Lucio Fulci. The Beyond.
That is all.
Lucio Fulci. The Beyond.
That is all.
I am thankful for the fact that I’m alive, and for feeling pretty goddamn good.
I am grateful for every minute of life I have.
I am very fucking thankful for my wife – somehow the stars aligned 33 years ago & I met the most important person in my life.
And I am thankful for what I now know about being alive.
This ride can end in an instant. Enjoy every minute…
Every moment of every day we make choices – and each of these choices has ramifications that ripple out through the fabric of our lives, affecting everyone and everything in their path.
Thinking about this is enough to send one into a state of paralysis. What to do?
Here’s what to do – live your life like a righteous ethical entity and make the best decisions you can with the information you have.
Everything else will take care of itself…
This is something I consistently struggle with in my life. I’ve never been good at balancing multiple projects, primarily because whatever I am working on at any given moment is the most important thing I am doing – I commit to it 100%. The good news about this approach is that I always do the best work I am capable of, the bad news is that it’s hard to split your attention if everything you’re working on is treated as a DEFCON 1.
Here’s the thing – sometimes we all get involved in time limited projects that can take over our life. School is a good example of this; once you make a commitment to it there’s no turning back. But you also know that no matter how all encompassing it becomes, there will come a point where it’s over. The problem for me is that I sometimes get involved in too many projects, and neglect other things that are important to me.
What’s the lesson here? Be careful what you say “yes” to. Time is precious and you’re not getting any of it back…
To transcend the banality of our day to day existence for survival.
To shine a light on a greater truth.
To open a window to another reality.
To leave this world even microscopically better than you found it.
Aspire to this.
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I don’t usually perseverate about my awareness of time left, but for some reason today is one of those days. In twenty years, I’ll be 80. Twenty years doesn’t seem like a very long time…
I’ve already had a taste of how quickly life can change, how everything can seem to be going along great, and suddenly you are slammed face to face with an inexorable battle with illness, debility, and death. Such is life.
So what does this awareness do for us? Well, for one thing, it makes us painfully aware of how precious each minute is. When I’m at work in the ER, I usually have an awareness that my purpose is to help others – which seems like an appropriate use of my precious time. When I’m at home sometimes I’m not so sure. I think about the meaning of the things I do, about whether I am spending my time wisely. I wonder what anything means when you are going to die. What is the purpose?
No easy answers here, just the usual existential musings…
This concept is essential to maintaining a balance in your life and preventing burnout. The more intense the work and it’s related stress, the more relaxed and disconnected the recharging period. That is the rule, the ying and the yang of life.
Heed it or ignore it at your own peril.
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Pull up a seat and get comfortable with your discomfort. Lead to the best of your ability, admit when you are wrong, and get on with it. Getting shit done is never easy.
Sometimes it’s awkward and painful to get results.
Always remember that it’s about the team and the greater goal and not about you. And if you’re uncomfortable that’s good – you’re probably growing…
Be prepared for the worst but don’t perseverate on it, and always keep this in the forefront of your mind: worrying is a complete waste of time and energy.
Better to draw on all of your reserves, be as relentlessly upbeat as possible, and focus on your goal. No matter how much stress you get bombarded with, keep your head and stay cool.
Accomplishing the goal is all that matters.
People are mesmerized by pure, unadulterated authenticity. When someone is comfortable & confident enough in their skin to be completely themselves, with no filter, it is extremely charismatic. Add in a lust for life and you have someone who will attract followers like a moth to a flame.
The problem, at least for most people, is that we are afraid to expose ourselves to this degree. We are probably as afraid of being loved as much as we are of being hated. It is much safer to hedge your bets and only reveal what you are comfortable with. This will protect you from having to deal with all of those messy people who want something from you.
The wild card here is the artist who truly doesn’t give a fuck. These people are simply uncontrollable, which has its own special allure. At the end of the day, they are probably the happiest.
They are part of what makes us human. Sometimes the mistake is so massive it may appear to be unforgivable, but the reality is, people have been forgiven by those they harmed for perpetrating unimaginable horrors.
Forgiveness is something that can only be given at the disgression of the aggrieved. They are the only ones who possess the right to give or withhold absolution.
Everyone else can have an opinion, but they are in no position to judge. Take a deep breath, reflect, and learn. Maybe it will help us prevent making the same mistake.
We’re all dirty and flawed…
There are a lot of strategies for preparing to take part in important events like job interviews, competitions, performances, auditions, presentations, lectures, etc. Self-visualization, rehearsing, mental preparation – these are all tried and true techniques that will help. But as I’ve gotten older, I have realized there is a final step that is the most important one of all.
Just relax and let it happen.
Show up prepared, then just be in the moment. Let yourself enjoy whatever it is you are trying to do. It will make you more comfortable and draw other people to you at the same time.
I guess it started when I was a little kid, out of necessity. I was alone a lot, so I learned how to amuse myself. I didn’t need much – books and my imagination was plenty. I would build worlds in my head, stuff that I would never talk about to anyone. I didn’t need to – it wasn’t for them anyway. It was just for me. I had no desire to act any of this stuff out – I had pretty low self esteem which resulted in a significant lack of confidence. By either neglecting me or subjecting me to abuse, my parents had trained me to understand that I didn’t mean much to anybody. And when you’re a child who believes they’re not worthy of the very people who are supposed to love them, you draw the conclusion that if you’re not that important to them, no one else could possibly be interested in your bullshit. So you live in your head…
That’s where you can be whoever you want to be – there are no limits if you’re imaginative. Mind you, I was also very good at reading people, and I could be very charming and friendly. Add in the fact that I was somewhat good looking and the result was I had no shortage of friends. Male or female, pretty much everyone seemed to like me. But I didn’t like myself, hence I struggled with self esteem. I was good at hiding it from other people, but it definitely held me back.
