Jun 12 2008

Connecting the Dots

I can’t believe I’ve been in LA for nearly nine months, nor can I believe I’ve spent this much time at my new job. Time seems to have accelerated exponentially. I’m reminded of a conversation I had years ago with my father, along the lines of, “A year of your life today is a big deal – make the most of it. When you’re older, a year goes by much faster. Don’t forget to make the most of it.”

Now that I finally feel somewhat competent in my job function(s), time may begin to slow down again, as my internal clock isn’t so distracted by the immense amounts of new things to learn during the workday. Granted, this still a ton to learn, but at least the foundation is there. It’s like starting all over in martial arts – when everything is new, every moment is spent absorbing new data. Once you have more experience, the number of new things you learn are less frequent, but more perhaps more important, as to epiphanies of connecting the dots allow you to gain a greater understanding of the whole picture.

Outside of work, I’m still training. I still travel down to SD to train with Kawika Sensei as frequently as possible, although work and social obligations have been limiting that to once every six to eight weeks. Regardless, now that I have a student of my own, I’m using the opportunity circle back to beginning and work on the foundations. Due to the responsibilities of teaching, I’m finding connections that I previously missed, and it is greatly increasing my understanding of the art. Frequently, these are things I realize as I’m vocalizing particular principles or techniques – and these things I may have momentarily conceptualized before – but being forced to explicate them in detail to someone that does not have the assumptions I have has proved extremely educational. (And provides fodder for my personal note collection.) And yes, I’m still taking notes, and re-vamping the existing ones. When the currently evolution is complete, years down the road, I believe the collection will be quite impressive.

Socially, most of my friends still revolve around work. Years ago, I noted that it somewhat depressed me that, once old enough, social circles tend to revolve around those you work with and those of your significant other’s. And, this is precisely the case for me today. Now, there are some very cool people I work with that I hang out from work, and Nae’s friends are by and large very cool people, so I don’t really have a problem with that. I do, however, feel like it’s somewhat contrived. How close are you with someone if, for example, you get fired, and you cease to see that social circle? Likewise, if you and your SO break up? Will you still call those friends of his/hers? There’s a nagging feeling that the friendships are driven by circumstance and locality, as opposed to a deeper confluence of shared interests. Regardless, I’m not dissatisfied here, nor with my particular situation, and it is primarily a result of my own doing: work hard, train hard, spend time with the girl. There’s not a lot of opportunity to make outside friends when that’s most of your life. But, in a way, I love that life – this life. Which is why, despite meeting some very cool people in the local art, martial arts, and photography scenes, I haven’t really followed up and initiated friendships. I feel almost like the nice new stranger in town: I get along with people, and they with me, and serendipitous encounters are appreciated when experienced, but not expected. Perhaps it’s that fiercely independent nature of mine asserting itself again. C’est la vie, it’s leading me where I think I want to go.

In short, I feel best when I get a good days work in, learn something new, train hard at night, learn something else new, hang with the girl, and have a few moments to practice a foreign language, read a good book, and shoot some photos. Since extended travel is (temporarily) out of the picture, I’m thoroughly enjoying the options available to me.

But when I do finally get out travel – watch out.


Jun 18 2007

Expectations and Commitment

Last night I ran into a girl I haven’t seen in a while. We talked about significant others’, work, and life status in general. Eventually, she asked me where I my relationship with my girlfriend is going.

“Well, there you’re diving down the rabbit hole. You’re asking a question that, to understand my answer, requires you to view the world through my, perhaps skewed, philosophical perspective. Or I can give you the canned answer, but it won’t be as interesting.”

She attempts to cut me off at the pass: “So it sound like you don’t think it’s going to last?”

“Sounds like you don’t want the canned answer.”

“No.”

“Then it’s not that easy. See, desires are driven by the ego. The ego gets you into trouble. Not achieving your desires gets you into trouble. You know the parable about the man who dreams he’s being attacked by a tiger, right? And he’s so scared in his nightmare that he wakes, sweating profusely with his heart racing? Well, the tiger wasn’t real, but induced completely real issues: he’s scared, sweating, and his heart is pounding.”

“You weren’t joking about about it being a philosophical question.”

