Money, Life, and Happiness

It’s just my life philosophy that I am trying to share with you. Everyone is completely free, in what I am concerned, to decide how to spend their money. The issue that I have is with the unhappiness money generates. I always believed that while money doesn’t bring happiness, they help preserve it. Well, it’s not true. Families with incomes of 150,000$ or more end up unhappy, in debt. I see them trading their long term peace of mind, relaxation for the “cheap” thrill of unwrapping NOW that desired gadget or car or thing that somewhat complicates their life and makes it less happy.
Money is meant to be spent. I agree. Up to a point. All?! Even money one doesn’t have? How much borrowed money do we need for our happiness?! Pretty much none. I did it, don’t get me wrong – even my motorcycle was financed with borrowed money. Yet a measure must exist – you pleasure yourself, then I believe you should take a break from pleasuring yourself… for a while. I have even witnessed the idiotic vicious circle: I am in debt, can’t make ends meet, I am unhappy sooo… I will buy myself some knick-knack that will make me feel better. What is even more infuriating is that the people will feed you wise sayings such as “life is more about being and less about having”.
As I was saying, happiness is much simpler and cheaper than you think. Renovating the kitchen with 600$ and some work – change handles, paint it, some spots, new window covers – will make you happy in ways a 12,000$ renovation made by some contractor will never be able to do. At the end of 2 years that you have been saving money, purchasing that set of living-room furniture you dreamed of will reward you infinitely more in joy than living with the dangling sword of 5000$ loan taken right before losing the job. What is wrong with saving and letting the Joneses get into bankruptcy?! The 10000$ invested when you are 30 that becomes 20000$ at 40, will buy you that peace of mind that the quick thrill of shopping never can.
The common point seems to be this desire for perfection NOW. Purchased a new home?! What kind of dream-home is that which doesn’t have hardwood floors, interlock patio, new furniture?! And the sad truth is that when we achieve our dreams we don’t fill fulfilled but EMPTY. We reached our goals. And now what?! Now we should mess our lives: get more toys, a bigger house, get in debt, break the marriage over accumulated debts, blame the other for decisions we helped take.
We need goals in life. Most of us don’t have Earth-shattering goals: to build a pyramid, to circumnavigate, to compose a symphony. So I believe that we should spread our goals over a longer period of time. Instant gratification doesn’t work. Not for those who seek peace and happiness.

Doomsday

We hear in the background – IMF and EU offer 78 billion EU bailout to Portugal, US debt reached 14.3 trillion $ (BBC Source), Greece has close to 500 billion EU debt and pays 13% interest rates on 10-year government bonds (BBC Source) … Still very few people stop to ponder what does this means for them?! Even fewer see the writing on the wall. It’s in our nature to believe that we can make any kind of excesses and that we’ll never pay for them. US, a country ridden by debt, this is the first year when people are allowed to pay their due taxes using a CREDIT card.
What does it mean 14.3 trillion $ in debt ?! It means that each American – old, young, newborn, making 12,000$/year is liable for close to 48,000$. And this doesn’t include the personal debt! Right now the Federal Reserve keeps the interest on this debt artificially low, close to 0%. What if US would have to pay 7% (less than Portugal pays right now and almost half of what Greece pays)?! That would mean 1 trillion $ in interest only, every year.
So why should one care?! Well, to finance these huge debts that countries run without much worry, the printing machines are running hot. US is financing this huge debt by printing money. All our monetary system is pegged onto USD so we are all liable to pay for it when The Reckoning Day arrives. Many people are completely oblivious about what it means inflation, not the real one or what is called hyperinflation (BBC Source). Yes, prices are rising but what if they increase by 3000% per year as it did in Brazil in 1994 (BBC Source)?! The bread that costs 2$ today would be costing 60$ in a single year and 1800$ in the second year. Do you think that your salaries or the ones on which you depend to live your life would increase at the same rate?! Yes, people will make strikes, pressure on the governments would increase (as we have seen in France, Greece, Portugal etc.) and actually by creating an unstable political system it would become worse. Soon. Very soon. Can you see this future with 20-30% unemployment, with public sector continuous strikes, with interest rates of 80-90-120%?!
But this will not happen, some would say, because US can continue to manipulate the currency and make the games. It is not so. For years now, they are having a hard time convincing the world countries to keep USD in their local reserves. Pressures on Saudi Arabia, made them change their mind in 2009 about leaving the current system. Last week, Mexico purchased gold worth 4 billion USD. Chinese government, stuck with huge loads of USD (close to 1 trillion $) that they acquired by financing American splurge, is on a shopping spree to make use of these reserves which soon might become worthless.
Not scared enough?! How bad can it be? In 1923, 1 USD was worth 4 trillion German marks! Prices were doubling every two days! In 1985, Bolivia suffered inflation of 12,000% for 1 year.
What is there to do?! Surely there will be life after the crash of USD. Maybe not as we know it but there will be. We have to minimize the risks. Go back to basics: live without (or as little as possible) debt, save and invest, learn to do more with less and… don’t forget to enjoy life. Who remembers that old saying “Best things in life are free”?

