I Made This About Bras

Comedy’s not really where my head’s at right now.

This is still hard for me to do regularly, as you can tell, but it feels good when it happens.  I let it all out in writing so much easier than I can do it in speech, or when I’m worried about comic intentions or being hilarious.  It’s nice to return to this format.

We’ve been thinking a lot.  And talking a lot.  About everything.  We still don’t KNOW anything… which seems to be particularly uncomfortable for us, as Type A humans, but we’re spending more time with that sort of feeling & trying to get comfortable with it.  In fairness we’re a lot more comfortable in that discomfort than we were 2, 3 or 5 years ago.  So the thinking and the talking is where it’s at.  And we’ve been doing so much of it together that my need to do it here, alone, is not nearly as chronic as in the past.

Now, though, I’m approaching the meta state.  So much talking & thinking is going on that I feel the need to think & write about all the talking & thinking.  Why?  Because, in all honesty, I think we’re really pretty frikking great at it, and no one else around us seems to have it buttoned up quite the way we do.  Yes, that sounds very braggardly… but honestly we may be the Kim & Kanye of Dealing With Ourselves in a relationship.  We’ll name our next kid Yeezus as a result.  Or at least Kate’s first dog.

There are some more experienced couples we know that are good at this – a few may even be better at it than we are – but we’re coming up on just our 7th anniversary, and I feel like we’ll never have something we can’t talk through.  Most of the professional counselor contacts we’ve talked to give us a lot of praise, in a surprised tone, for the way we handle our marriage at “such a young age”.  I put that in quotes because I don’t really feel it’s a justified classification.  We’re adults, and we’re only a decade away from being middle-aged adults… so how is that “such a young age”?  If they’re talking about the age of our marriage, I call statistical baloney – the median length of a marriage for men & women in the US is only eight years, per Wikipedia.  Even if you control for idiots that keep the Vegas altars in business (funny how none of the non-Vegas altars are viewed as participants in business, but for all the marketing religions have done), I sincerely doubt it doubles to 16 years, so we’re probably approaching at least the median age of a marriage.   So while I doubt you’d look at someone who’s uber happy by age 39, at half the average life expectancy in the 2010 census, and say they’ve figured out life at such a young age, alas, they applaud us for being so damn good at this, and are surprised when they meet us in person vs. hear our stories over the phone or in writing.  Apparently they picture Warren Beatty & Annette Bening without knowing any better.  (That is one side-by-side I can live with.)

Let me clarify for those of you who will wonder at what I have wrought:  we are fine.  We are great.  But many, MANY, of our friends & peers & Twitter followers seem to have challenges in this area.  So I wanted to create an on-demand resource, borne out of the conversations we have during which we try to give our advice on a piecemeal basis, that might save a few marriages around the interwebz.  That’s all.  No big whoop.

So in complete ignorance of the typical capitalist habit of somehow protecting a patent on a productive partnership, though I’m sure others have tried, let me break down how this shit works.  Below are the details of our… habit, I suppose, is the least controversial noun – less so than “practice” or “method”, which I feel are being usurped by advertisers & those schilling their wares.  A habit is still negative enough to be outside the sphere of copywriter opiates.  It’s a set of circumstances, which usually arise in something of a sequence/cause-effect chain, in which each step generates an action & each action therefore generates the next circumstance.  That, in fact, is all anything really is.  If you want to understand why your boss/spouse/child/vegan soy vegetable soufflé isn’t treating you the way you want/listening to you/rising in the oven like the damn paleo diet ebook said it would, sit down & understand these basic elements of circumstance, action & reaction.  Newton, Leibniz, Fermi, Fermat, Fibonacci… all the other F guys… the so-called “natural philosophers” knew what the hell they were doing.  Observe, Analyze, Report, Repeat.  You do that for your marriage, then you create a positive relationship & can keep it moving in a positive direction.

How To Create & Maintain Positive Momentum In Your Marriage

(Like how I’m expressing that in copywriter opiates?  Blech.  Practically screams SEO Google AdWords.  I’ll bet it asks you to click it later, after that third drink.)

STEP 1.  Be honest about what you’re actually thinking / feeling / doing.

