This has nothing to do with the incredibly popular video game Overwatch. This post is about the game I first played in 2001 – “Halo: Combat Evolved”. It was an incredible experience for me. The first night I had played it, when it came to go to bed, sleep eluded me. I am one that often has no memory of turning the light off (in fact I frequently have fallen asleep with the light still on). On that night, sleep eluded me. Instead I had eidetic memories of battling grunts and jackals.
I had never played a video game with such a responsive enemy before. The intelligence was creepy. Yes the NPCs had their starting positions, but they moved and responded to me in such a way that it felt like I was really there. I got lost in the game for a while, they had at the first passed my Turing test.
Eventually I traversed the uncanny valley and the game took a much more mundane role in my imagination. The AI was scripted and bounded. It was, after all, hollow and dead inside once you had dug deep enough.
And yet there was still magic to be found in that game, not by the games designers, but within our own imagination – in recreating a moment that had impressed me as a boy a couple years before.
An excellent story of honor, love, sacrifice… I recommend watching that film in its entirety. It will move you.
Anyway, that scene had especially impressed me and my younger sister, Elizabeth, and in cooperatively replaying Halo many times over, we had found a way to recreate that scene. In fact I can still remember exactly how we did it,
We would sit in the room upstairs in my mom and dad’s house, the old room with pink carpet and thick walls, that had once been part of the original log cabin. I had an alarm clock that was also a CD player. It had a cracked screen. It had a function to increase volume until the snooze button or shut off was pressed, and it would occasionally get all the way to maximum volume before waking me up. Unfortunately for my dear family, it would wake all of them up at that level. On one occasion, I finally woke in a panic because my family was yelling at me to shut it off, and in my haste to do so – I knocked it off the table and cracked the screen.
Elizabeth and I would play together, over an hour through one of the longest stages in the game, Two Betrayals, and make it to the Final Run.
A legion of enemy warriors, including even two armored tanks and a dozen dug-in infantry troops, waited for us at the other end of the valley.
We would then put, into that old CD player, the soundtrack (that we probably had downloaded from Napster) of the “The Last of The Mohicans”.
Most often I, but on occasion I would allow my little sister to do it, would sneak out ahead and steal one of the flying ships from the enemy. Ideally one would use the powerful weapons of the flying ship to bombard the entrenched enemy position, or at least to take out the heavily armored tanks, but in this case we would park our vehicled on a very high ledge and instead pull out the sniper rifle.
The other player, previoulsy watching and patiently waiting, would now arm themselves with the shotgun and an assault rifle, and with the Last of the Mohicans Music resonating in the room, the person on the ground would let out a battle cry and charge the enemy position. The trick of that person was mainly to avoid the massive cannon blasts from the enemy armor and to charge straight for the door on the far end of the valley, all the while the person up on the bridge sat in overwatch.
Up on the bridge I could see the full battlefield and I would use the sniper rifle to protect my friend from the attacking infantry. We made believe that we were the legendary Uncas and Hawkeye while we provided cover for our brave hero that was face to face with the enemy.
That is a most precious memory of a shared experience with my sister Elizabeth, and one I will continue to treasure.
A recent past weekend, I took on a project that scared me. I ran electric wire to one side of our garage and installed two lights, two switches, and an outlet.
I learned more through this little project than I thought I would. That is funny to me because it means that I was ignorant about how much I was ignorant.
I learned to appreciate the wonderful role of a fuse. At first it was frustrating when it blew and everything went dark, then I realized that I had wired a simple switch incorrectly. I put the positive on one terminal and negative on the other. A quick Google image search showed me my error immediately. I created an uninterrupted loop, that would have resulted in overheated wire. The fuse stopped that dangerous progress.
I also learned more about drilling through concrete. I learned why outlet boxes come in so many depths. A small project, just to add light to the front yard, taught me so much.
This was my first time to visit the historic Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, AR. Tiffany, Katarina and I had a wonderful stroll down, up and back down Bathhouse Row. We were late to town and ended up only having a few minutes in the National Park Visitors Center. It was still worth the visit and gave us a glimpse of what once was at Bathhouse Row.
The beautiful old structures had gilded fronts and architecture honoring the Spanish missions and the ancient Roman bathhouses. The interior was dominated by marble, brass, and steel.
The thought that returned to me again and again, when we visited each ornate structure, was “how this must have looked like in its heyday!”. Looking at the historical visitation records it may not be impressive that 265,000 people visited in 1926, but considering the limitations on transportation at that time, Bathhouse Row would have been a magnificent sight. I imagine it full of people and energy, just bursting to the seams with excitement. In one of the bathhouses, it was written that ladies had waited for hours for an available bath.