“Nope. But stick with me. Although you asked about a ‘good thing’ – my relationship – and I gave you and example of a ‘bad thing’ – a nightmare – but at the core they have the same essence: desires. You could turn the parable around and say that the man’s desire to hold on to life is what created the vulnerability that causes him to worry about losing it in the first place. He was worried about losing something that he wasn’t even in danger of losing. On a smaller scale, our desire for things like a better job, TVs, a new car, etcetera – things we don’t even have – open these vulnerabilities. We start to worry and stress about losing things we don’t even have yet. Doesn’t that seem silly?”

“I suppose. But I don’t see how you can be with someone for nearly a year and not have expectation as to where it’s going.”

“That’s just the issue: expectations. I try not to have ‘expectations.’ As someone I respect very much recommended, I try to give thanks for those things that work out in my favor, but I try not to ‘expect’ them. Otherwise, I open myself to losing things I don’t even have. It’s like grasping for clouds – only through the act of attempting to own do you realize your failure. I give thanks for what I receive, but realize that tomorrow the world may change. Using the canonical example, what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow morning?”

“It sounds like an excuse not to get emotionally invested. You’re over thirty, right? Do you just want to bounce around to different girls; to be a gigolo for the rest of your life?”

“Ah, there you went from one end of the spectrum to the other: the expectations of interminable fairy-tale love, to the complete absence of it. The problem with both views, as I see it, it that both are static caricatures. No one is static; everyone’s always slowly but subtly changing. I think the relationships that end up going the distance are the ones where people evolve in similar or complementary directions, while some end because people evolve in incompatible directions. And that’s not to say that it’s someone’s ‘fault’, other than the prevalent mis-guided perception that everyone will be tomorrow who they are today. In fact, in the west, that’s frequently seen as a noble quality, while to me it seems quite absurd.”

“So now you’re indicting marriage?”

“No, not at all. Even I may get married some day. But I’m not operating under the assumption that it’s immutable. Just because you realize that there’s the possibility the world as you know it may change in an instant, doesn’t mean you don’t commit yourself completely to what you’re doing right now. In fact, it may even be an argument for working harder than ever, and not procrastinating. This recognition of flux isn’t a license for apathy. I definitely have goals that I strive for. But there difference is that I don’t expect to achieve them – I work my ass off to get there, and if I get there, I try to accept the results gracefully. If I don’t get there, I try to do the same.

“Most people don’t seem to be able to believe that one can work whole-heartedly toward a goal – say, a new job or a marriage – but at the same time not ‘expect’ to succeed. In the U.S., at least, it comes across sounding like ‘not believing in yourself’ – which is almost heretical to western ears – although I see it as something even stronger: I believe in myself, and I’m also aware of the world. The most prevalent western epithet I’ve heard that can capture some essence of this is the Serenity Prayer: ‘God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.’ So asking me to extrapolate where my relationship is going is a non-trivial question. I’m trying to let both her and myself evolve, and hopefully we evolve together. Make sense?”

“So your relationship has potential, right?”

“Yeah.”


Apr 6 2007

Bits

I’m struck by how much of our collective existence is spent creating and recognizing patterns. As a programmer, my job boils down to changing polarities of ferro-magnetic cells contained in a very small space. These bits represent programs, programs that are copied to other systems, incorporated into larger sets of other program-patterns that analyze data-patterns, forming other sets of patterns, all reaching up to support high semantic layers. In turn, these patterns help other people recognize pulling “meaning” out of “noise” – distinguishing certain sorts of patterns and dismissing others. Yes, there’s layer on semantic layer, but in essence, we’re all just waving our hands and stirring up atoms in specific sequences.

As a photographer, I suspend transient reflections of lights in a reproducible form in an effort to convey a message. As a martial artist, I seek to use physical movements to organize and refine the flow of stimuli in my own head. The arts move bits of paint, or charcoal, or steel, or atoms in the air forming vibrations, in order to convey some higher-level semantics – but in essence, students of these avocations are no more or less organizing matter and energy that we are: cleaning our rooms, so to speak.

