Fight the good fight

2020. What a year. I consistently hear people saying things like, “I can’t wait for 2021,” or, ” Next year we’ll get to the end of this tunnel.” I understand there is a time and place for this expectancy, but sometimes I think we lose sight of where we’re at. To give you a little perspective, I’ll explain below, but I must warn you, it’s not the most thrilling story.

Come back with me to the year 1348 in Florence, Italy:

You are sitting atop a crudely built wooden chair in a rustic second-floor living room. Indigo hues of dusk are slowly replacing the dim light of a setting sun, causing the shadows cast by an ashy fire to dance around the room. Eerie silence. The cries of your neighbor ceased this morning. You know why. As you rise from the chair your trembling hands tense around an empty stomach. The small portion of oats you ate this morning is simply unsustainable. You need more food. As you turn to look past the warped window of your room, you find a shred of comfort in the darkening horizon, which signifies you have lasted yet another day. Many of your family, friends, and neighbors have not. The Black Plague, unknown by that name to you at the time, is in the midst of ravaging Florence and greater Europe. As you rifle through your last supply of nuts and seeds, you close your eyes and simply hope to see the now charcoal horizon lose its fight to the next morning’s amber glow.

Whew, thank you for reading this far. I did not enjoy writing that insomuch as I wanted to prove a point by it. If you’re reading this you probably have a warm bed, a roof over your head, and most of your friends and family accessible at the touch of a finger if not within close proximity. Food is readily available. The world’s governments and advanced scientific communities are working on a sustainable solution to the pandemic as we speak. You have access to a wealth of information and entertainment from your home. Yes, life is more complex, but I’ll be darned if it isn’t more comfortable than it has ever been before.

So whatever fight you are engaged in, whatever battle you think you’re winning or losing this year, continue to fight it and don’t give up, because we have it good, and the odds of us waking up to the next sunrise are substantially higher than many a European in the 14th century.

Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

You’ve Got Mail

I know I’m echoing the echoes of sentiment when I say that Coronavirus has thrown a wrench in things. For many of us, home and work seem to meld together like an odd mix of jazz and EDM music. There’s a time and place for both, but blending them feels odd. Some people enjoy it, while others find it icky.

In coming to terms with this craziness, some hobbies find more space in our lives while others ebb into the wake of the pre-pandemic past. I’m finding now is actually a great time for creativity to flourish. If you find you have space for a new hobby or two, I recommend a fantastic way to funnel this creativity in putting pen to paper. Try writing physical letters.

I love savoring the elation that comes with ripping open a letter from a close friend or family member. Sometimes I get a bonus sticker, sometimes a little picture, and most often great thoughts and reflections on life. In my reply, I get to slow down and tell someone about my own life in a meaningful way.

When was the last time you sent a physical letter to someone? If you need to delve deeply into your memory to retrieve the answer, I say give it a shot this week. It’s worth it.

United or Divided we….

Here we find ourselves on the brink of a much anticipated election. We are on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a precipice we need to overcome to reach the next step in history. Whether we land on solid ground, let alone take the leap united remains to be seen. Why is this gap so daunting this year?

My high school history teacher Father Justin Grose is worried for our country. Last year, I was able to visit him as he reflected on the polarization and unwillingness to listen that has affected all of us. “At some point the preconceived notion of what the opposing party represents clouds judgement and drives divisiveness to a breaking point.” He mused.

An example of this “breaking point” is illustrated in a classic childhood read of mine, Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift. The main character, Gulliver, finds himself on the island of Lilliput during his journey. The tiny inhabitants are locked war with the neighboring island of Blefuscu that resulted from indecision on which side an egg should be cracked. War had been rampant throughout the land with no resolution in sight, and to the external observer, appeared a ridiculous position on which to stake a flag.

Please, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. If someone says they are a *buzz word* Trump supporter or a Biden supporter, ask why and listen! If we are not willing to discuss our differences as a nation we will remain locked in conflict, stuck on this side of a widening precipice before us, and unwilling to work together to jump to the other side. I don’t know about you, but that is not where I want to be.

Unstructured Conversation

Face to face interaction. It’s what humans need as a form of sustenance yet also what almost all of us lack. Lately I’ve been thinking about just how important this form of communication is.

The other day I had a wonderful time catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We snagged some coffee, sat down at a table and started talking. There was no direction to the conversation, nor was there a topic we had to discuss. We just sat down and talked.

When was the last time you took time to sit down with a friend (or foe) and allow the conversation to take on a life of its own?

What are you doing right now?

The subtle murmur of conversation wafts through the Starbucks as I ponder what to write. A fishbowl full of crushed beans whirs a few yards away, dispersing a faint “roasty” smell throughout the shop. Outside people walk back and forth along a snow lined sidewalk, their breath creating micro clouds that quickly vanish in the frigid air. Life is good.

