The Boxcar Children: All Grown Up

I’m in a silver box.

It’s creaky, old, and not conducive for neat handwriting. It stinks. The stench is almost unbearable, yet nobody seems to mind, much less notice. Possibly, because nobody is paying any attention to the world around them. Everyone is quiet. Everyone has a blindfold on that they seem to enjoy quite nicely. And everyone’s ears are plugged.

How did I get here?

How the hell did I get here?

Sitting amongst those frozen in their seats as this steel box steals us away from everything else we’d rather be doing right now. We’re all on borrowed time, but now we’ve repackaged it, bundled it, and sold it off to the highest bidder, and here we are, fuel for the furnace that powers this machine. A machine that begs to be recognized, begs to be worshiped with our time, energy, our lives, yet only sustains itself through the legitimacy you and I lend it. Much like a government.

We fight to be, to have, to acquire, a place on this box. We’re the cattle who fight the herd to find a place to rest and eat, shelter, someone to look after our comings and goings, all along never realizing that they are bred and raised to be slaughtered and consumed…

Well, here’s my stop; funny how that word has much more meaning today.

High Times

Normally, I wouldn’t write a blog while high; I just don’t think that it’s very conducive to a linear train of thought (I’ve already used spell check twice, without finishing two sentences or using a word containing more than three syllables). And, if I did, I certainly wouldn’t admit to it, except in private, after the number of critics’ critiques were more than I cared to bear. But, I also know that there are a multitude of things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do while sober (like starting sentences with a conjunction or using so many parentheses in one post) that you would only feel so inclined to do after spending the last 60 minutes getting stoned on your neighbor’s couch. So, nothing about this post should really surprise any of us (as if my reaction time would allow for that right now anyway).

This isn’t my podium at an AA meeting to confess to you all that I have a problem, because it’s never really affected my education, (unless there’s something higher than a 4.0…) And, I’ve never allowed it to interfere with my job (although I have had a few very tired and miserable days as a result) and my relationships with my family and my friends are solid (though this could make things a bit uncomfortable, but I doubt it). However, this behavior is something that I’m going to change, even if it may prove difficult.

Here are a few reasons why it might be rough:

Reason number 1: Very few people think that it’s a problem or harmful, and if you think I’m wrong, then open up those beautiful, clear eyes and look around you.

Reason number 2.5: I live in California; we’re basically the manufacturing capital of this junk, and are known internationally for it. We have the BEST product around and that isn’t likely to change.

Reason number 3: It’s legal.

Now, to address those who are chomping at the Funion bit in their mouth, waiting to yell, “IT’S NOT A DRUG!” I would like to help save what’s left of your lungs and tell you, I agree. It’s not technically a drug; it’s entertainment.

Our consumption of entertainment often resembles that of someone who consumes and abuses drugs, and the parallels between our drug use and our interactions with entertainment contain several similarities.

We can’t get enough of this HiDef-Digital-LCD-laced crack. We wake up to The Early Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show or take a hit of Twitter, Instagram, facebook, Pinterest, tumblr., or a number of other drugs of choice. If none of those satisfy our refined palates, no problem, we have other options. Oh, and please don’t forget about your 500 GBs of television shows and movies stored on your DVR that you missed while attempting to connect with the world around you—as in a human connection.

But, maybe you’re not the stay-at-home soccer mom who enjoys the morning show programs; perhaps you’re a young hipster on top of your game (or Fixie). You’re cruising through life with a smart-phone, tablet, laptop, and/or Google Glasses attached to keep you connected at all times. . .to nothing at all. You hardly know what your friends are doing or what they’ve said, unless it’s posted on a social media site.

