Archive for the “Favorite Entries” Category

The “Budweiser – True” ad campaign is one of the all time greats…up there with “Where’s the Beef?”, “Tastes Great/Less Filling”, and my personal favorite “Only you can prevent forest fires”.

It depicts young, skinny, good looking men and women of all races enjoying Budweiser, becoming best friends, preparing to fornicate with each other, laughing, winning, and drinking in moderation.

But we all know that drinking isn’t like that. Budweiser’s core audience is a trailer park, gunrack-in-the-pickup redneck (no offense to the rednecks….Budweiser is a decent beer). Yet there are no commercials like that.

One step further and we know that drinking will not make you clever, or liked…..and it may allow you fornicate (provided you don’t drink too much), but you probably won’t like the partner you end up with. You will not remain young and skinny for long as a loyal, frequent Bud customer.

You will have terrible hangovers, forget where you left your credit card, where you parked your car….you will blackout for long periods and only assume assume you had a good time when really you made a complete ass of yourself….you will have extraordinary bar tabs from buying 10 dollar shots for people you’ll never see again….you will wake up in strange places with ugly people, nauseous with a blinding headache….maybe even in an ditch or gutter.


Make this commercial bitches. True.

Yes….that is me.

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I’ve been asked this question a thousand times.

And I’ve given a thousand different answers….usually something inspiring, because that is what people want. The draw is the romance…a life you don’t have, something safe to desire because you will never get it. People dream of far off places simply because they are far off.

What would be left to dream of if one day you went there?

The danger is when you desire something attainable. Then it has the chance of becoming real.

I got this email a few day ago, and was going to give him an answer, but I’ll post it here instead. I assume he stumbled across my travel journal somehow. It happens sometimes.

— wrote:
> Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 01:39:29 GMT
> To:
> Subject: hello….
> From:
> i was wondering what you do for a living and how you
> are able to travel the world? I’m 18 and would love
> to have such a job and explore and see what lies
> outside of this piece of crap known as Oklahoma
> haha. thanks!
> Joel

Dear Joel,

What do I do for a living? Hmm…..I thought you were asking about travel? The two are mostly unrelated.

I’ve met some people that made a living traveling. I met a guy in Morocco who was a “movie set locator” and part time asteroid hunter. I met a girl in Turkey who wrote for Lonely Planet…but only in that region. I don’t think she traveled very much.

I met some other folks too…most of them weren’t making a living traveling, but were simply travelers who got stuck somewhere and had forgotten how to go home.

Most of these people were either a) wacked in the head or b) gone for so long they didn’t care anymore that they were wacked in the head.

So…back on topic: What do I do for a living?

If you ever decide to really make a go at traveling then that is exactly what you will be doing for a living: Traveling.

When I tell the story of what I did for the 5 years between college and graduate school (something I rarely do) I say I was a professional traveler…because that is all I really did.

If I were to measure those years any other way they would be considered an unequivocal failure. I certainly have no material possesions to show nor any career advancement to put on a resume. How do you measure a life?

So….I don’t really see that there is a link between what you do for a living (careerwise) and travel. The few people who have linked the two have simply succeeded in taking the magic out of travel. Never turn it into a task.

Next question: How did I do it? This may be the more practical part for Joel and anyone else wishing to spend some years on the road.

Most people, when they ask “how I did it”, are asking about money. The short answer, from a financial standpoint, is that it is easy.

Travel is not the same as vacation. Vacations are expensive. One pays rent and car payments…insurance, phone and cable bills while they vacation. Vacations are pre-arranged for limited periods of time at specific locations. It eliminates hassles. I admit it.

Travel maximizes hassles. Travel is not a vacation. It is a lifestyle. One pays nothing while they travel but the night’s lodging, food and whatever it costs to get drunk. Travel is spur of the moment, for an undetermined amount of time in any direction that seems appropriate. It is immediate and visceral.

I remember I lived in Israel on the Dead Sea and traveled the Middle East for 6 months for 3500 dollars. How much money will you spend in the US over the next 6 months???

The fact is that it is cheaper to live abroad than it is to order Dominos Pizza and watch cable TV every night on your broke ass sofa back home.

