AFYM: Just show up

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There is a strange ethic that runs through the culture like a common cold, or maybe a better comparison would be Mono. You know that disease that all the teens gave each-other when Stacy would make out with Jack and Jack with John, and John with Jill, ect. It would make you lethargic, and not want to do much of anything.

The ethic I am so haphazardly talking about is, well the idea of making up for yesterday.

“i didn’t eat well yesterday, best eat extra good today.”

“I didn’t workout hard enough yesterday and so I’d better do double today.”

and So on.

But the problem with this mentality is that it is a self replicating problem, and discourages what I think is the ultimate virtue that being Habit.

Habit, and true habit, is kind. Now some will say you must be firm, and kindness is weakness, and trivial kindness can be a sort of weakness.

After all, is it truly kind to simply let yourself become fat? No, it’s not, and it’s a trivial sort of kindness, a short term sort of kindness that is confused with genuine kindness.

Genuine Kindness is to forgive the mistakes of the past and to simply resolve to show up, and do your best today.

Notice I said, forgive, not to forget, it’s important to remove stumbling blocks in the road, and to make the journey as easy as possible.

But the key, the ultimate key is to simply show up, and frankly that’s what most people need anyhow. Many a job or task simply needs a touch of human attention to run properly.

The world you see is quite boring in it’s growth. Even the most exciting events , avalanches, birth, and volcanic eruptions, are actually the final culmination of a million, million little actions taken over a period of time.

So, the key is to simply show up, and peruse that greater kindness. Each day take note of the past, and your failings and then put them aside.

If you ate poorly yesterday, eat well today, but just as well as you intended to yesterday, no more.

If you quit early exercising, exercise as much as you intended the day before and no more.

If you do force yourself to do more, your mind will inevitably, and quite subtly begin to see the task you want it to do as a punishment, and like all punishment will seek to avoid it.

If you further push yourself with negativity, you will catch your mind between two bad options, and well that is a very bad place for a mind to be. Learned helplessness is one hell of a drug.

So, to vastly simplify complex ideas, treat yourself as you’d want a kind father, mother, coach or authority figure to treat you. You can hold yourself to high standards, but when you fail, this kind figure steps in.

He or she says, “now, listen here, you failed to meet X goal, and that’s ok, but I know you can do it. So let’s just try our best today.”

While this is simple, if you’ve been negative to yourself, it can take a long time. That’s alright, keep trying, keep forgiving yourself, and keep showing up.

Advice For Young Men: Compassion is not Weakness

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Compassion is not weakness, even though we culturally associate it with weakness.

The reason is that so much of compassion is inauthentic, and comes from a place of compulsion.

Many people are not compassionate because they choose to be compassionate, but instead they feel they must be compassionate.

Who do they this debt to? If you nailed them down and asked them to explain who they were preforming for they’d shrug. The collective default is to be compassionate, but many have never consciously chosen to be compassionate, and calculated what they are giving up .

Now there are some who will ague this is not the true spirit of compassion. That compassion should be selfless and thoughtless, but that in and of itself seems worthless.

Sacrifice is not worth anything if it is compulsive.

True compassion is the strength to think about a situation, and see the benefit in being unkind to others, and there is a benefit if you are willing to pay the cost, noting that cost, and then deciding to be compassionate anyhow.

When you choose to be compassionate not because you feel you must, but because you feel you want to, you are no longer a slave to culture, and instead are kind from a position of strength. Thus kindness stops being compulsory weakness, but instead becomes conscious strength.

Advice to Young Men: Beware The False Idol

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Rick and Morty is a great show. It’s a rather fun ride that pokes fun at our culture. However, there stands a problem in that Rick is hardly to be admired but I see many young men thinking he’s the best character in the show.

While I’ll agree that Rick is the most entertaining part of the show, but I’ll also argue he’s the least healthy member of the cast.

This is a common trope and attraction to the trope. Young men gravitate towards figures like the Joker, Dead-pool, Rick Sanchez , Bill the Butcher, and Walter White, just to name a few. These characters while fun to watch are ultimately failures in the real world, and without the constraints of fantasy are dysfunctional and deeply flawed.

Now, you might say, it’s only a show, I know it’s not real.

I agree, most people can tell reality from fiction, however, the stories we tell ourselves are important.

Humans are thinking animals however, we are also deeply emotional. This is why we can logically understand what is good for us and do something else anyway. We know eating Twinkies is bad, but we emotionally attach comfort to the food. We know dating X person is bad for us, but we are emotionally attached to them.

Thus, when we become emotionally attached , and even admire fictional characters, we risk emulating them, and the messes they are.

The truth is, you can like someone without admiring their behavior. The key is to consciously admit the parts you admire, yet keep within your mind the truth that this character is ultimately a dysfunctional real human.

It sounds silly, but the conscious choice really can have an impact.

Advice for Young Men: Handing away control

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The “nice guy” is a cultural staple. Most women I know have been on the receiving end of this phenomena, where a man (or woman, though the vast majority of these people are men), is at first overwhelmingly nice to a person only to turn upon them once it is established that the attractions they feel are one-sided.

