About 3 years ago I made a determination to stop doing work that was inconsistent with my values. I was 31 years-old, had recently finished my undergraduate degree and was squandering my vital juices on well-paid, but meaningless work. I wanted something more from my life. I figured the first step to doing meaningful work was to stop doing the meaningless stuff.
The quick backstory of my late graduation is that I dropped out of school when I was 23 to get sober. After floundering through much of my 20’s, I found myself 27 years old, bereft of direction, with access to an education trust set up by my grandparents. The choice to return to school seemed obvious.
While in school, I continued to work 20-30 hours a week as a cater-waiter captain—essentially the head waiter or maitre’d of an event. The job paid between $30-50 an hour. Because my tuition and living expenses were paid for by the trust, most of the money I made from that job was saved. I finished school flush with cash.
I got my degree in creative writing and literature. I wanted to write for a living, but ideas about how to do that were not forthcoming, so I continued to cater in the meantime.
But catering created a huge internal inconsistency. While it was fun and easy, I saw its net impact on the world was somewhere between zero and negative 1000. Most events created mountains of waste, which completely ran counter to what I knew about what was going on with the environment.
Destroying the environment would have been tolerable if the work seemed important. Instead, my principle duty was idealizing the artificial. Most events were product launches and other PR events or posh dinner and cocktail parties hosted by the ridiculously-rich and mostly gay. I directed staffs of male models and actors to create fantasy worlds—ones littered with chiseled features; ones that precluded ugliness, age, poverty or any other unseemly aspect of reality. I felt like I was responsible for arranging human parsley sprigs on cardboard steaks. Continue reading “Defragment Your World”
Right now I’m reading the autobiography of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and watching a PBS documentary about the Mormons. Aside from mutual obsessions with the afterlife, you’d probably assume that these two parties have virtually nothing in common. The Swiss doctor, famous for writing “On Death and Dying” lived a free spirit, constantly eschewing conventional female roles, disobeying an autocratic father and becoming an iconoclast in the annals of modern psychotherapeutic theory. Conversely, Mormons as a group, are models of conformity, preaching a blind devotion to their scriptures and prophets. In one of the documentary’s interviews, an LDS (latter-day saints) elder says that Mormons should not question their leadership even if that leadership is clearly in error.
Yet reading and watching the accounts of these two parties, I found some overlap. The first was a clarity of purpose. Coming of age after WWII, Kübler-Ross couldn’t wait to serve refugees in war-ravaged Europe. She fed the hungry and nursed the sick in concentration camps and decimated villages all over Europe. One can assume that her purpose is to meet the needs of others. Likewise, the Mormon’s ostensible raison d’être was and is to be like Jesus. Though some of their tactics like conversion (pre-and-postmortem) might seem questionable in their utility, others like an internal welfare system and disaster relief are not. Like Jesus, the Mormons clothe the naked and feed the hungry. In other words, their purpose is to meet the needs of others. Yes, yes, they’ve made some glaring missteps—Mountain Meadow Massacre, the exclusion of black people until deep into the 20th century—but I don’t think these missteps applied to a collective body are necessarily worse than those of an individual. I’ve done some pretty stupid, harmful stuff (no murder fortunately); if there were a few hundred thousand of me, my stupidity and harm would be that much greater. Continue reading “Are You an Individual or a Follower?”
Big Pete was a rotund twenty-year-old with thinning red hair that reached down to his butt. He sold and consumed copious amounts of cocaine. He drove his Jeep on a suspended drivers license. He gorged nightly on beef jerky shoplifted from 7-Eleven.
His roommate, The Captain, owed his name to his affection for Captain Morgan rum. The Captain was a bald-on-top, mullet-down-below, goateed, beer-bellied, mid-forties, unemployed chef from Boston. He sat around his apartment all day pulling bong hits, consuming Captain and Cokes and watching MASH reruns on the FX channel.
In 1997 my dad bought me a desktop PC for school. It had a 2 gig hard-drive because, he said, “I thought you needed something you could grow into.” It had Microsoft Office and came with a disk for a web-service called Gowebway.
I remember unpacking the computer, anticipating all the things I could do with it, like word processing and…well I didn’t know what else. I didn’t have any reason to make a spreadsheet. I’d never emailed. The web was an abstraction. It was like Encarta apparently, but more so.
When my folks left my place, I started up my computer, loaded Gowebway, hooked up my phone line and within minutes, I was online. A minute after that I was looking for porn. A few seconds after that, I found porn, and lots of it. Before the day was through, I had signed up for a $30/month subscription service (seemed like a deal), and had spent the whole night—and many days and nights after—having a one man bacchanal. It was a fitting entree to my online life, which has been the mental equivalent of a lifetime’s supply of Cheetos. Like Cheetos, online content is satisfying going down, but leaves you totally unnourished no matter how much you consume.
Five years ago I downloaded an ebook called “Double Your Dating,” by a guy named David DeAngelo, who explained his patented “cocky-funny” technique for picking up women. He said a man should be simultaneously cocky and (you guessed it) funny when approaching women. This state conveys to women carefree confidence. A cocky funny man can make fun of himself, because he has nothing to prove. He can make fun of a girl, because he doesn’t need to impress. He does all of this with a shit-eating grin, and suddenly becomes very desirable.
I was working DeAngelo’s game to good effect for a few weeks when Neil Strauss’ book “The Game” came out. Strauss, a longtime investigative journalist went on a mission to infiltrate the pickup artist subculture, only to find himself one its gurus a couple years later. The book chronicled his journey.
Both books opened my eyes for different reasons. DeAngelo’s book was helpful in giving general information about how to conduct oneself in specific situations. Taking his advice took the seriousness out of going out. I started having fun flirting with women for the first time in my life. Strauss’ book included techniques and general information like DeAngelo, but also told the story of how an AFC like me (average frustrated chump. The pickup culture is filled with acronyms), with training and perseverance became a mPUA (master pickup artist). What both books did was change my internal narrative from “whether” I could have more success with women to “how.”
Now before you judge me, please ask yourself, whether you are man, woman, straight, gay, bi, transgender, whatever, have you ever had problems meeting a romantic partner? Have you ever had difficulties communicating to a potential partner? Have you ever felt unlucky in love? If you haven’t felt these ways, please, judge me at your pleasure. If you have felt this way, you know why I turned to this questionable counsel. Continue reading “On Doing, Being and Picking Up Chicks”