I felt like Bathhouse row was just a frame of what it used to be. Walking amongst the buildings was like looking at an old photograph, quiet and lonely now, which had once been beautiful and bustling.
I want to visit Hot Springs again, I want to breathe more of it, and I want to be in the history of it.
Hallucination – an experience involving the apparent perception of something not present.a sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind, caused by various physical and mental disorders, or by reaction to certain toxic substances, and usually manifested as visual or auditory images.
Back in my late teens, I had an especially busy year at Hocking College. I was taking around twenty credits, tutoring for a handful of classes (Equine Anatomy and Physiology, Ichthyology, and Aquatic Ecology), as well as preparing for a summer of adventure in Moab, Utah.
I was very tired from all the activity, so occasionally I would fall asleep reading a book, or during lecture. Sometimes the days ran long, and after 9:00 pm I would still be at school. It was an hour drive back to my home, and since I had to be back by 6:00 or 7:00 the next morning, I would just sleep in the tack room of the colt-barn (I was breaking a three year old colt that year so I had access to that barn).
I knew that I was tired, but I felt like I could manage it and just keep going – until the night I hallucinated. I had a regularly scheduled tutor time that evening. I would sit in one of the empty classrooms available to help anyone who needed it for that course. In this case I don’t remember if was preparing for Ichthyology or Aquatic Ecology. Nonetheless I was waiting in one of the laboratory/classrooms, in the downstairs of the CNR building. In that beautiful place, we had the Rock Lab, the Mammals Lab, the Fish Lab, and the Duck Lab (which I was in). It was evening, most classes were finished and students had left and I was all alone.
Rather than sit idly, I had one of my textbooks out for another course and was perusing when I decided to turn on some music. Putting my earbuds in and pushing play, Dvorzac serenaded me. After a minute of reading I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye. I quickly looked up at the doorway because I thought someone must be here for tutoring and trying to get my attention.
I went back to reading and, then again, I noticed movement in my periphery. I looked back at the doorway and no one was there. I looked around the lab to my right and left, and no one was there. The room was entirely empty.
Then I looked up and I saw the movement which had caught my eye.
All around the room. Perched on top of the glass display cases, perched on top of the cabinets, and the mounted on the walls, were dozens of museum-mounted waterfowl. Gadwalls, Canvasbacks, Pintails, Shovelers, Redheads, Mergansers – each and every one of them were swaying. Like a well orchestrated dance troupe, they were moving and bobbing in rhythm to the New World Symphony.
I was dumbfounded. I knew that they were museum mounts and quite enough still, but yet I could see them swaying. I plucked the music from my ears and as the song in my head quieted down, so did the ducks.
I realized at that point in my life that I should be sleeping more.
I have seen hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of newborn Holstein calves over the last 3 and a half years.
Back in veterinary school, I saw a black calf with white spots, or vice versa. Now I see so much more in a calf.
I see chest and hip shape, muzzle curve, ear angles, neck length, elbow rotation, fetlock breakover, craniolateral position of the eyes and more. I am not even trying to look at those things, I just see them now. It fascinates me because it was happening over time without my full knowledge.
There is some part of my brain that collects, stores, and compares those measurements and observations, without me even aware of it, and it is working all the time. It’s a process that builds, and even as it conitinually ran in the background of my brain, I never really noticed it until my daughter was born.
In that moment that I saw her present to the world, I realized, like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. It was humbling to see this little life and not know anything about how a brand new human looks. It was a token moment, feeling like the moment the window pane trembles, and the walls shudder, under the lashing rain and burgeoning gusts of a thunderstorm. In that instance, you realize just how much the window and walls mean to your survival.
Seeing her for the first time told me very clearly that my life had crossed some threshold and would never be the same.
I had a certain amount of free time at my Alma Mater, when I was nestled in that beautiful northern land of Moscow, Idaho.
The amount of time waxed and waned with the cycles of the semester. In the most crowded of seasons, I was with Chi Alpha, studies, Resident Assistant duties, College of Natural Resources Ambassador events, and volunteering with the capital Dr. Finch – that I planned out my entire day in 15 minute blocks – including the shower.
When the pendulum swung the other way, specifically late finals week, or during some of the holidays, I had an over-abundance of free time. One Thanksgiving break, I spent a couple 14 hours days in the computer lab going through Excel modules and teaching myself ANOVA, and on another occasion I watched all 4 Shrek movies in a single day.
