Let Me Have Cake

An article I read detailed that eating food to sustain life was something of a miracle. For all the things we take for granted, sustained life has to be the most fundamental. Are you sustaining life as you read this? Have you ever considered the idea that food allows you to continue living?

ask-history-did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake_50698204_getty-eAn uncle of mine contracted a muscular degenerative disease at a young age. Throughout the course of his life, this degeneration progressed, until he lost almost all bodily functions. He reached a point, in this degeneration, where he was no longer eating well. He had coughing fits in the course of digestion that caused concern. I saw these coughing fits, hundreds of them, and they were difficult to ignore. The coughing fits caused such concern, to the workers at the care facility where he lived, they determined that my uncle should no longer be fed orally. The determination was that he would be fed through a tube going forward. Uncle John was so crushed by this, he had a lawyer draw up a letter that stated that neither John, nor any of his remaining family members, would hold the care facility liable for anything that happened as a result of oral feeding. But, the letter stated, he wanted to enjoy oral feeding once again. He also threatened to sue the care facility, in that letter, if they did not abide by his wishes. He then said, and this is the heartbreaking part, that “Eating is one of the last joys I have left, and I do not want this taken away from me.”

I had a boring, mindless job at the time. Throughout the course of my time at this job, I rebelled. I talked to whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I did the work, and my scores were admirable, but management could not abide by all the talking. I assumed, at one point, that management was either trying to drive me out, or the job had become so awful that I couldn’t maintain the illusion that it was a decent job. I was miserable. I obsessed over those that had no talent, but were living the life I had always wanted to live.

A majority of my co-workers were obese. The first inclination I had was that these people ate the same as everyone else, but they were in a job that involved ten hours of sitting. My next guess was that eating was the only joy they/we had left. I, too, was gaining weight, and I was reaching a point where I didn’t care. I read an article that listed off the heinous deeds of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. One of the accounts detailed that Dahmer opened a hole in his victim’s head and poured acid in. He wanted to kill his victim’s brain, or that part of them that produced such sedition. The purpose was to allow Dahmer to enjoy having relations with them, without having to listen to their complaints. How different, I wondered, is that from the day to day life in my current job? My inability to prove my worth to anyone, much less myself, had landed me in a job where creativity is not appreciated. “Just be happy you have a job,” was the mantra fellow employees scream at the unhappy. “You’re in the greatest country in the history of the world, at what could be its greatest time, and you’re complaining? Just be happy that you can financially sustain life, and shut up.”

Routine has a way of killing the mind. Fear of the unknown has a way of convincing one that they are happy. Or they learn, over time, to just shut up!

Employers use fear as a motivation. They convince a person that they’re lucky to have a job, and they instill fear as a motivator. How often have I been informed that I’m meeting the required goals? A number of times, but it’s done in a lethargic manner. They would much rather inform their employees that they’re not, so that they’re motivated to do better. The one that achieves the goal is not the focus of concern, so they fade into the background. They allow their minions to focus on you, and destroy you with hyper critical edicts that chip away at your self-worth. Not only are you in a mindless job that eats away at any creativity that a person may use to prosper in some fashion that they cannot find by themselves, as non-self-starters, but they’re not making the grade.

We were not allowed to speak, in a casual manner, to our co-workers. All conversations were required to be work-related. We were not allowed to email friendly messages to our friends, and our Instant Message system was taken away from us. Food was all we had left, and we were all gaining weight. We were being paid to do this mindless job, and we were using this money to feed ourselves food that was killing us.

When a person sits behind a computer for ten hours a day, four days a week, the clock is a cautious bitch that won’t turn right on red. She drives twenty-to-thirty miles an hour under the speed limit, and we can’t help but notice that the other lane contains free flowing cars, speeding up to prevent entrance. We were in this position as a result of lack of talent, lack of drive, and the inability to take a risk. We felt lucky to have a job in a country that provides ample opportunity for ambitious risk-takers with an idea, but with so much available it’s hard to pick one lane to drive in. The grass is always greener on the other side, of course, but I felt I was planted in a field of weeds that inhibited my own growth. The alternative, of course, is stagnancy.

The complaints that I have/had were all sourced from a first world, privileged background, but I saw those around me grow and prosper, and I reached a point of frustration that probably should’ve led to some counseling. I witnessed firsthand, the end result of frustration so great that one doesn’t want to live anymore, but I have never been suicidal. I’ve always considered alternatives, and what greater alternative is there than change? I would explore my mind for anything and everything that could lead me to happiness. My definition of happiness, I calculated, could be attained. I could live free to explore my mind for every thought I had ever had. It was a privileged, first world avenue, but I had the means to do so. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of it?

People have definitions of the way in which one should conduct their lives. If an individual doesn’t fit those parameters, he is cast out. He is condemned for not living life the way they think he should. How should he live? He made a mistake somewhere around the first thirty years of his life. He sustained life. He entered the workforce with few skills. He developed some. He developed a work ethic. He never called in sick, and after a time, he became more serious, and he was never tardy. Once the latter was managed better, he fell into the background, but he was still employed, gainfully? That’s the question. Was he satisfied? No, he went to another place, and another place, and he discovered a cap on his abilities. He never interviewed well, his public speaking abilities were less than admirable, and he tested poorly. Analysis of his being made him so nervous that he developed a comprehensive form of test anxiety.

