Saturday, October 13, 2012


Shopenhauer once intimated that we love to buy books because we believe we`re buying the time to read them.

Ah yes, the ambition to write feels no less noble than the urge to read, but then, there are many kinds of satisfaction. I feel that I would find greater satisfaction in writing a book for once rather than reading one. I have bought many a book, and buying a book presents an interesting moment. We purchase a book with the assumption that, based upon the merit of a brief perusal, said book will satisfy our expectations. By the time we make it through the checkout our expectations have become faith, and that faith becomes a very substantial hope that the time spent reading that book will have made the time spent looking for it well spent. As it is in almost all facets of life, the satisfaction of well spent time is the most satisfying of all, for it echoes in the great halls of our souls the vibration of satisfied sighs.

However, the satisfaction of writing a book seems almost bittersweet. For whom would we write for? Then again, for whom do we really read for? After one reaches a certain level of satisfaction from the reading of books writ by others, one begins to dimly envision the perfect book for them, but who can write for oneself but oneself? The bittersweet fact is that we cannot find the perfect book for us, because there is nobody like us that can write it for us, and yet we are all inescapably the same, like so many La Salle’s in search of the Fountain of Youth. To find the book with the perfect blend of mystery, excitement, emotion, toil and pain, like unique foggy wisps of the perfect eluding us amid the ethereal swamps of a new world, like the gypsy chord that progresses forever, the poetic curse that renders the clouds to become unborn of rain, and the exotic face that greets us upon every horizon...and yet is only the manifestation of our own commonality, looking into the eyes of another mundane world.

And so, here we find ourselves, you, somewhere in the future reading these very words, and I, somewhere in the past writing those same words which, to me, seem to hold a strangely miraculous potential; not a perfect potential, but still a potential. The potential to affect and instigate those cute and various intimate human reactions, like a frown, a smile, or those little noises one makes at oneself when one is alone and thinking. Sometimes a burst of laughter erupts and dies into a chuckle, sometimes the soul leaks from our moving eye, sometimes a sardonic grin comes upon the scene with sadistic intent...yes, we can always count on that precious choice, the choice to stay up well past our bedtime, curled around a mental motion picture drawn from the words of our culture that is so familiar and close to our mind that we cannot lose a single second of well-earned insight into the story that we command with our eyes and hands.

The great thing about reading a book is that we can read it as slow as we want and yet the quality remains intact. The mind is where the timeless moments are made.

There is a mysterious love for books. I don’t know about you but I really like to smell them. Every book has a different perfume.

I think also there is a correlation between books and people. It takes time reading them and knowing them, seeking out those intimate intellectual, emotional, and psychological moments hidden between the breathless and still fabric of the cover, an interior that comes alive under the tender pressures of the searching eye, like an artist visualizing a landscape upon the canvas of hope and trust, like a reader touching a book with his or her imagination which is as unique as the finger prints left upon it’s pages, and from those pages, the reciprocating act of intimacy occurs! A memory is born from mental experiences molded with words, understood in thought.

Reading a good book in a timeless moment is like a relationship without the headaches! Oh that we were all books! But we are all ever-changing entities, and our stories know no end. Apparently this is why we are always in search of our perfect book. But I wouldn’t have it any other way because the future is what keeps us interested in the present. It is the expectation, the energy, the sap, the adrenalin, and the water that maintains the engines of our nature.

But concerning books in general, don’t we just love the childish hope that some occult and esoteric trinket will fall from between the pages to land upon the floor with a glint, a promising ring, a dimensional key to another world allowing us to experience via our imagination the blue horizons of unreachable landscapes? We even love to hold them, except of course, when we are standing in line at the library.

Doesn’t just a little childish giddiness come over us when we have discovered a promising title? We grab a pile of pillows, root out a little spot in the back of our bedroom closet, push aside the silent sentinels of our secret haven languidly draped upon the hangers, usher in a mug of hot chocolate and nestle in for another journey of a thousand miles that thankfully doesn’t start with a leaky hose and a broken fan belt, because closets have no mechanical parts, except maybe the doors. And what of those notes that someone else has scribbled in the margins? Just a rare opportunity to read the demented minds of the forgetful without them knowing, something even superman can’t do!

Even if we don’t have the time to read books, we still like to fill up austere ebony cases with books embossed with letters of dark and gold, standing out like frozen flame on faded canvas, intriguing and mysterious, hinting to the occasional guest that an artist or a great scholar lives here. Ah yes! Just a little conceit exists when it comes to books, whether it is in the owning of them, the writing of them, or even in the reading of them. Don’t we all love to be caught reading something auspicious?

