“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 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.

So, She Asked Me If I Liked Stones.

I told her that I did.
But not The Rolling Stones.
Not a big fan!
Standing Stones have always been cool!
Are they really Druidic portals?
Gateways to lost secrets?
Stonehenge. Now that’s a place to visit!
Then we moved on and discussed one of the quintessential Neil Diamond songs—”Stones.”

Stones would play inside her head,
And where she slept, they made her bed

It never gets more random than this, but that’s how you shorten the trip.
Random discussions about everything, and nothing… All rolled into one.

She would ache for love and get but stones“.

She handed back my headphones, “Why does it always feel like the really happy times are merely a parenthesis?”
“‘Bits of being-ok’ inserted between all the other shit we need to content with?”
I can’t really say, pop-wisdom just sounds so much better when accompanied by a nice melody.
On the upside… This moment we have now is a parenthesis, let’s just enjoy it for what it is!

Dying Stars Burn The Brightest!

In the late 70s my youngest uncle was the first person in the family to own a VCR.
To be bluntly honest, he was the first who was able to afford a player.
VHS had just been released as the rival format to Sony’s Betamax!

Those were wonder years.
Being able to watch movies and music videos whenever we wanted to.

I’m older now than my uncle was when he passed away.
He built a successful medical practice.
A sporty Skyline Rs-Turbo and a beefy V8 Blazer ranked among his toys.
He also found the time to attempt some extreme sports, marry his sweetheart from the US and raise a family.

Much of his approach to life was summed up in a simple discussion we had before they headed back to the USA.
He asked me if I had any interest in windsurfing.
That was on his “next fun thing to do” list.
For some reason, there are certain scenes from our younger days that linger on as vivid journal entries of who we were and what we did.
This is one such scene…
I believe I told him that I didn’t see myself staying upright on the board for longer than a minute.
We were standing at his bar counter, complete with Cola dispenser and milkshake maker.
You can only imagine how impressive that was!
I took a sip from a creamy concoction in a tall glass.
He smoothed his mustache and straightened his glasses and simply said, “I’m looking forward to falling off a few times!”
Living was about the complete human experience, the success, and the failure…
The staying-on-top, as well as the epic wipe out!

Dad’s younger brother wasn’t a philosopher.
Occasionally he alluded to “living in the moment!”
I do believe, looking back in retrospect that he experienced some sense of not going to be alive for much longer.

I can’t say he left behind a legacy. Whatever “a legacy” really means.
Nor did he write a book with profound wisdom on each page.
But he lived!
He didn’t seem to ever worry too much about discovering a purpose for life but rather decided to “live” each day.
Yep, each day he worked, played and lived.
That was more than enough!
That was his purpose.

The Toxic Side Of Nonsensical Expressions Such As “Toxic Masculinity!”

What inane drivel that society has taught you would you like to unlearn today?
You might as well consider unlearning a few expressions that have become popular without carrying any meaning.
“Toxic Masculinity” is one such expression.
Masculinity simply refers to “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men.”
The interpretation of the attributes can be arbitrary of course.
So don’t fight me on that, I’m just quoting a dictionary definition.
But at this junction the attributes that do, or do not constitute manliness, are still fairly neutral and open for discussion… That is the whole point.
Debate things. That’s a basic prerequisite for logical discourse.
Some may argue that “being driven” is not only a masculine trait, but also prevalent in many women.
And… Do you notice…We are still busy with a positive discussion of positive traits.

The big problem with a slam-dunk generalization and fabrication such as “Toxic Masculinity” is that it immediately defeats attributes that should be positive when viewed in a logical manner.
Deconstruct this a bit…
let’s propose someone is “handsome, muscled, and driven”—As per the dictionary of course.
These are considered to be “masculine” by some.
Again, interpret these however you wish, but be careful not to slap a negative connotation onto a word for no reason.
Now take each “attribute” and give it the toxicity label.
“Toxic Handsomeness.” Isn’t this just vanity in a sense?
“Toxically muscled.” This sounds like a medical condition?
“Toxically driven,” I might’ve though that person could’ve been narcissistic?

So that’s how society teaches you to take concepts, words with inherently positive connotations and twist them to suit a narrative that has become popular.

One other gripe I have with “toxic masculinity” is the reductionist manner in which it treats issues symptomatically instead of addressing a root cause.
Let’s just chuck in the “ad Populum” logical fallacy and group many problems under a broad blanket-term.
We’ve become lazy!
A man who pushes people around is a bully.
One who is aggressive and demeaning towards women could very well be a misogynist!
We’re missing out on proper descriptions because we’re lazy and decided to lump it all together in a bundle that looks impressive as a hashtag. #toxicmasculinity.

