Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"NO"

No,

I hear a lot of permutations of the word.


You probably do as well even if you don't notice it at the time.  In fact the word "NO" has probably saved your life.  


What do you think a glowing red stoplight is telling you?  


Simply, NO...


Because of course if we ignored it, chances are we'd probably be involved in some horrendous accident harming ourselves and others and ultimately spurring a flood of negative consequences.  All of them ultimately telling you...NO!


The word will have its due one way or the other.  I suggest the path of least resistance...


So NO can be a good thing.  A guard rail protecting you from a sheer cliff.  An intuition about maybe not taking a stroll down that dark, sketchy street.


NO gets a bad rap for being negative.  Nobody likes to be denied something (see what I did there...) . Be it a favorite morning danish or tickets to a popular performance the last thing you want to hear is that there's just NO more left.  


There are other kinds of bad NO's too.  


NO, you didn't get the job.

NO, you don't qualify for the loan.
NO, you're not going to be a rock star
NO, she doesn't love you in "that way."

They say the trick to get through this mess we call life is to keep things in perspective.  Sometimes that's hard to do and even in an age of constant communication we can end up feeling alone even though it seems like we're in a crowd.


You may have 10,000 followers on Facebook but one careless quip can make you a pariah.


NO can be a lonely place.


A friend recently told me, "After awhile hearing nothing but 'NO' can take its toll on you."

We were talking about my recent difficulties in supporting myself and while what he said was true I also knew that instead of allowing NO being a wall, I had to keep endeavoring to treat it as little more than a low hurdle.


To be honest, the word hasn't been kind to me lately but then there's that perspective thing again.


It reminds me of that joke that Garrison Keillor makes about the Lutheran philosophy of life. 


"Things could always be worse..."


Which sounds kind of self-defeating until you realize that it's an admonition to appreciate what you've got.  


I often remind myself that you're never really at the bottom until somebody's throwing dirt on your coffin.


Which, by the way, is why I'm not a fan of zombie movies or Lazarus stories.


Zombies are gross and I'm more inclined to believe that Lazarus was less resurrected than  buried alive...  


Sometimes NO can be a guide.  It can show you the way when reason otherwise fails you.  Take the example of not getting that job you were after.


Of all the possible reasons that could be responsible the only one that matters is were you honest with yourself when you went after it?


Was it really what you wanted or just something to continue a lifestyle you weren't really that wild about to start with.


NO can be the ultimate "tough love."  It's half of the equation when people talk about what's in their "heart of hearts."  


They say, "The heart wants what it wants." and there's no denying it no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise.


You know my story.  I've always tried to spend my time doing things in harmony with my passions.  Sometimes that works, most of the time it doesn't but it's worth the struggle.

I want to be a writer so I write.  Nobody much cares about my work and I've received no accolades doing it aside from a few kind words from my peers.  


The point is that I continue to do it because NO is a hurdle not a wall.  I believe in what I'm doing and hope it brings some value to someone even if it's only me.

That's the point.  Take the adversity, the denials, the denouncements and use them as tools instead of letting them define you.  


Life does't always happen on a convenient schedule as much as we'd like it to.  Bills,commitments and mortgage payments all try to dictate what we're supposed to be.  It becomes far too easy to live according to someone else's expectations.  It knocks us out of sync.

No wonder everyone is so miserable....

NO can be a good word.  A guidepost that forces you to choose what you're living for.  

There's nothing wrong with having responsibilities but they should never define who you are.  

Can you deny that paying bills is easier when you're engaged with what helps you to pay them?

If you can then NO has more power over you than it should.  


There's a natural flow in all things.  Throwing rocks in its path only causes disorder and destruction.  


That may seem a bit Zen but it's the simplest way to express what I'm trying to tell you.


NO is just a tool, not a character assessment, not a valuation, not a condemnation.  


Just a tool....




Thursday, April 28, 2016

Milennials



I'm in a weird place.

Not physically weird like the furniture is nailed to ceiling or anything like that.  No, I'm stuck between two human generations that are vastly different but more alike than they realize.  I believe time will bear that out but for now it's just a hunch.

I hear a lot about how millennials have an entitlement mentality.  Well, I can tell you that such condemnations aren't exclusive to them nor are they anything new.

The civil rights movement was accused of similar "transgressions" against society until the accused flipped the term around on their accusers.

Damn right that people shouldn't be judged based on their complexion!  That's as legitimate an "entitlement" as expecting to be able to walk down the street without a bunch of morons wearing sheets hanging you from the nearest tree.

It really boils down to a heartfelt belief in social justice.

Social Media, the Internet and information overload in general have enabled social activism for causes a world away.  But for many millennials it seems that it's enough to tap the "Like" key and call it a victory for the cause.

The problem is is that somewhere along the line social justice has gotten mixed in with Beyonce' videos and video game streams.  Just another element of a social profile.

Worse, it's my generation that caused it.  We are the helicopter parents who banned the word "No" and instilled the belief that everything our kids did was wonderful and had a higher purpose.  Even if the brat was a borderline sociopath.

