“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

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

Why is it that traveling doesn’t automatically broaden your horizons?

Did that parcel you sent to Equatorial Guinea miraculously “broaden its horizons?”
Of course not?
It’s just a wooden box containing some or other obscure artifact.

So why would you transform into a better, more enlightened version of yourself if you move your body to another place on the globe?
You won’t change a bit.
Not unless you’re open-minded and receptive to new experiences.

I’ve been on trips with seemingly jaded people who were more concerned with their phones than the spectacular scenery they were exposed to.
Perhaps we can give them some benefit of the doubt.
Maybe they’ve been “there” before.

On every trip, the mind needs to accompany the body.
If you can manage to find something enjoyable within the bland construct of your daily commute imagine how many new worlds will unfold before your eyes— On the day that you take your body someplace new!

Are you afraid of becoming someone’s disposable person?

You might as well put that fear to bed now because you probably are already someone’s disposable person.

I keep receiving spam phone calls from a company that sells insurance.
One of my acquaintances decided to include me in his list of “5 References for unsolicited sales calls ” so that he could get a gift.
We might see one another once a year so therefore I’m not a close friend.
Perhaps on some subconscious level, he figured if he angered me it wouldn’t have a great impact on his life.
I felt like a disposable contact.
All is well though, as long as he enjoys his gift!

Do you have a subordinate at work?
Are there times when you see that person as merely a component who performs a task?
Have you ever felt like a mere drone whenever you got your daily instructions from the boss?

How do you treat shop assistants?
On a cold freezing day, would you offer a cup of coffee to the delivery guy who has been taking care of your parcels for years?

Are you that person who has been summoned as a “Plus One” whenever a friend couldn’t get a date?
Occasionally we feel flattered but instinctively we know we’ll be discarded once we’ve served a purpose.
Continue reading

Photographs, living and “serving suggestions”

When I look at people in old stock photos I wonder where they are now?
Did they marry, do they have kids?
Do they even hang out in that place where they were photographed?
Were they really as happy as they looked in the photo?
Did someone ask them to pose in a specific way?
How long did they have to maintain that pose?

I’ve experienced fun moments in the coffee shop or in the office.
But somehow I feel we’ve never looked as “brochure ready” as the people in the stock photos.

The pictures of burgers on the restaurant menu always look better than the real thing you get served.
Even worse, on the pictures you always see side dishes and extras that seldom accompany the actual meal.
Restaurant owners have cleverly circumvented this problem by labeling their display photos as being “serving suggestions.”

Don’t walk into a new job and expect the photos on the company website to be a true representation of actual working conditions.
Perhaps the company’s graphic artist could label those website pictures as “Working suggestions.”

The same “serving suggestion” applies to people in holiday adverts.
To be honest, I often mistrust any form of advertising.

A picture might paint a thousand words but only a few of those words paint the real picture.

We’re all advertisers these days.
Consider the extent we go to in order to make ourselves look appealing to the outside world.
We have filters and a truckload of other photo-enhancing tools at our disposal.
Often it’s quite shocking to see a person’s “serving suggestions” in comparison to the real deal on offer.

I do understand it’s a competitive world out there and influencers need to have proper HD photos in their arsenal.

But recently I saw an old grainy photograph from my childhood.
It was out of focus and faded.
But it represented a broad swathe of how I remembered our old home.
It wasn’t picturesque or retouched in any way, but it was real.
There was no “living suggestion” viewed through the beauty filter that society has come to expect …
There was only “living!”

The hand and the mountain

The hand doesn’t grow larger, nor does the mountain become smaller.
But what happens when you’ve walked far enough?
When you turn around and look at the mountain your hand can shield it from view.
All the deep crevices, treacherous rock faces and narrow ledges that you had to navigate earlier starts feeling like a memory.

“Getting perspective by moving away from the object” sounds so trite, but yet remains so true.
Perspective teaches us that we have a job, but the job isn’t our life.
One day we will leave it far behind.
Perspective reminds us that while we might be loved and valued today we will inevitably become nothing more than a memory someday.
Others will become memories for us.
Without us, life will carry on.

Moving away from something not only shows us how small something can be, but it can also show us how big something is.
Perspective illuminates that which is either extraordinary, irrelevant or important to us.

So think about it!
Next time you wish to understand something better look at your hand.
Switch off your computer, put down your electronic gadgets and hold up your hand.
What can you still see… Even with your hand in your line of sight?
Is it a person or environment that you truly love?
Or is it a problem that seems larger than life?
Does it seem like an insurmountable obstacle?
Then ask yourself what it would look like from a distance.
What would it look like if you moved away from it completely, not just today, but forever?

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?


You’ve heard advice along the lines of “Don’t worry, nothing lasts forever, not even the bad times!”
We all know purveyors of popular clichés.
But they might have a point.
The Sun barely has enough hydrogen to last another 5 billion years.
It’s going downhill fast!
Let’s not ponder on the bad times then!
I think I should resign, live a life of leisure and quietly wait for the universe to end.