I could literally write page after page about this topic; but, I’m having symptoms of withdrawal already and quite frankly, I’m boring myself writing about this topic. But before I finish, let’s think about some of the main reasons people use drugs. “I was looking for an escape from reality.” “I needed to relax and unwind from the day.” “I was bored.” “I did it because my friends were doing it.” Now ask yourself why you consume entertainment. If you think I’m being dramatic, or that we’re not really addicted to entertainment, here are some of the places I’ve seen people getting their fix lately, at a national average of 34 hours per week: on a train, in a plane, in the break room and waiting room. In restaurants, cars, bars, living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, man-caves, gyms and locker rooms. On big screens, small screens, computers, and phones. In elevators, at gas-pumps, and tables full of friends. While walking, talking, squawking, and driving. One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

People think it’s a socially acceptable behavior to consume entertainment at anytime, because in large part, it is no longer unacceptable (like smoking those ridiculous e-cigarettes). Don’t smoke that stuff indoors, I don’t care if it is fruit punch flavored and smells like a Care Bear. You should wrap that thing up in one of your Ed Hardy t-shirts and bury it.

Now lastly, a look at the side effects—they’re subtle, but as time continues on, they become profound, like the circumference of your butt if you don’t stop sitting around wasting your life away in front of some digital display. Not only is it unhealthy to pollute your mind with the majority of what’s being discussed and displayed on the limitless number of growing and glowing screens, but you’re life is passing you by, along with your family and friends. I’m not suggesting you have to quit completely, but stop walking through life stoned out of your mind and numb to your environment.

Now, please excuse me, I’m going to go watch Shooter.

*The views expressed were not entirely intended to offend the reading audience, but do reflect the views of forthepurposeofwriting.com, but none of its subsidiaries. We will now return you to your regularly scheduled spot on the couch.

What’s Stuck In Your Teeth?

I once asked the mother of a close friend of mine, “Which teeth should I floss?” She happened to be an excellent dental hygienist and I happened to hate flossing. The question, though it sounds ridiculous at my present age, was a genuine question in the moment it was asked. Now, most individuals with even a few neurons firing, realize there are obvious problems with my question. For instance, why didn’t I ask how frequently I needed to floss in order to avoid tooth decay? Gingivitis? Periodontal disease? Duncan Keith’s smile?

The more concerning issue, however, was at the root of why I had asked the question—and that was because I was simply too lazy to floss. I didn’t want to floss and I was looking for a legitimate way to justify my behavior. Use a tongue scrapper? No problem. Brush my teeth twice a day? Usually. Flossing? Quarterly.

I hated flossing like I hated wearing socks with my shoes as a kid. The warm, soft, fuzzy feeling of socks was disgusting. I’d rather get my foot caught in a stirrup and dragged through an apple orchard, than wear socks. Shoes were only worn when it was imperative and the rest of my time was spent barefoot, wild and free. And all these years later, I still prefer being barefoot and have yet to contract Hepatitis C.

Feeling the pressure to floss (yes, I am well aware of the insignificance and pettiness of my former issue with flossing, but please, no #FirstWorldProblems #AtLeastYouHaveFoodStuckInYourTeethWhileOthersDontEvenGetToEat) while having a juvenile distain for flossing, I was compelled to look for a way out, simply because I refused to have a little discipline in that particular area of my life. So, a few days ago when the memory of that conversation popped into my head, I decided to address a couple other areas in my life that lacked discipline and examine the adverse effects that it could have on my future over time.

Sounds dramatic to examine flossing so closely, but think about being disciplined in another area, like your finances. If you save five dollars a day, or 35 dollars a week, by avoiding the usual trip to Starbucks, with a modest rate of return of 5%, in ten years you’ll have $24,036, or a new car; in forty years you’ll have $230,848, or an Italian roadster.

There are ridiculous ways in which we try to avoid tough situations or doing something that we would rather not do; usually, because we lack the willpower and discipline that would be required of us. Apparently, it is human nature to come up with excuses as to why we don’t want to do something, instead of being honest and forthcoming with the real reason. This is quite unfortunate. Since, the sooner we become honest, the more quickly we can move past these hindrances. I’ve provided an example below that highlights these particular behaviors.

Fiction: “I haven’t written for my blog in a while, because I couldn’t decide on a subject to write about.”

Fact: “I haven’t written for my blog in a while, because I had lost interest in it and have allowed myself to become distracted by inconsequential matters.”

The dental hygienist’s response to my question, “Which teeth should I floss?” was, “Only the ones you would like to keep.”