His role models, in life, were blue collar workers that did their job, went home, drank too much, and complained about the awful responsibility in life. These were people that focused on his shortcomings. “Where did you come up with that?” was a question they asked the aspiring young minds around them. I have gone back and forth on this relatively innocuous question. At the outset, one has to imagine that such a question arises in an adult mind when the child they’ve known for decades comes to them with a particularly ingenious thought. It has to be a surprise to that old mind to see a younger one outdo them, so one can forgive them for what may cause the young mind to question their base, but it defines that young mind in a manner that suggests that they should remember their station in life.

I’ve witnessed what I can only assume is the opposite of this rearing pattern. I witnessed young, ambitious, and adventurous minds believe in themselves. If they had questions about their abilities to accomplish great things in life, their insecurities paled in comparison to mine. They had such belief in their abilities that when I showed them awe, they swatted my awe away saying that their accomplishment was either not as awe-inspiring as I believed, or that it was but a rung on a ladder to an accomplishment I couldn’t even fathom pursuing.

I considered some of these people so different, I wondered if we were even the same species. How can one put themselves on the line in such a fashion without due consideration put into the fear of failure? They don’t mind the prospect of exposing themselves to ridicule. ‘What if it all comes crumbling down around you?’ I wondered to them. Their answer, in roundabout ways, was that they’d try something else. That wasn’t going to happen, however, for they had belief in themselves. Where does this unbinding faith in one’s self come from? Answer, it’s bred into them. They’re not afraid to try, to risk it all on something that would keep me up at night.

At some point after we spent so much time together, getting drunk and what have you, they ventured out and pursued matters that I didn’t have the confidence to pursue. They were self-starters, and they led, and they accomplished, and I look forward to eating something different in a day. The meal of the day became something to look forward to, nothing more and nothing less than my uncle had to threaten to sue to maintain in his life.

“Let them eat cake,” is an old line, purported to be delivered by the bride of King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, that suggested that the unhappiness of the Frenchman in her empire could by quelled by allowing them to eat something delicious. Some have also interpreted it to be an illustration of Marie Antoinette’s detachment from the common man, based on an idea that if they could not afford bread, to sustain life, they should eat cake. Whether or not she actually delivered that line, the import is that we, peasants, derive pleasure from food. Some of us hate our jobs, our family, and our lives, and if we can just find one semi-pleasurable meal, we can find some measure of happiness. If that single meal doesn’t do it for the talent-less minions that neglected to develop an ambitious plan for life, we can look forward to the next day, and thus not only sustain life, through the miracle of food, but achieve some sort of sensorial pleasure through the routine of it.

Eating to sustain life. Eating for pleasure. Too much pleasure? Too much eating? What else do we have?

It’s a BOY!!!

My longtime fans can now get some sleep.  The drama is over.  I have never been so excited to see another person’s penis.  He will be Quinn Bryan henceforth.  Katie Couric will not be running a gender revelation segment like she did with Tom Cruise’s baby, because she is no longer at CBS running such crucial segments on national and world affairs.  We will not be contacting the National Enquirer or People magazine to confirm the gender.  We have decided that we want our privacy on this matter.

1) Jerry Seinfeld says that “the reason we have kids is to have something to watch.” It breaks life up, once our lives have reached a point where we feel like we’ve done everything we wanted to do.  Having a kid is a way to break life up when we’ve examined life for all its worth, and the only thing we have left is the transfer of that fascination to the next generation.  “But,” says Jerry, “there will come a point, in everyone’s life where we are laying on our deathbed, and we say okay, that’s enough.”

2) “What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?” a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder asked Warren Buffet.  “Damn, he was old!” Buffet replied.  Is it everyone’s goal to live a long life, or do they decide to live the “Hope I die before I get old!” Pete Townshend, rock and roll lifestyle?  Some of us lived a semblence of that lifestyle, but we’re glad we still have the chance to hear “Damn, he is old!” before we pass on.

3) “Youth is wasted on the young,” –Winston Churchill.  A young person doesn’t appreciate their life, their energy, passion, and the vitality they have, until it’s gone.  Youth is wasted on trivial matters that aren’t revealed as trivial, until one gets old.  Then, once one grows old, they realize that they can’t waste the precious time they have left on trivial matters, and they wish they had only realized that earlier.

4) “80% of life is showing up,” –Woody Allen.  There does come a point, however, where showing up becomes futile.  There does come a point when all you’re doing is showing up.  There does come a point where you’re pursuing nothing and just fulfilling responsibility.  There does come a point where fear keeps a person stagnant.  There does come a point when it’s time to move on.  I don’t know what percentage of life this involves, but there does come a point when showing up is not enough in life.