Watcha gonna do?!

The lack of logic frustrates me. It frustrates me deeply. I can’t help the feeling of being helpless when I am confronted, for example, with a mother complaining about her child’s weight and 10 minutes later encourages him to have a snack and use lots of mayo. Or somebody complaining about the debt burden and then, right away, proposing a long, expensive vacation.
People are not stupid. Not THAT stupid, anyway, yet they seem to not exercise any control over their live. Mostly everyone agrees that we are trashing this planet but most don’t see anything wrong throwing 2-3 years old electronics just for the sake of latest fashion, replace the car every 4-5 years, buying more junk to fill their closets. Everyone says financial responsibility is very important but when you point out their debt, they say “well, everyone has debt”. Most of the people deplore the technology invading their lives, but if one waits a few minutes you will hear “Ohhh, I am adicted to my blackberry/iPad”. All the media is filled with articles about the decline of knowledge – high-school graduates not being able to be functional even in the most modest jobs, inculture of the most shameful kind, yet somehow the main idea of the education system is to not push the children to achieve more, do more. We are surrounded by a “whatever” generation and yet many of us replace parenting with friendship and expect teachers to do our “dirty” work… but without being stressful on the children in any way.
Most people know what is good for them, know what is the correct thing to do yet they indulge themselves into doing what they want, when they want it. Of course, everything has a justification. “The more you buy, the more you save” or “we need confort” or “carpe diem”. Nobody accepts the fact that our perverse mind can rationalize anything and give a justification even to the most unjustifiable things.
Caught up in hedonism, preferring immediate, superficial pleasure to deep, long term satisfaction, we ignore willingly common sense. Of course it is hard doing the right thing, it takes self control, it takes tough standards applied to ourselves but not everything that is hard is bad. So very few children love math – yet should we remove it from curriculum just because it’s unpleasant? Does anybody want a surgery and the long recovery?! Then why don’t we just say to the surgeon “Please, dude, don’t do it because it will be, like, hard on me and, like, totally unpleasant
Why don’t I simply accept and ignore it, enjoy life?! But I do and I apply what is right mostly to me and those that I hold dear. “Whatcha gonna do?!” say all with a shrug. Spread the word, make yourself and people confront their own failures , adjust and try – to the best of one’s abilities – to live by the principles you have. And NEVER accept pre-digested thoughts just because they make your life easier.

