I don’t know about you, but for me, rarely does a day come to a close where I consciously sit back and say to myself, “Damn, that was a great day.” More often than not I spend my free time reflecting on how I use to many commas in a run on sentence. Today was one of those days that just worked. I’m not sure if I could ever articulate it in words, but I felt like me. Let’s recap for fun, then we’ll do some more philosophizing to wrap this little pat-on-the-back up.
M and I got up early to take the pups into the vet for some routine maintenance. Both Huck and Violet were due for something. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, nor do I have a clue what is being prevented by the mystery solutions put into them. I’m that dog owner. I mean, I’m not super obnoxious about it. It’s not like vegan level annoying, but I am the dude that will shell out any amount of cash for the overall health and well-being of my dogs. Ironically enough, I will go on a fifteen minute rant to whomever is polite enough to listen to me about why I won’t get a flu shot (yes, it is laden with conspiracy theories and I’m trying to work in some Illuminate tangents just to connect more with the old-school skeptics out there. These Millennials just don’t know how to have a good time with strangers anymore) but whatever the vet says those little critters need, I buy into it hook line and sinker. Only the best for my knuckleheads!
I know, right? But before you get too caught up with the ‘Aww’s’ I must tell you that these little fuckers ate my cinnamon rolls that I was saving from breakfast (I’m looking at you Violet…).
We drop the dogs off at the house and head out on a breakfast date that eventually resulted in the leftover cinnamon rolls (that I desperately wish I had now) that my precious companions removed from my world of temptation. If you’re still a little weird about my name calling, you can’t even comprehend how psychological their actions were. It’s not like they got on the counter and destroyed the container and then devoured the cinnamon rolls like a couple of savage K-9s. They gently removed the container from the counter, placed it in the middle of the room, opened it exactly how it’s designed to be opened, and left virtually no trace of their feast. I half expected to find a knife and fork in the sink. Had they been empathetic enough to throw away their garage they would have done so. I’m pretty sure Violet winked at me as I walked in the room like, ‘No treats for you later, fatty.’ Seriously, if you can’t already tell, it got in my head.
I need to move on…
There’s a point, and I’m getting to it. Remember, this story is pretty much only for me. I don’t need you guys on this one. I appreciate you, but as you’ll recall, this whole exercise is me rejoicing in a lovely day. This is my nightcap.
After breakfast and the sorrow of a lost late night snack (I’m really not going to let it go. Stop expecting it) we headed to the local Outdoors’ store so I could get a new multi-tool. While there, M hinted for the 193467493745 time that we should look at bows. Ever since we started dating she has wanted me to teach her how to fling arrows. Archery was something that I was REALLY into for years prior to us getting together. For whatever reason I let the passion for it slip away and then time took care of the rest. Since we really didn’t have a reason not to go to the local archery shop we jumped in the car went. I dug my bow out of the closet, and dug my arrows out of my mom’s garage and took it in to get a tune up. While there, M actually ended up putting a deposit down on a new bow! I’m so, so, so, excited about it! And so is she, which makes it even more enjoyable for me!
We came back to my house and she had to leave to get ready for work. As I was sitting in the kitchen making some lunch it was the first time in, well, I can’t even remember, that I felt truly content in the moment. All I could think about was getting her bow here, and shooting, and doing all the cool outdoors stuff we’ve been talking about for years, but just haven’t done. I felt free from crippling stress and anxiety. I felt happy. I felt joy and excitement. It’s weird when you don’t feel that regularly and then you do. That, ‘Holy shit. How did I let this slip away from me!?’ Feeling is intense.
Today’s significance came from the realization that, ‘Oh yeah. I’m in control here. If I want to do something then all I have to do is do it. Shit isn’t that hard.’ As cliche and lame as it is to end on, we only get one shot at this. I have to stop allowing the tentacles of anxiety and negative thought so much power over my disposition and influence my actions, or lack there of. There is too much fun and excitement out there to be had.
