Jul 31 2006

Like, Love, Hate

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s three types of jobs – those you like, love, and hate. The best one to have? The job you like.

The jobs you hate is, well, just that. It drains you mentally, emotionally, and because of that (or just because it’s physically demanding), physically as well. The lack of enjoyment and stimulation slows time, making the day creep by. You’re always looking forward to your next day off, or your next break – looking at anything but the present. You go to sleep dreading the trek to work the next morning, and can only look toward the day you’re no longer employed there.

The job you love is a drug, an addiction. You always end up working later than you intended, and never really “log off.” You sacrifice relationships and activities. You forget about other important aspects of life and leave precious little time for experiencing new things. You isolate yourself via your immersion. The job you love becomes the entirety of your life instead of an adjunct of it, it becomes the ends and not the means.

The job you like? When you find the the job you like, you feel stimulated and engaged through the workday, and you look forward to solving problems and tackling issues on the way to work. You don’t feel the need to pass time by taking breaks or extending lunch just a little longer. But you never feel guilty about clocking out once you’re done with your shift – you may actually feel thrilled that you have a project in motion that you can dive into tomorrow. It leaves time and energy for new things – hobbies, classes, traveling, meeting new people – anything that piques your curiosity. It lets you live life without getting in the way. The job you like is not your life, it is merely part of it. It doesn’t add stress to your life by its presence, nor through of the absence of other things.

There’s a Zen Buddhist text:

The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion.

He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.

To him he is always doing both.

I’ve seen this quote several times, generally outside of the offices or cubes of compulsive workers who spend days and night toiling over projects, working 100-hour weeks without vacation or days off. While that sort of dedication is impressive and admirable – and these people typically love what they are doing – I believe the spirit of the instruction has been mangled. The key is in the first line: “The Master in the art of living.” Not in the art of working. I believe the master incorporates work into life, it is not subsumed by it, thus, while he is pursuing excellence, it is not in what he does, but what he is doing: working, playing, eating, walking, talking, singing, joking, gardening, supporting his loved ones, playing golf, doing dishes, making love, reading a bed-time story, taking classes, teaching classes, painting, standing, watching, sitting, breathing … and I believe having a job you like is more conducive to that than a job you love.

Despite the last two weeks, I do generally like my job.


Jul 25 2006

Rage

I’m about 100 hours and 9 day deep in a 12 day workweek. My boss is on vacation, my boss’s boss is gone, and I’ve got three “Priority 1” clients. The sales engineers have all incredibly disappeared. I don’t even know if I have the time to solve the outstanding issues for even one of the clients. I don’t have the tools I need nor the time to configure them if I did. I’m reverse engineering kernel-level behavior on a proprietary black box. I’ve had no direction, no disclosure of policies, no knowledge of timelines and business plans and product lines. No indications of power imbalances, policy spins, or expectation management. I have no idea what’s been promised, aside what from comes out of the clients’ mouths – which, in the business world, is naturally suspect. I rise, go to work, return home, eat, and sleep. I haven’t even had the time to train. Things are not going well.

I noticed the low-grade frustration building on Sunday, but I kept turning the world upside down: this is on opportunity to stand and lead. Push through, quietly succeed. But I could feel the frustration boiling to halfway through today – I haven’t been meditating; I haven’t been keeping myself under control. I haven’t been breathing. I know I have to get of work before someone trips one of my wires; before I counter this imbalance; before I let myself get out of control. I left promptly after my daily status report hit the Exchange server at 7pm.

I speed south down I-15, industrial music coursing through my veins, driving too fast, too loose, too dangerous, walking a fine line in order to fan the flames, anticipating the workout to come. How far until I push too far? When do I move from dangerous to self-destruction? How do I tell the difference?

I needed to harness this. I arrived at the park fanning the flames, embracing the adrenaline and anger, reflecting on fire, desperate to take the distress to a lesson. Fire is brilliant and contagious, actively seeking out things to consume, even to it’s own peril – as opposed to water, which quietly acquiesces to it’s environment, taking whatever shape is available. I wanted to explode, to nurture this feeling, to kindle the blaze; I wanted to exhaust the fire, to use it, to not let it exhaust me. This, I decided, would be my lesson.

