These Are The Most Important Things In The World

Know your priorities.

*****

Here are four things I never worry about:

1. What might happen to me after I die.

2. Why Lime-flavored candy does not taste anything like a lime.

3. How molecules feel about global warming.

4. When the word “boogie” will make a comeback.

I am not saying none of those things are important. I am just saying they are not important to me. Now here are 4 things that are more important than nearly anything else to me (in order of importance):

1. Philosophy. Without philosophy, I have no sense of values, ethics, moral character, or what it actually means to be human. In other words, without knowing how to think, I am of no value to myself or anyone else. This is paramount in my life–it is, to me, the essential element of being alive, of living.

2. Physical Health. After learning to be human, the next most important thing to me is to protect and value my life as a human. Understanding that my body is a bioelectrical machine means understanding it requires care and maintenance like any machine. If I am neglectful of that, I can not enjoy my life fully and, worse, I rob others of theirs by forcing them to have to care for me and worry about me.

3. Family. If know I am a decent human being and I have taken care of myself, then I know I can take care of Family and be of value to others. “Family”, to me, is not just people with the same bloodline. My family are the very close circle of people who contribute value to me, align with my goals, challenge my shortcomings, and make me want to be a better person according to my ethics and standards. My family, bloodline or not, are the people I know I can trust with the most important thing I have… my life.

4. Freedom. Once Philosophy, Physical Health, and Family are taken care of, I can turn my attention to personal freedom. Who owns my life? If it is not me, then am I okay with whoever is behind the wheel, making decisions on my behalf over the relationships, finances, and beliefs in my life? More importantly, why is it not me in any of those areas?

 

Knowing my priorities are important. These are always my priorities, by the way. I never “finish” one. They are all in flux, progressing at different speeds at different times. The point is these are the things I worry about before all else.

If I am strong in these four areas, then maybe I can start worrying why turtles try to cross highways. Don’t they know how slow they are?!?

 

Share

Listen To The Music

Today’s Lesson: There is more than one type of anything out there. Try a lot more!

*****

I subscribe to a music service that offers lots of “radio” channels, including several world music stations (I use Google Play Music but there are many services that offer similar music stations).

They are my favorite because I love the music of other countries, particularly Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East. I do not understand a word of it but I can feel the sentiment and I enjoy the unique use of vocals (Africa), casual rhythms (Brazil and those wonderful Caribbean steel drums), and percussion (nothing drives a beat like a Middle Eastern Dabke).

Of course, this is the same outside of music. I am not a fan of eggplant but there are many ways to make it and I always enjoy it in a Thai curry dish. I would never have known that, though, if I only judged eggplant by my first experience with it (fried–so gross) or even my second (in Baba Ganoush–even worse!). Like music, eggplant comes in many varieties and there are many ways of making it.

My point is, there is never only one of something. We do not judge all people by the first person we meet. Try new things even if they are variations on things you might have tried before. Unless it will actually damage you or others, the worst that will happen is you won’t like it and the best that will happen is you will find a new love!

 

 

Share

You Are What You Seek

Today’s Lesson: You are like gravity. You attract the people, situations, feelings, and life surrounding you. If you see nothing but despair, inequality, and suffering everywhere you look, consider looking for better people, situations, feelings, and lives to surround yourself with. 

*****

Scrolling through social media posts is something I find myself limiting more and more. I like to see what friends and family are up to but I can only take it in small doses. The overwhelming majority of posts, in my opinion, are really just complaints (including mine, including this one!).

Some of us are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, etc… to find and share everything we think is wrong with the world. Articles on people we never met who died, links to rants about politics, racism, sexism, posts challenging people who do not agree with our religion (or non-religion), pictures of the stupid people we saw or dumb things we did today, stories of abuse to people, pets, or the environment… the list is endless.

It is all like a cloud of poison, spreading and permeating gossip and negativity into the world. I get it. The world is not perfect and some people want to change it (most of us just want to complain about it, though, because actually changing it is hard and we are busy coming up with new complaints). Consider, however, how much of your life is spent seeking out what is wrong with everyone else’s lives.

Some people just seem miserable all the time. I feel for them. My life is not perfect by any means. I am always working to improve something, but generally, I do not seek or mostly ignore hate, bad parenting, tasteless humor, and anything that ends with -ism (racism, feminism, sexism, theism, environmentalism, etc.). Because I avoid these things and actively work to keep them out of my life, they are not part of my world (much).

I am not advocating living with rose-tinted lenses. I know there are real problems in the world, but unless we are individually actively and actually addressing them (which means doing more than sharing articles or sending what is essentially hate-mail to everyone, which means sending it to no one), I recommend taking the timeless advice grandmothers have given for generations: if you can’t say anything nice, then do not say anything at all.

It is okay to either not have an opinion or to keep one to yourself.

In the modern world, that may mean using a simple guideline to structure your world more positively. A good start for many is to simply un-friend or un-follow the people, organizations, or brands who are not making your life better. If they are not contributing to your life, then consider what they are contributing to.

