The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life.

Two days ago a good friend told me that I should write a book.

Maybe I only needed that last person’s words of encouragement to kick-start what I’ve been putting off for the longest time!

Well, why not?
How hard can it be?

As it turns out merely writing a lot of words isn’t all that difficult.
Look back at the wake of text you created by traversing social media streams last year.
Imagine viewing an amalgam of every comment or post that left your keyboard during that period.
The sheer amount of content you produced might surprise you.
Continue reading

“What I create is mine, what you see is yours!”

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 4.

“What I create is mine, what you see is yours!”

My last year with the company was very eventful.
A merger with a smaller business created all kinds of havoc and led to the rumor-mill working overtime.
“Who would step into new positions of power?”
“Will we be able to co-exist with the new people?”

Later in that same year, a motorcar accident claimed The Mechanic’s son.
And ultimately that tragedy led to a series of events that contributed to the collapse of his marriage.
A few months before that black curtain was drawn over my friend’s life we found ourselves on-site, installing software and setting up factory-automation processes.

We were all set to see if our potato-crisp packager worked.
The Mechanic flicked the switch on my controller box but nothing happened.

The big guy was a part-time artist but a brutal realist nonetheless.
Paintings could be abstract but he felt his art only made sense if he grounded himself within his perceptions of reality.
I knew he often got annoyed by artists who convinced themselves that the mere label of “artist” automatically preceded a stereotypical array of mannerisms and a life that’s potentially detached from “uncreative mortals.”

He often said he had no compunction about flaying a dead body open to study the inner working of muscles ligaments and bones.
“If you wish to appreciate the smooth graceful movement of an arm or leg, it makes sense to understand musculature.”
He often spoke about the great masters of old to prove his point.
“Imagine the bloody mess Da Vinci made when he cut to the bone to understand human anatomy!”
“Pun intended,” he said.
“It’s no wonder he revolutionized realistic drawing!”

Unlike Da Vinci, he never really dissected a corpse. But I’m secretly confident he would’ve tackled something like that had he studied under the great Renaissance man.
The Mechanic was not only one of the most practical artists I ever stumbled across, but he was also one of the biggest pragmatists I ever met.
Let’s not beat about the bush though— That man could wax lyrical about the intricate patterns on a ceramic tile and manage to write an epic poem about it.
It’s just that he seldom allowed his artistic endeavors to feed emotion that spilled into the personal space of other people.
When he painted something it was always with raw emotion and a muse cracking the whip behind him.
But he never expected anyone to understand how he felt when he created the painting,
On occasion, I met artists who felt devastated when the “meaning” behind their work wasn’t as apparent to other people as it was to them.
If his art left anyone cold, that’s just how it was.
“What I create is mine, what you see is yours,” he would often say.

“So what would DaVinci do?”
We looked at the unresponsive packaging machine.
“I guess he would’ve cracked it open?”
It appeared as if I took the words right out of his mouth.

The best thing about working with the Mechanic was his practical no-fuss approach to everything work-related.
“It is what it is,” became his mantra.
As it turned out I made a rookie mistake when I updated the software inside our little box of tricks.
I didn’t initiate the monitoring service which in turn was responsible for kicking off everything else.
Fortunately, it was a quick fix.

The Mechanic simply shrugged when I apologized for the time wasted.
The eternal pragmatist smiled and nodded.
“At least I managed to get another look at the neat work you did.”
He could’ve been condescending, but he wasn’t.
Not once did I ever experience him belittling anyone who made a mistake.
“The best artworks are those with a few flaws,” he said.
“Sometimes an artist might even want to add a few planned imperfections.”
“Not only does a noticeable flaw anchor a painting, in reality, it also helps to prevent novices from scrutinizing every square inch for imperfections. The sooner they find a mistake that satisfies the human propensity for being a critic, the sooner they can stand back and enjoy the art.”

Read Part 3.

The lingering illusion of engineering a happy outcome

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 3.

The lingering illusion of engineering a happy outcome.

“Contentment is happiness’ more practical sibling, you find him whenever you produced something that you felt pleased with.”

Pragmatism was the Mechanic’s magic.
He could pave over a rough patch with a bit of smooth-talking and a bottle of scotch he pulled from thin air.
We ended up completing many projects with sterling results.
It’s not to say there weren’t things I could’ve sorted out by myself, but I was still lucky to have had the Installation-Whisperer next to me during the sensitives phases within many installations.
Maybe I got spoiled by having such a formidable wing-man?