Even the R&D deep thinkers, or theorists, or psychologists, or lawyers, which may not appear to produce in the traditional, brick-and-mortar sense, are performing their own pattern recognition. When they’re not publishing (organizing via graphite or toner on lignin) they’re guiding the electrical impulses in their brains, and attempting to influence the same in others. They’re either generalizing, or delving deeper into the Mandelbrot, finding finer-grained patterns, just like the rest of us.

(Without getting into an aside on free will and random number generation here, particularly disregarding Hume, we must assume that general effort of any profession results in patterns.)

What does this mean? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Camus lately. Or, perhaps our entire existence is the futile (according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics) attempt at ordering our systems.

That’s a pretty bleak outlook. Is that all we have? Is the sum of our existence this gross? Or, is the value and importance, the driving force in our lives, the emergent meanings of those semantic layers? Is the importance our intention, the idea or feeling or concept we’re attempting to express or communicate, even if only to ourselves?

I’d like to think so – at a visceral level, it just seems right. But even if that’s an illusion, I think I’d prefer it. This isn’t a spiritual argument, either: I can think of no philosophy or religion – or lack thereof — that would result in anything less than suicide if the illusion is not preferred. Even the act of “doing nothing” conveys meaning and intent. The act of continued existence, in the most static of possibilities, assimilates and organize experience involuntarily, and an act of suicide by whatever means imbues semantics. Even “non-doing” is doing. (The Taoists recognized this ages ago.)

And suicide is also a sucker’s bet, since we can’t eve know if the decomposition of our corporeal selves necessarily results in either a net entropy loss or a lack of meaning. And trying to convince others that this there is no meaning requires organization of bits and the conveyance of meaning, not to mention being inherently paradoxical. In order for this to be accepted, it requires the complete extinction of life, spontaneously and without effort, all because “life is futile.” (Which it may very well be, but it yields no “fight the good fight” against said futility.) So, let’s run withe illusion, if that’s what it it.

So is it not what we do that is important, but what we intend? This could be construed as an argument for sin, anarchy, apathy, or whatever your hobgoblin is – and people have in fact argued this – but I see it differently. We don’t disregard action in favor of intention, but we act as we intend. In this way, we most accurately portray our intention – the most important part, if you buy that – and action becomes a vehicle for expression – although we would be remiss to confuse the two. The moon and it’s reflection in the water, as the parable goes.

The bits aren’t important, the patterns aren’t important, but that they freely flow from our intention, forming our communication – that is important.


Feb 7 2007

Asshole

I can be a vengeful, egotistical person.

Most of the time I tend to use these things for a “noble” cause: I’m egotistical in that I believe I can do anything if I apply myself hard enough, and I won’t believe someone based on anecdotal evidence. I am vengeful in that I retaliate when I believe myself crossed or treated unfairly.

However, that’s not always the case. I can be an asshole. (Just ask some of my past girlfriends.) But fortunately, these parts of myself are transient. I’m able to let them go almost as easily as they appear. As writing is therapeutic, sometimes you, the reader, get an emotionally-tinted catharsis, colored by my introspection upon given event. This is intentional. These are tools in my toolbox; to capture real-life events and analyze myself. As the reader, you typically don’t see the resolution, though – since it’s the process that’s important, and by the time something’s been resolved, I’ve already internalized the lesson and moved on. The feeling rarely lasts, but the learned lesson does. It’s one of the reasons I like to sleep on things when I find myself irritated. But even then, I can be a whopping asshole.

Will I always have this part of me? Yes. Anger, Love, Doubt, Fear, and such other things are a permanent part of human nature. What counts is what you do with them, how you guide them, how you use them. Sometime I do alright, sometimes not (and those are the times I’m a legitimate asshole). Sometimes I use them as fuel for writing. Sometimes it gets me, and others, into trouble. Do I stand by everything I’ve written? Yup. Should some of it have not been written? Probably.