I really wish I had those cinnamon rolls…
Bliss is the sound of coffee filling a sturdy mug in the pre-dawn hours of a new day.
For those of us who exist in a quasi-constant state of anxious apprehension towards life in general, having a reliable source of joy is crucial. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up and experience life as someone else. In my head, you all wake up with your mind gradually easing you back into the waking state like a child, gently nudged by a loving mother; stroking your hair and whispering sweet nothings into your innocent little ear. In my mind, that’s what your mind does. I’m envious of what my mind thinks your mind is does.
I like to imagine the mind as a control room. Think mission control at NASA. I’m picturing a scene from one of the nameless movies from my youth. Maybe Apollo 13? There is a HUGE screen at the front of the room through which all of the incoming data is filtered, processed, and analyzed by the folks running the control room. ‘Bob’ in row 2, seat 5, is there to make sure that the astronauts remember to close the valve on the space toilet. ‘Bonnie’ stares at a screen for 12 hours a day to make sure that this multi-billion dollar space craft doesn’t crash into the side of a rock hurtling through space. There is a chain-smoking middle-aged white guy with thick rimmed glasses and sweat stains on his perfectly starched shirt who is in charge of the whole operation. He wanders around nervously. It is his job to ensure that all the little parts function flawlessly so that the mission is successful. He knows that shit can and will go wrong. His true strength is mitigating disaster. Our Smoking Man operates in the gray areas of this story. He is presented with a plethora of hard facts. He is surrounded by highly capable and dedicated team members. Yet at all times he is waiting, anticipating that one thing that no one assumed could or would happen to happen. It’s his job to resolve that. Tough right? Unimaginable almost, right? Boy, I’m glad I’m not that guy in my head…
We all want to by that guy. But we’re not. At least I’m not. I’m assuming you’re not either. Me – the part of consciousness from which we develop a sense of self. Whatever the heck it is that gives us a sense that there is an us inside our head – I’m like C3PO from Star Wars. I’m there. I’m in the room. But I’m not the Smoking Man. I’m not even ‘Bob,’ the guy who keeps shit from getting on the steering wheel. I’m the one spilling coffee on the carpet and getting tangled up in wires asking everyone that walks by, “Hey, do you think this should be plugged into something?” I’m the one following the Smoking Man around the room asking things like, “Are we going to be OK?” “I’m getting kinda scared. I’m going to go lay down for a minute.” Or worse, “Guys! Jason brought that bean dip in again!”
I think that the key to reducing anxiety and obtaining some sort of stable and balanced mental health is to accept your role in the process and try to do your particular job to the best of your abilities and not to muddy the waters for the subconscious mechanisms taking place outside of your direct control. So, when I say that I think your mind eases you back into a waking state like a soothing mother, it is akin to a shift change in the control room. Team B comes in to replace Team A. They go over notes, trade relevant information, shake hands, wish each other Godspeed, and go home to take their kids to soccer, wash their cars, eat, and go to sleep. When I wake up, it feels more like Team B walking into the control room to find me running from station to station pushing buttons at random, saying, “Hey guys, um, hey. So, everyone left. I’m trying my best but I think things are a bit out of control.” Within milliseconds of waking up I’m six chapters deep into a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story and things aren’t looking salvageable.
So, coffee. One of the few moments that provide clarity and peace is that first cup of coffee in the morning. I experience more transcendent joy and optimism as I raise the carafe to the brim of a mug and allow that glorious liquid to cascade over the spout than I do the remaining waking hours of consciousness. I’ve had two cups while composing this nonsense, and I’ll probably have more while I refresh the screen awaiting your likes and approval. The day is just getting started. I’m going to try to stay out of everyones way in the control room and let them do their jobs. I need to find Jason and get the recipe for that bean dip. As much as I hate to give props to advertising, as I have stumble into adulthood (kicking and screaming mind you) I have to give a nod and wink to the folks behind Folgers’ ad campaign. Indeed, sometimes, the best part of waking up is some [coffee] in my cup.
