Working Through The Melancholy

Today was one of those days.

I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I was feeling the deep depression that comes when multiple events start compounding in my soul: From the state of the world and my finances, to fighting to stay on my diet and an overwhelming sense that I do not have control of my life.

But as I worked through the day, it got progressively better. I got out of bed. I tried to meet with a client, but the internet decided not to work. I worked on a design, which directly impacted my evening lecture. I prepped my taxes and wrote the checks. Then I drove to class.

I was feeling pretty low by the time I got to class. But then I saw the work that my students were creating. I listened to their excitement. I chuckled at the student who fell asleep. I fought the urge to slam a book on the desk to wake him up. I helped teams learn more about working together. I made up some words.

As I interacted with others, I was able to get out of my head and listen. I wasn’t worried about tomorrow. I wasn’t worried at all. I was present.

Perhaps that is the best way for me to work through my melancholy: be present.

The Worst Case Scenario

I thought I would start the blank page with a little clickbait: The Worst Case Scenario! I think about how much mental energy it takes to imagine all of the horrible things that could happen. I let the depression sink in; the melancholy of destruction.

Then I think about dog smiles, the smell of dryer sheets in the garage, the sounds of Metallica and Neal Morse, the way freshly cut grass smells, the taste of chai tea, the way my wife lightly touches my back to say hello, my dad’s voicemails replacing words in a song with poop, the joy of reading, the love of writing, smiling at strangers, and the smell of cooking meat on a barbecue. I think about that damn blue turtle shell in Mario Kart and the way my wife and I spend time talking about dreams and ambitions while we play. I wonder how other people find happiness and joy in the midst of sorrow.

I spend time thinking about the best case scenario. It’s not because I want to be ignorant to what is going on. It’s because there has to be a better use of my energy and strength. I’m not trying to manifest something. I’m just trying to stay grounded in hope and peace.

Creativity, Curiosity, and Culture

Chris Guillebeau is one of my favorite writers and earlier today he wrote on Twitter: “If you don’t use your voice now, why should anyone listen to you later? What will you tell a future generation that asks ‘Where were you?'”

This isn’t the first time in the past week I have seen the call to speak up. Each time I read these calls to action, I ask myself, “Am I speaking up?” I often feel like I am not. I feel guilty for not posting my thoughts on social media. I feel judged. I feel forced to say something when I’m not certain what is going on yet. I am uninformed and doing the best I can to stay informed. I feel out of place in the conversation. I feel inadequate.

“You’re on the wrong side of history, Chris.”

“If you aren’t condemning, you’re condoning, Chris.”

“You don’t have time to consider what is going on, Chris.”

“Look at all these people protesting, Chris. Why aren’t you there? Don’t you care?”

“It’s either-or, Chris. There is no middle ground. Remember what Jesus said about spitting out lukewarm food.”

I am speaking up because I’m showing up for the people who matter most in my life.

Through my reflection on the subject of speaking up, I came to the realization that I am speaking up, but in different ways. The most important way that I speak up is that I show up for my students, ready to teach them, to guide them, to give them everything I have, to learn from them, and to serve them. Regardless of their politics, gender, religion, sexuality, beliefs, I show up for them. I care for them. I want them to use the skills I teach them to make the world a better place.

I show up for my wife. I show up for my family. I show up for my business and clients. I show up when I don’t want to. I show up when the world is going to hell. I show up when the world is at peace.

To allow myself to be provoked into other areas of speaking introduces the possibility that I dilute myself from my area of influence and importance. I am able to affect change in the lives of those closest to me. I may never change a life expressing my beliefs online, but I have an opportunity face to face.

My Manifesto for Life: Creativity, Curiosity, and Culture.

I offer myself a reminder of how I should operate in these troubled times. I suppose it is my creative manifesto for life. A belief in creativity, curiosity, and culture.

Creativity

I believe that the point of creativity, apart from making a living when possible, is to make the world a better place.

It is to express beauty and hope by shining light into darkness.

To tell stories of hope, peace, and transformation by overcoming adversity.

Curiosity

I believe that curiosity is paramount because I don’t know everything. Curiosity keeps me humble.

I want to understand those who are not like me, which is everyone. Without curiosity, I will always assume that people that look like me are the same as me and the people that don’t look like me are nothing like me.

Without curiosity, growth and transformation is impossible. There will be a lack of depth and substance.

Culture

Diversity of thoughts and ideas is of utmost importance in my daily life. I learn when I listen. I grow when I share and discuss. Without dialogue and discussion, I might as well stand in front of a mirror yelling at myself. When I hear something I don’t like, I have to remind myself to listen. When I hear something I agree with, I must pause from letting it enter my heart so that I don’t stop listening to those I disagree with.

Culture is an expression of arts and humanities, of science and religions. It is a place where the Earth is both thousands and billions of years old. It is a place of faith and reason. When I listen to the stories of old mixed with the moments of today, I grow and learn.

Welcome to my idealism.

These thoughts and ideas can easily be dismissed as utopian and farfetched. They are almost impossible to instill in a society because they require sacrifice, compromise, patience, and hope. They require context, fact-checking, and belief that there are such things as facts. They require faith and kindness. They require moments of correction and the expression of anger. But never is there a place for hatred and fear, manipulation and lying.

As I speak up, I think about the world I want to create with my art and life. As I pursue projects, as I teach others, as I live and celebrate life, as I pray, as I weep, these are the thoughts I think about.

When leaders act in their own best interests, these are the thoughts I think about.

When the world crumbles and all hope is lost, these are the thoughts I think about.

As the sun sets and rises again in the morning, these are the thoughts I think about. They motivate me to get out of bed. They fill me with hope for the future.

