Thursday, May 15, 2014

You ain't special.

The downfall of western civilization began with the invention of the 9th place trophy

Show me someone who proudly displays their 9th place trophy,
and I'll show you someone who has no drive to achieve a 1st place one.

1.better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual

Not everyone is special. 

The fact of the matter is, if everyone was special, no one would be. 
*Syndrome taught me that from the Incredibles.

Unfortunately the up and coming generation (including mine) is full of people who have been told that they're inherently special their entire lives but with no distinguishing skills or attributes that qualify them as such.

Statistically speaking, about 68% of us are pretty damn similar, add in moderately more and moderately less, and you encompass 96% of the population leaving only 2% of people who reasonably qualify as special and 2% of them are special in a negative sense.  This doesn't even take into consideration that we're not even beginning to discuss which metric we're basing this on.  Just in the overall sense.  But it's not hard to see this mentality's lasting effects. When I was student teaching, I encountered more than my share of parents who refused to believe that their child might need some additional help and who's kids were struggling yet decided to confronted me rather than help their child.  This isn't the child's shortcoming, this is the parent's. They are the ones that cannot believe for one second that their wonderful child might need some additional help and this ignorance will set their child back for years to come.

Turn on any reality TV show or audition based program and you'll see droves of people who never had anyone be truly honest with them.  No one who taught them that while one should never accept failure as finality, that it is absolutely an inevitable and unavoidable part of life that teaches the value of being humbled. That if one truly wants to achieve greatness, one has to be willing to work for it and if you weren't blessed with the natural ability, one has to work even harder than those who were.  Malcom Gladwell touches upon this in his "10,000-Hour Rule," based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that expertise requires enormous time, and posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill.  While this seemingly arbitrary number might be highly contested for accuracy, the focal point in my opinion is that not everyone is just born with it. Matter of fact, most of us aren't. We have to be willing to put in the time if we want to truly be special.  Lincoln once said: "You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was."

In short, we've become entitled assholes and we're raising a whole new batch of them. Feeling that we shouldn't have to work for anything and that we're special so therefore we're afforded certain inalienable rights.  We aren't and we shouldn't. The sooner we realize that the better off we'll be.

I think the word we should probably learn to acquiesce towards rather than special is:

1. being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.

I can vibe with that a little better. We're each a distinct arrangement of atoms that miraculously come together to form life, and its true that our whole is greater than the sum of our parts, but you know what? So is everyone. So is pretty much everything in the universe.

... am I kind of an asshole for looking at things this way? probably. Am I a little jaded from listening to people complain about everything when things on this planet are ostensibly the best they've ever been? Definitely. The distinction between entitlement and merit is gratitude.


While I might feel that we overuse the word special to think about ourselves. There is no shortage of special things on the planet, but they became special their own way and they earned it.  Mostly, I believe our relationships are what elevates us beyond the commonplace.  Our interaction with each other and the world around us is how we seize the significant. The way in which we respond to the constant push and pull of the universe and whether we meet that with grace or with contempt is was determines whether we're ordinary or extraordinary.  Realizing your role in the greater picture and embracing it. The balance in life that is required to be truly happy and the humility to deserve it.

O Me! O Life!
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself,

(for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean,

Of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest,

with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—

What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Not only that you may... you MUST.

Make it a good one.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Desolation of Maybe

I suppose I should say the ramification of maybe but desolation sounds more dramatic. 

We have become a society that worships maybe.

Don't get me wrong, the word maybe is not to be confused with the fundamentally beautiful concept of "hope" or the infinite potential of "possibility."  The maybephilic nature of man has come from an influx of choices and an overload of options.  What has happened is that we've all inadvertently become "bigger better deal"-ers.  Historically, the limiting factor of our choices has always been quite literally what we had in front of us. Food choices were dictated by what we could reach out and grab.  Our mate was selected for us and typically as simply as the closest age appropriate non-relative in the village.  Our occupation was defined largely via familial apprenticeship or matter-of-factly what one physically or mentally was best suited to handle based on what the village needed.

Now, with the globalization of the economy, the industrial revolution moving into the information revolution, the limiting factor is no longer our physical world, it has reached a metaphysical point to now becoming more intrinsic. Whatever our imagination can possibly come up with we now feel obligated to pursue and at our worse, feel entitled to deserve.  I digress.  Now with communication ostensibly being instantaneous, we've come to feel that our commitment based decisions no longer have to be.  We no longer need to commit to any one particular thing because the mere possibility of something better happening at the very last minute is worth keeping all other options at bay until the final bastion of consideration requires us to cancel or make a choice.  This has become increasingly prevalent in the younger generation having grown up with this "access" they have no reference point about making plans and not having the ability to change them last minute.  They don't recall the panic of being dropped off at the mall at noon by your parents to watch a movie and if your friends weren't there within a few minutes your mind racing to determine whether or not you made a mistake as to what exactly the plans were or if they were involved in a horrific traffic collision en route.  I've seen that this abstraction has been so deeply ingrained in my psyche that even now my initial reaction towards non-communication tends to lean towards the exaggeratedly and unnecessarily tragic.  It has become completely acceptable to send:

This is even more common in the friendly application of the word in efforts to not seem insensitive. I feel that we need to embrace the magnificent finality that is the word "No." A commitment to release another's commitment to an obligation is equally as ignored.

This is more venting that I originally intended when I started writing but I believe this is a fundamental flaw in our culture and our society that we need to make efforts to change. I believe that most wonderful things in life come from when we commit ourselves. Commitment to each other in the form of friendships and relationships.  Commitment to our beliefs and the constant internal struggle that form them and make us who we are.  A commitment to our goals and being unapologetically honest about what makes us happy and our completely acceptable commitment towards the attainment of such.

This will certainly be a topic for further discussion but for now, I will certainly commit to using the word "maybe" less and the words "yes" and "no" more. I will accept that this might result in me paying my due share of opportunity costs.  I will accept that this may mean that some people will quickly realize where they fall within my social hierarchy and sometimes brutal force ranking of priorities, but I also will accept that in turn I will fall victim to the same.  People are constantly telling you where you fall within their priority list. Allow them to and listen to what they're saying.  Your placement on this list has no inherent positive or negative connotation.  Distress and turmoil only comes when you're unhappy with where you fall on this list, but you should never take this feeling and turn it into blame, we are all doing the same thing to our world as well.  The sooner you realize this, the more grateful you will be when finding people who have more similar priorities to yours.


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