I bowed to my teacher for the day – the simple presence of the park – and leapt right our of seiza into … something. I don’t know what it was – not a particular dance or scheme, not some pre-arranged sequence of movements, but this attitude, this mindset. Something of a cross between a tiger and a tengu, for those that know me. Dances came and went, in evolutions and permutations, schemes and modifications and variations. I found myself quite loud and snarling, spit flying, full of guttural emanations, striking harder than I’ve ever imagined. This was not “do what I have to do to survive” mode, it was far beyond. My survival was not in question – the nature of the enemies demise, however, was the only thing that could be unanticipated. I shudder to think what would have happened if someone had challenged me during this time. I was not right in the head.

I was unadulterated rage.

In my mind I was destroying enemies without hesitation in ways that were … mean. There’s no other way to put it. I was vicious, violent, unnecessarily cruel. And I was looking forward to it – and it was coming without effort or arrangement – a natural progression, if you will. This was not “let’s see if my art works,” this was a visceral understanding that it does, and that I wanted to inflict monumental pain; I wanted to destroy the soul, not just the body. I was sadistic. And I wanted that. I wanted the next guy to attack; I wanted to ignite more fuel, I was compelled to destroy. I’d recognize of piece of a dance or a scheme, here or there, but it wasn’t pre-meditated – my body was manifesting some form of interpretation of my mind – and the mind was bloody murder, nothing else. In retrospect, the ferocity astounded me.

I don’t know how long I went, but it was dark when I finally sat back in seiza. The lesson began to form: Turn it off, turn it off. Meditate on water. Then back up, rage, back down. Turn it on, turn it off Up, rage, down. Control. You are in control. Up, rage, down. Instant on, instant off. Is there any left? Any ember of fuel? That pit of heat in my belly? Yes – back up – consume, destroy – exhaust this fire, use it! – back down. Control, take it back down.

It wasn’t until I finally exorcised those demons that I realized my body was shaking — no, more of a violent pulsing – something far beyond physical exhaustion. This wasn’t my just muscular chemicals – I’m quite familiar with that – this was like my soul vibrating. It was electrified, pushed toward action and powered by something far beyond animal instinct. This was rage defined by intent, powered by … well, something else. That revelation is for me, and I couldn’t be audacious enough to try to put it into words. I can say, however … I scared myself a bit tonight. A lot, to be truthful. There’s a dormant dark side of myself that’s more capable and more vicious – and most importantly, more ravenous – than I would have guessed.

I have a long way to go.

But It was one of the best lessons to date. At least now I’m familiar with the territory. And I’ve got some experience with letting the tiger out, and of caging it again.

Letting it out? Easy. Reigning it in?

That’s part of what scares me.


Jul 14 2006

Mouth of the Married Man

A piece of insight from a married friend of mine: “Guys never want to get married, until they meet the right girl, then everything changes. Girls want to get married even before they’ve met the guy.”

From the guys’ point of view, it certainly rings true. And based on the conversations I’ve heard when I’ve been the only guy hanging out with a group of girls, it’s not far from the truth for them either – at least for those small samples. Even when single, they occasionally chat about how they want they’re going to configure the wedding, where the honeymoon will be, what colors, dress, type of cake, etc. – something my guy friends and I have never once discussed, or even thought about as far as I know.

What is it in our culture that’s elevated to ceremony of pairing to eclipse that of the act of two people pairing? Certainly it can’t be personal experience, as friends who’re daughters of both divorced and married parents seem to have the similar aspirations on that front. Media? Celebrities don’t exactly have a great track record with respect to the everlasting unions. Perhaps just inextinguishable optimism?

A divorced acquaintance, who’s a wedding planner by trade, remarked to me recently, “Your first wedding you want to be perfect. Ridiculously expensive, big church, synagogue, whatever, opulent reception, the works. The second one? Good friends and family on a hilltop or beach. That’s all.” It makes the whole LA-style phrase of “practice marriage” seem a whole lot less cynical.

That said, most of the girls I’ve had serious relationships with have fallen into the exception to that generalization. Perhaps that’s representative of some congruency of personality that sustains the relationships.