So, the question left to answer today is: At the end of your time here on Earth, do you want to have a smile with teeth in your mouth? Or have a bunch of empty spaces that were supposed to be filled with something important.

Days of consecutive flossing as of January 12, 2014: 446

The Error In Striving To Be King

David, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem, did not tend to his father’s sheep because he wanted to kill Goliath. He did not serve in the courts of King Saul because he was planning a coup d’état to take the crown. David was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing: his job. He also spent time developing his interests and talents, like playing the lyre.

We often place unnecessary pressure on ourselves by trying to succeed. We are in constant motion whether physically or mentally striving to be king—figuring out ways to accomplish our goals and whatever scheme may help us grasp the next rung on the “Ladder of Success.”

Education, more education, degrees, multiple degrees, workshops, certifications, internships, networking, careers, and the list that gives you a competitive, “sharp edge,” continues until you’ve become dull.

None of the above accomplishments or activities is inherently wrong, but they can be, if your decision making process begins to become more about what you think you should be doing, versus, what you enjoy doing. You were given that desire to explore a certain interest for a particular reason, and should pursue it despite fear, or the opinions of those sitting on the sidelines. [Disclaimer: If your desire is contrary to the Word of God, clearly you are not to pursue. God does not contradict Himself, and would not give you something that goes against His word. If the desire does this, then it is not from Him].

To spoil the end of the story for you, David did become king and his time spent playing before King Saul is one thing that helped to prepare him for that position. David did kill Goliath and secure the victory over the Philistines for the Israeli people, and his time spent serving his father as shepherd over his flock prepared him for that specific battle. Killing lions and bears pre-gunpowder era, develops a confidence that can rival even the most competitive members of Crossfit.

So don’t unnecessarily burden yourself with, “What should I do next?” God has you right where He wants you for the time being, so be sure to do it well and extract as much knowledge as possible during this time. Certainly, David’s greatest moments of foresight failed to show even him, that herding sheep and playing a harp would prepare him for victory over a great enemy and sitting on the throne one day, as king of Israel.

Be brave.

Time To Hit The Gym

Having a blog and not posting on it, is similar to having a gym membership and never using it: both are a waste of money and potential. However, both require effort and have a way of making you feel incredible when utilized properly. . . and terrible when neglected.

I have excuses as to why I haven’t posted lately: Nothing to write. Too much to write. Unsure about what I should write. . . Not going to censor myself. I should censor myself. New job. “What’s on Hulu?” Distracted. . . Undisciplined. . . “Haven’t you already posted something like that before?” Over-thinking everything.

And that’s the short list.

(You wouldn’t know this, naturally, but I just took a YouTube break that lasted five minutes)

The nice thing about this post for me is that I am actually writing for a change, instead of merely thinking about writing, or thinking about how I am not writing. The other great aspect of this post is that it has no purpose other than the reason I began writing this blog, and that was For The Purpose of Writing.

Is it vitally important to remember why you begin a project or task, and not forget why you started. So, though this post may have begun without a purpose, it has fortunately ended with one.

The same is true of life. You may not always know immediately why you were placed here on this planet, but you were–for a reason, so spend time finding out why. However, do it before your post here ends.

Good night.

Miserable For Nothing

At times, I have the peculiar propensity to make myself miserable over nothing. I have ruined numerous moments, days, and at times, entire weeks, being dissatisfied with the life that I am leading.

As simple and juvenile as it may sound, God has given me the incredible gift of life. Though I have been doing this since I was a youth, lately more so than at other times in my life, there have been moments, too frequent to not feel embarrassed by my own admission, that have been wasted by lending myself to feelings of discontentment.

dis·con·tent·ment n

1. a restless desire for something better  2. a state of being dissatisfied and unhappy with a situation  3. a restless craving for what one does not have.

So, I’m not a CEO, nor do I own a fledging humanitarian organization. Oprah does not want to interview me, and an invitation to speak at TED Talks isn’t in the foreseeable future. I am unmarried, childless, and have yet to purchase my “dream” house, car, and most importantly, dog. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you what they would be, if asked, (except for the dog: Doberman Pincher! Or a Bulldog named Bon-Bon).

