Water your thoughts? My opinions on water in various contexts.

SECTION 0. MY FIRST DISPUTE WITH THE TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

In 2006, the TSA banned liquids. Being a clever, pedantic, and thirsty child, I arrived to the airport with a bottle of ice.

“You can’t bring that through security,” the agent explained.

I asked why.

She said, “It’s a liquid.” With a shit-eating grin, I replied, “But it’s ice.”

“I know,” she answered. “Ice is a liquid.”

SECTION 1: THE MOUTH

  • Saliva is under-appreciated.
  • Drool is disgusting.
  • Spit should be avoided at all costs.
  • The saliva of a lover requires further research, currently accepting applications.

SECTION 2: COMMON APPLICATIONS OF WATER

  • The water that makes up 80% of my body: Great.
  • 80% of your body: Passable.
  • 80% of Donald Trump’s body: No comment.

 

  • Water-based lube: good.
  • Tears: Bad, unless they’re being used as water-based lube.

 

  • Water is great for fish, camels, and rainforests, necessary for farmers, and hit-and-miss with New Orleans.

 

  • Showers are good, baths are great, and hot tubs are excellent.
    • The four differences between a bath and a hot tub are friends, chlorine, jets, and clothing. Realization: Friends and jets must be fabulous, because chlorine is awful and clothing is the worst.

SECTION 3: LOCATIONS WHERE ONE MIGHT FIND WATER

  • Cup: good.
  • Bottle: fine.
  • Pool: excellent.
  • Syringe: concerning.
  • Computer: oh no.
  • Bed: your fault.
  • My van: bad rust.
  • The statue of liberty: somehow delightful rust.

SECTION 4: LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS

  • SUBSECTION 1: FICTIONAL ETYMOLOGY
    • “Water” derives from the Latin “Wah-tah-ré,” meaning gift of the gods.
  • SUBSECTION 2: SYLLABLES
    • Wat: the Thai word for temple
    • Er: the sound often heard during the search for a hard-to-find word.
  • SUBSECTION 3: CURIOUS INSIGHT
    • Food, air, sun, earth, touch, love, mom, dad. Why is the word “water” two syllables when all other life necessities can be described in one?
  • SUBSECTION 4: WORDPLAY
    • Passable:
      • Water you doing? Water you talking about? Water you looking at?
    • Desirable:
      • Water you want to drink?
    • Too far:
      • Water you want her, the waiter, to wither while we a-waiter to order?

SECTION 5: TRAITS

  • Warm water: good for bathing.
  • Cold water: good for drinking and borscht. Otherwise to be avoided.
  • Hot water: Excellent for cooking.
    • Also means “trouble,” as in the phrase, “While exchanging saliva, Carol and I overheard the deafening footfalls of Principal Jerickson’s rotund personage and knew we were in hot water.”

SECTION 6: ENDING

  • Some say the world will end in fire, others in ice. I say the world already ended in a flood… or at least that’s what the Salt Lake City billboards taught me.

 

Special thanks to Brine Waves, a Salt Lake City writing group that invited me to their gathering this week, themed “water.”

Did you like this piece? Hate it? Throw a comment below so I can know what to write in the future. 

The Golden Calf and You

There’s a Jewish summer camp for adults. That sounds so fun. I get a scholarship because I volunteer with a Jewish youth group. The scholarship required an application. One question asked about my favorite Jewish teaching. This is what I wrote:

As a child in Hebrew school, I was the troublemaker. The kid who wouldn’t sit still, whose desk was separated from others by a distance just longer than his arms. Only on one day did I stop making trouble:

I had been scooting around the classroom on my belly when my teacher scratched the side of his nose, our signal for “You’re goofing off, Julian. Stop it.” I ignored it. He signaled for a second time. I ignored it again, because “What’s he gonna do?” Then, he began the story of The Golden Calf. I stopped scooting. I knew this one was going to matter the moment he began. See, The Golden Calf is about worship. It’s about how easy it is to make things sacred. It goes something like this:

“Once upon a time God gave Laws. The first one was “I’m God and that’s it.” Then, Moses, God’s go-between leaves his people alone for TEN MINUTES and they make this statue of a cow, made out of gold. And they were dancing and praying, saying it was their God. Moses got pissed and smashed it.”