STEP 2.  Communicate that clearly & then stop talking.  I read recently that you should spend 3/4 of the conversation listening to the other person, and 1/4 of the conversation talking.  Mathematically, when you both stick to this rule, it can’t possibly be a one-sided conversation, because you’ll both shut up before you feel like you’re getting to 50% of the talk time.  I am summarily disgusted by things that don’t make mathematical sense, such as fad diets, skinny jeans, and Fox News, but the numbers here would lead to a satisfactory outcome, so I won’t quibble.

STEP 3.  Listen to what the other person is saying, in an active way.  Meaning try to ignore the voice in your head that is talking while they are talking.  You’re not in a rush here… unless of course you are in a rush, in which case you invoke The Emergency Rule, below.  You need to hear the words and then think about them – they are talking about their feelings & what you should DO about the circumstances, so if you want them to do what you asked them to do in step 2, you have to listen the fuck up & figure out what you’re going to do about THEIR concerns & circumstances.  Our own nature works against us here – instead of listening to their side & figuring out what we can do to help them, we listen to their side & never stop thinking about how we feel about it, so that when s/he is done we can talk more about our feelings to get what we want.  However, if you both want the conversation to take you to a place that is better than the one wherein you started the conversation, you will have to do both actions: a) Listen & Decide What To Do In Regards To Their Needs; b) Listen & Decide What Else To Ask For In Regards To Your Needs.  (The Capital Letters Are Important.  No They’re Not.)  This takes more time than the current socially-acceptable normal conversation with most people – i.e. you don’t have this amount of time when you’re telling the barista how many pumps of mocha it tastes like vs. how many pumps of mocha you really want it to taste like – but unless you’re Oprah you’re probably not in a deep life-altering partnership with your barista.

STEP 4.  Repeat the above steps until all your shit is aired out, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, unless invoking The Emergency Rule.

THE EMERGENCY RULE:  If you aren’t in a place, physically or mentally, where you can make every honest attempt at engaging in each step repeatedly until your conversation is over, this is how you handle it:  “{Personal Moniker}, I want to continue to keep moving through this discussion to get to a better place that meets both our needs, but the circumstances we need  are not what we have right now, so let’s come back to it at {Set A Specific Time, Preferably Before The Next Sunrise}.”  Make sure the Personal Moniker isn’t a loaded term – i.e. it shouldn’t be overly saccharine, nor should it be placating & of course not demeaning, and, if you ever want to have oral pleasures again, avoid anything sexually playful, i.e. Sugar Tits, Mr. Big, Lena Dunham, etc.

That’s it.  That’s the big damn secret.  Notice that nowhere am I explicitly saying any of them are easy.  Much like other lofty goals such as maintaining good nutrition, raising a child to be an upstanding citizen, and unhooking modern-day bras, knowing what the steps are, and understanding how to follow them in a sequence, is the easy part; actually doing it is where the magic is.  (Seriously with the bra thing:  show me one other piece of clothing that has that many impossibly tiny & implausibly strong hooks, and I’ll bet its intentions are much less innocent than simply keeping the girls covered up.  Talk about over-engineering safety for one guy’s mistake… can you imagine being the guy responsible for the bra?  Like, because of you, all of the remaining boobs, all of them, forever, all of them had to be covered up?  And by such a medieval device?  I want to know what he did to two boobs that was so bad we had to lock up all the other ones with tiny metal locks and elastic fabric that stretches unnaturally.)

HOW’S THAT FOR A CHANGE IN TONE AT THE END OF AN ESSAY??!??  Take that, Comp Lit Majors!  Enjoy your no job & weird spices & braless girlfriends!


That is all.

Team Eckhart

I just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The New Earth”. It’s a significant event, because I rarely even venture into the land of New Age books, as Borders would undoubtedly classify this, and as such this book would long have stayed out of my purview were it not for life’s intervention. In this particular case, I have my wife, my sister, and Oprah to thank for conspiring to put this book in front of my face… Powerful women, all, so it’s no wonder that, after reading & reflecting on E.T.’s work, I too feel more “powerful”.

Here’s why.

