Second, crushed graham-cracker pressed into a pie shape? Filled with cream-cheese? What IS that? Gross! No offense, but cheese does not belong in dessert. Gah, so gross.

Virtual Vehicles

It all started at the supermarket. I was in the car waiting for my friend to come out. Scanning the exit door, I noticed the oldest old-lady you’ve ever seen. She could barely push the carriage in front of her, she could scarcely find the keys to her car, she could hardly lift the groceries into the back seat, then she hobbled into her car. But zip, zap, zoom — she punched the accelerator and away she went, not an issue.

Funny isn’t it? A barely functional person has all the dexterity in the world when it comes to driving a multi-ton contraption of welded steel, a device that requires the proficiency to enact split-second decisions. Too funny in fact. So it got me wondering: what’s going on here. And then I knew. Driving is a “routine”. You get into a car, sit in the driver seat, turn it on, grab the wheel, place your foot on the pedal, and the routine begins. Autopilot turns on and away you go.

When I was a kid, I once went for a bike ride on a road that included a rather large hill. That day I went down the hill and pedaled along to increase my speed — which wasn’t a good idea. I was going too fast, my front wheel started to quiver back and forth, I got nervous and wiped out. My knee was a mess but I survived. At most, I was probably going around 15 to 20 mph down that hill.

Let me ask you this, can you normally make split-second death-defying decisions? I can’t obviously. Yet every one of us can somehow take a fire-powered land-rocket to speeds of 70 mph on a regular basis amongst other barely-functional people for DECADES and come out unscathed? Hm. Okay. In a physical reality, that doesn’t make sense.

For instance, how do we intuitively know how to drive? I don’t know about you, but my driving lessons were less than rigorous. My primary lesson was driving in a parking lot with my mom in the passenger seat for about 30 minutes. I even screwed up during the official driving-test and still passed. My test consisted of driving down an empty residential street (no more than 30 mph) and parking next to a curb — that was it. But that somehow qualified me for highway driving.

Yet if you sit me down in front of a piano or have me hold a guitar, I play like crap despite having toyed around with them for years. If you hand my 74 year old mother some hand-tools, she’s pretty incapable of using them — yet give her the biggest, most powerful tool you can legally purchase (a car) — and she’ll drive like the best of ’em. Funny huh?

So driving is a pre-programmed “routine”, so what. So what!? Well a routine doesn’t run in an isolated environment, it only runs as part of a larger program. The obviousness of driving serves to highlight the virtual-nature of the wider world. Unfortunately, driving speeds kept getting faster and faster — which becomes unbelievable at some point. But the program is accounting for this now: robotic self-driving cars.

On first blush, you’d think autonomous cars would be the unbelievable part of the story. That’s until you consider people that can’t even use a simple screwdriver or a hammer, let alone a cordless drill, are driving all the time without any problem whatsoever. Not long from now we’ll forget that people even drove cars and this plot-hole will be patched. Remember, people used to get around by horse, which was an autonomous vehicle of sorts. Even boats pretty much just float there when left unattended.

All we can do as players in this game is politely overlook such an obvious inconsistency. Though for myself, I use it as a reminder of what type of world this is: virtual. And I do that because I tend to take things too seriously. I see the illusions before me as real physical objects and react accordingly, which leads to a fear-filled time. But when I remember the illusionary nature of existence, and the fact that this is a manufactured environment, I relax and appreciate what an impressive place this is.

I guess I got a little more than I expected at the supermarket that day.

Ideal Imaginings 2018

I’m not very creative, so if I had to imagine an ideal life, it’ll be very simplistic. For whatever reason (I don’t care), there’s a large sum of money in my bank account. I refer to it as my fun-funds. I’d live exactly where I’m living now but spruce the place up a bit. New floors, more furniture, wall-decorations, nothing too extreme. New car obviously (Tesla?! hehe). I’d get an all new round of iDevices, Apple Watch, a laptop, some gaming consoles, and a TV.

One major figure in my life has always been Santa Claus, so I would like to be as Santa, giving well-thought-out gifts to folks I know. I’d also like to support online creators I happen across — perhaps through Patreon or whatever. I’ll go out to restaurants more and tip the staff well, maybe tack on an extra $50 at least. I’ll actually use the services of a florist and have fresh flowers for the house.

I’ll get into collecting too. Maybe hand-tools for one. Disney trading pins perhaps? Well, finding things to collect will be part of the fun. Oh and I’ll plan little get-aways to the Disney Resorts, we can walk right over to the Boulangerie-Patisserie from the Beach Club after a meal at Beaches & Cream for instance.

I’ll get an electric scooter (the cool kind) for scootin’ around town, just for some variety. And whenever new technology comes out, I’d be an early adopter. I’d probably have a prominent account on Amazon, leaving lots of reviews. I’ll be a positive guy too, not critical of life or its artifacts. People would just look at me oddly if I ever mentioned what a misanthropic pessimist I was, they couldn’t fathom it.

