Rilalities


Dad and sonTo buy or to buy not.  When I was younger my Dad did not buy me everything I wanted, and I hated him for it (hated being the preteen version of hate).  A part of me still believes that of part of him enjoyed saying no to me.  A part of me also thinks that a part of my psychosis was developed by the constant “No’s!” I received from him.  Another part of me wonders what kind of man I would be today if he gave me everything I wanted.  Would I be a spoiled brat?  Would I have some sort of obnoxiousness about me that expected to be able to buy everything I wanted —to have everything I deserved— regardless if I had to go into debt to get it?  Would I be one of these ‘I deserve it’ adult babies that permeate our culture?  Another part of me knows that I would’ve had to eventually work myself through whatever psychosis my Dad chose to inflict on me, and I would probably be in the exact same place I’m in now.

Under-Estimate Children!  It may be better for our society if we start striving to under-estimate children.  Our culture is going through a silly phase where we’ve taken the old adage “We can learn a lot from our children” to an irrational stratosphere where .  I have to believe, for the purpose of my own sanity, that people don’t truly think children are smarter than adults, but that it’s something neat to say.  Therefore, when they say, “Kids say the most amazing things, kids are so innocent, and kids see things without the heavily tinted sunglasses we do,” I take it with a grain of salt.  I have had friends further these cliches and leave me with the idea that some part of them believes it (as a result, this humble observer, believes can only arrive after all the other parts have lost so many wars over the years that they’ve simply given up).  Kids are sponges and balls of clay.  They have very few original thoughts, and the few original thoughts they are usually gibberish.  They know nothing, except what they’re taught, and when they’re caught, and every kid I know now is just as malformed and uninformed as every kid I knew when I was a kid.

Freaks are people too ya’ know.  There was a daily parade of freaks that worked with me on an overnight shift.  When I watched this parade exit the building one day, it dawned on me that each of these freaks had a story that was aching to be told.  Most of them did not want those stories told though.  Most of them didn’t think they had stories, or the kind of stories I tell.  Most of them suffered from the Pinocchio syndrome, a desire to be normal boys and girls.  The further away from normal these people, of varying ages were, the more convinced they were of their normalcy.  Most people like you won’t hear their stories, however, because there’s a fear that you’re too normal, and you will judge them harshly from that vantage point.  They only tell their stories to one of their own.  Call it a gift, a curse, or a truth that I am as yet unaware of, but I convinced them that I am one of them.

Psychology fills the gap.  How do politicians and writers manipulate their audience?  They know their psychology.  I cannot imagine a writer, or a politician, succeeding in their craft without first knowing a lot about psychology.  Maybe a politician can, due to the fact that they’re usually figureheads among an enormous staff that has a finger on who you are and what makes you tick, and they feed that information into the politician’s Tele-Prompter.  A big town writer, writing small-time blogs, can’t get away with that though.  They have to have an insatiable hunger for what makes humans tock, and tick, and a progression to psychology is a natural one, for in most cases the science of writing, and the science of psychology are much the same science.       

idealisticIrrational Idealism.  I was once of an irrationally idealistic mind.  “I agree that America is the best country in the world, but who’s to say that we can’t all make it better?” was one of my favorite replies.  Those currently of an idealistic mind approach me in a manner I used to approach traditional thinkers, with the mindset that this is the first, idealistic thought I’ve ever encountered.  Most idealistic thinkers believe that their individualistic twist on an issue is one that has never been considered before.  Most idealistic thinkers cannot conceive of the idea that they’re wrong, for they’ve conceived of the idea on their own, based upon their relative influences.  Most idealistic thinkers believe that the only reason traditional thinkers stubbornly cling to traditional thinking is that they have never truly considered the idealistic thinkers open-minded ideals before.  Most idealistic thinkers cannot fathom the idea that you’ve “been there, done that”, and that you don’t believe their ideas and ideals are effective based on your experiences in life.

