A Strange Salvation

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Will anything save the soul? So many industries and people revolve their lives around the idea of salvation. It must be worthwhile to ask whether or not souls exist, right? After all, if they do exist, then what on earth can nurture a soul? Burgers, fries, and other assorted junk food? That would be wonderful.

A couple weeks ago, while taking an Uber to the airport, the driver saw his opportunity to preach about souls. During the thirty minute ride, he quoted a few bible passages and tried to convince me that there is an afterlife where our souls live on. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a pastor or televangelist, otherwise, he might have figured out how screwed my soul is. Without the power of a seer, or any ability to see my inner workings, I decided I should let him ramble on; an Uber ride is no place for a theological debate.

What makes us so obsessive over the idea of salvation? At some point, we all become aware of how little time we actually have on the planet. Perhaps the obsession over salvation and an afterlife is a bid for all the lost time. Salvation could possibly be the reaction to the realization that death is indiscriminate in its hunger. Shit, salvation could actually exist for all I know. Then the obsession wouldn’t seem so unhealthy to me.

Focusing on the salvation of oneself, quite often, keeps us from enjoying our surroundings. What happens if the light at the end of the tunnel is dim? When you reach the bright, flashing light at the end, it’s possible that you will look back and have difficulty in extracting joy from the journey. Perhaps, if luck is on your side, you could become a person who enjoys seeking salvation and can enjoy your surroundings.

Some people aren’t so lucky. The promise of salvation sometimes brings pain, insurmountable debt, fates worse than death, and sometimes chasing salvation can cost one their entire lifetime. Certainly, the notion of salvation has its benefits. Waiting for salvation gives many people hope, fulfillment, and it sometimes even does the dirty job of satisfying the ego.

So is salvation a good thing, does it really exist? Yet, another question each individual must decide for themselves. Who knew adulthood would involve so much thinking?

Happiness For All

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Perhaps the following word spaghetti is the result of reading too many existentialist novels or just a product of nurture. Hell, it could be both. Whatever it is, I can’t help but feel like our idea of happiness as a civilization, and culture is flawed.

Often, you will watch celebrities on television, and read books, websites, etcetera, where people push the idea of striving for happiness. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy, but the length people will go to in order to convince themselves of their own happiness is strange. Everyone can’t be happy. Even consistently happy people aren’t happy all the time. So then, what should all the other people who dabble in other emotions strive for?

That’s up to them. Some people seem sad all the time. Society dictates that something is wrong with people who are sad most of the time. Is there? Isn’t it weirder that society demands that people should be happy all the time? No one is ever-smiling in real life. Except for people on television.

Striving for contentment is a great alternative to happiness. But with something so subjective, (What does contentment mean to you? ) there are plenty of traps and questions to ask. How do you know when you are content, and when are you fooling yourself into feeling contented? What are your own parameters for contentment?

Those list of questions can go on forever. Unfortunately, while you can get help on gaining contentment, you can only ever know for yourself what it means to be fulfilled. Life’s greatest quality and its greatest flaw is that all the necessary questions must be answered by the self.

 

The “E” Word

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Over the last decade or so, “entitlement” has become a popular political buzzword. As long as you have a pulse, no one has to tell you which parties are using that word. Entitlement and certain people’s perception of people with entitlement issues have become gasoline for socio-political argument-fires. Exactly what we need; another topic you can’t discuss at dinner parties.

Aside from the fact that most people don’t use the phrase “dinner parties” anymore, the perception of entitlement is strange. On one hand, people against entitlement think that you shouldn’t feel entitled to jobs or feelings of superiority because of your degrees, education etc. Except, those same people would argue like many other’s do, that your degree should have something to do with the jobs you hold because a degree or formal form of education denotes that you trained for something. Paradox much?

Sure, the people against entitlement have a point. There are some unsavory people out there who use their degree to look down on others. Also, some people are definitely underqualified for the jobs that they want, even with degrees. Furthermore, there are some degrees out there that have no credibility.

Where the opponents of supposed entitlement mentality are incorrect, is in their assumption that being demanding is a sin. Unfortunately, we live in a time where the job market requires that you must be demanding to some extent. If you have an education, you have to push and stand out so that you can use your education. Figuring out the job market and intrinsic desire for a great quality of life both require some entitlement.

After all, do you think the pundit who derides entitlement doesn’t have any? Really? Some millionaire, on television, on the most popular network, who fought to be there, definitely has some entitlement. Somewhere, deep down, that pundit along with the others believe that they deserve their success.

Is that not entitlement? Funny how the hand that points always has three more fingers pointing back than forward.

 

Another Year Down

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Birthday’s fly by once every year. And at least once every year, you should take it upon yourself to eat some birthday cake. Or you know, go crazy, have fun, let loose, whatever.

There’s nothing really strange or profound about birthdays anymore. At worst, they’re just another day. At their best, it’s another day but some cool shit happens. Both seem great. Even if that age is twenty-nine, or thirty, it probably won’t make a difference.