Have I lost girlfriends and friends over the years due to things I’ve said or written? Yes. Would I change that? No, because I meant what I said, and felt strongly enough about it to say it. Do I still care for and respect those people? In almost every case, yes. Do I just have a problem apologizing? Nope, I’ve done plenty of that. Sometimes I have to apologize for an the effect or presentation of a phrase, but not the phrase itself. Did I apologize to my friend-turned-addict when confronting him? Certainly, I apologized profusely for the effect I was about to have on him, but didn’t apologize for making him confront the truth. It was enough to dissolve our friendship, but – years later, I heard – he was clean and sober. I still feel regret for the hell I had to put him through, but I don’t regret doing it one iota.

Sometimes, people just need space, and sometimes, the best way to do that is to break up, get separated, stop hanging out, whatever – it doesn’t mean it’s over for good. I’m reminded of my girlfriend and a good friend hers, who for over a year had bad blood between them. But we all hang out together regularly now – they just needed time apart. I don’t believe in things like meeting your “one and only” or “friends for life.” Such concepts imply a degree at contrived stasis that disturbs me. Can it happen? Sure. Should it be a goal? Maybe. But I believe it’s as much chance as it is hard work.

Because of this, some people think I’m an callous asshole. But that doesn’t mean I reflexively think that he or she is an asshole.

And I’m fine with that.


Jan 20 2007

Journey

It seems that I keep unintentionally running into reasons why A—- (as well as some other past girlfriends) and I were destined to be poor lovers. (Likewise, a reason we’re great friends.) Take these passages from Milan Kundera’s Slowness:


You’re astonished: where, in that terrain so rationally organized, mapped out, delineated, calculated, measured – where is there room for spontaneity, for “madness,” where is the delirium, where is the blindness of desire, the “mad love” that the surrealists idolized, where is the forgetting of self? Where are all those virtues of unreason that have shaped our idea of love? No, they have no place here. For Madame de T. is the queen of reason. Not the pitiless reason of the Marquise de Merteuil, but a gentle, tender reason, a reason whose supreme mission is to protect love.


She possesses the wisdom of slowness and employs the whole range of techniques for slowing things down. She demonstrates it particularly during the second stage of the night, which is spend in the pavilion: they enter, they embrace, they fall onto a couch, they make love. But “all this had been a little hurried. We understood our error…. When we are too ardent, we are less subtle. When we rush to sensual pleasure, we blur all the delights along the way.”


There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.

In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is direction proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.


In this respect, A—- and I were definitely polarized. I’m with Kundera here, while several of my past girlfriends have been in the opposite camp. That’s not surprising, as I have a predisposition for artists, and it seems most artists have a predisposition for unbridled spontaneity. Now, A—- (and others) might contest this designation, but there was certainly a strong element of it present.

On the other hand, I also realize that, to quote Violent Acres: “Do you want to know what we [girls] really talked about when discussing the best sex we ever had? We talked about our scraped knees and the bruises on our backs where we were bitten in the throes of passion. No one even mentioned that time you filled the bathtub full of rose petals and blah, blah, blah. It was that time in the back seat of an old chevy with our faces crudely pressed up against the window that got us hot.” But I also don’t think of this is as the first step. Imagine the route to encounter, all the nights previous, all the machinations invoked to make this an unexpected surprise. The slowness is the journey. People don’t talk about the excruciating hike up to Machu Pichu, they only talk the destination – but it wouldn’t be quite the same at sea level. I enjoy the journey; I want to prolong it.

I see this in my love of chaotic and experimental music: I don’t hear it as a cacophony of dissonance, as many do, but of a canvas of highly organized, yet abstract, signposts, encouraging you to slow down, listen, and form your interpretation carefully. Isn’t that a fundamental of abstract art? To unencumber that which can’t be directly portrayed with an indication of it? If an explicit painting of “love” or “hate” or “misery” or “happiness” only serves to minimize or limit its representation, then isn’t abstract art and effort to free the concept from it’s bindings? Just as words can only outline of a concept, they are not the concept itself, and too many words only end of obscuring the message they were originally cast to convey? The paintings and words and sounds are a guide for a journey, an invitation to walk inward and experience the concept or feeling yourself – it is a map for the journey.

Then again, perhaps I’m just reminding myself to slow down.