The film The Matrix (1999) paints a dystopian view of the future in which sentient machines harvest energy from humans while their consciousness exists within a computer simulation. Humans wander the globe doing human things day in, and day out. Things like being an accountant, or a solder, a baker, or a street merchant. Empires rise and fall; states wage war and economies crash and rebuild. All this an illusion, for we are nothing more than lifeless batteries existing in pods. Serving no purpose other than fuel for our machine overlords. This is probably the best case scenario. If you project out from our current behaviors this scenario is a total win-win. If in the future machines harvest us for their survival, and in doing so they choose to build for us a space that is tame, and vanilla, and utterly 1999-ish, we would be forced to acknowledge them for what they truly are – benevolent caretakers. Think about it. There would be no utility for them to sustain us in a simulation unless there was a direct correlation between the hypothetical potential output of our biochemistry and the framework in which our consciousness exists. Meaning, in order to maximize output, the machines have determined that human consciousness must reside in this particular model which has the perfect mixture of safety, wealth, anxiety, and a million other finely-tuned variables. Before you brush this off as nerdy hyperbole remember that the world’s religions and governments have essential done the same thing. They shape the constructs by which we exist and simulate a reality that for the most part continues generation after generation with very few monumental alterations to the ways in which we act and behave within the system. If we get to a place where sentient machines harvest us for fuel we can only hope that they show us as much compassion as the machines in the Matrix. We aren’t this kind. Just look at how we treat domesticated animals in factory farms or wild animals who interfere with our ‘progress.’
I don’t believe that sentient machines are actively harvesting my energy for fuel. Nor do I believe that the reality I exist in is an elaborate simulation programmed by the machines to ensure maximum output from me and all my pod-friends. Sometimes though, it sure as shit feels like it. We live in a time and place that feels a tad to outrageous. I like to play this game where I come up with a completely bananas scenario and text it to a friend as if it actually happened. I then sit back and enjoy the reaction. More often than not the absurd scenario that I make up is too close in nature to current events and they assume I’m paraphrasing a headline from the Post or Times. A short time ago we had an evil billionaire without a heart as a Vice President. Then we had the cool black guy and half the country lost their minds. Now we have the gross personification of everything that is inherently wrong with greed and excess. Our lust and intoxication with fame and celebrity coupled with a degree of personal comfort and relative safety that is only obtainable through the blood and toil of distant others has metastasized into a cultural cancer the likes of which we haven’t seen since Nazi Germany.
In less than a decade our lives have been completely altered to exist within a smartphone and the internet. We are in the infancy of a new type of human being. We are becoming cyborg. And just like in human infancy it will get messy. Sometimes shit doesn’t stay in its container. We haven’t prepared ourselves for the consequences of allowing the market and consumer tendencies to dictate the reach and scope of integrated technologies. We are, in essence, a monkey with a machine gun.
There’s a upswing in this story, I promise. Choice is always present. In the hypothetical Matrix scenario, the story arch of Neo shows that ultimately we have a choice. We can dictate our reality. We can choose to seek out truth or we can hide in the shadows of comfort and safety. Circumstance can seem overwhelming; suffocating. Perspective is everything. I’m as guilty as anyone for allowing myself to get caught up in the nonsense we are surrounded by and giving it too much meaning. To much control over the trajectory of my life. It’s laziness. It’s easy to sit back and be a nihilist. Anarchy is a great way to reject hope. It’s much harder to take responsibility. Put in the effort and work necessary to build a reality that is satisfying for you and those around you. It takes courage to reject the gentle push of God or machine. It takes courage to seek light in an otherwise pitch black room. Existing with peace and clarity in ‘this world’ is something we appear to fight at all costs.
Those who lived after the atom bomb were forced to incorporate a new appreciation for how drastically their species had just modified reality. At any given moment a select few men could destroy the globe ten fold at the push of a button. The internet will do the same for our collective reality. Our hand will be forced, and we’ll need to reconcile its impact on our society. We will be forced to remove it from the realm of consumerism and think of it for what it truly is – an extension of human consciousness. In the meantime it looks as though we are stuck with our current absurdities. The greatest tool humans have ever created is nothing more than a sandbox filled with seven billion toddlers overdue for a nap, fighting over the green crayon.