I've frequently used the phrase "T-ball trophy" to express my disdain for this kind of parenting.  There's a narcissistic undertone that comes out of it that says that because a belief is dearly held and popular that all others are invalid.  It all goes straight back to my generation who were determined to throw out the lessons of 100 generations of procreation and somehow expect a better result in our offspring.

It's where the entitlement charge comes from as well.

How can we blame millennials for dearly held left-field ideologies when we never told them they could be wrong?


Ladies and Gentlemen of Generation X.   You've raised a generation of suckers that will believe and suffer anything so long as it plays into the fantasy world we created for them.

I've seen nothing that better illustrates this point than the groundswell of support for Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. Most of which comes from millennials.

There's nothing wrong with that per se' but when asked about the reasons for supporting him you hear a chorus of anti-establishment rhetoric with little substance.

Hey, I'd love to see all those things that Bernie is promising come to pass too.  But reality says that he's pushing an ideology.  He's selling a product no different than an IPhone or  a designer handbag.  It's promotion without substance with a marketing program that promises instant gratification.  Offer anything less at your own peril.

In fact even President Obama suffered a backlash shortly after transitioning from candidate to President because many supporters thought he should be doing more than he was.  As though the heavens were supposed to open up and vanquish all the evils of the world the moment he took the oath of office.

I've gotten into discussions with millennials over this and the common thread always comes back to a hyperactive belief in the need for immediate change without delay.  Consequences be damned!  We're going to save the planet and bring income equality to the world in a month.  If only these old "establishment" types would just hurry up and die already!

I can appreciate the commitment and the ambition especially when it's focused in a direction I happen to personally agree with.  But I don't buy anything based on its marketing.  I dig deeper which runs headlong into the entitlement mentality.

It seems just because you want something it should happen regardless of the consequences.  Ideologies are great for those weened on instant gratification but they ultimately end up as little more than lip service.

It's not that I believe that the millennial generation is any more naive or less intelligent.  I think they're responding to the programming we gave them.

Which is interesting because at some point in life you throw off that programming.  They say as we age we tend to get more conservative and cautious simply because we have more to lose and less time to recover.

I wouldn't be surprised that at some point when I'm just about ready to collect my paltry social security check of $1200 a month, the millennial generation is going to look a lot more like my parents, the baby boomers.

Remember that young baby boomers were just as much social activists as millennials are now.  In fact my generation spent years dodging the barbs for having no social conscience.  We were the "Do nothing" generation while our parents were lauded for changing social conscience and their parents for ushering in the modern age after winning world war 2.

But our parents eventually got older and with it more conservative.  For the  most part they took advantage of the trappings of the civilized world, raised families and relegated their activism to collections of Time Life "Sounds of the 60's." CD's.  Social justice was important but the climb up the corporate ladder even more so.

If any generation got idled it was theirs.  We still deal with pay inequality for women, stagnant wages and erosion of personal liberties.  What happened to all that activism in the 40 year's they've been in power?

Knee jerk legislation, mandatory sentencing for minor offenses and a income inequality unrivaled since the days of the 19th century robber barons.

I see a similar future for the millennial generation.  At some point you have to look past the packaging if you don't want to end up with maggots in your Twinkies.

If Generation X is to be saddled with the label of "doing nothing" it was simply because we didn't have the power or the cause to do to otherwise.  The world was finally made in an image acceptable to our parents and for a long time we didn't know any better.   As their children we didn't really have anything to complain about other than possible nuclear annihilation from cowboy politics..

You can, however, point to Generation X as the modern root of anti-corporate sentiment.  The boomers may have hated " The Man" but that pretty much ended when "The Man" started offering up company cars and golden parachutes.  The term "wage slave" entered the popular vocabulary during my generation as productivity went up and compensation went down.

In short, we were sold a bill of goods.  We were promised what our parents had but in the end we ended up being the first generation to have less than our parents.  All this while saddled with debilitating debt caused by an economy built on the premise that you could never really afford to buy anything.



Have you seen those "End of Life" insurance ads on TV.  Now you can't even get away from your bills when you die!  Since when is it commonplace to saddle your relatives with your bills?  Hell, when I go, just throw me off some cliff in the wilderness and let the coyotes get a meal.  How's that for environmentally friendly....

Still, with all that, I'm fortunate to have lived in a time where I saw technology rise from novelty to world changing.

When I was a kid music was still listened to on LP's and 8-Track tapes.  From there I saw the rise of the personal computer, the advent of mobile technology to now where connectivity is expected to be ubiquitous.  

So to millennials I can say this.  I get what you're after but don't dismiss my skepticism at your ideology.  I'm glad that your market power has forced a change in education and social awareness.  Just be aware that what you may think is anti-establishment is the same bill of goods that we were sold some 20 years ago.

And don't beat yourself up too badly if you realize somewhere around your mid 40's that liking a Facebook page wasn't really activism.  Step back and see what you've really accomplished before condemning those who've gone before you.

Yes, I still say it's my generation's fault that millennials seem a bit impatient and naive but so is any young generation just coming into their own power.  You can make the changes you want to see but it's not going to come from YouTube or social media or voting for unrealistic ideologies.

It will come from a unified effort toward real change.  An effort with a foundation that however flawed came from those that walked the path before you.