Things Remembered

I remember exactly how I felt when my first business went under.

It was over seven years ago, but the disbelief followed by sadness and angst and more than a little anger at myself and my own ineptitude is still a very clear memory. It’s sharp like the tangy taste of metal or the lingering scent of a pungent spice. To have such failure follow such success was almost more than I could bear at the time, and to this day I cringe a little any time I think about it.

I remember what it was like the first time I fell in love.

All the negative aspects of the world disappeared, and although life was not ideal, that one facet was impossibly so. I experienced a flavor of happiness I had never tasted before, and ever since the aftertaste has been recalled by the love I’ve felt for others. Though like a plunge into a cold pool, the second and third jumps are never quite as shocking as the first.

I’m fortunate to have an uncountable number of memories, some good, some bad, most somewhere in between the two extremes, and to have the ability to relive those moments when I need them, whether I feel that need consciously or they pop into my present unannounced, bringing with them the dust of a different version of myself and a world that no longer exists.

I value these memories, these moments in time, captured in brain-amber, more than anything else in the world. Because as soon as the present has occurred, it’s filed away for a future version of myself to flick through and peak at. To organize and filter and learn from, if I’m really on the ball.

Your memories are a series of ‘nows,’ the secret to perpetual existentialism. It’s a library you build over the span of your lifetime, and the books you shelve are made up of textures, tastes, upswings and depressions, tightly clutched secrets, and quiet moments with yourself, your pets, your lovers, or your best friends.

Holidays and other milestones make for excellent organizational systems. Take the time to step back and really inhale every moment. Sponge up who you are now and the life you’re living. It could all change in a second or it could slowly evolve over a span of decades.

Either way, you’ll want to remember the good and bad of here and now, so that someday you can fully appreciate the ups and downs of there and then.

Update: February 25, 2017

It’s not easy cataloging all that happens to you for easy recall, later. I find that attaching moments to larger contexts helps: I met this person while I was living in this city, I wrote that book while I was dating this person, and so on. But it’s still imperfect.

I’d love to live forever, but I’d love even more to live forever and to be able to remember it all, and recall all the moments of my life with crystal clarity.


Success & Society

It’s often said that affluent people owe their success to the less-wealthy people they encounter throughout their lives.

While I think this is true in some respects, no person creates value in a vacuum, I also think repeating such mantras is an ineffective way of approaching cross-class communication. And we need to keep our chatter friendly if we’re going to survive and thrive as a society in the new, worldwide economic environment.

Having experienced both success and impoverishment at different points over the years, I understand both sides of the coin.

To a poor person, the wealthy seem to be taking advantage of the everyday worker, making use of their labor to earn a fortune.

To an affluent person, the poor don’t seem to have proper levels of motivation, but still demand vast rewards for performing menial tasks.

Neither side is totally right or totally wrong, and both arguments contain truths. But that’s irrelevant.

What is relevant is that no one gains from this game of judgement ping pong. The more one side accuses the other of wrongdoing, the less we all work together. As a result, less value is reinvested in society. And society is where both groups live.

Why does economic polarization result in a less stable and comfortable society?

Think about it this way: why would the wealthy want to improve the wider world when that also helps those who see them as evil? If those outside your class vilify you, the logical response is to pull inward and do your best to ignore them, reinforcing your own walls.

On that same note: why should the working class try and improve the world if they feel their efforts only help those who look down upon them? If the system seems rigged for those at the top, those at the bottom have little incentive to work hard or strive for innovation.

We don’t need more walls between classes, we need more bridges. Instead of focusing on the differences, we need to focus on similarities. The greatest similarity we share is that we all live on the same planet, and when that planet is a cesspool, we all live in squalor. When the planet flourishes, we all reap the benefits.

At the end of the day, that’s the only argument that matters.

Update: February 25, 2017

Truth. This is a tricky topic to discuss, because you’re not supposed to talk about the differences in how we perceive those of different economic classes. And in truth, not everyone sees the world, or those from other groups, the same way. But there’s enough there to generalize, and to attempt to snuff out those generalizations when possible. More access to the same resources is ideal, but even now, before we’ve achieved that, seeing each other as teammates in a larger game is fundamental.


Negative Drawing

If you want to draw something, you find a piece of paper, pick up a pencil, charcoal, or other marking implement, and go at it. The white space becomes darker as you cover it with your carbon, and those lines, crosshatches, dots, and gradients become an image. A representation of something imaginary or real.

When I was in art school, I became fond of a style called ‘negative drawing.’ It was a method that flipped the traditional drawing process on its head: you would cover a sheet of paper in graphite or charcoal, then attack it with an eraser. Instead of adding to a blank canvas, you subtracted from a full one. You carved away at the sea of ‘something’ to create something new. By removing some of the whole, you gave increased meaning to what was left.

We spend a great deal of time adding things to our lives: relationships, skills, personality traits, possessions. These things really do help us achieve full, happy lives.

But it’s not until we start subtracting, until we carve away at the unwieldy mess most of us end up with over time, that we really come into our own. Until we organize all those lines and gradients, erase the unnecessary to create a more beautiful piece of artwork, it can be difficult to understand what we’re seeing when we look at ourselves. Even more difficult is explaining who we are to the world when all they have to go on is a piece of paper covered edge-to-edge in charcoal.

Addition is good, but don’t neglect the eraser. Subtraction helps bring balance and order to chaos.

Update: February 25, 2017

Sharpen your rough edges and sand down those which don’t help you get where you want to be.

This is key to minimalism, actually: removing the unimportant bits to put more emphasis on the vital stuff. Remove the parts of the marble block that don’t belong, leaving only the statue.