Most men in this position respond in anger and embarrassment. Some demand recompense, and so on.

There are many problems with this, so let’s break them down.
Starting with the core of it: They are handing away control of their well being to another human. This made doubly bad when you consider that the person who is being handed this power probably didn’t want it. Societal politeness might force them to play along for a while, but there comes a time when the person will begin to resent having to be in charge of someone else’s emotional well being.

Thus they reject the advances of the “nice guy” in effect they are handing back the reigns of control to him. He, having given up agency over himself, responds to this perfectly normal situation as if he’s been judged harshly and unfairly. He responds with what he thinks is righteous anger. When his anger is rebutted his shame feeds this anger, and so a toxic feedback loop is formed.

The average “nice guy” cannot see that the pain he’s feeling is self-imposed. He’s externalized his happiness unto an object, (most nice guys see women as objects) and when the object fails to meet his high expectations, he feels slighted. Thus he avoids self-reflection and growth.

Dating, careers, and achievements are the main focus on many a human’s life, and these are exceptionally important to a healthy life, but so many people hand away their ability to be happy to others who never asked for it.
The nice guy fails to see that attraction is frankly not that romantic, though romance is important to the act of dating, the spark of attraction is largely subconscious. A smell, a face shape, how they smile or talk, these things trigger attraction, and cannot be influenced really.

More importantly, he pins his self-esteem on some external measure, and assumes, often without merit or evidence, that he’ll be successful, so when he is not he cannot tolerate the tension between what he thought the world would be like and what it is like.

So what can be done?

The first step begins with removing your worth from the external world. This isn’t easy. There are all kinds of social games we have to play to be successful, but with enough training, you begin to be able to hold in your head that the social and societal games are just that games.
When you find yourself in a moment that you find yourself upset, if you can, and it will take practice, try and take a breath, but do not try and calm down, but instead take the role of an observer. Observe where you’ve put the locus of judgment. Is it external? Are you expecting the world to give you something? What is going on here?

With time you will be able to see the partners that led to the externalization and begin making conscious choices.

Advice For Young Men: An Introduction

When I started this blog, I wanted to do something positive, but being a human it’s taken me a while to realize what that is. I hold myself to a high standard, but lately, I’ve been doing so through a gentle coaxing of the kind uncle instead of the tyrannical dictator.

To be a young man, of any race or creed, in this time is difficult. This is an unprecedented time of change, and while I see a preponderance of people rising up to help those around them, I see no one doing so for the young men of the world.

This is not to say we can diminish the struggles of our brother’s and sisters. This is not my purpose, I want to hold them up, but in order to do that without a grimy layer of resentment bubbling under the surface, to defeat the demons we must address those people who are currently feeling attacked.

I am not saying the vitriol being thrown the way of the male isn’t justified due to the past behaviors of our ancestors, there have been many, many, many, tragedies visited upon the world by the leaders of the past. I am simply saying that in order to break the cycle we must learn.

I am a 31 year old strait white man. I am not qualified to speak on the issues of race, or sex. So I will speak on the issues that I know, the process of being a confused young man who got lucky enough not to fall into the pit of Misogyny and Hate.

Moreover, I want to offer advice to those men who know the role-models presented to them are not correct, but know not where to look.

This series will not be a pity party, nor an invitation to hate, but instead a series of lessons, I learned that delivered me from existential hell to some semblance of understanding.

I won’t say happiness, or peace , or balance. Those are not states of being but acts undertaken, but more on that later.

Instead I will say this. If you are lost, I cannot tell you the way, but I can show you what worked for me. I am writing primarily for young men, but the advice presented here works for anyone really.

It is the accumulation of 18 years of suffering, journalism, reading, studying and meditation. Talk is cheap, but it’s all I have to give.

So I hope to talk to you about the things I’ve learned as a young man in a changing world, not from a place of pity, but from a place of struggle, and struggle, the struggle is everything.

Hubris and other drugs

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

The heat death of the universe is appealing to the mind that is predisposed to Nihilism.

In a world where ultimately everything will die and end, what is the point?

Not to be unkind, but there are of course several problems with all of this.

The biggest of which is the hubris of man to assume he’s cracked the code of the universe. The second is a problem of context.

It is an easy trap to become enthralled with the scale of things. The mind damned in it’s ability to conceptional on some level huge things, but not to actually understand them, to say nothing of manipulating them.

It is a special skill, and it is a skill, that each man must cultivate to admit his own smallness in the face of the universe.

The first time I conceptualized how small I was, and I did not realize this until much a time after, came on the fourth date with a girl I loved. We stood on the Santa Monica pier at night, and looked out across the ocean. Behind us humans bustled and played, but before us stood the ocean.

She was talking about moving out of California, but I found myself distracted listening to the crash of the waves, and I in the dark of that sea knew what it was to stand before an unthinking god. I knew what my ancestors worshiped.

Man is such a small fragile creature, yet we can think of huge impossible things, and consequently become overwhelmed and consumed by them.

My first rebellion against Nihilism began with the admittance of how small I am in the face of the universe, and how thought I can reach for the concepts of infinity, I could never manipulate them.

