Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical. ~ Jonathan Swift
For some people its music, possibly of any persuasion. For others its more meditative – yoga and such. For me, undoubtedly, it’s coffee that calms me.
In my line of work, there are days where I’ll spend 6 hours or more on the road, with a few stops mixed in between. And there’s no better company and no better way to wake up in the morning than with a little java and some talk radio.
There’s a certain calmness that hits at around 7:30 each morning. By then I’m normally out of traffic and several miles down the highway and whichever coffee I’ve bought that morning – whether it be Starbucks, McDonald’s, or gas station coffee – it’s finally cool enough to drink without scalding my tongue. And the beauty is that it’s still too early for any phone calls.
The nice thing is that its become something that I go to whenever the day gets long or especially taxing. On hot days – Hello iced coffee. On stressful days – Grande Pike’s with sugar-free hazelnut.
Understanding that my morning routine is somewhat confined by four wheels and a windshield, and reading back through where this post has gone, I think I am a coffee addict.
Oh well, I’m facing a 300 mile day tomorrow. So I’ll be seeing the smiling faces at the exit 14 McDonald’s once again – coffee black.
For an interesting read, check out The Women’s Petition Against Coffee. “Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water.” There’s some truth there, to be sure.
Have you ever driven on a foggy day, the world outside reduced to what you can see a few meters from your hood? That was me today.
It was almost as if the fog lay waiting. As I left the main highway, following the curve of the road, it bulged from behind a small smattering of trees, quickly enveloping me in its embrace. Fingers of mist danced around me, the trees sparkling in the morning haze. You could almost see them smile.
The weight of deadlines and appointments was still there, but it was almost as if the fog had a density great enough to block out everything except what was held within my small space. The twin beacons of fellow travelers passed slowly through my kingdom, paths crossing in separate worlds. I have no doubt that had I reached my hand out, I could have given the hazy grey morning a squeeze.
A calmness, pure serenity came with that mystical embrace. There’s comfort in silence so peaceful. It left me smiling – just me – happy and grateful for all the gifts I’ve been given.
I hope everyone has the chance to get lost in the fog sometimes.
I spent much of this week trying to think of a topic for the next post in this series. Then, as is typical, it hit me and was as clear as could be. After having picked up my second coffee of the day from a fast-food drive-thru, the light bulb went off.
Almost every work day I trust other people, from the moment I leave my house to the minute I lock my front door at night. What do I know about any of the people who make the food I buy; who share the road with me at 70+ miles an hour; who live their lives in the same world of semi-interaction? And even more relevant, would I want to know more?
There’s a comfort that comes from ignorance which seems universal. I’m a happier person because I’m able to let things go, trusting that those around me will act in a responsible fashion. I trust that those who make my coffee in the morning aren’t adding in a bit of cat urine. Those around me trust that I’m not going to test my crash-dummy skills on the highway.
Unfortunately, this trust is why some events are so quick to make the news. When someone breaks that trust it’s a temporary shock to the system. Think of the stunned silence that rolled across the country after Gabby Giffords‘ shooting. However, even when someone breaks the trust in as emphatic and tragic a manner as Giffords’ shooter, we still fall quickly back into the same trust we held before, with a slightly more cautious manner.
Just for a moment, think of all the things we trust others to handle. Don’t dwell too long though, paranoia is no one’s friend.
“There is no way to be completely happy without being oblivious to the world around you.” ~ Maredith Close
Tired after a long day’s work, I sought a quick distraction before shutting down. Emily Dickinson came to the rescue. Here is her short, yet powerful untitled poem 1350
Luck is not chance —
It’s Toil —
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned —
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned —
I find it extremely interesting that someone who lived in such extreme isolation can speak so perfectly of hard work and ambition. Thank you Emily. I will make my own fortune, my own luck.
This will be the first in a new series of posts related to taking a step back and reflecting on various aspects of life. A previous post, Introspection in America, actually was the informal first post.
On a day like today, Super Bowl Sunday, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and festivities. I’ve been the norm since I was young – Super Bowl parties, too much to drink, etc. The same can be said for the World Cup, March Madness, and regular season Colts games (with the exception of this year due to their poor play all around).