Well one of these free days, I believe it was during a class cancellation due to a snow day (which in Idaho meant we got something like 40 inches of snow in a couple hours), I decided to practice my art of picking locks. I purchased a padlock or two and went about to make a set of rudimentery picks.
I already had an anvil, and a forging hammer, so all I needed was some small pieces of decently strong steel. Tool steel, like that found in a screwdriver or a blade, would be too brittle to fashion into a pick on a cold anvil. The blends used in coated paper clips aren’t stiff enough at their size, so I settled on the desire to find some old non-galvanized nails, and if I worked them around on the anvil for a bit I could harden them up enough to make a functional pick.
It would have been easy to aquire those nails if I had been back at the farm, for dad kept a broad variety of styles and sizes in a coffee can in the garage. I didn’t know anyone nearby Moscow with a woodshop or an old nails box. So I went walking the streets, leatherman in my pocket, looking for a pile of deserted pallets, or scraps of wood. These piles proved elusive, and then the thought came to check the old telephone and electric poles.
Within a couple blocks of 6th street, and a few minutes of pulling and prying with my trusty Leatherman, I had a range of old nails and more than enough for my project. Staples, useless to my purposes, outnumbered the nails a thousand to one, but there were still ample nails for me. As I removed them, I wondered what flyer, or missing pet poster, those nails must have originally held, and how many years before had someone, standing at that very spot, placed it – only to be forgotten shortly after?
When I needed nails, someone from the past, their reasoning now long forgotten, had placed them into an utility pole for me. Long after their original purpose of holding a flyer had ended, tens of thousands, if not millions, of people had passed them by, and yet none of them took the nails for their own.
When I needed nails, I found them right out in front of us all, available to everyone, yet left for me.
We parked on the historic route 66 in Williams Arizona and found cold and clean air a refreshing change for the morning.
Walking just around the block, we stopped in at Anna’s Canyon Cafe for breakfast. It was still early, and the only patrons in there were a couple members of the Sheriffs department and an elderly couple.
The decor was simple and antique Western just as you’d expect. Gilded mirrors and western photos adorned the walls. The old wood floor and bar, with a green chair rail all around, and swinging double doors to the backroom, made it feel like a saloon.
I had the veggie omelette, Tiffany ordered the sausage, biscuit and gravy, Katarina ate from both of our plates we all three enjoyed our food. If you like a quiet place for a hot comforting breakfast (crispy and oily hash browns were in both our dishes) check out Anna’s Canyon Cafe. They’ve taken care to save some of that old wild west feel.
Parenthood has forever changed me, kind of like marriage did.
Back when I was a single man, I had so much time alone. Evening after evening, if I didn’t have plans with friends, I went to sleep in silence. I often ate my supper alone. I watched the television program that I wanted to, or listened to the music that I wanted to (I must have played Emotionalism a couple hundred times). My bathroom cabinet was stocked only with products that I used. The blankets and sheets on my bed were the blankets and sheets that I chose. Yes I was limited by budget and location, but other than that I had full autonomy. I could get anything I wanted from the local Salvation Army, and decorate my apartment in the best way I saw fit.
After marrying, I found a forever date. Dinner out – now always for two. I get to consider someone else in every decision.
Now that we have a baby, the dynamic has changed again.
It’s a whole new level of taking another into consideration.
Even when my wife and I step out on the porch for a few minutes of coffee and contemplation, and our little one is happily playing with her cousin and auntie Emily, she will find us. She is not easily dissuaded.
A friend set up a training session for some fellows in our new church plant. These guys have signed up to volunteer on a specific team, and they need to go through the training before they are cleared to volunteer.
I am the coordinator for that team in our new church, and we are very short handed, so it was a great help to me that my friend set up the training. An older fellow agreed to do the training, and I had two guys on my team who said they could go to the training.
As we got closer to the date of the training, Sunday at 9:00 am, I confirmed the RSVP with the two guys on my team. I had hoped for more guys to be able to make it, and I didn’t want to waste the time of the older fellow.
Everything looked like it was going to turn out well, and then Saturday morning I got a message that no one showed up for the training.
The training was Saturday morning, not Sunday morning.
I had misread the message and put it on my calendar on the wrong day. I had told those fellows the wrong day!
Because of my mistake a significant amount of time was wasted. I felt so bad, I called the fellow that was to lead the training and apologized, I called the fellows on my team and explained the mix-up.
