Intentions

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The turn signal.

At one time this device was considered one of the most innovative creations of the modern era. No longer did drivers have to yell out the window or make hand gestures to each other in order to communicate. With a simple flick of the wrist, other motorist were alerted to your subsequent actions and movements.

It is no coincidence that over the past decade or so motor vehicle crashes appear to be on the rise. There are more distracted drivers on the road. This can be attributed to more attention grabbing technology being integrated into our vehicles, smart phones with their incessant chimes and alerts, as well as a general lackadaisical attitude taken towards driving.

From my own driving experience, I have noticed that fewer and fewer motorists are enlisting the use of the turn signal, alerting the rest of the traveling public to their desired movement. This type of behavior would seem inherently counterproductive to the greater goal of safe and efficient automobile travel. People simply fail to communicate their intentions.

But upon further thought, this thinking and behavior is not limited to the realm of driving. All throughout society, business deals have been halted, personal relationships falter, and even wars started because intentions were not clearly communicated. As a culture, we have begun to devalue intent, even going so far as to chastise individuals who take the time to spell things out. It is seen as excessive, or a waste of time.

There is something vulnerable about expressing your desires that mankind has come to loath. In this day and age of showing strength and strength only, any sign of humility is shunned. The problem then arises where individuals are left only with the alternative, which is to constantly make assumptions about others and their surrounding environment. Most people prefer this, as it lends to the perception of more control, or more power. But this is often not the case. An assumption can be one of the most risky actions a person can take.

Nothing is lost or surrendered by signaling a left turn. At the very least, your fellow motorists will know where you want to go. Who knows, They may even let you pass before them.

Nonobservance

It never ceases to amaze me when a person chooses to nonobserve another human, place, thing, or social norm. I marvel at the level of depravity that must be the source of such an act of hostility.

To nonobserve is to deny one’s very existence; to ignore the essence of humanity.

There are examples of this social phenomena all around. From someone not acknowledging a Good Samaritan holding the door for them, to dismissing the history of victimization of poor and marginalized folk all over the globe. I too have chosen to nonobserve from time to time.

There was an instance when an individual who was down on their luck came into my vicinity on the sidewalk whilst I was loading my son into his car seat. He must have seen my facial expression change because he almost didn’t ask me for something to help him get through the day. Realizing my non-verbally communicated disgust, I was so ashamed that I barely looked him in the eye as I tersely declined to assist. It seemed the easier solution: get ride of the nuisance.

As we drove off Kay-Kay, who was probably three at the time, asked “Daddy. What did that man want?” I barely could answer. To him it was obvious. This person needed help. Why didn’t you help him?

I thought a lot about that interaction. Why did I react the way I did. It wasn’t even a reaction; it was more a reflex. I didn’t even think, “Get rid of this beggar.” It was my body’s natural defense mechanism, like when skunk sprays once it senses danger.

I had nonobserved. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to deal with someone I’ve been conditioned to view as not worth acknowledging. The problem with this is that in the process, I’d lost sight of the damage this mindset had inflicted on myself. To deny the humanity or existence of another is to diminish my own; it is the way the universe works. Whether we agree or not, all things are connected and interlinked. It is the reason a society which is numb doesn’t shudder when increasingly hostile overtures are made towards its own (more often children, the poor, and other marginalized people).

That day, I decided no more. I would observe all.

Overcoming Fear

It's only water, right?
It’s only water, right?

A few weeks ago I took Kay-Kay to the Y to begin kindergarten swim class. Every Saturday morning for the next two months he will learn the fundamentals of swimming: how to properly enter and exit the pool, fully extending his legs while kicking, the art of floating, and whatever else can be covered in half an hour. (Full disclosure: it was my wife’s idea; I cannot take credit as instill haven’t learned to swim…yet). To say My son doesn’t like water is an understatement. During bath times even the slightest sprinkle of the wet stuff on his face will prompt a pause in the action, followed by a request for a towel. When the decision to enroll him came along, I had my reservations about how he would fair, but we’ve been working on courage for some time. This would be a great opportunity to see how far we’ve come.

