An Extra Day Every Week – What would you do with an 8th day?

If some magical being came down from wherever it usually is and told you “I’m going to give you an 8th day every week to do whatever you want with…” You’d probably be pretty stoked, right? What would you do with that 8th day? It’s just for you, so what do you want to do … Continue reading “An Extra Day Every Week – What would you do with an 8th day?”

If some magical being came down from wherever it usually is and told you “I’m going to give you an 8th day every week to do whatever you want with…” You’d probably be pretty stoked, right?

What would you do with that 8th day? It’s just for you, so what do you want to do with it? It’s yours, nobody can force you to work or do anything you don’t want to do on that 8th day…so what would you do?

You probably have a long list of stuff and I’m just guessing here, but I doubt watching TV or movies, surfing the internet, or doing drudgery is on your list. It’s probably a bit like my list – spend more time with important family, learn a new language, become a better musician, exercise, paint, become better at something you enjoy, or maybe even catch up on your sleep and lounge around in bed or sit around the house in your pajamas.

It would be pretty cool, right?

Well, guess what. I’m that magical being and I’m giving you your 8th day free of charge.

Alright, I can’t do that. I can only give it to myself and tell you how I am doing it so that you can also claim your 8th day.

I figured out in Janaury how much time I spend reading the news, watching TV, watching movies, and looking at Facebook and other websites – I’m not talking about productive time here, not work or actually interacting with people or educating myself or even writing…just wasting time, binge watching, reading status updates, looking at news stories, and just sitting in front of the computer sort of looking for something to do – all told, it came out to more than 4 hours per day…that’s 28 hours a week – so even if I gave myself 4 hours a week to watch a movie, watch an hour of TV, and surf the net for an hour – I’m still wasting an entire day each week on bullshit. There’s my 8th day…it was there all along. I was simply throwing it away. It needs to stop.

Because think about it – that’s one whole day a week. 52 days in a year – that’s 7 weeks and three days. What would you do with 52 extra days in the year? Let me take it further – it’s like throwing away every 6th year…does time fly? Would you like a free year for every six? So if I live to be 102, that means I’ve wasted 14.5 years of my life on bullshit…almost 15 years! What would you give to be able to live for 15 extra years!

I can hear some counterarguments…most of that wasted time is at night…yeah, so why can’t I do some of the not daytime essential activities I need to do each day during that same time and take my prime time for myself? It’s not sequential, so it’s not like a two week vacation – yeah but again, why not do non-sequential-essential activities during that time and free up my prime time?

I know, it’s hard to do some of those things we want to do in our hurry up and wait and waste your whole day societies – but maybe it is partly our fault that our societies are so messed up. What if we used that extra 15 years of life to dedicate to making our world a better place?

Just think about it. The gift is yours. You don’t have to give me anything in return. I just need to make sure I give myself this time. It’s really all we have.

The Regulated Society

I remember having a conversation with a ‘gun nut’ friend who insisted that she should be able to carry and shoot her gun anywhere she likes. I disagreed. I found it astounding that she couldn’t see that 1) her gun created a power inequality between her and anyone without a gun and 2) that unless she could guarantee that her bullets had a certain trajectory and stopping point, she was impinging on the freedom of others to move about without concern over being hit by stray bullets. She, on the other hand, was bothered that I thought there should be regulations in place to protect people who she had no intention of threatening – her problem with my arguments could all be boiled down to “Who is given the power to enforce these regulations?” and further that anyone given that sort of power is almost certain to use it for their own advantage. Why should she have to give up power to someone else in the interest of unknown others? Why should she have to give up her own best interest to the interest of others with uncertain motivations? We were at loggerheads – I tried to argue that it wasn’t her, a person with presumably benign motivations, that the regulations were protecting society from, but from people with darker reasons for having or shooting a gun. Her counter-argument was that criminal person wouldn’t be swayed by regulations so all the regulations were actually doing was dis-empowering her while empowering an enforcer class that would create more regulations thus depriving her of more power and beefing up the power of the enforcer class which would eventually come to be controlled by those without an altruistic intention. I tried to argue checks and balances, protection of the weakest members of society, representative government, and more – and left the table pretty sure that I was right and she was wrong – and a part of me still wants to believe that – but in my heart, I know she was right. I don’t like it because I want to believe in the hallowed institutions of self-governance and U.S. style democracy – but damn it – she was right. Or at the very least, we were both missing some ‘right’ middle ground.

