Fatherly Rage

No child is bad from the beginning… they only imitate their atmosphere.

Prince

Nothing in life is easy. Nothing. Especially the things that are good. Even things that are supposed to be natural, like parenthood.

Life is stressful enough without adding kids into the mix, and patience is always in limited reserves. Like any scarce resource, patience must be judiciously managed so that one doesn’t spend the last few hours of the waking day a simmering cauldron of rage.

This affects parents, no doubt. But this is not necessarily what has been affecting me. I am generally even-keeled and tend not to let my emotions overtake me, whether I’m at work or involved in something personal. This isn’t my natural disposition, though, but one borne through almost two decades of managing a legendarily short fuse.

And yet, I find myself getting angry at my son a lot lately.

He is four-and-a-half, very funny, and very energetic. This energy has difficulty being dispersed by nature of our having moved recently to a much smaller place in the city. This will change soon, hopefully, but I’m not making any guesses as to when.

So in lieu of being able to play outside, he has to deal with “indoor” stuff, particularly at night, when there are no playgrounds or parks or backyards nearby. And the indoor stuff soon gets boring for a kid who loves nothing more than being out in the open air. 

You can see where this is going.  Continue reading “Fatherly Rage”

When Reality Just Won’t Listen

Let me paint you a scene:

A man wakes up somewhere in America. It’s Monday morning, six a.m. Slightly groggy and irate at the alarm, he reaches over and shuts his phone. Like most of us, the man’s mobile device doubles as his alarm clock (and his camera, and his music player, and his calendar, and his notebook, and his television remote, and…)

He sits upright, rubs his eyes, yawns mightily. At some point he stands up, maybe puts on a short, and walks quietly out of his bedroom. 

What’s the first thing this man does? Make the coffee? Brush his teeth? Relieve himself?

None of these. This man is a creature of the 21st century. He looks at his phone, fires up one of the myriad news or social media sites, and starts scrolling. 

He reads mostly just the headlines, letting the ideas of others whizz by him and cast their hooks in his consciousness. A few bits stick, but not the specifics. 

What he’s retaining is something different. It’s an idea, a zeitgeist, a narrative

A template

As the man scrolls, perhaps while brushing his teeth, he gets idea about what the day’s topic of conversation is supposed to be. What he’s supposed to care about today. 

But the template is sinking in. 

Maybe now he starts the coffee. 

It’s a morning just like any other. Now the man truly wakes up, hazy gray slumber giving way to full-color alertness. Stomach rumbling, e wonders what to make for breakfast, thinks about what traffic might be like, goes over the workday’s tasks in his mind. 

And then he sees it. It could be a tweet, or it could be a story, or it could be a blogpost. 

Somebody somewhere, some politician or pundit or even a private citizen, said something. Something so wrong, so egregious, that the man can think of nothing else. 

His mood is ruined. His focus is shattered and reconstructed, centered only on this one thing. 

Someone was wrong. 

Suddenly, his morning doesn’t seem so good. 

This is not right. 

This person must be answered. 
He hits “Reply” and begins to write. 

And if his mother, or his girlfriend, or his co-workers could read what he writes, they’d wonder how it could come from the sane, rational, decent man they thought they knew. 

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like anyone you know? 

Or you? Continue reading “When Reality Just Won’t Listen”

Chain Reactions: Affecting the People You’ve Never Met

chain-reaction

In this journey to understand the world and understand ourselves, we need to learn about mastery. Not necessarily mastery of a thing, although that is important, but mastery of ourselves.

I’m thinking about this lately as anger and emotion are ratcheted up in the United States, especially as I watch the first presidential debate.

There is nothing wrong with emotions. Emotions are information. However, the task is to make sure we do not let our emotions–our passions–control us.

In order to maintain this control, you need to look at why you may be feeling the way you are, and what you can do about it.

I thought about this at church yesterday, hearing my priest speak about the various people the Lord sends to us every day. Every person, he said, could be an opportunity for you to work God’s will, not just for you, but for other people.