On the wedding tip, in Sept I’ll be attending the wedding of a college friend of mine, and it sounds it’ll be one of the coolest, most personal, unpretentious weddings ever:

This will be an outdoor affair and the sun will still be high enough in the sky that you may want sun protection. We advise that attendees bring sun protection in the form of hats, sunscreen, shades, etc.

And when we say casual, we mean casual … flip flops are not out of the question. [Groom] might even be wearing them! But if you feel more comfortable wearing a suit or tuxedo that’s fine as well. The entire event will be on grass abutting the beach. You will never have to touch sand unless you want to … although it will only be steps away.

The reception will begin at approximately 6PM a short walk north from the site of the ceremony. Guests will be provided a selection of Tapas and plenty of the beverage of your choice – from water to sparkling grape juice to beer to wine to mixed drinks. We will provide either a place to crash on the grass outside our tiny pad, or transportation home for all as needed.

Gift Registry

We don’t have one.

With the price of gas, the amount of money being spent to come out here and stay the weekend is more of a gift than we could ever ask for! We look forward to celebrating this occasion with our friends and families!

The schedule of event includes things like “9:00 AM, Morning Surf” and “7:35 PM, Bouquet Toss, or some other silly wedding ritual…” followed by a tide forecast for the day.

Yeah, [bride] and [groom] rock. Doesn’t sound like they need a practice marriage. Good for them.


Jul 13 2006

Geometry

I had last Monday off and couldn’t wait to trek down to the beach to get some sun and relaxation in. Given that it wasn’t a national holiday, I was excited to get to the beach when it was relatively empty (although it is tourist season here in SD.) I found parking in PB, tossed my beach bag on my back, and walked down the Law St. ramp to the beach. Not too crowded, but not too empty. I’d have to walk north to the cliffs to find a little more privacy.

There were mostly tourists out, with some locals, but you can tell the tourists at a glance. In particular, the tourists like to leave their trash all over the beach. I had a backpack full of discarded water bottles before I even reached the cliffs at Tourmaline.

Even that far north, there were still some families camped out on the sand, so I kept going until the closest people were a pair of girls about a hundred yards away, and I was somewhat invisible to the rest of the beach due to the portions of the cliffs that jutted out.

Today was to be entirely a Ba Gua Zhang day; circle walking in the sand. I find the sand to be and excellent partner for circle walking, as it starts relatively smooth and level, leaves a record of your footwork, and as you move to progressively complicated guas, your spinning and torquing change the topography, making it turbid and uneven, thereby requiring even better footwork. I didn’t mind if people watched, but I didn’t want to be bothered, nor did I want to be the center of attention. And, I haven’t done the Yang guas in a while.

After an hour or two, my chest was starting to get a bit sunburned and I was sweating too much to re-apply sunscreen, so I go for a quick dip in the ocean to cool down. As I emerge, I see those two girls walking the stretch from their outpost to meet me at the edge of the water. I can see they’re going to ask me about what I was doing; I’d say most people haven’t seen Ba Gua before, which looks fairly distinctive with its proliferation of twisting and coiling.

The blond is merely curious, asking me what the name of the art is. She has a noticeable accent, perhaps German, so I write out “Ba Gua” and “Pa Kua” in the in sand. Her friend, not simply curious, is excited: “So you’re working with energy, right?”

“Um, yeah – all the Taoist internal arts place import on energy movement over physical movement.” I see the question forming on her face. “The three pillars of Taoist internal arts are Ba Gua, Hsing-I, and Taiji. Have you ever seen a bunch of people moving really slow in unison at a park? That’s Taiji. So, this is kind of like that, but different.”

“Oh, right, okay. Cool. How did you learn, did you download instruction off the internet or something?”

It’s hard to suppress a chuckle, but I do. “No, you really need to find qualified instructor.” Motioning to a folder that’s open on my backpack, I explain, “These are just notes from class.”

“Well, I do this too.” I’m thinking, learn Taoist internal arts from the internet? “See, I don’t have any training or anything, but I come out here at night and dance around, when no one can see me, and I feel the energy come out my head. There’s a big triangle,” illustrating with her hands, “of energy out of my forehead, or sometimes it’s square,” again, illustrating with hands, “and sometimes, a circle.”