This morning was abnormally warm for Indiana so I spent some time outside watching my dog play in the back yard. He can spend hours by himself out there, chasing squirrels or shadows and flinging sticks around. This morning it occurred to me just how much entertainment he creates for himself and just how little most of us create for ourselves.
Our need for external entertainment is astounding, especially visual. Think about it. We have multi-million dollar athletes because they “entertain” us for a few months. We buy into the games like we’re the ones playing and if our team wins, what do we really get from the experience? Pride in our team? Really? We get to feel that we’re part of a crowd, all entertained by the same overpaid players. What will that team ever really do for us but take our money and our time?
The same can be said of movies and television. We’re entertained for a couple of hours, or if the story is especially moving it may stick with us for a while, but what of those actors in movies? Are they really worth the crazy amounts of money that they burn through everyday? From a marketing and business standpoint, absolutely. Because the better the actor, the more they fulfill our need to be entertained. From a realistic standpoint… Not likely. And even worse, what about those reality show debacles that have run rampant for the past 10 years?
And as Mark Zuckerberg takes his monstrosity public, he puts a monetary figure on one piece of the next juggernaut in external entertainment, all based on a figment of our collective imaginations. Much of the populace has the self-delusion that online friendships are the same, or even better, than those interpersonal relationships we have with those around us. I could write for days on this point.
Watching my dog in the backyard made me realize that we’ve lost touch with our grasp of what entertainment should really be or do. It should be something that makes us think; helps us create! It’s amazing how much visual entertainment differs from listening to the radio or reading. A good novel will absorb a reader in a way that no movie or television show can. You feel the characters’ successes or failures, sense the world their in, and ultimately use the writers’ words as the framework for creating that world in your mind.
Beginning next weekend, try something new. Opt for a Silent Sunday – no movies, no Youtube or Facebook and definitely no Housewives of Brainlessville. Read, write, enjoy nature… whatever it takes to entertain yourself. It’ll be awkward at first, but persevere. You’ll be happy you did.
As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.
I bought my wife a Kindle Fire for Christmas and as a result ended up with her old Kindle. While the majority of my reading will still be of physical books, I’ve been impressed with the Kindle’s convenience. As such, I’ve been looking into uses for it beyond reading a normal novel, specifically the availability of short stories on it.
Unfortunately, it is a good news and bad news scenario. The good news is that there seems to be a growing amount of short fiction on the Kindle, a ton of it actually. For those serious writers out there, the bad news is that there also seems to be a large amount of free fiction as well, both short fiction and novel length.
With the increasingly prevalent impact that technology is having on the publishing industry, I’ve often wondered what impact it would eventually have on those writers who earn their living through their craft. I have to believe that the increasing amount of material made available by hobby writers, many times for free or as good as free, is hurting that side of the industry. If nothing else, the pure saturation of material will likely become overwhelming.
From what I’ve seen on various blogs and magazines, it’s a very hotly debated question – should someone offer their material for free so that they get exposure and readership? I’m a strong supporter of the writing community, from the closet writer without a finished story to his name to those admired few who have the talent and fortitude to make a living at it, be it modest or extraordinary. However, it scares me to see the results when I do a search for ‘short stories’ in the Kindle Store and then narrow it down to Fantasy Kindle ebooks. Eleven of the twelve items displayed on the first screen are all free.
That question may never have a final answer just because each person’s scenario is different. Some people do need to use the opportunity and impact of a free short story as a lead-in for their additional work.
However, the question I haven’t seen posed anywhere though is – How much is the hobby writer adversely impacting those writers who use the Amazon fees to pay their bills?
I’d love to hear thoughts and comments on this.
In today’s world where we are bombarded by mind-numbing reality shows, more online interactions than real-world, and an overall increase in social awkwardness, it is becoming more and more obvious that we’re too concerned with the lives of others instead of our own. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this may at least be a little more introspective than the general population, so it will be interesting to hear your thoughts.
I grew up in a somewhat sheltered world – class of 151, same group of friends throughout high school, captain of this, involved in that… yada yada yada. I never really paid attention to current events. I definitely didn’t know what was going on outside of my town and most times not what was going on within. Thank goodness it was before the Facebook phenomenon or who knows how I would have turned out.