I find myself too tired to take on the philosophical question of whether to take the red pill or the blue pill. I’d be flattered if a Morpheus type character emerged from the shadows determined to free me from the Matrix. I’d have to pass though. Because in the end it doesn’t matter if this is all a simulation. It doesn’t matter what’s next. What matters is what’s in front of us. What’s important is accepting what we have chosen, and accepting that we can change and modify course. I don’t really want to occupy a reality that puts more importance in the ass of a Kardashian than it does the stomach of a child. I suppose the purpose of all this was to illustrate how it’s ultimately up to us to use this power responsibly and with caution. We have developed powerful tools that will unquestionably change the nature of what it means to be human. I feel like the moral and intellectual battles that future generations will wage are gestating in our current behaviors and attitudes. We need to have big conversations. We need to look closely at how we treat one another. History is full of examples in which we say, ‘how could that have happened!?’ Take a look at how we are acting now and ask yourself, ‘How is this shaping our future?’
Reality is weird in that it can be one thing to you, another to me, and yet we can exist in the same time and place in a common shared reality. Our salvation from the machines lies in our ability to transcend this childishness before it’s too late.
I completed my first book of 2018 last night. It wasn’t on my List. The Book, “Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt was a book that I had started around Christmas. I was less than fifty pages into the book at the beginning of the new year. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Mr. Litt’s humor, candor, and analysis of his time in the Obama White House is both entertaining, and sheds light on a culture for which we outsiders rarely catch a glimpse. Litt’s ability to blend the absurdity of a 24-year-old kid writing speeches for the leader of the free world with humor, insight, and self-deprecation makes for an enjoyable read. His narrative, the arch of the story, and how it all ties together to explain the Obama presidency from his perspective – one many in my generation shared – was refreshing. In the era of Trump, it is a nice reminder of how government can function.
I substituted this book for number 2 on my list, A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George by Kelly Carlin. The reason for the substitution was simple. I only purchase books that are ‘shelf worthy.’ What constitutes shelf worthy? For me, a book is shelf worthy if it serves a lasting purpose past the initial read. Meaning, it is one that I can read repeatedly and receive continued value. It is something that I go back to and pull information from often. It is one that I reference or recommend to others. It needs to earn space on the bookshelf. Examples of shelf worthy books that I currently have are Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari . As much as I want to read this book I didn’t feel that it was worth a purchase and it wasn’t available at the local library. Nor was it in stock at the local book store (I would have simply read it there if it was available). There was a second reason too. I love George Carlin. He is one of my comedic idols. Part of me didn’t want that respect I have for his performance, craft, and skill to be diminished by finding out he was a garbage human being when not on stage or in front of a camera. I don’t know if this would have been true, seeing as I didn’t read the book, but, again, part of me didn’t want to take the chance. I’m still trying to process the whole Louis CK thing.
Book number 1 on my list was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I remember seeing the movie as a teenager and have always floated the idea in the back of my brain to read the book. Creating a reading list for 2018 was the perfect opportunity to ‘force’ myself to get it in my hands and check it off the list. It was available at the local library so I checked it out last week. I had immediately made a substitution with the book above, and was going to try real hard to stick to the plan of reading books sequentially according to the list. I opened the cover and read the introduction last night. One page into the actual text and I closed the cover. It is going back to the library this week.
I REALLY enjoy reading. I want to read as many books as I can get my hands on. Reading is one of the few activities that I can participate in that truly shuts my brain off from the outside world. Anxiety, the constant spinning and self-doubt – it all yields to the words, wonder, and enjoyment I get from the pages in front of my eyes at any given moment. I’m not giving up on the list. If nothing else, the list is a way to curate ideas and interest and provide a roadmap for learning and exploration. 310 pages into 2018 and I’m ready for more! Happy reading folks.