Now, why does this matter? What can you learn?

  • You’re going to worship. A man locked in prison worships the sunrise he sees through the bars. Deprived of all your senses, you’ll still worship. Consciously choose what you worship, because you’ll act like it’s all that matters.
  • Physical objects are easily broken, so don’t make them into Gods. This one sounds obvious, but actually drove human history for a while. Did you know one reason Jews were successful was that they didn’t have physical Gods? If your God was a lump of wood or a rock or a statue, invaders could storm in, steal it, and subjugate your people easily… because they literally have your God! But the Jewish God wasn’t represented in idols. Also probably a good analogy for life: if you worship material goods (or money, say), you’ll be crushed whenever they’re broken. Worship ideals, however, like Honesty, Truth, Love, or Honor, and you’ll be much more resolute.
  • It’s easy to build Gods, even accidentally. A friend gifted me an obsidian stone a few months ago. I jokingly began referring to it as “Birdbrain, creator of the universe.” After a while, I noticed I started treating the rock with more respect. I began keeping it safe. Watch out for what you worship, because it’s easy to worship the wrong things. In this case, a stone. Stones are easy to stop worshipping. Hedonism? Codependence? Those are tough worships to drop.

Life advice:

Life advice:

  • You can get worried. Just don’t worry that you’re worried.
  • When one is sufficiently “out there”, one needs to explain what one is doing.
  • What if you just permanently paid attention to your values?
  • If money is speech, then businessmen are the most aligned with the way to acquire power.
  • Perhaps suffering builds discipline and discipline is a force-multiplier.
  • Money is a force-multiplier.
  • “Charity, clarity, levity, and brevity.” – The principles of JFK’s speechwriter.
  • One begins to keep things clean when one has sufficiently appreciated the value of habit.
  • Chicken broth always makes you feel better.

Suffering as a self-improvement strategy?

Making the self suffer is a cornerstone of many successful philosophies:

I was prompted to consider this strategy by Conan O’Brien on his podcast with Stephen Colbert. Both Catholics, they described intentionally putting themselves through strife. “I did hairshirt behavior,” Colbert says (34:37).

Conan (36:27): “This is pain… where any normal person would tell you, any therapist would say, ‘This suffering is unnecessary. You achieved nothing with this suffering.”… I put myself through a lot of torture. And here’s the crazy thing: what happens when you do that and then magical things start to happen for you? You can’t see me because it’s a podcast, but Stephen just pointed his finger at me as if to say, ‘You nailed it.’”

Stephen, a few lines later: “It works.”

Conan: “What I hate, I hate… I hate thait it fucking works.”

Stephen: “And the magical thinking magically thinks that magical thinking worked.”

Conan: “It’s the biggest fight I’ve had over the last five years with therapists and friends.” … “Therapists have said, ‘You don’t need the suffering.’ and I 80% believe them and I’m 20% like, ‘what the fuck do you know?'”

Is making yourself suffer a strategy for improving? Does it work? Comments greatly appreciated.

If I die Monday, may my tombstone read,“Died doing what he loves.”

On Monday I go in for Jaw Surgery. If I die, I want my tombstone to read, “Died doing what he loves.[1]

I’ve never seen a footnote on a tombstone. Nor ellipses. I’m updating the medium. The joke makes it more palatable.

I joke because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because it’s frightening. I’ve never been closer to death than I will be on Monday.

I’ve always mused on death. I wrote my first auto-obituary at 13. The same way some people use the largesse of space to decrease their anxiety; I use death to accept depression. When I wake up late enough that I feel grumpy, the phrase “death and taxes” echoes in my mind. It reminds me of two crucial elements – timeliness and humor. One makes today matter and the other makes life worth living.

I’m spending tomorrow and Sunday advising a local high school youth group, and Saturday with my dad. If I die, let it be known I went out doing what I loved.

 

[1] Self improvement.

Okay, cocaine.

It’s Good to be Disliked, A Manifesto.

I probably don’t like you. You’re welcome.* (*: Not sarcastic.)