At the first class, Kay-Kay was apprehensive. Although the depth of the pool would only reach his mouth (he’s nearly 4 feet tall) that provided little solace. I sat a few feet from the pools edge as the instructor beckoned to students to attention. I made sure to maintain line of sight and eye contact, ready to give a reassuring smile whenever Kay-Kay looked my way with concern.

The experience has provided me the opportunity to think about the process of overcoming fear. Fear is an interesting thing: it possesses it’s greatest power when the least is known about it. My son was apprehensive of the pool and water in general because he’s unfamiliar with it. The wet liquid is sometimes hot, sometimes cold, still or raging, welcoming and foreboding simultaneously. It is too much to process, which leads to the mind labeling it as a danger. In my own life i see the same. The things I feared were virtually unknown and uncharted territories. Switching careers, moving to a new area, even starting to write this blog. Here in lies the enigma: what to do? It would be easy to simply say, “conquer your fears”. I’ve never found the transaction to be so straight forward. It is important though to question the root. Often times it is not fear we are experiencing, but an aversion or reluctance to new experiences. This is pivotal self-discovery that each individual who wants to live to their fullest potential must achieve. You may fail, but at least you’ll learn the water only reaches your mouth.

Product Placement should always take a backseat

That must have been some fall...
That must have been some fall…

My children love chicken nuggets.  So much that every we drive by the golden arches, the smiley red-headed girl with freckles, or the artistic outline of a rooster, they request we stop in for a visit.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit they recognized these logos for these brands before they learned their names or any other pertinent information.  Recently we visited Wendy’s®, my son’s current favorite.  Like all great fast food, a toy or game accompany the children’s meal.  At the moment Wendy’s is offering a host of toys and items with a Superman/Wonder Woman theme.  So far Kay-Kay has collected a Superman glider, Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, and a copy of the Superman Wonder Woman comic book.  Each night before bed, i read with the children.  Last night, Kay-Kay wanted to read his comic book.  I appreciate the quality of the artwork and continuation of the Justice League story.  I have followed the animated series and find it to be very well done.  What I wasn’t pleased with was some of the dialogue.

The focus of my ire is directed a scene where Brainiac blasts Superman with a photon ray or some weapon.  Stunned, Superman falls to the ground, creating a huge crater in the street.  He comes to moments later, awoken by two concerned children.  In the midst of a battle where lives are at stake, Superman take the time to inquire about he nature of the toys the children are playing with.  Did I just read that?  Superman would never do such a thing, especially with lives on the line.

I realize that Wendy’s is the provider of this piece, but it made me think about product placement in general.  There was a time when goods were seen and not heard.  Even when cleverly positioned in the shot, or on top of Jerry’s refrigerator when George or Kramer came over to scrounge, but never mentioned in conversation, or becoming a part of the plot itself.  Although i’m complaining about a kid’s meal, I fear society may be at a tipping point where marketing, story telling, and entertainment no longer have defined lanes.

Or maybe I’m just late to the party.

City Life

I put on no airs about my affinity for City Life. Growing up in NYC during the 80s & 90s imbued my soul with a dose of urban living and culture. It is no secret that it is my preference. This was the main reason I relocated my family from Chesapeake to downtown Norfolk. Even though the distance of 7.1 miles can be traversed in 15 minutes by car, it is well worth it.

Living in a City affords one the opportunity to experience a great deal of humanity. Most healthy cities offer a great mix of cultural flavors which make urban living so appealing. The City itself is a dynamic entity; no true city ever remains the same for long.

My love of walking is rewarded now that I’ve relocated. There is nothing like experiencing a neighborhood on foot; you get to really soak in it’s rays. To find a new quiet spot, peculiar building, or slice of nature; these are the things that let us know we are alive.

But the greatest benefit to City Life is that it forces us to collide with one another and nature.

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It’s all connected.

It takes a great deal of effort and deliberate action to flee humanity in the urban setting. Life and activity surround you at all times. Next door neighbors, their dogs, refuse collection, our avian friends, all meld into one, each with equal right to coexist. It is sublime.

Contentment

Johnny Mnumonic (TriStar Pictures)
Poor Johnny

I watched Johnny Mnemonic (TriStar Films) for the first time today.  I was struck by how good of a film it is.  The producer, director, and writers really captured the essence of what can come about when ambition is not tempered by sound judgement, and contentment.