I’ve never been impressed by misogynists but I can’t comment about men who display “toxic masculinity.”
I simply have no idea what it means.

Which other expressions would you propose we “unlearn” in order to make communication a more comprehensible activity?

Empathy, Death And The Queen Getting Fist-Bumped!

Did the human race exhibit more compassion towards others in the past?
We’ve all heard accounts of battle-hardened veterans who witnessed specific horrors during a war.
It seems like there’s a tipping point of “noticing” for even the toughest people.
A soldier by implication literally signs up to destroy and kill.
As blunt as it sounds, that is the truth.
The reasons for signing up is another thing.
But irrespective of that, the job description is what it is.

So when a soldier who has been in the thick of the fight stops to take notice we can’t help but wonder what he saw.
Within this context I often look at callous remarks about human suffering.
More often than not these remarks are seen on “Social Media.”
And the question springs to mind, “what would it take for people to start recognizing human suffering?”

Personally I don’t have any hope for many Social Media platforms to ever be anything more than a narcissistic outlet for personal opinion.

Recently on a news-feed I looked at articles lumped together.
Next to a heart breaking depiction of human anguish and loss I saw tips for buying a new phone.
Under the picture of a woman mourning her loss I saw some or other inane drivel about Trump “fist-bumping” The Queen.
And last but not least, a roundup of the day’s sport.
I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t read up on topics that interest you.
If the Queen’s story interests you, then by all means… Read all about it.
It is hilarious when seen for what it is!
The big problem here is mostly that we are saturated with information.
Human tragedy is diluted and silenced by a thunderous wave of mundane information.
There is still outrage, but the outrage is often focused on events that speak to the observer, rather than a focus on the actual tragedy that unfolds.
Even during these tragedies opinions are polarized and fighting ensues around the periphery of the tragedy.
Racial, political and economical issues among others are dragged into the topic which in turn causes debates that in turn elicit more debates.
Lately I find myself moving away from commenting altogether.
Lest I become part of the phenomenon that dilutes the real message within the article.

However, I also believe that the negative is essential for the positive to function.
Within the cesspool of unrelated and volatile comments I do notice people who are starting to rebel against the tendency to digress from the real topic.
If the negative is writing vitriolic comments intended to hurt then perhaps the negative is abstinence from writing comments.
For even the perceived positive comments also get attacked by abrasive intent.
Not even something as simple as paying respects, writing ‘condolences’ is left unscathed.
If the mob feels that a certain person had no right to pay respects, that comment will be shredded!
The writer who added a positive blip is often mercilessly chastised.

But back to the positive!
Wherever I go in the offline world I’m starting to pick up a vibe…a certain disdain for much of what was seen as gospel in the online realm.
The conundrum we face is that the online world is very visible regarding that which it preaches.
On a self-contained ecosystem such as Twitter the negative appears to rule.
That only means that the positive needs to exist, in equal parts, but not necessarily within the same platform.

These days I make it a point to talk to people in the offline world.
Making contact and showing real interest in “who” someone else is.
When you make real contact empathy becomes possible.

The battle-hardened collective that has been fighting throughout the centuries often rendered gut wrenching accounts regarding a moment of clarity when they saw themselves in the eyes of the enemy… Up close.
Within that moment of truth, the real impact of a war is felt, when the soldier realizes he is killing someone who could’ve been his own son, or someone from his own platoon or even someone whom he feels resembles himself.

When you see yourself reflected in the human tragedy that unfolds in the media, only then can you feel any form of empathy.
Only when you realize you are in fact “the other.”

As far as the media, fake news, outrage and sensationalism is concerned…
I have no idea how to combat the increasing sense of jaded emotion I perceive.
All I do know is that the antithesis, the positive side needs to be true.
And I can be an ever-growing part of the side that needn’t necessarily discard Social Media, but rather see it for what it is, or isn’t… And knowing when to let it go!
That is the moment within which you start noticing The Positive!

“Pop” Music Is A Myth!

You already know what I’m aiming towards, don’t you?
“Pop” was simply an abbreviation for “popular?”
Popular music.
Anything that’s currently charting is “pop?”
But hang on, what about “Rock” and “Alternative” and about a thousand other genres?
Well, Allrighty then!
Pop has become a distinct genre! I know!