However, what I have been able to obtain recently is the knowledge and understanding that without internal peace and satisfaction for my present lot, whatever it may be, I will never find true contentment or fulfillment.

The most sinister realization that I had this week? My life is great; and I haven’t cherished all of the wonderful blessings, people, and moments that I have been given. It may be that, it isn’t that something or someone has potential, but that what is hoped for is already here; it just requires viewing it through the proper lens, one untainted by negativity.

I really am going to try my best to no longer care about being great, important, or leaving some enormous impact on this earth before my time here is done. What I will try to do is recognize the greatness, importance, and impact that can be made in each moment if I take the time to recognize it as such, and approach it in the manner that it deserves.

 A popular quote, but one worth repeating, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Treasa

Now go and be great, because you already are.

Thank You Snail

Receiving an email is probably on the lower end of the correspondence totem pole today. (Actually, there is zero correlation between placement of a particular image within a totem pole and its significance; my analogy only works because of the perpetuation of this myth within the American lexicon). Anyway, email has rightfully earned its place towards the bottom as a result of the shear quantity of spam messages that fill up the average inbox. This is not to say that receiving an email cannot be the most exciting form of communication, because it all depends on who has sent it and why, i.e., soldiers overseas writing home, admission offices of college universities sending out acceptance letters.

Next level up, would be the preferred form of communication for this generation and most shallow for all generations living, text messaging. Americans in my age group (18-29) send an average of 88 text messages per day. Americans as a whole sent 188 billion text messages in 2010, which was an increase of 174 billion text messages from the year 2000. Text messaging earned its spot on my list for the simple reason that it is almost exclusively used between friends and family members. It is almost always pleasant to receive a text message, and you don’t have to sift through junk mail or spam (not the delicacy of Hawaii). Texting is also a great way to avoid meeting people in the lonely world around you. Just observe people waiting somewhere, anywhere for that matter, and calculate the percentage of people using their phones. Or the next time you exit a movie theater, watch how quickly and how many people instantly pull out their phones. This generation would rather walk straight into traffic than make eye contact with the world around them.

Carrier pigeon. These guys are awesome and next on my list. Though I have never received a message via carrier pigeon, I would imagine it would be delivering very important news that I would want to give my undivided attention. As a bonus, have you ever had Squab? Not only could you shoot the messenger, but you could have him with coriander, turmeric, and garlic.

Finally, reaching the top of the correspondence totem pole is postage mail, or what has been referred to in an unaffectionate manner as, “snail mail.” How spoiled have we become; it used to take between 9 and 11 days to send mail cross country through the Pony Express, and now, our “snail mail” can be delivered overnight. A quick side note: Garden snails can have up to 14,175 teeth, and the Australian Trumpet (Syrinx Aruanus) snail, is the largest of all snails, at 30 inches in shell length, and weighs in at a slimy 40 lbs.

Now, that whole ridiculous introduction into which forms of written communication I deem most worthy of our time, was to get me to my main point, five paragraphs later. I simply want people to consider hand writing “Thank You” notes to the people around them that matter most. We do it for physical gifts, but why not for the intangible, yet more important gift of friendship?

I run the risk of sounding dramatic, but imagine standing at a family member or friend’s funeral with a page full of nice, encouraging words for them, that you never conveyed while they were living. What a waste. Those words do no justice to the dead.           

P.S. You’ll also feel incredible (as will the recipient) and accomplished afterwards.

Like A Tree Planted By The Water

I dislike starting off an entry with a negative, but I feel that it’s necessary to say this: Don’t compromise your time alone with God.

Some of you are thinking, “Wow, I should probably set aside time to be alone with God.” Yeah, me too. Others might be thinking, “Wow, I should probably set aside time to figure out if I believe in God.” or, “What do I believe about God?” While some of you might be thinking, “Wow. I’ll never read another word this idiot writes.” I’m all right with all of those responses and any of the ones in between that I haven’t mentioned.