I paid 10 cents a night one time for a “hotel” in Nepal. I paid 50 cents a night and 13 cents a meal in Jordan. That shit don’t add up very fast. You can stay gone for a long time on next to nothing. Of course I also paid 5 dollars for a crepe one time in France and 3 dollars for a Coke in Venice. It depends on where you go.

The question isn’t the money. We all run across the money eventually and it can be made on the road if you wish. I taught English for a year in Taiwan. I made a boatload of cash…at least from a travel perspective.

It is the desire, the compulsion to go that is in question. Remember travel isn’t a vacation, or even a very long vacation. It is a lifestyle. It is a drug.

The question is why to go in the first place. What is it about your present life that is dissatisfying? What do you hope to find on the road?

I will tell you: in the end all you will find is undiscovered corners of yourself. All destinations, however exotic, tend to look the same after a while. Whatever dissatisfaction you sought to alleviate on the road will only be magnified once you return home. The change you create in yourself will be a permanent reminder that nothing else changed in your absence.

And now we diverge into the mysticism of travel. Where do we find our religion? We all have to believe in something. It all becomes more than rational sooner or later.

So do I suggest leaving Oklahoma and taking up the travel lifestyle??? I don’t know. Actually, yeah. I suggest it. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Am I just a bitter old curmudgeon who doesn’t appreciate the fact he has lived what other people only dream of? Uhh…sometimes I guess I am. But I refer you to the second paragraph of this post: “The draw is the romance…a life you don’t have, something safe to desire because you will never get it”.

What happens when you get it? I admit regular life is sometimes a little underwhelming after years of travel. You will have changed. Your former life will seem even smaller than it did before and it will be years before you are able to make peace with that.

So why do I suggest it? The name of my website is Chasing Eden. Notice I didn’t name it Finding Eden…cause that sure as hell ain’t any fun. But I promise you the time of your life chasing it.

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Dear People,

I think this is the first entry I’ve ever written that is a direct response to someone else’s question. It is also something I’m sure others have considered. BC Rogers made me think about it again the other day in an email and I feel I owe him and some others an explanation.

If I have such an issue with the work/consume attitude, do not share the American obsession with productivity, think we’re often being scammed and told half truths by our government and find most people to be blindly unquestioning of the status of their lives….then why don’t I pack up and fucking leave??? I’ve done it before and obviously miss traveling. It is almost as if I am whining and lack the nerve to go. Everyone hates a whiner….even me. Why am I still here?

I have a gut feeling as to why I haven’t left, but I’m not sure if I understand it well enough to say it in words, but here goes:

Yes, my past does haunt me. Yes, I miss travel. But that does not mean I want to or should return to it.

When soldiers come home from war they have a hard time re-acclimating to regular life. This is not soley because they are scarred from killing foreigners. During war life is very intense. Everything is meaningful. Things happen in a flash and the stakes are high. You live forever wrapped in the moment because it is so important.

Regular life in the US pales in comparison. It is simply hard to get motivated to trudge through another day of work, or worry about dinner parties or office politics when you think back on what your life was once like….no matter that it was good or bad….just that it was once intense and meaningful. How can a daily routine ever compete with life at high volume??

I know I am not a soldier. I know the analogy is not completely valid, but it is real nonetheless. Reality TV stars complain about the letdown after the cameras stop rolling. Actors and performers speak of the rush of being on stage. After their careers end professional athletes can sink into depressions that last for years. All of them speak of missing the game. They miss that feeling.

Travel is like that. Nearly all travelers experience withdrawl after they go back home. Re-acclimation is extremely difficult. Depression is very common (something I have thankfully avoided). I know this not from any scientific studies, but from conversations with real people.

You see, travel is like a drug…actually, no. Travel is a drug. You become addicted to the next place even when the next place is no longer the source of pleasure it once was, but merely a way to alleviate the anxiety of sitting still. The estrangement from your former life can only be escaped by continually starting a new one.

Like a drug, travel resembles life, only more intense. It is the source of your pleasure and the absence of it is the root of your pain. The more you travel the less normal life offers you, which in turn further distances you from your previous life, which makes you more alienated, which can only be soothed by more travel.

Like a drug, it escalates. You must always do more of it, to more remote places, for longer periods of time, with ever higher stakes to experience the wonder you once felt just drinking a bottle of cheap red wine overlooking the Seine watching Paris at night.

