Just offering sarcasm, information and insight.
Is technology destroying our imagination? Novelist Isabel Allende believes this is the case. She examines this question (among others) in a recent interview. In A Talk With Chilean Writer Isabel Allende Melodramatic Diva of Magical Feminism she make some fascinating points regarding love and literature.
Allende’s grandchildren are the inspiration for her latest novel Maya’s Notebook. She has concerns regarding the effect of technology on their imaginations. ”Young people today they are texting while they are on a job interview. We all need time. Time to reflect, to be bored. In boredom creativity expands.”
I cannot imagine using a cell phone during an interview. Technology has come a long way since my childhood. I can still recall the Atari video game system I played during the 1980s. There is an appropriate time and place for everything. Some people are capable of making the appropriate adjustments. I am just unsure if the next generation can.
Allende’s comment regarding her grandchildren’s imagination is poignant. In retrospect, my addiction to television mirrors her concerns regarding technology. Although I read a lot more now, I still love my TV. Sometimes, I want to cut a hole in my head and put my brain on a pillow. After work, I just want to watch some sports. Besides, my brain cells are mush. There are days when I feel spent.
What are the effects of watching the idiot box? The ability to focus wavers. Some people (across the generations) have a ten second attention span. The ability to actively engage in any conversation is diluted. Is this what a life-time of television can do for you? Unfortunately, I notice these symptoms in the next generation.
The children today have a lot more technology options beyond the beautiful idiot box.The next generation is glued to their smartphones and tablets during social occasions. While dinning out, some families are hard pressed to have a conversation. How can this happened? Playing games and texting instead of talking are the alternative to family bonding. Is this families maintain their sanity?
While I still have my doubts, there is still hope for the next generation. Teenagers do have other activities. There is still time to prove me wrong. Father time is turning me into a curmudgeon. Regardless, life provides a steep learning curve and no one knows that better than I.
How do you spell ensemble?” Sonya asks. Though this weekend phone call isn’t exactly like run of the mille—they don’t usually start off with spelling quizzes—it’s not completely atypical either. I’m sure God blessed with me with a big sister for several reasons, but the most important of them seems to be that He knew she would keep me on my toes.
1,325 miles separate me from Sonya, but I can always count on her to drive me crazy somehow. Why would she expect me to know how to spell anything? Does she not remember my grades in school? Her baby brother, she seems to have forgotten, depends heavily on Microsoft Word’s spell-check when he writes. The sweat pours over my face from my crown to my chin. Adrenaline flows through my veins. Breathe. Some wordsmith you are, I think.
It turns out Sonya’s five-year-old daughter is preparing to model the latest fashion at a church event, and Sonya has embraced this as a learning opportunity—my niece doesn’t know what an ensemble is, but soon she will. If only I can spell it.
I feel like Atlas with the world on my shoulder, until I’m finally able to provide the correct spelling and definition from memory, and relief sets in.
But why all the stress over a silly word? Why, when rejection letters mount, and I stare down a slew of documents covered in track changes, do I subject myself to the aggravation of caring so deeply about language?
I think it’s because I’ve resolved to find my way through life using writing. As a guy who gets punchy proofreading PowerPoint presentations, it feels like the natural way to plod forward.
I can’t sing, dance, or act. Sometimes, I become tongue-tied during staff meetings. I didn’t inherit my mother’s sharp sense, my sister’s discipline, or my father’s rugged athleticism. Put my in a sporting event, and I turn into Charlie Brown—trying his best to kick the football over and over but always ending up on his back. What I do have is a vivid imagination and a library of fond memories that revolve around reading.
Dallas Morning News aloud for the family. I spent summers in the local library. I wasn’t born an avid reader, but these activities provided a positive outlet for a precarious kid. They shaped me.
In the last few years, I have realized the value of learning through literature. From Cicero to Shakespeare, I find that carefully chosen words can spark the intellect and illuminate the imagination. Books can take readers to entirely new worlds. They can spark curiosity—in my case, a curiosity that, when coupled with hard work, led to internships and ultimately a job in Washington.
I spend my work life reading reports and sorting through data and interacting with policymakers, pundits, and wonks. And the longer I’m here, the more certain I am that regardless of politics or economics, our country will always need individuals who can write well and think critically. So perhaps I’m lucky that my curiosity, my desire to be a reader and a writer—the same things that make Sonya count on me for spelling help on the spot—compel me to stress over selecting just the right word every time.