But a title is only as good as you make it, and it pretty much holds no further virtue in it’s integrity unless discovered, for integrity exists not within the book, but without in the eyes of the reader. Only dignity is that dark gem which exists within the sole entity and is the foundation upon which integrity is built, but that’s another topic for another time.

The degree of conceit that must exist to make one think, nay hope, that the world will want to read ones renderings is staggering, and I half expect to reel from the shock of stepping on a step that isn’t there. Furthermore, who the heck would want to be caught reading this?

Not to contradict the insight of that sage who phrased his thoughts very carefully in that profound proverb "A picture is worth a thousand words," but I must quote yet another sage who conversely said, "A word is worth a thousand pictures." The novelist Joseph Conrad also once said "One must not put his trust in the right argument, but in the right word."

The true artist should look beyond the step that may or may not be there and gaze beyond upon that dark impenetrable canvas of mystery and dreams, and create his imagination upon that substantial void, where he or she has all the room in the world to portray ones heart. And if he or she stumbles, at least it won’t be an issue of self-consciousness, for their motive will be without shame. Yes, I will admit a little conceit is there, but not shame, and no apology. It seems the oftener I observe, that it is the true artists who only create for their own satisfaction. Public admiration is just a bonus. Ever notice that the truly great artists of yesteryear didn’t have an identity problem? Yes, maybe they were a little conceited, but at least they knew who they were and what they wanted in life and were confident in that, and in their artistic abilities. They made no apologies for them, even though they may have been "different,” just as we make no apologies for being "human."

As far as apologies are concerned, when I say that the great artists of yesterday didn’t have an identity problem and made no apology for being just a little conceited in their own creative abilities, (and rightly so) I never once said and so much as I can tell have not implied that I am some great artist. So! With that qualifying statement, I am allowed to make apologies, even for making apologies.

Friday, October 12, 2012

To be, or not to be, broke.

In recent years I've noticed a trend in the use of the word "broke".  This is a subjective observation, but one I will make nonetheless because it touches upon the introspective.

The word "broke" seems most commonly used to express lack of funds for run-of-the-mill expenses, like eating out with friends or the cost of gas needed to drive to the ocean for a weekend get-away.  But I've noticed it is rarely used to express lack of funds for large expenses, like a home.  Large expenses are instead lumped under the graceful rubric "it's just not in the budget right now", which I think is silly because, in comparison, "broke" would be more accurate to describe a lack of funds to purchase a new home than it would to explain the inability to afford a small expense (further suggesting that one is foolish enough to live in such a small financial margin that one cannot afford small expenses). Although "broke" could simply be an excuse to get out of doing something (but motive only for you to know), I feel the usage of the term is inaccurate at best and dishonest at worst.

A limit in the budget means you have money dedicated to certain things, but you cannot in good conscience spend money outside of that.  Whereas being broke is literally where you would have to ask for help because you don't have anything to offer in exchange for what you need.  Any less stringent of a circumstance (e.g. "wants") begs criticism, but that's not the purpose of this blog.

So what is the purpose of this topic? It is to consider one's worth or value in society based on how you describe your financial limitations. Money will always be a heavy topic.

So how does certain terminology affect your value? Well, if you're truly broke on a consistent basis, you'd be starving eventually. Thus being broke is truly a rare situation. I would venture most Americans aren't really that bad off, because we live in a credit society that enables such thin financial margins to last as long as they do. Thus, if you consistently describe yourself as "broke" you may be perceived as:
1: Irresponsible (unable to budget or forecast wisely; shortsighted; dependent upon other services)
2: Dishonest (if you're irresponsible, you're more likely to exaggerate)
3: Unreliable (if you're unavailable because you're often broke, folks won't get involved with you)
4: Awkward (folks will be reluctant to involve you because they fear you'll be embarrassed)

Obviously, real financial hardships can and do exist, but this is usually the extreme exception to the rule.  Based on my experience (and because we live in a credit society) the correct term would be "It's not in the budget" rather than "I'm broke" because, let's face it, unless you're extremely rich, a new house isn't going to be budgeted; it's going to be financed, just like those small emergencies are financed with a credit card.  So "broke" is really more of a lifestyle than it is a circumstance. But I digress.