Nov 1 2006

Japanese Typewriter

Every once in a while I think it’d be cool to own an antique Japanese typewriter. It’s got a very novel quality about it, and you’d be joining an elite and respected “club” of people that own them. People would be impressed, and probably give you a little extra lee-way with your assignments. As an antique, it probably wouldn’t have an owner’s manual, and even if it did, I probably wouldn’t understand it, and half the instructions would be translated incorrectly anyway – or very possibly, be self-contradictory. It’s bound to be an adventure.

Japanese Typewriter

You’d have to coddle it just to get anything done with it – but in my mind there’s no reason to own it just to keep is stashed in a sterile environment. There’s a certain responsibility to caring for antiques, and this would be no exception. Considering it’s extreme complexity (and surely, it’s a delicate beast), I’m sure it’d required an undue amount of attention just to keep it alive. But there’s still that craving … sometimes I think it’d just be so damn cool to have. There’d certainly be moments of profound joy, having the simple beauty and depth of Basho reproduced from such a beautiful blank slate. Or, perhaps, just a little bit of me out in the world, a expression of myslef that will surive long past my body.

On further analysis, however, I probably wouldn’t really like having one. I’d probably get frustrated quite quickly. I’d find that it wouldn’t quite do what I want – I’d constantly be performing the wrong action, and next thing you know, it’d be spewing ink all over my new carpet, have wads of paper stuck in it’s maw, and the only thing it’d successfully spit out would be nonsensical and profanity-laced. I wouldn’t know where to get supplies for it, nor which ones were the best given a selection. Invariably, I’d end up sacrificing time with my friends and family just to figure out how to get a 17-stroke radical to print, just because I don’t under the language too well. Knowing me, I’d probably even lose sleep over it. I’d worry about it being stolen, or spontaneously breaking, or just tripping over it in the middle of the night when I’m going to get a glass of water. I’d wonder why it came with so many god-damned buttons, and who in the hell ever thought it’d be a good idea to create one of these things.

It might just be better to borrow one from a friend for a bit – I’d still have to be quite careful with it, but at least I’d have someone to ask questions of; someone to query about the operation and, in the worst case, someone to return it to when it acts up. Even so, it’d only be an occasional thing, and in retrospect, I don’t even know that I’d go so far as to ask a friend for the favor – it’d probably just be hoisted upon me.

Wait, no, I’m talking about children.

Never mind.


Oct 20 2006

Anticipation

A few days ago L—- mentioned something that reminded me of something important. She was talking about how she’s 27, and doesn’t really have a hobby; some activity that she does outside of work that she looks forward to, some thing that isn’t a chore. Something like my martial arts. (Granted, I think of my martial arts as so much more than a hobby, but I don’t expect anyone but myself to understand that. And although I do love photography and writing as well, they’ve always played second fiddle to the arts.) She expressed how she admired how dedicated I was to it, and she decided to look for one; perhaps re-visiting hobbies from the past. I applaud her.

It reminded me that people want what I have. Not necessarily the punching and kicking and meditations, although some do want that, but the passion for something outside of work and responsibilities and the ordinary; something that drives you enough to follow through long term. I forget that not everyone has this. I forget about the time I was still looking for it, and how lost I felt.

At a basic level, it provides a sense of accomplishment and physical manifestation of change and evolution, but beyond that, at a more fundamental level, there is a sense of positive anticipation. I look forward to training, to the new things I’ll be taught and the things I’ll discover. Just last weekend, while I was training with Kurt, I connected a couple of dots, forming a small epiphany. I noticed a whole new world to explore within the art. I look forward to investigating this further. It reminds me that what I’m doing today is in preparation for more joy and insight tomorrow. That tomorrow will be better than today, minor vicissitudes of life excepted.

Some people are still looking for that world that intrigues them so. A world that drives them enough to spur an extended exploration. I’m lucky I found one that works for me. Once again, a small, offhand comment was more significant to the receiver than the sender probably realized.

What do you look forward to each day? What keeps you from sinking into a depressive mire, because you know that it will keep you buoyant? Don’t have anything? As Ferris Bueller said, “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.” Solution? “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”


Sep 29 2006

Existential Morphology

As I mentioned before, I don’t really feel any older – I suppose that just sneaks up on you – but I’ve taken the opportunity to re-evaluate where I’m going and what I’m doing. Overall, I think I’m doing pretty well, but there’s always room for improvement. I suppose I haven’t addressed the Big Question: What do I ultimately want out of life?

