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Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

The Difference Between Imagination and Reality

I sometimes wonder what people think about when they let their mind run free. Are there places they won’t go, or do they just let loose and explore the full weirdness of the human experience?

Because here’s the thing: letting your mind free to wander to the most inappropriate places is kind of the whole point of the experience. And, at the risk of stating the obvious – just because you imagine yourself doing something doesn’t mean that you’ll actually do it. Often the simple act of vividly imagining something in your mind is quite enough. There is no penalty for thinking what you want to think, and you have committed no crime by doing so.

Of course this inner life, for the most part, should be left unsaid – I totally get that. Unless, however, you are an artist.

In that case it is your duty to explore this stuff in your art, either obliquely or expressly. Maybe this is part of the secret power that makes some art so uniquely transformative. It’s like an artifact saying “You are not alone, I have seen and felt this too.”

Art should be an honest and full exploration of the human experience, with all of its frightening potential. It takes no small amount of bravery to do that.

Consequences

Newton’s third law of physics states:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This, of course, applies to human interpersonal dynamics as well as the physical world – it’s just that with people it’s a lot more difficult to predict the outcome.

This is one of those skills that you get better at the longer you live. Make no mistake, it’s still not easy – people can be hard to read, and the outcome of any given action can be hard to predict. But if you’re paying attention to your mistakes in life, here’s a good general rule to live by:

Act with good intentions, don’t talk shit about other people (especially behind their back), and tread lightly.

What is Important (Part 2)

Seems like a big question, no? Maybe it’s not as intimidating as it sounds, but before we even contemplate it you might ask yourself “Why bother?

Here’s why: If you know what’s important to you, it can give you a lot of clarity in how to live your life – for example, when to say no. This is a very big deal. It can prevent years of frustration in the wrong job, being with the wrong person, or even in the wrong career. It can allow you to quickly say no to something that might otherwise seem like a tempting opportunity. It can give you the strength to go down a path when everyone is telling you not to.

I think if we take the time and are thoughtful and honest with ourselves, it’s not that difficult to figure out. One of the nice things about life is that understanding who you are and what’s important to you becomes easier the older you get.

So there’s that.

Feedback Loops

Let’s say you make something – it could be anything. Music, art, writing, film, software, code, photography, food, a new product or service, or maybe just an idea.

It could even be the act of treating someone with kindness.

If one person becomes aware of this thing and finds it useful (or cool), they in turn will inevitably tell someone else about this great thing they discovered. Or, in the case of our act of kindness, they will mimic it because it made them feel good. This person will in turn tell someone else…

This is how social feedback loops start. Imagine it’s 1963 and you’re a record shop proprietor in London named Brian Epstein and some kid comes into your store and asks for a copy of the latest Beatles record – a group you’ve never heard of.

Or its 2006 and something called Facebook appears – the same year a new way to communicate globally becomes available to everyone on the planet (apparently but not really for free) called Twitter. Or it’s 2007 and a movie appears called Paranormal Activity – one that was made for $15,000 and goes on to gross $193 million. I only use these numbers to illustrate how it’s not expensive to make something useful. The box office success of this film simply illustrates the feedback loop – people saw it and told other people about…

In all of these examples a spontaneous exponential feedback loop appears in the cultural zeitgeist. If one person tells two other people, and these two people each tell two more, now four begets eight begets sixteen – then 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384… and that’s just fifteen iterations!

Use this idea to make something useful, or at least to make the world better one human interaction at a time.

Reality Check

One of the things that daily blogging is uniquely suited for is keeping tabs on where your mind is at – because you are mandated to write something everyday, over time it can provide a window into what you are thinking.

Sometimes it’s not good.

I’m going through a bit of a rough period, and my mind is starting to perseverate on too much negative shit. When this happens, it can become kind of a death spiral – each new blow piles onto the previous one, creating a negative feedback loop.

That’s where the blog comes in – often when we start thinking in negative patterns, we don’t recognize it happening until it’s too late – it just slowly creeps up on us. But when you’re writing something everyday, it comes out in your posts whether you want it to or not, and it can be hard to miss.

So here I am – realizing I am starting to become overwhelmed by the events life is presenting me with. It’s time for a serious reappraisal of what’s going on my life…

What’s important? What isn’t? What do I need to step away from, and where should I refocus my attention? What exactly is upsetting me?

And most importantly: How do I refresh, reboot, and recharge?

