Am I reasonable?

“If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.”

Marcus Aurelius

Were I to ask you right now, are you reasonable? What would you say?

In a room full of people, I think it’s fair to say most would consider themselves part of the reasonable crowd.

How reasonable?

Reasonable enough to call balls and strikes as to whether your behavior is “deserving of contempt,” as Marcus Aurelius seemed to believe he could do?

Most commentary on behavior assumes sober objectivity on the part of the observer.

For example, Ryan Holiday’s “The Daily Stoic,” gives us an article about how to deal with “rude and selfish people.” All the tips assume the other person is the rude and selfish one.

But what if a rude and selfish person was the one reading Ryan’s article?

Does the truly reasonable person self identify as reasonable?

As I write this, I am experiencing caffeine induced anxiety, which happens whenever I drink too much tea or coffee. Only a day ago, I was calmer than I’ve been in a long time.

I don’t maintain homeostasis on any front, instead, I cycle and flow.

The same can be said for my identity as one of the reasonable ones. Presented with two “micro crises” this afternoon, I behaved both reasonably, in a way I am proud of, as well as less than reasonably, in a way that I am not totally comfortable with.

The situation I am proud of will have someone saying nice things about me.

The situation where I behaved unreasonably has a guy in Silver Lake swearing to anyone who will listen that I am a villain.

Who is right?

Both of them.

Of this much I am sure: the most reasonable people know just how unreasonable they truly are.

As you leave Detroit

As you leave Detroit,

Telegraph Road,

with it’s decaying motels, get drunk shack bars, and appliance stores,

turns into the gentler Highway 24.

With the scars behind you,

far away from the sprawl,

the farm towns appear.

Tidy houses overseeing,

tidy fields,

a mature tree,

watching,

whispering wisdom.

The paint is worn,

there are no signs of recent investment,

But the roads still host travelers.

These farms were the backdrop,

to many of my own drives,

optimistic drives,

on my way to or from college,

with a happy, pretty, and so young woman waiting to hug me after I parked.

Highway 24 shines in the summer,

the Ohio state crews,

mowing the median and patching the damage their salt brought the winter before.

The passageway is dry, hot and simple,

hopeful arrivals dot the exits.

Like many,

I’ve left for the places that TV endorses,

but those Ohio and Indiana and Michigan roads used to offer me so much.

Lovers and family and true vacations.

Better things than the roads I now drive,

in my now “better” places.

As I sit here today,

it seems my task,

is to once again view those familiar paths,

as good enough.

For a year

If I can embrace everything for a day,

I can embrace everything for a week,

and if I could embrace everything,

that has come into my life,

for a year,

maybe then,

I would have finally,

turned the page,

on the worrying,

the fidgeting,

and the fear,

that all float like clouds,

blocking,

my view,

of this breathtaking fortune.

Toy chickens

I have a new puppy named Ned,

and he’s teaching me lots.

Ned’s a mystic.

All dogs are.

But sometimes Ned gets afraid.

He doesn’t like his crate or rolling garbage bins.

Silly Ned.

There’s nothing to fear.

Ned’s just a dog.

He doesn’t know.

Just now, I made Ned’s toy chicken squeak.

He bounded over to investigate.

He loves his chicken,

especially when it squeaks.

He couldn’t see it was me was pulling the strings.

Just my foot pressing on the little horn sewn inside.

Doesn’t matter to Ned,

he loves that toy chicken all the same.

Got me thinking.

What are my toy chickens?

What are your toy chickens?

What are Neil deGrasse Tyson’s toy chickens?

And who honks those horns?

Ned swears that toy chicken squeaks.

He goes for it every time.

They aren’t men

For years,

Like a recurring dream,

I’d find myself drunk in a New York City bar,

wishing I’d stayed home,

to build something,

no one would pay for,

in silence.

Even today,

I think of giving it all up,

to drift free in a low rent wilderness,

Where the best women won’t have sex.

These pangs visit at night,

But I still wake up and grind,

for a small piece,

of all the disassembled empires,

chaos has handed down,

since many lines before my Grandfather.

I am running after,

a dying lady,

in a dirty dress.

Friends and enemies,

on either side of me,

nourished by applause.

What does it mean to be a man?

Men arrive when the fleeting longings of their nights,

grow big enough,

to fill their days.

 

A house like this

Tonight I prepare for bed in a southern mansion house,

with a grand staircase, bedroom fireplaces, and absentee Manhattan owners.

I’ve always wanted a house like this.

To live in a house like this,

to die in a house like this.

But what is a house like this?

If not a stage on which to play your little part,

with those closest to you,

who love, support, and shelter you.

To own a house like this is a blessing.

But one that pales in comparison,

to a happy family.

Because in truth,

a happy family is,

a house like this.

The odd flights

I tend to take the odd flights,

the ones with empty seats.

12:55 on a Wednesday,

to some place,

far away,

I’ve imagined as happy for me.

A place I could move,

stay awhile,

then fly away,

somewhere happier.

It’s the corporate flights I avoid,

7:15 on a Friday evening.

The lawyers and bankers,

on their way home,

marching to someone else’s routine.

I never wanted that,

so I fly mid-day.

And yet,

crammed in the middle seat,

on my way from New York to Chicago,

I find myself enjoying the satisfied energy,

of a day fully spent.

A banker on my left,

a lawyer to my right.

Neither want to talk to me.

But they teach me.

Happiness does not equal,

the absence of routine.

My bloody jaw

Just like cats sometimes do,

for their owners,

I leave what I’ve killed,

at her doorstep,

and say,

Look.

Look at me now.

At what I’ve done,

at who I’ve become.

But no matter how intense the hunt,

gifts from cats inspire humor,

never awe.

They end up in the trash,

not on the mantle.

Unwanted,

by a foreign species,

now closed,

to the possibility,

of any lasting value,

springing from the clutches of my bloody jaw.

The safety of time

Time gives safety,

to a poem,

too true,

to send off right away.

Days,

and weeks,

clothe,

the most immediate nakedness.

They wash away,

a little bit of the hurt.

So when you read this,

you no longer know what I feel,

but you can see,

what I felt.

The Tao of Uber

Heaven and earth are not out to make friends;

Thus, they treat all creatures as straw dogs.

The sage is not out to make friends;

Thus he treats the people as straw dogs.

Perhaps this is something like a bellows between heaven and earth:

It is empty, but never exhausted;

It moves, and creatures manifest endlessly.

A lot of words will get you nowhere;

Better to just stay centered.

Tao Te Ching

Notes:

We can build, and build, but heaven and earth don’t respect the laws of society. Much of what we concern ourselves with on a day to day basis will, ultimately, be washed away.

There’s a lot of talk in the startup community about “changing the world.” While I have tremendous respect for anyone brave enough to build a business, the fact is that companies like Uber and AirBnb aren’t changing the world, they’re changing the transportation and hotel industries for a narrow segment of the population. If you listen to the investors who got in early on these startups, or talk to the founders themselves, you’ll hear a different story.

But where are all these players 100 years from now?

I believe you can admire and support innovators, without taking such a small view of the world as to think they own it.

We don’t own, we all rent.

That reality should force us to work with humility, to accept fortune with humility.