Pawning Our Future

My ex said once that we are still born slaves and it is our duty to pay for our freedom. This made me think and compare it with what we accept as being slavery. In Ancient Rome, slaves had the option of saving the tips, do business and profit and, in the end, pay themselves out of slavery. Few did so, indeed. Most would use it for pretty things, wine, instant gratification. Their children, born out of a slave would remain slaves as well.
Truly, there isn’t much difference. Most of us hate to work, to be at specific times somewhere, the rush hour, being away from our children. But we all love confort and instant gratification and we are having issues defining clear and sane boundaries. At 20 we call a confortable car one that doesn’t break in the middle of the road, has running air-conditioning and, maybe, automatic transmission. At 45, suddenly we are having a hard time driving a car without heated seats, without DVD player and navigation system, 7 seats which we fill once a year and 300 HP to carry all that load. At 25, a one bedroom for ourselves is comfort, at 45 we NEED that 3500 sqft and 5 bedrooms for two adults and one child. And to pay for this increased comfort, we have to work, to go where/when we don’t want to, to have 2-3 weeks of rest per year, half of it being used to maintain that huge house…
Easy debt makes us stay always behind the moment of freedom. Bigger income, bigger house, more comfort and we never repay ourselves out of this modern slavery. Comfort?! What could be more comfortable than the thought of playing with the children in the park, reading a book in peace, having enough time to do our chores properly and still be left with some “me time” – all these without thinking of the next bills?!
I believe that everyone should live their lives whatever way they want. Yet I am still shocked that people can’t see this hamster wheel. And they stay blind not for 5-10 years but for all their lives. They declare that they want happiness but don’t seem to notice how miserable they feel after 20 years of doing the same thing, upgrading, replacing, redecorating. Or if they notice they have something missing in their life they blame it on anything else but on this behaviour.
Now, don’t you think that I am blameless! I’ve been through this but when I discovered why I was living hand-to-mouth, I asked myself what am I doing with my life, why do I work in a profession I don’t particularly like – to pay the bills. I want comfort too and I have urges for luxury too but then I fight myself and discover that I can be happy without that Mercedes and without increasing the square footage of my home. The thought that one of these days, soon, I will have repayed my debt to Capitalism, that I will be able to pay my minimum bills with the income I generate, is soothing.
Freedom, for me is to be able to do what I want, when I want. As long as I didn’t reach that point in life, my philosophy is not to over-live. Live the day with the soul, not the wallet.

Truth or Lies

I had a little while back somebody who kept asking me – based on a comment I made on a forum – if I condone lying. “Of course not”, I answered… but then I started thinking. I could come up with lots of situations where a lie would be more appropriate than the truth. A depressive friend who tells you that if she ever catches her husband cheating would comit suicide, and you find out that he, indeed, cheats on her. Would you blurt it out? A family member who asks you with hope in their eyes, after a cancer-check “What did the doctor say?” and the doctor didn’t have anything good to say… Would you blurt it out?! If you see somebody ugly by all measures, would you tell them straight to their face? Don’t give me that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – I’ve seen people that could be considered ugly by any beholder. If truth and lies bear positive and negative connotations, then what should have been my answer?
Then it dawn onto me: truth or lies are simply tools, social tools. What is important is to choose the right tool for the task. But how can we do that?! Easier said than done. I am not sure this is the only answer but I would pick the one that has benefits for the others, not for us.
I did cheat on my wife in the first years of marriage. Why?! That’s a long story but let’s leave it at “I was young and stupid”. I even told her, taking great pride in my honesty. Later, I did realize that I was telling the truth to get away from the remorse I felt. If I have had her best interest in mind, as there was no way she could have ever find out, I would have stopped doing it and learn to live with the shame of what I did.
Each case is separate and to answer precisely where to use truth and where lies is as impossible as to answer the question: when should I use a hammer and when a screwdriver?! Even in the examples listed above, the truth might be a better answer under certain circumstances.

ARROGANT

I was told that I shouldn’t place myself on a pedestal, and that I brag about doing things that people consider normal. I was told that I should lower myself to the level of the street, in order to be happy and satisfied. Well, that person might as well told me to change the colour of my skin.
Most of you, reading this, are Romanian and you know why I should lower my head. Because we were given a commandment that every head that stays high should be chopped until we become a people of mediocrities. We only did chose another way than the Western culture to implement this commandment. We chose the fight and extermination of those who stand tall, instead of the “hmmm, interesting” and turning our back… and to be honest our method is not so efficient.

I always felt special. I hated it and throughout my life I tried to look at ALL people as my peers. What happened was that I asked too much of them and they felt this is unfair.
After the divorce, I was able to expand my horizon, to hear many new stories, to enter worlds that were not my own, some of which I didn’t even know they existed. Slowly I had to admit to myself that I AM SPECIAL. Sometimes, after being minimized by low people, I had to force myself to believe it, because my emotions were telling me the opposite.

