Charlie's Blog: SOC 23


SOC 23

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.

A co-worker of mine was suspended for using his smartphone while driving a company vehicle. Both hands and both eyes were on the device while the vehicle was moving. All of this was captured on camera. Of course, he shouldn't feel so bad. I see the same behavior by countless others during my commute. Smartphones truly make you dumb. They can also make you truly dead.

I share this tale as I contemplate another lost weekend to Twitter. I am so disgusted with myself that I have deleted my Twitter and GAB accounts for the umpteenth time. I also wanted to nuke my entire online presence, but I have relented. I am now in a more reflective and calmer mood about the whole thing as I consider my online presence.

Blogs are old news. They were a thing until about 2005 when social media took over. Blogs are for people who can write and actually read. Social media is for everyone else. I must also come to grips with the fact that I will remain an infinitesimal speck in the cyberuniverse. As such, I have simplified a bit here at the C-blog and now accept my permanent status in the backwaters of the internet. I am condemned to be a writer of things unread.

I blame writing for a lot of wasted time, but writing is taking the blame for social media's crimes. I spend more time on Twitter than on this blog. When I deleted my Twitter account, I write more and better. When I resurrect my acccount, the writing slides over the edge of the cliff. At least Ernest Hemingway was drunk when he was away from the typewriter.

I see two paths before me. One path is the loud life. This was my life before becoming Catholic. Gene Simmons from KISS is the epitome of the loud life. He is iconic, opinionated, and relentlessly self-promoting. Once upon a time, he was a hero of mine. Now, I find him ridiculous. By extension, I look at my old self as being also equally ridiculous.

The quiet path is best exemplified by Saint Joseph. Joseph was blue collar and the strong silent type. He didn't say much. He wrote nothing that exists today. He just worked hard and looked out for his family. Saint Joseph was not a self-promoter.

The loud path is the way of the rock star. The quiet path is the way of the saint. No one wants the quiet path. Everyone wants to be a rock star. Thanks to social media, everyone can be a rock star in their way. And if they can't be a rock star, they will settle for being rich. It is a great deal of vanity and self-seeking.

I am already on the quiet path. I don't want to be a rock star anymore. The loud path leads to self-destruction and Hell. This begs a certain question. Can you be a quiet blogger? I think it is possible in the same way that a wannabe rock musician can end up being a high school music teacher and a church pianist.

What we are dealing with here is pride and humility. It may help to consider the teachings of Saint Josemaria on the issue of materialism. He recalled a beggar who had a nice spoon which he practically worshiped as an idol. He contrasted this with a rich woman who was indifferent to her wealth and was known for charity and generosity. What matters most is the interior disposition concerning such things.

Is it possible to be a humble rock star? I think so. Conversely, one can also be a proud plumber. Ego can emerge anywhere. Humility is to be practiced in your station in life wherever you may find yourself. Granted, it is easier to be humble when you are poor and unknown. But it is more praiseworthy to be humble when you are rich and famous. And it is laughable to be proud when you are poor and unknown, and this is seen daily on Facebook. Facebook is the vanity parade of the nobodies.

I am a nobody. I think I have always wanted to be a somebody, but I have been blessed by God by ending up as a nobody. Of course, no one counts a blessing when it looks like a curse, but I am old enough to know better now.

The siren song thing has been on my brain lately. For those who are unfamiliar, Homer tells the story in the Odyssey of the sirens who would sing a lovely tune that men found irresistible. Drawn to the song, they would sail into the rocks and certain doom. To prevent these from happening, the men aboard Odysseus's ship stopped up their ears in order to not hear the song. Then, Odysseus was tied to the mast, so that he could hear the song but be powerless to move towards the temptation.

I see siren songs in many places in present society. The most obvious one is the student loan bubble where young people are drawn in by the promises offered by colleges of having good jobs when they graduate from their institutions. That is the siren song. The rocks are when they graduate into lousy jobs and debt slavery. Yet, these hapless fools keep piling into these schools and into those rocks. Why do they do it?

Another example of the siren song is Hollywood where kids, young men, and young women go to become rich and famous in movies and television. The reality is they become prey for sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein that use their ambitions to exploit them for sex. All of these aspiring stars could just get back on the bus and head back to Nebraska. Yet, they stay to be raped and sodomized. Why do they do it?

Young people decide they want to become professional athletes, and it all seems great until they run into the wall where the sport demands that they use performance enhancing drugs or get out of the sport because they can no longer compete. They could always leave the sport, but they choose to destroy their bodies and risk their reputations later in scandal like Lance Armstrong. Why do they do it?

The reason why they do it is obvious. The alternative is to be a nobody. You go home and wait tables at Waffle House or try and get a job at the factory. Or you learn a trade like welding or HVAC. Or you become a homemaker. Regardless of what they do, they know that the life ahead back home is to be relatively poor and unknown. So, they go for the awesome life they dream about in their heads. A handful make it because you need a few successes to bait the trap for the suckers. But most of those lured into the trap will be worse off than if they had chosen to be ordinary people.

I hate dreams because I see them for what they are. They are the songs of the sirens that sound so sweet but leave you in such misery. I'm old enough now to have built up enough wax in my ears to shut out the siren songs. The antidote to the siren song is to embrace being an ordinary person.