I’m not sure I understand the strange aura around turning thirty. Is it that, many people at thirty had a hope for a better life than they have? Does thirty signal and end of youth? Is it because thirty is considered middle-age despite how most people aren’t settled?

Maybe it’s all of those reasons. Perhaps a large part of the thirty-year-old mystique has to do with the high frequency with which super-young, wildly successful gorgeous people take up room in our headspace. Aspirationally, who wouldn’t want to be one of those people? For every shooting star of a celebrity, there is always a lonely, brilliant, curmudgeon like Napoleon.

In addition, they aren’t always as young as we think, and there are far more stories of failure than success. Ordinary doesn’t sell any newspapers, unfortunately. After all, celebrities can’t all be wonderful, wealthy, and well-adjusted, can they?

Comparing Yourself In Capital(ism)

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Capitalism occupies a strange space. Getting hung up on comparing yourself to other people near your age, in your social group, or in any way can lead to ruin. To some extent, thanks to human behavior, you will compare yourself to another person. One of the biggest strengths of a capitalistic society involves using that fact to inform economic policy.

In the U.S.A books about the self, which often rely on humanities desire to be introspective, command high sales figures. Ironically, these books warn against our habit of comparison. Should we be in the middle road of this strange piece of human behavior? Or if one monkey has a stick to gather bugs, shouldn’t the others have sticks to gather bugs with?

When you learn anything, you tend to compare yourself to someone who is better. After all, everything is easier to learn if you have an ideal to aspire to. The downfall of this is that some people are just naturals whom we can never live up to. Additionally, some of our heroes may be so far removed from our own personalities that emulating them could wind up being a  huge mistake.

When it comes down to regular life, the desire for independence, your own place, and the responsibilities associated with all of those things is great. But, everyone can’t be Jay-Z or even the neighbor with a six-figure job and a stable life. So how do you reconcile what you want with what you have? Humility is not worth the effort if you’re starving, and confidence makes easy bedfellows with arrogance when you’re wealthy.

We can’t have everything, but even necessities are difficult to obtain sometimes. Get all the necessities you can, and fight for the things you want. So far, that seems as good a plan as any.

 

Good Criminal Bad Criminal

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Anyone who grows up with some privilege ends up learning some form of accepted morals. Somewhere in that set of morals and guidelines are clear-cut rules on good and evil. Because, in contrast to laws,  most rules and mores tend to be vague, there often are numerous sweeping generalizations made toward crime. But what if a life of crime is the only thing that can feed, clothe and shelter you?

Recently, I’ve been watching Better Call Saul, the spinoff to Breaking Bad. Both of the protagonists in these shows eventually settle into criminality that inevitably affords them their own American dreams. Of course, neither James McGill nor Walter White needs to support themselves with a life of crime.  James is adept at assessing and exploiting weaknesses to a point that it’s the easiest way for him to achieve his goals, while Walt is initially desperate to save himself from cancer and pay off his bills.

What if, much like James McGill, your strength comes in the form of finding and exploiting weaknesses. Much of what he gets up to and many of the things similar people would get up to are morally dubious. Alternatively, if those abilities are your calling, then why ignore them?

Given that Better Call Saul deals with lawyers, it isn’t lost on the viewers that there are tangible ways to find and exploit weaknesses that are legal and lucrative. Unfortunately, becoming an attorney is not possible for everyone. Furthermore, doing something that is legal but necessarily nefarious won’t stop your guilty conscience.

So what would you do if your abilities endear you to seedier parts of life, and what happens if that life riddles you with guilt? Do you sit quiet, give up on your potential, and live a regular life? Would that regular life make you happy? All you can do is assess your own life and give chase.

In the wise words of Richard Feynman, the first rule is that you must not fool yourself and that you are the easiest to fool. Good luck.

 

Another Life

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I started reading The Great Gatsby a few days ago. A day before I started F. Scott FItzgerald’s opus, I finished reading The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Out of pure coincidence, both novels are about life stories and lifestyles that are far different from my own. Both stories are great at delivering incite into microcosms of modern society that seem unbelievable. Gatsby digs into the workings of upper-class American society, and The Other Wes Moore informs the reader of the struggle of Americans in poverty.

You can’t really run away from the past. And much like a snowglobe, you can shake it up but you can’t jump into it and relive it. What’s done is done, you have let go and move on. Yet, as easy as those words are to write, they are definitely not easy to follow.

For one, the working world has a great way of reminding you of your checkered past. Forgiveness is in short supply when it comes to shady resumes. Furthermore, there is an inverse relationship between the people who see your shadow and the people who are able to forget it. Such is the brutality of our human brains and selfish hearts.

Both books also happen to show the dark side of the question, “If you had a chance would you take it?” Victory is sweet, but the sugar doesn’t last forever. Sometimes it won’t even taste like sugar. Perhaps it’s best, especially when looking back at our pasts with rose-colored glasses, to deny ourselves the reward and accept that with every little shake the snow globe becomes less alluring.

Life, after all, only goes one way.