I find that in particular moments, I become disciplined in my relationship with God. Moments when I no longer squeeze in a last minute prayer right before bed in an effort to appease my religious conscience, but instead actually set aside a specific portion of my day that is dedicated to spending time reading God’s Word and praying. You know, Christian stuff at its most basic and fundamental level. Times when I am no longer fitting God into my schedule, but when He actually becomes a part of my schedule, or better yet, I allow Him to dictate/change my schedule.

Now looking back on my life, it used to be an accomplishment of sorts that I spent a few moments reading my Bible and praying on my own. (However, God has a unique way of showing us a different perspective on an issue).

I am currently being a “good” Christian on the most fundamental and basic level. I say that because reading your Bible and praying as a Christian and being impressed by those actions, would be like congratulating someone for eating their breakfast in the morning. Eating food is human. It’s just what we do. Praying and reading God’s Word is Christian. It’s what we do. Basic. Fundamental.

Now, sharing your faith, giving to the poor, turning the cheek, more proactive actions that require your faith are still fundamental and basic, but often viewed as more radical or clergy-oriented elements of being a Christian. They are not; they are Christian. Then again maybe today those actions aren’t Christian. Maybe in post-modern, western Christianity, they are something completely different. Maybe today in this context, being a Christian is avoiding sex outside of marriage and not being gay. Maybe today’s Western Christian believer is not about “doing,” but rather it is about “avoiding.” I’ll let you decide. If that is the case, however, then I no longer want to be considered a “Christian.” I am more concerned with becoming a follower of Jesus.

Returning to my original reason for writing this: “Don’t compromise your time alone with God.” I have noticed that when I am spending time with God, it will usually start off great. A lot of what I am reading just seems to be perfect for my day and whatever situations I have been facing. My prayers seem focused and in-tune with the needs of the people around me, and what they’re going through: real encouraging stuff. Then, I begin to shorten my time and realize how many things I can accomplish during this time since I’m getting up earlier. Then the worship music begins to take more and more of the time, and soon I begin to incorporate teachings, and preaching, and conferences, and seminars, and books about God, and suddenly my time with God has become my time with God’s friends. God’s friends and I begin to sit around all morning contemplating God and talking about God in great and profound ways. We study what God is like, what God isn’t like, what God likes, what He doesn’t like, and the list continues.

Then it hit me.

Would I like it if the person that I care most deeply about on the planet Earth—the person that I was willing endure unimaginable pain and suffering for, and even to die for, in the hope that he or she would one day, turn a thought towards me, love and accept me—never spent any time with me? What if, even those of them who called me by name, said that they would visit with me (and at times they did) but slowly our time together, when it was supposed to be just us, suddenly became filled with distractions and people. I became someone you talked about, but no longer called. Someone you said you loved, but no longer spent any time getting to know better. How would that work? What level of friendship and trust would that invoke?

Simplicity with God leads to profound moments, so try never to forget the basics: prayer, reading God’s word, fasting, and listening (in no particular order). All of which can be done with only a Bible, but be aware of how difficult this can be to accomplish. Even as I write this, I am completely distracted by the world around me, (and my latte was a decaf). But, when I set aside time with God, I am in pursuit of a time with Him that is without compromise. Now, if I want to watch a sermon or read literature that is theological, I do it at a time that is separate from my time reserved for the One whose affection for me is without compromise.

Here We Go

It is interesting to see how often, we as people, sit around thinking about what we should be doing, often without doing what we know to do. I find myself thinking about writing a blog, or biography of sorts, or a short fictional story, but I have yet to accomplish or even attempt any of those things in recent months.

It’s a small victory that I am sitting here writing right now. The number of distractions that continually race through my mind are impressive: “I should put on a pair of socks because my feet are cold; I should check to see if the mail has arrived (for the third time today); my goldfish, Dr. Pepper, needs a new light bulb and potentially a new swimming companion. Or should I get him a larger tank first . . . I want to go for a walk while it’s somewhat sunny and not raining; this computer screen is too bright; Man, do I hate Microsoft Word.”

