“What’cha thinkin’?”

“What’cha thinkin’?”

I hate this question. But I do not hate the people who ask it.

I know why people ask it: They want to start up a conversation. As someone who enjoys talking, I cannot fault them for this even a little bit.

But it’s a loaded question, similar to asking someone “How are you doing?” What they want really isn’t the question; they don’t care. “How are you doing?” has become conflated with “Hello!” And “What’cha thinkin’?” is more like “Let’s talk about something here; the silence is killing me!” Continue reading ““What’cha thinkin’?””

Why Fitness?


“Check out these gains!”

“What supplements you take?”

“DO YOU EVEN LIFT, BRO!”

These are things I have never, ever, heard at the gym.*

Yes, weightlifting has a negative image. Many think, thanks in late let to our popular culture, that guys who life are nothing more than meat-headed, steroid-abusing, unintelligent, overly macho, testosterone-soaked (like this is a bad thing?) jocks.

Whatever.

In truth, most of us are just guys trying to stay healthy in an environment filled with sedentary jobs, endless entertainment, bad food, and aimlessness of purpose.

If you follow my social media, you may have noticed that I’ve been posting about fitness more often lately, though I’m not giving advice.

What gives?

I’ll tell you what gives: It all goes to the “Renaissance Man” (or “Woman,” if you get offended by such gendered language) aspect of life: 

Never stick yourself in one box. Don’t look at having many different sides as a bad thing.

In life, be a generalist.

The mind and the body and the spirit are all connected. You cannot ignore any of these without negatively affecting the others.

If you are mentally or spiritually ill, it will have outward manifestations.

If you are physically ill, it will have inner manifestations.

The entirety of a human being is linked. This is why, though people mock Biblical statements about the body being a temple that should not be defiled by sin, including things like gluttony and lust, those boring old guys were on to something.

Let me give a little background here which may explain why I find fitness so important, despite the fact that I check pretty much all of the “Nerd” boxes.

You see, I am a former fatty.

I know, I know. Some of you might object to this term as well. I don’t care. It was only by being harsh with myself I was able to cut through the self-deception that convinced me to be comfortable in this state.

Until I was in my late teens, I never got serious about my health. Continue reading “Why Fitness?”

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”

Even Michaelangelo Got the Blues: What Bill Russell Taught Me About Craftsmanship

I like to write.

In addition to this blog, I like to write poetry and music and fiction. Lately, it’s mostly fiction.

And writing fiction is fun, but damn it’s a lot of work.

That said, I did state that one of my goals for 2017 is to get some of this writing published. And since I’ve backed myself into a corner, there’s really nothing left to do but push forward with it.

I would like to get some writing published in 2017. I have one novel in the hopper ready to go, another almost done, and my NaNoWriMo novel to finish (it turns out that 50,000 words represented the first half of my story).

One interesting thing I’ve discovered is that the writing itself, while time-consuming, isn’t the difficult part. What struck me is that the blood, sweat, and other substances that hard work brings out of you really flow during the revisions.

In other words, for the book I am working on now, revising the sucker is taking forever. Or at least it feels that way, even if the math doesn’t make sense. Let me explain:

It took me ten months of writing, plugging away between work and family and travel, to finish my first draft, the final period put in place this past January. At 800 pages, it actually only represents the third-longest thing I’ve ever written.

If you’re into word count as a metric, Microsoft Word puts it at around 168,000 words. Please do not ask me for any more statistics.

Okay, here’s one more: Since January, I have edited, revised, rewritten, deleted, rearranged, polished, and spit-shone 211 of those pages.

It sounds like I’m moving at a pretty good clip right? And I am. But why does it feel like it’s ten times harder than writing the damn thing in the first place?

It’s all relative, and at this rate I should be done with my second draft in a month. But let me tell you, the level of effort required to refine this book is intense.

But as I go through this second-pass at my book, a word keeps bouncing in my mind, a word that seems to perfectly encapsulate what I am doing and, most importantly, why.

That word is CRAFTSMANSHIP.

Recall, if you will, that I wrote about my growing disinterest in professional sports not too long ago. But just because I’m not watching sports on a regular basis doesn’t mean I can’t admire great athletes and the lessons that they teach.

One of my sports heroes is actually a thinker who just so happened to be really tall and ended up playing basketball: Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell.

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Mr. Russell is an incredibly interesting man. While he was not the first black athlete drafted in the NBA (that would be Chuck Cooper, drafted by, ahem, the Boston Celtics in 1950), Russell broke many other color barriers, including being the first black coach in NBA history–a role he performed while also playing.