Words are cheap, isn’t it?! What is more important: quality or quantity?! How much of each?! How can one measure one’s performance?! The system of reference chosen is important. Do I think highly of myself on an absolute reference system?! Not at all. I would be crazy to believe that. I read books of superb humans, I had the chance to meet people who excel in their professions, I saw feasts of performance never thought on TV… But – one of the corners of The Absolute Reference Systems, Einstein – said that everything is relative (he actually told to an actor “I have a little theory about this” :))

  • Am I the best system admin?! Shit, NO!!! Who knows who that is?! I met 3-4-5 people who can whoop my bottom when it comes to understanding technology. I know I had to work hard to get even where I am because it’s not my main interest and I wasn’t built to grasp technology with a blink of the eye. Yet, after working in about 14 companies in North America, I realized that I am in the top 10-15% of the professionals I met, while being paid much less than the others, above me. So I am proud of being a very reasonable priced asset.
  • Is it such a big deal writing?! Nope. Many people write, some even publish, some even get awards and extremely few become best-sellers.
  • Is it such a wonderful accomplishment to be handy and do things around the house: to install a fence, to put ceramic tiles, to install a toilet, or scounces?! Nope. Many men do that and that makes their women happy.
  • Big deal to have a job?! Not so much… but when life and your big-mouth, and the crisis hitting technology makes you look for a job 14 times in 10 years, and when one never has more than 3 months (and that only once, and only because of a string of bad lucks – i.e. not having “secret security clearance”) it becomes somewhat of a performance. In the most unstable years, my income actually grew. But still, not one statue giving.
  • Earth shattering to have a man cooking?! And not once every three weeks but every 2-3 days, from scratch many times, soup and second dish, every now and then trying something new, adding something to his book of recipes? God, NO! Many men cook and no statues are placed for them in the public square and it’s good they don’t do that. And who is the judge of the quality of cooking?! Others but still, the biggest critic is ME.
  • Investing with some success ?!Knowing what you are doing instead of just buying on a rumour is a good thing, yet it isn’t something stellar.
  • Losing weight, 12 kg, 24 lbs and keeping it off for 3 years?! Losing it when I was the most depressed in my life, when nothing had a meaning and I was doing this because a dying voice of reason was telling me that I have to do it, because nothing has any meaning after all.
  • Cleaning and cleaning well, basic mechanic for the cars, good taste in movies, books and interior design…

BUT HOW ABOUT ALL TOGETHER?! I know I am mediocre… but I can only compare myself with the people around me, the ones whose lives I know well. Without trying to minimize them, I know that while many are good or even exceptional at a number of things, few encompass so many qualities which MAKES ME EXCEPTIONAL and I will not allow anybody say it different.
How can I prove it though?! Oh, I know, there is only one thing that people believe easily: NUMBERS!!!

In US there were, in 2007, 44,000 registered self-employed, published authors. This was the only number I could get but it’s a generous one because I will extrapolate this to the entire planet, and one has to keep in mind that not many nations have so much publishing space available. That means only 0.014% of the world population has published their writings. That gives a whopping number of 94 million people (gosh, wayyy too many but then again open your local newspaper and you’ll see what kind of them!). Out of these how many were recognized through national awards?! Hmmmm – a statistic that I am not able to find. Do you think that 30% is a number too restrictive?! Personally I believe that 30% is a large number yet I am inclined to err in the direction non profitable for me. That puts me in the regal place of being one of 31 million people who published and were recognized officially for this.
How many of these are planning, shopping AND cooking?! A 1998 statistic (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9739799) shows that 23%, 36%, 27% are respectively doing so. Ok, so we hit again the 30% rate as an average of men cooking. That elevates me to one in 10 million people of Earth. We’re not even going to enter the area “how many of them are cooking GOOD?!” What?! Don’t include women?! But it’s the same – read here: http://uclue.com/?xq=1501 – that says that in the advanced world only about 30% cook regularly.
How many of these would ever change the brakes on their cars?! (no, I will not ask how many of these have cars). 10%?! Yes, many males do maintenance work on their cars, or even thorough repairs. Think though about the ones you know personally – how many of them are deep thinkers?! 🙂 I think 10% is again a very generous assessment. Thus I find myself in a the very exclusive “MILLION CLUB”.
I don’t even want to go further and adjust for self-directed investors, because I am quite happy with this result. GODDAM, I just proven that I have the RIGHT to ARROGANCE.