Let’s start with the standard ones: Fame? Nope. Fortune? It’d be nice, as an enabler to allow me to do other things, but ultimately I believe such excess is more of a hindrance. Love? Well, of course, but I don’t think that’s a “goal” so much as something that you’re just lucky enough to be able to participate in. What about my martial arts? Do I aspire to get a 127th degree black belt? No, unless it came with a matching level of comprehension. I want my art to accompany me through life, not replace it. Just like love.

How about changing the world (for the better)? How so? That seems a noble goal, but it’s a little vague. What about learning and exploration? I’m always open to learning new things, in fact it’s a driving force in me. But to what end? Is it reasonable to be expected to know?

Perhaps a good way to find what I want is to examine my fears.

Am I scared of failure? Nah, I’ve had plenty of those so far, and I haven’t slowed down yet. How about success? No, I’m had some of those as well and I’m still rolling. Death? Ultimately, I think not. Confinement or isolation? Physical confinement would be horrible, but I think I’d find a way through it, as people do – even the Hanoi Hilton guests had cockroach races. What about mental or emotional confinement? Hmm, we may be getting closer here. My mind requires activity, evolution. I’m scared of stagnancy, or rather, I have no respect for it. However, I don’t really see myself ever lacking stimulation for lack of exposure – there’s always something to explore. So what would prevent me from evolutionary stimuli? Oppressive, exhausting environments, draining my motivation. Continually compromising myself too much. Too much work, too many obligations, too much time with girl, too much … anything.

If my fear is lack of having something to do, of something to learn, of something to explore or ask questions about, of not meeting new and interesting people, then perhaps my ultimate goal is connections. People, inter-personal relationship, exploration, learning.

Travel.

Of course, I’m looking forward to traveling, but I don’t think the concept necessarily requires geo-relocation. Last night after class, as I was leaving the park, the sprinklers popped on. As some parents watched from afar, two little girls ran laughing through the water, playing tag and playfully pushing each other around, screaming with delight when hit with a surprise burst of water.

Yeah, I think that’s traveling too.


Sep 6 2006

Unattached

There’s a phrase I hear quite frequently, under the guise of countless masks and permutations. Both guys and girls use it, and they’re almost always sincere when they say it, and it’s generally applied to our friends. Sometimes, though, we even say it about ourselves:

“I don’t know why he/she doesn’t have a line of guys/girls begging to go out with him/her….”

It’s an innocent enough phrase, and it may be true – we truly don’t know why. But there’s a sense of fatality there I don’t like. It reeks of either apathy or futility, it pushes “blame” to others. It’s everyone else’s fault, there’s nothing wrong with my friend. He/she is perfect.

But your friend is not perfect. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. There’s two ways to deal with that: accept it, or change it. I know I’ve got plenty of shit to work on; I know why my past relationships have failed. You know why there’s not a line of girls waiting to date me? I’m difficult. I’m tough to live with, I’m not around enough, I have a few priorities in my life that are ahead everything else right now, I’m not spontaneous enough, and although I’m not frequently wrong (because I tend not to claim authority on things I don’t know about), it’s takes a hell of a lot to prove it to me when I am.

And I’m working on that.

So when you look at your friends (or yourself), can you see why they’re single? Perhaps because they don’t want a relationship now? Or do they have self-destructive tendencies, do they go for the type of person that’s just wrong for them? Are their priorities currently elsewhere? Do they keep going for people out of they’re league? Is it difficult to get to know them? Does he or she have some superficial quality that you don’t notice anymore, such as huge gut, crooked nose, or annoying laugh, that distracts from everything that’s great about him or her, at least until your get better acquainted? Are their standards unattainably high? How about once they’re in a relationship? Do they not put effort into it anymore, or perhaps go overboard and fall too hard too fast and scare the other off?

None of this is categorically wrong, but when we look at ourselves and our friends, we tend to gloss over those unattractive bits and focus on what we love. Which makes sense, why dwell on the things we dislike? It’d make for a terribly dreary existence. However, when you want to know “why,” that’s one place you should definitely include in your excavation. I’m not saying it’s an easy process, nor one that even ever ends, but that’s the only way you’ll get closer to your answer.

