Mile Marker

Memory is a funny thing.

The first chill in the air after a long, hot summer snaps you back into autumn mode and a series of memories associated with the seasonal passage of time.  Another season prepares to turn. Another mile marker of sorts on the road of life.

Add in a specific task from the past with the cold, crisp morning air and the memory goes back to work.  The mind reaches back to assemble relatable images and fragments in order to present a usable flashback segment from this lifespan.

In this case, older me was driving to a swimming pool and the recall shuffled back several decades to younger me doing something very similar. Cold air and swimming find substantive space in my memories of high school swim team mornings.

I was always impressed by the teenage version of me for simply getting out of bed at 4:30 every morning for the late fall early winter high school season.  I would spend several  months crawling out of a heated waterbed into near frigid, rarified mile high air and then into an unreasonably cold recreation center swimming pool.

As an added bonus our coach insisted the team carpool as much as we could for bonding and accountability, team building, etc. Seniors on the team generally had to fit as many underclassmen as they could – or in some cases as many as they could stand, into their vehicles for travel to practice.

In my case, I was able to team up with Steve, my very good friend and fellow junior. A friendly face helped, but our driver was a senior who was not thrilled with the whole carpool concept.  His vehicle was a Subaru Brat. Our driver was Brad.  And Brad was a bit of a brat himself.  At least at the start of the carpool time.

If you’ve never seen a Brat, they are unique and in my mind, very impractical vehicles.  A micro pick-up of sorts, tiny in the front and a tiny open air ‘cargo’ bed fitted with a rear facing jump seat. On a high volume day, the car could uncomfortably fit two in the front and two more in the back.  During the first few weeks of travel to practice, me and Steve got the magical experience of the open air cargo area jump seat, while Brad was nice and warm up front.

Late fall and winter morning air, plus some windchill from a moving vehicle and there were some mornings when that unreasonably cold swimming pool was a welcome end to that journey to practice.  Eventually, Steve and I got to trade time up front with Brad, who eventually saw us as teammates and not cold cargo.  When it was snowing, we even crammed three of us into a space where three humans did not really fit. A mundane trip to practice becomes quite exciting when one has to quickly move their lower extremities out of the way of the driver’s hand trying to shift gears.

It was actually quite a bit of fun.  The whole swim team experience stays with me.  Many of us actually swam on two teams, the local city team and the high school team in order to push our conditioning to the limit.  At the apex of the season, we would hit five miles a day in the water.  I get tired driving five miles these days, much less attempting to swim such a distance.

Fast forward to today, and I still am able to be impressed by what younger me accomplished.  It brings out a series of memories and lifelong milestones or mile markers along the way.  Memories jump back to my first tackle in football, that first day of keeping my bicycle balanced to ride it on a regular basis, my first car, my first kiss, my first love, and my first time…well, like I said, memory is funny thing.  Flashes from the past triggered by a simple change in weather, like the morning with a chill in the air in any given year along the way.

I now hope the younger version of me is slightly impressed.  Three decades later I have found sanctuary again in moving across the water.  I am far slower than before, yet there is peace found in the rhythm of swimming at a reasonable pace.  I can think about what chores I need to get done, the stories I want to write and plan upcoming family events on an invisible mental calendar. And then I hit the wall and turn back, thinking more or less as I continue on my way.

It has only been two weeks back in the water, but it connects to all of those other times I spent moving from one end of the pool to the other.  In my head, five miles a day was once routine as we knocked out 5200-5600 yards in two hours.  Easy mode, right?

Well, old me nearly drowned himself topping 1100 yards in 45 minutes last week. Then I got to 1200 the next time in, then 1250 and this morning, there was something in the air.  It was more than a chill in the air.  There was an air of confidence too.

Young me was taunting the old man a bit.

After a brief warm-up this morning, old me crushed the timed lap by nine seconds compared to previous old guy workouts.  Take that younger me.

The pool this morning was a little bit colder than usual.  And I felt a little stronger.

I pushed along rather nicely and knocked out 1825 yards.  A mere 65-yards over a mile. But I’ll take it.