I will conclude with another ranting about Romanians – so, please, other nations, turn your eyes away. We like to minimize the others and their accomplishments just so we feel better about ourselves and the lack of certified merits. We kick the ones who do a little bit better than ourselves and say “what’s the big deal” to even things and accomplishments we never even tried to achieve. The envy that I feel seeing someone rise above myself, I always used it to push myself further, to see if I cannot match those achievements (but only if I think worthy; you’ll not see me eager to eat 50 hot-dogs in 2 minutes).

Should I wait for others to praise me and my accomplishments?! Sure, that would be the decent thing to do! But don’t rush to judge unless you were raised in Romanian culture. If not, you don’t know how hurtful it is to have a mom who, when asked why she never praises me she said “I’d rather have others praise my son, than think I am a fool for praising him just because he is my son” (true line from my mother’s mouth). I waited 37 years for my mom to say something nice, to praise me for my achievements, to trust me to make the right decisions, and I wanted it on the account of proven track of record. It only happened after the divorce, when my mom praised me for cooking a soup and, more recently, for neatly arranging clothes in my luggage. I waited 13 years, while I was married, for my ex to say “You are AMAZING!”… and mean it. She said it once or twice but on longer scrutiny she laughed loud. Last year I installed concrete slabs under my deck – by myself I moved 15 tons of earth, crushed stone, sand and slabs… I basked in the admiration of my Canadian friends who were impressed but from Romanians I only got indications that I am cheap and “that corner is not quite rounded” and so on. I am sick and tired of waiting for Romanians to admit that I am pretty good and I will not let anymore, anybody, say I am common!

Yet, I know – “Nobody can be a prophet in his own land” – and we’ll (at least, “we, the Romanians” – as far of them as I feel I cannot deny my roots) always miss the endearment, the pat on the back followed by “good job” exactly from those people from whom we need it most! You see?! I am not that arrogant, after all.

Empty Words

There are some of us who never get tired of re-evaluating everything, for inquiring, never accepting pre-digested food-for-thought… but we are few. I remember a very smart assistant-teacher who, in high-school, proved to us that what we believed to be a just rebellion against mature people was a mere template we were using to prove we are different, not that actually made us different. Some kids become goths, emo etc. just to be different: enroll themselves into a huge movement (?) to prove they are different.
With age patience fades away – and I never had much to start with. Yes, I have much more patience in other ways but not with intellectual pygmies who repeat wise sayings and yet manage to empty them of all their meaning.


You are as young as your soul is”. HUMANITY! How many times wasn’t I forced to listen to this phrase?! Armed with this phrase one can pretend one is as young as they desire or as the situation demands. It’s not a dumb phrase yet it is misused. From my observation, most people have an OLD soul after 30 (almost random age… but not quite). Some are OLD at 17, very few manage to preserve their soul young through all the vicissitudes life throws at them. Let me make myself clear. Your soul is OLD once:

  • you stop believing in blind love
  • you start making silly calculations in relationship and let the brain decide what might work and what not
  • you believe that passion is something that will come in time
  • you stop believing in true happiness
  • IF you still believe, you are not ready to fight for it and you expect it to knock at your door at midnight
  • you are suspicious about human nature and believe that people are out to get you and make you miserable
  • you try to knock down all dreams and aspirations that people might carry inside them
  • you believe that job satisfaction is something related to money
  • you believe that whomever has the biggest house, the most expensive car wins The Game.

Simply put, a 14-year old girl who plans to marry for money has an OLD soul. A 65 year old person who still looks for tenderness, kindness, can still bright up when complimented, still has goals in life and can fight for those goals, has a YOUNG soul.