Take some time and soak in where you are right now. How are you feeling? Smells? Noises? Anything catching your eye? It’s fun to stop and enjoy the moment.

Don’t become over-focused on what you’re about to do or what you have done. It’s no fun.

5 things I’ve learned at 25

In light of now being a quarter of a century old, I thought I’d share some lessons learned along the crazy, bumpy, and invigorating ride of life.

1. Learn to say no

This is a hard one for me. As someone who likes to please others, I tend to want to say yes to every invite thrown my way. I’ve learned that it’s just not possible to do that and be consistent with the people that mean the most to me. Learn to say yes to the important things and people in your life, and realize that it’s OK to sacrifice some ground in other areas.

2. Try something new

This is a typical one, but in all reality, the times I’ve tried new things have been quite enlightening and worthwhile. I’m not saying travel to Thailand and shake hands with a monk dwelling in a cave on the side of some snowy cliff. That’s just too far. But try to get out of your comfort zone. Do something that stretches you. We live in a world that continually seeks comfort. It’s time to swim against the flow and try something uncomfortable. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Strike up a conversation with someone on the bus next to you who seems lonely. Those things really count. You’ll feel better for it too.

3. Break some rules

For real. Some of you won’t be happy hearing this, but you can’t live by the book all the time. I’ve seen people that have, and they tend to live cut and dry lifestyles. It’s no fun. Do something on the edge. Once a year my brother and I sneak under a fence into a “no trespassing” area near town (no details) and bring a laptop loaded with a new movie we haven’t seen. We’ll chill and watch the movie out on a beautiful overlook where we shouldn’t be. But let me tell you, those are some of the most crucial times of bonding I’ve had with my brother.

4. Learn to give

Yes. My friends, most of you have been given extraordinary opportunities that so many people in this world would do anything for. Don’t take that for granted. Living in Kenya showed me circumstances in which people can survive and yet emanate a surprising happiness. You’ve heard it said, but I’ll say it again. The love of wealth will not bring you happiness. Learn to give some of what you’ve been given away while you’re younger, and you’ll thank yourself for it when you get older.

5. Learn to be yourself

This is a tough one to swallow for me. The above phrase is a staple in many self help books, discussed in many groups, and constitutes quite a bit of inspirational media, so it must be easy, right? Wrong. I still tend to fall into the trap of agreeing with everything people say, regardless of opinion. I’m continuing to learn that it’s OK to disagree with people and leave it at that. For example, I am a Christian, and hold certain values and ideas for a way of living that I believe works. This rubs many people the wrong way, but that’s all right.

So there you have it. The five things I’ve learned at 25. Thanks for reading, and I hope you got something out of this. If you want to add what you’ve learned or continue the conversation, please comment with your thoughts.

Much love, Jay.

Patience

Right now I’m in Denver, waiting in line to submit plans for my company. As I write this post, the cluster of tired civilians accumulates like sand in an hourglass, while one person sits behind a granite desk attempting to handle the influx.

Have you ever been to the DMV? This situation mirrors its painful slowness. It may be hours before my name is called, so I’ve set up a make shift cot to get some shuteye in the meantime. When the sloths from Zootopia are finally ready my misery will cease.

Im being cynical, and in reality the wait is a good practice in patience. If your occupation demands waiting, find a way to be productive or creative while you wait. Patience is indeed a virtue.

Review – Black Mirror

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Our “Black Bathroom Mirror”. Please don’t make that a show title.

If some of you have recently seen people walking around in a trance as if pondering life’s deepest questions, it’s probably because they just finished an episode of Black Mirror, and thus, are doing just that.

I was exposed (for better or for worse) to this show about two weeks ago on a ski trip. It was late, about 12 AM, but we decided to throw on an episode anyways before hitting the hay.

Black Mirror (BM) almost always begins innocently, with well rounded normalcy in the lives of  each character. As you continue watching, you’ll start to realize every episode features some aspect of technology blown way out of proportion. Whether it’s a device implanted under your skin that captures every memory you’ve ever had, or being able to rate those around you based on interaction, BM delves into the shadow cast by technology. And it’s strangely intriguing.

The episode finished, and each of us realized we were in the fetal position sporting a thousand yard stare. The show isn’t for the faint of heart.

Anyways, if you like sci-fi but wonder what could potentially happen if technology “took over the world” this show is for you. Just make sure your mind is ready for the inception roller coaster*.

(*Note, some episodes, in my opinion are much better than others. If you’re trying it out for the first time, try USS Callister, Nosedive, or overly risque Hang the DJ. Those are my top picks).