His life, as explained in the book, is not what you & I, the unenlightened might call “life” at all. His consciousness has evolved. In his world, life is a series of things. Things that happen, things that you consume, build, lust after, chase, get, don’t get, etc. It’s literally all clutter. This is not Life, a separate definition that is hard to denote with any letters, even a Capital L. As he would express it, Life just is. The things of the lowercase life are all constructs, are all structures created by our dearest friend & most insecure friend, Monsieur Ego, in a constant & desperate effort to justify his own existence. We do not need Ego to accomplish our purpose in life. Ego actually runs counter plots to this true purpose by convincing us that he is the one in charge & that his desires are what matters. Our purpose is to simply live Life, the Life that Oprah would call her Best Life, by realizing we are all Beings, and as such we are all connected to a higher Being, which E.T. describes variously with apropos but loaded words like Truth, Consciousness, Awareness, God, Self and Life.

He claims that we, before attaining consciousness (which he explains in such adroit fashion as to encompass and equalize most of the world’s religions), create and destroy in the futility of the act of defining ourselves & everything in our world on some meter or scale or reference point. My favorite part of this dialog is his discussion of how nothing is actually Better or Bigger until you decide it’s so. I totally can’t do it justice at the moment, since i only read it once & neglected to take notes. Just take it from me that this was one of the many aha!- like moments I had in the course of his 300 pages: every measurement requires a point of reference, and since society is full of Beings with independent points of reference, yours is the only one that matters, which simultaneously means that none of them do (let’s all stop short of spiraling down into the dystopic argument that society can’t function without some shared givens). There is no Good or Bad, but thinking that makes it so.

But consider that every Being is born and has a spark of life – and that, my friends, is where the similarities end. The only thing we “know” is that we are alive and others are alive. If we can realize that, accept that, and act as though it were the only Truth, everything else that causes us discontent melts away.

The most freeing section in the whole book is where he relates that to action and time. When you accept that the world and time are constructs in which you are forced to participate physically but do NOT define who you are, because YOU are more than your actions, all the risk to You/Self is moot and it’s only your Ego at play that makes you act differently. What you choose to do in any given moment is exactly the right thing to do if you are aware of the choice. Put simply, the only moment there ever is is Now, and the only Action required is the one you choose.

That is a concept that made me fall off the couch. That is some Ninja shit right there. I feel like I earned a blackbelt in like thirty different isms all at once.

Here’s where it can go a little sideways for those less introspective than even I am. Realizing that, accepting that, acting on that… In short, thinking about it (or anything for that matter) is still a lowercase life. Thinking is all Ego. Getting in touch with Life, though, is “simpler” than that. He gives us a few activities to try in the book, but my go-to kata is this: close your eyes and just feel the blood, heat & energy I your fingertips. (I learned focused breath in college yoga classes, so I take for granted that this is easy; I highly recommend learning this technique if for no other reason than it’s ability to quell anxiety & get me to sleep at night). Then let that awareness slowly creep out into your hands, into your arms, your shoulders, your core, the top of your head… that sort of trancelike state you enter when you can honestly feel that energy & not act or think about anything else… that is the Awareness with a Capital A that E.T. says connects us all. It’s the only thing that connects us all, but the point is that we are all connected. However you choose to manifest that Life, whatever God you choose (if any), whatever clothes you wear, whether you’re for Team Edward or Team Jacob (note from my Ego: I am the only guy who would even ATTEMPT to mix Eckhart Tolle and Twilight, and therefore I am awesome), all those decisions are yours and all of them insignificant in the pursuit of Life, Happiness, Zen, Nirvana, Heaven, or Valhalla (what up Nordic readers!).

All you gotta do is let go. The only moment there ever is is Now, and the only Action required is the one you choose. There is no Good or Bad, but thinking that makes it so.

I apologize for the heady meta vapors you’re now wafting in, but this post serves three purposes. First and foremost, to document my own thoughts on this book. It hasn’t turned me into Superman or Oprah or even Dr. Phil, but whatever potential I had that I felt was untapped or that I wasn’t “allowed” to tap, which caused me to worry I was wasting myself, or at least that others were thinking I was wasting myself… Well, none of that matters. And holy jumping Jesus in a jumpsuit did it make a difference in my life.

Second purpose of this post is to tell you about it. Spread the germs of consciousness, I suppose. Without becoming an evangelist, I will simply say that, if you can hang with his meta-analysis (or at least aren’t totally turned off by the words meta-analysis), you will get something of value out of reading it.

