A Stranger and His Dog

On an irregular basis, when the fancy strikes or when I’m reminded of it or for no reason at all, I leave my body and observe my surroundings. I step out of the confines of the mind and body and think about how I fit in the grand scheme of things – from the perspective of the universe. And I realize, consistently, how insignificant many of the things in life are. I am a decaying speck of dust on a planet of 7 billion people within an unfathomable size of a universe. Then, just when I’ve dizzied myself trying to fathom this unfathomable, the fact that all of this exists within a minuscule fraction of time in the history of the planet, of the galaxy, and that there are an ineffable more “fractions of time” to come, I begin to realize how truly small and irrelevant my worries, my pursuits, my accomplishments, my failures are.

I look at the stranger walking his dog, and I see how through the eyes of the shepherd the owner is his universe, while he and they mean next to nothing to me except for being subject matters on a post inspired by a set of fleeting emotions. Things bear significance by the emotions and attachments we give them. A single human, though mostly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, holds the power to draw up an entire universe, to be the world to something/someone else, to cause great joy and sorrow in at least one equally insignificant human being’s life, in turn leading to something much greater than the sum of its parts.

What is the lesson here? As decaying specks of dust with the ability to shape if not reality then the perception of reality, we can choose to focus on the good and enjoy life while it lasts.

Why Age Matters

Some time ago, I caught a glimpse into the soul of mankind. Its ugliness transgressed the sense of sight, reeked and echoed ugliness throughout.

It was the second time it happened when I realized it was that that happened. And I started to learn. To adapt. That I’m quite good at, which is why I’ll never go extinct. It all started when… “Hi [real estate agent’s name], I saw one of your listings on XYZ website and I was wondering if it was still available? The property is at [address]. Would you please give me a call back at … when you get a chance. Thanks!”

In retrospect, I knew what my mistakes were, those tell-tale signs of youth. Too nice. Too chirpy. Instantly, they knew I was not a middle-aged, gray-haired individual with the purchasing power worth their time. Maybe the agent was busy, you say? Maybe he didn’t get my voicemail, you say? Nope, someone else made the same call later that day and his call was returned.

Some time later, I saw another promising property, and this time I had on what I thought was, if not my A, definitely my B-plus game. Made the appointment. On day of viewing, got stood up by the agent.

Thenceforth, I vowed bluntness and what’s the opposite of chirpiness? Moroseness? Thenceforth, I vowed bluntness and moroseness.

What is the lesson learned? Is it that age matters? That perception matters? That friendliness is akin to naivety? That old age and cynicism are two peas in a pod?

A Still Moment

A Still Moment

Figuring out who you are – your morals, strengths, identity in the world – is difficult because self-assessments are hardly an objective endeavor. Knowing who you want to be – your destination, purpose, path to happiness – is nearly impossible because people change. Who you think you are today will likely change and who you want to be will likely change as you respond to surrounding conditions, internal developments, and the procedural wear and tear. Permanency is a rare commodity.

What is and what isn’t? You see the world through a filter of judgments and preconceptions, influenced by events preceding and those expected. You look at yourself through a likewise fluid lens – spectacles made from yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s optimism, a sliding scale moving in unison with the moon. Certainty is a luxury afforded by none.

A moment of calm amid the storm of thoughts is all you need. A still moment to realize that sometimes you get so busy figuring out life that you forget to live.

Life

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

Almost

“Almost” is the most heart-wrenching word in the English language. It is a most disgusting, revolting word. It tugs at the heart strings, feeding the demons of the soul. Almost is, too, the most heart-warming word in the English language. It is forgiving. It is the soft embrace of a new beginning. Almost is also apparently the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.

I thank the heavens and earth for that precious, precious word, for today I almost (almost!) kissed a fish.

kiss_a_fish

 

Friends, Family, and Others

Animals_Various_together_Dog_and_Pig_034293_29

The people in your life are in your life for one or more of the following reasons:

  • You admire them as a person. Their words, values, and actions are those which you model your life after or are motivated by. You derive joy from interactions with the person.
  • You are taking advantage of the person, and to continue your parasitic relationship, you must do all that is necessary for them to perceive this as Bullet #1. (It can also very well be a symbiotic relationship whereby you are mutually leeching off each other in peace and harmony.)
  • By no will of your own, the person is transplanted in your life, e.g., he is your colleague, brother’s friend, doorman, dry cleaner. You can exterminate said person from your life, but the act of moving to a new apartment or finding a new dry cleaner in your neighborhood is too great a hassle; you’ve thought about it, conducted a cost-benefit analysis, and arrived at the logical conclusion to let said person stay in your life.
  • You are related to the person, and regardless of the relevance of Bullets #1 or #2, you are obligated to prolong the relationship with said person. This is different from Bullet #3 because even if the CBA results in favor of removing said person from your life, you are still bounded by natural forces to remain in relationship with them.