The challenge may seem unnecessary, but ironically, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And as I’ve embraced the blogosphere as a means of storytelling recently, I’ve realized that the gratification that comes from choosing words so carefully isn’t just internal. The interaction I get there from other writers and bloggers is heartfelt. There’s something inspirational about strangers being willing to provide feedback and encouragement regarding such a personal craft. It becomes somehow collaborative and doubly rewarding.
And the world of words does not care about ethnicity, income, or gender. Writing only asks for originality, and in return, it provides the opportunity to persuade, entertain, and inform. We all yearn for something greater, and for me, there is no greater freedom than the power of self-expression.
Originally published by The Washingtonian
Is there a fine line between meeting deadlines and recovering from the mental fatigue of a long work week? Sometimes, I manage this fine line with procrastination. Procrastination is a very important coping mechanism for this chronic under achieving slacker.
Recently, The Atlantic explores the importance of procrastination in How To Procrastinate at Work: A Complete Guide Research-Based Guide. The article examines the pros and cons of postponement. Specifically, the article cites research regarding the winners of the Intel Science Talent competition. Some winners used procrastination as a trigger for a helpful amount of stress necessary to ignite action. For others, dragging their feet to make a decision serves as a thought incubator. Specifically, they put offer making a decision because they wanted to fully process it before finding a solution.
I want to make my mark in this world more than anything. When it comes to finishing assignments at the office, there is no one who will offer you more energy and effort than I. For several years, I have fought to build my temple for tomorrow through talent, intellect and hectic improvisation. The motto I can, I will and I must usually drives my personality.
How can I offer blood, sweet and hustle when my brains are turning into mush? Sometimes, I just need to walk away from what I working on. Some managers provide people with enough freedom and flexibility to this. There are a few managers that suffocate creativity by constantly looking over your shoulders. Under such leadership, finishing the most menial tasks is so gratifying. I should just shut up and suffer until I get the job done.
Who am I kidding? There are times when I compartmentalized tasks and open Facebook for a break. Occasionally, social media is a time-wasting vortex. I am learning the importance of mindfulness regarding time management. Stress can provide an important sense of urgency to carry out things. Yet, procrastination can provide an appropriate balance between playfulness and productivity
What are you learning? Dr. Turner is challenging me again. My brain cells resemble scramble eggs. Actually, I want to shrug my shoulders and ignore his question.
Regardless, I have to come up with an answer. God, I love Turner’s approach to mentoring. I can always count on his barrage of questions. Finally, I have something that may get me of his line of sight. Among the issues I struggle with, is how to manage my time in the most appropriate way.
Speaking of time, where did it all go? Why do the weekends fly by and workweek drag along? Sometimes I just want to catch my breath. We enjoy each occasion with loved ones and do not keep track of time.
How did I lose track of so much time? This year, I am entering the autumn of my life. Middle Age is a bitter pill to swallow. I no longer have my teenage metabolism or energy. Retirement from the workplace is a pipe dream. There is never enough time for friends, family or work.
Ironically, I do not need a course in time management. As it turns out, my ability to focus on tasks is improving. We all are constantly juggling several items personally and professionally. Sometimes, I wonder what am I accomplishing with all this multitasking? Time will not allow me to complete one task anytime any longer. Speaking of work, the current economy is demanding so much from everyone.
The current economic climate will demand an intellectual dexterity and professional flexibility to survive. The week involves so much drudgery. The most fortunate professional will find fulfillment and productivity. The rest of the workforce deals with frustration and insecurity. There are individuals doing the work of two people.This is life in cubicle nation.
The struggle in the office is between boredom and burning out. Regardless of where people are, time can drag ever so slowly until Friday. Regardless, we review the To Do list and get things done. There is nothing like the smell of doom during the morning commute.
This effort is about making life work. For some people, it is a matter of survival. The most astonishing thing I have noticed is how resourceful individuals are in hustling to make ends meet. Tomorrow is not promise to anyone. Yet, we cannot move forward by staring at the clock for too long. Making life work is about not taking anything for granted, one moment at a time.
When you least expect it, someone may offer an important pearl of wisdom. This is a teachable moment. There are situations in life that offer unique opportunities to learn.
For instance, I e-mailed Sharon to notify her that I cannot take part in her weekend yoga class. In the near future, I may need to work during the weekends. Although she expressed her disappointment, the rest of her response caught my attention. She wants me to work well so I can return to class her class next time. The response is still churning in my mind.
