Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Art of Date Improvisation

I used to believe that planning dates was an important thing. Figuring out all the logistics in advance seemed like the best idea. However, over the past year or so, my mindset has completely changed. As someone who lives radically in the moment, I rarely make any plans at all more than a week in advance, I don't even start considering date ideas until at least the day before the date, and I never solidly plan any date anymore. Instead, I mentally sketch a general idea of what I might feel like doing and leave plenty of room for improvisation. The result of an improvisational approach to dates? Dates are a lot more fluid, a lot more enjoyable, and any obstacles or deviations completely fail to bother me. I welcome change and unexpected turns of event.

There are several crucial elements to improvisational dates. In many ways, improvisational dates are very similar to good jazz solos, but there are certainly a few differences.

Have an Array of Possibilities Beforehand
Improvisation isn't about coming with stuff completely out of thin air. Instead, it's about having a wide range of possible directions to go, and choosing them in the moment, in accordance with the present mood. As such, before the date begins it's vital to have a mental list of possibilities. This can be a list of various venues that you might feel like visiting, or this might be a list of various activities that can be done at a given location. Your array or choices can be as broad or as selective as desired. A simple improvisational date list might be as simple as Outdoor Activity (go for a walk, play frisbee, kick around a soccer ball, or play at a playground) followed by a Meal (grill steaks at home, grab a burger from In-N-Out, or pickup Chinese food) and then relax at home (listen to new CD, play video games, cuddle and watch a movie, or play cards). That simple improvisational framework offer 48 possible dates, consisting of only three different activities. The vastness of your array of possibilities is limited only by your imagination.

Establish Proper Expectations
This one is fairly obvious, but it's also an absolutely crucial one. Given that improvisational dates aren't always "tried and tested," it is important that both you and your date have no solidly set expectations for what will or will not happen. Disappointment and dates don't mix especially well and they often don't end well, either. As such, it is important for you not to count on certain things happening or working out perfectly, and it's important for your date not to have any misconceptions about what you might end up doing or where you might end up going. The simplest way to eliminate false expectations in your date's mind is simply not to tell her where you're going or what you're doing. Not only does this circumvent any misconceptions or problematic expectations, but it also serves to enhance your aura of mystery.

Be Confident and Decisive
Since improvisional dates often change on whim, it is critical that you remain perfectly confident and firmly decisive. Displaying these two leadership qualities well communicates the subtext that you can be trusted and that no obstacles deter or bother you. When you are confident and decisive enough, your date will never even know whether a given adventure was pre-planned or improvised. In her mind, it all flowed together so smoothly and seamlessly that it hardly seems like the result of improvisation. When things don't go as smoothly as planned, she has the opportunity to see that you can dynamically handle situations as they arise. Either way, you win.

Improvise Based on the Energy of the Date
Since the chief focus of the date isn't the venues visited and the activities done, it's important to keep the interpersonal vibe the central focus of the date. The best choices are made based on the level of energy and the present vibe of the date. If the two of you are starting to reach a lower-level of energy, it probably isn't a good idea to go for a three-mile run or begin an indepth discussion of quantum physics. Likewise, if the mood is starting to get more personal and connected, it probably isn't a good idea to do something that involves competition or puts too much physical or emotional space between you and your date. Instead, the way you improvise should capitalize on the flow of energy and serve to further direct it. Some of the best dates are ones that have contrasting levels of energy or vibes. This serves to engage both people's emotions more fully and creates a more visceral experience.

Most Importantly, Have Fun!
In the end, the whole point of improvisional dates is to have a good time doing some fun things with a person that you like. As such, it is important to only choose elements that will be mutually enjoyable. If one of the ideas you previously thought of doesn't seem like a fun choice, don't do it. If none of the options you have in mind seem fun, then throw them all out and choose something else. If something you're doing is even more fun than you expected, then do it for longer. If something you thought would be fun ends up being quite dull, don't waste any more time on it--change activities right away! There are few things more enjoyable in life than having an amazing time with someone you enjoy being around.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Text Game - Always Have An Agenda

Both Roissy and Aunt Haley have written blogs today on text game. The simple fact is, in today's world, texting is the primary means of interpersonal distance communication. Phone calls are rare and mostly unnecessary. E-mails are too cumbersome and inconvenient. Contrarily, texts are short, quick, and direct. As such, the art of text game is to capitalize on the positive qualities of texting while minimizing the losses associated with the limitations of the medium.