The regulated society is a disaster. It’s a disaster that most people are completely blind to. As humans we made a bad turn- this idea of disempowering individuals for the betterment of all is a terrible idea – like lowering test standards to increase the average score. The regulations are not working. All the gun laws we have did not stop any of the mass shootings (or individual shootings) that happened anyway. Speed limits do not stop people from driving fast. Food regulations do not keep companies from selling poison as processed food or using dangerous pesticides – yes, if they get caught they get penalized – which is what the regulated society is when it comes down to it – the penalized society – or the penal society – or the prison society. We live in the Prison Society. There is no freedom except that you are allowed to have from the enforcer class, the guards, the regulators, the power elite. We have willingly given up our power and they have willingly taken it.
I have never wanted to live in the Prison Society, but here I am. There are ways out, but none of them are easy. My world travels and travels within the United States have shown me that the Prison Society is a worldwide phenomenona – there are different flavors, but no escaping it. The Prison Society lives on enforcement and bureaucracy and the illusion of the common good. A dictatorship can offer more freedom than democracy, or less – it depends on the levels of enforcement, bureaucracy, and regulations. The only way out of the Prison Society is self-empowerment – we must re-empower ourselves and refuse to give up that power to anyone – and the only way to create a society that is good for all is to create a new way of thinking about power and wealth and humanity. My friend was right about the regulation society and that we should not give up our power to an enforcer class and she was right about the need to arm ourselves, but I think she was wrong about what we need to arm ourselves with – we don’t need to be armed with guns, we need to be armed with knowledge. The Knowledge Society is the only path that leads to freedom from the Prison Society.

My Smart Questions

I’ve been carrying around a piece of paper with these questions on it for a decade –

What do I want to accomplish today?
What is the most important thing I need to do today?
Is this the best use of my time right now?
What can I do to take the next leap as opposed to the next step?
What are my top three goals currently?
What (in my life) is most important to me?
What action can I take right now instead of worrying?

As a bonus – here is my plan for how to be rich:
1) Create your own opportunities
2) Have a growth mindset
3) Never stop learning

The questions are memorized and immortalized here – I’m going to throw the paper away now…

Extra bonus: The first rule of holes is that if you are in one, stop digging.

Myself at 45 – Goals Review for 2016

Here I am – I usually do this on my Birthday, but this year – I was away and unable to find the time – so here I go now. At 45, I’m just a few days shy of being exactly 5.5 years shy of my halfway mark through this life. I climbed the Chinese mountain that grants you life to 101 years old – so, here I am.

I feel good in my skin. I feel good in my head. I feel good in my spirit. It’s entirely possible that this is the most balanced I have ever been. I did not achieve so many of my 2016 goals – and yet, somehow, I won in this terrible year of nightmares and celebrity deaths.

2016, I dubbed it the “Year of Joy and Gratitude” back in 2015 when I was formulating my plan for the year. My purpose was “Be a better father, friend, son, husband, and brother. Enjoy life more. Make life simpler. Earn more money and use it well.” and the objective was “At the end of 2016 my life will be simpler and I will be focused on family, creativity, garden, health, and joy.” In the years that I’ve been doing this – I’ve found that years rarely comply to the structure I try to set for them. My path to this worthy goal consisted of seven categorized goals with each of them made up of multiple measurable goals. Here they are with analysis for end of year.