It is not as exciting as becoming a father or buying that first car, but a literal mile marker in the pool once again. Be it a mile marker in life, or in the pool, I may be hitting a few more new goals in and out of the water.  And maybe I’m just getting warmed up.

You go old me.

Swim on…

 

Hate Needs a Vacation

Some of the best father to son life lessons are accomplished more with subtlety rather than screaming or violence.

All I said was, “I hate the Oakland Raiders.”

I thought my fanatic football fan father would totally agree.  They were the arch rival to our favorite team.  I knew a lot of kids at school hated them too. When playing the Raiders, my favorite team basically had to keep their helmets buckled another heads on a swivel to avoid cheap shots.

His response was, “Really?”

“Yes I hate them. I always have.”

“Do you know what the word hate means?”

“Of course, it means I really do not like this football team.”

“Hate is a stronger word than that, it should not be used lightly.  Or with any kind of a sports team. It is just sports — teams compete,” he explained, and went back to watching the game.

By expressing my strong dislike, I was essentially correct among standard definitions.  However, I grabbed the dictionary off the shelf and read that it also includes descriptions like “extreme aversion” to something or someone.

The word extreme hung with me along after.

And that was the “aha moment” he was hoping would sink in.  I was certainly not converted to cheering for the dread silver and black, the most penalized, push the limits of sportsmanship Oakland Raiders.  I still do not like or appreciate that football club, but the point was made, I didn’t hate them.

The real lesson kicked in after that.  Who or what did I really, truly hate?

There were plenty of my fellow high school students that I was sure I hated.  But when I examined our various disagreements, it was all over silly stuff.  Kids in different clicks, or looked at me weird or thought they were somehow better than me, they all made the list.

I realized it took a lot of mental energy to actively hate someone.  I had to constantly reinforce those extreme feelings and rationalize my intense return stares or the throwing elbows or shoulders in the hallway between classes.  All of it turned out to be a waste of time.

Once I examined each situation, I understood I really didn’t hate anyone at the school.  I’m human, there were still some folks on the list who are never getting invited over for a barbecue, but there was no one horrific enough to earn my permanent, extreme dislike. By the time I graduated, the word hate evolved quite a bit for me.

As the rest of the modern world turns, some other humans need to examine the true meaning of hate.

The current list kicks off with political differences, Democrats hate Republicans, Republicans hate Democrats, continues through specific theological differences, legal questions, race, gender and sexual orientation.  To name a few.

Of course, not everyone in each group hates everyone from the other, but when one tunes into media, social media and other mass communication elements, the haters appear to dominate the bandwidth.

Which leads to the latest horror show in Orlando, Florida where a hateful human massacred at least 50 other humans.  One has to be hateful and maybe a little insane to hurt so many on his way out of this world.

Here is the part of this story where I’m usually supposed to try to solve or soothe the crisis in which we find ourselves.  Or where I scratch my head and wonder how such horrible feelings exist.

I know why.  Ignorance.

It is that simple.  My father called me out on the improper utilization of the word hate.  I was ignorant in my application of the term.  People who hate all gay men and women are flat out ignorant.  People who hate all Muslims because of the action of a fraction of that faith are flat out ignorant.

I understand the argument against my position.  I know there are many very intelligent people who hate on all sides of these issues.  But I didn’t say anyone here was dumb.  My claim is specifically that hate is fueled by ignorance.  A lack of knowledge or education is the simplest way to explain the term.

For example, one has to completely know — absolutely know a substantial number of gay humans or Muslim humans to understand all humans are all unique individuals.  We love to team up and group think, but when push comes to shove, each person has a different perception and approach to each life scenario.  But lumping people in “for or against” columns generates an uninformed extreme dislike of the perceived opposition.

The point being, those who are somehow happy their viewpoint was ‘proven’ that all Muslims are bad, are flat out ignorant about the millions of non-terrorist Muslims.  The people who judged gay people as somehow deserving the horrors of being killed as loving, caring human beings at a night club, are flat out ignorant.

Hate or extreme hate, ignorance and the misery that follows should not be viewed lightly.  If we are to find meaning while we are here, this frightening lack of knowledge about one another needs to be addressed.