Like a drug, you long for it. You tend to forget the lonliness and remember the endless string of new and interesting people. You forget the shitty beds and restless sleep in favor of waking to a croissant and expresso looking forward to discovering a new city. You tend to forget being lost and hungry wandering around the new city and remember when some local takes pity on you and shows you a great dive restaurant then takes you out for the evening at a club that used to be a castle dungeon. You forget getting robbed of everything you have and sitting misreably at a dirty police station trying to file a police report in Spanish and remember flying to Mallorca to ride scooters with an old friend. Like cocaine addicts, you remember the rush of the hit, but forget the 3 days without sleep.

And finally, like a drug there are withdrawls. I experience those withdrawls and long for it at times, but the cure is not to take more of the drug.

Although travel is a drug, that is not the only reason I choose not to leave. After all, drugs destory your life and wreck you body. Travel does neither of those. If I chose to remain an addict so to speak, life would go on. I don’t think I would require an intervention. After all, we all chase feelings. We are all addicts to something.

The decision to stay is about a choice: Seize the Day or Seize your Life. They are not one and the same.

Travel is so immediate. It is a lifestyle for the young and unattached. It is romantic and lonely. But life can’t always be about living in the moment. To forever seize the day is a false grail. Some goals necessarily take longer to achieve, a better commitment.

Is life just a series of unrelated experiences to be gobbled up or do you want your life to be about something, to tell a meaningful story??

Shall I die saying I ate life till I burst, sailed the seas and trekked the deserts, that I loved deeper and lost more on distant and foreign shores than others even imagine, or shall I say I helped my neighbors become better people, contributed what I could to the human condition through my work, loved my wife and family all I was able, and left my children with an opportunity to surpass what I was even able to dream??

That is the choice.

It is not a rhetorical question. It is not as if there is no reward for being the moth to life’s flame. There is certainly value in coveting all you can of life. But seize the day and you remain forever a student of life, never its master. Understanding why that is true is a very hard lesson.

I have largely lived the first option. The romaniticism it holds for most people is understandable, but the bullfighter dies alone. That is what they don’t see.

I choose the second option; not necessarily because it is better, though it may be, but because I have not yet tasted its secrets. I believe we can do better, but building something better for tomorrow isn’t a result of living life as if today is your last.

Of course I really want it all. I want both tomorrow and today. And in a sense that is what I am getting. I have eaten life for long enough. It is now time to grow something.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13.11

Not to say I will never travel again. I have never believed that one cannot eat their cake and have it too 😉

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Albert Einstein said in 1954 (near the end of his life): “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”

Mr. Einstein is a very smart man with a unique insight into the human psyche. Though even he would admit that longing for freedom from the demands of being an internationally famous scientist is understandable and not a justification to give it up in favor of plumbing. If he had been a plumber, there would always have been the nagging suspicion of unrealized potential.

He would’ve died in anonymity, ignored as he had the following thought: “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a plumber or a peddler. I would rather choose to be a scientist or scholar in the hope that I might leave mankind with some indelible mark and die knowing I did all that was possible.”

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” – Robert Heinlein

Specialization is not for insects. It is for workers in an industrialized world. Without it there would be only farms with family units desperately trying to be all things at once, excelling at nothing.

However, I like Mr. Heinlein’s quote and think that, while specialization does lead to an increased efficiency in the allocation of resources, it also leads to a lack of perspective, inability to empathize with others, and a disconnection from yourself. It is hard to fully develop as a person and understand your neighbors if you do only one thing.

I sometimes think we’ve traded life for something less but safer. Life and work were hard in the past. Now only work is hard and life is spent without real risk in a mind-numbing wage slavery. In some respects life is meant to be difficult and risky. The more you distill it into something manageable the farther you move from its essence.

A man could once feel good about the work he did. At the end of the day it was hard, but it made him able to stand proudly in any room. The house was built by his hands, the food raised by his family.

And then one day workers did not own their tools, did not own the product of their labour and did not make decisions as to the nature of their work. Rather than finding fulfilment and pride in their jobs, workers instead exhausted their mental and physical energies in an unrelenting pursuit of more, yet unable to identify more when they attained it.

In fact, the resiliency of capitalism stems partially from its ability to create new forms of psychological insecurity and material scarcity at the same time it eliminates the old forms. It creates a host of artificial needs and wants that can only be satisfied through a renewed commitment to work.