“That’s, ah, that’s great.” I really don’t know what to say at this point. How much of an instant gratification culture do we live in where martial arts and/or spiritual elevation can be downloaded off the internet? Where tradition and form is so brazenly discarded, or not even looked to in the first place? Okay, so you may be able to mimic some physical movement if you download a video, but do you really have the nei gung/samadhi/whatever? Is whatever hand waving and dancing you make up just as good as the practices that were codified by those that devoted every hour of their entire lives to the subject, which then evolved by centuries of disciples with the same level of dedication? Is this just gulp-and-go personal development? Now, this may have been this girls recreation time, which is fine – but what about these people that genuinely think making up some random movements will “sculpt energy” to “purge their bad luck” or “bring them success at work”? As my instructor would say, they’re just “stirring soup” – there’s no mindful practice of internal workings going on.

I’ll be the first one to admit that following tradition blindly is not wise, but in cases such as this – internal energy development – until we have the understanding that our precursors obtained, we may want to think twice about going off on our own. Today, we simply don’t have the time available to devote to these studies that our ancestors had. So, with few exceptions, we’re just not as good at it. Let’s pay attention (whatever the art) to the system they codified in order to preserve that they perceived the important practices.

At this point in my training, around ten years in total, I believe I have just a little bit of internal energy; I can generate small amounts of internal power. But it’s like an ant compared to elephant in terms of what is possible, so I’m not going to abandon my teachings yet, or look to the internet for instructions. If I thought that’d work, I’d do it.

It’d be a whole lot easier.


Jul 12 2006

Roar

I was down at Baja Fresh yesterday, my customary chicken Baja burrito in one hand and lunchtime reading in the other, when a grating metallic sound worked it’s way into the periphery of hearing. It had a texture similar to when I’d get sand in the bearings of my skateboard wheels, only lower pitched, rougher, like an blender dying. It was intermittent and irregular, and extremely annoying – and I still like industrial/noize, like Wumpscut and Pan Sonic, so you know this had to be bad.

Looking around for the culprit, I find a small child with what appears to be a Godzilla head mounted on a handle with a trigger. Every time he fired, Godzilla’s eyes would flash and he’d his his electronic roar. Over the course of a microsecond, neurons fired in a trajectory something along the lines of:

My lord, why doesn’t his mother stop him from doing that constantly?

She must be totally de-sensitized to it, I feel so sorry for her.

Thank god I haven’t bred.

You’d think he’d get tired of that thing by now.

Actually, I was just as easily (and repetitively) entertained at that age.

I wonder if, right now, I can find the joy in that toy that he’s found.

Well, I didn’t. I tried to re-capture that youthful wonder and enthusiasm and self-centered-ness, but I couldn’t. Until, that is, he took me back to the magic of childhood, when he tugged on his mother’s pants legs and asked, “But what’s he saying?”

Yeah, what is he saying? Why can’t he be alive and communicating? Who says you mother can’t speak “Godzillian” (or some other lizard dialect)? Why not?

I tried to be young intellectually, when what I really needed to do was to throw away all that I know, and let the unknown be just as possible; I need to drop constraints. It’s an incredibly wonderful feeling, a buoyant, light accord with the environment. I savored it for as long as I could, although it slipped away quite quickly.

That roar was still fucking annoying.


Jul 7 2006

Bad, Worse, PB

Bad: drunkenly crashing your car into the front of a bar.

Worse: into the bar where you work.

Pacific Beach: while carrying a suitcase of cocaine and bag of weed.


Jul 6 2006

July 4th

Whoa, what a weekend – I definitely ran the gamut. Friday was predominantly refining and arranging my martial arts notes, capped off with an evening of meditation. More on that later, assuming I can get the reflections in presentable shape. Sorry, no great moral today, just a weekend re-cap. (I don’t always have the time to weave a good tale. Sorries.)