 

32 Reasons to be Happy

32 is too many, so I’ll just list 3.

3. You not only have a roof over your head but a ceiling before that as well. And that means your computer will remain dry.

2. You are not running or hiding from zombies. Though fear of other things may exist, rational or irrational as they may be, you for the most part don’t live everyday fearing sudden death.

1. You are not a goldfish. You have the capacity to think, to hold long-term memory, the ability to strategize and change yourself or your circumstances.

Goldfish in a Lightbulb

[image from here]

My Superpower

I was in a subway elevator the other day. There were 3 people in there with me. Two business-people behind me, let’s call them Sally and Victor. To my left is a homeless guy, Jacques.

Jacques announces, “Man, I just made 17 bucks in 8 minutes. Why would I get a job when I can make 17 bucks in 8 minutes soliciting from people? Ha. Ha.”

To which, I thought, “Am I hearing this man’s internal thoughts?” Surely, he’s not saying this aloud. Victor and I exchanged glances. “Nope, you heard it,” his gaze seems to say.

I looked at Sally, “Good to know, right?” I lifted my left eyebrow.

“Yup,” grinned Sally. “I know never to give anything to homeless people again,” she added with a saddened yet relieved look.

“Hey, don’t say that. Some of them do need it.” Victor and I telepathically pleaded with her.

“You’re right,” she agreed with a nod that actually wasn’t a nod at all.

At the end of the elevator ride, Sally, Victor and I were as close as blood-brothers and sisters. Then, we parted ways. No emails exchanged, no numbers shared. Only fate will tell if we are to cross paths again.

Weight Loss & Horror Films

There are very few things I like more than listening to the sound of water, gazing at the night sky, and being in good company. In the rare instances when they come together, I envision the metaphorical stars aligning in my literal night sky. The place is Surf City. A bar and restaurant on the coast of Jersey City. With a huge outdoor space of chairs and beach umbrellas and firepits and sand, things felt right. What truly touched my heart was that they had their own parking lot. Gone are the days where hours (maybe not hours) were spent circling the town looking for parking.

The night flew by. Being a weekend night, the parking lot was packed when we arrived, consequently, the car was parked quite a distance from the entrance. That 5 minute walk in the near-empty, questionably-lighted parking lot felt like an eternity and a week. Scenes from horror films flashed in my mind. The wind in the trees was a young girl’s scream for help. The rustle was the footsteps of a stalker moments away from landing his shank through my right lung, silencing my screams. Though it was in the 70s that night, I was sweating. Sweating from fear of being stabbed. Sweating from fear of being decapitated. Sweating from fear of being thrown into the water.

I learned something that night: sweating from fear is an effective way of losing weight.

psycho3
[image from here)

Table Manners

Sitting at a cafe. Engrossed in an article about startups while serenaded by Backstreet Boys’ All I Have to Give. Ah, life. I sip the overly-foamy, intensely-bland cappuccino, read and listened and pondered. Out of the blue, a middle-aged woman approaches me. A bit startled and somewhat annoyed, “Yes?” I inquire, after she waves her arms in my face.

“Are you going to be using this seat for long?” asks the middle-aged, crazy-eyed woman as she checks out my table like a piece of meat. I look around. 2…4…7. Seven seats within a reasonable radius, empty and very much sit-able. “Why are you doing this, woman?” I ask with my eyes.

With my mouth, I respond, “Yes, I’ll be here for a while.”

She does not take it well. She parks herself in an adjacent seat. I can smell her pungent furiosity. I can feel her laser-sharp gaze. I can’t forgo this table, I can’t let that middle-aged, crazy-eyed, oddly uniquely-dressed woman take it. If war is what she wants, I’ll go all in. I won’t relent, I won’t yield. I am ready to fight for my right no matter how long it takes! Hm, I do actually have to leave soon.

Lesson of the day: in life you have to choose what battles are worth your time, otherwise you may find yourself waging psychological warfare against middle-aged, crazy-eyed, uniquely-dressed, pungently furious women instead of having dinner with your friends.

 

Table Manners