Still I felt bad.
I felt like I shouldn’t have stepped up to coordinate the team, like they would be better off without me. I felt like I was the reason for much pain in these fellows lives – but that isn’t true. I made a mistake. I did not intentionally cause these men any trouble.
If this had been the other way, if someone had stood me up because they misread my message and they had the wrong date, I would understand and I would not think ill of them.
So why do I feel so much worse, about myself, than I would about someone else?
That was the message of what might, or might not, have been the very first class lecture in my time at veterinary school. It’s possible there were other lectures before it, but that was the most memorable lecture of the early days.
Like most other lectures, this one began with a PowerPoint show, unlike other lectures it was a quick succession of pictures. Dr. Jim said he would share with us the secret to success at veterinary school.
First picture up was of Fabio, in all his extravagance, and Dr. Jim said “if this is your boyfriend, break up with him”.
Then a picture of a Black Lab, “if this is your pet, get rid of it’.
A picture of a nice suburban home, “if this is your home, sell it”.
Finally he put up a picture similar to the following.
“This is what your life should look like. If any of your classmates around you recognized immediately what that picture is, beware of them, that is a prison cell. And that is exactly what your life outside of veterinary school should look like. Nothing extra.”
So many times we are distracted and not focused. We are trying to do many things at once, and not doing any of them as well as we want. If that’s the case, maybe we should take Dr. Jim’s advice and trim out the fatty things holding us back.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
Those two words have meant much to me over the last decade.
You can watch the clip that contains that quote here. It’s a memorable point in the somewhat forgettable second installment of Pirates of the Caribbean – The Dead Mans Chest.
Captain Jack Sparrow has spent two and a half hours of screentime running from cannibals, pirates, the English Navy, and Davy Joneses crew of fishmen. In the end, it was our plucky pirates own lusts that caught him up, and then he goes on to deliver that line that gives me chills, as he looks unquestionable death right in the face. “Hello Beastie”.
There’s no way out of this one for Jack. There’s no one to be guiled, no rope to swing away with, and no tricks left. It’s the true end.
Yet, even in those very last moments, when all else is taken away from us. When the future and the past are both forgotten, when all our hopes and our fears are swallowed up by the magnitude of the present, we still have a choice.
On one hand we can give up, let our pain make the decision for us and say “it’s too much, what could I possibly do”? On the other hand, we can take what we have been given, look right at what has come our way, and give even our final breath to the right course.
My interest was captured by a beautiful invitation on the door of the donuts shop this morning. It was advertising a fundraiser for the Tulare Hospital Foundation at $125 ticket price. Hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, networking, awards, and a silent auction were all promised as part of the evening’s experience.
I stopped for a minute and looked at the flyer, and I found myself surprised that a posh event like this would even be of interest to one such as myself. I began to daydream about Tiffany and I dressing to the nines, sipping wine and enjoying the gala. Yes Christmas is our favorite holiday (thus our daughter has a French middle name – Noelle), and yes I am happy to support the hospital, but I think the real allure… was status.
I believe the attraction I felt, in that moment, was the chance to feel high-society. At such an event, I could tell myself the story of mystique and sophistication, and I would have the chance to play the role of a wealthy elite.
I don’t know why I felt this today. Perhaps it is because I watched a couple episodes of Frasier last night, with all of it’s tongue in cheek refinement and erudition. Perhaps it is because I am adjusting to the life I now live with a 14 month old, and the regular public displays of goofiness I provide. Perhaps I am feeling rather unrefined.
As an aside, when my daughter, seated next to me in her carseat while I drive to town, hands me her WubbaNub Baby Giraffe (pacifier), what am I to do except for to begin sucking on the pacifier? When I can so easily delight her, and make her smile, a smile which is like a thousand gold sunsets, how can I not accept the gift from her – no matter how much posterity I give up? And when someone driving the other way seems to recognize me and gives me a very questioning look, what can I do except wave and smile?
I thought that, by now, this would be easier. I expected that after a hundred public posts, I wouldn’t feel any more fear sharing my thoughts.
Kind of like preg-checking cows. I thought that the pain was going to go away from that too. My arms were bruised, sore, and swollen for the first few weeks on this job. Early on, every next cow was yet another stab of pain. In the same way, the first posts here made me sweat a little, made me second guess myself at every little sound of an incoming email or text. It was that thought, way in the back of my mind, saying it would be someone angry at me for something I wrote, saying it would be someone telling me how wrong I am.