I have lost count of the numbers of times I have been offered promotions at various workplaces. Climbing the corporate ladder is a siren song. I took one of those promotions one time which lead to two years of regret. I made some money which I saved to fund my exit out of that hell. I didn't know what I would do, but I knew I didn't want to be in management anymore. Now, I realize the way to go is to be a blue collar guy and learn some skills and have a work ethic. Your ultimate ambition is to become self-employed or run your own small business. It is a modest path and no one's dream. But it beats the hell of Corporate America and the Machievellian machinations and shadiness of middle and upper management. Granted, a few make it to the top rungs of the ladder where they make the big bucks. But that ladder tapers meaning that the majority must fall to their peril at some rung or another. And if you camp out on a lower rung, you will be undercut by those below you with greater ambitions.

I've remained blue collar, and I have lost count of the number of managers I have seen fired out of their jobs. Some of them deserved it. Others did not. It didn't matter. We have a saying at work. If you want to get fired, get promoted first. The surest way to end your career in termination is to be ambitious. It is sad, but it is what it is. As for me, I never take the bait. I learned the lesson long ago the hard way, and I see it repeated every few months as others crash into the rocks.

I have this funny saying. A winner is a cheater that never got caught. I came up with it after Lance Armstrong got caught. Now, I do variations of it. A rich man is a thief that never got caught. A politician is a crook that never got busted. A famous actress is a whore who banged the right dude. We can go on and on. It sounds like sour grapes, but I don't mean it to sound that way. it is just the cynicism that comes from seeing various sectors turned into networks of corruption. Aside from a few honest exceptions, the vast majority of rich, famous, and successful people had to do disgusting, unethical, immoral, and even criminal things to get where they are. It is a depressing fact of life for people with dreams, but a reassuring truth to those of us who had their dreams shattered and replaced with Nebraska.

I love Nebraska. I've never been to the actual state of Nebraska, but I use the name of the state to represent the ordinary life of regular Americans who work for a living. I always imagine Nebraska is the state that all the Brad Pitt lookalikes in Hollywood are trying to escape. Nebraska is also incredibly boring in comparison to California or the Big Apple.

I actually live in South Carolina which is Nebraska in a different spot on the map. Pick any part of Flyover Country, and you are in Nebraska. I lived in Florida for awhile which is a lot more happening than either South Carolina or Nebraska. I like to visit there, but I made peace with South Carolina some years ago. Florida left a scar on me. That scar was the indelible knowledge that it doesn't make much difference where you live.

I don't think moving makes a lot of difference in your life. Others will disagree, but those people are wrong. Every place you go has its pluses and its negatives. Sometimes, you have to go places to place specific things. For instance, you aren't going to be much of a surfer in Ohio. You have to go to Cali or Hawaii for that. But for most everything else, you can do it right where you are at. My hero on this is Jack White who did his thing in Detroit, Michigan. No one thinks of Detroit as a musical mecca like Nashville or Los Angeles because it isn't. It didn't matter. Musically, Detroit is an out of the way place. I like out of the way places.

I had a thing for Asheville, NC because it is a pretty place, but I have gotten over it. The town is full of hippies attracted to the same things I'm attracted to. The sad reality is that Asheville is a pretty place with no decent jobs. Asheville is a geographic siren song. If you like cleaning hotel rooms and living in poverty out of a VW van, you will like Asheville,

The serenity of the mountains will draw you to Asheville. The stench of the hippies will make you leave. Asheville isn't the only town like this. Boulder, CO, Eugene, OR, and Burlington, VT, are virtually identical in attracting pothead stoner hippies where hygiene and employment are optional things. The thing that turns a town into a hippie magnet is to have free natural attractions like mountains and streams that hippies love to ruin with their presence. This means you are probably better off living in a boring place which is usually where you are at already.

This is why I don't really care about places. The upside of living where I am at now is that I know where everything is at, and I don't have to change my driver's license. I believe that the USA is 90% boring while the rest of the world is 90% cesspool. As for the awesome places to live, virtually everyone there had the same idea as you which automatically makes it a bad choice.

Robert A. Heinlein wrote a science fiction novel about time travel a long time ago called The Door Into Summer. I read it when I was a teenager, and I can't even remember the story. But I always remembered the title because it came from a cat who hated winter. The cat would go to a door and find snow outside. So, he would go to some other door in the house expecting a summer day on the other side. The stupid cat couldn't figure out that it was winter behind every door. Somehow, one of those doors was going to be the door into summer.

This is what I think when people move to some other place in the country expecting it to be radically different from the place they left. The reality is that it isn't different at all. Granted, North Dakota freezes solid in the winter while Arizona is dry as hell itself. But for the most part, both places are the same with people working their jobs and doing their thing. People move mostly because they desire the exotic, but they end up with the sameness that is virtually everywhere.

This brings me back to Nebraska. I don't mean the state so much as the state of being. I think people should learn to like Nebraska and make the best of it. Once you love Nebraska, you don't need Hawaii or Hollywood. I've learned to love where I'm at with all of its pluses and minuses. It all works out to being the same to me.