How Are You?

I remember piano lessons long ago. I remember my mom driving me to this fancy house a town or two over. I remember the immaculate lawns. I remember the two-story windows in the living room where my teacher’s grand piano sat.

I remember sitting head to shoulder to my teacher, looking up at her face. Her genuine smile greeting me each week.

“How are you?”

Like clockwork I’d dribble out the same meek “Fine.”

One week, exasperated, she exclaimed, “You can’t always be just fine!”

My mind exploded, but my mouth stayed shut. “Okay, all right, how am I? Well, that’s a tough question. Do you really want to know? Will you remain my piano teacher? Or are you prepared to become my savior? How about I just give you a quick rundown of my most recent suicidal thoughts…”

She clearly wasn’t able to see that fine was an aspirational goal for me at that point.

I wanted to be fine. For that hour, just let me be fine!

Continue reading

Lao Tsu – Tao Te Ching

I struggle with the idea of inaction. Letting things stand. Finding the strength to endure and not directly confront injustices in the moment.

And because I feel compelled to respond to almost every moment of my life, I’m kept from considering the core motivation behind my actions, as I oftentimes act out of fear.

Fear that I’ll be taken as a fool if I let a transgression stand. Or fear that I’ll be perceived as weak for not fighting back.

Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching presents a series of eighty poems that again and again remind me that this desire driving my actions is often directing me towards my own folly.

The path Lao Tsu recommends is one of virtuous inaction. I can’t count the amount of times Lao Tsu suggests doing nothing, thinking nothing, draining your desires, emptying your cup and accepting the world as it passes around you.

Not as you fear it might be, or as you fear it might see you.

Continue reading

Your Future Doctor’s Visit

It seems we’re all preparing for a future doctor’s visit where we deal more with screens than people. And that might soon be the case in a hectic ER, but if we’re just visiting our general physician, I predict we’ll still be greeted by nurses for the foreseeable future.

I see AI’s march into the medical world starting in one area: Specialists.

Alphabet’s DeepMind just announced its intention to make a product that will be able to scan human eyeballs for disease just as well as any specialist. I can’t imagine skin disorders being too far off after that.

Mole checks, foot fungus, freaky toenails, everything that can receive a “Yep, that’s [blank]” from a doctor will more frequently be handled by your general practitioner. You’ll get fewer recommendations to head to a separate doctor’s office. This might sound like chimes of liberation to those with an HMO!

Continue reading

Fortnite’s Life Lessons

I love Fortnite. The constantly evolving island, the varied play styles, the toys, back bling, dances… It’s been a blast!

But as I rack up matches, I’ve started realizing that Fortnite Battle Royale is just brimming with great life lessons. Let’s explore:

In the lobby we choose our avatar, and refine our quick-select dances, sprays and toys. Then we ready up and wait for our chance to prove ourselves on this island.

Behind the scenes, the automated curation known as matchmaking, which selects our specific game, happens beyond our knowledge. Are we matched by skill? Are we destined to win? We can’t know.

We just watch a rotating icon connect us to a server with 99 others eagerly waiting to show their stuff on that same small chunk of land.

Continue reading

Find Your Edges

At a shockingly early age we get pushed towards identity-defining metrics like good grades. High marks become the target for a successful life to children whose life experience measures in the single digits.

Unfortunately, this simplification of our identity leaves many bewildered graduates on the other end of the education system. Diploma clutched in one hand, head scratched by the other.

Hunting for good grades can muddy the vital process of self-discovery, which is arguably the best use of higher education.

College has added value if you can remain adaptive to your own interests. I changed my major three times before landing on what I loved, which required me to admit I was wrong, and then wrong again.

College provided me the time to take classes focused on the edges of my interest. Allowing me to discover at least as much about myself as the facts we were compelled to regurgitate on tests for grades that we’ve lived our entire lives to earn.

Running headlong toward my edges allowed me to find what I loved and what I didn’t, what I’m good at and what I’m not. It helped me understand how I might best fit in the world.