The constant struggle that once defined our lives is now re-defined as anxiety disorder and depression. We are cured of the pride we once felt in overcoming those obstacles by support groups, therapy and prescription drugs.

Don’t misunderstand me. What I want is an option for the present, not a return to the past. Why must we all work ourselves to death for plasma TVs and anti-lock brakes? Where is the other option? The one where I get to trade those long hours of work for life balance, personal growth, a rose garden, time with friends and hours at the library reading books about stuff that I’ll probably never do, but love to think about?

It is the lack of options that bothers me. Either we can work long hours and get ahead at the big job, or we can work long hours and not get ahead at the trade or mill job. Where is the job you can work 20 to 30 hours a week that doesn’t put you in government housing?

I am not glorifying the past. People once died in the streets by the thousands because we lacked basic santition and personal hygiene. In the winter they died from the cold. I don’t want to go back to the past…the good ol’ days weren’t all that good. What I want is an option for the present.

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I vote for positivity and acknowledge my responsibility to other people.

No contract can be sufficiently specified as to prevent dishonest behavior by those who wish to gain advantage. At the end of the day a contract is only as good as the morals and good faith of the people signing the paper. For democracy and capitalism, and thus our society, to work there must be rule of law.

The question then becomes who or what is communicating our common moral ground?

The primary mission of our schools has become to teach children skills for financial gain. Is it any wonder we are manufacturing self-centered consumers devoid of a larger context within which to live their lives?

My mother and I had a conversation a while back about the role of religion in people’s lives. Religion, at its best, is a repository of human wisdom. It tells us how to live together in relative peace, based on the accumulated experience of everyone that ever existed. It communicates these values to its members and they pass it down to their children and the religions itself reinforces family and community, which reinforces the values in a neat feedback loop. Religion is failing to pass down our collective wisdom about how to live in groups.

Government can also play such a role. You may say government should not get involved in moral education. History is rife with horrible attempts at moral realignments. It is not the job of schools or the government to tell us what to believe.

I agree to a certain extent. I am not advocating moral indoctrination. But someone or something must force us to consider at a young age what it means to live in a group (like a country), what responsibilities (if any) we have to those around us, and what are the consequences of ignoring these rules and responsibilities.

Mom mentioned that schools never really provided much in the way of moral instruction. The teachers were stricter, but they reflected the family and church values already in place. If the family unit is in decline and the church has failed to keep itself relevant, something must educate us or we will forget…we are forgetting.

My point is that we can whine about the decline of morals and rise of the inhuman capitalist juggernaut, but the structure of our society does not reinforce the behaviors we really desire. It promotes a cut-throat, take what you can, all is good that is profitable attitude that downgrades human interaction to something to be studied and put in a customer database to increase revenue.

We are surrounded with all this, become used to it and thus it doesn’t affect us? Wrong. I lived in a Christian community at Camp Rockmont for 10 weeks and I can say that the world pretty much blows my ass. People are short-tempered, inconsiderate, and self-serving to their own detriment.

I am appalled by what I see on television, the topics of conversation I hear in passing at the coffee shop, and the barrage of advertising that tells me that product X will get me laid or make me richer. It isn’t nearly as offensive when you are around it everyday, but it smacks you in the face when you come back to it. The “real world” stands in stark contrast to a functional Christian community.

I am not much of a Christian. I was born a faithless skeptic, but the practice of Christian values, aside from the issue of faith, is good for the heart. A common moral ground is good for community. Do you know what it feels like to be certain you are surrounded with people who have your best interests at heart and will be there for you if you need help? It is an extremely powerful experience. It gives you hope for the future and makes our current state seem all the sadder.

No fact is devoid of value judgment. Decisions based “only on the facts” are also ultimately bound by value judgments. After all, on which facts do you choose to base your decision? By refusing to back a code of ethics, Schools, Communities and Governments are still making value judgments.

By obsessing on economics the Government is saying that money is the most important value in our society. This judgment implies that financial gain supersedes friends and family; that it is ok to break moral codes for money, because money is our most important value. But capitalism needs moral citizens to function correctly. Free Markets – Moral Citizens = Organized Crime + Corruption.