Money Falling on Happy BusinessmanMoney can Buy some Happiness.  A 2010 study suggests that $75,000 a year is enough to make a person happy?  Why?  To be truly happy, the study suggests, a person needs only enough money to be able to afford certain products, a certain amount of freedom, and the ability to avoid worrying about bills.  A person that makes $100,000 a year doesn’t necessarily have greater emotional well-being, and they have no extra day-to-day happiness, than a person that makes $80,000 when all of the individual variables are taken out to achieve a general rule.  $75,000 appears to be the leveling off point, or what the researchers call a financiohappiness ceiling, at which an individual can afford all of the luxuries of life without worrying about bills.  Or, as Henry David Thoreau once said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”{1}  Does this mean that a man should cease striving to be better, with more money in his pocket as a product of that increased stature, no, but the study suggests that his happiness will probably not increase in relation to his pocket book.  While that is a provocative idea, some would suggest that contrary to everything Hollywood has ever told you, it is the striving to be better that makes one happy, and money is simply a happy byproduct that defines better.  If your driving force in life is attaining more money, and buying certain products, you’ll probably not be happier with more.

The Pursuit of Happiness.  Hollywood movies teach us to never settle, and that we deserve better.  Sports teach us to never be satisfied, and that we deserve more.  The pursuit of happiness may break down to focusing on what we currently earn versus what we think we deserve.  When asked if he felt he deserved a National Championship after all those years of near-misses, Nebraska Conhuskers coach, Dr. Tom Osborne, said: “There’s no such thing as deserve in college football.  If a coach wins a National Championship, he has earned it in that particular year.”  When one earns a dollar, there is often little question of his worth.  You may believe that you deserve more, but as the old saying goes, “You are only worth what someone is willing to pay.”  With that in mind, we have a concretized grasp on that which we’re worth in life, but some part of us believes that we deserve more.  Earned is something one works for and is rewarded upon receipt, and deserve is some existential definition of something we feel we should have based on the fact that we’re still alive.  Controlling for variables in institutions of higher learning, and most union work, it is found that most institutions don’t pay one more for being alive another year.  Most raises, given to those in the real world, are meritorious (i.e. earned).

When we see those neighbors that don’t work as hard as we do, and we realize that they’re happier than us, we think we deserve to be happier too.  We don’t know what it is that will make us happier, but we’re in a perpetual pursuit of it.  We’re usually unsatisfied with the result, because the relative definition of deserve is relative to that which we seek, which we don’t know and never will.  If a spouse questions this psychosis, we let them know that we aren’t the type to settle.  We also tell them that we deserve better, and we move onto those greener pastures.  In this selfish pursuit of a definition of happiness that we deserve, a definition usually steeped in stupid, self-serving decisions, we incidentally affect the ancillary victims (our kids) of our lives, so that they are perpetually unhappy in pursuit of this definition of happiness that we’ve passed onto them.

Monogamy is Constraining.  I used to claim that I would not conform to the constraints of monogamy, until I began defining myself within “my monogamy”.  My monogamy is not your monogamy, and no one else can define it for me. Once I began defining my monogamy, I realized a degree of fulfillment that the single life could never achieve. Once I realized the inner core to my monogamy, I also realized something that couldn’t be defined by anyone else.  That cliché that when you fall in love, you think you’re the only person that has ever been in love, is so true, because you get to define it month by month, day by day.

Why does this girl love me?  I have no idea, but the inquiry challenges me.  I, like most people my age, think of myself as a little, unruly child unworthy of love that will eventually be discovered once she unzips the zipper in the back of my neck to realize the monster that I really am.  The truth is that she has defined me in certain ways, and I have evolved myself to meet a new standard.  She has deprived me of that sense of emptiness I used to feel every day, that angst that drove me to write beautiful, provocative prose, but in its place is this sense of completion that only I can define.

I used to abhor holidays too, and though I didn’t go so far as to not participate in them, I saw all of them as false and conformist.  I wanted something out of holidays and relationships that no one could give me … until I started giving to them.  As they say, “It is far more rewarding to give than to receive.”  Therein lies the key, once you start giving to a relationship, you start down the road to completion.  Once you sacrifice that portion of yourself that used to define you as a strong, single, and rebellious person, you start to realize who you really are, and what you can be.  The single life seems so rewarding in the rock star, Hollywood light, until that light begins to expose the underbelly of your empty existence.

I would never claim that my solutions are for everyone, but I can say that you’ll never know yourself completely until you are involved with another person long term.  The “constraints” of monogamy actually freed me up more than anything else I’ve ever experienced.  Trying to get another person to love me, every day, changed me in ways I couldn’t understand, until I began to experience them for myself.  I realized that my definition of the constraints of monogamy were wrong once I began defining my monogamy with “the right person” to assist me through a life of consistency and normalcy.