As someone who has been texting and IMing girls for years, I've directly experienced the impact of most of the pros and cons of texting. From my experiences, the most important rule of text game is: always have an agenda. The reason for this is that texting is a poor substitute for practically anything else. Given the extremely limited amount of information communicated, texting is a poor way to attempt any serious attraction or comfort building. It is also a very poor medium for conversations of any depth. Instead, it is best used mainly for the following things:

This one is self-explanatory. The purpose of your communication is to invite a girl to a specific event. There are two ways to handle this sort of text. Either you can send a full detail invitation which requires only a confirmation text, or you can send a minimal detail invitation that requires the girl to ask for additional details if she's interested.

Frame Communication
The purpose of a frame communication text is to convey some aspect of your personality to a girl. Teasing a girl, ignoring a direct question, referring to a girl in a certain manner, or reframing a question or statement are all examples of dominant attraction-building frame communications.

Connection Pings
The purpose of these texts is to establish a brief moment of connection and possibly to determine a girl's present emotional state towards you and/or life. These can be as direct as, "Hi how r u?" or more indirect in the form of a non-needy trial/feeler text.

Information Gathering
These texts are used when you wish to find out something. Often the entire exchange is merely a question and an answer. In other cases, this is used as a prelude to a date invitation. The key to a good information gathering text is brevity and clarity. Phrase the question in the simplest unmistakable form possible.

Information Transmission
Occasionally there is a change of plan or some intervening circumstance that will require you to inform a girl of something. In these cases, keep it simple and communicate no more than you need to. The point is simply to keep her informed.

Anything else besides those things is mere unnecessary fluff. Tight game requires one to completely eliminate needless fluff. Whenever you send a text, always know exactly what the purpose of the communication is. If there's any doubt about whether you should send a certain text, or why you're sending a certain text, just delete it. The main point of text game is to set up a date in order to spend some quality one-on-one time with a girl. All other aspects of text game are simply a means to that end. The best way to tighten up your text game? Stick to the basics, always have a specific agenda for every single message you send, and don't spend much time or energy texting. Texting should always serve to enhance your life--never to distract you from living it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventures and the Masculine Soul

There is always a depth of the human soul that is never fully seen or fully experienced. Since the experience of life is a temporally-bound journey always in motion, the desires and pleasures of a man aren't static. They change. They vary. Yet, each various stage of life and pursuit reveals a part of the soul. The dynamic nature of existence makes it all but impossible to grasp the full depth of any person's soul, including one's own soul. Instead, any part of life or oneself is a small piece of puzzle, a mere fraction of the totality of being.

While often conquering challenges is what motivates and drives men, there is also a supreme pleasure to be found in embarking on adventures. Adventuring and exploration have been manly pursuits since the dawn of time. There has always been a natural curiosity within the heart of a man, leading him to wonder what lies beyond his present horizons. Masculinity flourishes in asking that question and setting forth to discover the answer. While the danger and challenge of an adventure may be a part of the appeal, there is something deeper and more profound that drives a man to expand his world. Some things are done simply for the sake of seeing what they lead to. The appeal of an adventure is that what is currently unknown will become known. A man desires to discover new things. There is a profound pleasure in the very process of discovery.

The process of discovery takes many various forms. Some men love to explore our planet and visit new geographical locations. Some men love to explore the inner workings of people and how they tick. Some men love to explore and study a certain area of life in depth, often involving exploration of the theoretical and intellectual sort. Some men love to do things that have never been done or attempted before. Regardless of what aspect of life or the world is being explored, the same core desire for adventure is what unifies all of these various quests for discovery. Masculinity thrives on the impulse to discover.

Recently, in my own life, I have found a strong desire to explore and engage in various adventures. I've been opening myself up to visiting places, doing new things, and connecting with different sorts of people than I usually would. What motivates me? The desire to discover. The curiosity that I feel towards what lies in a certain direction that I haven't been. In embarking on these various quests, I have found that there is a supreme joy in the process of discovery, almost regardless of the specifics of what is discovered. A couple of weeks ago I visited a city that I hadn't been to before, with the intent of running a little errand. The errand itself only took about 15 minutes, but I was so fascinated by the city that I found myself walking around for nearly two hours just seeing what was there. It was a rather novel and exciting experience. The city had its own unique vibe, mix of people, and array of interesting places and shops. The pleasure was in the discovery of a small, yet interesting, corner of the world that I had never experienced before.

