Just Picked it Up

I went to get my haircut at the barber shop. Today I got it from an old timer who spent more than my entire life cutting hair. I was curious so I asked him how it started.

The story was surprisingly simple. His college application had been rejected. The next day, first day of his summer vacation, while watching TV, his dad asked him what he was doing. Before he had a chance to answer his father told him to find a job. And that’s it. He became a hairdresser. Makes a living and doesn’t seem to be occupied with the choice he made.

Not saying that this is how it’s meant to be, but it is interesting to see someone pick a career in a day and sticking with it versus what’s happening now where people switch professions without really knowing where their headed.

It’s a true blessing to find your calling at such a young age. At 23 he already had 5 years of experience under the belt. Experience invites confidence. From there it simply snowballed.

So I’m wondering where this desire to make it big comes from. When you have someone like my hairdresser who picked a classic trade and never looked back.

Surprising Conversations

My dad has been surprising me for a year or two now. Ever since he started reading books on aliens, the Mayas and the universe something that is hard to explain has happened to him. My mom thought it was odd, but I silently supported his new hobby.

He is still the same man I knew. Yet he’s accepted his life and demonstrates a powerful sense of curiosity. Things don’t bother him anymore, at least not as much. He’s spending less and less time complaining about his work, his apartment or worrying about me. I’d like to know his secret, but I know very well that he went and found that knowledge all by himself. And so I won’t ask him, I’ll simply enjoy the occasional suppers and outings we have together.

I will talk about some of the conversations we’ve had. A recent one that woke me up came from a discussion we had about airplanes and his recent trip to Poland. Eventually he said something that sounded different :

Inside of the plane we don’t notice it, but we are going at 750 Mph. We can’t know, we are inside of the plane. The outside is much different, yet were not aware of the speed at which the plane goes. We are inside the plane.

This sounds obvious, but I related his thoughts to life. How can you understand life if you live it. You aren’t outside of life. The best you can do is to tap into your imagination to get a sense of what it might be to go beyond life. I thought about that one for a while…

Here’s another one that shut me up last week. I met a girl that I liked. So I invited her for a drink. It turned into a lunch, but that is not important. When I went to see my dad the following week, I told him about my time with her. He asked me if I liked her, I promptly answered back with a yes in addition to an affirmative nod.

We talked a few more minutes and he asked me what she was doing here among other questions. I told her she was doing an internship, but that I did not know the details. He answered back by saying, “I guess you don’t like her that much then”.

Haha, jokes on me. That last sentence switched something in my brain. Something like an awareness of my selfishness. I won’t go into the details, but he made a good point. It took a while for me to figure out what that meant to me.

I’ve been getting these kind of cues way more often lately. Not just with my father, but everyone. Ever since I started asking a lot of questions I have been surprised time and time again. People are like books, take a deep listen, let them be and enjoy this living information. After all, it comes from real experience.

On the Human Condition

I’ve been thinking about duality for about four or five months now. It’s a concept that seems to be finely ingrained in many, many things.

From our personal behavior to the way the world changes around us, it seems like duality is right there, waiting for us to notice it. What irks me is the cycle. If you are in state A, then state B will soon follow. Say you are happy, then there’s a chance that your future state will be sadness. This is empirical and only based off of my own experience right now.

The counter-argument that I have found is how low or high we can go as human beings. I’ve seen obese people who procrastinated, indulged and wasted their time away until there very deaths. I’ve seen people who somehow flip things their way; no matter how narrow and filled with obstacle the path is over and over. They both have this consistency in common.

I seem to be missing an idea. I keep thinking in terms of what goes up eventually goes down. What about that obese individual who died and that professional athlete who was never beaten in officially regulated championships? The concept of after-lives could answer this, but I cannot accept it because it’s too abstract for me.

Perhaps, instead, we can say that both sides are subjected to the same pain and joy that their environment subjects them to. Then, the decision to either accept or refuse it is up to them. In that view, perhaps it is truly possible to live a good life the whole way through, or a bad one. Again, we see people spend 20 years in depression and finish it off with a suicide. Then there are people who seem to always feel contempt with their life situation. A quote by Viktor Frankl summarizes that idea very well :

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

So there is a way to personal salvation. The fact that there are still things to learn and acquire out there in the world is just extra fluff. Deep inside our core were sublime, were an extension of the universe. Ever expanding.

Intended Precision

Last Friday I was training at the boxing gym with a guy I will call Bobby. Bobby is probably in his early 40’s, I’ve known him for as long as I have been boxing. I respect him because he is involved and he is no slacker. He has to deal with his weight on a daily basis and I have seen him make huge improvements. Respect.

Back in the day I would have the reflex to fend off most recommendations, but today I realize that people who give you tips care for your progress. As I trained with Bobby I became more aggressive and reckless. It showed in my punches, my muscles got tenser and my movements were now mechanical. It happens in the ring too. I throw vicious hits that have no precision or any intention. They are basically useless.

Bobby lectured me about remaining calm and compared boxing to chess. It should be calculated and intelligent. I half-heartily applied myself with a calmer mindset, but the damage was done. It got me thinking and thinking about all sorts of things. Until I realized that my boxing also reflected my life. I’m spreading my efforts all over the place and wasting my energy forcing things through instead of taking a step back to be smarter about my endeavors. Last Saturday I spent 6 hours fixing a bike and I made many mistakes that could have been avoided had I given it a little bit of thought.

This feeling sucks, and it’s mine. I realize that my parents are healthy and that I don’t have any external crises, all I have to do is be responsible for myself and that already feels overwhelming at times. I can imagine how easy it is to lose your internal compass when decide to be responsible for other people as well.

Over the next few days I’m going to look at the different roles I play and see where I should cut down so that I can focus on what matters. I’ve done a lot of helping lately, but I think that I could have saved myself by rejecting a few proposals.

I’ve done this before, but I think that aside from working on a philosophy of life, it is also important that I review my decisions on a weekly-basis. Right now, I’m simply running through the fog with no sense of direction or purpose.

It isn’t all that bad, I am productive, but I need to funnel this productivity a little better.

Optimism, Pessimism and the Middle

I heard somewhere that optimism without taking charge or making a move on pressing issues is bad. It invites perpetual failure and is probably worse than pessimism. The latter having the edge because it tends to lower expectations while the former invites an outburst of emotions coming from the excitement of towards a situation that is absent of any skepticism.

I don’t qualify myself as an optimistic individual. I try to think in terms of relationships. For example, the relationship between positive thinking and negative thinking. Are they two sides of the same coin? Surely. What does that tell us?

Well, it does tell us that we need negativity if we are to have any positivity. So it makes no sense to deny people who have a different view. It also tells us that choosing a side is not ideal. Because living by one possibility when there are two limits us. If we form the habit of being optimistic we tend to reject people who chose to be pessimistic in a given situation. Did limits our expansion.

Think of the relationship. That’s what I repeat to myself. Why did that person see the same event under a negative veil? Did I ask them questions to clarify their position? What about me, did I chose a side? If I did, am I attached to that position? If I am attached to that position, am I exposing the desire to be right? What does it mean to me to be right? I need to be validated by other people? Or do I do it for the satisfaction of pushing my truth unto other people? Only I know.

As I see it, there’s no time for these kind of questions in the heat of the moment. That’s why I take some time off every week to reevaluate my relationship with my friends, my coworkers, my family and my environment in general. More often than not, choosing a side happens automatically, but if we can at least try to figure out everyones position we might be able to make a smarter choice.