Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22 2014. Death is not the problem. Its timing is.

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."

Mark Twain

"Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom."

General George S. Patton

One of the most frustrating things about life is that just when you begin to be able to cope with it—or, at least, to know how to (not the same thing)—you die. Enlightenment has a tendency to come late. You don’t become a wise old owl until you are old.

It helps to start by being an owl. Damnably difficult to transition otherwise.

For instance, I have spent a great deal of life eating badly. True, I was brought up in an environment that paid scant attention to the quality of what was eaten, but you would have thought I would have educated myself on this rather important subject subsequently. After all—I have been gifted with a good brain, I’m intellectually curious, and I read voraciously.

No so. My diet certainly wasn’t disastrous, but it is only recently that I have really come to terms with something near optimum (and the consequences have been remarkable). Up until then, if I was hungry I had a tendency to make a cheese sandwich (or something equally unsuitable)—and to go on reading or writing. And I have never really learned to cook (properly) even though intellectually I know I should.

I can cook a handful of dishes fairly well—and even make an acceptable omelet, but that is not the point. The fact that I can bluff does not mean I can cook.

Cooking demands a depth of understanding I can but aspire to.

For self-evident reasons, I hold cooking to be a universally required skill. Regrettably, I don’t always live up to my own standards. The good news is that I don’t pretend otherwise.

I haven’t been quite as bad where exercise is concerned—I have always attached great importance to walking—but I still feel I could have done much better, and am endeavoring to do so.

Fortunately, I have not neglected my brain. I have deliberately exercised that for as long as I can remember—both because I have wanted to, and because I have had to. You can’t write without a cooperative brain (though some appear to think otherwise). And your brain won’t cooperate unless it receives a great deal of attention. It’s a needy kind of thing. Not only does it need to be fed and exercised, but it needs to be stressed intellectually. One effective way to do that is to question your own prejudices and beliefs. I do that regularly, particularly where religion and politics are concerned to the point where I find myself changing my mind. For instance, though I am naturally of a liberal disposition, I devote considerable attention to conservative arguments. One advantage of doing this is that many truths are counter-intuitive.

My conclusions about life—which are subject to change—have surprised me.

  • Life, in essence, is very simple.
  • We need less than we think.
  • Simplicity is a good thing.
  • Minimalism is a good thing.
  • Materialism is a bad thing.
  • Ideology is a bad thing.
  • Organized religion has a tendency to be a business—and is a thoroughly debatable thing.
  • Spirituality is a good thing.
  • Racism is ridiculous—and wrong.
  • Babies are the best thing—and very cuddly
  • Women are nearly as cuddly..
  • Greed may be the worst thing.
  • Creativity is a truly wonderful thing.
  • Reading is a wonderful thing.
  • Happiness does exist. It is also called writing.
  • Being in love is a wonderful thing—and agonizing.
  • Love is a many splendored thing—but mostly conditional (whatever people say).
  • Sex is pretty damn good too—both with and without love. Works best where affection (as a minimum) is involved.
  • Cuddling someone you love is a wondrous thing.
  • When a loved one dies, grief doesn’t pass. At best, you come to terms with it. The people I have loved best—my grandmother, my first love, Bunny, and my friend, Niall, are all dead. I grieve daily. It makes no sense, but it’s the only way I know to keep them alive.
  • There are solution to most problems if you care to look. Looking takes not just effort, but nerve.  
  • Other people are rarely the problem (though sometimes mostly). I would have been dead decades ago if it was not for other people. They come in handy at times.
  • Another person is very useful when it comes to sex. Two or more changes the category—though is not without appeal.
  • Solitude (while writing) is a good thing—and much misunderstood. The ability to hack solitude—as we writers do—should not be confused with reclusiveness.
  • People are pretty good at looking after their own immediate interests—bad at going beyond that.
  • We don’t think nearly enough. We think rationally even less.
  • We are conditioned and manipulated way more than we acknowledge.
  • Consumerism is a bad thing.
  • The natural environment is a good thing.
  • What we are doing to the environment is unspeakable, unforgivable, and senseless. We are destroying our own habitat.
  • We still don’t know how to educate our children. We kill their creativity in the interests of socialization.
  • We both elect and promote the wrong people—not always, but mostly.
  • Leadership is important.
  • Great leaders are rare.
  • We should all do yoga and meditate
  • Doing almost anything worthwhile is harder than you would think—even yoga.
  • No one accomplishes anything worthwhile alone.
  • We all need help.
  • The finest human quality is decency.
  • Friendship is a wonderful thing.
  • Women are smarter than men—except where it comes to men.
  • The Scandinavian approach to capitalism is far superior to the American.
  • Corporatism is nearly as bad as Soviet communism.
  • Financialization is a bad and dangerous thing.
  • Selling cutting edge U.S. weapons such as M1A2 Abrams tanks and Apache AH64 attack helicopters for our enemies—such as ISIS to capture—is a bad thing. In fact, it’s a damnably stupid thing. 
  • Reform of the U.S. Constitution is a necessary thing.
  • Economics is fun—and a sociological thing.
  • All decisions are based upon imperfect information.
  • Risk is normal.
  • Adventures, good, bad, delightful, dangerous, demanding, and disastrous—are a fine and necessary thing. We writers call them material.  
  • The most important quality a human can possess is the ability to manage one’s fears. Nothing else comes close.

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