1) Keep my family safe, happy and healthy with a combination of healthy food, exercise, games, and providing a safe home. – My focus on getting outside, getting more family time, gardening, reducing meat consumption, and getting my wife her US Citizenship worked. I rocked this goal. On the downside, while I expanded the garden we were assaulted by gophers, slugs, mice and rats, and raccoons who slaughtered our flock of chickens. The garden failed this year despite much more work going into it. Family trips were awesome and getting Hanane her citizenship was the culmination of a huge multi-year effort. A+ on this one despite the garden.
2. Be Fit and Healthy by eating better, exercising more, and meditating. I started the year at a bloated 193 lbs with a 36 inch waist. By summer I had dropped down to 168 and a 32 inch waist but by years end was back at 185 with a 34 inch waist. My failing points were quitting the gym when the school year started (because I could no longer go first thing in the morning) and also never really getting my addiction to sugar under control. I began using the Headspace app to be sure I got my daily dose of meditation and re-awakened my Buddhist practice. The meditation and Buddhism are so incredibly important that I won’t give myself an F in this category but will instead raise it up to a C.
3. Make more money by selling businesses, diversifying, paying off debt. I tried to sell my businesses without success this year. I was unwilling to sell for a loss. I managed to pay off all my credit card debt and improve my credit score but was once again forced to defer my student loans. Financially, I didn’t come anywhere near my goals – and yet, I earned more than the previous year, paid off all my credit cards (but they have crept back up again), and improved my credit score. I also became much better at the business I am in and streamlined my businesses to increase profits and decrease waste. Despite not getting anywhere near my monetary goals – I can’t fail myself here either. I earned a solid C and given the foundation which has been laid, I’m going to bump that up to a C+.
4. Paint, draw, sculpt, build. I didn’t do nearly enough painting, drawing, building, or other artwork – but I did enter three of my paintings in a juried show and managed to sell two of my paintings. B.
5. Lighten load sell and give away stuff. There is so much more work to do here. And yet, I am so much lighter than 2015. I sold, gave away, donated, trashed, and got rid of so much stuff. I changed my buying habits and developed new venues to get rid of my accumulations and earn more money. There is more work here, but I earned a solid A in this goal.
6. Write by writing words. I never knew that writing would become such a difficult thing to do. Creating the time and space for it is the really hard part. I did turn a corner and change from no writing to some writing – but there is a lot of progress to be made here. C.
7. Be joyful with gratitude, acceptance, love. This is a tricky one – I found this, but not in the way I expected. A big part of it was realizing that it’s okay to tell a whole class of people that they suck and I want nothing to do with them. Realizing that was okay and that I don’t have to make room in my life for assholes opened the door to the greatest feeling of acceptance I’ve ever known. My 2015 hippie formula was missing an essential part – it’s okay to turn your back and say fuck that person, they suck and it’s not my problem. A.

Usually there are a whole slew of unplanned goals that I write about here. This year, that didn’t really happen. I did however accomplish some noteworthy things that deserve a bit of extra credit. I taught my 5-year old daughter to read, do math (addition,subtraction, and beginning multiplication) and ride a two wheeled bike. I find myself the proud owner of a 1987 VW Vanagon, once again being a member of the VW tribe. There have been some rather profound personal discoveries which I can’t really describe with words but which come from meditation and self awareness. I’ve got a grasp on the tail-feathers of my inner peace. In a sense, I feel like I’ve been Steve Martin in that movie The Jerk and I’ve been clutching onto that chair and thermos whilst ignoring the seemingly simple wisdom of my share-cropping father who tried to point out the difference between shit and shinola. At some point in 2016, I dropped the chair and thermos and stopped rubbing shit in my hair. I get it papa. And that earns me an extra credit A+.

By my reckoning, that gives me a cumulative GPA of 3.31 which translates (by rounding up to a 3.5 or a B+ for 2016. That sounds about right.

Past Behavior

Past Behavior

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my past behavior. While I’ve always thought of myself as a good person – lots of the things I have done – in particular with regards to other people, have been atrocious. The truth is – my behavior was often that of a bad person. I hope that I am no longer a bad person who thinks he is good (or a good person doing bad things) but the truth is – I didn’t think I was those things before…so it’s very hard to know. The problem really comes with the ego and its ability to justify bad behavior as acceptable behavior or even good behavior. How many times have any of us done something mean or terrible – something a good person would feel bad about – but the ego has come to our rescue and said “that person deserved it” or “they had it coming to them” or even “somebody needed to do that”. I remember punching a guy in the face one time. The guy wasn’t attacking me, he had simply said some things I didn’t like. So I punched him in the face. Good people don’t punch other people in the face unless they are under attack or defending someone who needs to be defended. Period. I felt a twinge of guilt afterwards…but my trusty ego …it saved the day…said I was justified…told me that the guy deserved it…painted me as a hero to all the people who the guy had said mean things to (and he was an a-hole). So, I did a bad person action – I punched another human being in the face when I didn’t need to – and then, instead of telling myself I was a bad person for that, or correcting my behavior, I encouraged my behavior by letting my ego tell me I was a hero. There was a time, after that event, when I was looking for opportunities to punch people in the face. Bad behavior. And yet, my ego had convinced me that punching people in the face made me a hero. I’m sure that many or most or maybe even all bad guys … have fallen into that trap. What kinds of lies has your ego told you? I am only now beginning to understand the deceptions my ego has played on me…If my ego was able to convince me I was a hero when I was being a bad guy, what other illusions has it cast on me? What about you? I think it is worth thinking about…