Until then, buckle up and keep your head on a swivel.

Some Good Tymes in 2015

First, I need to thank each and every human who discovered this blog over the last 12-months.  Whether you got here by invitation or by accident, the overwhelming kind words, support and feedback are key ingredients moving forward.

The dream of words published beyond my meandering anecdotes here is yet to be realized, but I can safely say, I generated more words here on my stories than any previous year of existence.  At the busiest point of my journalism career, I hit up to 15 bylines a week.  It is vastly different from the creative side.  Some days were editing days only, some days were research only, and then of course, my favorite way to warm up my wordsmith skills happened right here at Lundon Tymes.

By the numbers, I wrote 51 blogs in all.  One shy of the one per week goal I set last January.  Some of them generated interest long after they hit the ‘net, and others barely caught a first glance.  The U.S. of A was the primary source for this year’s audience, but some of you are from far away places.  WordPress noted that the United Kingdom had a few curious readers show up here, and the biggest surprise of all to me, was Russia was third in the list of total readers.

My Russian readers trend in when I talk up one my favorite series by George R.R. Martin.  It is nice to know we can connect on a sword and sorcery kind of level.  Russian readership pushed Canada to fourth place, I will try harder to provide entertaining topics for the Canucks in our studio audience.

Germany, India, Brazil and Australia top out the International readers who visited here in 2015.   Which is pretty cool since many writers suggested starting a new blog could be a wasted effort.  That the world is burned out on this form of communication.  I understand the concern, I only have so many moments in the day to read, and my choices need to be strategic to get the best value out of that time.  All things that help the creative process.

The trick is, all of us have limited time to read, write, work or relax, regardless of vocation.  So again, anyone who wandered in here, I’m grateful and hopefully the stop was worth your time.

The most read topic was the author info, which is kind of fun.  It also might mean I should re-write that and make it more interesting for next year.  The second most read piece for the Tymes was the sixth blog I wrote early in the year, If a blog falls in the forest. In essence, I think that one hit a sweet spot for kindred spirits like me who are trying to build an audience from nothing.

Edged out of first place by a couple views, was the semi-controversial Is HBO Winning the Game of Thrones?  The answer is of course is yes they are. However, I still contend drift further away from source material too often just to throw in spicy misogynistic elements.  I don’t know if my Russian readers agreed with me or not at this point, they are a quiet bunch.

A happy surprise ended up as the third most read topic of 2015, as a simple recollection of one of those days I knew I a storyteller in the making.  A little kid telling other little kids how cool a summertime back yard can really be in The First Story.

One my favorites, another youthful memory, A 12-year old Walks into a Bar somehow made the most read blogs of the year as well.

A remembrance of my very cool Dad jumped in the year’s top five, The Letter Jacket – An Ode to Dad was likely helped a lot by family members and the many family friends who also miss the one and only David Lund.

There are a few more topics that made a late push, but I will leave fate to either discover or ignore those.  I’ve recovered enough ground at this point.  It is time to move forward with the changing calendar.

Another moment to change the writing from a dream to reality, another chance to improve and be a better writer, a better person, husband, father, brother, son or friend.

I was a bit of a recluse in 2015.  Outside of family travel and events, the focus was on getting words down on paper or into computer memory.  I probably need to get out more, continue to overhear real conversations, observe and report on the weird or unique elements that reflect our humanity.

And thus we’re off to new adventures, new stories, new blog bits and another lap around the sun.  Thanks for reading and being, and here are to more joyous Tymes ahead.

Have a very safe and happy New Year!

 

Star Wars Lives

I didn’t get to elbow my way into an opening night viewing, or spend countless hours in a line waiting to see it, but a few days into a new era of Star Wars films, I finally saw the newest chapter.

If you’re hunting for spoilers, this isn’t the place today for it.  Still too many folks on the outside looking just yet.  A more complete spoiler filled review awaits on the horizon like a pair of Tatooine suns.

How pervasive is the George Lucas creation in our society?  Well, Tatooine passes my spellcheck for one, with or without caps the application is able to reference a fictional planet from a fictional film filled with fictional people.

Life imitates art in such a case.