I don’t feel like I am injured on every cow anymore. Sometimes it still hurts, sometimes my wrist has still ached, and my forearm occasionally tender, but it is manageable. The pain doesn’t prevent me from doing my job anymore. The pain is there. The pain is real. There are even many things I do now to prevent injury ….but the pain is not what guides me.
And also with these posts. The fear must still be addressed. Like a feral dog just outside the light, the temptation to hide, to mince my words, to water down my thoughts, to avoid saying the hard things, to make everything a little softer than I truly believe it should be – is still there.
There is a time for soft words, and there is a time to speak the hard things. Proverbs 27 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. That isn’t a very pleasant picture to my mind – two pieces of iron grinding against one another. I don’t find it comfortable to think about being one of those blades, and yet as I mature, I find good coming from that place of conflict. Not always comfortable, not always pleasant, but good.
The laundry didn’t get washed last night, and I still don’t know the root cause. We loaded the machine as normal, set the cycle like we have hundreds of times before, and then nothing exciting happened.
The drum began to spin gently, the lid locked tight, the pump tried to push out any residual water, but the new never filled the basin. It was such a lackluster breakdown. A quiet spin that went nowhere, a couple sad beeps, and a soft reset.
I checked the water pressure – good. I checked the water filters – looked good but I didn’t get them out of the line yet.
I went to handy Google, and found quite the plethora of similar complaints. The one that is most exciting is right here. It’s an in-depth technical walkthrough of troubleshooting. Yes there is a warning about needing the necessary expertise to go through it…but I have a voltmeter (which up until writing this post I thought was spoken as vol-timm-iter) and I have a basic understanding of electricity.
With time and patience, I think this could turn out to be like the auto-mechanical projects I’ve taken on, very rewarding at the end!
I’ve been holding onto a hundred different ropes. Every one of them is a thread running to something in my life – something that I believe has potential. Something wild to be taken and tamed. It’s high time to let go of some of those ropes.
All this time, I am eagerly anticipating that day when I defeat a Bengal tiger at the end of one of those ropes.
Anyone can subdue a lamb. Many have tied up a calf. It is nothing extraordinary to catch a squirrel.
The future belongs to the one who bears the gaze of the tiger, and then binds it.
I’ve been waiting and preparing for that life or death dance with that proud beast.
The myriad of squawking chickens and noisy toy monkeys on the end of my ropes are distractions. It’s time to let them go.
It’s time, with both hands, to take hold of the line that leads directly to the snapping jaws.
The sun, having once again run it’s magnificent course over the day, begrudgingly settles below the horizon. Casting a final few rays of gold and bathing the whole of the western skyline in red flames, it signals the conclusion of a fine autumn day. We left our walls and our shelters, those frames of wood and iron that surround us with only what we know, that separate us from every wild and lurking thing in this world. We went out into the fields, forests, rivers, and mountains at dawn, but it is now dusk, and we return to our homefires. We latch the doors and make light of our own, but no matter how many bulbs are burning – the night is always close by and the darkness presses in through our windows. As our eyelids get heavy, we find the comfort of our beds and rest our heads upon pillows. Sleep inexorably approaches. Consciousness slips away, and within the confines of our small fortresses, we drift upon dreams. Out there, out where the burgeoning darkness consumes the face of the earth, many creatures are just beginning to stir themselves into action. The heat of the sun made them hide all the day long, but now it is night, now it is their turn to roam the streets, and they are hungry.
I am always with myself by necessity, but I am learning that I can also choose to be with myself.
In the same way that I can be, physically present, with my family, and at other times I can choose to be present emotionally and cognitively.
A family member once told me they were in between jobs and had been asked by a friend to care for their friend’s home over several weeks one winter. This home was a small mansion that sat on a lake in Minnesota, and my family member’s responsibility would be watching over the home and taking the family Golden Retriever out for regular exercise, and they would be paid to boot. I was starstruck at the thought of that. What a glorious winter that would be. No deadlines. No expecations. Just the chance to be present, in a luxury home, in the glorious Minnesota winter.
I pictured lots of hot tea and cider, beautiful snow all the time, a warm fire and good books. Oh what a dream. My family member said they didn’t know if they would take the opportunity because “I don’t know if I like myself enough to be with alone with myself that long”. He went on to say that he didn’t think it would be as much of an issue for me, but that it was a real struggle for him. That comment made me think deeply.
It’s been a decade since that conversation, and as each day passes, I am learning more about present with myself and being OK about that. I am not the same man I was yesterday, and tomorrow will be a new day again, but the beautiful gift and the only place I can ever be, is right here, today.