Several life events, marked by some emotional scarring, were monumental in changing my view of the world. However, outside of that, I fully think there’s one element that helped me the most and tends to separate people; I took more than just an entry-level English Lit class.
What other classes involve such in-depth character analysis and require a person to ask the ultimate question – Why? You don’t see many business classes reviewing the lifestyle of or reasons why Rod Blagojevich thought he could get away with selling a Senate seat. Analysis into a character’s motivations can become habitual is easily transferred into real life situations.
During my two years of various Literature classes, all elective and not even enough to qualify as a minor, I learned to ask myself ‘why’ which in turn allowed me to have a better understanding, not only why others may do what they do, but eventually to turn it internal and ask why I do some of the things I do. Getting to know myself has been more enlightening than you can imagine.
To be fair, it hasn’t been easy. I found myself making excuses, both for myself and for those who influenced me early in life. And many of the truths were hard to absorb. But I’m very happy to have started down that path of discovery, a path that will likely take me on a lifelong journey.
I challenge you to do the same
An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope (a snippet)
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
I’ll start this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain‘s, but in this instance I’m fully on board with him. For those of you who somehow haven’t heard – Paula Deen announced that she has had Type 2 diabetes for three years. During this time her celebrity status across the U.S. has grown tremendously, almost entirely due to her butter and sugar laden “southern style” cooking.
In an amazing coincidence this announcement came out at the same time that Paula announced she would be taking a new role as spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk, a maker of diabetes medications. How fortuitous for her.
Anthony Bourdain later tweeted, “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.” I couldn’t have said it better.
Paula Deen should also announce that she’s decided to run as the face, or parts less friendly, of Capitalism and greed.
I am not one to cry victim for the public, especially not when it comes to a situation like this where anyone who followed Deen’s lead was making extremely obvious poor decisions. Moderation in a country of extremes is obviously a whole other battle. However, nothing boils my blood more than someone who sees extreme profits at the expense, and possibly the health, of those who may not know any better.
Now, on to happier things…
This past weekend I hosted a guy’s night where four friends and I got together, played cards, shared unfortunate humor, and had an altogether great night. I had time to reflect today, during my 4+ hours in the car, and really feel fortunate for the friends I do have.
The four I had over consisted of three I’ve known since middle school and one that I just met a couple of years ago. This was basically his first introduction to the other three.
Luckily I’m not Barney in this picture
It still amazes me how we can all get together, after having not seen each other for months, and pick up right where we left off. The jokes are still there. Faces have grown a little older, and yes hair lines may have thinned a bit, but the spirit and personalities still persist. And the great thing is that I think the newest addition is going to fit right in as well.
Isn’t it amazing how the bonds formed in youth can many times be so much stronger than those we form as adults? When we’re young, we share experiences so easily – the types of experiences that tie one to another even if you’re apart for years. And as adults, many times we find ourselves in the flowing river of monotony to the point that we don’t really even know the people around us.
When was the last time you just randomly stopped by someone’s house to say hello? Did you feel like you were intruding? When exactly did I become too old to do that? It must have been somewhere in my early 20’s. Is technology to blame or is it just simply that we don’t get to know people as well as we used to?
This all goes toward one of my 2012 resolutions, to make two good friends this year. I hope everyone out there can do the same.
I spent the majority of this past week thinking of what I hope to accomplish in 2012, both with my writing and life in general. Some people make one resolution and try to stick with it throughout the year, but I’m more of a list person so I’ve made a list. Yes, I included everything from my list.
So far, I’ve already made changes to Mad Hatter Miscellany which should help me be a more consistent blogger. It had gotten to the point where I was putting in a ton of time researching what I wanted to write about. I wanted it to have a definite focus and eventually found myself with tunnel vision. Going forward, it will continue to have a creative-writing focus, but I will also allow myself to go off on tangents. You may see a post about a great short story followed by comments on investing.
I am about halfway through a new short story that I’ll be submitting to publishers as soon as all my revisions are done. Wish me luck!
Lastly, thank you to anyone and everyone out there who take the time to support the writing community. Most writers hold day jobs and hone their craft in their spare time, so taking the time to comment on a post or leave feedback in Amazon on one of their short stories or novels goes a long way.
Happy New Year and here’s to a great 2012!