Sunday, October 7, 2012

MY 40 ACRES & A MULE (1972-1979)

I turned 40. On May 29, 2012. It seems I was born just a few years ago, my earliest thoughts being those of a profound sense of wonder... during nap times... that I existed at all. I wanted to sum up my years with little "wisdoms" I have learned via the oddest of circumstances. All these little vignettes are real but not in any particular order. Oh, Lord, I just realized I'm over halfway dead...

1972. "Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency." NATALIE GOLDBERG During the German winters I would sleep with my rolladens (rolling shutters) up and my window wide open, shivering with the perverse pleasure that if I ever had to suffer unexpectedly in front of others, I wouldn't be the one hyperventilating like an idiot or babbling OUR FATHER like a baby. How ignorant, though, because for the better part of my life I've enjoyed sleep like a thief, stealing snatches here and there.

1973. "Forget your enemies. It's your friends you frustrate that cause all the problems." MICHAEL J. TUCKER In college too many friends meant too many obligations. I had a hard time saying "No" because everyone was so intriguingly interesting... I accompanied a college professor to a "fine arts" concert at the last minute, because she asked me and I couldn't say "No." Oh, also, I didn't want to say no because I enjoyed my peers thinking that I had the certain faculty members "in my pocket." She showed up in this atrocious formal. I was so embarrassed to be seen with her that I disappeared during intermission and sat elsewhere for the last half of the concert. She was angry. How did she repay me? I was on the front row of a class she was teaching. She sat on her desk in front of me (at eye level), opening and closing her legs while she lectured. She never looked my direction, never spoke outside class with me again, but I learned rather quickly that she was paying me back for "using" her.

1974. "Stop being humble, you are not that great." GOLDA MEIR I once had a parent not enroll their child in my school because during their visit I answered the phone in the middle of a lecture. As a matter of course, I occasionally swear, smoke a pipe, or drink a beer in the presence of moralists who think me to be the apex of perfection. Because I have such an adaptable personality, I've learned to purposely "slip up" in front of people who consider me to be the fourth or fifth Personage of the Trinity. In so doing I deflate gnostic expectations I can't maintain... like people believing that I don't need to get paid, don't need to eat, or don't need to pee. 

1975. "Break the leg of a bad habit." PUERTO RICAN PROVERB I recently threw away years of documentation I had on someone I planned to take legal action against for a certain fiscal matter. It occurred to me that not only was a sizeable portion of my files dedicated space for this future event, but a generous amount of space in the underworld of my subconscious was also dedicated to it, flaring up in the occasional nightmare (or daymare). So I killed the possibility of following through on any judicial fantasy I had by destroying the entire lot of papers. I was hyperventilating while I did it (which thankfully sped up the process), but when it was done I had no longer any need to remember. Haha, I was screwed, but I didn't care!

1976. “Better an honest enemy than a false friend.” GERMAN PROVERB I remember being asked over to a "friend's" house in another country during a lunch break where he proceeded to tell me (in front of his entire family) some pretty distressing news. As I soaked in the implications of his little diatribe, I realized it was a set up. He suspected what my reaction would be (I might break down and cry or punch him in the face), so he had his wife and cute little kids present. It wasn't even his place to tell me the "news" (I found out an hour later from my family). What was his motivation? 19 years later I'm still wondering. Contrast that with a neo-Nazi I knew... I never had to wonder about his motives towards me. He stayed on his side of the street, and I stayed on mine. Once we met in the middle and we stared each other down nose to nose until he cried he was so hateful. This other guy, I never knew what to think after the incident when he would wave at me or smile in my direction.

1977. "The person who reads too much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking." ALBERT EINSTEIN In college I rarely read an entire book for required reading: I would read the books cited in the forwards, footnotes, or end notes, but not the entire text itself. Why? Because the college I attended always told us what kinds of conclusions they wanted us to draw in our papers. Why read a book from beginning to end when the conclusions you would draw from it would complicate the idea you have been told to parrot? I virtually always got a B because I modified their conclusions... based upon the footnotes and endnotes read.

1978. "Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it." GORDON R. DICKSON People like to cite me as a source or reference even though they don't follow my advice... which makes me look like an idiot because I endorsed them. I used to give people free advice and free endorsements, but I learned rather quickly that if you give free advice or endorsements, you are liable for that advice or endorsement. It costs you emotional stress & time when it costs them nothing. I now bill people for my advice or endorsement which makes them that much more likely to follow my advice (because if they don't, they are out thousands of dollars). I had a client who paid me for advice & an endorsement. He wasn't following my advice & frankly making me look incompetent. I found out why: he had a third party pay for my consultation fees. So I billed the third party twice as much as I originally billed my client (That cleared up  the problem rather quickly, but if someone is going to make me look incompetent, I'm at least going to charge them for it).

1979. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake. FRANK WILCZEK I like making mistakes. That seems like it should be an embarrassing admission, but it isn't. I have learned invaluable truths about how the world does NOT really work by testing the waters. When I first started a school in Tennessee, I started on less than $200. No lie. All compliance & financial issues, I learned on the go (how else do you learn?). I come across so many people who are forever planning to do this or that but never do anything but plan. Such people actually do so out of deference to compliance issues; that is to say, they don't want to make mistakes. Well, if one does not want to make mistakes, one might as well not dream. Oh, also, I think the idolatry of compliance to be a kind of enslavement because one can be relatively compliant but never totally compliant because compliance is transient. And nature also allows for generous margins of error.

Oh, don't  follow my advice unless it resonates with you (or it might cause you more problems than it's worth).

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