I had a long conversation with a friend today. We covered politics, evolution, finances, college experiences and more. He would throw false dichotomies at me in jest as we got into a debate. I thought there was a single word, or a common expression, for a false dichotomy, but I couldn’t remember it right away. As almost any other 21st century westerner would do, I went to Google and searched the term.
I found this elegant piece on the importance of false dichotomies in programming. I immediately realized that I have relied entirely on constraining the inputs to my system, and I haven’t built in any handlers for when those inputs are novel. This gives me yet another way to make my next project a little more robust and a little more flexible.
Anyway, this conversation got me thinking about all the false dichotomies I have thrown myself into.
“I have to do exactly what the client wants, or they will hate me forever.”
“If there is any kind of setback, I must be going the wrong way.”
“I have to excersise for a full hour, or it’s not worth exercising at all.”
I spent a good portion of one long Ohio summer at my best friends house. I was 18 going on 19 that year. Josiah and I spent countless hours playing ping pong, hunting, and riding four wheelers that year. One evening some of his parents friends were over, and one of the ladies brought two new brake pads for her oldsmobile and she asked if Josiah’s dad, Chris, would change them out for her.
Chris said “sure, we will change them for you” and looking at Josiah and me, he said “why don’t you two go ahead and do that”.
I had never changed the brakes on a car before. He knew it wouldn’t be very difficult for us, since they were just disk brakes. Plus Chris had all the tools we needed; a nice floor jack, a compressor, and an impact wrench with all the bits we could want. It seemed scary at the start, because the brakes going out from a mistake we made would be devastating, but we got right at it anyway. We soon saw that it was just a series of little steps, and we had the capability to do it. So we went right to town, jacked up the car, took the old disks off and replaced them with the new ones. We made sure the calipers were freely movable, we bled the lines to ensure there wasn’t any air left in them and we checked the brake fluid up top.
It really didn’t take us too long, and then we asked Chris if we did it right. He said that sounded about right, so we took it for a test drive. I drove real slow at first. Pushed the brakes hard. Pushed them soft. Felt them bite and release. It was a fantastic experience. No one actually showed us how to change the brake pads.
We only used our previous experience from changing tires, and the stories we had heard about replacing pads (always bleed the lines), and figured it out. That experience encouraged me to take on more challenges.
I spent a month living in a hunt camp in Haliburton Forest. 14 students, 3 techinicians, 2 cooks, and 2 proffessors lived together without running water or much electricity (a single solar pannel and bank of old car batteries gave us a lightbulb at night for a couple hours). We worked long hours (often 14 hour days) and slept in bunk beds with cheap vinyl mattresses. We had an experience that I think will stick with me forever, and I will write more about that in days to come. What I am reminded of most about that experience, was the lack of pressure.
Sure we had plenty of drama living in such close proximity to one another. We had problems. We had sickness and at times we had unhappy people, but I don’t remember anyone saying they “under pressure” or that they “couldn’t relax” .
Even with small clouds of mosquitoes in the evenings, it was an unbelievably cathartic experience to live as intimately as we did with the circadian and estival rythm of The Living Forest.
So what now? It seems that I’m facing a dichotomy.
On one hand I want to play it safe. Back off the challenge, turn the pressure down, go back to the place I was comfortable. Before I go any farther in writing this, I want to make it very clear that I don’t believe that is the wrong choice. Sometimes that is exactly what should be done. In every football game there is a time to play defense. There is a time to focus on preservation over increase. Consider if you were at this moment on the mainland, awaiting Dorian, this is not the time to be casting nets. This would the time to bunker down, to play defense, to retreat. Heading for safety is the right thing to do.
But I am not facing Dorian. I am not staring at a catastrophic force of nature. I am under no imminent threat. No, I am only feeling the sting of my injured pride at making a false step in this dance. I am feeling the embaressment of shooting my arrow off mark. In this case, it wouldn’t help if I ran for safety. If I bowed out of the game now, I wouldn’t have the chance to grow. I wouldn’t get the full experience.
So instead I am facing the target, raising my arrow, and drawing my string. Exhale. Release.
I once reviewed some promotional material for LASIK surgery. The video was from a partnership of opthamologists that specialized in that type of surgery. One of their biggest selling points was the hefty years of combined experience of the group.
They went on to even brag that no one on their team had less than some number of years (I don’t remember for sure but I think it was at least 5 years). I thought it was great they could have such an experienced team, but I grew concerned when one of the senior partners said, on the video, that he believed you should never get LASIK surgery performed by someone who did not already have years of experience.