Similarly, recently my brother and I decided to start a small business of our own. Right now we're in the process of working out the logistics and we won't actually be up and running until a couple of weeks from now. In the process of figuring out the best way to approach the business, I couldn't help but feel excited about the newness of it all. As I examined my feelings, I found that the main joy I felt wasn't because it seemed like a challenge to surmount or because it might result in additional cash flow. Indeed, this venture certainly won't immediately provide nearly enough money to enable me to leave either of my day jobs. Instead, the reason I feel so excited is because it is an adventure. What excites me is the mere fact that we're trying something new. I really don't know how it will go. But, I also am not especially concerned with the outcome. Whether this turns into something profitable and sustainable, or whether it fizzles and merely breaks even, either way the experience of starting this sort of a business will be something thoroughly new and wholly enjoyable.

Masculinity thrives in the presence of novelty and in the pursuit of the unknown. Men do not resist the urge to discover new things and broaden their world. Instead, they allow their inner desire for exploration to motivate them to go new places, meet new people and try new things. Through these experiences there is a natural broadening of the soul and a greater awareness of the depth of life and being that inescapably emerges as a man pursues that which curiosity draws him towards. Adventuring requires a level of confidence that a man can face challenges as they arise. It requires a boldness that does not fear something simply because it is unknown. It requires a willingness to risk one's time, well-being or material assets. Regular adventureing keeps life meaningful and exciting, keeps a man's heart engaged and passionate, and serves to remind others that our world is a compelling and endlessly interesting place. Nothing feels better than discovering something new and exciting!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's Easier To Make It Than To Fake It

The popular slogan, "Fake it until you make it," tries to convey the idea that simply by trying to do something and trying to have the right frame of mine, eventually a person will reach the point where it becomes easy and feels natural. According to such a mindset, copying external behaviors and mannierisms leads to genuine change of personality, given enough time. My own conception of making personal progress is a bit different, however. In the well-known quote from Star Wars, Yoda offers the sage advice, "Do or do not, there is no try." The mindset conveyed by Yoda in that quote is simply this:

Action is what defines you.

Regardless of what goes on in your mind, and what perspectives you think you have, the simple fact of the matter is that who are you is created, expressed and perceived on the basis of what you do. When you take an action, it directly impacts reality; how you perceive yourself, how others perceive you and what results you reap are directly tied into the actions you take. Actions come in many forms. Whether physically doing things, creating things, going places, speaking to others or even speaking to yourself, all these things impact reality.

When you adopt this mentality you realize that there is no such thing as "faking it." There are only actions that you have taken and actions that you haven't taken. Whenever you're confronted with a new situation, the right question to ask is, "How do I want to act, in this situation?" Whatever attitudes you choose to adopt and actions you choose to take are very real and can impact life profoundly. The only limitation at that point is the mental array of options that you offer yourself. The more various possible actions that you are aware of, the greater the flexibility of choice you have.

The secret to acting well is to have a wide mental array of options and a decent grasp of the possible outcomes of each action. Having an expanded palette of options and an ability to predict outcomes is the result of life experience. The more various things you've considered and tried in the past, the more possibilities you will have in the present. Similarly, in order to adopt a specific persona, it does not much matter what type of things you've done before or how you've thought about situations in the past. All you need to do to be able to adopt a new persona is to have a clear idea about how such a person would think about things, what such a person would say to people, how such a person would carry himself, and what sorts of things such a person would do.

Adopting a new persona, then, is as simple as understanding the mindset and external manifestation of such a persona and acting in accordance with that understanding. At you first you find yourself asking, "How would a confident person handle this situation?" or "What would a wealthy person do in this situation?" or "How would an empathetic person connect with this individual?" The more you act in accordance with your new persona, the sooner you find yourself simply asking, "How should I handle this situation?" or "Given that I have plenty of money, what do I want to do in this situation?" or "How can I best emotionally connect with this individual?"