If we instead use "It's not in the budget", I posit that external perception will change (and also be statistically accurate).  You could be perceived as:
1: Responsible (you sound active in budgeting, and even if you aren't, it's a good reminder to do so)
2: Honest (statistically, if you're responsible, you're less likely to exaggerate your circumstances)
3: Reliable (and accessible, and being around people who have these same traits will rub off on you)
4: Comfortable (people will continue to include you because you're approachable)

In short, if you're broke all the time, you will be isolated by your circumstances and will be perceived in a negative light regardless of where you are in the echelons of society. Such perception will rob you externally and internally of influence and interaction, and these are very healthy things to have in your social diet.

So next time you are invited to an event that you can't afford, cheerfully respond with "I'd love to go, but it's just not in the budget right now. But let me know next time you go, I'd love to get together and do something!" This proactive response can lead conversation to where something is actually planned, and if so, you have the opportunity to budget for it!

Such communication indicates you can plan (budget); that you're interested in more than yourself; that you have substance (which makes you interesting too); that you're aware of what's going on in your own world; and that you exercise discretion in expressing your financial status (trust me, people can read you better than you think).

Although this is a subjective topic, it is in my mind first and foremost a topic of the individual.  I have both lived and observed these perceptions and firmly believe that how we behave ourselves affects how others perceive us, and that in turn affects how we perceive ourselves.

There is certainly more to life than the marginal status quo. You owe it to your friends and family (and yourself) to try a different frame of mind if your stuck in this one.  Try existing for more than just your own margins, because over time friends and family will begin to believe you don't even care enough to make room for them in your life, and if so, you will end up at the bottom of the list.

We all know the whole "self worth comes from within" psychology, and there's no doubt that is the case, but that's not the only influence that matters. I believe outer expression and reciprocation mirrors back on us our own subconscious perceptions of ourselves, and that is truly part and parcel of how we grow within. Everybody needs a mirror, even ones they might not like. This once applied to me, even though I thought I had all the perception I needed. I was wrong.

I'd love to hear your comments, whether you agree (or not), and how your conversation and conduct in life impacted how others perceived you, and in turn if that affected how you saw yourself.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How (not) to jinx your goals

Wouldn't it be awesome to complete something simply by imagining it? For instance, I've imagined a job where the hours were during my productivity peak (3PM to midnight), and my wife has probably imagined being able to successfully communicate with me before I've had morning coffee.

When I was a kid, it was called daydreaming. Now it's called any number of things, but the results are pretty much the same. It remains a dream.

What we do as kids is fine, but as adults it can have a negative impact on us because as we live out our goals in our minds, we begin to jinx our ability to follow through; and the fire fizzles.

You can probably already hear the proverbial bus coming, but relax; it's only a recording of a bus. I'm going to run through a scenario that I've actually seen play out. I'll follow with how I avoid the negative side effects that come with what I call jinxing one's goals (I use the term loosely).

1: Opportunity knocks:
An opportunity to make an extra buck presents itself, and like any interested party, you look into it more. If your like me, you'll be up many a night researching it.

2: You do the math:
More late nights on the calculator proving the numbers add up.

3: You talk it out: yourself. Not a bad thing, especially if you're one to work things out verbally. This means even more late nights being a recluse in the backyard or car so you don't keep your family up.

4: You tell a friend:
You talk to a friend and before you know it, the conversation turns into a blitzkrieg of facts, information, credible sources and calculations.  Not only that, you try to do it all in the space of a single conversation (to the uninitiated, it's like having your head strapped to a Gattling Gun). You may believe you are cool, calm and collected, but the more your friend's eyes glaze over, the more fervent you become until it you are yipping.  If you ever find yourself here, try to recognize that most people need as much time as you did to absorb as much information.

5: The breakthrough:
Your now weary friend pretends to suddenly see the light, gets as excited as you and may even yip with equal fervor to validate your infallible research, urging you to take action to be all that you can be (so they can end the conversation gracefully, go home, take an aspirin and bask in the warm glow of the tube). These scenarios often repeat many times before anything real happens, if it happens at all.

6: The decision:
Finally, after having lived vicariously through your own excitement and others' "excitement" and you have amassed sufficient validation to yourself, you make the big step and invest time or money into the venture.