By refusing to educate students on the rules of living together in large groups and focusing on “impartial” scientific facts, schools are robbing us of collective wisdom and, most importantly, of the context of scientific advancement. Facts are not impartial. Science should be a slave to our well-being. If we lose it’s context we allow it to behave like cancer and raise facts themselves to the level of a social good, an implicit value judgment that may give us many new facts, but will serve us poorly in deciding what to do with those facts.

Facts without a context in which to place them leads to moral relativity. Individuals left to consider their own moral code leads to citizens without the common moral ground needed to get along and play fairly.

These shortcomings lead to increased interference of government in our lives. After all, someone must make sure we do not consume ourselves. The government passes laws to save us from our own ill behavior and there are more laws creating more loopholes and more lawyers creating more lawsuits which leads to more potential financial gain from legal action which is a social good since money is the highest value (even though human goodwill is destroyed in the process) and more lawsuits leads to more laws being passed which starts up the circle again. The litigious nature of our society isn’t about laws and lawyers, or really about money. It is about our failure to acknowledge our responsibility to each other. It is a failure of values.

The quest for individual freedoms has caused us to forget our social contract to each other.

There is a fight between individual freedom and the necessity to curb some of those freedoms so that we can live together in groups. You are not free to live how you want if you agree that there is value in fellowship with other people. You trade some of that freedom to do whatever you want for the joy and utility of being around others.

Economists support Individualism by the Smithian argument that the pursuit of self-interest will lead via the invisible hand to the social optimum. All that society has to do in the extreme model is to establish property rights and a strong legal framework.

Yet all our experience shows that this is wrong; that contracts cannot be specified fully enough and courts cannot operate efficiently enough to produce good outcomes, unless most people already have a taste for good behavior. More important, the pursuit of individual self-interest is not a good formula for personal happiness. You will be happier if you also obtain happiness from the good fortunes of others. In fact the doctrine that your main aim must be self-advancement is a formula for producing anxiety, alienation and mistrust.

In this context the role of economic teaching is truly problematic. We tell people that they are rational, selfish economic agents and it is not surprising that they become more so. Robert Frank asked students at Cornell whether they would report it if they were undercharged for a purchase, and whether they would return a lost addressed envelope that contained $100. They were asked in September and again in December after one term’s work. Students who took introductory economics became less honest, while astronomy students became more honest, and the difference was significant. Similarly, when playing the Prisoners Dilemma game, economics students were less likely to cooperate than other students and the gap widened the longer people studied economics. As time passes, economics teaching is seeping increasingly into our culture. This has many good results but also glaring bad one, of justifying selfishness.

Capitalism and Democracy need a moral citizenry to function and a feedback system that punishes corruption and rewards morality.

Free societies contain the seeds of their own destruction: The experience of freedom leads to a voracious desire for more of it, steadily severing individuals’ attachment to family and faith.

Freedom without morality can cause toleration to turn into rigid and unconvincing neutrality….much like a sophisticated apathy.

Freedom and Individualism are surely great. But they also tend to pit you against everyone and leave you alone and unsatisfied. Morality isn’t a sideshow. It is the main event. The decision to value one outcome over the other is what makes us human. It gets at the root of the most fundamental of questions: Why are we here? I know the answer. We are here to care. The greatest sin is convincing others that it doesn’t matter.

Every time I hear Dr. Phil or one of those other armchair psychologists say, “forget everyone else, do what makes you happy,” I cringe. There are many, many people that are overly concerned with others and do need a healthy dose of internal motivation. But, there is a fine line between “forget everyone else, do what makes you happy,” and “I don’t care about anyone else and will chase happiness to my own destruction”.

Capitalism and Democracy go hand in hand. They are the political and economic sides of the same coin. I don’t want to undermine their successes, which have been unsurpassed. But it is telling. The reaction against globalization is acknowledgment that we are exporting consumerism, moral relativism, apathy, crime and inability to recognize responsibilities larger than ourselves.

Morals are always on the decline. Every generation thinks the youth of their day are more decadent and less respectful than the one before. Perhaps they are right.

Once again: I stand for positivity and acknowledge that other people matter.

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Most people know I want a career helping make work more meaningful for people.

I had a conversation last night with one of the camp directors about our warped sense of work. I have several points I would like the world to accept so that we can get on with life and out of the vicious circle of work, consume, work, consume.