Since actions define your essence, there is no such thing as faking it. The only difference is how much you have internalized a given persona. The more you are used to thinking about things a certain way and acting a certain way, the more you truly believe that you are a certain sort of person. The change in mentality and the change in actions occur simultaneously, and they are inseparable. Insofar as one acts differently, there is genuine change. Insofar as actions remain the same, it matters not how much one thinks that they think differently. The key to inner change is simply to know who you want to be and then to be that person. You are not bound by who you have been in the past or what you have done before. Be the person you want to be and act the way you want to act. There is no way to fake it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Silence: A Subtle, Yet Powerful Ally

Silence isn't something that many of us are naturally appreciative of, particularly in social situations. So accustomed to an endless flow of words, it's easy to feel a growing tension whenever silence lingers during a date or in a group setting. As I learn to relax my pace of life and social flow, I have begun to develop a deep appreciation for social silence. While it might first seem like something to be avoided, a fuller analysis reveals that there are more instances where silence confers positive benefits than where it hinders relationship.

Game Application: On first dates, especially, silence is a very powerful thing. Once attraction has already been established, allowing silence to linger serves to do several things. First, the tension that naturally accompanies periods of silence serves to further build and heighten attraction. Second, by demonstrating that you are comfortable with being silent around your date, you give her implicit permission to also relax and enjoy simply being; after the first few times, this works to develop more comfort. Third, by not constantly carrying and directing the conversation, there is space for more two-sided interactions, which is great for establishing real connection. Fourth, the periods of silence offer space for non-verbal communication, which is generally more powerful and efficacious than verbal communication, especially in any romantic setting. Lastly, the simple fact that you aren't saying anything means you aren't killing attraction by saying too much or saying the wrong things.

Non-Game Applications: Silence is what affords people space to think more deeply, sort through their own thoughts and feelings and make internal progress on a topic. As such, leaving ample room for contemplation is a vital technique which is usable within a broad array of settings. In a teaching setting, leaving more room for answers encourages further thinking by those who aren't quite as swift to think of an answer, or who are more hesitant to express their thoughts. The more silence you allow, the greater the depth of learning that can occur. Similarly, in a coaching or counseling relationship, space is one of the most crucial elements of the relationship. In both instances, since any real change must emerge from within, it is crucial for a client to be fully aware of their own thoughts and feelings, which only occurs with ample mental space. Even on a personal level, silence is an indispensible ally. Embracing silence always results in a greater depth of personal peace and a higher level of awareness. As a spiritual practice, silence is one of the most challenging and yet most valuable rituals an individual can engage in. Whether used for the purposes of prayer, meditation or simply stillness, silence provides the space needed for a soul to connect with the divine.

In all these instances, silence is something that is incredibly powerful. The slight discomfort that might be felt initially can hardly compare with the rich benefits offered to one who appreciates and fully utilizes silence. In social situations, silence is not golden simply because it is the absence of speech. Instead, silence itself is a positive good that is underappreciated and often underutilized. Only as a person begins to see the positive power that silence has to offer, can that silence be harnessed for personal and social enrichment. Once that understanding is reached, however, there is scarcely a limit to its potential for positive effect.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Insightfulness of a One-Line Marketing Slogan

This morning, as I was driving to meet with a new potential client, there was a sign that caught my attention. It read, "Everyone drives used cars." At first glance, it seemed like the typical appeal-to-popularity type of marketing gimmick used to convince you, as a consumer, to join the masses (real or imaginary) by making the same choice they all are supposedly making. My second thought, in analyzing the one-liner from a logical basis, immediately shocked me with the profundity of the statement. It wasn't merely an appeal-to-popularity. It was a statement of logical fact. That simple fact is one that has been quite obscured to us, due to mental conditioning.

When considering cars, as consumers, we are taught that there are two extremely different categories of vehicles: new and used. These categories of vehicles are presented to us as polar opposites. New vehicles and used vehicles are sold at different places, for different prices by different sorts of people. New vehicles are presented to us a superior choice, FAR more valuable than any used vehicle could hope to be. Used vehicles (except when being described by a salesman) are old, decrepit things that are merely functional, but not especially desirable.

That one-line slogan cut through all of that socially-conditioned thinking. The simple fact is, the only actual difference between a used one, is simply that it has been owned by someone. But even an ostenibly new vehicle can quite accurately be described as "used" a mere week after its purchase. The moment the car is even driven off the lot, its market valuable depreciates, and it may properly be classified as a used vehicle. Hence, the statement "Everyone drives used cars," is a mere declaration of fact. The fact that we have accepted the taxonomies offered to us and created an artificial mental distinction between new and used vehicles is a sign that we often embrace the modern tendency to taxonomize things without giving them much thought.

