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February 2012

Post image for All self-images are false

All self-images are false. None of them match you. Any image that you’ve ever had of yourself, mental or visual, has been wrong.

That’s because an image is not a person. An image is an image, made of something totally different and vastly simpler than what people are made of. Images are made of things like pixels, or light, or even just thoughts, or all three. People are not.

At best images are crude symbols of real people, and they represent the real thing about as well as an ink-dot on a map can represent Los Angeles. Yet somehow we confuse our self-images with ourselves all the time.

Here’s an unexciting photo I took of my image, in the bathroom just now.  Read More

Post image for You can’t go home again. Again.

I’m back home now, and I’m feeling something I haven’t felt since the last time I returned from a big trip.

Friday night I came in the door, dropped my bag, sat on the couch out of habit. Instead of the relief I had looked forward to from the plane, I felt an intense uneasiness. My apartment is clean, spacious, utilitarian and unlike New York City in every way, and to this moment it makes me queasy.

It’s no wonder, either, that feeling so comfortable in the crowds of Manhattan (“like a warm bath,” I kept saying) I feel quite out of place in a city that is so starkly different, even if I do call it home.

What is a surprise, though, is that I’d been enduring some measure of this restlessness all the time without recognizing it. My living situation is nearly perpendicular to my actual values, and I didn’t realize it until I fit so well in a place so dramatically different than here.

It was a revelation to me that I crave a buzzing social life, walkable shops, dinners with friends, art and art people, cafés that aren’t franchises, buildings that are older than my parents. Yet I live in a dull park of two-level apartments at the edge of the city, with nothing in its walking radius but box stores. This is not a neighborhood.

One afternoon in Manhattan I was in a museum and I had to find a way to write something. I’m sure a lot of writers feel it. It comes on with the same kind of urgency as having to pee.

I quickly ended up sitting on one of the viewing benches in a room dedicated to Kandinsky, typing on my phone.

Things I have learned in ny.

Read more. Get healthy. Get calm but stay playful.

Create something everyday. Poem, stream of consciousness, article, drawing or narrative.

Find your people. Get close to the action.

Absorb art.  Read More

Post image for Defy mother nature

Mother Nature’s running a trial-and-error business, so sometimes our programming doesn’t make a lot of sense.

We come out of the box tuned for self-preservation and conformity. Not self-expression, not self-actualization, not happiness. But that’s what we want. Our genes want rock-solid, redundant systems for survival, nothing more. We want to have fun and feel good about our lives. Not the same thing!

The bulk of human activity is still driven by our oldest impulses — to secure, to acquire, to indulge, to conquer, and to reproduce these motives in one’s children. They were around when that first fish-monster fin-flopped onto the land and began our extended family, and still sit at the centre of human motivation.

But we’re quite far along from that now, and while we’ve developed some great new tricks and some new desires, it’s all built on the same bedrock of high-strung survival impulses that kept sea creatures flourishing hundreds of millions of years ago.

So by now, for humans, the basic survival motives are still prominent in our consciousness. You feel their influence whenever you sense a mannequin’s presence, or when weird people get into the elevator with you.

They come in a thousand forms and the reactions they create are all quite normal and quite unconscious. But because they’re normal, they’re generally unquestioned, and because they’re unconscious they can be really destructive. Nearly every instance of conflict you read about in your newspaper is somebody’s base motives leading them to create trouble for themselves or others. Read More

Post image for 5 things that always work and don’t cost anything

Most things don’t work. Ever since my early twenties when I found myself inexplicably unhappy, I’ve been looking for things that work. Resolutions and experiments. Things to do.

Quality of life is the only thing I was ever after. Not happiness exactly — because being happy all the time is impossible — but a day-to-day existence that creates it pretty easily.

A lot of things seem to work for a while, but then wear off or have a different effect. Some things have conditional or circumstantial effects. But there are five simple things to do that I’ve found to be consistently, disproportionately helpful in moving towards a more fulfilling life.

I’m not claiming mastery of these five things that work. But I am claiming that there is no question that they work. If I had to speak to a graduating high school class, this is what I’d tell them. If a meteor was about to hit earth and all I had time to do was shout advice to the people lucky enough to be allowed on the getaway ship, this is what I’d shout. I never have to puzzle about how to make life better, if I’m not already fully exploiting the outstanding benefits of these five things that always work.

1) Killing conspicuous silences

What makes life good, more than anything, is other people. The value of what those people bring to your life depends on how easy it is for you to be with each other. With almost everyone, we start from ice cold.

Alienation is born in uncomfortable silences. A part of my mind has a stubborn hangup about throwing things out there just to see if they trigger a dialogue. But that hangup has never served me.

Violating it has. It’s nearly always better to say something.

I do like silence, and I think sharing a good silence with someone you know can be empowering, but conspicuous silences do seem to be invariably harmful when you’re getting to know somebody. If a silence comes with tension, and they usually do, it’s best to interrupt it.

Whether I choose to let the silence fester, or take a swing at it with a dull question about how school’s going or whether a particular movie is worth seeing, I learn the same thing — relationships of any kind grow best when words are exchanged, and sometimes it takes a little push. Language is the best fertilizer, and if a generous application of words doesn’t help it grow, then nothing will. I am convinced nearly all of my friendships and acquaintances could have been halted in the beginning by a divisive silence at some point, had nobody offered something. As a rule, say something. Read More

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