I thought this was a strange thing to say. It angered me.
How could someone ever get any experience, in a world where only those with prior experience get the chance?
How did this fellow talking justify his early days, his first experiences? Should those patients have never let him perform those first surgeries? Taken one step further, why should someone ever let a surgeon with 5 years of experience operate on them, when there is a surgeon with 6 years of experience also available?
Can’t we culturally make room for people just starting out?
Can’t we allow others into the game, even if they are going to make some mistakes along the way?
Where is the novice in our cultural story? Where is the space for the person showing up, failing, and still showing up again.
We need a retelling of Rocky, of someone going the distance, irrespective of whether they win or lose.
When I had only 17 years to my age, almost half a lifetime ago for me now, I spent a day volunteering at the District 4 Headquarters for The Ohio Department of Natural Resources. There were three of us, and we were taken in the employees’ only section to an empty conference room where several boxes sat full of papers on the large wooden table. Our supervising officer showed us how to take a paper from box 1, fold it into a paper from box 2, slip them both into an envelope from box 3 and then use the little sponge to make the sticky stuff sticky and close the envelope.
For the next several hours we did just that. Fold, stuff, seal, repeat. Those little envelopes would be picked up later by the postal service and sent all across the state to former patrons, asking them all once again for their money and support to the ODNR.
There was no glamour. There was nothing exciting. It was simply something that needed done, and we were willing to do it in order to make the connection with the district officers. I even felt like I was contributing to a distasteful part of our society (junk mail) but I convinced myself these letters were much less junky than all those that were simply selling something. Yes we were asking for money, but it was for a good cause.
At one point, we took a break and spent a few minutes peaking through the nearby rooms. Its true that we were “in the back” in the employees’ only section, but we figured we sort of classified as temporarily in the employ of the ODNR, plus the rooms were on our way to and from the bathroom.
Well my friend Jerrod noticed a coat rack in the one of the other rooms, and hanging up on that rack was that unmistakable symbol of the Ohio Wildlife Officer, a forest green jacket. This one was the winter model, complete with the fur lining around the neck. We stood in awe for a second and then Jerrod took it and put it on. One by one we tried it on, the coat worn by those select few who had achieved what we all dreamed, to be a game warden.
I was suprised at how I felt when I put it on. I immediately knew that it was too large for me. I wasn’t ready to wear that coat. I was just a kid, and someone in that position had a heck of a lot more experience, wisdom, and age than I did. I was an imposter. Now at 31 years old I am learning more and more that I can never, ever, be ready for every situation.
I am learning the art of navigating troubled waters. I am learning to live with the flames close by. I am learning to walk in the light that I have, even when all else is dark around.
In the last few months I have been reading novels again. I read the first three of the Dune series; Dune, Dune Messiah and finally Children of Dune. I was surprised by the third installment and found it quite a bit more compelling than the first two had been for me. This post isn’t really about the Dune series though. This is the about the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Pendergrast novels. I’ve now read several of their books; Reliquary, A Still Life of Crows, White Fire, Cemetary Dance and The Cabinet of Curosities, and I am just now beginning to read Brimstone (the first in the Diogenes trilogy).
I thought that The Cabinet of Curiosities was fantastic. It kept me guessing right up until the end, the pace was enjoyable, the characters had heart. The experience of reading it was a pleasure. And yet, what I find most fascinating is that it was nothing exotic. The characters were attainable, the environment was not extravagant, and the names were (mostly) common. They didn’t have to create intercontinental political systems (G.O.T.) or a myriad of new kinds of creatures and experiences (H.P.), or a carefully constructed theology and thick plot (L.O.T.R.).
Preston and Child took the pieces of life we already experience, and simply looked at them in a new way. Maybe you could say that is what all authors do anyway. Relationships, values, virtues, vices…all those things we are already familiar with we look at from a new perspective when we read. Even so, I thought it was impressive that they could tell a good story in The Cabinet Of Curiosities without ever getting too exotic.
Further, I don’t know authors maintain the multitude of elements in their stories, and yet remain consisent. I have tried to organize my daydreams into an acceptible form for a novel, but they have always seemed to fracture and splinter within my mind, creating a plethora of frayed-strands and disjointed fragments.
Maybe it is the memory trip that Agent Pendergrast so often relies on. What if Preston and Child are actually telling us about their creative process when they describe Pendergrasts deep meditation.