  • Work has no intrinsic value. It is only valuable in as much as it serves to better our lives. It is a means, not an end.
  • Work success has a weak correlation with success in life. They are often antagonistic. People are happier with more money up until the point they can provide food, clothing and shelter (about 15,000 bucks a year). The rest of the money is simply to keep themselves from feeling inferior because other people have so much more. Gross wealth inequality between rich and poor causes anxiety and resentment.
  • The role of the government is not to promote finance or generate wealth. The Preamble to the Constitution says the United States is meant to promote the general welfare and ensuring the blessings of liberty. The Declaration of Independence states that we are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Money is not mentioned anywhere. As a people we need common goals, such as sending a man to the moon, curing AIDS, making ourselves a healthier country, improving education or caring for our sick and elderly. The government’s obsession with the economy needs to stop.
  • Gross Domestic Product is not a surrogate for Gross General Welfare. We are using the wrong measuring stick. Why is there not a General Welfare Index? The purpose of the United States is to promote general welfare, not to promote an environment where we consume ourselves into oblivion.
  • A man is measured by the value of his human relationships. On your death bed you will remember those you cared for and what you contributed to their lives. Money will be all forgotten. All action that doesn’t move toward increasing the value of your relationships is wasted.
  • The purpose of business is not to generate profits. Profits in business is like blood in people. A company needs blood to continue to live, but the blood is not the purpose of its life anymore than it is the purpose of ours. A business needs an overriding concern that makes it worth doing: Invent new technology, serve yummy food to people in a cool environment, make cars for people that like cars, help people find their calling, etc. Making money is empty and will never warrant people giving the effort that will make them connect to something larger than themselves.

I believe the true measure of a business is not found on the income statement but in the quality of life of its employees. Work should be a journey of self-expression, a way of sharing your best with the world, not something you go to because you’ve forgotten what it is like not to go and hollowed out the rest of your life in the process.

How do you turn the word ‘happy’ into a noun? You drop the ‘y’ and add ‘iness’ to make happiness. How do you turn the word ‘busy’ into a noun? You drop the ‘y’ and add ‘iness’ to make BUSINESS. See any connection?

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Like many things in my life, I almost completed my entry on the Destruction of Mankind, but figured it was too depressing. I’ll save you the agony of reading it.

I’ve said just about everything that can be said about where I am these days. There are no real events that make up my life right now and I am neither happy nor unhappy about it.

As everyone that knows me knows, I have a slight problem with cynicism and bitterness. I have no particular reason to feel this way. My life has been no more or less fortunate than others that may or may not have the same problem. One could easily have lived my life and turned out a bleeding heart optimist (I think).

I make no huge point of the issue anymore as it has become something I know I will always deal with in some form. That does not mean I like it, nor that I don’t try to do something about it at times. But as I have gotten older I realize there are things we change and things that have become who we are.

I would say classifying my misanthropy as a permanent personality trait is dangerous for my head. And it is a dangerous. But I am pretty sure about it anyway. No matter what I’ve done since around 1998, nothing has subtracted from it. I have escaped it several times (while travelling, in Salamanca and at Camp Rockmont). But I have never made significant strides towards overcoming it. Curiously enough, my ability to deal with it has increased at just about the same rate as the cynicism itself. Which is to say, I shovel the shit away about as fast as it piles up.

I had a conversation with Josh last week about hypocrisy. He hates it and I think hypocrisy has its uses. If I were better able to believe one thing and live another way, then I would have erased my bitterness. Of course hypocrisy can breed self hatred too, just in a different way. Life can be hard though. If it takes hypocrisy to get you through the day….you gotta do what you gotta do. I would argue it mostly hurts more than helps, but that is just something else for those people to tune out.

In my head there is a gap between what I know is possible and the reality of life. That gap has made me bitter. If I am wrong and there is no gap, then I hate myself for being different and unable to make a reconciliation. If I am right then the world is full of people half-assing their one opportunity to exist. Either hate myself or hate the world….or bridge the gap, which I mostly fail to do.

Many folks live with this same contradiction. I am certainly not alone in the idea. We all share it to some extent. The difference is that it gets to me while others are unaffected. They live well with the contradiction. I do not. And that is the fourth option: know there is a gap and that there will always be one, but live with it. Well…I do live with it, just not always so well.

