Consciously Turn From The Dark

For me, the Efficiency Evangelists who preach a Life Hack gospel breed serious cynicism. Because their gospel message seemingly follows from a mindless amalgam of capitalism, social status, and materialism.

But since my time is increasingly finite, I’m down with “efficiency lite”; meaning making the most of my time, ideally without the capitalism, social status, and materialism baggage. This means I routinely read book, t.v., and film reviews to improve my odds of choosing content that is especially compelling. This also means being at least somewhat intentional about who I hang with. I seek content and people that either inform, inspire, challenge, lighten, and/or uplift myself and others.

Unlike the Efficiency Evangelists, I don’t want to accomplish more, I just don’t want to waste my time on people and content that breed contempt for this one precious and wild life.

Is it just me, or does it seem like we’re surrounded by people and content that breeds contempt for damn near everything? Increasingly, the glass isn’t half full, it’s bone dry.

This means my task is two-fold, actively seeking the light in terms of uplifting people and content while actively rejecting the dark. Therefore, I have to get better at not reading and watching some content, not engaging with some social media, and not interacting with some people.

When the Good Wife and I sit down to dinner, we sometimes ask, “What did you do today?” What I’m reflecting on here gets at another important question we are not in the habit of asking which is, “What didn’t you do today? Who didn’t you see? What did you choose not to read? What media did you disengage from? What social media did you purposely skip?”

To live more wild, socially redeeming, precious, fulfilling lives, we have to be wiser and more self-disciplined about combatting the cynical, spiteful, mean-spirited non zero-sumness that dominates our media. That cynical, spiteful, mean-spirited non zero sumness has done as much or more damage to our spirits, interpersonal relations, and democracy, as the ‘rona has to our physical health.

With apologies to the non-sports minded, we have to play much, much better defense and consciously turn from the dark.

p.s. Did I ever tell you about the time I did a reverse dunk in a winter bball tournament with gloves on?

Thursday Required Reading

1A. The Resentment That Never Sleeps. Rising anxiety over declining social status tells us a lot about how we got here and where we’re going.

1B. Why So Many Men Stuck With Trump In 2020.

Sociology y’all.

Given your intellectual nature, no doubt you need more reading, but take your time with 1A in particular with its numerous substantive links. And seeing that you haven’t submitted it yet, I suspect your EDUC 205 exam is still a work-in-progress. 

Thank You

Most bloggers, like most people, are motivated by social status and wealth. I get contacted all the time by bloggers who want to teach me how to monetize my blog in three easy steps.

I write because we are social beings and writing is one especially beautiful way to deepen relationships and create lasting community. Like the wannabe Stoic that I am, I try to write twice a week immune to the humble blog’s statistics. But I’m only partially successful. I like peeking at the changing number of visitors  and where all over the world readers live. Truth be told, even worse, my blogging enthusiasm ebbs and flows in part based on the vagaries of your reading preferences.

Thank you for visiting this calendar year. I wish it didn’t matter, but it does. Thanks to everyone that took time to comment through the year. And thanks to Don for being my editor extraordinaire. And most importantly, thanks to everyone who is able to tell me in person that they have read a recent post. That’s the most positive encouragement I receive. It’s one thing to look at a bar graph with “page views”, it’s a whole different thing to see individuals behind the numbers. I wish my motivation was completely intrinsic, but I imagine that will remain an elusive ideal. Your participation matters, so thank you.

My goal for 2014 is to stay the course, by which I mean share insights about families, schools, and communities that illuminate and inspire. I hope you achieve whatever is most important to you and yours in 2014.

I was going to recreate this vid, but I couldn’t find a tutu that would fit or a white horse. God bless the carnies.

Salinger Documentary (2013)

A bevy of blockbuster movies are premiering, but I recommend an under the radar mindbuster. Salinger is an intriguing meditation on literary genius, fame, privacy, and mental illness.

About midway through the lengthy documentary, I became convinced that Salinger was mentally ill. The filmmakers convincingly argue that his WWII military service had an indelible impact on his psyche and his writing. If he knew what the first 48 hours on the ground would have been like, June 6-7, 1944, I wonder if he would have volunteered. He was fortunate to survive the first two days. 

Salinger’s was not a dangerous or violent mental illness. The truth be told, no one is “normal”, most of us suffer from mental abnormalities or quirks of some sort. Salinger’s imaginary characters and families took precedence over his living, breathing family and friends. He only harmed people who competed with his imaginary characters for his attention. When they interfered too much, he banished them from his life.

One form our mental illness takes is thinking accomplished artists or athletes owe us more than their art or public performances. Oddly, more and more people are following public figures on Twitter. Receiving tweets directly from celebrities seemingly deludes people into thinking they’re in some sort of relationship with them. After reading The Catcher in the Rye, many people so identified with Holden Caulfied they felt entitled to know everything possible about his creator. Sometimes to the point where they’d drive to rural New Hampshire and knock on Salinger’s door.

Maybe because people are so desperate for notoriety, they’re offended when someone like Salinger consciously rejects fame. Salinger practiced Zen Buddhism for many years and became an adherent of religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna and Vedanta Hinduism. Fame was another intolerable distraction from the imaginary, literary world he greatly preferred.

How should we live with present and future Salingers, single-minded geniuses whose work isn’t just the most important thing in their life, but the only thing? By leaving them mostly alone to write, to compose music, to draw, to sculpt, to fulfill their specific life purpose.

One additional thought. It was fortunate that Salinger never needed to teach writing at a University because he never could have controlled his affinity for women decades younger than him. He would have kept a few university attorneys employed all by himself.