A particular case comes to my mind. It comes from online dating. A Caveman wrote to this beautiful lady something that in his mind was probably a compliment: “You look good for your age! Use the looks while you can”. Don’t ask me why somebody would feel the urge to post something so hurtful. A simple answer would be “because he is Romanian” but it is really more complicated than that. Anyway she replied “As long as the soul is young, age doesn’t matter” or something to that effect. I had, at a latter time a private YM chat with her. In a very short time, this lady with a “young soul” told me – when discussing how I see a relationship – that I am being childish, naïve, that one should look for one’s best interest, that passion will come later, if ever… She blamed me for searching for true love because, apparently, there is no such thing. Life and some miserable love stories she went through (no details though, just innuendos) taught her that. While I told her that she was right, that I am childish and that I want to stay that way, I never had the heart to let her know that she is wayyyy to mature to get involved with me, unless risking being classified as a pedofile.

MeHarmony

I just joined the famous dating/matching website. It took me through a very meticulous questionnaire and I like it thinking, like everybody else that this is a sign of seriousness. It was my second attempt. First time, I had filled the form late in the night going to extremes: either a feature was very important for me, or not important at all… in the end they announced me that they have no match for me, that I should not feel bad, because 1 in 5 people get this result. Of course I felt bad (and since I met other people who got the same answer and they felt bad too) but then I laughed at it, thinking: “OMG, I am really bad if even eHarmony rejects me… but that means I am special”.
I called it MeHarmony after a fake commercial on SNL that was suggesting that what people are looking for and finding is a duplicate of them in the opposite sex. While I don’t think that it’s the case, I noticed that in profiles listed on other dating websites that it is true: people look not to be completed and balanced by the partner but a totally identical image of themselves. This, now I realize, is another argument to my main point of this post: eHarmony, while very good in its intentions, is based on an assumption that is generally false… and no matter who good their process is from that point forward, the result will be tainted.
MeHarmony process could match people but only if they would be honest. Users are being told that there is no right or wrong so they should answer honestly. Most of them truly BELIEVE that they are being honest. From my experience though, people cannot be honest for a simple reason: being honest would mean that they know and accept that they have defects, some being big ones. No matter what is being told, introspection to know oneself and accepting the conclusions, no matter how unfavorable they might for one is not something people do. People want to feel good about them even when they have no real reasons. They are so desperate to believe that they are intelligent, kind, generous, patient that they lie, mostly to themselves. And what a better lie is there but the one you honestly believe to be the truth?! Once you managed to fool yourself, automatically you will be able to fool everyone else, especially and automated system like the one eHarmony makes available.
I remember that when I was a kid and got a bad grade or needed to hide something from my parents, I would cycle in my mind tens or even hundreds of time the lie… until that would somewhat make it true in my mind – with details and ramifications, just like the truth. I remember I saw killers that were proven without a shadow of a doubt, still denying any involvement and taking the truth even beyond the grave – and I believe they are convinced that it is the truth they speak. I know people who spend themselves silly, every penny, are in deep debt but still continue to argue that they are savvy people because they drive 10 km to save 2$ on an item. I know people who eat themselves to death but then say “I am eating so little and I still cannot lose weight”.
I always process information from stories seen or read and I identify myself with one character or another one – and to myself it doesn’t matter if that character is good or bad. At the same time, I had the chance (?) to share with somebody a documentary about OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).. The person had pretty much all the symptoms displayed by the focus of the documentary. After a few days, putting a little bit of distance from the fresh emotions, I asked the person if she can identify herself with that character… and to my surprise and hers – I could read that in her wide-open eyes – she said “There is no resemblance between me and that person”. I was flabbergasted and only then I realized how far people will go to avoid accepting their flaws.
What are my flaws? Oh, quite a few and I described them clearly on eHarmony questionnaire. I have short patience – I trained it and I provide signs that it’s running out, but it’s still shorter that the average. I need a partner who can be honest and when they made a mistake can admit it so we can discuss how we can avoid it in the future (even by not doing a thing one doesn’t have the aptitudes to do it). It’s not easy to admit you are wrong but I taught myself to do the very same thing. I am focused and I need my space now and then, so clinging to me and calling me every 1h at work will make me run out of patience. I am not kind and I sometimes tell the truth (it’s better than years back when I would always tell the truth, required or not, delicate but mostly not) – now I fought with myself and, unless you really annoy me, even when I say it I try to adopt a form less aggressive. I don’t like surprises – good or bad… sounds crazy not to like good surprises, eh? That is because I go by planning and when plans are broken that doesn’t make me feel good, so I need some time for adjustment in my mind, for realization that it’s good, that we can work it out. If my nerves are tried out by someone, after a while, I end up saying extremely hurtful things which, sometimes, might be the truth but are still hurtful and the choice of words can hit hard people. It’s after a while and only if I am being poked hard. I don’t suffer criticism if it’s “in your face” (one might say I can’t swallow my own medicine) but if there is merit, when I calm down I will acknowledge not only by deed but by words as well the truth of that criticism.
Well, the previous paragraph could be seen as an argument to what I was saying – I find myself excuses for all my flaws. I believe that they are not excuses but that they are true, the result of many years of finding out my flaws and working on them… but then again, maybe I am lying to myself so well that I have no chance in knowing the truth.