This doesn’t mean I give up. I know how to make the reconciliation. You make it with forgiveness, compassion and a whole lot of faith. Religion arose from this basic contradiction. It is us trying to bridge the gap between what is real and what we would like to be real.

The problem is the same as the one with my cynicism. I do not know why I feel like this….nor do I know why I lack the faith overcome it. Another person living my same life could have tons of faith and no misanthropy. I don’t understand it. It just is. It could pass just as inexplicably as it came.

There are other ways to get over these kind of problems too, less magical than faith. I continue to explore those and hope to one day hit the jackpot. For one, I’ve always been big on place. Where you are is third in importance only to who you are and who you are with. Additionally, Places often bring with them a certain type of people, which makes it doubly important.

Following this line of reasoning, I might try moving away from the South. I’ve always said I love the South….and I do. But I’ve actually been happier while I was away. I’m not saying its the right decision, but it might be.

None of this solves my problem of unemployment, but I’m sick and fucking tired of thinking about that. I’m not even gonna comment other than to say I understand it as well as I’ve ever understood anything. Which has become another source of disaffection over the years: To discover yourself is to realize that you must still survive the day…no matter how “enlightened” you may become.

Socrates claimed that an unexamined life was not worth living. He became so enlightened his government sentenced to death. Oedipus went on a quest for knowledge too…and gouged his own eyes out when he finally learned the truth.

They say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I say if you can’t beat ’em, run. Therefore, I am officially taking a break from the frustration of job hunting. I am going back to Camp Rockmont for the summer. It is filled with incredibly nice people. There is tons of fun stuff to do and no need for money. Best of all, I get the chance to change a kid’s life for the better every single day. It is the closest thing to Utopia I’ve ever found.

After that we’ll see what happens.

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I am not one of those who equates their personal identity with the job they do. I have never felt worthless or less of a man because I don’t have a career. The lack of salary and a daily routine is also largely not a problem….after all, that has been my life for 7 years. I do not have the uniquely American productivity obsession, nor the misguided notion that work in itself has value.

In fact, unemployment affects me little in most respects. And that is the problem: Because I cannot adamantly and passionately identify my situation as bad, I cannot change my behavior.

People make decisions when their gut tells them that the status quo is unacceptable. I logically accept that my situation needs a change; however, my emotions have not followed suit. I need to feel it. “Feeling it” will not, of course, magically get me the job I want. But most of us realize that logic is a tool, not a motivator. You’ve got to want it, not know in your head that you should want it.

I have built a life (perhaps unrealistically) on chasing my heart’s desire. I only know how to do what I really want to do. Now I am in partial conflict with that and my past has me on a whipping post.

There is a skill people have that goes unnoticed because so many have it. It is called ‘doing things they don’t want now because they feel it will pay off in the long run’.

I have always said that the long run never comes. I do what I want now. In the long run we are all dead. And that is largely true, but it mustn’t always be true, otherwise what the hell are we all doing? There comes a time when there is something you want, but the time horizon is necessarily longer…years longer. Not everything can happen in six months.

Travel seriously shortens your time horizon. I was in another country yesterday. I’ve fallen in love twice in as many weeks. I sleep in a different bed every night. I rarely spend the same currency for more than a week. Time slows down. It all happens in a flash and there is no time frame. The present becomes everything and lasts forever. It is a useless and misplaced question to ask someone what they will be doing in six months when so much will happen in the next six weeks.

Its funny. The decisions you make trigger a series of events that shape your personality. Your past is you. It creates you and you are chained to what has happened. Sure…you make the initial decisions, but it is the event that shapes you. And how they play out is largely out of your control. The decisions are simply brief focal points. What endures is the experience…an experience you don’t control but defines how you view the world. To say your past has an enormous effect on you is a gross understatement. Indeed, your past in the only thing that does affect you.

On a whim I decided to study abroad in 1995. I could never have anticipated the chain of events it caused. I had no idea the effect it would have on me. Could I have known that because I drew such satisfaction and community from an environment where few worked and no one talked about jobs that it would cause me to so utterly devalue the work for food/career is life mentality? Could I have anticipated that the intensity of relationships and novelty of daily life one finds traveling would cause me to be bored with ordinary life? Could I have known that the speed at which everything happens while on the road would train me to think for the short term and disregard long time horizons as irrelevant? Could I have foreseen that raising my standards for what is possible in life and then having to live in a world that hasn’t would make me bitter?