My fourth-grade classroom restricted its students to bringing identical Valentine’s Day cards for everyone or no cards at all. I found this a problem, as most of my classmates were bland blobs, while a vocal minority were… [people I didn’t like].

Only this year—at age 25—did I finally realize I can choose my friends. Four of my friendships ended this year, and I’m glad they did.

An ex ended our friendship—my first official ending—in July, followed by an old poker buddy in August. I ended one in October—my first initiation—and a different ex ended our friendship on Monday. Every one of these has been a wonderful change, with benefits extending far beyond free time.

It’s common knowledge—and I find it experientially true—that you “can’t please all the people all the time.” Apply that to relationships: Some people won’t like you. Turn that around: You won’t like some people. 

Ending a friendship is therefore an act of integrity. It forwards your values. It makes manifest your soul.

You prioritize your family. You care about your friends. Most people choose a partner to prefer over all others. Having preferences is Good. It’s the foundation of consciousness. 

All my friends have former, now-dead friendships. Most drift apart instead of going out with a bang, but both seem to happen surprisingly often. People grow and change. Friendships die. We can still love what was.

You can hate some people and everything they stand for. You can love with abandon those you prefer. You can express your soul. If someone doesn’t like you, good for them.

What if my dating profile were just a list of my values?

What if my dating profile were just a list of my values? After all, that’s what I’m searching for.

My values, 9 Feb 2019

(In the order they came to me)

  1. Clarity
  2. Positive impact
  3. Humor
  4. The human species
  5. Art
  6. Animals
  7. Honesty of impact, not necessarily of speech
  8. Freedom
  9. Writing
  10. Exploration
  11. Freedom
  12. Games
  13. Family
  14. Word choice
  15. Sex
  16. Touch
  17. Personal optimization
  18. [Censored for privacy]
  19. Privacy
  20. Sleep
  21. Personal improvement
  22. The youth group I advise
  23. [Censored for privacy]
  24. My long-form creative projects (especially my novel. Soon to be my TV show as well)
Previous values that no longer carry such great strength:
  1. Habits
  2. Winning
  3. Poker
  4. Board games (comes back out when I’m with old friends/family)
  5. [Censored for privacy]

On Art, pART 2

The more that art affects lives, the better it is. (Assuming it affects lives in a positive way).

This can be broken down into two dimensions:

  1. How many people it affects.
  2. How much it affects them.

You could define “expected impact” as (Total number of people) x (Average amount of impact).

A few methods for creating art with a high expected impact:

  • Create a valuable message
.
  • Make the message easily digestible (more memetic).
  • Create a message that lasts a long time
.
  • Widen the audience it appeals to (target more demographics).
  • Focus your art on the influencers (powerful/social people, good promoters). 
(Creating art that impacts other artists would fall into this category)
  • Make your art have less of a negative impact (be harmful to fewer people/less sizably harmful to those it harms).

 

Other musings:

  1. People often make the art they would want because:
    • It’s relatively easy to do it well (easier than doing market research on an audience)
    • Their own taste is an approximate proxy for “people who are like them”.
  2. If someone had every trait in the world, they’d make the most popular art because it’d be the most relatable (which increases digestibility of messages)
  3. Good art should add value to people’s lives. Value is important to note as distinct from perceived value (which is what money measures).
    1. Children produce great value for a few people. Cat videos produce little value for many people.
  4. Historically, creating evergreen content has been a stronger strategy than creating one-time impact, as that includes future generations in potential audience.
  5. Assuming its impact is good, the art you choose to do should be the one with the greatest expected impact. That is often similar to what you want to do most*, but not always.**
  6. I’m starting my career doing what I want to do most because I currently have the strongest ego (as you get older, your drive decreases) and may end up more on the intellectually-driven side later. (Editor’s note: a conversation earlier today redefined the word “ego” for me. I have more musing to do on this topic.
  7. Another approach is changing what you’re passionate about.
  8. Famous philosopher/author Nick Bostrom wrote a book that convinced many, many people to worry about AI as an existential risk. This prompted many people to start researching friendly AI, which may save the species and therefore have a HUGE impact on the world. (the hugest from here on out, perchance, because it’s necessary for all other future positive impacts.)
    1. This would suggest that a solid course of action for me—if there are any existential threats to humans—is to use art to fight them. (If it’s a thing that I could impact significantly. It’s not the only choice—my talents may be better used elsewhere—but it’s certainly a reasonable choice.)