It really wasn’t until I went to college at the age of 45 that things began to change. I started to realize that maybe I did have something to offer. I went into nursing and discovered I was excelling and started to get positive reinforcement and encouragement from my teachers. I remember thinking WTF? Fast forward 15 years and now I’m some kind of nursing leader and considered an expert in my field. How did this happen?
I still live in my head, but also in the world – and I no longer have self esteem issues. I kind of like myself, and that’s a new feeling for me.
I’m 60 years old and still learning and discovering who I am. I plan for this process to continue until I die. I am grateful for what I have, and what I’ve become.
Life is good.
You make it work with what you have.
One of my good qualities is the ability to focus, particularly in a chaotic environment. You might think this would be a valuable skill in an ER – and sometimes it is. However…
If you are in charge of running the ER, this is not really the skill you need. What you really need is to be able to juggle multiple threads at once. The information can fly fast and furious, and it’s information about people’s lives. Your ability to interpret and act on this data quickly can mean the difference between life and death. Missing or not understanding this information can result in injuries that will affect the rest of these patients lives.
It’s a grave responsibility & privilege to be entrusted with this role. In the ER we have no control over how many patients show up from minute to minute, and this can result in a sudden influx of multiple acutely ill or injured people all at once. Assuming responsibility for assigning who gets seen by who and when for eight hours can leave you feeling like your brain has turned to cotton candy.
Not for the faint of heart…
In my first job as a nurse, I worked exclusively with stroke and traumatic brain injury patients. To say that this was a learning experience, both as a nurse and as a human being, would be a bit of an understatement. Each person I took care of had suffered and immediate and catastrophic event that would forever change the course of their lives. Some were reduced to existing in a persistent vegetative state, others were still able to function to varying degrees. The ones I felt had the best outcomes (mind you, this is an arguable point) were those who retained most of their cognitive abilities and were left with physical deficits. Some had been wealthy and powerful, others were homeless – it made no difference to me. I tried to give the best care I was capable of to each one.
But it struck me that all of them, at least those with some cognitive function left, shared a similar focus of what was important. And in no case was it money, fame, power, or even accomplishments. It was always about their relationships with other people, good or bad. It was about regrets or gratitude, about love or the lack thereof. About friendship and betrayal, about not understanding what was important until it was too late. I came away from this experience with a very different outlook than when I went in.
We are all dying – it’s just the nature of life. We can choose to try and do good, or we can choose to live in a selfish and desperate struggle for wealth and power. In the end, we all die, and no amount of money, fame, or power can save you. When you are dead, all of those things that consumed your life are left with the living. Your legacy is simply what lives on in the memories of those who knew you, and whatever you left behind that might help or hinder humanity.
So to me, politics and the naked lust for power is folly. All that really matters is choosing to live each moment in a way that will leave this mess a little better for whoever comes along next. None of us are really that important, no matter what we might like to think. Someday you are going to be laying on a bed dying, and I hope you have a good nurse who treats you kindly, with respect and dignity. I can promise you, at that moment, politics won’t enter your mind at all. How you treated other people is all you’re going to be thinking about. I’ve seen it – and sometimes it can be a tragically painful thing to watch.
What I was going to be is ultimately who I became. Other possibilities existed, but they are irrelevant now except as an exercise in conjecture. On the other hand, who I will become is completely malleable and not yet defined. This is the process of becoming, and with each choice I make, I further define and reveal who I am, and who I will be.
Max Tegmark postulates that intelligence is best defined as “the ability to achieve complex goals.” So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, he points out that it means there are some very definite secondary goals that all intelligent entity’s will have. For example, all intelligent entity’s will have survival as a secondary goal – because it can’t achieve complex goals if it doesn’t exist. Gathering resources will also be a secondary goal – because the more resources one has, the greater one’s ability is to achieve complex goals.
Let’s break this down into a specific example. We’ll say the goal is egalitarian: Find a cure for cancer. Sounds noble and good, doesn’t it? However, if we look at the principles of secondary goals, it quickly becomes clear that the values of “good” and “bad” aren’t really relevant to achieving the primary goal. The goal is to find a cure for cancer, not to exist on a high moral plane. We need all of the resources we can acquire. That includes increasing our intelligence through the acquisition of information, and increasing our hardware by any means necessary. How that is achieved is irrelevant to the overriding goal.
We must also protect the organization whose overarching purpose is to achieve the primary goal. At all costs… See where this is going? Even though Max is exploring these concepts through his study of AI, we can clearly see examples of these principles in our everyday life, indeed, in our own behavior.
What are your goals, and how are you going to achieve them?
This is a term often associated with mathematics and computer science – I have been running across it recently while reading about artificial intelligence. Essentially what we are talking about here is self improvement through repetition. All musicians are familiar with this concept – it’s called practicing your instrument.
Practicing is most effective when there is a specific goal in mind. As a musician, the classic example is listening to a master perform something and then attempting to emulate it. This is recursive iteration – trying to play a piece of music from as many different approaches as possible, over and over, until you begin to refine a performance that will inevitably sound different from the original version, even though it was a direct attempt to emulate it. Whether it sounds better or worse depends on the skill, determination, and creativity of the one applying the recursive iterations.
Virtually all musicians go through this – The Beatles were originally trying to emulate Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis – and of course they ended up sounding like none of them. That’s one of the cool things about recursive self improvement.
You never know where you are going to end up…