Ultimately, yes, it is a just a film, or as good fortune would have it, a series of films.  In the months leading up to the highly anticipated film release, it was interesting to see some blowback from those souls who had yet to see anything Star Wars on the big or little screen.

I do get it. I know the world never universally agrees on anything. But it gets pretty close with this story.  It has a bit of everything, for all ages including those required elements fans expect from the franchise; a battle of good versus evil, wacky aliens, space ships and light saber battles, oh my.

Time magazine did a recent feature where they attempted to explain the “genius of Star Wars” as they see it.

For me, the genius is George Lucas took bits from his childhood, spiritualistic stuff from eastern philosophy – by accident or on purpose, borrowed from some of the timeless tales we enjoy across genres, and packaged the standard ‘heroes journey’ format in space, complete with updated swords made of light.

It had to be that specific combo, brewed in that creative brain to do it all with a straight face.  A serious approach to serial fiction.  And it literally paid off.  So many directors would have allowed ‘B’ movie cheese to creep in on a space opera.  Others would have cut corners on special effects to save money and have those effects look corny instead of cool.

Star Wars was never a brand new story, it was a uniquely reformatted classic for the big screen and a more modern world. A hero overcomes adversity, learns to be a better being and stays true to a more just existence.  Like Beowulf before him, Luke Skywalker tries his best to defeat a great evil threatening all of society.

As Luke was a bored kid trapped among mundane chores, looking to the stars to find adventure.  What kid hasn’t done that before?  And yet the wise Yoda warns us against such fancy, “Action. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”

A kid has to grow up, be serious and kick some serious bad guy ass against impossible odds to win the day.  Luke had his hands full.

My other big heroes?  Those daring rebels.  Big, bad Darth Vader fills the screen, cutting through doors with an army of stormtroopers behind him, and those rebel troopers hold their ground, well at least as long as they could, to protect their precious cargo.

Nothing complex in the film, but I was hooked.  A dash of Shakespeare with some family tragedy crammed in between action scenes, but again, all of it thrown together really worked.

I was 12-years old in 1977.  I got to see the original feature on a family vacation with my cousins as we visited California for the first time.  In that era of movies, among Jaws and Godfather, it was an instant classic all its own.  But it was science fiction.  More fiction than science, and it didn’t matter.  It was fun that stayed with you.  Star Wars lived well beyond the big screen, it lived through books, comic books, action figures, ships, board games, role playing games, and a really bad Christmas TV special.

Of course, controversy and criticism follows anything that makes a lot of money or gets extremely sewn into the public conscious.  George made some weird changes, re-released new versions every five minutes, went a little wacky at times during follow up films and eventually he tired of the battles beyond the big screen and he sold his baby away.

Hey, at four billion dollars, I’ll listen to just about anyone about anything.

JJ Abrahams got the nod to relaunch the formula. And I think the biggest high pressure hand off in creative history has paid off again.  Younger, more diverse characters to compliment the aging classic characters.  Good guys, bad guys and a plot twist have me back on the edge of my entertained seat.

There are more serious franchises, more critically acclaimed stories, but there are no apologies owed to anyone. I love it.  Star Wars is fun.  If you hate fun, stay away from this stuff.  Escapist fun for a couple hours with the family observing our bold fictional favorites.

Until I can a hold a real life blue hued light saber that doesn’t require batteries, or fly an actual X-Wing fighter, Star Wars lives on the big screen, and the little screen once it comes out on blue ray, digital and DVD formats.  Maybe I can get away with craving some excitement.

When it comes to checking out Star Wars, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Ignore Yoda’s advice at your own peril. We could use you, as Jedi always seem to be in short supply. Your choice, as we can take down the Death Star with or without you.

After all, the Force is with us…

Grateful Trumps Hateful

Let me apologize in advance.

There are days when I present my middle finger at you.

Not you personally.

I mean all of you at the same time.  As in the world.  There are days I still flip off the entirety of planet earth.  But not so much in a mean, hateful manner, my bird is out there in a fun, maniacal laugh sort of way.   I’m me, getting to be me all day, everyday, all year long and there is no one left to stop me.  The kind of defiance I lived my whole life to attain.