Something Shocking.  As our culture moves to a more permissive state, I can’t help but wonder if creativity will eventually become its casualty.  Television programming is better now than it has ever been.  I realize that every person believes in their own superlatives, but it’s my contention that there are numerous mid-level programs on the air now, that are superior in all ways to the top programs of the past generation.  Is this a result of more competition, from internet programming and cable, or does it have something to do with the fact that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has loosened the standards on TV?  Most TV watchers, of a given age, don’t think it’s even debatable that the FTC has allowed for more coarse language and more violence than they did in the 70’s.  The question is if these shows are allowed to be more provocative in these ways, does that provide for more creative writing, or cover for the fact that the writing is not of the quality that existed at one time does it make the writing appear more creative, or is creativity not as necessary as it used to be when the FTC was more constrictive?

This leads us to the question the effect of something shocking.  Is something shocking better?  I don’t think many would debate that it is.  As long as that something is not gratuitous, and it fits the frame of the story, something shocking can capture our attention better than the most creative writing in any venue, and it has us talking about the show the next day at work.  As provocateurs like George Carlin basically said, however, “Be careful what you wish for,” when it comes to tearing down all walls of constriction and small forms of censorship.  “Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and you’ll be left with nothing to rebel against.”  In other words, as the FTC allows for more and more shocking subject matter to be aired in the airwaves, something shocking may not be as shocking as it once was, and we find ourselves playing king of the mountain, until nothing seems as shocking as it once did.

xlarge_dating-profileSprucing and Fluffing.  I got lucky, I say to those that wonder how I met my wife in an online dating forum.  I would not say that my approach to her was any more skilled than anyone else’s.  I would not say that I used my creative writing talents to appeal to her in anyway.  I would just say I got lucky.

“Just about every guy claims to be as adventurous as Bear Grylls, with Brad Pitt looks, and has a workout regimen that would cause Arnold Schwarzenegger to blanch,” says a friend of mine regarding some of online dating site profiles she’s viewed.  She then goes onto provide hilarious examples of the attempts some guys have made to “spruce” up their profile.  The import of her message was we’re all onto you fellas, and we think that you’re absolutely ridiculous.  The jig is up, she basically says, so why are you continuing to make utter jackasses of yourselves?  The answer: it works.

Why do politicians run negative ads every election cycle when everyone and their brother knows that negative ads don’t work.  How many politicians say that one of the goals of their campaign is to avoid negative ads? How many polls state that “People don’t care for negative ads,” yet just about every political campaign runs them.  How does the notion that “negative ads don’t work” persist?  Perhaps it’s because losing politicians run negative ads too.  Perhaps it’s because most election analysts don’t focus on the fact that our current leaders ran negative ads in their elections too, and perhaps that has something to do with the fact that we don’t like to be reminded about what that says about us.  Some may say that this is a simplistic explanation of modern politics in America today, and it may be, but I would counterpoint with the question: “Which part of you are negative ads trained to appeal to?  The complex??”

How many of us would tell a pollster that we want more infighting, more partisanship?  What kind of person would say, “I love negative ads!  I think that the polarization clarifies matters for me.” No, we prefer that that pollster consider us a wonderful person by saying, “I wish that we could end all this partisan bickering, and get back to creating jobs for the American people.”

How many of us have scrolled through Yelp postings to find what that one negative comment had to say?  How many of us have read through positive reviews of products on Amazon.com with the mindset that they all positive reviews seem to run together after a while, until we find that one negative one that seems to stand out?  We all know that one negative comment is far more effective than one hundred positive ones, but when that pollster comes up to us and asks us what we think of one particular negative ad, and we respond that we need to get them out of politics.

The point is that we want politicians to appeal to our better half, but other than the politician’s research team knowing that this is not a fundamental truth of human nature, they also know that positive ads can only take them so far, that they all begin to run together after a while, and negative ads about an opponent do provide an excellent distraction away from the politician’s limitations.  Negative ads also feed into notion in the zeitgeist that going negative is being real and being more honest with the voters.

So, online dating girl, you go on believing that you know more about these unemployed, overweight guys that live in their mother’s basement posting positive ads about themselves that make them sound like Bear Grylls, and look like Brad Pitt, and they’ll go on posting these ads, because they work, and you will continue to fall for them.  And the fact that you keep falling for them, and falling prey to the subject matter in negative ads, says more about you than it does them. The jig is not up, and you’re not as smart as you think you are.

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