In many ways, the story of my life will be like A Christmas Carol, with me as the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. A changed, formerly dour fellow, that now has cheer in his heart and a giving spirit. “You there! Boy! What day is it!? Why, it’s not too late! I haven’t missed it!”. And those around me will feel blessed by my presence (and presents). And my own Tiny Jim will grow up to admire his dad and wanna be just like him. God bless us! Every one!

Say your Prayers

I just read the Bhagavad Gita again, which in essence, is a distraught man’s conversation with God. It’s about a guy having a tough time with life, and so God-incarnate talks him through it. “Hey bro, life’s not as miserable as you’re making it seem — I mean yeah, it can look a little gruesome, but so what. A cake is an unappetizing mess until it’s cooked too — but the process is still worth it. So ya know what? Have some fun, get rowdy, and break some shit brah!” In the end, the archer gets it and does what he needs to do — which in this case, is to fight in a bloody feud against members of his beloved family.

And it got me thinking about what I’ve been writing in this blog for the last six and a half years. What IS this? I suppose you could say it’s a distraught man’s conversation with God. I seem to be the primary audience here, I read and re-read posts all the time — I find them super insightful. I’m the one always asking questions and receiving helpful answers — I don’t know where those answers come from, they’re certainly not from my everyday-self or I wouldn’t ask the questions in the first place. And anyone that wanders upon this blog is simply witnessing the conversation taking place.

Perhaps this is a form of prayer, a dialog with God in the form of a diary. Prayer is often portrayed as one-sided, but I’ve certainly heard of two-sided prayer in which God responds in one way or another. And apparently, the easiest way to interface with me, is through succinctly written entries. For the most part, this is where I come to get in touch with my “higher self”, the part of me that’s beyond the scared little creature I often revert to. This is where I come to make sense of the world going on around me. Are You There God? It’s Me, Richard.

As far as I’m aware, I never had a personal relationship with God. I didn’t go for that nonsense, it didn’t resonate with me. “Um hey big-guy, so I know you’re busy maintaining the universe and all — but if ya could, my team really needs a win this Saturday. Whaddya say?” Well that’s how a relationship with God was portrayed in pop-culture anyway. But considering it now, it seems that I’ve established a relationship with God through this blog. Just a decade earlier I was writing atheistic, I’m-too-smart-for-this-world type posts in my previous blog — I guess I’ve gone 180 degrees in some ways.

I dunno man, I suppose we’re all trying to figure things out. Even with God by our side, this stuff is tough. No offense, but a game requiring this much hand-holding might be a tad too complicated. Or maybe those of us that need extended-help just suck at this game — I can see that. From an external perspective, it looks like I’m not even trying. But I interpret everything so intensely, that I barely have to do anything and I feel overwhelmed for the day. I recognize that I’m overreacting to the world’s stimuli, but it just happens to be my default. “AH! What was that! Oh, it was nothing. AH! I’m being attacked!! Oh, oops, no it’s fine.”

If a cosmic bystander simply observed my reactions to the world, he would assume Earth was a prison-planet in which inhabitants were regularly tortured for the sadistic pleasure of a malevolent creator. Whereas if the same cosmic bystander observed what I actually did all day, he’d wonder why I sat still for so long, and he’d wonder why I randomly freaked out for no apparent reason. Objectively, the physical portion of my life has never been difficult — but the mental aspect has been off the charts. And the only reason the mental part is so hard, is because of my tendency to overreact. If I’d simply stop imagining the worst, things would be easy.

And that’s where spirituality and this blog come into play. These entries are helping me to understand that life is not out to get me. For six and a half years I’ve been trying to rewire my defaults. I think I’m getting better — really. Yes, I oftentimes react as if I’m afraid, but underneath I don’t feel anxious, I quickly dismiss my scaredy-cat responses. Yes, I’m still presented with classic pessimistic reactions to many things that come my way, but I usually laugh at the silliness of such a perspective. And if someone attempts to sell me a pessimistic idea, my mind readily counters it with positivity.

So that’s the message I received this time around while re-reading the Bhagavad Gita.

Brownie the Christmas Elf

Poor Richard, always turning every color into gray.

But Richard, surely this cake will make you gay?
Nay, I must think of tooth decay!
But Richard, the sun shines bright today!
Ah, it shall burn my skin, until it flay!
But Richard, exciting news I have to say!
Oh no, what could it be, surely I will pay!

And so she came one night, when the moon shone bright,
just a little sprite, an elf known as Brownie.

Hello to you good sir! I’m but a tiny fairy, not so scary,
I’ve a core of cheer and my shell is sweet — it is nice to meet!
Richard bit the hook, that’s all it took.

Caught, but not willing to surrender.
He fought and fought, until his heart grew tender.
Brownie loved the challenge, sparkling in all her splendor.

She knew he’d falter, she never worried.
The decades past, she never hurried.
And upon his birthday she gave a gift,
A little boy whose spirits could lift.

Brownie, said Richard, I think you’ve won.
I surrender to you, I’m ready for fun.