If I subscribed to the concept of regret, the bummer is I wish I arrived in this place far sooner.  However, part of the grand lesson is — life doesn’t work that way.  Pain, suffering, depression, anger, fear and hate will certainly dominate most human brains, until enough wisdom is gained to triumph over those very real life experiences.

If we’re lucky, we all start off in youth as happy, life loving kids ready to conquer the world.  My childhood was interrupted with some unpleasant years, but the other side of that adversity made for a tremendous set of teenage years.  Then six years of military service and a marriage to my dream girl and two really cool kids.

According the American Dream (TM) patent pending, I had won at life and the rest is puppies and rainbows, right?

Not so much.

So, here is the second admission.  My flipping the bird at you and the world wasn’t always in fun.  It used to be accompanied by rage.  Unending rage that the supposedly angry Incredible Hulk would be proud and envious to have.

The weird social expectations assigned to me at birth were not being met and I was not checking off very many of the required boxes.   Breadwinner?  Well, only for the first couple years of the marriage.  After the move to Wyoming, the Mrs. crushed the combined salaries from both the radio station and newspaper.  As a feminist, who always wanted his wife to succeed — I got used to the idea, but it wasn’t as easy as I told myself it would be.

I had always wanted to be a father, and that is far more difficult than I remember seeing on the old television series Father Knows Best.  I think I could have rocked that hat too from the old black and white series, but not much else in how easy the show made family life look.  Dad does not always know best, even when he thinks he does. Missed another expectation box.

Of course, there were financial struggles, relationship struggles and then the business failures kicked in. One was a really cool magazine where my business partner had to bolt at the very final moment due to family difficulties of his own. And then up next was a business partner who quickly misappropriated all of our family life savings.

George Lucas and Star Wars is really onto something with the Dark Side.  It is so real.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

Most of the suffering is endured by everyone closest to you.  My friends and family, some of the customers at the comic shop I owned.  For about a five year span, I became a comparatively horrible person.  I apologized on occasion, and tried for some good days, but it takes falling pretty far before the wake up call lands on you.

I knew I was in trouble.  I knew for a while I was trapped in an angry spiral, and I felt powerless.  All of the expectations of what so much of world tells you to have, and nothing about the disappointment if you don’t meet those illusions of what life is meant to be.

Since there is no handbook for that, I leaned heavy into a lifelong hobby of reading philosophy.  It seemed like philosophers east and west were on the same quest as myself, trying to find meaning in a meaningless world.  I found a few of those new age philosophers that picked the best elements from existing ideas and repackaged them in smaller doses for people who don’t have time to break down Plato’s Republic one line at a time.

I read a bunch, but didn’t always get it.

The end of the tunnel happened when I realized that everyone I loved didn’t hate me for my anger spiral.  They just wanted me to be happy.  It sounds so easy, but it is tough to make that leap of faith, to leave the security of feeling sorry for oneself.

Being angry at the world is the easy choice.  People who are ignorant in your eyes, or hateful, or rude or simply don’t agree with you are super easy targets.  Anything that didn’t go my way was the enemy of that moment.  Blaming other people for my misery was a sport, and I was good at it.

Living in the light of unconditional love from an amazing family, super-human wife — she really is Wonder Woman, but don’t tell anyone her secret identity — fantastic friends and now the sun truly shines brighter.  And the moon too.

Now, I have unending joy and care for the world.  Sort of a sickeningly sweet love for people, an appreciation for the simple beauty in everyone and everything.  So sweet, that on occasion, my inner-Marine Corps voice says, “Dude, dial it back. Just a little.”

Go ahead, make my day – just try and push the old buttons.  If you don’t agree with me on something? Fine or grand as my Irish kin would say.  My team doesn’t win every game, or any game, they’re still my team.  Politics? Hah, no one ever wins that discussion.  Story doesn’t work, write another one.  If someone I love has a bad day, there will be a better tomorrow.  If it rains, every storm eventually ends.

I wake up, write and appreciate the chance to be the real me.  The once happy kid who was ready to conquer the world is back and really awesomer now.  It isn’t weird, and I don’t care what the world’s expectations are anymore.  Wisdom reminds me it doesn’t matter.  Love the ones who love you back and life will sort itself out.

