They say you can never go Home...

Soldiers of Sparta were allowed to return home after lost battles, only if carried dead upon their shields. I'm convinced this is a more practical and time-saving way to go about it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Profiles in Courage

"Of course, it would be much easier if we could all continue to think in traditional political patterns--of liberalism and conservatism, as Republicans and Democrats, from the viewpoint of North and South, management and labor, business and consumer or some equally narrow framework. It would be more comfortable to continue to move and vote in platoons, joining whomever of our colleagues are equally enslaved by some current fashion, raging prejudice or popular movement. But today this nation cannot tolerate the luxury of such lazy political habits. Only the strength and progress and peaceful change that come from independent judgment and individual ideas--and even from the unorthodox and the eccentric--can enable us to surpass that foreign ideology that fears free thought more than it fears hydrogen bombs."

--John F. Kennedy. Profiles in Courage, 1964.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Liberté, égalité, jus d'orange.

I wrote an extensively lengthy blurb from my recent stay in Boca Raton. Unfortunately it requires serious editing to be even remotely cogent.

However, for my Saturday morning return trip to Tampa, I selected a toll road over the one I usually take. I risked it chiefly on the great hope that I could avoid Hell, in the corporeal manifestation of Interstate-4, which protrudes rudely from the otherwise sprawling backside of Orlando.

This toll road took me through some everglades-like landscapes (I’m still not sure what actually constitutes everglades), and some seriously unpopulated areas. And by unpopulated, I mean no gas stations (or cross streets for that matter) for like, 40 or 50 miles. I motored along quite contentedly, the Volvo emitting its singular, contented whooshing sound as it hums over paved roads at eighty miles an hour. The sky was a nearly cloudless deep blue, and the few lakes I encountered on the way reacted to the sky’s reflection with its own form of dreamy blue effulgence.

I ended up passing through orange groves, whose nearby signs indicated they were owned by Minute Maid. At times, the highway crept upwards in certain places; just long enough to give one a view of the expansive orange trees blanketing the area on both sides, as far as the eye could resolve. Seeing oranges actually growing here in the state reminded me of two things in particular: one, that Florida is still a vastly huge state that hasn't completely killed itself (yet) with tourism and soulless sprawl communities. And secondly, it reminded me of this summer's many hurricanes.

When the hurricanes unfurled their fury upon the Sunshine State, the Floridians who were not so badly affected often reached out for ways to help those rendered less fortunate by the weather. It was a fleeting, yet substantial sense of welfare for the FL community. The media also helped the spirit along, by exhorting the listening public to help resuscitate Florida’s economy: by drinking more Orange Juice.

I suppose it could have been a ploy, but it worked for me. Drinking OJ--after all, how hard is that? That orange juice is a cornerstone of Florida's economy certainly sounded like plausible presupposition at the time, too. And regardless, it’s not exactly a chore to regularly push the stuff past the tongue anyway. So the bit about re-animating Florida’s economy, plus doing my duty as a Floridian and citizen to make Florida right as rain again—well, one gets the idea. I started swilling away.

After seeing the orange trees, and remembering the whole Drinking of Orange Juice to Help Repair Florida’s Economy, I began to idly engage in making large-scale parallels to the current political climate. I am reminded somewhat of older political posters, often in magnet form on refrigerators, commonly situated next to equally strategically vintage-looking Guinness Beer adverts. The ones I’m thinking of are those where women have rolled up their sleeves under a banner of “We can DO IT!” while silhouettes of war planes fly above their red do-rags. Those ads represent a bygone era where America could still unite in solidarity in times of war or aggression. “Scrimp and pinch, sacrifice, trade in your toaster, find your scrap metal, for the Boys overseas!” That sort of thing.

It made me oddly nostalgic (which, due to my age, I don’t think I'm necessarily entitled to feel) for such a time when America collectively rustled up their own proverbial sleeves, and joined together in resourcefulness and courage, to help fight a war from the home front. (Am I wrong about this?)

"Drink OJ! Bring our men and women home from the Middle East!" Wouldn’t that be nice? We could all have a small task to make us believe that we have influence with something, without getting all freaking partisan and crap. I think we in the masses need something like this--one well within the range of our capabilities, such as consuming.

Either way, I'm still drinking my orange juice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I swim to help me maintain a feeling of normalcy, which tends to otherwise dissipate in the absence of exercise.

Some people take psychoactive drugs for this. Been there, done that, had the vertigo and the cottonmouth. I'll stick to swimming and the attendant dry skin and losing of weight, so that I can engage in my other coping device, which is Eating.