You are what you seek. What world will you choose to live in today? 

 

Share

Was It Good For You?

Today’s Lesson: The way I see the world does not have to align with the way you see the world.

*****

I was so excited. The futon with the premium cushion and frame we ordered a month ago finally came in and was delivered. While the delivery guys set it up, I locked my cat, Rainee, in the bedroom.

When the futon was completed and placed right where we wanted it, I burst into the bedroom to excitedly show Rainee what I was sure would be the equivalent of the first moonwalk for her–a giant, padded landscape she could crawl up, on top of, and under!

Rainee could not have been less interested. I finally nudged her out of her cat tree cubby hole and carried her to the futon to show her how cool it was. I gingerly placed her on the big sofa cushion and she promptly jumped off and strolled into the other room to lounge on the floor.

Clearly, my idea of exciting news and Rainee’s are different. I say this with no irony: she would have been more excited over a loose thread on the futon cover than over the entire futon sofa bed plush mattress cushion itself.

Of course, an hour later, I walked by and found her napping on the futon. What may seem exciting to me could put someone else to sleep. How many times have I seen a tell-tale look of disinterest on someone but insisted they should be excited because I was excited, as if I needed validation we see the world the same way?

The way I see the world does not have to align with the way anyone else sees the world, including my futon-ambivalent cat.

Share

When Automatic Breaks

In an increasingly automated world, rising expectations and unexpected outcomes do not always align…

*****

My local 7-Eleven gas station had a system failure today, causing their entire credit card system to go down. It was cash only at the pumps and in the store. Luckily, I had some cash on me but, like most people, more and more of the time I exclusively use my phone (Google Wallet is awesome!) or my debit card to make purchases.

In short, I was unaffected by the panicked, confused, frustrated, and outright angry customers the employees were dealing with. I understand the frustration but the anger seems uncalled for and I see it everywhere there is an automated system that temporarily glitches.

When I used to work for a Verizon retailer, angry customers were par for course on any given day but 99% of the time their anger was only that it took so long for Verizon to resolve their problem. Some issues dragged on for months, creating even more problems in their wake. By the time they were finally resolved, the customer had already given up and was looking at other phone service options.

I began trying to head problems off by explaining it this way, which seemed to help, and addresses the 7-Eleven issue and many other issues where an automated system goes unexpectedly off the rails:

I understand the frustration and thank you for bringing this to my attention. Please let me explain what the solution is going to look like. The system works like a very big, complicated machine–a giant pocket watch, if you will, with many gears and cogs. Very close to 100% of the time, everything runs as it should and everything moves smoothly. Once in a while, a cog becomes loose or a tiny gear slips. As you can understand, it is not very easy to just jump in the middle of the machine, fix the issue, and move on. We could mess up other parts of the machine if we are not careful or if we do not take time to diagnose where it went wrong, we may not actually fix the problem and just cause more down the line. I assure you, we will resolve the issue–I can’t promise it will be the perfect solution but we will get it working again and make sure you don’t have the same issue again. Just understand, we need you to be patient while we tinker in the background to be sure we get it right. Fair enough?

 

Today’s Lesson: 99% of the time the world works as it should. Don’t freak out when a giant, automated system goofs. At worst, it is an inconvenience you won’t even remember in ten years (and if you do, it must have been a very boring ten years). Life is not going to look or run perfect all the time. The point is to remember how often it actually does. 

 

 

 

Share

It’s a Small and Large World After All

The world is growing bigger and smaller at the same time.

*****

Our world is both growing and shrinking. It seems like a paradox but think about it. As population increases and more infrastructure is built, we take up more space in our own lives, cover more territory around the globe, and consume more of our finite goods and fuel. The cost to travel the country by gasoline-powered cars is much higher than it used to be. There is less open land and renewable resources now than there was just 100 years ago.

The world is clearly getting smaller (and more expensive!).

At the same time, the world is becoming ever more connected. With the advent of the internet and all that it brings (email, social media, video calling, online purchasing, global collaboration, etc.), we have greater access to the rest of the world than we have in all of history. We have 3-D maps of the earth and we can fly anywhere on the planet for less than $5,000–a feat that was unimaginable just two or three generations ago. We can reach out, research, and explore further now than we have been able to in all of history.

The world is clearly growing larger (and cheaper!).

It is a crazy, fascinating, and strange time to live. Technology, and both the optimism and fear paired with it, is reshaping our planet and our place on it, making the impossible seem plausible and living with paradoxes and parallelisms feel downright ordinary.

Today’s Lesson: The world is just damn weird.

 

Share

Indisposable Income

When everything is virtually free, what is actually valuable?

*****

Giving nearly everything I own away has been an interesting experiment so far. It turns out much of the things I thought I valued are actually not that valuable to me or anyone else.