When I spoke to an older person a couple of years ago he said Mozart would’ve been mortified had he heard pop remixes of his famous melodies.
I’m not so sure though.
But we can’t really say, can we?
Bach might’ve loathed it, and Mozart might’ve loved the innovation?
Who knows?
And within this topic we see yet another term that could throw the mix into disarray—”Classical Music!”
Classical Music was Pop Music during the time when Mozart was a popular and active composer.
I guess they simply called it “music?”

Years from now all the “hip” and fashionable music of this era will become “oldies.”
Or “rubbish” or whatever future generations decide to use as label for that which we enjoy now.

If you place the enjoyment and appreciation of music first, then the genre, or the “label” doesn’t matter.
Society taught us to adhere to labels though.
It makes the sale of music on various platforms easier.
Back in the day it made the sorting and categorizing of music in record stores more manageable.
But it also taught us to listen to the product through a filter that really didn’t enhance the product in any way.
There’s no way we will ever eradicate the perception that we always need to understand something better by reading the label.
Music is medicine, but we really don’t need to worry about the ingredients having any adverse effects on us.

None of this will necessarily assist us to start enjoying those “genres” we don’t particularly like.
But we could end up exploring new music if we’re not always deterred by arbitrary labelling?

Our Binary Decisions Are Often Worth 0

What If your essence, your very “being,” that thing which is “yourself” could be translated into an algorithm, defining everything that made you function?
How many terabytes would your uniqueness have spanned?
Perhaps a better question would be “How many terabytes do you think that your operating system would’ve required to function?”
Imagine the surprise if you were to find that only a small amount of data turned out to be a representative “you?”
But obviously I’m just talking fancy here.
I’m not a neurobiologist by any measure.

I do know a bit about conditional operators though.
Most would recognize the “IF STATEMENT” as being one of the better-known examples.

This is a far stretch from creating “The Algorithm” but often I’m amazed when I figure out just how simple my decisions “can be.”
Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally perceive them to be as anything other than disastrous!

Now let’s say you’re in a bit of a bind.
You wish to park your car but the parking bay looks ominously small.
That ostentatious SUV you purchased might not fit in!

So how do you go about this?
You will no doubt tell yourself that there are a thousand factors that could determine your actions.
That’s possible.

Consider this bit of pseudo code.


We can even expand on this a bit.


Or even more…


Or …. even more…. what about a thousand choices?
Choice is also not decision although many have started to use the words in an interchangeable way.


While you were considering the feasibility of the space you no doubt thought about the consequence of dinging the car, you were changing gears, working the brakes, singing along to the radio.
All these actions and thoughts create the illusion we’re multitasking.
That isn’t true though.
Each separate thought might very well be just another branch where a simple “YES” or “NO” would’ve sufficed.
Quite often we also confuse thoughts about consequences with the actual decision.

Of course you can nest the levels for making decisions as deep as you wish.
You’re stranded in a crypt, you stole the secret jewels of the Shadow Wraith and his minions are coming for you.
In front of you are 3 or more doors… perhaps a dozen, it really doesn’t matter.
You still need to choose only one.
And then make the actual decision to go through ONLY one.
Is it really that simple though?
The conditions that lead you towards making a decision can happen before you even move towards a door.
I’m sure you’ll debate with yourself for a long time…
What are your options, why do have these choices?
But just remember, weighing the options, examining the choices are still not the actual decision you make!

But wait… There’s more!
We also complicate matters for ourselves when we are presented with scenarios such as “Choose Four and get one free!”
Is the REAL problem/decision the “choice” or “paying for what you chose?”
Do you have enough money to pay or not?
We can’t really exhaust this topic in one session, but I do hope it might help a bit when you’re ready to make an actual “decision!”

There are times when I really need to ask myself, “what is the bottom line?”
See, a whole article could have hinged on the simplicity of asking one question!

Why venture into the realm of “Yin Yang” or “YES/NO” decision making though?

The reason for writing all of this is actually quite simple.
Yesterday I was presented with the decision of escalating an issue I had with “colleagues” or not.
My choice was simple, do I win the battle and let it go, or do I make a fuss and potentially kill functional relationships.
The complicating factors are things like the emotions, irritability, sense of pursuing justice.
Then there are the consequences, and questions about consequences … Would it serve any purpose if I were to escalate?

On a personal level this really helps me.
When I’m faced with options, I don’t see them as “decisions.”
When difficult emotions wash over me, I don’t see them as “decisions” either.
As obvious as it appears to be, next time the going gets tough try telling yourself the “emotion isn’t the decision!”
Choices aren’t decisions.
I address the emotions, and often use the options or choices as considerations in relation to one another to do what needs to be done in the end, “choose one” and make a decision!

What is your take on this?
Are we capable of making more than binary decisions?