Just sunshine, wind and speed

If one reads my blog would be left with the idea that all I do is bitching… and it would an approximately correct impression. I wish I was blind, I wish I could simply enjoy life and not care what other people do or think… but that would just not be me. I always envied and blamed my father for having a quality that enhanced his life: being oblivious at everything that went around him. He would tell me often “Why do you get in fights with your mom? Can’t you just do like me: get a face appropriate with the topic, nod and just think about your projects and things you want to accomplish?” Well, the answer is NO. Now I know why – he probably has Asperger Syndrome, just like my son – and what he thought it was a developed trait it’s an inborn one. The only solution for me to be like him would be living on a desert island… and, with my luck, probably dying of appendicitis or something trivial, before I can get to a doctor. And yes – I used to blame him for withdrawing in his inner mind and letting me to deal alone with my mother’s nagging and dissatisfaction.
But no more bitching! Life is – as I often describe – interesting. No, you “shinny happy people” it’s not beautiful – sometimes is sad, other times is tumultuous, in spots is dramatic or happy… but it’s damn interesting.
Recently, as most of my friends know, I purchased a motorcycle. I had some money I was getting back from a credit card, the time is right and prices were very convenient, motorcycles attract women and I am a single dude… so I didn’t honestly was on the edge of my seat due to impatience. I was thinking also about all the hassle for the rider’s license, high-insurance for a new rider so I had my doubts. You imagine my doubts when, after a break of 13 years from the last time I rode, I had to take my new motorcycle home – I was yellow with fear, spun around a close-by parking lot until people thought I was crazy. But then it all came back to me… from the mist of my lost youth (don’t tell me that you found it!) the joy, the exhilaration of being in the wide open, fighting the wind, leaning in curves… I find it hard to describe the happiness that after just 1-2 days dawned onto me.
I was amazed how a simple object – I never believed in buying happiness – could bring so much pleasure, confidence in what is and what will be, and sheer happiness. When I sold my motorcycle – I think it was 98 – it was just like all my dreams of adventure, of open spaces, of the world being my shell had ended. I remember that when my ex would try to talk me into having a child I would tell her: “There is no 3rd seat on the motorcycle”… and then I would bend under the burden of my selfishness. And yet I sold it for all the correct reasons: I am a married man, I can’t kill myself, it’s not practical, it’s not comfortable. When I came to Canada, I flirted somewhat with the idea… but then I gave up. I used to joke (somewhat bitterly): “You know how I figured out that I am getting old? When I came to Canada my wish-list was: 1. Motorcycle; 2. Boat. Then I thought about the wind, the rain, the hassle… and I compared with the tranquility of the boat on an empty lake… and the new order has become: 1. Boat, 2. Motorcycle”. If I was true then, maybe it’s true now and maybe I found the perfect time-travel machine: the motorcycle. When I zoom across empty roads, my mind takes me back to the University’s campus where friends and I used to loiter on a fence and watch the spring wind blow up the girls’ skirts… It takes me back to a time where there were no deadlines, no real obligations or responsibilities. And then I leave the city and get in the middle of nowhere and the cool evening sends in my helmet the smell of “sinziiene” – flowers my grandfather had in the country side… and of dung… In a blink of an eye I am back to my childhood and all those enormous days of summer that ended in a story and listening to politics on a radio with lamps. And these memories are more like feelings than thoughts because I have to stay focused on the road ahead, scouring for rocks or potholes or some animal that might came out the woods.
If somebody thinks that I made a bad investment, think how much you would be willing to spend to be young again?! It’s all there, bottled in that V2 engine and it gets released into my body as I’m sprinting amidst the orange shadows of the sunset.
Yes, it’s true that after 1h of riding my buttocks are starting to get numb, I have a stabbing pain in my back but I simply cannot thing about them.
I am simply happy again. Not as happy as I could be if everything would be perfect in my life but enough to make days at least bearable if not even more enjoyable. I normally go to bed late and wake relatively early and that makes me somewhat grumpy. Now I am going to work with a smile on my face because I get to ride my motorcycle (although the morning rush can be quite unnerving).
Many people are asking me “Aren’t you afraid? So many accidents”. I am afraid – less now that when I purchased it but still the anxiety is somewhat high. Still, I ask rhetorical – why do only things that you are comfortable with? How can we become with new things, feelings, actions if we don’t experience them ever? I like challenges. Just like I love to do only complicated, presumably impossible things in my job, I also try to face any fear that my mind or my body flutters in me.
Yes, I am aware it’s still early to make long-term judgments. It might be that in 1-2 years the rain, the cold, the insurance or even a wipeout, would show me that motorcycle is not really for me. But then I will be able to lay in its grave my youth dream without regrets, love it and remember it if for what it was – a whim of crazy youth – instead of carrying it inside me as a frustration: oh, I could have been so happy if only I had the guts/the money/the X to do it.
I’m going back on my steps and maybe it’s not so wrong to look for happiness in things.