The Mechanic was a maverick, a ladies man, man’s man, and just that generally-likable guy.
One of those all-rounders that simply defy categorization and definition.
He had his enemies in the office.
Everyone does.
But somehow even they ended up respecting him at least, even though I’m pretty sure the ever-looming green-eyed monster was always present.

If you were stranded on a desert island The Mechanic would’ve been the ally you wanted.
And of course, some offices are analogous to some of the most forlorn desert islands out there.
Nonetheless, this is the guy who always ran every scheme conceivable, and somehow managed to have his finger squarely on the pulse of everything.
When he ran some side-hustles inside the office nobody could help but notice.
Even the managers knew that reprimanding him for his unorthodox methods would serve no purpose— Because he always got the job done!
You often saw him outside.
At times he succumbed to chain-smoking.
He was a perfect office-slob.
Occasionally some parts of his projects lapsed.
Often his lewd jokes verged on boundaries being overstepped.
And then just when you thought he had finally taken things too far his boyish mustached-grin somehow made people forgive him for every scarlet sin and transgression.

But even the golden age of a demi-god can be transient.
Ultimately even The Mechanic couldn’t withstand the deluge of a river that serves no master except the inevitable pull towards an ocean.
And after the rainy season that slow meander transforms into a raging wall of water that sweeps away someone’s world indiscriminately— Oblivious about collateral damage and who’s to bless, or who’s to blame— It takes everything!

(To be continued of course…)

Read Part 2.

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 2 – Day One

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 2.

Day One

I first met the Mechanic when I went for a job interview at the company where he suffered through the slow suicide of a day job.
I couldn’t help but notice a big garrulous man smoking outside.
He had a portly girth, a mullet, and mustache straight out of a 70s movie but somehow the whole package seemed just right.
The Feng Shui of his appearance defied logic, but still created a harmonious impression.
He was the center of a very lively debate.
I took in the whole scenario for a few brief moments while I straightened my tie before heading up to reception.
“It seems the guys who work here are happy enough,” I thought while I signed the visitor’s register.

Later that morning I went outside to soak up a bit of sunshine.
Not much happened during my first day on the job.
While a technician was setting up my computer and network credentials I figured it would be a good time to assess the lie of the land.

The Mechanic was outside.
He religiously adhered to his smoke-breaks I later learned.
Neither Hell nor torrential downpours could separate him from his
unfiltered guilty pleasure.
His big hand engulfed mine.

He extended a burly forearm terminating in a large calloused hand.
I found it strangely refreshing that someone with hands as big as his didn’t automatically feel a necessity to crush someone else’s.
Not that my grip was weak by any standard, but I knew when I encountered a superior adversary.

“Look at this!”
The Mechanic pointed at the empty parking bays.
“Every single one of them is decorated by a Rorschach pattern of spilled motor oil”.
I soon learned the big guy observed everything.
“All cars leak oil at some stage. Nobody knows whether it was an overpriced sports-car or a busted Beetle that contributed to these stains.”

One of the patterns in a parking bay close to us resembled a humpback whale.
“We all make a mess on occasion, but it’s much better to leave a failed project or missed deadline behind than someone you wronged!”
The Mechanic flicked his cigarette but into a shrub.
“That’s profound,” he chuckled.
“But it’s true!”
“When you look back at your mistakes 5 years from now you’ll notice how they eventually flowed into a homogenous stream where a manager’s accounting glitch often becomes indiscernible from another employee’s filing error. ”
We could’ve exhausted that train of thought much more.
But our break was over.

I processed the gist of what he said, even though he didn’t need to say it in so many words.
Maybe it could even have been construed as a friendly, but thinly veiled warning.
“Don’t screw someone over just for the sake of looking good in this company!”

(To be continued of course…)

Read Part 1.

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 1 – Soul Food

The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life. Part 1

Soul food

“Every explanation warrants a good story, but good stories are so easily watered-down by explanations!”

The Mechanic was often masterfully creative when it came down to creating quotable quotes.
Quotes are great in the sense that they often defy explanation, seeing that interpretation often finds a clever way of supplanting the need for banal clarifications.