The protagonist, Johnny, desires to reverse a procedure he had undergone earlier, which allows him to store large portions of data in section of his brain.  Johnny is able to upload sensitive data into his modified brain, and transport it, acting as a courier.  This is a marketable trait in the not to distant future, used by people who have sensitive information they don’t want to fall into the wrong hands.  One of the more poignant scenes from the movie is when Johnny (played by Keanu Reeves) admits what drove him to do almost irreparable damage to himself: discontentment.

Like most people, Johnny has been conditioned to believe that he isn’t living if he isn’t living life to the fullest.  The best food, the best clothes, the best women, the best of everything.  Removing the portion of his brain that allows Johnny to remember his childhood was not to high of a cost.  Although a science-fiction piece, the movie does beg the question, what are we willing to do to obtain what we desire?

I very rarely meet people these days who have in my opinion a positive work-life balance.  One usually flourishes at the expense of the other, normally life.  I have known people who work 10-11 hour days, including 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday, to the detriment of their health and personal relationships.  Somewhere along the line it became o.k. to sacrifice all in the name of striving for “The Good Life”.  The problem is that most people don’t really desire the good life; the desire contentment.

Contentment is when you are satisfied, possessing easy of mind.  Notice no mention of completion or total acquisition.  Contentment, like most steps to human-doing, requires a decision to be made.  “I will not get a refill of my soda; I’ve had enough.”  You can always get or acquire more, but the content individual realizes they loose part of themselves in the futile pursuit.  Time, energy, and resources that could be spent doing something else, possibly more fulfilling.  Discontentment is a particularly sad state, because it creates a vicious cycle.  The more discontent you are with the present state of things, the more likely you are to try and do more, which just feeds the process.

Make the choice to be satisfied with what you have.  If you can acquire more or something different, great, but consider the cost.

Break Time

Walk
You’re 10 minutes away from tranquility

One of the things I find most helpful during the workday is to get up from my desk often. I try to get up at least once every 20 minutes; bathroom break, water cooler, co-worker’s desk, whatever. Even more helpful have been the instances where I worked within walking distance of a park, pond, or walking trail. I will forgo consuming good food for a walk any day.

A good walk needs to take you away from the building and grounds of your place of work (traversing the parking lot doesn’t count). 10 minutes by foot is ideal, and the more natural the surroundings, the better. The purpose of this is to provide an individual with the time to mentally and spiritually unplug. This is why I’m not a fan of eating, or even spending lunch time at your office. To get the most out of the “break” one needs to remove themselves; break out.

Some of my most poignant moments of clarity and self-reflection have occurred on such occasions. I think best when I’m out and about in nature. It’s not unique; most humans experience similar phenomena. The problem occurs when we don’t allow ourselves to indulge in the activity often enough.

Try it; that report can wait.

Quality Time

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It’s the simple things that matter the most

I am a fairly busy person.  Married to a superwoman, father of two (soon to be three) cherubs, “working” full-time outside of the home, in addition to a myriad of other activities doesn’t provide for much spare time.  My son reminds me of Sonic The Hedgehog.  Kay-Kay as we call him, just can’t sit still for more than 3 seconds, before he’s off like a whirlwind.  Kay-Kay only knows one speed: fast.  My wife and I have long since ceased asking him to slow down or walk.  Kay-Kay loves life and wants to experience as much of it as possible.

On Sunday afternoon I asked my son what he wanted to do for the rest of the day.  Kay-Kay had just awoke from his nap.  My wife and I try to do get our children out of the house as much as possible.  They love to watch TV, which is not bad, but too much of it is.  Without hesitating he exclaimed, “I want to go to Mount Trashmore”.  Mount Trashmore is a landfill converted park adjacent to I-264 in Virginia Beach.  There are two play grounds, walking trail, and pond at the park.  The main attraction is a fairly steep hill (really a mount of trash with grass planted on top) in the center of it all.  At the top of the hill you are afforded a great 360 degree view of the park, I-264, and the nearby Town Center Area.  Unfortunately for Kay-Kay, his sister Kema slept about an hour and a half longer than he did.  She didn’t wake up until nearly 5pm.  There wouldn’t be enough time for us to go and spend enough time to enjoy the park, since my wife and I had an appointment that evening.  I told Kay-Kay we would go the following day.