Brain – an obsolete tool

I know that I am what could be called “The Voice of Doom” but I believe that society needs people like me. Following the traditions of SciFi and distopic writers I try to show the world how bad it could be, marketed in a coherent social image. Most of the time it doesn’t really help or at least not in the short run because society has such a huge inertia. Beside that, people who, in this time of happiness, still bother reading such dark scenarios… or simply bother reading, don’t really need to be told about it because they can probably make up for themselves the society I am writing about. For those, let’s just say that I am simply adding up all the markers and unify the big picture.
Yes, the brain becomes a more and more obsolete tool. What has began as a way to enhance our lives, to free more of our time for our pleasures and to allow us to pursue the happiness, has metamorphosed into a race for removing the daily functions of our brain.
Now, let us sustain this. We use GPSes to navigate our way not only in unfamiliar surroundings but in environments that should be/become familiar, like our own cities, large or small. I met quite a few people who, after living more than 5 years in a place, still can’t name the major streets and boulevards or even highways of their town/city. At the store, the machines add, and subtract and even the change to be given/received is computed from the bills handed. In general we don’t do this and is difficult to explain to children why they should memorize the multiplication table, as long as we don’t. We don’t read and instead watch TV because images speak more than 1000 words, are easily digested. Even so, it seems that with the increase of technical quality of our TVs, the intellectual content of the programming and of movies has decreased. We have PDAs and organizers and “intelligent” cellphones that can remember the telephone numbers so that all we need to remember is “John” or “Mary”. Even guessing time instinct is quite lost since we have so many sources of finding out time. A search engine can retrieve information in a matter of seconds and children know this better than anyone, since many teachers advise them to use Google for their homework. Not so many years ago, that very same information would have taken weeks of research, a number of books read and so on – now it’s received instantaneously in a pre-digested form and students never manage to grasp the idea that education requires effort. Started as a current against the dumb memorization process of the past, the educational process now moved into the other extreme, of considering memorization a totally futile tool, even when it comes to multiplication table or the national anthem.
This advantage, of having information at our disposal, lead many people to consider that there is no necessity to store it in our brain. Just like we don’t store water in wells because we have running water, we ended up by not remembering personalities names, dates, pretty much anything that is worth remembering. As a normal consequence of this excessive “offer” process, the value of the information has decreased and the “demand” has decreased. If you can find anything, anytime, anywhere, what is the point of storing it and – mostly – processing it?
Going back to another post – many people are against using the word “STUPID”. What they fail to perceive is that using less and less our minds, we DO become STUPID, individual after individual, and – eventually – as a society! Just by not talking about it is simply pushing the problem under the rug.