I hear my ego in my mind…it usually makes itself known with a voice that says things like “What do I want?” or “What would make me happy?” or “What I really want is…” or “What I would like to do is..” – it’s really quite distinct from my normal thoughts or brain workings. I’ve started to address it as “I” – not in a judgmental way, but just recognizing that it is not me in totality…but simply a part of me. So, addressing my ego (mentally) I say “What does ‘I’ want?” or “What would make “I” happy?” and then “Will what “I” wants actually be good for me?” “Is what “I” wants something that will make me happy?” It’s not bad grammar…hopefully the way I am explaining it makes sense. In any event, the idea is to go beyond what gratifies my ego and move into decisions that gratify the totality of myself…

I just wanted to share. Do you have any experiences like this? What are your thoughts?

A Memento of Henri Bergson – Christopher Nolan’s Memento

A Memento of Henri Bergson

by Vago Damitio

You may think that you are free, but you are not. You may think that each action you take is an unrestrained choice, but it is not. You ( and everyone else) are incarcerated in a prison that controls every action you take and every decision you make. Even the decision to be reading these words was already determined before you had read the title of this article.

You can stop right now….but obviously that is not a decision you were able to make, because you are still reading. I don’t want you to harbor any illusions, I am just as much a prisoner as you are. As I write these words, a series of circumstances have led me to a point that cannot be returned from. The sum total of my associations and memories combined with the intensity of my feelings about them have led me to this moment, as I sit and write these words, and while it may feel like this is voluntary, the truth is that I really have no choice in the matter.

How can this be? Just as you can stop reading, I can stop writing…but we have not. We have not been able to stop even though the idea was suggested to us both. We continue on. I am not alone in suggesting that memory has a much stronger hold upon the actions we take in the present than most of us care to admit. Philosophers have debated the case of free will. Thomas Hobbes and David Hume suggested that if one were not being coerced by an outside agent that one was exercising free will. This is a just and necessary argument. It is just because, as John Locke suggested later, if one can pause long enough to think about the effects of one’s actions, one is able to make a choice. It is necessary because if individuals are not held accountable for their actions, there is no basis for order in any society.

Necessary and just…agreed, but are they correct? What if the judgment that is made in the pause Locke speaks of is influenced by the perception of the individual making the judgement? What if even the ability to pause and consider an action before making a judgement is predetermined within the individual by the way that the individual views past experience and current events? If this is the case, than, just as you are still reading these words and I am still writing these words, other actions by other individuals may actually be predetermined and potentially mapped out by the most fascist of all prison wardens….memory.

The philosopher Henri Bergson said in his book Matter and Memory that

It may be said that we have no grasp of the future without an
equal and corresponding outlook over the past, that the onrush
of our activity makes a void behind it in which memories flow,
and that memory is thus the reverberation in the sphere of
consciousness, of the indetermination of our will.

Consider that for a moment, since you are reading this. I will do the same, since I am writing this. I am not certain, but I think that it implies that not only are we influenced in our current decisions by the events of the past, but that we let current events reshape the events of the past, thus, the past that we are basing our decisions upon, is actually variable. This confounds the issue even further. To return to the situation that we currently find ourselves in, are we reading/writing this because of past events or reshaping past events to justify our reading/writing of this essay? In either case, who is actually in charge and making the decision to read/write this essay?

At the risk of disappointing you, I must confess here, that I do not have an answer. This whole series of events has been conjured up by a viewing of a film directed by Christopher Nolan, Memento. In Memento, such questions are suggested and because of an earlier exposure to the works of Henri Bergson, they have come to light in this essay. Memento is the story of a man who seeks to avenge the rape/murder of his wife. This is compounded a condition he has called anterograde amnesia which does not allow him to build new memories. His memories are fixed in the past. Or so he thinks.

The film starts from the present and traces events backwards using the point of view of the main character, Leonard, a man who uses notes, Polaroid photos, and tattoos to remember what he is doing and who he meets. Things are not as they seen for Leonard. His condition makes him vulnerable to exploitation. In the end (which confusingly is actually the beginning), Leonard is forced to confront the fact that things may not have been the way he thought they were. He is forced in short, to ask himself if what he thought was the past which had driven him to the present, was really what he had thought it was. He is forced to consider his actions and whether they were justified based on his memories. Leonard, is lucky though, he only needs to remember to tattoo a justification upon himself and it becomes reality to him.

Can you find justification for your actions?