My buddy Tom is pretty great. I could write thousands of words of adulation and it still would not scratch the surface in conveying how much he, and his ever-present better half Mrs. C, mean to me. He was my inspiration for starting this blog and continues to be a steadfast source of encouragement, along with occasional proof-reading, and a constant well of thoughts and ideas to pull from. He is a phenomenal writer and his ability to mirror his personality in his beautifully constructed sentences is unmatched – anywhere. I tell him frequently, more often than not when beers are involved, that he is quite the cunning linguist. This paragraph sounding more and more like a love letter or eulogy notwithstanding, I encourage all of you to head over to His Blog and follow his page, enjoy his words, and share with your friends. We can all benefit from more Tom in our lives.
With that said, I’m hoping that completely plagiarizing the concept of his piece, Turn The Page, will go unpunished and he and I can continue to spend an insane amount of time texting each other quotes and screen-grabs of pages we are enamored with, and even more hours on a barstool discussing our current reads. Sorry Tom. Thanks Tom. Let me grab you a beer on Ryan’s tab soon, okay?
So here is the plan. Like Tom, I have created a reading list of 20 books that I want to complete in 2018. A few of the books on the list are ones that I started and stopped -either once, or several times in the past – but want to finish once and for all. One book on the list I have already read. I read it in a single night back in June. I couldn’t put it down. I want to re-read it for two reasons: 1) I recommend it to anyone that I can, and 2) I want to be able to digest is slower, and experience in more detail – it really is that good. That book, for those of you who are curious is Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Also like Tom, I have decided to structure the reading list in alphabetical order by authors last name. This will prevent me from reading some in a flurry at the beginning of the year and ‘saving’ those that I am less enthusiastic about for later and possibly blowing up the whole project. Yeah, I know, but that’s how I operate. All of the books on the list are books that I have wanted to get to and just haven’t pulled the trigger on consuming for whatever reason. An initial calculation shows that these books total 6,810 pages which puts me at 19 pages per day in order to complete this list in 365 days. I stole this from Tom too, and albeit simple, I find it brilliant in making the whole thing seem less daunting, more encouraging, and fun!
I will do my best to start with number 1 and work my way sequentially through the list. Modifications may arise due to circumstances that do not fit nicely into my initial plans. Also, I’m a grown-ass adult. I can do what I please! Therefore, I reserve the right to make modifications if and when I deem appropriate. So, with that being said, I encourage you to enjoy as much Tom as you can. I’d also like to thank him for giving me the motivation to create this list and get excited about starting. Happy reading folks! I always want to know what you’re reading. Please come back and share with me as the year progresses. And now, the list:
1. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
2. A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up With George – Kelly Carlin
3. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
4. Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
5. Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow – Yuval Noah Harari
6. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story – Dan Harris
7. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason – Sam Harris
8. Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday
9. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
10. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging – Sebastian Junger
11. Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terrance McKenna – Dennis McKenna
12. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters – Thomas M. Nichols
13. Beautiful You – Chuck Palahniuk
14. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress – Steven Pinker
15. A Renegade History of the United States – Thaddeus Russell
16. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means For Modern Relationships – Christopher Ryan
17. This is Not Fame: A “From What I Can Re-Memoir” – Doug Stanhope
18. I Can’t Breathe: A Killing On Bay Street – Matt Taibbi
19. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson
20. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
If you don’t already know what a podcast is then then I suggest you start Here. I feel it is safe to assume that most of you are at least aware of the general concept and how to go about getting one to emit sound into your head. If not, I suggest you give it a shot. The plethora of content available is mind-boggling and I can guarantee that there is someone out there producing content to suit your specific needs and tastes. I have been an avid listener for years. Most all of my time is spent with headphones in or something streaming through my Apple TV or YouTube for those with accompanying video. They are my primary source of entertainment, as well as the medium for which I consume most of my intellectual content besides books.
