Well-Meaning Idiots

For too long I gave other people, collectively, way too much credit. While I had this pretentious habit of thinking in Capital Letters, I had this more troubling tendency to Believe that somewhere there were these Someones that actually Knew The Right Way things Should be Done. Maybe it was the Roman Catholic upbringing...

Maybe it was just growing up in Texas.

The trip from 20 to 30 was a slow spiral from coffee-shop idealist to bar-stool cynic. Grand Ideals dropped into lower case and Big Ideas slipped into what was available that night. Intellectually, I went relativist, subjectivist...I have even stood accused of being existentialist. But here's the weird thing...while my head let go of the big ideas of Right and Good and God and Beauty, I never gave up the notion that there were people out there that had, in fact, figured it all out. Sitting in sumptuous deep leather chairs somewhere, where dim lights still reached high ceilings, Capitalized Words Were Still Bantered Over Priceless Cognacs.

And stuff.

I guess I had abandoned the idea that it would be me that would ever decipher those big things, but I never let go of the idea that some folks actually could, perhaps even had. I hadn't given up on the idea that some thought in capital letters, I had just given up on the idea that I was one of them. I remained an idealist. Just a really, really shitty idealist.

Maybe it was just leaving Texas for California.

This is not a new tale, merely my own pulling back of Oz's Curtain, of busting through a candy factory roof after witnessing marvelous rivers of chocolate .

But from 30 until now, well, I have seen some things. I have met a couple Oz's, chatted up a Wonka or two, even hyped a couple dirty rivers until we all believed them chocolate. Some days I am even expected to slip behind the curtain myself and flick the levers that sustain the illusion. Truth be told, I think conspiracy theorists give humanity too much credit. That level of complex, sustained evil may simply be well-beyond any concatenation of us goofballs. Look, even the Wall Street weenies couldn't make it 30 years, and the best and brightest of Hollywood couldn't even bring a solid TV conspiracy show to a coherent close. Even when given a second chance.

The fact is, The Illuminati, well, they're just a bunch of well-meaning idiots.

They is us.

I've riffed on the humans-ain't-smart-enough-to-pull-off-a-Dan-Brown-novel theme for a few years now, completing my own personal lower-casing of pretty much the entire evolution of humanity. It's kept my humility on a working par with my views of those above me. But I have been taken down several pegs lately by my kids that are spinning up their views of what they wanna to be when they grow up, and their stories are all written in Title Case. (Even when the Big Idea is driving a street sweeper because if the roads aren't clean the cars will crash...)

And cynics make for shitty dads.

So, a million blog posts lie in how I have come to feel a little more worthy of these Big Red Letter conversations with my half-size muses, but let me cut to the chase. I'll loop back over time, but it goes a little something like this...

A king needs his jester . I'm beginning to believe the best kings could play both roles.

(The best queens probably already knew this. I expect them to tell me so.)

And really, in the end, is it all really anything more than something like...

Find excellence. Then dance.

(And PS, my sister is much better at this mix than I. Always has been. Hats off and a deep bow to K8.)



I just stumbled badly through a rare perfect moment.

My kids somehow conspired to grant me a peek at my life through their eyes (it involved dancing and chocolate and balloons and rain) Then they each faded lightly, allowing me a glimpse of their hearts each rising and falling softly, breath by breath...asleep in a warm house solid against wind and, I think, a little thunder.

And as the world might have it, I had this amazing opportunity to think these moments through, feel them all, with a drink on a porch fingering a nice cigar, feet bare in a welcome, drenching spring rain.

And even then, my mind wandered to other moments. Tensions building to all the things that might and should and could come next. A couple thoughts of what I might want this all to lead to when it all came down, when I figured it out, when I finally and responsibly grew the hell up...

And something caught me raw, the snag of a third-day razor, realizing I had just lost some of this moment in pursuit of...something not...here. Something else. This moment had faded into wonders of what other moments at other times in other places might somehow be like.