Of course if you’re playing matchmaker, you’re probably not going to say to a prospective match, “Yeah, he’s a really great guy, but he spits a lot and tends to wipe his nose on his shirt. Oh, and he’s emotionally unavailable. Interested?” You obviously want to focus on your friend’s positive qualities right then and there – but that doesn’t mean you can’t approach your friend privately and note that spitting and nose-wiping aren’t the best of strategies. (The emotional unavailability might be a wee longer discussion, but you catch my drift.) I suppose the whole point is, would you rather your friend tell you your fly is open, or discover it during the first date? Friends should be able to bring these things up, but we can’t bring them up unless we see them. And it’s usually easier to see in others than it is yourself, although ultimately you’ll probably end up reflecting on yourself more that your friend.

Why aren’t there people lining up to date your friend?

Why aren’t there people lining up to date you?

I think you know. Or, I think you have to ability to find out.

Update: I got a very apropos response to this, over here: I think this bears repeating


Sep 1 2006

Favor / Expression

I don’t like favors, not in the sense that most people use them. Favors should be done out of love, respect, personal development, or some other form of non-convertible currency. Favors are one-way. If I do a favor for someone, it’s precisely that: an act done out of goodwill, not an act accruing future remuneration. I don’t expect praise, thanks, or reciprocation. These are the favors that you can’t bring up in an argument: “Well, remember that time I did [something] for you? An you never said thanks? Well, consider us even now that you [did something else].”

See, it doesn’t work that way. It was a favor. While it’s nice to have a favor appreciated, that’s icing. You can’t expect return turnabout unless you make it clear beforehand. Then it’s not a favor, it’s a deal. Deals-disguised-as-favors only cause problems down the line. If I do you a favor, when it’s over and done, it’s forgotten. There’s no karmic ledger to balance, I don’t think I “have one on you.” If you do me a favor, don’t expect anything in return – especially if I didn’t ask for it. Sure, I’ll probably “return the favor” out of friendship, love, or respect, but since you can’t expect that, you have no right to call me on it. I don’t want you wedging control over me in the guise of a favor. That really pisses me off. It’s like forcing me to owe you.

This is why I have conversations like this:

Me: “Can you pick me up from the airport?”

Friend: “Sure.”

Me: “Gee, thanks.”

You did me a favor. Thanks! Will I pick you up from the airport when you’re coming in from out of town? If it’s within my power. Why? Because you’re a friend. Because I respect you. Because I love you. But not because you picked me up once before. That’s separate favor, not a deal. How about this?

Friend: “Can you pick me up from the airport?”

Me: “Sure.”

Friend: “Gee, thanks.”

Me: “No problem, don’t worry about it.”

Did you see that at the end? I’m just letting you know, hey, this is a favor. Don’t worry about it, keep no mental tally of favors. You don’t owe me. See, a deal would go like this:

Me: “Can you help me move? I’ll buy beer and pizza.”

Friend: “Sure.”

Me: “Gee, thanks.”

Or even:

Me: “Can you grab some milk from me while you’re out?”

Friend: “Sure.”

Me: “Gee, thanks. I owe you a beer.”

Wait, wait, was that a favor disguised as a deal? No. My friend did me a favor. I volunteered compensation. As the receiver of a favor, I can do that. But the giver can’t. That’s going the wrong way down the favor street.

Why does this happen so frequently? Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it a belief that there are no such things as favors? I believe it’s because people don’t listen. Yes, everyone has lapses in attention. There’s no getting around that. But it’s much easier to hear what you want to hear or what you’re pre-disposed to hear that to exercise your brain and really start actively listening.

I’m mis-interpreted fairly regularly. Does this mean I need to work on what I project? You betcha. Does this mean I need to conform to everyone else’s filter of interpreting the world? Hell no. If you don’t take a compliment as sincere unless it’s oversold and magnified ten-fold, that’s your problem. If a single small criticism crushes your world, you need to grow a thicker skin. If you’re confused as to my meaning, just ask. I do.

Are you really listening?