When travelling there is a great opportunity for a real relationship. That is because there is no reason to talk to anyone other than for their own good company. No one likes you because of who you are, who you know, what you have, how you are educated or what you can do for them. Everyone is equal on the road. You have a backpack and a few changes of clothes…period. Your connections are all thousands of miles away. You are nobody and get by on your own merit or not at all. You talk to or travel with someone because you like them. There is nothing else they can possibly offer. Could I have known that because there are so many real relationships (however brief) while travelling that it would make me hyper-sensitive to any other kind and thus unable to relate to the majority of people on a deeper level?

These things are impossible to know, but have shaped my life. And so you see how you become your past.

There are some who would point out that I am romanticizing travel and that nothing is so perfect. That is somewhat true, but not the topic of this entry.

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I had an interview today. How’d it go you ask? Fine. That’s what I always say. “It went fine.”

Everyone believes that something is wrong with them. We all have some secret affliction that makes us unique, that makes us think we’re different or alone. In perfection we are all the same.

I was in one of my moods the other night. My dad laughed at me. “Son…you sound like a burnout. But you can’t be burntout…you’ve never done anything.” He has a good point.

I didn’t give it another thought until I was talking with one of my old professors in Columbia. She said the same thing. Am I burnt-out?

I did a little research on it. It appears there are three stages to burnout:

  1. Arousal/Exhaustion: This is where you are “working your ass off”.
  2. Cynicism/Energy Conservation: This is where you start to distance yourself from everything.
  3. Burn-out: This is where you want to throw the alarm clock out the window…and actually do it.

Here is a great burnout story:

Consider the case of Naomi Henderson, who was paralyzed by her stress–literally. The 58-year-old CEO of RIVA, a small market-research firm in Bethesda, Md., often put in 120 hours a week at the office and slept two hours a night. After keeping this pace for several weeks straight, one night Henderson woke up to go to the bathroom and couldn’t move her legs. She stared down at her limp limbs, blinking in disbelief. Her mind began fixating on the most improbable of causes: Polio? Some new disease she hadn’t heard of yet? In a panic, she screamed for her husband. He scooped her up and drove her to the hospital, carrying her–still in a bathrobe and with tears streaming down her face–into the emergency room. The diagnosis: stress. The doctor put her on bed rest 14 hours a day for six weeks.

And the crazy bitch didn’t stop working. A few years later it happened again.

Here are a few suggestions to help avoid burnout from the UCLA Center for Mental Health:

  • Exercise
  • Get more sleep
  • Pursue a hobby
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Keep a “to-do” list
  • Learn to plan

Is this supposed to help? All these suggestions either take up time themselves or allow you to better schedule things that do.

I also read a lot about what causes burnout:

  • Lack of control over one’s destiny
  • Overwork
  • Constant conflict
  • Feeling that one’s contribution makes no difference

I have another one to add that wasn’t mentioned: Too much success. If you win over and over and over, you lose motivation…winning loses its appeal. There is no thrill in victory if there is no chance of defeat. Its like when you won Super Mario Bros. for the 100th time…you just quit playing. Either you change the game….or burnout. I am not Sisyphus.

So…am I burnt out? I don’t think so. I like stress to a certain extent. If the strings aren’t pulled tight, there is no music when you play them. Have I had too much success? Well, I am not as competitive as I used to be. Winning doesn’t get me off like it used to. The satisfaction of a job well done is less satisfying.

It isn’t that I always win, or always get what I want. The frequency doesn’t matter. Some other person may win more and get more. What does matter is that I passed that magic point…real or not, it has become an issue for me.

I’m sure this will not be one of my more popular posts. Most people simply can’t relate to what I’m saying. They’re thinking, “That arrogant fuck!! I have no sympathy for someone that complains about chronic success.” Valid point. I refer you to paragraph two of this post: We all have some secret affliction that makes unique. I’m not saying its real. I’m saying I think its real.

Someone once told me that it isn’t good to live all your dreams when you’re young, else there is nothing to look forward to in retirement. I once said be careful about broadening your horizons. The gap between your horizons and the life you live will slowly fill itself with bitterness and cynicism.

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