These memoirs of sorts will therefore not strive to offer any explanations, but they’ll merely serve as a preamble to how I rediscovered “The unquestioned mechanic’s easy guidelines for fine-tuning a life!”
So without further ado, before the disclaimer about “not explaining” morphs into a diatribe that defeats its purpose, let me carry on with this story.

When I ran into The Mechanic again after so many years he was neither a mechanic nor a poet but a soulful blues guitarist.
He was excellent, and for an instant, I pictured him on stage, playing to a packed stadium.
But the yacht club within a landlocked African country was as good a venue as anything else.
The setting was surreal.
Bamboo torches cast long shadows.
Each dark splotch in between the islands of light held the promise of harboring a wild creature of sorts.

I didn’t recognize the first song the band played.
And it didn’t matter.
It was every song I’ve never heard and yet every note felt familiar.
The Mechanic channeled the gods of rock with the ease of confident indifference.
Maybe the local beers added to my overall perception of the set, but that was also fine.
The lead vocalist was a beautiful big woman who proved to be a dead ringer for Tracy Chapman.
Between songs, I heard sounds from the pub.
Glasses, utensils and indistinct chatter.
The smell of fried chicken reminded me of how hungry I was.

The band wrapped up a brooding song from the 70s.
The Mechanic put down the guitar and walked over to come and talk to me.

I recalled a discussion we had in a previous lifetime and a thousand miles behind us.
“You were born with a soundtrack etched into your very being, and you are fortunate whenever you stumble across an artist who manages to articulate the lyrics and melodies associated with your sweetest moments of deja vu.”

(To be continued of course…)

The golden squid relinquishes the stranglehold of a thousand sunsets!

“The golden squid relinquishes the stranglehold of a thousand sunsets with the birth of one lonely star!”
I like motivational quotes.
Actually, no! Occasionally I love them.
The wordplay— Clever imagery and a few thought-provoking snippets can be enjoyable!
But I often deconstruct them as well.
I’ve seen thunderclouds that transformed into downright ugly beasts before they were swept away by cyclonic winds.
None of them had the chance to be turned into cute and inspirational fluffy “silver-lined” analogies for imminent good fortune!

How are quotes working for you in real life?
Just when you thought it was safe to cross the street a Hollywood-styled typhoon hits but you’re prepared!
You have a quote!
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Unfortunately, the storm doesn’t care about your quote and you’ll have time to reflect on the wise words while you’re erased from existence.
I’m guessing you’re not going to take a defensive stance and mouth off to the storm.
In all probability, you’ll run away or start praying!
Are “words of wisdom” therefore worthless?
Of course not!
Quotes can be inspiring though— They can kick you in the gut or prod you to try a different approach to thinking.
Quotes and things from self-help-motivational books can be quite entertaining if nothing else?
But I guess the main idea here is that inspirational words are as useless as vapid insults if they don’t become catalysts for action.

Forge these self-help snippets of wisdom into a proper sword and learn to wield it— Then it becomes valuable.
The trick is to make the words part of your armor.
You can’t search for the correct weapons during the fight— You should already have something in hand.
Words and wisdom are the same!
You need and understand that stuff before you go into battle.
If you’ve not assimilated “words as weapons” into your very fiber you can’t go scuttling about and anxiously searching for the “right thing to say” when push comes to shove!
Continue reading

When does living “start?”

“Wait until you reach my age!”
I guess I’ll need to wait then? Because there’s no other way in which you’re going to divulge the secrets of the universe you’ve amassed by living a longer time than me?

“Aging” does imply the potential for constructing a holistic view of the universe by mere virtue of having access to more information and the ability to see trends.
But what if you read the same book for 30 years?
Is “time” the only prerequisite for arriving at the temple that houses the holy grail called “wisdom?”

A discussion about the “validity” of teenage love sparked these thoughts about youngsters “not always knowing anything” about life.
Does the fire burn any less if it only consumes you partially?
Can we claim to understand the fire within any emotions that aren’t our own?
We’re quick to dismiss the vapid emotions and experiences of youth, but yet we adhere to religious scriptures that extol the virtues of seeing life through the eyes of a child.
What if the “wisdom” we so easily ascribe to our “well-lived” demeanor happens to be nothing more than filters that obscure the way life was meant to be experienced.
Our cynicism, complacency, hurt, jaded righteousness and tired souls may not be the fruits of wisdom, but merely the results of fruitless repetition.