7: The outcome:
Based on statistics alone, the vast majority of business ventures fail. This means you're at a greater disadvantage if you sap your inner energy and jinx right through the honeymoon phase before you have anything to show for it. Failure to follow through is very common, and no different than being sold an appliance because it came with a $300 rebate incentive, which many people forget to cash in, ultimately leaving them with a decision that had no follow through. Sales tactics count on human nature, because it's predictable. The numbers don't lie. Also, circumstances are another excuse for failing to follow through on a venture, due a wide variety of causes, which of course are nobody's fault right? Or are they?

This is a moment of truth that most everyone will face in life, sooner or later. How you respond will likely determine how you succeed.

So, how does one not jinx goals? There are many ways. Here are the one's that work for me:

I: Regulate yourself:
Save your energy and excitement! It's good to be excited, but give it some longevity. Pace yourself. You'll need the energy later.

II: Keep it to yourself (for now):
Nothing ruins credibility like a fizzled fuse on a firework that never existed, so don't spout about your next venture until you have something to show for it. This will naturally curb your enthusiasm to a more realistic level. If you don't, you may fall into a rut of rash decisions just to prove yourself (which, in and of itself, is a lousy motive).  In short, don't add undue pressure on yourself by creating bad subconscious habits. Keep your cards close for a bit.

III: Sleep on it. A lot:
Nothing adds clarity like a good night's sleep. More often than not, loose ends or limitations will come to light. In context with the previous point, you're also less likely to be in denial if no one knows, so any necessary adjustments can be done without having to admit shortsightedness or lack of patience. By the way, these are skills you learn. They certainly aren't natural, but they are necessary.

IV: Write out a business plan:
Whether simple or complex, it should be thorough. Write it as if you had to convince venture capitalists. Then and only then should you consider getting input from someone you trust. Let them review it on their own terms and come to their own conclusions. Not only will this retain credibility, it will build it! Be organized, logical and objective about your goal, and sensible people will recognize it!

V: Ask them for constructive input:
Most advice unasked for is unwanted, so it's important you open that door. Constructive criticism comes in many forms. My personal preference is to have weak areas pointed out but not specified allowing me to take advantage of the learning opportunity. This builds thinking skills and prevents entanglement.  If you can't avoid getting entangled or embroiled with rationalizing a detail or justifying a thought process, don't despair.  Keep at it until you "get it", because some things can't be learned from a book or a college course.

VI: Be gracious and gracefully receptive:
Constructive criticism is tough, no doubt. Remember, don't argue points and don't let others argue points. You are in control of your project, no one else. Receive input with appreciation and take it under consideration. There's no reason to feel threatened unless you are in denial about something (an easy trap to fall into; but you're not alone in that). Ultimately, you asked for the input so you should get to choose whether or not to use it.

VII: Repeat, repeat, repeat:
If you're skilled at being honest with yourself, chances are you'll find multiple reasons to repeat this process several times before your plan is finalized. This is why you need to save your energy and play close to the chest for a bit, because you can easily exhaust yourself.

So, in short, exercise restraint within and without. Keep a steady pace in your project development. Don't go on a dream binge and it won't become humdrum by the time the real work sets in.  Maintain your momentum and don't lose ground. There will be many obstacles to achieving your goals, but don't let jinxing it be the thing that stops you before you even get started.

If you have experienced this, leave a comment and let me know how it affected you and what steps you took to avoid it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Welcome to The Random Room

"So what is the random room?" you might ask. Well, for starts, it's not this blog. This blog is just my attempt at a semblance of conviviality, a public canvas for the mind. The randomness itself comes from an internal space where I store random and curious things encountered in daily life.

I like to picture it as an egg shaped room with a round door in the side. Inside is a space illuminated by what I call "the middle color" (it's more fun if use your imagination on what that is). It's a vast inner space where things just float around in circles.  Over time, they attract and collect to form basis for creative output or inspirational moments.  When I sense the moment is right, I enter this room and start pulling things out of the air. I try to maintain movement, never pausing too long to linger on any one thing until a compendium of things have been gathered, begin to take shape and lead me in a direction that has a sense of substance.

This is my creative process. Each time I enter that space, I hope to leave with some sort of substantial satisfaction of stillness, or the promise of sleep hanging lightly upon my eyelids, or with a dim smile illumined in my lips.

And so, this is the canvas of hope and trust where thoughts are expressed within immobile moments, like painted lakes dabbed with blue and gray, reflecting campfires of white and orange, flickering distantly in the reaches of our imaginations and in the mirages of still thought while the world rages on outside this brief eddy of time, captured and created by the very speed of life that it considers.

There is no primary theme for this blog; after all, it is called The Random Room.  I hope you enjoy!