Just Emile

The Not-Fucking-Around Club

What the hell is really going on?

Be safe. Be cautious. Don't do this. Don't do that. Follow this procedure. Do it this way. Don't let this or that get you. Plan for this and that. Watch out for this and that. Prepare for the worst. Ensure you checked all of the boxes. This is going to get you. That will befall you. This is wrong with the country. That is wrong with the world. This and that is going to happen.

Does being a human being now mean to be a frail cowering pathetic lump of soft wet shit?

Why have we forgotten ...

... that we are strong. ... that we can fight. ... that our bodies are built for health. ... that we don't die that easily. ... that we are the predators. ... that we are the competition. ... that we can do miracles. ... that we are so damn powerful.

Why do we choose to live like ants again and again and again. So afraid of everything, so cautious of everything.

I'd rather court death and destruction than experience life with such a scared and impoverished spirit.

Lazy people use this asshole phrase all the time ... “Well, I'm only human”.

Well it's time to leave out the “only”.

Guess what. I am human, and I am part of the not-fucking-around club and I am not fucking around any more.

To be wild or to be dead. Fuck everything else.

The Gift

I am a fan of the work of author and speaker Brother David Steindl-Rast. He is a Benedictine monk who has spent quite a bit of time with Buddhists. Quite an interesting person.

In one of his talks, he makes what I find to be a very salient point. He makes the point that every hour of our lives that is dispensed to us is actually a gift that is freely given. He was deliberate in not making the point from a religious perspective, but rather from a view that is grounded in common sense, in observation.

For instance, I don't actually have to do any work to be given another hour of my life. I don't have to work some magic, come up with some elaborate plan, or make any sort of calculations. The next hour of my life that I have is actually received by me, given to me, as a gift. I don't believe in God in the manner that most people do, but even an atheist would find it difficult to deny the reality of this gift.

Steindl-Rast, in a very crafty way, then makes the point that the normal human response when you are given a gift is to be thankful or grateful. This leads into gratefulness. And further, you don't have to be grateful to someone or something. You can actually just be grateful for the thing that you recognize as a gift.

Every hour. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, is this steady stream of gifts, over and over again, given freely without any asking. The next hour, the next moment, simply shows up. It's given. It's a gift. And the only proper response is gratefulness.

Being grateful for every hour is a practice that has been with Brother Steindl-Rast for much of his life, yet he will admit that he still is not always on the ball. He still forgets from time to time to be aware of the gift given to him. But he keeps on practicing.

In what I find to be a moment of genius, Brother Rast urges (in his talk) that if we don't truly feel the meaning of the prayers that we are saying, those pre-programmed ritualistic prayers that exist in most religions, then it is better we just close our eyes, feel it in our hearts and just say “Thank You”. That's it. That's all. Simple and perfect.

That we are sincerely, truly grateful for the gift, and mean it when we say “Thank You”, is a powerful prayer in itself.

2020

I started keeping a proper written journal from May 2016. I continue to do so up to today. Completely by chance, I got into the habit of reading all of my entries for the previous year in the first week of Jan of the new year. This January was no different. I took the time during the first week of this month to re-read all of my entries for 2020.

It always is an effortful exercise, but one that I feel myself compelled now to do at the very start of every new year. It can be an uncomfortable read, which essentially it was this time around. It would be challenging to sum up the general theme in the writing into one word. What I do know, however, is that if I were hard-pressed to produce a single word, it would not be the words “pleasant” of “joyful” or “uplifting”.

The most frequent words that came to mind while reading the many entries were:

“Overwhelm” “Indecision” “Self-Doubt” “Confusion” “Self-Criticism” “Insecurity” “Frustration”

It was definitely a challenge to read and see those themes repeat throughout the year. Anyone looking in from the outside would probably be a bit surprised and perplexed at these themes. This is understandable as I rarely share the thoughts in my mind that have to do with the deeper aspects if life.

In 2020, I started things and gave up on them half-way. I invested time into things that led to no where. I scattered my energies into too many directions leading to exhaustion with no real result to show for it. I published one Udemy course in Jan and then proceeded to vacillate for the remainder of the year on what course I should publish next. I wasted time on a couple of “pipe-dream” opportunities that had no real grounding in reality. The myth-making machine part of my mind was quite active in 2020.

Even in the face of this, however, there were what I would like to call “streams in the desert”. Small bright spots and silver linings.