When they weave the novel together, with the feints and intertwined characters, do they let Pendergrast himself show them the way the story unfolds?
Finally, the question that I have often asked myself. In the creative process, how much effort should I place on structure and method, and how much should I “let the block of wood tell me what it should be carved into”?
James Bond stories are so much fun. I’ve never read the books, but I enjoy the films. However, it seems the more I think about them, the more I think that they aren’t really anything special.
Let us briefly consider, from an exegetical standpoint, the films Tomorrow Never Dies and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. A man well trained, in both social and martial arts, faces off with a very wealthy villian bent on world domination. Hostages are taken. Ruses and double crosses abound. The villain is at the very brink of acquiring the coveted resources, but at the last moment our hero defeats the malefactor in hand-to-hand combat and the world is saved. These two stories (and inumerable others to boot) fundamentally share a common structure, but they take place in very different environments.
With James Bond, we have a British MI6 agent that gets romantically involved with every woman in reach. China and Russia are major players. Advanced digital technology is the coveted resource. Naval and air warfare are backdrop for the conflict, and our hero has all manner of gadgets at his disposal.
In Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, we see a man who gets into a lifelong romantic relationship (against his mentor’s advice). The Confederates States of America and the Union are the teams. Silver is what everyone wants. Steam engines and horse-drawn carriages are popular, and we have an ax that turns into a shotgun.
So all this makes me wonder how many other stories are simply re-cloaking of the same ideas and fundamental struggles? The protagonist could be faithful and good-natured, Lincoln, and a part of us longs to be like that. Or the protaganist could be reckless and a playboy like James Bond, and we are fascinated by his response.
Many relationships have ended with a crumble rather than a fire. Not romantic relationships, but friendships. People I shared meals and classes and events with. Our connection often just faded out.
Weeks apart turn into years without talking, and then so much has happened in both lives that it is hard to find that shared common ground we once had. No animosity, no malice, no ill will…just a changing of the times and a divergence of life paths.
In the multitude of varied riffles and eddies in life’s current, be like the sea otter and hang on tightly to those you don’t want to lose.
I’ve listened to many hours of Tim Ferris (@tferris), and read one of his books. He has liked one of my tweets about him once.
I regularly listen to an ex-attorney, now-excellent-interviewer, Jordan Harbinger (@JordanHarbinger). Jordan tweeted at me. Once.
I have listened to almost all the episodes of EntreLeadership with Ken Coleman (@KenColeman). I wrote Ken a physical letter once, and he read it on the show. So that’s cool.
I listen, and reslisten, to Seth Godin on his podcast Akimbo (@ThisIsSethsBlog). In fact, I’ve listened to one of his Akimbo episodes at least a dozen times now. Seth doesn’t even know I exist.
I am a patreon for Bob Crawford and Ben Sawyer (@Road_To_Now). They have my name on their website, but they don’t really know me either.
How is it that these fellows and their guests (like Nilofer Merchant (@nilofer)) can have such an impact on my life when they don’t even know me? How queer that they occupy the same place in my mind as many of the people I have physically known, and yet I am nothing to them. That I know much more about them than I know about my nextdoor neighbors.
It is unbelievable to me that they can interact with me by their voice through the medium of a podcast in such a personal, real time, way. I suspect this is the same way people have always felt about their favorite authors, or newscasters, and more recently YouTubers, that in some way they know them. What queer relationships there are through the internet.
I had experienced all the little parts of this new function before, actually each little part many times. The methods and properties I used weren’t novel even a little bit. I just called a few of my own functions along with a nested loop to sort my data, created a template for it to print the data to, and a little HMTL window to query from. All I did was reorder the little lego pieces to create something that someone wanted.
The solving of the problem, the victory over the mystery and the returning a product, built exactly to the client specifications, that was to be relished indeed…but that wasn’t the novel experience today.
Seth Godin always encourages us to show up. Turn on the light. Do the work. Then take it to someone and say “Here you go. I built this”.
Today was the first day it didn’t feel awkward when I created something in the .gs editor.
I recognize now that I have uncaringly offered “assistance” many times in my life experience. People didn’t always need my help, they didn’t always want my help, and sometimes my help wasn’t truly helpful. It was actually a way for me to get my way. At the deeper level, my help was making the situation go faster and therefore getting those things done my way for the outcome I wanted, I think true genuine help could be about helping them achieve the good outcome they desire.
Maybe I wanted so bad to plant some rows of sweet corn, when all along….they were looking for a cabbage patch.