This is how I will show up each and every day.

To Be Kind

This morning, I had coffee with my dad and all we could talk about was the division in the country. He asked me what I would do to bridge the divide. I couldn’t think of the best answer at the time (I don’t think well on the fly), but after some reflection, I think it would have to be kindness.

To be kind to people I agree with. To be kind to others I disagree with. To be kind when people are angry. To be kind when people are happy.

Kindness is a simple answer to a complicated reality. Will kindness really help? It certainly has more of an impact than anger and fear.

Today I am wearing a shirt that says, “Keep calm and shoot film.” A woman on the college campus I teach at said, “Keep calm, I like that.” I started saying something while walking away and reminded myself to stop, turn around, and have a brief conversation. I ended it as I often try to, “Have a nice day.”

Have a nice day. Smile. Thank you. You’re welcome. Eye contact. Kindness is to recognize the humanity in others and embrace it.

I choose kindness.

I Don’t Know

I have a  simple response when I don’t know something: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

But is it that easy to find something out?

Research is time consuming and involves wading through academic papers, stories in newspapers, journals, and books. It’s easy to fall victim to confirmation bias: “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”

I remember being taught in middle school and high school about how to interpret the news. It involved looking at multiple sources to see how each newspaper interpreted events. It involved research in order to get the full picture.

Research in today’s world is automated and simple. We can search for just about anything while on the toilet, and that is often the same level of regard some people hold to its importance and validity.

I don’t know everything. In fact, there is a lot I have no understanding of. That is why I rely on the research and experience of others to educate me and transform me into a better person.

I often find comfort in a shared link because I don’t have to research. I don’t have to spend the time in the vacuum of opinions found between two extreme ideologies. I can revel in my ignorance.

But eventually, I have to say: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

The Battle for My Attention

I find myself glued to the screen. Looking, watching, waiting. I read the comments. I see what people are saying to each other. I feel the pain, the hatred, the sadness, and the pride. I feel my focus and attention moving from what I have control over to arenas I have no experience in and little say into how things should or actually work.

I see the world showing its true colors and it demands my allegiance, focus, and attention. If I don’t say something, I don’t care. If I don’t speak up, I have no voice. If I don’t show up now, it’s too late. The world is demanding; the sacrifices it expects are to be offered in real-time, all the time.

The battle is for my attention. To take me from where I can thrive and make a difference, and to send me into a fight I’m not prepared for. The battle is for my focus. To take me away from providing for my family, caring for my friends, and educating my students. The battle is for my mind. To flood my thoughts with things I must have an immediate opinion on. The battle is for my intelligence. I must deny what is true in order to find acceptance. The battle is for my ignorance. I must be educated in what is going on because the world does not sleep when I do. The battle is for my freedom. I am not afraid of a physical wall. What scares me are the walls around my heart, the walls around my mind, the walls that make me blind, deaf, and dumb to the emotions of others.

The battle is for my attention. And I am losing.

 

Don’t Wait…Create Now

There is an illusion often presented as you learn a subject: you must wait to act until you know the basics. But I say, don’t wait and create now.

Right now.

The basics serve as a foundation of knowledge, but how do you learn them? Do you wait for the gurus to enlighten you with their understanding or do you look to experience to guide you mistake after mistake, breakthrough after breakthrough?

Do you teach chord progressions and scales or do you teach someone to play Stairway to Heaven? Do you teach editing theory or do you have someone recreate Star Wars shot by shot with PLAYMOBIL® characters? Do you teach HTML and CSS or do you teach how to recreate a popular website?

I say don’t wait and create right now.

Make mistakes.

Take the initiative.

You have the Internet to guide you and teach you anything you could possibly imagine.

But you mustn’t wait.

You must create right now.

The Model of Making It

If I were to draw a picture of what it takes to make it today in a creative or technical field, it would look a lot like this:

The Model of Making It

 

People who are making it in today’s world are constantly learning, but they don’t keep the results to themselves. They share their successes and failures. They can relate to others and others can relate to them. They aren’t creating in isolation, they are building a community and are a part of a community. They produce new work as a result of all the effort they put into their work. They inspire others to follow this model, which then causes the process to start all over again.

Shortcuts and the Fear of Laziness

I enjoy hearing the excuses people tell themselves for not attempting to learn or do something.

For myself, I fear the lack of perfection. This causes procrastination and the occasional bout with depression and frustration. I battle through these feelings because I want the outcome, even if it isn’t perfect.

I recently heard a new excuse: “I didn’t learn that because I didn’t want to become lazy.”

This person chose to not learn something because it was a perceived shortcut and could have led to laziness.

All I heard was an excuse.

Laziness is usually the result of inaction of any classification, not shortcuts. I say try the shortcut, learn it, be it, do it, because you will get to know two things even faster: 1) How much you don’t know; and 2) What you need to do next.

Don’t fear becoming lazy.

Fear the lack of action.

The Ethics of Teleportation in a Capitalist Society

Facebook wants to build a teleporter by 2025. Granted it’s a virtual reality teleporter, but that got me thinking: what are the ethics of teleportation in a Capitalist society?

Star Trek epitomized teleportation in a Utopian society—beaming crew members and whales to planets and to the ship—aiding in the United Federation of Planets’ mission to go where no one had gone before. There was no money in Star Trek. But there is money in our world.

What is to prevent teleportation from occurring until we watch a short ad?

What is to prevent the teleportation overlords from injecting subliminal advertising messages upon reassembly of our bodies (assuming that teleportation means to deconstruct our bodies at the molecular level, transmit them to another place instantaneously, and then reassemble)?

What if to boldly go where no one has gone before means to have more likes and higher click-rates than ever before?