I did make some fundamental decisions that had to do with the adjustment of how I perceived certain situations. There are things in this life that are the way they are, not for spite or ill-will. They just are. My decision to resist or to deny will not change those things but will rather lead to my own unhappiness.

In 2020, I was able to come to terms with some realities, and in so doing I was able to slowly diminish their power to evoke an emotional response from me. The source of our frustrations are frequently linked to the mismatch between our expectations and the actual reality. I personally believe that the more accurately that we can perceive situations for what they actually are, the less likely we are to become frustrated. One can't become disillusioned if one does not have any illusions.

My books continue to be a source of incalculable value. They help expose me to differing perspectives of the various aspects of life. These differing perspectives add to my perception of my own reality, and do that very important task of exposing me to how things could be as opposed to how they are. It's one of the reasons that I try as much as I can to avoid the news. The news pummels you with how things are, but almost never tells you how it could be. Personal growth as well as progress made by the human race depends on that first step of thinking of a different way that things could be as opposed to what they are now. The daily news slowly and very effectively destroys our ability to think of “what could be” until we never ever even try to think in this manner. And the masses are essentially unaware of the tragedy being done to them.

I have no grand plan for 2021. My hope is that I continue on the journey to seeing things more clearly as to what they actually are, and that this will allow me to to have some spaces in which I can work joyfully and live joyfully. That's what I am hoping for. Not many spaces, just a few.

I don't think I will ever come to a point of seeing things 100% clear. Rather, what I am hoping for is increasing clarity, even if that means letting go of long held beliefs, even if it requires the tearing apart of what gives me meaning, even if it means re-building again and again. It's not an easy option, but I think it's the best one for me.

Invictus

Invictus ... by William Earnest Henley

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

Oh Me! Oh Life!

O Me! O Life! ... by Walt Whitman

O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill'd with the foolish; Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew'd; Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer. That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

One Hour to Madness and Joy

One Hour to Madness and Joy ... by Walt Whitman

ONE hour to madness and joy! O furious! O confine me not! (What is this that frees me so in storms? What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)

O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man! O savage and tender achings! (I bequeath them to you my children, I tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.)

O to be yielded to you whoever you are, and you to be yielded to me in defiance of the world! O to return to Paradise! O bashful and feminine! O to draw you to me, to plant on you for the first time the lips of a determin'd man.

O the puzzle, the thrice-tied knot, the deep and dark pool, all untied and illumin'd! O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last! To be absolv'd from previous ties and conventions, I from mine and you from yours! To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature!

To have the gag remov'd from one's mouth! To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am.

O something unprov'd! something in a trance! To escape utterly from others' anchors and holds! To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous! To court destruction with taunts, with invitations! To ascend, to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me! To rise thither with my inebriate soul! To be lost if it must be so! To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom! With one brief hour of madness and joy.

Drip, drip, drip

One step at a time Slowly Quietly Subtly Without all of the fuss Without the complaining Steady Hour by hour Day by day Week by week Month by month Seeing past the endless stream of urgent, mostly unimportant, things With a focus on something higher, bigger, grander and more beautiful One small unnoticeable, almost invisible, drop at a time Drip, drip, drip ... there is no other way to achieve the exceptional Drip, drip, drip

My maternal grandfather's profession was that of a tailor. This was how he earned income. My grandparents had one of the rooms in the house converted into what essentially was his “office”. But it was not called an office. It was more accurately called the “tailor shop”. You got to the tailor shop by passing through a small connecting corridor.

Even though that room was a part of the house, my grandfather had a certain sequence that marked the beginning of the work day. After having a light breakfast, he would shave and have a shower. Then he would get himself ready, with the result being that his hair would be very neatly combed and he would wear one of his many short khaki pants and short sleeve shirt combinations. He would have on socks and dress shoes, the latter almost always having a sheen.

The wear was very practical to our climate as there was no available air-conditioning in those days. Moving air naturally flowing through glass louvered windows had to provide sufficient cooling. It is in the tailor shop that his customers would be measured and fitted. All crafting of suits would take place there as well. The room was designed for work and that is the only thing that took place there.

Around just after 4 pm on a workday, my grandfather would bring his day to a close. He would tidy up the workshop, hit the off switch on this electric sewing machine and leave. He would take off his socks and shoes and put on his heavy leather slippers. He would then go into the gallery to sit and read the newspapers or one of his many books.