Continue reading

I’m a Hurt-aholic

I was raised in a manner that led to my emotional masochism. But, I’ll avoid highlighting any specific instances of abuse that may have contributed. I’ve found that pursuit as silly as reaching for a pill to solve this.

I’m also not certain how genetics might influence this development in an individual.

But I do know that when this pain rings, I get transported back in time to being scolded as a child, my vision tunneling down to his eyes as he screams. Almost as if he was downloading his pain into me through his clearly hurt, but disturbingly lifeless eyes.

It took a long time to recognize my choice in becoming bewitched by that pain ringing in my head. Allowing myself to forget the life I’ve built since, handing my body over to that broken child still inside me, and being fully consumed by it.

I think the most revealing thing I learned from someone not suffering from anxiety is that they can have these hurt feelings too, just not as severe. Their view doesn’t tunnel. Their world doesn’t crumble with despair.

It’s like how I am able to drink alcohol, but not to excess. Other people are able to feel hurt, but not the soul-shattering, existence-threatening hurt that I would feel about the same event.

I’m not a different species, I just suffer from a weakness that propels me deeper into hurt than necessary. Others might recognize hurt when it happens, but they don’t pile on and push themselves deeper.

That’s what I do. Like a hurt-aholic.

Continue reading

My Combative Brain

I notice that I occasionally wake with a combative mindset.

Those aren’t my best mornings. Not at first. At first I fight everything. Every thought, every person, every action, every stumble.

My brain chooses to take offense. Finds holes, pokes.

Identifying these mornings as early as possible in the cycle can help in defusing them.

I find that I can identify my moody1 mindset pretty quickly. Usually within 15 minutes of waking up, I can figure out if every thought entering my mind slants negative.

After identifying it, I can begin reconciling each thought by recognizing that it isn’t me presenting these ideas. I’ve learned to see that not every thought in my head originates within me.

When I’m in this state, I often have to remind myself that jerks will continue to exist out there, but I don’t also have to be one today.

Continue reading

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

Here’s a guy that lived for a mere 59 years on Earth, managing to become the emperor of Rome, and writing a journal that remains one of the most heavily recommended books of all time.

Why is Meditations so good? I’d assume the reason might be his relatable perspective of self, and the briskness and focus of his messages. The Hays translation also brightens up the conversational nature of Aurelius’ passages.

This guy understood the relative insignificance of his own existence when measured against all of eternity, but within that humility he found a razor sharp perspective on what to value in life.

It might sound silly to say that the emperor of Rome could teach the plebeians about perspective. But then again, reading this book written around 150 A.D. still feels as relevant as ever in today’s world.

That’s really saying something.

Continue reading

Meat Bag Confronts Screen, More at 11

“Don’t sit so close! You’ll ruin your eyes!”

My worrisome mother often shouted from across the room, frustrated by her child’s growing infatuation with the images pouring out of our living-room tube TV.

Television was reviled on one side of our family. My grandparents only let me watch baseball and McGee & Me, a Christian home video series. Viewed as the source of all our misgivings, TV subverts a good Christian life. A sinful teacher. A device with unchecked access to my newly forming neural connections.

But I will forever defend the television, for its many faults, it still welcomes groups to sit together and focus attention. If not on each other, then at least on an agreed point. A movie, show, or nothing in particular. We focused together.

That’s not as viable with our pocket screens.

Our smartphones are highly personal and personalized; downright magical, you might say. But looking over someone’s shoulder as they scroll through their feed is met with a bristling self-consciousness.

I think this is a problem.

Continue reading

Plato The Symposium

The value of an idea might be defined by its resonance over time.

I present Plato’s The Symposium as the first addition to the reading list. One of the oldest books I’ve read, the power of the ideas found here have fundamentally changed my life.

That’s why it’s so shocking for me to consider that this was written a staggering 2,400 years ago! The translation I happened to choose, the Walter Hamilton translated 1951 edition for Penguin Classics, deserves credit for this impact as well.


This story is told by Apollodorus of Phaleron talking to Plato about a conversation he had with an acquaintance about a dinner party that Socrates attended.

Most of the story of this dinner revolved around a conversational game played by the men around the table. Each was to give their best defense of love.

Continue reading