What does she mean by work well? This is such a fascinating concept. Does she know who I am? Actually, I know she has a very good grasp of my personality. Although, I doubt she may know about my obsessive compulsive behavior. We are talking about the ability to kill, cut, slash and destroy.
Dear God, I think my last name (which is Wilson) is Cornish for workhorse. Are you kidding me? Each member of my family has experience working endless hours, regardless of the job. The phrase blood, sweat and tears is a way of life. Also, I think of the expression hope, fight and pray when it comes to the women of my family. I will have to cover that topic in a future post. We should have awards for plowing through the difficulties and fighting until tomorrow.
The concept is of working well is not beyond my comprehension. Productivity is about time well spent, polishing and improving a deliverable. The saying work smarter not harder is a cliché that comes to mind.
However, I have to get beyond such phrases to uncover substance and learn from my mistakes. This is very important. The realization is that life demands that we all must press on or move forward. But what happens when you are suffering from exhaustion and the brain cells are turning into clay?
I just have this image of me working at a drafting table. Planning like everything else can become a practice. This is another important habit I need to incorporate. This means I need to recoup and adjust to what I face in life.
There is so much to learn and so little time to sift through everything. This is where planning and preparation play an important role. However, I may not have the patience for either in the short-run. Does wisdom come from experience or reflection? Perhaps it is both qualities that allow the best of us to move forward b both learning and determination.
Thank goodness for the end of daylight savings time. The cycle of life continues. We spring forward and then we fall back. Actually, I fell right back into bed when realized there is extra time to sleep.
Reading is an important exercise for the mind. Laughter is cardio for the heart and soul.
There is no strait jacket that can hold me. How do I know? Two guys (both six-foot, five inches tall) dropped by the other day. Please do not worry. No one is taking me anywhere.
The jackets they offer come in all kinds of shapes, color and sizes. Unfortunately, they did not have anything that fits me. The guys felt embarrassed and cut their trip short. It is a mad world after all.
Where is this coming from? The presidential campaign will end soon. The process starts earlier each time. Normally, I hate writing about politics on these pages. However, I need to get this out in the open.
We all need a collective exhale from the constant media clamor. The chattering class and 24 hour news cycle can overwhelm people with their coverage. There are segments of the American public that are sick of politics. Some of us are simply burnt out. The straight jacket may represent the only opportunity for sanity.
Regardless of the outcome of this election, I am unsure if both Capitol Hill and the White House can foster cooperation. Can our political leaders meet in the middle and tackle the important issues facing our country? I am not holding my breath.
On another subject, I am struggling with a very important question. Why do I write? Simply put, I cannot sing or dance. When I am on the dance floor, people think I am having a conniption fit. As for singing, it is a lost cause. There are no sweet melodies coming from my mouth. There is a collective plugging of ears and cringing each time I try. Finally, I know of a way to keep individuals from bugging me.
Four tips to help sharpen our perspective
Some people revel in an opportunity to showcase their talents. During office staff meetings, a few people love the sound of their own voice. There are exceptions to every situation, including me.
What do you think?
I want to avoid answering this question like the plague. For the most part, I welcome the opportunity to prove myself. Yet, I wrestle with the appropriate response when my brain cells are uncooperative. For most part, if I did not know the answer, I can always find the information. The phrase “I do not know” is unacceptable. Eventually, I develop a compromise based on my best judgment. The response “I will get back to you” is acceptable during a meeting and good for my ego.
Discernment is the ability to make a good judgment.
Why is this important? Life demands this in order to succeed. We need to attune to the substantive and discard what is irrelevant. Discernment will help us develop a skilled response to life’s trials and tribulations.
When looking for the answers, within or outside ourselves, there are no easy choices. Fortunately, none of us are alone. The following are a few suggestions to help sharpen our perspective. This is all a work in progress.
This is a difficult step. I always want to contribute my ideas to any discussion and the enthusiasm I have may get the best of me. I want to make my thoughts clear. We have to be vigilant regarding this mentality. There is nothing wrong with speaking your mind.
However, we should ask ourselves, “What is the most productive way to address the issue?” before adding our two cents.
We have to consider if what we have to say is valuable. The idea is to cultivate a careful and thoughtful response.
There is a difference between hearing and listening. The ears record the information, but sometimes the mind lacks the ability to recall what is important. We have to engage in active listening in every part of our lives. Sometimes, I interrupt someone during a conversation. The intention is not meant to be rude or inconsiderate. Unfortunately, in this context my actions will override my intention.