So when does “living” start?
Is it the first breath we take?
Is living only legitimate once we’ve reached that arbitrary yet mythical and mystical milestone set by someone else— “Wait until you’ve reached my age!”

The opening notes of a song may not be representative of the epic middle part of the same song.
And the closing credits may not be indicative of what a movie was about.
Any age carries the potential for acquiring wisdom, even if only within a context that others could never understand.
I believe each perceived “stage” of a life has meaning.

I’ve read thin books that contained vivid imagery.
Even though the plot was often equally wafer-thin, the excruciating and beautifully-conveyed honesty made up for lack of bulk.

I recently reached the “age” someone “warned” me about 20 years ago.
And I’m still waiting for a revelation that will crack open the sky with incandescent pearls of wisdom.
But truth be told, I don’t give much thought to what I was supposed to be “waiting” for.
Life is happening right now, this very minute, and so is the truth and wisdom we might choose to notice or ignore.

Tricks of the light— Is “everything” important in your job?

I just had a conversation with someone who believes “everything is important!”
Unlearning the staid concept of “everything” can be more than a bite-sized challenge for many people!
I cringe when I hear absolutes like “everything is!”
If there’s one thing I would like to tattoo on my forearm it would be “Nothing ‘is,’ but anything can ‘become’!”

When everything is important, nothing matters.
We end up prioritizing priorities just to add an abstract layer of “importance” onto topics we have no real interest in.

If all the words on a page are highlighted, then none of them are.
If everyone is your friend then you’re truly alone.
“Everything” isn’t only impossible to deal with, it’s downright demoralizing and debilitating.
We hear so many stories about those who say they are “responsible for everything in the company!”

So what’s the real test for determining the importance of “everything?” — Do “nothing’ for a day.
That which is truly important or relevant to you will come knocking at your door, demanding attention!
Let’s not go overboard here and all abscond from work!
It’s merely a suggestion for facilitating an exercise to determine which things in your life cast dark shadows that tend to overwhelm you.

We often see long shadows without thinking about their origin.
But it’s still merely perception!
It’s a trick of the light.
Shifting the proverbial light source can change the entire way in which you perceive all that “is,” allowing it to “become” something completely different.

This is how we fall for scams each day!

Of course, I know you’re far too savvy to fall for phishing scams.
When you drive home you’re on the lookout for unmarked black cars following you!
They won’t ever take you alive!
You will never click on a suspicious link!
“Malware detection” is your middle name!
You know that just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!
You encrypt all your password and personal correspondence with 256-bit military-grade encryption.
All the family skeletons are firmly protected under lock and key.
None of the losers out there will ever blindside you with a sucker punch!

But every day “losers” draw your consciousness into multiple threads on various websites.
They scam you with subversive trolling tactics, by writing controversial content— Deliciously appealing content you just couldn’t resist. Content that prompted you to “show them who the hell knows better!”
And we type, and we bitch and we comment and we click and we teach and we mock and we scold and swear!

And when the day is done we’ve been scammed out of that which we value most— Time!
Without thinking twice we invest a king’s ransom of our time without expecting interest, or any value in return.

How smart are you? Don’t tell us if you’re really clever!

Are you “smart enough?”
Do you worry about it?
You really shouldn’t!

If you’re not the “smartest” person on Earth it’s fine!
“Smartest” is an absolute based on perception, preference, and opinion.
It cannot, therefore, be measured within universally-accepted parameters.
Within specific disciplines, there are certainly people who excel, but then occasionally seem “less adequate” in other areas.

Unfortunately, we’ve been indoctrinated by the “sad and lonely genius” stereotype in movies.
That’s the person who is portrayed as a reclusive or undiscovered genius, and visual props, such as chess, maths or musical proficiency is used to convey the “intelligence.”
The same happens in books.
Our perception of “smart” is very subjective at times and easily impressed by “intelligence-cliches!”
We’ve been conditioned to believe someone who can play 20 chess games simultaneously is smart beyond belief.
Does the ability to master ostentatiously complex math equations push you into “genius” territory?
That’s possibly quite true, but can the math genius necessarily solve a survival puzzle on a desert island when he is completely out his depth?
Can he build an escape craft using only the materials at hand?
We don’t know, do we?
What about the poor sod who does not like either math or chess?
Should he be relegated to “average?”
Is the master mentalist who exhibits an uncannily sharp perception and a knack for recognizing social patterns any less intelligent?
I don’t think so!
Continue reading