Monday afternoon rolls around and I’m back home from work.  I had plans to surprise my wife with a fresh haircut, but it had been so long since I went to the barber that I forgot the good ones usually don’t open on Mondays.  Annoyed, I walked into our apartment.  Shortly after dinner, Kay-Kay reminded me “We need to hurry up so we can go to Mount Trashmore, right Dad?”  I didn’t respond immediately; I wasn’t in the mood to go.  My wife could see it on my face.  She just gave me one of those “you promised” looks.  Before I knew it I said, “sure son.  Let’s get your shoes on.”

We arrived at Mount Trashmore.  The park was teeming with people.  I assumed we would have a difficult time finding a parking space until a young couple hailed me down and informed us that they were leaving.  That was nice of him.  After we parked and unloaded, we began our accent up the Mount.  Kay-Kay raced ahead up the staircase, while I assisted Kema who was taking her sweet time.  We reached the summit and were rewarded with a steady cool breeze.  I brought Kay-Kay’s Transformers Kite, knowing the location to be ideal for this activity.  There was no difficultly getting the kite up in the air.  Kay-Kay was so excited, and so were the young children of onlookers.

I almost missed this tranquil moment with my family.  I thought of how many times I had forgone quality time with the people I care most about because of some thought or emotion from work or the day I had failed to completely process and digest.  I was convicted.  It is so easy to allow these chances to slip our grasp.

Work

 

 

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My domain

It is an interesting phenomena.

Each day society goes to “work”.  Many are able to “work” in the same space that they inhabit, doing away with the construct of a workplace.  Not too long ago the vast majority of people did things where it was clear what work they produced in a day.  A farmer milked his cows and collected 4 dozen eggs from the hen house, a cobbler made 5 pairs of men’s shoes, etc.  The Industrial Revolution changed the way society measured productivity, and work, but not the psychological and physical relationship with it.

There is something to be said about creating, or producing a thing.  A finished article represents to culmination of any number processes or events, which involved one or dozens of individuals.  A person can look at a table, a bushel of apples, or a solar panel and say “I was involved; my efforts lead to the making of this thing.”

Fewer people can make such a claim these days, myself included.  I am employed because of my ability to form relationships and meld ideas, people, and resources.  This concept of intellectual produce, is one I oft wrestle with, although it has treated me kindly.  The balance feels disrupted; at the end of the day, what can I look at and say “I have created”?  It may sound idealistic, but I envy the construction laborer, baker, or hairstylist: They know what their hands have done this day.  Maybe others have felt the same way I do.

Out of Touch

Even in crowd...
Even in crowd…

Like most people, i rely on Google to stay current with the latest news and events.  This morning, I read an article that I initially dismissed, but upon second thought gave me pause.

The story was about comments Gwyneth Paltrow made comparing negative comments made about her on the internet to the ravages of war. This triggered a scathing response from Sergeant First Class Brian Sikes, a Green Beret.  In an open letter to Paltrow, Sikes rips into the Hollywood A-Lister for being egotistical and narcissistic.

I don’t have anything against Ms. Paltrow.  I would imagine that she didn’t consider the weight of her words (although someone in her position should know better).  But it did cause me to ponder how people can assume that they understand or relate to something they have no way knowledge or experience with.  You see it everywhere: Individuals who assume because they have read about something or seen a documentary on Netflix, they are well versed in the plight of the lower class, living with a chronic illness, or going through a divorce.  Instead of divulging their ignorance and exercising humility by asking questions and becoming properly educated, people feign knowledge of the subject, to their detriment.  This can go on for so long that a person will forget about the act, and being to actually believe the fantasy they’ve created: I do know that life; I understand it.  The irony is that the initial reason for perpetrating was to connect with the person or thing in question, but all this behavior achieves is further distancing the two.  There is no real connection achieved.

There is nothing wrong with asking a “foolish” question, or even better, admitting we don’t know or cannot relate.  This is the beginning of true knowledge and understanding.