*: You’ll want to do the thing that matters the most to you, and it mattering a lot to you is a good prediction that it’ll also matter to others. It mattering to others is a good predictor of how much it affects them.

**: That math has two spots of “good predictor”, so it’ll be exponentially removed from truth.

We used to make plans.

As a kid, I’d schedule a play date weeks in advance. These days, even when after confirming a reptile festival the day before, I still assume a 50-50 chance my friend bails. When he does, 8am day-of, I’m annoyed. I’m confused. How much is him and how much is changing culture?

I’m not here to tell you, “Something is lost.” It is, but that’s not the point. Instead, it’s simply that some things have changed:

  • We’ve lost certainty and confidence.
  • We’ve gained flexibility and opportunism.
  • We’ve lost reliability and comfort.
  • We’ve gained the more frequent upgrades.
  • We’ve lost security in friendships.
  • We’ve gained the freedom to follow our whims.

If people still lock down plans, I don’t know them. My friends might be outliers, or perhaps the Bay Area’s incessant climbing keeps everyone on the lookout for upgrades. Or maybe this experience is a worldwide phenomenon. Faster communication means more rapidly changing circumstances.

No matter the reason, I must adjust. It’s a tough lesson to learn. Negative punishment can easily become mis-associated. In this case, to self-blame:

  • “What did I do that made him cancel?”

or, worse,

  • “What’s wrong with me that made him cancel?”

I try not to see it in those ways. I try to see it as the new world order. I think that’s accurate, but I’m not sure. Are you? 

Quotent Quotables, Volume 2

I’ve curated a list of recent quotes from my life, along with a challenge: Who said each quote? Me or Not-Me? (Answers at the end; track your responses to see how well you fare!)

  1. “You know that Carly Simon song? It’s about me.”
  2. “Sometimes I feel like I’m always rushing. Then I get some free time and it’s just the worst.”
  3. “When you eliminate the extraneous, all that’s left is you. When you eliminate the you, all that’s left is the Tao.”
  4. “Pickling is so great. They take cucumbers and make them edible!”
  5. “Nexterday. I mean tomorrow.”
  6. “I like spending time with people with low self-esteem—whenever we arrive at a problem, they’re too busy blaming themselves to blame me.”
  7. “I’m a coffee drinker, so cups of tea aren’t my cup of tea.”
  8. “You’re nervous. That’s okay. Just don’t be nervous about being nervous.”
  9. “My computer just told me it has an upgrade it wants to run. Let me guess: it’s going to make the computer run more slowly and not affect how I use it at all.”
  10. “The more I learn about how things work, the more I learn they’re stupid and poorly done.”
  11. “Avocado would be a great Halloween costume for a pregnant woman.”
  12. “With T-Mobile, you get free tacos on Tuesdays, but with Verizon you can make phone calls.”

To protect you from accidentally seeing the answers, please enjoy this anecdote: (Real! Real true! Real true funny!)

Context: A highschool couple eats dinner at Chick-Fil-A. The Girl has painted her face with such vigor that it lacks pores. The guy sports spiky hair, diamond hoop earrings, and flip-flops.

Girl: I don’t find comedy funny.

Guy: You don’t find comedy funny?

Girl: I find it cringe-y. It’s not natural funny. It’s like forced funny. I don’t like comedy movies because they’re not funny. I feel like the only comedy that I actually find funny is, like, White Chicks. Oh my god! We should watch White Chicks together!

 

(Scroll down for the answers)

 

(Keep scrolling)

 

(Who’s a good scroller? You are! Yes, you are!)

 

Those answers you’ve been waiting for:

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 12 are by Yours Truly

Your Score:

0: You know me incredibly well, but prefer self-sabotage.

1-3: Next time, try flipping a coin.

4-6: You did flip a coin.

7-9: Let’s be friends.

10-11: So close and yet so far. Was it the pickling? I bet it was the pickling.

12: Self… is that you? I mean me? Are you… me?