Active listening requires a conscious effort to understand.
Why do we need active listening? Listening is important for several reasons. We listen for information, to connect with our loved ones and to learn. Listening allows you to cull through the craziness and incorporate important insight. Active listening is fundamental to discernment.
Are you paying attention? This skill requires that you give all your time and attention to the goal at hand. Actually, this principle sounds simple enough if we locked ourselves in a sound proof office, few of us have access to such a valuable commodity.
Our attention spans have been significantly reduced thanks to television. Despite this, the world demands that individuals multitask. Occasionally, multitasking is when an individual makes several mistakes simultaneously. Families are constantly juggling different schedules. The workplace demands that staff members juggle multiple projects.
Focus demands discipline, attention and the ability to tune out the distractions. We have to develop our own cone of silence. The most accomplished minds have enough self control to be productive anywhere. They have mastered the ability to tune inward to move forward.
For the rest of us, a quiet space such as a public library or even a coffee house can provide the appropriate environment. Some even use music to help focus the mind. Both classical music and jazz help individuals concentrate. When this happens, there is no room left in the brain for obstacles or distractions. There is no past and the future has not arrived. The mind is engaged in the moment.
John Wooden is famous for saying, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” As Americans, we all value the importance of hard work. Wooden’s advice reminds me of the story of John Henry. Henry used his legendary physical prowess to defeat the steam powered hammer in a contest.
We can all admire John Henry’s herculean strength. Yet, we cannot sustain that level of effort in our lives. Mindful engagement demands we adapt to life’s challenges and not just power through each problem.
The wisest people in our culture always seek advice whenever they are stuck on a problem. The most intelligent individuals realize that they do not always have the answers. The most important step in this process is asking questions. This will help aid the discernment process by sorting through our priorities.
In obtaining feedback, we can all re-adjust our course and develop a solution to the issues facing us. We all make mistakes. The wisest individuals are learning from their mistakes and gaining wisdom from their experiences.
In life, we are always looking for the best way to move forward. The discernment process allows us to sharpen our perspective on life in the most comprehensive way. This approach will allow us to take adversity and turn it into an advantage. Also, we can take the time we have and get the most out of life. I will have to remember this when my desk is stacked with papers.
We pause, listen, focus and engage, after that there is nothing else we can do. The rest of what happens is in God’s hands.
Originally published on Elephant Journal
No one can sell crazy to my family. This week my family received the patent letter from the federal government. The letter makes it official. Everyone else is ten steps behind my family when it comes to brining the crazy. There is nothing like Southern fried insanity.
The following is a tribute to my nose. Since birth, I have owned my brass section. No one on this planet has my schnoz. I can smell pizza and coffee from miles away. My nose has so much polish and panache. I strive for consistency and good work in other elements in my life. However, my nose has already achieved greatness.
There are certain features that set me a part. There is nothing more human to me than individuality. Why does our society place such an emphasis on conformity?
Anyway, speaking of which I have an example of putting my excellent instrument to use. There is nothing aroma of cigar. As little boy, I grew up the scent of my grandfather’s pipe. Somehow I developed an interest in cigar smoke. Ironically, I do not smoke it all. The whole scent of cigar is intoxicating. I know it’s probably bad. I just do not care.
Speaking of indifference, I have to turn my attention to a specific phrase that brings me frustration. I despise the phrase It Is What It Is. Can someone please tell what that means? This response seems unacceptable. My preference is for plain silence. Life is too short for vague language.
On another subject, I want to discuss the perfect condiment. I want to make the case for Ketchup. Ketchup works so well on sandwiches, hamburgers, pizza, French fries, toast and scrambled eggs. Did I miss anything? Also, ketchup compliments sausage and bacon. Ketchup and red meat are two things that make the world so wonderful
Every day I am hustling for nickels, dimes and quarters. So I am looking under the furniture for change. I need the coins buy another book. I am becoming a bargain hunter for books. Finally, I am sharpening my garage sale shopping skills.
The following is the method to my madness. Recently, I discovered that people give their unwanted books to local libraries. The regional libraries in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County sell these books.
This discovery is a gold mine. For example, I picked up Virgil’s Aeneid and Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition for a dollar. Also, I found a copy of Plato’s Phaedrus for 50 cents. Where did I find these books? The Bethesda Public Library’s donation table has quite a collection.
The D.C. Libraries drive a harder bargain for finding deals. The Tenley-Friendship Heights library charges two dollars for paperbacks. Despite my initial angst, I found Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People. Thank goodness for my extensive collection of quarters. Public libraries are not the only resource for the bargain-hunting bookworm.