If you see me through the window of my house, and I’m running around with that middle finger extended, it’s not for you it’s for me.  I’m just a big tease at this point anyway…

Live From New York!

Okay, you got me.

It is not exactly live, an inherent disadvantage to the written word.  And this is not a full Saturday Night Live skit or tribute.

But it is lively.

As in I’ll be sharing my amazing and lively first ever journey to the Big Apple.  Or as I see the great city of New York as the Confluence of Humanity.  So many humans from so many unique walks of life all walking around the same place at the same time.

And I’m no rookie here on the planet. I’ve been around the proverbial block a few times. Six years in the Corps, five decades of vacations, moving to different states  and a love of languages, I have seen and heard a few things, but nothing like New York City.

For my wife and I, the city was merely a compilation of a lifetime of movies and television.  The setting for a giant slice of Americana.  Law and Order, Sex and City, The Odd Couple, to mention a few and the movies, so many movies I could be Serpico on patrol or even King Kong around the Empire State Building.  So for us, we were walking on stage.  It does get a little weird when you recall fictional body count scenes walking around Central Park on an otherwise gorgeous Sunday morning.

I knew Times Square gets crazy crowded for New Year’s Eve, because we saw it on TV.  However, I didn’t know the crazy crowd was year round.  The sidewalks and cross streets are not big enough to hold all the humanity and the crush of it in a few spots would be surreal if I wasn’t stuck with everyone else hoping the walk signal pops on to free us all from the moment.

The United Nations is just a building, the real deal United Nations are all the people from all over the planet in one American city.  The concept of the great melting pot is tricky, it doesn’t always work, but when it does, it happens in this city.  An imperfect place to be sure, but the perfect place to find out who you are.

One can’t help out every person in need there, but a few can be helped and it is great to see the moment I don’t have a dollar to give the very troubled man on the subway, a nice lady across from us does.  No one has to be nice, there are no rules about kindness, so it is always a good thing to witness.  As the argument in an episode of Friends it is tough to have a completely selfless act.  However, feeling good helping others works for me anyway, even if it doesn’t hit the selfless mark.

With kindness there is also the rude or jaded factor, but that happens any place you pack a pile of humans into tight spaces.  I love the diversity.  I love trying to figure out which language or accent I’m hearing.  I love the attitude.  One full day walking around the city, it kind of rubs off on you.  And not the John Travolta bee-bopping Saturday Night Fever style attitude either.  I’m talking Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, “I’m walkin’ here!” attitude.

The chest puffs up, shoulders out, owning your space a little bit, and more of a stride as cars try to turn into the area where people are crossing the street.  It just starts to happen, when in Rome, ya’ know?

We caught a musical, and a fun place to start was The Book of Mormon.  A fantastic play that was flawlessly performed and all the hype I had heard was absolutely correct.  I could see it again tomorrow.

Of course, we just missed out on a chance to see David Letterman.  The Ed Sullivan theatre is a block and half from where we stayed, but Dave retired a few weeks back.  The first day we were there, all the Letterman signs were still up on the building, but the next day they were gone.  So, for a couple of kids raised on television, and with New York as key backdrop, it was a slightly melancholy moment.

And the season was over for Saturday Night Live, so no chance to heard those famous words that title today’s blog. It wasn’t live, but it sure was lively around there. We did walk by “30 Rock” and Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall and a few dozen other buildings we had heard of or watched on two dimensional screens.

We did a couple tourist type things, but couldn’t hit a fraction of the available activities in the three plus days we had to explore.  Instead of trying to cram all the sights in, I was at peace with it, since I know I’m coming back.  I don’t know how or when, but I do know this:  The city that never sleeps is bigger in real life than any kind of back drop for Broadway or Hollywood.

Restaurants, Irish pubs and knock-off handbag carts for as far as the eye can see in Manhattan. A glimpse was had, and it was not enough. Besides, we bought enough hip-hop sample CD’s off the street, we could instantly get into the music production biz.

I want another bite at the Big Apple and hopefully soon.