Not one of those thoughts or activities has much to do with writing, at least not on the surface. Although, I certainly could use each of them as a writing exercise or a space in which I could develop my thoughts or characters, but realistically, they have nothing to do with writing. The best part about everything that I have written so far? It has nothing to do with the real reason I sat down to write. Nothing. It is all a clever way to, again, distract myself from the task that is at hand, which is to write about life.

Now to begin…

I currently work at a job that I used to hate, for a company that I used to despise, for a boss that has the likability factor of one who clubs baby seals to death. Aww. Now just to clarify, I still work at the same job, for the same company, for the same boss, who given the right opportunity, I believe, would club a seal pup to death. All of the factors that cause a person (specifically: me) to hate his professional life are still alive and well, and functioning in my career. However, I don’t care anymore. Let me explain that last sentence before moving on.

I’m still shaving, still showing up to work on time, and still wearing a tie everyday. So remove, “The Big Lebowski” image of me from your head and smell the freshly applied deodorant. When I say, “I don’t care anymore,” that simply means that none of the aforementioned factors (job, company, boss, etc.) are a controlling influence in my success or value as a person or professional any longer. That is not to say that they are not an influence, because they most certainly are; but, it is to say that they no longer hold or wield the power that they once did over my life. Why? I took the power from them.

I could write a booklet detailing what I loathe about my company longer than their Policies and Procedures Manual, and I work for one of the largest and most regulated industries in the United States. Focusing on the things about my company that give me an upset stomach won’t remove the ache or the problem. I do not ignore or pretend that those things no longer exist, but I will not give them more purchasing power for my attention than they deserve. It’ll ruin you if you allow it to. Instead focus on what you can control and yes, this includes your bad attitude. If your boss is making your life at work so bad that on Friday nights you begin dreading Monday mornings, than this next part is definitely written for you.

Do not lose your composure. Your ability to remain stoic when battling thoughts of getting fresh air by throwing your office chair through the nearest window (if you’re having thoughts like that, stop reading this and strongly consider writing a letter of resignation now) is imperative. You cannot let your emotions undermine your influence. You’re going to be angry at times, so use those moments to your advantage. Most people are a little bolder when they’re upset, so use that opportunity to tell your supervisor, or whoever is causing the harm, the problem and that it needs to be remedied. Do it calmly to avoid the situation from escalating, but firmly enough so that they know you are serious. Most people get pushed around because they never push back. Even aggressors are like most people and hate to workout, so if you give them one, they’ll quickly become tired and focus on someone else to harass.

Avoiding a person is one thing; being scared of them is quite another. I do suggest trying to avoid putting yourself in situations where you are going to have to deal with the problem child, because that will only waste your time. However, when you do have to interact with them, give them your undivided attention and look them so squarely in the eyes they’ll be reminded that they used to have a soul.

Now during these interactions, conversations can become childish or passive aggressive. Never meet the aggressor on their stage; it’s where they’ll perform best. Force them to your level and if you are comfortable, I highly suggest calling them on every inaccurate or disrespectful comment they make during the conversation, until they become honest and respectful. If they refuse, simply tell them that your time is valuable and in an effort to preserve it, the discussion is over until you can pick it back up with a superior present.

I believe that you can outlast just about anyone if you want to badly enough. The power of perseverance is incredible and if the offender can’t see your frustration visibly, they will begin wondering if you’ll ever quit, which forces them to change the way they approach you or give up entirely. Most people quit when there is no end in sight, so avoid giving them a finish line.

You are going to sweat, and you will get tired, and you may want to flip-out or quit occasionally. When you are in that spot of wanting to give up and just want the misery to end, use that to your advantage and speak your mind (respectfully, but brutally honestly. Pretend you’re British). What’s the worst that can happen? They fire you. Good.  Now that you have accepted that firing is the worst thing that could happen, use it and be free!

Now try to enjoy the workout because it’s going to make you much stronger and it won’t last forever. The water break is coming.

This is not a manifesto on how to work a job you hate. This is how to work in a hostile environment and not only survive, but thrive while calling the shots and deciding on your own terms when to leave, if at all. Not because they ran you out.