Third purpose is to publicly acknowledge and accept that I am more than the sum of my actions, and so is everyone else. That, inevitably, leads to forgiveness, which is a surprising word at this time in my life. I’m afraid that’s a horse of a different color, though, so I’m postponing further public exploration of that.

My thanks to the many different Muses that manifested that book & granted me the good fortune to be able to read it. Hopefully at least one other person will choose the same experience.

First Official Burger & Trampoline DaY

Note the Twitter above. I don’t know what it is about the day right before a long weekend, but I ALWAYS wanna play hookie or somehow make that day go away. The last day of my high-school career, I wore a plastic grass skirt & sandals and flirted with girls I never even see any more. The last day of class in college, I took a flask of Uncle Jaeger with me and flirted with professors I only see on occasion.

Today’s not even the last day of anything. It’s just the day right before I get to have a three-day weekend & take a break from this exceptionally long project I’ve been working on. And a three-day weekend isn’t even all that exciting – it’s no Christmas in July, it’s not Thanksgiving weekend, it isn’t even a day off to go take motorcycle lessons in South SF (best birthday gift ever, given to me by the lovely Wyf; slightly outranks the awesome screenplay softward I got from her stepmom and the new man-purse my Mom & sister got me. Dad got me Bose headphones I’m just not sure about yet, but don’t tell him that.)

So that means today is special in some way but for no good reason. What I really want to do today, instead of wrap up a few loose ends on one part of this Project That Won’t Die, is to spend the day jumping on a trampoline and then eat a really huge Garbage Burger. Nothing else. I don’t wanna feel productive, I don’t wanna catch up on the phone with my friends, I didn’t even want to blog. Bouncing on a huge rubber table and clogging my arteries while simultaneously pleasuring the buds o’ taste. That’s all I want. (Note: I think our arteries and our buds o’ taste are in a constant feud; they may even be arch-nemeses. Which reminds me that I don’t even want to check “Meet arch-nemesis” off of my to-do list today.)

Because I don’t know WHY this day feels like it should be special but it can’t be, and because I don’t know WHY I only want to bounce around & fiend on animal carcass, the two are inextricably and undeniably linked. That can only mean that, when these forces combine, they are… Burger & Trampoline Day! July 3rd, 2008. First official one. Aren’t you glad you were here? T-shirts to come shortly. No, for reelz. I’m designing them and then taking them to Mingle to have them printed. But not today.

You might be thinking that, by the time I’ve designed, printed & purchased these shirts, there will be at least 350 days until the next B&T Day. Ahh, but that’s what makes this holiday so special – it happens five times a year!

1) The day before Memorial Day weekend starts.
2) July 3rd. (Red Dot = You Are Here)
3) The day before Labor Day weekend starts.
4) The day before Thanksgiving Weekend starts.
5) The day before Christmas Holidays start.

AND, this is a holiday for the masses. While it will officially go down in the record books as Burger & Trampoline Day (because I said so; First-sies!), you can make this holiday anything you want. You pick one non-productive activity, and one cardiac-arresting type of food (unless your non-productive activity is eating, then pick as many as you want), and that’s ALL YOU DO THAT DAY.

It makes you feel special, but you didn’t need a card or flowers or a present or a stuffed bird (unless you want one) to make you feel that way. All you needed was Official Endorsement of your impulse to Slack (with a capital S, because Capitals Are Under-Utilized. EspeciallY capital Y’s, because theY alwaYs look so excited to be here.)

Consider this your Endorsement Capital E. HappY Burger & Trampoline DaY, everYbodY.

Bohemian Like You

By now you’ve realized that a lot of what WYLT is about is pondering large questions by observing small things. Jerry Seinfeld turned this in to being the number one show on American networks (in spite of Larry King’s ignorance); I turn it in to something commercial-free for my dear readers. I really am a good Samaritan.

Anyway, this morning as I walked from BART to work, I saw a college chick walking by in a dumpy sweater, grey stretch pants, a big belt and a big angry nose. She looked individual, snow-flakey in her dishevelry (new word – f*** spellcheck and its red squigglies). I observed her “noticing” me and quickly dismissing me as uninteresting, corporately American, and dressed like her emotionally unavailable father. This is really a small thing, but it caused me to ponder it on a larger scale.

I came to the realization that, were I not in Corporate America… or even better, if I were totally living this life for myself and myself only, I probably wouldn’t dress the way I dress. Then I realized, crap, if I didn’t care about anyone else’s opinions and wasn’t worried about being an upstanding member of society, I would probably look different under my clothes too.