The other insight this slogan offers is that social status is mostly a mental illusion. Social perceptions play an undeniable role in influencing the decisions we make and the judgments we make of others. A person's car is a sort of status symbol. Regardless of the actual substance and being of a person, people use psychological shortcuts to judge a person. I recently read about a fellow who performed a social experiment. He scheduled dates with two different women. With the first woman, he dressed up really nicely and picked her up in a brand new Bentley. With the second woman, he wore very casual clothing and picked her up in an old beat-up car. The content of the dates themselves were essentially the same. Yet, the way the two women viewed him was extremely divergent. While one had an extremely positive view of the fellow, the other woman described him as a "loser." The exact same guy was perceived in completely different way, simply based on the way he dressed and what car he drove.

In that regard, the brilliance of the slogan is in the way it highlights the way we often don't even see things through our own eyes, nor do we judge things rationally. Instead, we often allow other people's judgments and categories to be used in lieu of our own. We accept the inaccurate and agenda-driven perceptions of others and use them as a shortcut to thinking things through on our own. Humility offers us an alternate way to approach life and people, by pointing out the wisdom of suspending judgments and by pointing out the potential pitfall that arises when overcategorizing various aspects of life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Essential Ingredient for Meaningful Teaching

The most effective sorts are teaching are the ones that are student-centric rather than curriculum-centric. While curriculum-centric teaching focuses ostensibly on what students "ought" to know, student-centric teaching emphasizes that which students will actually find personally meaningful. This is not a paradigm generally embraced by teaching institutions. Curriculum-centric teaching is the norm in American public schools, private schools, and churches today. This misplaced focus is one of the major reasons why most teaching is perceived as irrelevant. If the goal of teaching is for students to be better prepared for life and better equipped to face various challenges, then it is imperative that students learn things that practically impact their lives. In order for students to learn things that practically impact their lives, it is necessary that whatever is taught directly addresses things that pertain to students' lives.

Curriculum-centric teaching does not effectively meet this need since curriculum-centric teaching has several instrinsic limitations. The first limitation of curriculum-centric teaching is that curriculums are developed by the people who teach, based on their own impressions of what students will find useful rather than being developed directly based on feedback and inquiries from students. The second limitation of curriculum-centric teaching is that it is fairly inflexible. Since curriculum-centric teaching typically emphasizes specific lessons that must be taught in a specific order, there is little room for day-to-day flexibility or deviation from the scheduled content. Additionally, since curriculums are generally developed and refined over a period of time and not prone to be changed rapidly, many of them are based on the real or perceived needs of students in times past, rather than being developed in response to the needs of today's students. The third limitation of curriculum-centric teaching is that it is uniformly "taught" to a broad range of students, whose varying levels of foundational knowledge and learning styles serve to negate the effectiveness of what is taught. Curriculum-centric teaching cannot be easily adapted to the needs of individual students or groups of students.

Student-centric learning, contrastingly, focuses on what students actually need to know. It is form of responsive, dynamic teaching, rather than being static and inflexible. For a teacher to teach students content of relevance, it is indispensible for teachers to be aware of what matters to students, what students struggle with, what students think about, and how students think. For this sort of awareness to be developed, teaching must be a relational experience rather than a merely "academic" one. An atmosphere of open dialog and direct student feedback must be continually cultivated. Simple "factual" communication is insufficient to gauge what students are actually learning. Instead, two-way communication must be the foundation of learning.

As an illustration, there is a profound difference between a teacher informing a student of a fact, and a teacher answering a question posed by a student, even if the hypothetical content is exactly the same. When a teacher informs a student of a fact, this may be a fact that the student does not care about, has no deeper comprehesion of, or already knows. However, when a student poses a self-motivated question, the answer then given is one that is desired, likely unknown and one which the student is prepared to develop a comprehension of. The best way to prepare students to learn is by encouraging them to ask questions, showing them how to ask questions, and having an environment where question-asking and open discussion are encouraged.