But Russell isn’t famous only for his civil rights work. He is also famous for being one of the most successful winners in sports history: In the 13 seasons he played, he won 11 championships, including an unmatched run of 8 in a row. He also completely revolutionized the game of basketball, single-handedly changing the way the game was played, particularly on defense.

He was also a damn good scorer and gobbled up a hell of a lot of rebounds.

Anyway, as if the guy wasn’t gifted enough, Bill Russell is also smart as hell. He’s well-known among basketball fans as being one of the smartest people ever to play the game. Seriously, he’s like a basketball philosopher-cum-scientist who can dissect the game in ways you never thought possible.

But more germane for our purposes, he is adept at relating the game of basketball and the lessons he learned playing it to life. Continue reading “Even Michaelangelo Got the Blues: What Bill Russell Taught Me About Craftsmanship”

True Truthiness

Today, for both Eastern and Western Christians, marks the start of Great and Holy Lent, the 40-day fast culminating in Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But this post is not about religion per se, and is intended for a universal audience regardless of your religious proclivities (if any).

I’m inclusive like that.

You see, what strikes me about Lent and Easter is its thematic link to most other major Christian holidays in that they all seem to be about renewal and rebirth.

From Christmas–the conception and birth of Jesus–to Epiphany–the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist–to the Transfiguration–the Revelation of Jesus’ true nature to John and James and Peter–these events involve humanity being able to overcome its fallen nature and put on a new form, new wine in new bottles.

But if this isn’t a religious post, then why am I writing about religion?

Because this focus on rebirth can also be seen as a quest for truth. And as a blogger I very much enjoy named Insanitybytes22 put it recently, absolute truth is difficult to come by, but us Christians like to think we have a starting point:

However, human flaws aside, objective truth and Absolute Truth are still real things in the world. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” -John 14:6. The truth is important in the Christian walk, and it is an objective, tangible thing, outside of and beyond ourselves, our feelings, and our sentimentality.

This is what I try to use as my starting point as well: If you are going to have a standard, it’s better for that standard to be as immutable and true as humanly possible. And since “humanly possible” is not always best, I think the teachings of Jesus Christ–who us Christians consider to be God on Earth–are a good place to start.

This all still sounds religious. Where am I going with this?

I am going to a place that may seem disproportionately mundane when compared to the resurrection of the dead: My own life.

Specifically, my purpose.

Specifically, what am I doing here.

And by “here,” I mean blogging. Writing. Anything. Continue reading “True Truthiness”

Old Friends Anonymous

We don’t understand our own minds, really. Thoughts come unbidden, and often at the strangest times. And what triggers this is as mysterious as any of the other inner-workings of our oh-so rational brains. 

See, I have a confession to make. My thoughts have lately turned towards an old friend of mine. Maybe because I don’t have too many anymore, I don’t know. But whatever the reason, the desire to reach out to the guy are real and they are strong. 

Weird, right?

This friend and I started hanging out in the fifth grade or and became as thick as thieves, concocting plans and schemes about all of the things we would do when we were adults and the world would be ours for the taking. 

We were going to conquer the world, you see. But not with the power of armies at our command or anything as predictable as that. 

No, we were more ambitious than that. 

We were going to conquer the world through the power of music. 

As I said, we were weird. Although we didn’t feel like it at the time. 

The power of those vibrating air molecules we call music is pretty powerful, as are the connections that it can form. What is music, after all, l but another form of communication, another language?

We learned how to play and write music together, him on guitar and me on bass, through our mutual love of bands like Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Metallica…a brew of 90s mainstream and classic rock. 

Up where we lived in those pre-Internet days, you see, the more “hip” stuff never reached us. 

Through this, through the bands we’d form (with a Spinal Tap-ian rotating cast of drummers), we became more than friends. We became partners-in-crime. We became brothers. 

It sounds ridiculous and overblown–because it is–but it’s the kind of bond that only young boys can have, earnestness and ambition in those heady days before cynicism got its claws into us. 

Into me, at least. My friend was a pretty happy teenager. Perpetually dating the prettiest girls in our school will do that to you, I suppose. 

Anyway, as with most people from small, isolated rural areas, college shattered our coterie, which had grown to include about eight of us, a band of brothers who would never let anything come between them and the world. 

Nothing but growing up.  Continue reading “Old Friends Anonymous”

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”