An Advisory Thought Experiment

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I occasionally come up with thought experiments to keep myself entertained during my long, boring commute to and from work. It’s either that or fall asleep at the wheel (very, very bad) or resort to road rage while witnessing the stupidity all around me (even worse). So here is a thought experiment that I came up with recently:

If all humanity, with its current knowledge, were about to disappear, and you could only leave one sentence behind to help the next humans get started, what would it be?

Would you say “Wear a mask and wash your hands if you want to stay alive”? Because, let’s face it, if anything is going to wipe us out, it’s going to be that.

Would it be developmental advice, such as how to start a fire or build a wheel?

Perhaps it should be something related to the environment, such as the fact that fossil fuels and plastics do much more harm than good.

Or maybe it should be something along the lines of Make Love Not War.

But frankly, if we’ve finally managed to wipe ourselves out completely, then we have a lot of nerve trying to give any advice at all. That and, humans being what they are, they’re probably not going to listen to it anyway.

So my advice would be, “You’ll figure it out.” Because they would. And maybe they’d do a better job of it than we have. Here’s hoping.

But of course, the one basic flaw in this exercise is that the people would have to somehow know how to speak and read English from the very start. So yeah, maybe I should just focus on my driving.

Advice

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Hooked on Your Own Neuroses

I used to have this mad crush on an amazing man. Sadly it wasn’t reciprocated, so for a while there I allowed myself to pine away. He’s intelligent, funny, likes a lot of the same things I like. He’s popular. He has a lot to offer. So, for a hot second I wondered, “What’s wrong with me?”

But things happen, or in fact do not happen, for a reason. And now I’m profoundly grateful that we never hooked up, because I know him a lot better now. And I find him annoying.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s still amazing. But he refuses to see it. He’s too busy focusing on his flaws. Everybody has flaws. I have tons. So do you, no doubt. But what sets us apart from this guy is that he seems to be in love with his.

His self-deprecating humor is charming at first. But then you start to realize that not only does he believe what he’s saying about himself, but he uses it as an excuse. He hides behind his neuroses so that he doesn’t have to move ahead in his life. He clings to his quirks, uses them as a suit of armor, to keep life at a distance. His rut has become so deep that he’d be hard-pressed to climb out of it now.

I find this tragic. I also find it frustrating, because I see his potential, and I see him wasting time. I want to shake him until his teeth rattle. But I’ve also lost patience. I kind of get sick of hearing him tell people what’s wrong with him, as an explanation for why he’s alone, and why he doesn’t measure up in life according to his own impossible standards.

So I shall leave Narcissus alone, happily gazing at his own reflection, and do my best to find a man who is willing to look up and see me and the wider world.

narcissus
Narcissus by Caravaggio

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The Dark Side of Achievement

I’ve always been a huge success in the academic world. Top of my class. The envy of my peers. So everyone, including me, assumed I’d be a huge success in the real world as well. I’m fairly certain my mother believed I’d be the CEO of a fortune 500 company by the time I was 21. Yeah. Not so much.

I don’t know what little cog is missing inside my head, what chink appears in my armor, what mote there is in my eye, but there is a flaw somewhere in my system that has prevented me from taking the world by storm. Stormless, I am, despite the perpetual cloud above my head.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve made some monumental mistakes, and that takes effort. If even one of those attempts at life improvement had worked out, things would look very different. For a start I wouldn’t be sitting alone on a drawbridge at 4 in the morning, fighting sleep so as to remain employed. And yet here I am, keeping the waterway safe for the boating public and trying to keep my eyes from rolling up into my head.

I do have a roof that keeps the rain off of me, although it belongs to someone else, and to date I’ve managed to keep my two dogs in kibble, so I must be doing something right, but I have to say I’m rather disappointed with the lackluster state of my curriculum vitae. But there is something to be said for profound lethargy.

For example, all of my successful friends seem to have at least one divorce under their belts, and many of them are seeing their whimsically named home offices transformed back into bedrooms for their adult children. I can’t imagine a worse hell than that, frankly.

And you’d think I’d have more stress-related illness living hand to mouth as I do, but in reality most of my successful friends are in much worse shape than I am. Apparently fighting to keep up with coworkers in their unrelenting pursuit of corporate greed seems to take its toll. High finance isn’t for sissies.

Other items to my credit: I’ve never foreclosed on someone’s home or been foreclosed upon. I’ve never looked into an employee’s eyes and boldly lied about their future. I’ve never misappropriated funds, and I’ve never hidden funds to get out of paying my fair share of taxes. Having never climbed very high, I haven’t had to step on someone else to do so.

I think that the more successful you become, the more likely it is that you’ve had to do something shady to get there. It may have been an incremental shift in your perspective until one day you woke up in the land of deceit, but on some level you know that’s where you’ve come to reside. Congratulations.

On the other hand, I feel as though I’ve gotten through life with my integrity intact. Perhaps it’s my moral compass that weighs me down. If so, I’ll gladly bear that burden.

keeping someone down