Upon the foundation of open dialog and relational learning, is it certainly possible to teach specific lessons about specific topics, since relevance has already been established. After (or even during) the teaching of specific lessons, it is best if there is room for direct feedback about the helpfulness and relevance of the lesson. Apart from establishing that a specific topic is relevant to a student, however, there is limited usefulness in teaching specific lessons. Relevance is the most essential ingreident for meaningful teaching. Anything that is taught must be relevant to the students' lives, comprehensible by the students, and taught in a manner that ensures students are able to connect with the way it is being taught.

The focus in developing lessons should be on quality, rather than quantity. Rather than throwing lots of factual content at students and hoping for them to retain some of it, teaching would be far more effective if most of the time were spent on seeking to develop relationships with students and determining topics of relevance. A few lessons that are highly relevant far outweigh the practical value of many lessons with limited relevance. This is a paradigm that is utilized by effective salesmen, effective couselors, and effective entrepreneurs. Developing a strategy that ensures relevance to the target market is the key to success for those sorts of jobs. If a similar paradigm were adopted towards teaching methods, the quantity of teaching and time spend teaching would decrease, while the quality of the lessons taught would increase exponentially.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Facades We Use

With some friends, deep and meaningful conversation flows naturally. With other friends, the conversational depth almost never exceeds that of a puddle. In the past few days I've had some extremely rich and fulfilling conversations with friends. One friend and I were discussing how people connect with each other. There is always the general social conversation that most of society favors: small-talk, polite inquiries into well-being, topics deemed of general interest. While that helps keep things comfortable and light, in many ways it's a way of avoiding deeper connection.

Though many people secretly crave deeper connection, most people also are fearful of being genuine or vulnerable with others. In group settings, this insecurity is even more pronounced. While people might be willing to discuss things that are more personal in a one-on-one context, in a group setting there is much more general hesitance to express one's true thoughts and feelings. Of course, apart from some expression of one's true thoughts and feelings, neither friendship nor deeper connection can occur between two people.

Facades of all sorts inhibit such connection. Whenever we act or speak in such a way as to disguise our true thoughts or feelings, we are utilizing a facade. Fundamentally, there are two types of facades. Some people have cultivated an unconscious facade. They are not aware of the social-exterior they display (or at least attempt to display) to others. Most people who have an unconscious facade also expect others to utilize a similar facade, and actually have a harder time connecting with those who do not have a similar facade. Such people generally feel a desire to connect with others, but are unaware of their own insecurities and fears which prevent deeper connection.

Another sort of facade is the intentionally-crafted sort. This type of facade is not an accidental or subconscious creation, but instead is consciously developed with the explicit aim of effecting social interactions. Those who have crafted facades generally possess a deeper awareness of their own mannerisms, behaviors, and speech patterns as well as a heightened awareness of social norms and the perceptions of others. As a result of "trying on" various personalities and testing various mannerisms, they generally are fairly easily able to see through the facades of others, and also are more able to manipulate the perceptions of others.

The other kind of person, the most rare sort, is the truly genuine person. Such a person generally does not utilize a facade of any sort in social interactions. Truly genuine people generally are genuine for one of three reasons:

Some are completely oblivious to social norms and perceptions and therefore violate all sorts of social norms simply on accident. These sorts of people tend to be social misfits who aren't necessarily disliked but generally have a harder time fitting in with any social group.

Some people are extremely naturally assertive and therefore take no thought for whatever social norms they violate. They do what they like, say whatever they're thinking and simply leave their words and actions unfiltered. These people are often perceived as jerks and assholes, but also are admired and loved by some, simply for their unapologetic (and often raw) genuineness.

Some people have completely worked through their own insecurities, and as a result of having a deep self-acceptance, in meekness they offer themselves to the world as they are, unconcerned with the judgments of others. These kinds of people are often aware of social norms, but neither adhere to the social norms, nor flagrantly violate them. They have a certain grace and easy-going presence about them.

Those people who are very genuine have a greater capacity for developing deeper and more lasting connections based on genuine respect. Yet, the path of being genuine is not an easy one to walk. In a culture that is quite superficial and expects a certain level of superficiality, it takes boldness and humility to be aware of social norms without being enslaved to them. Yet, the eschewing of facades is a necessary prerequisite to connecting with people more fully. Both the fear-based unconscious facades and the crafted and calculated facades generally do more harm than good. They keep people socially "safe" while simultaneously preventing people from building the relationships they desire.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Glorious Mess

As I was listening to some new music, I began to ponder the human condition. Sometimes people puzzle me. Sometimes I puzzle myself. For being intelligent beings, it often boggles my mind how much chaos, drama and complication surrounds human life. Human existence isn't something that is nice, predictable or formulaic. It's anything but.

