Month: June 2016

ENDLESS CHATTER

Every morning I check several Internet news sites to see what’s happened since I last logged off. While the actual news items vary, what doesn’t change is the maddening repetition. There are usually only about ten items per day, and they are repeated across all sites, from all across the world.

It is hard for me to believe that these ten occurrences are the most important things happening on the planet. No matter how one prioritizes the ebb and flow of human activity, there simply must be more to life than is touched upon here. Much of what is described in shocked or portentous tone is simply rumor. Did the Brexit vote really cause billions of dollars to vanish overnight?

Of course, despite what a fixation on social media might lure one into thinking, there remains an art and discipline of journalism which puts of a premium on accuracy and verifiability. Now that anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has the same ability to reach an audience as the owner of a small television or radio station, rumor and gossip can spread like wildfire. I have inadvertantly been part of this process, sharing lies and fabrications from websites created by middle-aged men living rent-free in their mother’s basements. I have found through trial and error to avoid yournewswire.com and the many sites like it, which simply fabricate stories in order to lure visitors and potential advertising revenue. If I go to a site that has more space devoted to ads than to content, I try to remember to avoid that site in the future. 

We all know that the world is rich and that the seven billion people on the planet each could tell a story more interesting than the same general re-hash of the arbitrarily chosen top ten headlines of the day, but that doesn’t stop us from patronizing the same organizations that robotically tell us the opposite is true. I’m already so sick of the American electoral process that I could scream and the election is still six months away!

Still, I am addicted to my familiar morning news-gathering process. Has an important celebrity died? Has a psychotic gun owner killed a large number of innocent people? What harm is coming my way that I could avoid thanks to being informed in advance? How will knowing the news of the day allow me some advantage as I proceed out into the world?

Some illusions are more convincing than others, some behaviors more addictive, some utterances more repetitive, some institutions more resistant to change. Why I spend so much of my mental energy tuning in to any or all of this is a real mystery to this newshound.

Preposterous Grandeur

 

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Weak-brained and over-sexed, we waste our lives in monotonous lunges at happiness. Later, we are inclined to spend an inordinate amount of time wondering about death. What will it be like? When will it occur?

 

Why is life so hard?  Why does success so often elude us?

 

This chronic preoccupation with what we don’t have would be funny if it were not real. Reality eludes us because we are caught up chasing illusions. The fact is, we are already engulfed in preposterous grandeur. We have way more than we need to be happy, much less content.

 

The Biggest Advantage To Moving Far, Far Away

Ancient Angkor Wat

 

Your friends back home ask “Don’t you get homesick?” Not in the least. I miss certain people, but they could come visit or I could visit them if I really wanted to make the effort, but I don’t and they don’t either. I remember when I left my college town after graduation, I was in agony. How would I ever fit into such a tight little community again? I actually cried when my father picked me up to take me back to our family home.

 

A few months later I came back to town and ran into somebody I knew. I said “haven’t seen you for a while.” That was it. I realized that the feeling of belonging and mattering are largely self-created and illusory. Nowadays, of course, with social media you don’t need to ever let anyone go, and it certainly doesn’t matter much where you are when you log on.

 

I am exactly twelve time zones away from where I lived for the last twenty years, and that’s as far as you can go without coming back around the other side of the globe. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just far enough. I haven’t been to Mongolia, but I’ve seen movies about it, and I imagine it would be even more foreign that Thailand, but Thailand with it’s food, customs, language and government is foreign enough for this Missourian.

No Problems, No Plans

 

This having no job, no appointments and nothing I have to do is really weird. I spent most of my life worried about getting ahead. The one day I realized this was it. There was no ahead. All there is is today. Right now. So what do I feel about that?

 

Freaked out. Nothing in my past prepared me for this period in life. My telephone never rings. I receive no mail. My social security check is deposited automatically and when I need money I go to an ATM. As long as I don’t hatch some hair-brained scheme and bankrupt myself, I’ll be OK.

 

But what I supposed to do? I can await instructions all I want, but the fact is they’re not in the pipeline. The thing I craved, absolute freedom, finally arrived. All those years I sat in school staring out the window, envying the bird in the tree who wasn’t expected to learn to diagram sentences or derive square roots…they’re finally ancient history. All the time I sat in offices staring at the wall clock hoping and praying I could hold on until five o’clock…ditto.

 

Today I’m going to hang out with friends. In a couple of days I’m going to ride my motor scooter into the hills and spend the night somewhere I’ve never been before.  That’s as concrete as my plans get.

Shut up and Smile!

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Adolescents are notorious for being enslaved by erratic emotions, but many adults seem to share the  childish propensity to blame their feelings for what they do. It’s especially tragic to see an otherwise healthy, educated adult paralyzed by how he or she feels. He often can’t see his hand in his own predicament.

 

Let’s move from him to us. Once you’re stuck in blaming others or circumstances, you’re in a jail cell to which only you have the key. At worst, finding fault has put you at odds with everyone you know. At best, it’s a terrible waste of time. Those who subscribe to New Age schools of thought can justify all sorts of magical thinking as “waiting for guidance.” But they’re still just stuck, waiting for a miracle to change their circumstances or those around them.

 

When you practice any kind of discipline, you learn that feelings are not facts, and can be overcome with endurance. An act of will can accomplish a lot. Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida, but not after she had failed to do so on numerous occasions. She just wouldn’t quit. Nobody, neither critics nor well-meaning friends, could talk her out of it.

 

I’ve been practicing the same piano pieces for over forty five years but have never really gotten a whole lot better. Any improvement has been gradual. Decline proceeds hand in hand with advancement, for if I don’t keep pieces in regular practice, they recede into the vault of the half-remembered. I can’t possibly keep my entire repertoire in daily practice and still learn anything new, so I’m stuck making tough choices on what I could actually play in case anyone wanted to hear me play, a situation which is thankfully rare.

 

But I persist. Against all odds and the clock ticking, I continue.  

ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN

retirecheaply

ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN

If there were ever a time to take action, it’s now. The time for normal score-keeping has elapsed, and we are now into Sudden Death Playoff. The next team to score wins the game. This may happen very soon, or after a while, but it will happen. The game will end.

If you’re a baby boomer who has always wanted to try something completely different once you’ve retired, then you have a limited amount of time to make that choice. Not choosing is a choice.

I’m not talking about going on vacation, but rather about relocating. Moving somewhere far away from your comfort zone in order to experience much more of the world before you die. You are going to die, right? I’m not suggesting you dwell on that fact, but being in denial about it isn’t going to get you where you want to…

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