Up to this day I can't say porch. It seems inappropriate to me. The open space at the front of the house is a gallery. Period. Full-stop. End of discussion.

The move from the tailor shop to the gallery would mark the end of the workday. A clear line of demarcation. It would have been a challenge to work for longer hours than this as the light would be fading and the fluorescent light bulbs in the tailor shop just could not compare with the natural sunlight for the measuring and cutting of cloth. And even if there was a way for him to work longer, he would not have as he always saw it fit to dedicate some part of his day to his books.

My grandfather seemed to work within the parameters that were set by nature, achieving a natural rhythm. That move from the tailor shop to the gallery was a physical ritual that marked the end of the work day.

The wisdom in this behaviour is proving to be self-evident today.

For most of my work life, technology has allowed me to break the rules set down by nature. Almost always, I could keep on working long after the sun had set and the light was lost. For most of my work life, I never had a “Gallery”. One work day would simply slide and blur into the next. And in the end, what this behaviour earned me was exhaustion, imbalance and ill-health.

For the past few years, I have been very slowly trying to practice what my grandfather did for all of his work life. I have been trying to be consistent with rituals that mark the start and end of the work day. When I falter and try to get my bearings again, sometimes what I use to remember how “it is supposed to be” is the image of my grandfather sitting in the gallery with his book or newspapers.

I have some experiments that I am still to try.

I would like to work only 4 days per week, or maybe even just 3. I would like to take 1 month off for every 2 months of work. I would like to only work for 6 hours a day on a work day.

But with all of these things that I want to try, I must say that I have made huge progress in having clearer lines of demarcation of when work begins and ends during the day. So I will give myself a pat on the back for that. I am getting better. I am getting better at this dance.

I love the technology that we have today. But it serves me, I do not serve it.

Though what constitutes my “Gallery” may change over time, my hope is that I will always be able to craft my life so very deliberately that I am actually able to have that place, that spot, that time, that ritual where both my grandfather and I can take off our shoes, put on our slippers, and simply rock back with a good book in hand.

Start

Start. Just start. Do 1 minute of that thing you have been wanting to do. Do a small piece of the work, even if it's a drop in a bucket. And when you do, feel good about it. Pat yourself on the back. Label yourself “fantastic” for a few moments. Because you started.

So start, just start.

My Old Car

I drive a 19 year old car. Of all of the people in my circle, I drive the oldest car by far. It gets me from point A to point B in what I find to be quite a good level of comfort. There are the usual rattles that come along with a car that age.

I am 47 years old. So by society's standards, I should be driving something better than what I do. I should be “at a certain level” as they say in T&T. When persons ask me “when I am going to change my car” or tell me “that I should change my car”, I simply smile and shrug my shoulders.

There is no other response. My days for trying to explain the colour blue to blind people have been over for some time now. Maybe I should turn to them and say ... “If you find a way to also teach 16000+ people in 164 countries, then I will surely change my car. Deal?”. I am by no means beyond pettiness and hubris. I have those most human qualities.

Of all of the practices in my life, the practice of reading about the lives, experiences and perspectives of other people has offered me the greatest gifts. My books break through the limited perspectives around me so that I may know that I have options, other choices. If all you know is chocolate or vanilla ice-cream, then one of them would most likely be your favourite. But what if peanut, coconut or run'n'raisin was better? What if you just did not know? What if you were never exposed?

In his masterpiece, Vagabonding, Rolf Potts writes this ... “(Vagabonding) is about using the prosperity and possibility of the information age to increase your personal options instead of your personal possessions.”

People can do whatever they want with their money. It's their money. I use my money as a tool to increase my personal options. I will be dead someday. I want to know that I took the time out, that I had the time, that I purchased the time ... to really look at the sky, at the stars, to wonder about things, to create, to educate, to help, to assist, to read great books, to see the universe in a single blade of grass. Just time to seek out the beautiful and sublime.

What's so fascinating about traffic, and groceries, and concrete, and schedules, and home renovations and to-do lists?

I am 47 years old and I drive a 19 year old Honda Civic. I am a failure. I should feel ashamed. My other worthless possessions are the power of choice and the availability of options. What a waste of a life! My only hope now, my last chance to redeem myself is to buy an SUV ... Voila!

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