The simple truth is, we are imperfect people, living in a broken and disconnected world. Each of us is trying to make sense of it. Each of us looks for meaning in life. Some discover that the only meaning behind it is that there isn't any meaning. Some find fulfillment in the arms of a person. Some find satisfaction in a particular hobby or pursuit. Yet, there isn't a single one of us who doesn't occasionally feel out of place. As if this world isn't quite the right sort of place. As if we're merely outsiders. Maybe we shake those feelings off and try something new. If only we can discover the right secret, everything will feel right.

So we make mistakes. We try new things. We go new places. We meet new people. In search of... something. We're not really quite sure what. Sometimes, we feel that we've found it. The new somethings enamor us, and for a few moments everything feels okay. But, the feelings never last. The spell is broken and the feelings of disconnection return. It isn't okay to feel so out of place, is it? There's so much that we're supposed to be thankful for. Why does everything seem to be a struggle? Even when everything seems superficially well. How are you doing, they ask? "I'm fine," is the standard reply. But, are we? What does it mean to be fine?

As my thoughts transcended, I began to ponder what God must think of humanity. Does He love us in spite of our flaws and imperfections? Does He manage to find some enjoyment in us despite our endless quest for happiness in all the wrong things? Why did God create us, knowing that we would stray? Why would He create a world which He knew would be a fallen and broken world, tainted by sin and defaced by human rebellion? He seems to find joy in the midst of all it. How does He manage that?

Maybe God doesn't like things that are simple, perfect, and formulaic. What if God created our world not in spite of its fallenness, but because of it? What if God loves people not in spite of their flaws, but because of them? What if God enjoys watching and participating in the little stories of our lives exactly because they are dramatic and full of drama? What if God gave us a broad range of emotions, because there is meaning and purpose in experiencing all of them? What if God delights in the chaos and unpredictability of it all? What if He takes pleasure in the small and large ironies? What if God is less concerned with sin and punishment and more interested in the journey and direction of our lives?

What if this world isn't merely a mess? What if God didn't want to create a perfect universe? What if God made things exactly the way He did, because He wanted it to be a glorious mess?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Faux Democracy

Those in the know have well been aware of the fact that though America is a purported representative democracy, in truth it is neither representative, nor is it a democracy. Though allegedly the will of the people is what governs our land, there is no longer even a pretense of such a structure. The governmental system of checks and balances that was instituted by our Founding Fathers has completely broken down. The system is running amok, and has effectively negated the checks and balances that were emplaced to prevent tyranny.

As today's news heralds the overturning of the California ban on gay marriage, so the power structure is again revealed for what it truly is. Twice, the people of California voted that only marriage between one man and one woman should be recognized by the state of California. Proposition 22, enacted in 2000, was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2008. For that reason, Proposition 8 was proposed for the November 2008 election, giving the voters another opportunity to express themselves. The voters again chose to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

Yet, today our government has yet again declared that they do not serve the will of the people. The legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government have again demonstrated that their agendas are more important than the will of the people. Each branch continues to overstep their legally-appointed bounds, as we see the judicial branch effectively working to create their own laws, through striking down or reinterpretting those laws they deem unfit. The legislative branch is more than happy to spend taxpayer dollars and pass oppressive laws in spite of public opposition to various acts and pieces of legislation. The executive branch readily oversteps their boundaries by involving us in unapproved wars, violating clear rules of procedure in enforcing the law and engaging in scare tactics as a means of extorting citizens.

The writing is on the wall. Anyone who misses the clear revelation of the power structure in America is either ignorant or living in denial. The American government is not concerned with the well-being of its citizens. Presently, government qua government functions only to further its own agendas and perpetuate an increase in governmental power. Today marks another victory for tyranny and oppression. For those of us who love freedom and who believe that the only legitimate role of the government is to serve the interests of its constituents, this new ruling is yet another harbinger that America is no longer a nation that believes in either of those key principles. We are living in a faux democracy. Even those things that we directly vote for are not given serious consideration by our overlords.