Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rebel without a clue, part one

Some observers might observe that I am not a very good observer. Because most of the things that are happening to me, are happening to just me and only me. Perhaps because most of it is even happening inside my own head! So I might want to observe very carefully so I can pick apart what's in here and what's out there.

There's always the one observer who proclaims that everything you know is wrong. You're taught by the wrong people. Craving the wrong needs. Watching the wrong television. Eating the wrong food. Worshiping the wrong god. Handed the flashlight of inquiry but kept in the dark, as to not overstep any boundaries in order to keep your attention on what you need to attend.

One such is Albert, a friend of my nephew. Albert is something else and proud of it. He tries to cast a shadow of doubt on every aspect of life. Except for the ones he really likes. Speaking mostly in hyperbole he commits one of the worst sins: exaggeration. Contrast is turned to 150%. So when trying to discuss a black and white world with the man, you're either friend or foe. Apt words for someone ready to take up arms about what he perceives is true. He's strengthened in his convictions because he has quite a lot of allies who share his point of view. A body of men who've all agreed to be nonconformists.

He's a higher education drop-out. When asked about it, he'll state that the school system didn't really suit him anyway. To his credit though, he has tried a few different courses, from psychology to art. The first because of Albert's immense people-skills and the last because his boundless creative energies. Knowing Albert a bit, I'm sorry to say he might be lacking in both departments. He can help people and create art in the same capacity that everybody knows how to sing, or how everyone knows how to be a politician, or a soccer trainer. From the looks of it these are skills that don't require much if only you're born with the talent. But that can't be imagined. Plus there's training involved. His ambitions were well founded too, change the world for the better. Too bad then that his ambitions were quenched when he saw the volume of paper being handed to him on the very first academic day. The fact that changing the world takes a lot of work cooled him on that and he gave up on ambition all together. There had to be an easier way. Like flipping the switch that would make it all right. So he went in search for the switch. The one thing that will instantly reverse the wrongs into rights. A search for a holy grail that will end in the realization that there probably isn't one. I don't know what is the cause of this binary thinking. Perhaps it hails all the way back to the cave where problems were addressed as "food or no food", "crap or no crap", "sleep or no sleep", "woman or no woman" where the solution was to just take it, or in some cases drag it back to the cave by the hair. It sure took a lot of time before "to be or not to be" entered someone's mind and even depressingly longer before "god or no god". A sure sign that the binary brain needs a lot of education.

I was surprised to hear things went like this because any sane person knows it takes a lot of work to do anything in this world. And I'm not just talking about mending world hunger, even feeding yourself can be a daunting task sometimes. You might know what I'm talking about.
For example, whenever I want to make myself a sandwich I'm first faced with the fact that all plates, cutlery and cups have been standing in the sink for a couple of days, marinating in the remains of tea and coffee. The knives have a hardened crust of jam or chocolate spread and the plates have doubled in size with the crusted remains of past meals. I have to turn the hot water tap and wait for it to get warm. A time and energy investment that's hard to justify in the first place so since I have to wash up a few pieces I might as well wash all of them. After this form of ritual cleansing comes time to get a few loaves of bread. The bread is nowhere to be found. Except for the one inside the freezer, which is frozen solid to the inner left side. It's there just in case we ran out of bread and all bakers decided to go on strike because inflation had inflated the costs of production. The running out of bread happened the night before and the bread was bought only hours before that. But no matter, it has to go into the microwave to be defrosted. Upon opening said apparatus I realize it still contains some leftovers on yet another dirty plate. The food has long gone stale so it goes into the bin, which is located in the hall of the building. During the commute to the hall, the bread is melting to a puddle of dough and frost water because instead of inputting one minute of "melt some of the ice" I have put in "melt all solid matter". A common mistake because the defrosting function is only one notch removed from the "nuclear fusion" function. At this stage hunger is starting to take over from logic so I take the roughly loaf shaped item out of the radiation and reach for the butter - a cup of scrape-marks lined with crumbs and butter, achieving the worlds worst cocktail impression. Some fresh butter is obtained on the way back from the bin in the hallway where the crumb-cocktail finds it's final resting place next to the leftovers. When the phone doesn't start to ring when the sandwich is two centimeters away from your mouth, it's a piece of cake. But in the end, all I wished for was a sandwich. Wishful thinking simplifies things. Life never is.

Albert once read a book about wishful thinking. It was written by an American woman who has a degree from the prestigious university of But what's more, she once talked to the Dalai Lama and was infinitely blessed with a Buddhist physique and a revelation which lead to the book. Albert must have wished for a lot of money because he has been declining a lot of jobs these last few months.
His professional activities consist entirely of refusing work from the temping office. Mainly because the jobs are too mean. He was told by his parents and teachers as a child that he was special, unique, a gift of god. Through childhood and puberty he read stories about heroes and kings. Affirming this belief and so the need for a special destiny remains. No, he wants something important and meaningful. Apparently, he knows too much to be filling up cardboard boxes.
My critics are happy to point out that I never found myself predisposed to fill boxes as a profession. It's true. But I never pretended to know too much to do so in the first place. I only knew I wanted to do something else. So I set out to know too much. How do you know what to learn? By specializing in what you already know. How do you know what you already know? Recount your talents, and think about how they've expanded over time.

Albert knows too much because he's got the Internet. But that's a chapter I'll get to.

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