Unique shimmers of this moment melted into the gray of some lengthening shadows.

I am starting to think that my core issue is less that I am not doing enough and more that I am really just not good at recognizing those cameo moments when all I have done might be paid back in wonder and joy. I really need to fix that.

I need to unfold myself.


Thin Peanut Butter

I've been whining a lot lately, both loudly and, for the most part, indiscriminately.

Frankly, I think I have even started to annoy my dog who now spends most of his time visiting various neighbors around the cul-de-sac, leveraging his fuzzy puppy-eyed evil for table scraps and a relentless game of fetch. He comes home from time to time, but his expanding social options seem to have made him even more cocky when he now begrudgingly drops by to sleep.

The whining snuck up on me. Things, all in, aren't bad. But they surely aren't simple. I work for a company in a pretzel of a financial mess, while many of the people and things I value right now fold up on each other in some absurd origami. Not...bad. But not...simple.

So I whine. But I'll get over it.

I am, however, getting a whiff of something different in the nose of this whine. In the past, when the tannins grew tart, I would revel in the inevitable transcendent moment when enough things reached near-crisis level that I could blow off any one of them because some other one had reached an even sharper peak of crapitude.

Realizing this moment had always been amazingly liberating. I would find this clarity to look at one pseudo-crisis and, instead of overreacting, conjure some what-if, some scenario in which some other frenetic demand was even more urgent. What-if...(aha!)...that?!?! And what-if I didn't, couldn't deal with this fire drill right now?

Just that pause would bring perspective, and I could often just walk away from it all, letting things I had spun up to into the silly to resolve themselves on their own.

[Insert your own details here.]


But this whine around, I am finding the usual transcendence a bit troubling. My normal course is to trade one worry off against another, put one panic off for another that is just an inch more red...lather, rinse and repeat...until ya have done a cycle or two through all that ails ya. the Irish Spring moment is a slap upside the head with the reality that if each could be trumped by another, perhaps none was as serious and urgent as I had originally overthought. Peace and calm slipped in where self-righteous needs to solve and fix had once flipped all my light switches on.

But this time, I'm not feeling so sanguine. My day job has long, long been more than somehow...external to me, the people and commitments and rippling implications on others are now settled in as core. At 4, 4, and 6, my kids are now...like...people. Real, live personalities, at least two stronger than mine. And I seem to have gotten over enough of my own personal shit to find some ports open for family and friends that have been over-secured for far, far too long.

So here's the deal. This time around I am not liking the idea of letting the emotion and importance and urgency of things fade, one trumped by another. I want to linger and learn, pause and ponder, stay and immerse myself, finally, in some select few. I guess the lesson is that up until now I have been spreading myself way too thin peanut butter. I guess before I thought that I had my ways of dealing with all that, sticking and moving, never being too deep in any one thing that I couldn't get deeper in another until in some MC Escher fashion in looped back on it all to restart at zero.

But you know, I think I am done with that.

If I have so many godammed important things going on that any one could trump another at almost any time, I think I can do the math to prove that, in fact, not a single one of those things is, actually, godammed important. At least important...enough.

But, and here is the kicker. I can point to three beautiful things currently splashing in baths upstairs right now that...each in themselves...prove that selfish argument wrong. Dead wrong.


Back in the dot-com days -- and it may still be there -- there was this groovy-ass deli at a poorly engineered Market Street intersection in SF where all the tattooed with pipe-sections-as-earrings bike messengers would hang, as hip in their heads as Kerouac used to be up-the-street and back-in-the-day. More importantly, this deli made this sandwich...This Sandwich...this amazing sandwich that took two sweet slabs of some sort of wheat and put them top-and-bottom around a full inch of peanut butter, buttressed by uncut slabs of banana. Dessert, lunch, decadence...health food? Whatever. Just perfect. That...that...my friends...

...that is peanut butter.

[Insert metaphor here.]