Archive for May, 2004

I haven’t made many posts lately. This is not because I haven’t thought or written anything; actually I have….its just that there is only so much I will allow myself to say.

After all, this is for fun. The website isn’t designed for people to be able to learn anything about me from it. It isn’t an outpouring of my heart…well, maybe sometimes.

I have a diary. No one should post their real diary online. They risk sounding like a lunatic.

You see, you can’t articulate your deepest fears. They affect you too much to make good sense of them. I always ramble when I talk about things I am too passionate about…and I don’t ramble much on this website.

A lot of the time I write about stuff just to keep my mind off other stuff….so in that sense what I write about actually has nothing to do with what I am thinking.

I wrote this the other day. I wasn’t going to post it because I don’t like to scare people…or myself. If something hits close to home it can be funny. If it hits too close to home it isn’t funny anymore.

I am against conspicuous consumption. I never understood why people spend so much money on stuff they don’t in the least bit need, not even feeling any better after they make the purchase, in fact lamenting that they weren’t able to find a better deal, or flat out regretting the purchase when they see the same useless product on sale the next week for 10 dollars less…which is already after the point at which they have put the product on the back shelf never to use it again.

In fact, I often thought people had lost their fucking minds. Now I realize that they actually have….and I am well on my way to doing the same.

You see, at work you unconciously question why you are there in the first place. I say unconciously because if it were concious you would quickly drive yourself insane with the daily inability to find a satisfactory answer.

In the back of your head is a list of your favorite activities and your most important values….none of which make a lick of difference while you do your job. This creates a constant, mild, irritating itch in your mind….

After a long day of work you are tired and frustrated from the cognitive dissonance that bleeds away your emotional energy.

How then to relax after a day during which people you don’t know who live hundreds of miles away are constantly pressuring you to things you don’t really care about in the first place???

You spend money. Why?? Easy. After toiling away the better hours of your day the only reward for that effort is the money you now have in your pocket. The money had better be useful and gratifying, otherwise what the hell did you just spend your whole day doing??

You see, it has to be useful. Our brains want it to be useful and gratifying. If it weren’t we would come face to face with the fact that we are wasting the largest part of every day. That is an unacceptable cognitive dissonance.

We prefer to lie to ourselves and believe that the next purchase will justify all those hours surrounded by co-workers who are probably really nice people at heart, but because of all the complexity and deadlines heaped upon themselves in a self-invented and self-defeating race to outrun the wreckage of their empty lives…..have become monsters of commerce and mercenaries to the profit motive.

So now I think of ways to spend my money too. After all, I have it….shouldn’t I do something with it?

Sadly, spending simply chains you to the cycle. You work more to support the spending and must spend more to justify the work.

Oh well….at least I understand it now. Knowledge is power right?

Honestly, I realize that there are people to whom this does not apply. I just don’t know enough of them, and when I wade through that Atlanta traffic everyday on the way home and see all those tired, frantic faces yapping on their cell phones and making appointments in their daily planners……it all smacks of a vicious cycle. And then I wonder if perhaps it really is.

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Yesterday one of my favorite people at work got fired. He wasn’t great at his job maybe, but he wasn’t terrible either. Besides the particulars of his work, he was a pleasure to be around and always willing to help out if you needed. I figure that counts for something.

But he got fired anyway, and out of the blue as he tells it. He said my boss cried when she had the meeting, which isn’t surprising since she is a girl/woman, but crying doesn’t make it any more heartless to send a hard worker packing.

Firing affects my morale. It makes me more apprehensive about my job. I’m sure others are thinking the same.

They said things like, “He left to pursue other opportunities,” or “He felt his best talents weren’t being utilitzed.” That is just garbage.

And while we are on topic of corpra-speak, do you know how many times a day someone “touches base” with me? I feel a little violated. I used to try to “touchbase” with girls at bars and it usually got me a slap in the face.

And keeping with the baseball theme, it seems people are always “knocking it out”. “Sure, I’ll knock that issue right out and we’ll touchbase about it in the afternoon.” I never was very good at baseball. It is a silly sport where people stand around most of the time and there is very little action. Actually, I guess it does sort of resemble work…

Yesterday at the weekly status meeting I caught myself saying that the issue was in “in my court”. “Yeah, I think the ball is in my court on that one. I’ll be finishing up my initial analysis today (meaning I haven’t even looked at it yet) and I’ll update the status memo before we touchbase again.” See….I prefer the tennis analogy since I am much better at that than I am at baseball.

Of course I actually like Basketball best, but I never really do an overwhelming job at anything so I haven’t had an opportunity to make a “slamdunk” on a particular issue yet. I might be a bit closer to “dropping the ball.”

Why all the sports analogies anyway? Everyone sits in front of a computer all day. The most excercise we get is walking to the bathroom.

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The title just popped into my head while sitting here drinking alone in my apartment. Usually when I just write about something with no direction it turns out shitty.

But this is worth thinking about….not that I can solve or even make any real progress on such a question in the next 30 or 45 minutes. Actually, maybe it isn’t even worth thinking about? Oh well, I’ve already started.

Let me ask this: If you achieved what you wanted, would you be happy? Is happy even a realistic goal?

Happiness, however you wish to define it, is a feeling. Is it realistic to make the goal of your life to be forever chasing a fleeting emotional state??? It sounds like a recipe for disappointment.