Being a practicing minimalist (-ish), I have fewer possessions than most people I know, but like most people, that is still a lot of things. Cleaning supplies, for example, unopened groceries, cooking utensils, kitchen appliances, silverware and dinnerware, which is to say nothing for the many pieces of furniture in the apartment (tables, chairs, desks, dressers, bookcases, etc. for two).

It has been difficult to give most of it away for free.

When I was just starting out in my first flat, I needed everything. I was happy to have any give-away decorations, furniture, eating utensils, and even unused groceries people were generous enough to give up. I think the world is a lot different now, though. Most do-it-yourself furniture is cheap. People do not need hand-me-downs when they can have brand new items at a decent price.

Walmart, Target, Ikea, and other big box stores have made most home needs accessible and affordable–a testament to Capitalist ingenuity. On the other hand, it seems the whole world is racing to zero. Google has nearly single-handedly transformed the world’s economy by trading services for personal privacy. For most people (including me), that seems like a fair trade (though it probably is not). Nonetheless, economies of scale and offering services without requiring payment directly from end-users has created a largely disposable world.

There are three ways to manage living in this new, bizarre economy, as I see it. The first, and most destructive, is ambivalence. Accept the world for what it is, buy whatever entices you and throw out the absurd amount of packaging provided with every item. When something breaks, do not fix it. Instead, toss it and buy a new one, which is probably cheaper and better anyway.

The second way to manage a disposable society is to decry it. Hold onto traditional values. Buy, and store, goods and services indefinitely. Fight an endless war of subtlety, trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle anything and everything. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable, glass instead of plastic, and never accept plastic shopping bags. This is a noble route, but it is also the most arduous.

Finally, we can embrace the new culture. Mark a line in the sand, toss out or give away everything you do not absolutely need and then, only accumulate things you need with few exceptions. For me, this is the best of all worlds. It allows the convenience of living as a modern citizen (albeit probably while stereotyped as a “hipster”) but still asks for responsibility for what you contribute (or do not contribute) to the rest of the world. This also ensures, while living in a disposable world, you are only burning your indisposable income, freeing your disposable income to focus on enjoying the experience of living rather than the products of living today.

 

Today’s Lesson: Since you can’t take it with you when you go, try not to accumulate it in the first place.

 

Share

When the Whole World is Against You

When life gives you lemons… 

***

Sometimes I feel like the world is out to get me.

I wanted a nice, relaxing weekend. A long work week was tidied up, I chose to stay home and take some time for myself instead of being social, and I was looking forward to doing a lot of writing and little of anything else.


Of course, the best laid plans are sometimes torn asunder. By six in the morning on Saturday, I had an employee quit, a sick cat, and a message from a friend needing my help. I was not even out of bed and the weekend pretty much stuttered its way into being from there. The rest of Saturday and Sunday consisted of chores and work crises (I did manage to see a movie and had a moment of respite at a local cafe while I wrote yesterday’s blog).

There were certainly times when I was frustrated and felt like my weekend was stolen from me, but I knew almost immediately the lesson I was going to take away.

Today’s lesson: Maybe the world is out to get me but it doesn’t matter. There will always be obstacles in my path, always someone or something ready to derail me from my plans (and often that obstacle is me). There is no point being mad about it. The universe leaves the onus on me to make my plans work within the context of what the world throws at me.

Share

Today’s Lesson: Roam If You Want To [140912]

Nicole and I were chatting about how long we have lived in certain places and came across an interesting fact:

On average, Nicole stays in the same place (home or apartment) for about 2 years. For me, it averages about 4 years.

 

Maybe not so interesting on the surface, but I am in my early forties so that is quite a bit of moving and it has had both positive and negative outcomes. The good part is I have a broad range of experiences to learn from and share. I have met people from many walks of life and have access to a level of learning I would never have achieved without travel. The not-so-good part is I have had a lot of fleeting friendships with a lot of people and moving so much has more or less trained me not to get too close to people emotionally. I am always available to friends and family wherever they are but I am not very good at proactively reaching out and keeping in touch with them (partly because I do not have long-standing roots anywhere–part of my family lives in Michigan, part in Texas, part in California, part in Canada, part overseas–my family lives all over, too!).

 

Overall, I think experiencing new cultures, scenery, and architectures is a great benefit worth undertaking but it is also good to always have at least one companion or friend that really knows you–sometimes a place to call “home” does not have to be geographic. It is just someone you love and you can share that anywhere, not just in your current town.

 

The world is REALLY big. There is no reason to spend your life in one tiny corner of it.

 


Share

Today’s Lesson: The World Is At Your Fingertips… [140827]


Amazon Prime is the best and worst thing that can happen to someone trying to be a minimalist.

With the ease, variety, and speed of on-line purchasing, I am able to find just the right product to replace three others. On the other hand, I am also able to find a dozen new products I never knew existed that I suddenly must have. Worse, I can lose myself in reviews, ratings, and consumer guides as easily and for as long as I can in a good book!

Today’s lesson is a reminder to myself: With the internet, the world is literally at your fingertips… but that does not mean you have to click on all of it.


 

Share