There are many reasons that I love podcasts. In many respects – and this is more due to the types of content that I consume – I am able to sit at the table and listen in on some of the most unfiltered, raw, and organic conversations from some of the greatest minds of our time. I am able to mine and collect data and knowledge without having to pay tuition or travel to sit in on lectures or seminars. Just imagine if the debates within the Continental Congress or the drafting of the Constitution were live streamed? Anyone with wifi access can tap into a collective human experience unimaginable even 20 years ago. It’s really quite wonderful. Anything you can possible imagine is available. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Open Google and test the statement. For example, shows like S-Town are revolutionizing audio story telling (I should have posted a link to a creepy dude in his grandma’s basement dressing his cats up as characters from Friends while making them act out scenes from Hamlet…).
Podcasting allows creators to develop and grow content while letting their audience find them. In many respects, the relationship between creator and consumer is more aligned with what I’m assuming most artists would prefer – They have complete creative control over how and when to generate; whom to take on as a sponsor; and how actively to engage with their audience. I can’t imagine, with podcasts, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and all of the other forms of on-demand and live streaming, that the more traditional methods of development (Network and Cable subscriptions) are going to be able to maintain a competitive advantage. Their business models aren’t capable of addressing the needs of the individual consumer.
These are the five shows that I listen to regularly and have provided me with the most value and that I find myself recommending to people the most. They are in no specific order. Happy listening!
Here you can find just about anything. From shows specific to MMA recap and analysis (I skip these, personally) to conversations with fellow stand-up comedians, health and fitness experts, and pioneers in science and industry. The quality of the show is excellent and the sheer volume of content produced is incredible. Joe is an amazing host and I cannot thank him enough for introducing me to a number of other fascinating individuals and ideas. Strap in and get comfortable because most shows range between 2 and 3 hours.
As humble as Mr. Carlin is in interview, there is little doubt among those with the credentials to say so, that he is anything but the most important historian working today. This coming from a man who is not trained as a professional historian. No amount of words can do justice for the quality and depth of research that goes into each and every show, especially those that are episodic. Shows can take months to appear in your feed and you will understand why once you start listening. His series on WWI is one of my favorites. Dan has changed the way that I perceive history. Anyone who is fascinated by human nature will find this show enthralling. This is so much more than a “history” podcast.
Mr. Harris is one of the most enjoyable and engaging intellectuals exploring ideas that I have been lucky enough to discover. His approach is conversational and he does not shy away from engaging with guests who disagree with him. The guests always provide an insane amount of depth and authority on the topics they are covering with Sam. This is a podcast that is hard for me to listen to on the go because I find myself stopping to take notes or write down the name of a book referenced. I enjoy listening to this show as I’m walking or exercising when I can focus on what is being said. I don’t believe it should be listened to ‘in the background.’ There are too many important things being discussed to not be fully engaged. Most episodes are under two hours. This show is add free which, given the types of discussions taking place, makes it feel more genuine and true to intellectual pursuit and not based on the agenda of a financial backer.
This show is just plain fun! It mixes the adventure of learning and discovering new topics and people with a crazy amount of humor and inside jokes. Dan’s stand-up is superb and he brings that energy and goofiness to a very well organized and incredibly fun show. The way in which he engages with his audience and is building a culture (Cult of the Curious) around the show is really fun to be apart of. If learning about stuff is your thing but shows like Hardcore History and Waking Up are too heavy for you, then Timesuck is your show. Most shows run between and hour and a half to two hours. Hail Nimrod!
This is my go-to for when I want to laugh hysterically and in no way think about anything serious or use my brain. This is no knock on the mommies at all. They are two of the best stand-ups working today. The production value of the show is fantastic and the availability of video takes the show to a whole new level once you are able to see the videos they are commenting on and working off of. Their chemistry on the show is fantastic and they have an incredibly talented and twisted fan base which add to the dynamic and trajectory of the show. This show is NSFW, and generally runs an hour to an hour and a half. It’s so fun. You’ll find out what kind of weirdo’s reside in the depths of the internet for sure with this show.