Fortunately, there are several independent bookstores in the Beltway. Capitol Hill Books offers the most unique collection I have encountered. There is more a chaos than order. There is some disorganized shelves in this bookstore. However, the staff is first-rate and very friendly.
I purchased Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of The Wind and Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for seven dollars each. The current retail price for either publication is twice as much. According to Barnes & Noble’s website, Zafon’s opus costs $13.98. The same website has Smith’s coming of age classic for $10.98.
The only online resource I found so far is Half sponsored by E-Bay. The strength of Half is the price. For example, I purchased Sylvia Platt’s Bell Jar for eight dollars (five dollars for the novel and three dollars for shipping).
The condition of the book means everything. So I am willing to pay a higher price. The sellers rate the book from acceptable to brand new. The lowest listed price for Bell Jar is $1.70. According to the seller’s comments, there are highlights and marginal notes throughout the novel. There is nothing like the insight of strangers when it comes to used books.
There is an a viable alternative market to the brick-and-mortar bookstore. At the point, I am not unsure about the future of chain bookstores. Regardless, the demand for books will continue. The hustle for loose change is well worth the time.
Don’t you just love the sound of your alarm clock? Today, on just another morning with no time to lose, the clock keeps ticking and you’ve got to keep moving. There is no time to waste.
Excellent. Make sure you have everything before you leave. For me, I have to make sure I take my keys, wallet and cell phone. God forbid that I misplace the essentials before I go. If that happens, there goes 15 minutes.
Finally, you leap through the door and onto the road. Assuming you survive the morning commute, you may have time for a cup of coffee.
Is anyone surprised that we have so much frustration? There is not enough time in the day to get everything done.
How can anyone remain calm when our lives demand so much?
Sometimes, when faced with such stress, we experience difficulty in maintaining focus. Yoga teacher Sharon Neubauer calls this challenge the monkey mind. The monkey mind happens when the brain jumps around from one thing to another.
Yet, without focus and inner peace, we all take many important things for granted. Life remains too short for sane individuals to let this happen.
The following methods exemplify just some ways of cultivating the quieter mind:
What do Johann Sebastian Bach and Sam Cooke have in common? While both men are exceptional—yet different musicians—their music universally appeals to the soul.
With a unique link to our emotions, the right song or composition can alleviate stress and absorb attention. Simply put, music makes us happier. The right melody can lift you out of a mental funk or provide therapy for depression.
As the easiest way to remove clutter from the mind and decompress from a long day, some people take a deep breath in order regain their composure.
Sometimes, taking one long, slow breath provides a chance to take a break. Regardless of the circumstances, we reinvigorate our spirit by doing this.
For some, a good book provides the perfect escape. A good story, like nothing else, can take you out of the momentary situation.
Reading gives our mind time for both quietude and aloneness.
This concept is very important outside of the workplace. Although the biggest fan of mischief and fun, I believe, however, that there is an appropriate moment for everything.
Productivity consists of making the most of the time you have.
Think of free time as an opportunity to participate in activities that promote self-improvement. These may include fitness and sports for some people. Others may discover a chance to enhance a skill set or to engage in life-long learning (via a workshop or class).
Once the mind is fully engaged, stress or other distractions fall away, promoting essential qualities of concentration and focus.
People struggle with this very important principle. At first, I thought detachment called for individuals to behave like Vulcans (inhabitants of Mr. Spock’s planet) on Star Trek. Vulcans, renowned for living by reason and logic, develop procedures to suppress emotions. From their perspective, emotions are dangerous.
According to Sally Kempton, detachment (among other things) requires just letting go. But this does not mean the elimination of all relationships.
For example, Mary, someone I really care for, recently moved to another state, North Carolina. I could not imagine not having her presence in my life, but I realized something very important: I cannot care about someone on my terms. Love has to be freely given and received.
Life will not allow me to cling onto someone.
During times of stress and tribulation, we all want to remain calm. The quest for a quiet mind is an ongoing process. Yet, consider the importance of this path. You can have bliss while others are bewildered. Also, you can cultivate the ability to keep composed while the world is in chaos.
In the end, you will have a firm foundation on which to stand strong during life’s struggles. Now, if I can stay calm when I misplace my keys or cell phone, then I have taken a step in the right direction.
For even in the smallest things, I am forging a path towards inner peace.
Originally published on Elephant Journal.