What that unlocks is the ability to envision (I’m not adopting this, just envisioning) myself wearing nothing but cereal t-shirts and those black-white-checkered pants that you see chefs and cooks wearing in restaurant kitchens. Those t-shirts would be an XL, because I would probably weigh about 70-80 pounds more; not caring what society thinks means I can eat all the pizza, chicken parm, and Oreos I want, and wash every swallow down with a nice cold Pepsi. And I wouldn’t be stressed, because I’d work at a movie theater or a bookstore or as a doorman in a real theater, waiting to be discovered as a 235lb. master of humor & wry wit.

Much like that trick that motivational speakers use – “Ask yourself, ‘If money didn’t matter, what would you do with your life?’ Buy my book!” – I think this is a valuable exercise (and I’m not selling books… yet.)

If you really & truly told society, your friends, family, wives, husbands, Oprah & Lindsay Lohan to f*** off, what would your closet contain? how would your decisions on diet, activity, career, music, porn, hair color and tattoos change?

Interesting/ironic that I ponder the idea of not caring about social judgment after being socially judged & passed over by some little filly on College Avenue on her way to get a bagel & continue being miserable. Were I to have passed her in my Cap’n Crunch t-shirt & chef pants, she may not have dismissed me, but I wouldn’t care. I’d walk on, heading straight for Bob’s Donuts and the life I’m living for me.

If Everyone Did What They Loved…

I’ve got like ten (!) things competing for my time at any one time: R, other friends, the blog, the job, physical activity, mental activity, de-stressing, future planning, financial decisions, and my share (small may it be) of doing wedding stuff. And that’s just the stuff I “have” to do. What about all the things I WANT to do? Learn to sail, ride a motorcycle, get a pilot’s license, skydiver’s license, be around dogs, help people in a meaningful way, entertain people, bring new things into the world and make it a more interesting place.

Am I the only one in this situation? EFF-EWE-SEE-KAY no I’m not. In fact, we’re (mostly) all in this situation because we’ve created all these different things that we can do, that interest us, that get us going, that make us whole. Why? BECAUSE WE ALL SPEND 40 HOURS (more than a third of our waking life) DOING SH!T THAT BORES US TO TEARS. Some are more bored than others, but there’s degrees to everything.

Because we’re so bored, we look for other avenues of getting excited, getting passionate, attaining some sense of fulfillment. And because we only have ~80 hours of “free time” left when we’re not getting beauty sleep, we feel the need to be on all the avenues as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and usually even be on more than one avenue at the same time. Think about it: we add functionality to technology so we can be less connected to our desks, but we end up standing in line at the coffee shop or riding the bus while thumbing some wallet-sized device into oblivion because we’re “wasting” time if we’re not multi-tasking.

I’m not arguing the impulse to be productive. That’s great, and that’s a wonderful input into this capitalistic machine that’s proven itself as the (mainly) self-sustaining model of an economy. But my question is this: would we all be JUST as productive, and perhaps even more so, if we JUST chose, for those 40 hours, to do the ONE thing that would fulfill us? We wouldn’t expend nearly as much energy trying to put ourselves into multiple efforts, and therefore we can be more productive at the singular effort.

So here’s the vicious part of the cycle. We get BORED doing the same thing (unless it’s THE thing, the one thing that Curly bestows upon Mitch during their cattle drive) BECAUSE there are so many options out there. AND because there are so many options out there (including new ones that we create everyday), we tend to think that spending most or all of our time doing any ONE thing is wasteful because WHAT IF we’ve chosen wrongly? What if the thing that we think will fulfill us DOESN’T? There’s no dress rehearsal to this life, so we’ve gotta make this one count, so dammit we have to make sure we find the right roles for us. In order to do so, we attempt to try them all & then pick one.

This kinda ties into an earlier post from this month about the fear of dying and the fear of being “not right.” After all, why else would we care about whether or not the one thing that we’ve chosen to do is the ‘best’ option?