I’ve written before about an obligation–maybe “obligation” is too strong a word and I should say “a strongly encouraged method of being”–to be cheerful, and treat everybody with respect and dignity. Commentor and fellow writer J-Wall Jackson pointed out that Jesus himself was a man of sorrow, and that we are not expressly command commanded to be cheerful, but hear me out, because it’s a great little trick to help you gain some control over your thoughts and your emotions (and also not be a jerk). Continue reading “Chain Reactions: Affecting the People You’ve Never Met”

The Three Political Phases

Yoshitomo Nara Fuckin Politics.jpg

As a part of the attempt to tie everything in life together, from time to time one needs to focus on politics.

Politics is garbage. I understand this. But it pays attention to me, so I need to pay attention to it. Politics forces me to care, because I would like to have at least a little say in what’s going on.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed my own shift in my relationship to politics, moving from the emotional end of the spectrum towards the more pragmatic. Of course, emotion still plays a part, and it’s all on a sliding scale, but I have identified three distinct phases that can be seen as milestones on this journey.

But first, let’s talk about where this touchy relationship with politics stems from. I’m not going to talk about individual issues or policies, just politics as a concept.

Emotion Über Alles

The funny thing about politics is we like to pretend that it’s some sort of dispassionate battle of ideas, where we are hashing out the best way to govern ourselves, maximizing liberty and equality for all. This is a total fallacy.

Any view of politics that posits man as a rational being is destined to fail. Politics is emotionally charged, just like everything else us humans do. Here’s an example: You can take a Democrat’s positions, ask a bunch of self-described Republicans if they agree with them without telling them where they come from, and you will get a whole bunch of them agreeing that the positions are good. But when you tell them that those are actually the talking points of some Democrat politician, they’ll say no way and turn the ideas down.

See? Emotional.

And yet eventually, you do come to a point in life where all you wants is for what works to happen. For example, look at the refugee situation in Europe. It is clear that the European Union’s immigration and border policies are not working, and in fact are actively harming life in its member countries. In fact, they’re a catastrophe, leading to a spike in terrorist attacks and sex crimes, and generally destroying social cohesion and the European way of life. And yet what are many European leaders doing? Keeping on the same course while doing nothing to stop the harm to their own citizens. It’s no wonder that the people of Europe are so fed up with their elite’s refusal to do what actually would help Europe: control their borders.

See what I mean about politics paying attention to you?

Yoshitomo Nara Life Is Always Hard Lets Move On.jpg

The same happens here in the United States too; don’t kid yourself. In addition to immigration, we have questions about taxation and regulation, foreign labor, military interventionism, healthcare, and just about everything else you can imagine. No leader likes to admit mistakes (this notwithstanding). Did George W. Bush ever admit that going to war in Iraq was maybe not his best idea? Has Barack Obama ever admitted that Obamacare, or getting involved in Libya didn’t quite work out as promised? Of course not. Admitting failure is anathema to a politician. It’s anathema to most of us, actually. Because we are not rational human beings.

From top to bottom, from the leader of the free world to the down-on-his-luck panhandler down the street, we all largely react on emotion. Which brings us to the three political phases, moving from the emotional and rigid to the more nuanced. And I’ve noticed this shift in most people my age.

Here are the political phases as I’ve identified them. Continue reading “The Three Political Phases”

Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life

I make fun of the legal profession a lot here, because let’s face it, it’s so easy.

In fact, I have a hypothesis about lawyers you that I’ll expand upon in a future post, but I’ll share it with you now. It’s called the LAWYERS RUIN EVERYTHING HYPOTHESIS OF CURRENT EVENTS, and it goes like this:

If something in American society seems so stupid, so counter-intuitive, so messed-up, and so unfair, the chances are incredibly high that at some point in time, lawyers were involved in making the decision.

Lessons from The Law

But I have not come to bury the legal profession, but to praise it.

That’s right! There are actually certain lessons one learns in law school and in the legal profession that can be transferred to your everyday life. Now, they’re not quite as bad-ass as Ed Latimore’s “Important Lessons From Fighting You Can Apply To Your Life,” but that’s why Ed’s Ed and I’m me.

While I don’t litigate anymore, trial practice taught me some skills that have helped me in all areas of my life.

So without further ado, here are Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life: Continue reading “Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life”