ER Apocalypse (Part 2)

I’ve only pulled two posts in the last two and a half years, and they were both ER related. Today’s post is one of them.

Let’s just say that sometimes, at the end of a very long day, your mind is overwhelmed with too much input and what you are thinking about is probably inappropriate for public consumption.

I hope no one was offended – let’s just admit defeat, strike that from the record and carry on.

How to Achieve Excellence

Someone recently asked me how I became an expert in a difficult procedure. Without hesitation, I answered with the first thing that came to mind:

I smiled and said “By failing in every way possible.”

The Healing Power of Touch

Not just casual touch – no, touch with intent. Because, of course, intent is everything.

One person in pain, perhaps sick, maybe dying. Feeling about as far from desirable and useful as possible, instead experiencing the shame of being a burden, like a useless pariah. Frightened of the abyss they’re trying not to face.

A second person administering care to the afflicted as if it was the most normal thing in the world – in the process touching them with the intent to help them heal, to assuage their pain.

Perhaps unaware or unknowing of the powerful exchange of healing energy that takes place in this simple act.

Touch in this manner may not heal the physical pain or disease, but it helps heal the psychic anguish brought on by chronic illness and pain.

The best part is that it’s free and requires no special training. Incredibly powerful – no prescription needed.

Looking for Beauty and Inspiration

I know they’re around here somewhere goddamnit, they were here a minute ago. Maybe I just need to adjust my perspective…

When they go missing and I finally find them it usually turns out they were right in front of me the whole time.

Preoccupied

As we get older, it’s inevitable: shit happens – parts of our body start breaking down, requiring more and more effort to maintain. It’s easy to get sidetracked by becoming preoccupied with whatever is going south at that moment. The problem is, there always seems to be something requiring your attention, and it often involves some kind of housekeeping. You know the kind – the kind where you better address it now, before it becomes a real problem.

Anyway, I’m a bit preoccupied at the moment. No worries, it’s nothing I can’t handle. If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I’m stronger than whatever shitstorm life throws at me. It sucks, but I can do it.

I may not like it, but I can handle it. Do I really have any choice?

It’s Not Always About You

And by “you” I mean me. An unfortunate side effect of having an active mind and being creative is the tendency to become self-involved. Crossing this line is something I’ve always been sensitive about, often wondering “Am I just really involved with (insert whatever I am working on at the moment), or am I being too self-centered?” It’s a lot easier to see this phenomenon in someone else than it is to see it in yourself.

So I try to constantly remind myself to at least attempt to serve and give back to others, and hope that I am sensitive to the needs of those I am close to. The thing is, for a certain type of person, it’s really easy to get deep inside your head and not come out. Nobody really likes the self-involved asshole, including themselves.

Mental note: Let’s try not to be that person.

Change and Flexibility

Change is an inevitable part of life – the question is: How do you navigate it?

Strategy 1) Attempt to ignore it. Appraisal of strategy: Epic fail – not advised.

Strategy 2) Attempt to force the change to suit your preferred objective. Appraisal of strategy: Very high probability of failure accompanied by high stress levels – not advised.

Strategy 3) Flow with the change, altering your game plan to incorporate said change. Appraisal of strategy: High probability of success – advisability rating high.

On Race, Feminism, and Being a White Male

As someone who considered himself free from prejudice, this 62 year old white male would like to acknowledge being a bit late to the party in understanding everyone else’s experience in the United States of America (that phrase now sadly seems like an oxymoron but, hey – it is the name of our country).

The key words here are empathy and gaslighting. Allow me to explain…

Even for someone who felt “enlightened” and supportive of equal rights for everyone, I missed a glaringly obvious point for longer than I’d care to admit. Sometime in the last few years the penny dropped and, for someone who considered himself at least somewhat bright, I felt personally embarrassed and more than a little dumb.

That point is this: If you’re a white man, of course you aren’t going to see prejudice and inequality everywhere you look – you’re fucking white! And a man no less – for Christ’s sake, the whole deck is stacked in your favor! Moreover, if you already present yourself publicly as not condoning racism, xenophobia or sexism, here’s a news flash – other white men who are racist aren’t going to include you in their rants. And of course you aren’t going to hang around these people, further insulating you from this rampant hatred. So you don’t see it – you intellectually know it’s there, but that’s not the same thing as experiencing it – not by a long shot.