And happiness is relative anyway. Success will certainly not guarantee any sort of happiness, especially if you have a history of success. In that case, it would simply be normal and expected. Failure would be bad, success (defined as achievement of what you wanted) would be uneventful.

So you would have to trump your last success for it to make you happy. After that you would have to trump it again. One can easily see how this kind of one-upmanship will quickly lead to unrealistic expectations.

I wrote this probably 4 or 5 years ago in one of my personal journals: “And then you take the last great step: Failure becomes the only viable option, because if you succeed it means you didn’t risk enough, and set your goals too low. Failure is your only consolation, the only time you can be sure the stakes were high enough. You race so hard life becomes too short for anything.”

I used to place a great deal of emphasis on whether or not I was happy. Now I largely ignore it. I’m not that kind of person. I’m not negative, nor am I a pessimist….I am just chronically underwhelmed…always a little dissatified no matter what I achieve. Nothing will ever be enough. I know that…..unless maybe I have a kid and my outlook changes.

Hmm….success and happiness do not appear to be all that related, at least for me. While constant failure is sure to make you unhappy, I don’t think success will make you the opposite.

I believe in goals anyway. They make life more interesting, provide a focus, but achieving them is a temporary high at best. That is nothing to brag about. I can spend a few bucks on some drugs and get a temporary high.

There is a vast amount of information on the study of happiness on the Internet. I have much of it saved on my computer. If anyone is interested maybe I’ll put up some links, but here are a few things I have learned:

  • Being married makes you happier. So do kids (though they don’t help your marriage). So do pets.
  • Money makes you happier up to about 15,000 bucks a year (the point at which you are no longer starving and cold), after that there is very little correlation.
  • Religion makes you happier.
  • Old people are generally happier than the young. This is especially true in industrial countries.
  • Being disabled does not make you unhappier in the long run.
  • Inequality makes you unhappy. It seems to be true that if everyone is poor, you aren’t really poor. Alternatively, no matter how much you have, you will always be dissatisfied if there are others with more.
  • Self-reported happiness in the US is decreasing and has been for 50 years. This is also true in most industrialized, Western countries….except for the Scandinavian states, where people are getting happier. Iceland is consider the happiest, most content nation on the planet.

I studied microbiology in college and, while I remember little specifics, the general knowledge that we are all little food-seeking procreators sticks with me.

This leads me back a bit to what the hell we’re all doing on this planet in the first place. To survive and reproduce is pretty much all we owe nature. This is our immediate purpose.

And I never could find any need for her to grant us a clear notion of success, nor any inner contentment. The urge to procreate is strong and unspoken. It is obvious.

Contentment can actually be counterproductive. The content are lazy. The conflicted are driven, creative and anxious. The latter sounds much more likely to survive……so they can produce more anxious, neurotic, driven offspring.

Nature hasn’t hardwired us to be happy, or content. I believe we can trick ourselves into both of those states with a lof of hard work, but the particulars of life remain the same: We are born. We live a little, and then we die. Pour as much sugar as you like on that statement; it will remain equally true.

All is not so dreary though. If I wrote the statement above about failure 5 years ago, I’ve had a while to think of how to get out of the neat intellectual loop I’d created.

That, however, is not the topic of this post. I don’t believe much in preaching. Opinions are overrated and cheap. Advice is nothing more than a form of self-flattery.

I was thinking about all this tonight because I saw a bunch of people at church this morning and at the Mother’s Day lunch this afternoon.

They kept asking me whether or not I liked my job, whether I was happy in Atlanta. I said some shit because they are nice people, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered: You know, I am exactly where I said I wanted to be, but so what?? Aren’t I always? What does achieving my goals have to do with being happy?

What is success to you?

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One of my bosses asked me to make an appointment to meet with her about my career development and any questions I have regarding my workload/job satisfaction.

Here is my reply:

To: Xxxxxx Xxxxxx/Xxxxxxx
Subject: Re: touchbase meetings

(My boss’s name),

I would love to!! I think I’ve been here long enough now to have some areas where I can improve.

I’ll send you an invite right now!

Have a great weekend!


Here is her reply:

To: Elliott Dykes/Xxxxxxx/Xxxxxx@
Subject: Re: touchbase meetings

Great – looking forward to it!!!


(My boss’s name)

I don’t think I ever used exclamation points in my writing before I started work, but “Thanks!!” just seems so much more effective than another empty, deadpanned “Thanks.”

Let’s face it: Plain ol’ “Thanks” has been done too many times. “Thanks!!” is the new “Thanks.” And after “Thanks!!” gets played out I am going with the super emphatic “Fucking Thanks!!” I don’t know what I’ll do after that… a stripper maybe??

I get really tired at the end of the day. It is all those damn exclamation points. It is exhausting to keep up that faux level of excitement.

Periods ‘.’ require one keystroke while exclamation points ‘!’ require a keystroke plus the extra effort of the [shift] button. That’s probably what it is!!!!! (whew….that one was tiring.)

Other than that I sit in front of a computer most of the day thinking. My job certainly isn’t repetitive. It is just all thinking, researching, and problem solving.

Your brain weight accounts for about 2 percent of your body weight but uses 20 percent of your body’s oxygen supply and 20 to 30 percent of its energy.

That’s awful selfish I think. I mean, can’t it spare enough extra energy to keep my eyelids from shutting during meetings?? How many calories could that possibly require?

I shouldn’t poke fun. I mean, just having a meeting to discuss my career goals is far better than most companies do. It just makes me laugh.

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