But for shit’s sake, if you look at the rates at which we are DYING from stress-related diseases (indeed, I believe the vast majority of diseases are induced via some sort of stress), cancer, smoking, obesity… we’re so worried about finding the right thing that we’re not even paying attention to where we are right now. We are rowing faster and faster over that waterfall, trying to make sure we see every postcard-perfect snapshot along the way (so that people will see them and remember them & us fondly), and we rarely stop off to check one out or (heaven forbid) pick one spot, moor the canoe, and pop the cooler open.

The big deal here is this: we should all try to figure out one thing and make that our purpose, our goal. Capitalist or not, productive or destructive, trash or treasure, I really think we would all benefit from pulling out of the current, tying the boat up at a cozy spot, and having a beverage. And to Hades with dystopians who think we’d all choose to be loafers, that we’d all choose to be bacchanalian freaks. (These people know crap – they spend their time saying “Everyone, we’re going to hell in a handbasket, but if we did anything differently, it could get worse, so this is our best-case miserable scenario.” How’s that for a mindset?) I firmly believe we’d all be more EFFICIENT (meaning less effort for the same amount of productivity) if we all specialized in our thing. Competitive advantage or some other economic term applies.

And no, I haven’t figured out my one thing yet. For your sake, I hope it’s not this blog. “You are entering a world of pain, son.”

Am I On To Something?

To borrow lyrics from Jason “Geek in the Pink” Mraz, let me be lugubrious witchoo. (Editor’s note: lugubrious means sad, but I think Mr. AZ intended it to mean something like loquacious. In spite of his intentions, that’s how I intend that lyric to be read. Ahem.) WARNING: this is heavier than usual. Buckle up.

Sitting on the bus today, listening to my iPod. I was near the back, facing the rear of the bus, and was sitting in that pod of 8 seats that’s just before the back row. I’m one of 11 people in that area, the other 10 of which I can see directly, thus they constituted my reality during the trip to the Embarcadero. Of the other 10 people, 6 of them were also listening to iPods. Two others were both reading this week’s issue of The Economist. The remaining two? Glued to a Blackberry or some such heroin-like device of connectivity. Not a single person looking around the bus, looking outside the bus paying attention to the slice of meatspace we’re weaving through, sleeping a few more winks on a coffee-fueled Monday.

This is not new to me. In fact, I perpetrate this attitude on a regular basis. But the following interaction (which barely qualifies as such) is what set me off this morning: Dude #3 (iPodder) that sat directly across from me gets up for his stop, and Dude #2 (connected man) looks up at him as he gets up, sizes up his shirt, his pants, then his shoes, and goes directly back to the emails he’s receiving from other addicts. As I see this, I realize that Dude #3 has just judged Dude #2. At the very least, #3 has compared his own fashion sense to the soon-to-depart #2’s, and has drawn some conclusion.

When I asked myself “Why does #3 feel compelled to do that?” I realized that it was not due to some primal survival instinct. When I say ‘primal’, I’m getting at the fact that at no point did #2 do anything to threaten #3 or cause #3 to raise hackles. Yet this act of comparing/judging happens all over the place. I even realized, after observing THIS interaction, that I myself had committed the exact same type of evaluation when I got on the bus. (This is a lower-minded activity than observing the isolating activities in which my fellow busizens were engaged, yet they share an ilk.)

Then my world blew up.

I realized that, while not physically threatened by #2, #3 was in fact suffering from an insecurity about himself that caused him to evaluate #2.

Wait, before I get into this, let me just put it out there that I believe that we all suffer from insecurity. Disagree if you must, but consider it as you continue to peruse.

Where was I… ah yes. #3 insecure about #2. While my initial reaction took more of an “Americans as consumers” angle, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it goes back to something very primal indeed. #3, as most of us are, is afraid of death. Not in the sense that he feels compelled to avoid all danger (he certainly wouldn’t get on the number 1 bus were he a germaphobe or agoraphobe or a claustrophobe), but in the sense that he knows, deep down, he will someday die and his life will be summarily judged by those that knew him/loved him/hated him. Leaving the questions of afterlife aside, I consider this a universal truth: we will all die, and we will all be judged by the size, shape, color, taste, smell, depth, significance and solidity of the hole we create in the fabric of life when it happens.