The byproduct of all this is to not fully realize how bad things are. You think you are doing the right thing and trying to live righteously and fairly, but you’re really fucking clueless. Clueless, that is, until the 2016 election when you suddenly realize you’re not living in the country you thought you were.

So here’s where the empathy and gaslighting part comes in. When these issues arise, it’s important to really listen and try to imagine the world others have experienced that you were fortunate enough to have been blissfully unaware of. To empathize means to try and understand another persons experience – for some people this is going to be easier than for others. Regardless, you must make a sincere effort.

But whatever you do, don’t deny another persons experience – this is called gaslighting, and it is a common tool used for oppression. You cannot deny how another person feels or experiences life, to do so is to not only deny their reality, it is, in fact, essentially denying their very existence. This act of denying anything unpleasant is unfortunately endemic to white culture, and is definitely a significant part of the problem – after all, you can’t fix something that you won’t even acknowledge is broken.

So what is the answer here? Unfortunately I don’t have any answers, except to simply try and be a good person on a micro level. I know it sounds banal, but it’s the best I’ve got.

Let’s just be respectful, try to keep an open mind, and treat everyone you come contact with with some degree of compassion. Oh, and BTW – don’t take everything so personally.

This isn’t about you.

The Therapeutic Power of Talking

Sometimes just opening up and talking about whatever is bothering you to a friend, partner, colleague, or professional is enough to take the edge off. The simple act of putting your thoughts into words and bouncing them off another engaged individual can bring the issue into focus in a way that no amount of personal rumination can.

The death or personal tragedy of someone close to you, your own brush with mortality, debility, and illness, or relationship issues can all take on a new light with discussion.

Good to remember when things start to get dark.

Crispy

Neurons melted down like a burnt and frayed piece of wire. Too much input without the proper resources for processing.

Bypassing the Ego

Important point: If you are trying to express yourself, or tune into the mysterious place where all creative ideas exist, you’ve got to somehow get the ego out of the way – because, make no mistake, it will prevent you from doing your best work.

Case in point: Singing – more specifically, recording your singing. If you think, for even a second, that what’s coming out of your mouth is you, you are fucked. You in this case is your ego, your sense of self, and it’s very presence will insure that you will always be self-conscious about what you are doing.

What you must somehow do instead is just let go – be a vessel for whatever is about to happen. Get out of the fucking way.

This is true for any creative endeavor: acting, writing, composing, painting, cooking, programming, etc. Practice, study and prepare yourself, but when the time comes to actually make something, open yourself up and just go.

It can be scary – but you must be fearless and not afraid to look foolish. Your fear is your ego talking…

Can I Ask You a Personal Question?

It seemed like a pretty innocent request at the time – it was asked by someone I have worked with for almost 10 years, someone I trust and feel close to in the sense that we have worked together intimately in a demanding and stressful environment.

Do you have hearing loss?

I immediately thought WTF! and my heart sank – I looked down and said Why do you ask? She answered Because everyone (I’m paraphrasing here) has noticed but they’re afraid to say anything to you about it

I have known I’ve suffered some hearing damage for a long time, but it’s an insidious thing. Here’s why: Because our brains are capable of “filling in the holes” of our perceptions of the world we live in, it will quite literally do just that. Indeed, if you have ever studied how our brains interpret what our eyes “see,” you will understand what I mean. Our minds construct a visual representation of our world that is only pertinent to each of us – neurological perception is a highly individualized and variable thing. This is true for all of our senses.

Hearing is no different. Imagine you have spent your whole life listening intently to sound because you are a musician – within a relatively short amount of time (say, 10 years or less), you will have built up a very detailed database of “sound perception,” that is, your brain will have built a catalog of how things should optimally sound based on your preferences.

Now imagine that slowly, over decades perhaps, you begin to lose your hearing acuity. Your brain will happily slowly “fill in the gaps” to compensate for any deficiencies, making it seem as though nothing is wrong. But eventually, reality will bring the whole illusion crashing down.

In my case, it was this simple question.

So yeah, I’m a bit bewildered and struggling with what to do next. It’s a real mindfuck.

Lucky to be Falling Apart

Entropy is fully under way, systems failing left and right. Can’t stop time, or the damage it inflicts. Once you realize this, it just becomes a question of “How do I choose to frame this?” Because that’s the one thing we always have – shit happens in life and it’s up to us how we choose to deal with it.

So I’m saying that I’m lucky to be alive – that’s my spin and I’m sticking to it.