Saturday I got some sun in the morning up in Encinitas, followed by some cafe time, a movie at home, and then heading out to PB to meet up with Mike. I arrived early at Bub’s, featuring half-off pitchers, and downed one by myself with some of the regulars before Mike schlepped on down from O-side. By the time we met up, I already had a little buzz on – before sunset, in fact. We met up with a some old-time friends of Mike’s down at Tower 23, and I spent a good while talking with an uber-cool couple from the UK. Hopefully, I can meet up with them next time I’m “across the pond,” as they’re so fond of saying. We swung over from Tower 23 to Gringos, and capped on the night with burritos. Although I started off strong (damn your slacking, Mike), I only had another drink or two over the next five hours, so I was fine to drive home and woke refreshed to a warm and clear Sunday morning.

Sunday started with clearing out the living room and priming parts the ceiling for painting. (For the record, I’m a horrible painter.) I got the itch to hit the beach, but it appeared everyone was already out and not answering their phones, so I just drove to PB and see who was out and about. After a good little half-hour wander (how I miss being able to perambulate around the local ‘hood, with shops and cafe and personality and whatnot), I spotted three of servers from a local pub in beach attire. They were heading up to Windansea and didn’t mind the company, so I ended up on a relatively empty beach (for Jul 4 in SD) with three beautiful girls. Can’t say that I minded.

After sunning, chatting, dips in the ocean, and a beer apiece, the girls were off to see Daredevil Jane at the Wave House, so they dropped me back in PB and zipped down to Mission. I wandered again, this time running into a friend Natalie (whose boyfriend remodeled my kitchen), so I hung with her for a few. She was kind enough to allow me to shower at her place so I didn’t have to lose my primo parking spot. At her place, I met her friend Laneae who was down for the weekend. We were all a bit hungry and in a celebratory spirit, drifted back to Garnet, and ended up in Mika Sushi for a night of rolls, Sapporo, and sake. I must admit, by the time dinner was over, I was already pretty drunk.

We persevered. On the way to PB Pub, Matt joined up with us and we played “Touch the Boobie” – that little touch-screen bar game where you compare the difference between two photoshopped images. More people met up with us, but I was three sheets to the wind by now, and the recollection is hazy. Longer story only slightly shorter, we hit Bub’s for a bit, grabbed the requisite late-night Mexican (although I was a still full from sushi and didn’t order anything) and hoofed it back to Natalie’s. Matt bailed for home, Natalie went to stay at her boy’s place, and Laneae and I crashed at Natalie’s. All in all, an awesome day (although I would have preferred to have been less drunk) that made me miss PB. (We walked everywhere. Damn, I really miss having an interesting and lively community around me.)

Monday was Hellish. I had a wicked hangover, four hours of sleep, and a ton of random shit to do: get new tires on my car, drop off the prints for the art benefit, get an estimate on the damage to my bumper from the asshat who hit it when it was parked ($750, including the cost of a rental while they send the bumper to be remolded in LA! I might just considered my car having more “character” now) … tons of boring stuff. And I was not in good shape. Eventually, I was able to make it home to crash on the couch for a few. Generally, the only hangover cures that work for me are sleep or exercise, and sleep worked. I drove back to PB again, met up with Marcus for some food and a cup of coffee before meeting up with Nick, Dave, Lauren, and a whole bunch of friends-of-friends for a night at PB Bar and Grill. It was actually immensely entertaining, as I wasn’t in the mood to drink (surprise) and just sipped soda and lime all night. The posturing at such a joint, by both the boys and girls (I hesitate to call them men and women, but in terms of age and maturity) is positively hilarious. We chatted and people watched the meat market scene until nearly close.

I awoke refreshed again on Tuesday, ready to hang on the bay, have a couple beers, barbecue, and just relax in general. Aside from the 1.5 hours wait for a cab ride in, and five hour wait for a cab-ride out (damn taxi snipers – cutting off our cab on the way in with the lure of large wads of cash), I did just that. Seven hours of sunny relaxation (and sunscreen re-aplication), ogling the cuties, and hanging with some friends I haven’t seen for ages really made me miss having walk-able community – especially since I had to keep driving in and out of it.

Don’t worry, I’ll be pulling some of the anecdotes out of the weekend and expostulating. There were definitely some gems in there I glossed over so as to not steal my own thunder.