We can conceptualization the death of the universe but none will be around to see it. To us, thought quite finite, our lives are our own practical infinity. They are all we will ever know, to the best of our knowledge, and they go on forever, until they don’t.

The Song

It’s no secret. Some of you were not as lucky as I. Some did not grow up in the shadow of a man dedicated to you for no other reason than love.

For this I am sorry, but not because I caused ill, or owe some form of existential debt, but instead I am sorry in the way Canadians say it. I feel for you.

There is a song. It’s in us. It is the song that hummed on the first night of humanity. Deep and long ago, where time stood the way we think of gods as big. Maybe, maybe we stood on the shores of a great lake, our fellows around, and gazed up by firelight at infinity.

Let us return there now. Let us now young men, come among the dark. Maybe you did not have a father or mother, or guiding light. let us become a village to raise the children inside our ourselves.

If you did not have someone around. If you are young. If you are old. If you simply want to be here, I invite you all to come, come to the fire and seek out the wisdom. Let us become the parents some of us never had.

I cannot save you, but I can guide your rage. I cannot heal you, but I can listen to your pain. I cannot live for you, but I can make the living a little more bearable.

We men, are victims of the same system that ate up our sisters. We are all drowning in it, we are simply drowning slower.

Let us instead reach up and heal ourselves. Create a world which we would have had for ourselves, and gift it to those of the next. Let us teach the past so that we can avoid this struggle.

Come now, hear the hum of the universe, it is you and me, and her and him and them.

How are you doing?: We need to start opening up a little

The common greeting, how are you doing, is a rhetorical question. “I’m good, ok, fine!” is the refrain, however, this needs to change.

The time has come to change that.

Mental health is at the core of many of the problems we struggle with today.

It’s my sneaking suspicion that most humans who struggle with different aliments of life if they be addiction or overeating, are at their core dealing with a mental health issue.

Somewhere along the way, we lost empathy for one another. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I think the constant erosion of community that has dominated culture since it’s inception, but especially now in the digital age.

Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit feel like connection but like junk-food only ever seem to satisfy.

Young men especially wander aimlessly in a desert that feels hopeless. Thus often their anger wells up, and they are prone to acts both big and small of violence and resentment.

Somewhere in the corporate marketing haze we lost sight that humans are not sterile emotionless creatures, but social beings that need connection and care.

Shame doesn’t work to correct the long term behavior of a human, it just forces those people who relate to the shamed further down the rabbit hole.

Disenfranchisement is deeply rooted in the USA

The Founding Father’s did not intend for you to vote.

If we are being completely honest, most of the founding fathers held what we might call troublesome beliefs about nearly everyone.

If you were not a White Anglo-Saxon Male with property, the founding father’s did not think you should vote, or really have rights.

We have to remember these were not ignorant men. Jefferson literally wrote about how slavery was a “hideous blot” all the while owning slaves.

The electoral college’s initial position was to prevent someone the ruling class didn’t like from getting into office.

So the current idea that somehow we are enlightened, and we’ve come from perfect stock is ridiculous.

The United States is a nation where Feminists, Abolitionists, Progressives, and Minorities pulled their right to vote kicking and screaming from an entrenched political establishment.

It’s been this way since day one. The problem is one of the most human problems. The problem of self interest.

We should have term limits on everything. Supreme Court Lifetime appointments made sense when people lived until they were 70, but now an appointee at 60 can judge on the bench for 30 years.

The same Congresspeople and Senators can keep their positions not out of merit but complacency for 30 years.

The trouble comes that how do you convince people to work against their own self interest? Especially in a world without Legacy?

I wish I knew.

Mindfulness as a way out

Most people misunderstand mindfulness.

In most people’s mind meditation is a check-mark on the to-do list.

the most common refrain, and the refrain i used as a shield from the terror of mindfulness, and it is terrifying, is that “i cannot concentrate.”

this is because the modern mindset is one lived in the shadow of the ego. The internet in all it’s fantastical power has done much to help us, but spiritually it drains us.

Each day it unveils another horror perpetuated by man on man. It is easy to become disheveled and depressed at the sheer number of horrors. Not only that the various social media platforms program themselves to feed a steady serving of this bad news to us, as our minds are naturally problem solvers.

The problem with that is of course that these problems are nuanced, layered and complex. They require systemic solutions that will take years, and in the mean time we are ultimately powerless.

But the actual issue, is of course the modern human rarely pulls himself out of this world of symbols.

To Paraphrase Milton ” the mind is a place unto itself, it can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”

People fundamentally in this world of horrors, to-do lists and constant movement lose sight of the true goal of mediation.

Meditation is practice in waking up, over and over, each day knowing that it will never be the last time until we live this mortal coil. Mediation, is trying to stir yourself awake enough times so that at the end of your life you can look back at it and think yes I lived.

Mediation is a practice.

The best metaphor I heard about meditation was this ” meditation is like sweeping a floor. One does not sweep a floor once, and think there it is done, I shall never have to sweep the floor again. Meditation is the acceptance that though the floor is clean temporarily it will need to be swept again.”