Although the weather is truly gorgeous in Florida right now, it does get chilly when the sun goes down. And one does not relish jumping into a pool, albeit heated, when on a cold wet pool deck in little else than nylon briefs manufactured by Speedo.

My procedure for getting in the pool at this time of year proceeds in the following manner: I stand on the ledge of the pool, contemplating entry and give myself an extensive pep talk. Then, I ease myself in, one appendage at a time, and when I get to the waist, I pause slightly for things to right themselves again, bite the bullet and submerge, and finally push off the wall to begin the workout.

One of these little stinkers, who swims on the youth Swim Team before our Masters Team begins, snuck up behind me and pushes me in at the step where I am in deep meditation about actually getting into the water.

I hit the water like a baby elephant. She (the stinkerette) laughs. I fake mock outrage (how can you be mad at these little guys?) and immediately begin to swim to get warm.

I proceed to shave off so much time on my swimming that I am now considering running straight out of the Men’s Locker room and doing a cannonball into my lane.

It’s interesting how the unexpected “pushes” in Life get one moving not only sooner, but a little faster.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Metanoia Ergasia

Six months in, and I am still very much at odds with the concepts of Sales and Marketing as a whole. I am also at odds with working with my Dad. However, I am slightly more comfortable with the daily dynamics of that, than I am with my lingering reservations about this shift in my career. I am learning quite a bit through this process--not so much necessarily about sales only, but about myself, how I react to Life, and how others react to Life as well.

Firstly, I have come to understand that while I was a Scientist, it was of common, professionally-held value to maintain an attitude of diffident skepticism; one of "No, That Won't Work." Being able to prove that notion, empirically and efficiently, was an added benefit. (This shows perhaps how limited my science experience really was.)

On the other hand, I have learned while I have been a Salesman, adopting an attitude of "Yes, That Will Work," is valued. As a result, the ability to use both creativity and relationships to actually make it so, seems to differentiate one Salesman from another. Being able to do it quickly and efficiently is the difference between a good salesman and an outstanding one.

I have learned that many, many people, either through deliberate intent or social stupidity, are perfectly comfortable using emotional manipulation and false data to manipulate an individual into assisting them. I have learned that such people rarely understand a sacrifice made on their behalf, should one buy into their web of deception. Individuals can be roughly hashed into two different groups: Energy Makers, and Energy Takers. There are both subtle and obvious signs for either. Determining who is an Energy Taker preserves one's own mental energy. (Subnote: by using such kitschy expressions, I inadvertently put my Life in the hands of other trite platitudes that may find homes on Bumper Stickers, fortune cookie tags, and Successories(tm) crap. Undecided about appropriate level of worry required this point.)

I have realized that, as a general rule, I am still Working for Money, whereas I should instead be Creating Money. The difference is important to understand, being a quasi-business owner, née corporate lab drone. I am accustomed to managing the fallout; the mess-ups; the repairs. It feels natural and comfortable to me--even when someone is yelling down the phone--I feel in my element when I am managing someone's Drama. What I must learn instead, is the part inextricably tied to actually selling. It is infinitely more productive, at least in theory. It's in the mode of Creation, rather than Repair. Whole new worlds of thought.

Lastly: Mentors.

I have learned that not everyone in the world is fortunate enough to have a mentor in all areas of their lives. Sometimes, it would seem that one is asked to tackle the Big Events without any buffer, or any real reliable advice or guidance. This realization has been a tough one. I think I rather expected some sort of Indian Guide to appear on the scene and endow me with the knowledge to handle things in a cool-as-dammit matter. Instead, making it through such challenges seems first and foremost, to require intuition. Waking up my sense of intuition has been a slow process, that proceeds in a fashion roughly similar to how I wake up on a Monday morning. (By hitting "Snooze" several hundred times. )

In those moments where one may fervently desire the guidance of a mentor or a guru, but none seem available, friends make an excellent resource. They can usually pull you sufficiently out of a cycle of self-denial and admonition that has no utility.

On an ultimately personal note:

I cannot expect my Dad to operate in the capacity of a mentor. This is a realization associated with some sadness and surprise. Dad may know things I don't, but he doesn't have the raw materials to explain them to me. As a almost-ironic consequence, I do not have the character fibre to listen to him become agitated with me when I ask questions for my own clarification. With attempting to figure out a problem or a challenge, I have learned, as I have in childhood, that it's best not to ask.

People in college and at work have pointed out in the past that I generally operate by two standards in my life: 1) Do it now, worry about forgiveness (or input) later. 2) Remain occluded and vague about any given plans or intent. I used to think that this seemingly-innate capacity for Omerta was just part of my personality. Now I know it has everything to do with how I have operated as a kid. I have to decide now, as a result of this realization, what the heck I'm going to do about it.