5) “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said of the old woman, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” –Flannery O’Connor’s short story A Good man is Hard to Find.  How many times have we lost a loved one, experienced an illness or an injury, or a near-death experience, and loved life a little more in its aftermath?  How many times have we set up agendas for life, premised in disciplines, and given them up when the harrowing experience drifts away from focus? Should we, or can we, live a life based on the fact that we’re going to die tomorrow, or is that so exhausting that we will probably live a happier life in routine?

6) “Those who are going to succeed in life do not have to be told,” an acting teacher told Charlton Heston when he complained that she didn’t compliment him as much as she did the other students in the acting class.  Life is about the inner drive to succeed.  If you do what you do to please others, you’re not living life right.  Compliments are great, and we all love them, but they should not be your sole driving force in life.  The same holds true with money.

7) The older I get, the less selfish I become, the more I recognize the selfishness around me.  I would love to call others out on that, but that can be self-serving.

8) You can hide your nature with a quick wit, a use of “the force”, and other mental Jiu Jitsus, but sooner or later you will be revealed as the character you are.  It’s far better to live an honest life, with honest evaluations and projections put to others, for that will stave off the eventual, crushing revelations that are made by those around you when all of your lies are revealed.

9) “One of the most foolish, and most dangerous, things one can do is to take love for granted, instead of nurturing it and safeguarding it as the prize jewel of one’s life.” –Thomas Sowell.  There are only so many people on the planet that truly care about what happens to you, and they should be appreciated as the priceless commodities that they are.  Most people pretend to care about you, but they’re really only seeking greater definition.  They’re taking joy in your misery—schadenfreude—in a manner that is usually not malicious.  They enjoy hearing about your problems, and they may “Aww!” you, but they’re actually glad it’s not them.  They’ll tell one of their inner circle people about your problem, and the two of them will bask in the glory of comparative analysis.  Loved ones, more often than not, don’t think this way.  They truly want to help you make your life better, and we all accidentally take this for granted.

10) There are good guys and bad guys.  In your youth, you will be obsessed with good guys and bad guys.  How can you tell the difference?  Your cousin Aiden says, “Look at the teeth.”  If a character, on one of your shows, has jagged teeth, chances are that’s a bad guy.  You’ll then learn some grey.  You’ll learn that political proselytizing can define bad guys for political purposes.  Then you’ll hear other people equivocate the differences, and you’ll believe that for a while, until you realize again that there are good guys and bad guys in the world, but they usually can’t be differentiated by teeth.

Evenings with Aiden

I have a five year old nephew. I’m not one of those who assigns mystical qualities to the mind of children, but every once in awhile they come up with those nuggets that make you laugh and think and laugh again. There are times when they ask us questions about life, or when the simplicities of their life present you with simple logic that accidentally falls out. These moments, more often than not, occur when no one else is looking. You’re not even looking some of the times, but when you look at it later you realize that something just happened there.

Aiden watches a lot action and superhero cartoons. Some of the times, I cheer on the bad guys to incite him into fiercly defending the good guys. “How can you tell the difference between good guys and bad guys?” I ask when my errors are pointed out to me.

“Look to the eyebrows…or the teeth,” Aiden says.

He constantly wants to recreate previous moments that we’ve shared together. He wants to pretend like he’s a mogwai, I’m the Dad, and his little brother is Zach. Tonight, he asked me to look under the stars with him and talk about things, like we did that one night. I told him: “Some of the times, you can only do things once in life. This is why when things happen, you have to appreciate them like they’ll never happen again.”

He misses me when I’m there. He talks about how we should do such and such in the future. He asks if I’m coming over to his house, so we can play such and such a game. I tell him that I’m here now, why don’t we play the game now? This probably isn’t as profound as I thought it was when it happened, but how many of us fail to appreciate the present in our desire to make a better future?

He’s constantly in an attempt to change his world. He thinks life will change drastically for him if he gets a new toy. He sees his life as a little hopeless at times, because he doesn’t have enough friends. He blames them, to some degree, for not recognizing him for who he is, but there is a part of him that he wishes he could change so that others will like him better. I told him: “We all wish that we could change some part of ourselves for whatever reason, and some of the times we do change, because we want people to like us. Changing rarely makes us as happy as we once were.”

On another occasion, Aiden fell down. He slipped on the ice and hit his noggin pretty good. He was fine, but it scared him. He cried for about two miles. His cries were ear piercing screams that would’ve left an onlooker with the belief that he was on fire. We all said a lot to try and get him to stop, but he couldn’t. He had gone too far into this crying fit to stop on command. Finally, Aiden piped in with a possible solution: “Maybe if I got the new Batman wings, maybe that would cheer me up.” We all laughed at the self-serving solution, for a new pair of Batman wings had never done anything to cheer us up. Is that what Aiden was looking for, I ask in retrospect, or was he simply looking for a reason to stop crying? When you’re a five year old searching hard for an identity that is comprised of peer review, it would defeat the purpose of the cry in the first place if he stopped on command. People may laugh at the fact that we’re searching for a solution too, but that doesn’t make it any less heartfelt.