Some cultures accept/deal with that better than others. My conjecture is that #3, facing that judgment, wishes it to come out as positive, as touching, as polished as possible. He is concerned that his judgment need be better than that of #2. This, for lack of a better label, is an American way of thinking. Keep up with the Joneses, bigger better faster stronger, duty honor country… whatever your banner, the vast majority of us (myself included) are nearly obsessed with having, being, providing the BEST that we can, ALL that we can. These maxims are, by definition, comparative. Hence our propensity to compare.

Before I continue, let me also put it out there that I believe in fewer universal truths than Ben Franklin. I’m the first guy to agree with someone that what I value, what I hold as RIGHT and WRONG, as TRUE and FALSE, is quite probably the exact OPPOSITE of what someone else holds; my Rights equal their Wrongs. (If Newton were more of a philosopher, or better yet if I knew a Newtonian philosopher’s work that applied Newton’s third law of motion to the karmic cosmos, I would quote that person here… alas, I am in need of education.) So even when I say something is Right for me, Wrong for me, Bad, Good, Evil, Sexy, whatever… I by no means superimpose them on you for any longer than you’re reading about them. Live and let live, no?

Now, the point (finally, eh?): we are comparing ourselves to death. Literally, figuratively, seriously. What matter be it that #3 had nicer shoes or better hair than #2? In fact, I sort of believe as I mentioned above that there really is no ‘universal’ nicer, better. #3, had he concluded that he was less than #2 in fashion sense, might have winced. Might have felt bad about himself. Might even have changed his behavior/wardrobe/significant other because of this particular instance of the evaluation ritual. And for what? Because he believes that, when he dies, I will show up to eulogize that, without question, his fashion sense was greater than that of #2? How could #3 know whether his funeral-goers will agree? What’s better fashion sense to one person is quite probably much much worse fashion sense to another. To the extent that it’s possible for those two opposite-believing individuals to be at #3’s funeral, #3 has placed a value on ‘better’ that he quite possible cannot achieve.

We (again including myself) tend to compare each other to ourselves, to one another, to some ideal or standard, and one could cite the above logic to argue that it’s a complete waste of time because you’ll never know (save for the example of being the only person doing the judging or comparing). To the extent you can be self-disciplined, self-aware, self-valued, and likely fairly less afraid of death than the rest of society, your logic would hold (at least to you) and you could be declared “right.”

So why do we do it? If it’s all useless, worthless, valueless, how did it come about to be so apparently a universal (at least American) tendency? Because, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t know if we were doing well, if we were making progress, if we were getting better, if we were successful. We wouldn’t know because we rarely place value in our own sense of worth – we find it hard to believe that whatever clothes I choose to put on (or not to put on) are the “right” clothes. It’s hard to believe that whatever career, whatever car, whatever zipcode, whatever life we select, that is the “right” one.

Though I would argue that I’m CRAZY for not knowing that, because I’ve just convinced myself that I can’t know what ANYONE ELSE THINKS IS RIGHT, therefore the only standard left to compare myself to is myself!* And if that’s all there is to compare against, they are in fact one in the same! =. = = = = =. They are EQUAL. I would never be wrong. I would never be insecure. I would not fear my own funeral, because the only opinion of my life that I can know is my own, and that opinion is defined by my life itself. They are singular.

Okay, I’m down from the soapbox. I’m not a logician. I’m not even a lawyer (a.k.a. poor man’s philosopher). Poke the holes in my theory, start a thread of invectives against this semi-Nihilist attitude, send me white powdered donuts. And know that if I were really a student of this school of thought, I won’t care, and society would call me crazy. But is my hypothesis here (or my adoption of it as a moral guiding my reality) really any crazier than #3 going through his day and changing his behavior to meet some standard he can’t possibly know? It may be slightly more socially acceptable, and certainly something that’s easier for him to justify to his funeral-goers, and if you place value in those things, #3 beats me. If you don’t, however, then maybe, just maybe, #3 and I are equally off our rockers. Except I’m right, and he’s chasing phantoms.

Don’t be surprised to read that I got this from Improv class. Because, in improv, whatever you pick up off the table is exactly what the rest of the world saw you pick up off the table; you can’t be wrong. It may not be funny, but it is powerful. Improv, on occasion, is both.

*Note: an obvious exception to this is if you aspire to be someone else. However, this is self-defeating. You will never be someone else. You are who you are, and someone else is who someone else is. You can look like them, talk like them, dress like them, go totally Tyler Durden about it… but physics dictate you can’t be the same person.