It's interesting, how all of this stuff cracks one open, psychologically-speaking.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

This Election

I’m not quite sure to say about all of this election business.

So the US has spoken, and the winning majority has indicated that four more years with the current president is okay by them.

America has its beginnings in idealism, religious zealotry, rebellious individualism, pioneering spunk and courage, and economic lassiez-faire. It has contributed to our livelihood; it has contributed to our downfall. Perhaps this is all part of a theme, or a psychosocial character profile of Americans; one that has not diluted so much over the course of many subsequent generations, and one that influences the politics of current.

But then again, we seem to be a melting pot, and not so segregated so as to preserve these ancestral qualities in-situ. Yet our coasts are evidently experiencing very different things in comparison to the Midwest. So maybe the present (and historical) predilection for moral extremes in the US cannot explain the divide that is reflected in the bitter controversy surrounding the election, surrounding the war, surrounding the economy, surrounding the environment, and on and on, und so weiter, ad infinitum ad nauseum, etc.

So then, is it a lack of intelligence? As tempting as it might be for me, or anyone else, to write off an entire half of a country (or perhaps an ENTIRE country) as being irredeemably stupid, I suspect it might be inaccurate. I might, due to my piss-and-vinegar nature, and unabashedly elitist affect, try to write such an excoriating piece. But alas, I’m just not as creative and humerous as some other people, who have better writing styles than I (high compliments go to those to whom those links correspond; I admire you tremendously) to attempt to do so.

I wish to say that, aside from moral reasons, or intelligence, or the economy being the determinant for one presidential candidate over another, I suspect that Fear had a lot more to do with the actual Win. Which makes sense to me. After all, fear is, and ever shall be, the human instinct that seems the most powerful determinant over the outcome of human decisions. Human lives are disguised as complexity, built upon a chassis of Fear; it seems inherent in our nature. Ironically enough, Fear seems to be one of the most easily influenced and manipulated.

What are Americans afraid of, generally, and why?

Are we afraid of same sex marriage? Are we just afraid of the power of the word “marriage”? Or by giving up the post-modern essence of the word, are we afraid of societal change beyond our control? Does this, in fact, follow?

Are we afraid of losing our ability to achieve the American Dream?

Are we afraid of not having enough to eat? Is that why we are among the world's most overweight?

Are we afraid that Terrorists can change the US so dramatically, that our Number One Priority must be eradication; over education, over hunger---over consensus? Are we that enlightened, that powerful, that we can afford to re-write the book on Fighting Terrorism without the tutelage and support of our older fellow countries?

Are we afraid of losing our identity, or individuality, even if it is hopelessly tied to status, or recklessness, or irresponsible excess (such as owning a HumVEE)? Why?

Granted, I realize it might be arrogant to assume that anyone outside of the US gives a damn about our election. What I’m not sure about on the other hand, is whether it is ALSO arrogant presumption to assume everyone else in the World has a well-defined, strong opinion of the US. The American media has a lot to do with the provenance of this strongly-held opinion, whether it is misguided or not. So forgive us in advance.

I'm trying a new technique that I learned from my new good friend Susannah Whelan (thanks Susannah!). I'm doing what they do on the Capitol: I'm eliciting others for some authentic feedback.

It seems to me that many Americans want to talk about things at the moment. Sometimes, that impulse seems to take the form of chastisement, of denial, of doomsday, of outright petulant bravado. I believe this is progress, nevertheless. I suspect the younger set are becoming concerned with how our image reflects in the world community, in light of decisions that are perceived as taking us away from solidarity with the rest of our neighbors (namely, the Kyoto initiative, the record of making decisions with N.A.T.O, etc.). And they’re concerned about our safety and our livelihood, too, which is a new experience for us.

People, the arctic circle is melting, and the world sometimes seems like it’s going to hell in a handbasket. All the infighting and dramatic crap like this isn’t helping much.

We need some clarity. We need some solutions. We need some insight.

And my blog desperately needs a breath of fresh air.

My 1 dollar attempt at doing something productive is to have anyone--Americans, expats, Europeans, Australians, Panasians, Eurasians, South Americans or some combination therein--give their opinion on the state of the US, both internally and externally, by writing their thoughts and opinions, to be shared on this pitiful blog. I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in extolling, or cautioning against, the virtues of a more socialized, a more peaceful, or more truculent, a more independent, or more cooperative, United States.

Come on, please don’t make be actively search you out and beg you to write something.