The Matrix of Reality

There are real scientists studying the question of whether or not our world is real or we’re living in a giant computer simulation as in the film, The Matrix.  And there is more than one study out there to examine the fabric of our reality to discern a potential truth of our existence.

It seems a bit weird, but Plato was asking similar questions in ancient Greece.  I’ve always thought The Matrix was a tribute to Plato’s allegory of the cave in his classic The Republic.  Plato’s allegory doesn’t imagine computers trying to trick us, instead he considers we have insufficient information to form a proper view of reality.  In effect, we trick ourselves until we know better.

Two quick examples include an original perception of the earth being flat by some observers held true until empirical evidence proved the earth was round.  Another scientific misperception for a time was that the earth was the absolute center of the solar system, and the universe revolved around it.

We now have additional information to improve our collective perception of what is real versus what some folks original considered the truth.

Getting back to the original concept, let me help those studying the possibility of us living in a computer simulation.  It’s not The Matrix.

I would love to be able to wake up, climb out of my bubble and go to war against the machines or whomever is trying to control us.  It would be far more fascinating than trying to generate stories and fictions of my own.  Who wouldn’t want to be Neo playing Superman within the confines of a faux reality?  Flying around and being bulletproof is an adventure I’m willing to take.

Instead, our human existence of pain, suffering, disease and depression in between beautiful sunsets, trees, flowers, family and love is all the programming we are going to get.  It would be nice to get a do over and choose a red pill or blue pill and live a greater truth or a return to a more comfortable faux dream state.

To take it a step further, there is another school of thought going around that our world is indeed real, but that we allow governments and corporations to put us to sleep anyway.  A concept, fairly new to me, has been thrown at my face a few times now on the Internet called infantilization.

Basically, as defined the world at large as keeping us adults in a “dependent, infantile stage of development” in order to control us.  We’re collectively being dumbed down, tuned into silly movies, books and trapped in the it is all-going-to-be-okay like in Disneyland existence.

If you spend just a single day on social media, one can see the basis for such an argument.  Our rich, complex English language is being reduced to a series of monosyllabic letters and numbers and we are all going to LOL our life way.

U no 4 real.

I consider ‘infantilization’ is just as much of an oversimplification as the concept of living in a matrix.  It is another dodge or a shadow we cannot yet define in the corner of Plato’s cave.

Yes, education needs to be rebuilt and perhaps reimagined.  Yes, because we have more people on the planet than ever before, we have more poor people than ever before.  And more bad things happening and it seems as if there is little we can do to alter the course of humanity.

However, the ultimate reality appears to be that is we can do make a difference each day with a series of choices.  We can choose to be kind.  We can choose to help someone in need.  We can learn and improve our knowledge base.  And for kicks, we can choose to fully spell words out in a Tweet.

I jest a bit, but yet, we can be the better example if we choose it.  Bad things are still going to happen.  Depression and sadness will always be around the next corner, but we can decide how we react to each and every moment.

The easy answer is none of this is real. Or the other easy answer is that I’m being fooled into thinking everything is just great, so I should buy new shoes or forget to vote in an election.

I know what our world is.  I can spend every dollar I find on the poor, and I can’t fix poverty.  I can give all my food away and I’ll not be able to solve the horrific starvation problems near and far.  But I can donate to a food bank or buy a meal for a homeless veteran.  I can’t fix it all, but I can be a better me and help whenever possible.  It is a start.

The problem is reality isn’t very nice.  It is why it’s easy to consider this reality as a simulation or that I’m an infantilized, mind-controlled muppet doing the bidding of evil empires.  Those sound bad, yet, the real answers are far more frightening.

No wonder Stephen King does so well by telling us scary stories to distract us from the real horror of the daily toll we see in our real world.  And this is why I loved The Matrix, it looks like a lot more fun than here.

Thus, it is okay to read a book for escapism, or a silly television show so that we can unplug – not from The Matrix – but this harsh, cold, giant rock floating in space.  Fun is good.  Unreality is nice.  Taking a break from the truth of it all, as we currently understand it, is perfectly fine.

At this point, I could use a nice glass of wine and a Gilligan’s Island marathon.