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.

Curating desire

Thus being forever without desire,

you look deeply into the transcendent.

By constantly harboring desire,

your vision is  beset by all the things around you.

Tao Te Ching

 

Notes:

Your vision is beset by all the things around you…

Desires that are fed, only grow hungrier. Desire puts our gaze forever on the horizon, robbing us of what we’ve actually been given. In a state of desire, we can’t focus on where we are, only on what we plan to attain.

When we “harbor” desires, the world becomes full of things to desire, and these desires frame our lives.

I haven’t owned a car in awhile, and never paid much attention to different models on the road. After leasing my car, I see models similar to mine everywhere. I’ve tuned into the car “channel.” Now I see drivers with my car, as well as drivers with the bigger better model. “Maybe next time I should get that car, with those options…”

Indulgence of desire sheds light on a million other things we should be desiring, each of them perfect until they’re attained.

This view is echoed in one of the Bodhisattva Vows:

Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them

Answering desire changes the way we see everything in the world.

You look deeply into the transcendent.

By contrast, when we free ourselves from desire, we see things as they are. We no longer see things to attain or possess, we see things to experience and enjoy.

And by seeing what we have for the first time, we transcend a common trap keeping us from the state of happiness we hope to achieve by our constant planning to fulfill desire. We can stop deferring happiness.

The ordinary and boring (ordinary and boring because we have it) is the doorway to the transcendent.

To act independent from desire is to act with integrity.

Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verse 47:

Your right is to action alone, never its fruit.

Practical application: 

For those of us unlikely to become ascetics, perhaps the goal is to curate desire in a mindful way.

Mindlessly flinging ourselves at desires is a recipe for an unpleasant journey down the rabbit hole, but can some desire be good?

Can we live with mindful desire (goals), without living as slaves to our desires? Is it possible to curate useful desire, while discarding unconscious desire?

Cynthia

*Read this poem first. *

Let yourself grow attached,

and come to love,

what you are sure to lose.

Drive for miles,

and days,

for a last look.

Write letters,

and poems,

plead into an impossible face.

Surrender.

Now cry.

Give her the pain she wants,

so you’ll finally match.

Become weak like you’d never admit to the street or in a flourescent office room.

Lie about the meaning,

Your meanings keep you from her.

Ignore your intuition,

Your intuition pushes her further away.

Light a candle,

So you can see her in the emerging darkness.

A vigil,

to the dream,

that died right on time…

Me on Tuesday

Our trip.

Our road.

The bright flower valleys we planned to see.

Swimming pools,

strange native faces,

hesitant entries,

kisses behind weak plaster walls.

A few more days left.

That new business,

that dress,

that fucking suit.

Floated promises.

Gone,

all gone.

That was just me on Tuesday.

Tech addiction backlash?

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 3.58.06 PM

Americans have become “food aware,” and the resulting knowledge has a growing number of people pissed off at the processed food industry.

Turns out some types of foods are designed to be addictive. Morgan Sperlock publicized this years ago in his documentary Super Size Me, but he’s not alone. Consider this quote from Michael Moss writing for the New York Times Magazine:

What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive. I talked to more than 300 people in or formerly employed by the processed-food industry, from scientists to marketers to C.E.O.’s. Some were willing whistle-blowers, while others spoke reluctantly when presented with some of the thousands of pages of secret memos that I obtained from inside the food industry’s operations.

Quite an indictment, food as a designer drug.

If Michael’s claims are true, public anger seems justified. Similarly, the tobacco industry is a unanimous villain for designing cigarettes to be addictive.

Making addictive products, especially when the desired addiction damages public health, is bad. So, following that logic, why isn’t anyone mad at the tech industry?

Do you think it’s by accident that every person on an elevator, or most stopped at a red light, or even couples having a “romantic” dinner, are looking at their phones?

The tech industry designs their interfaces for maximum addiction, just like the makers of slot machines, who they are said to admire. Consider this quote from a Verge story describing a state called the “zone,” which is a haze many slot machine players find themselves in:

The “zone” is flow through a lens darkly: hyperfocused, neurotransmitters abuzz, but directed toward a numbness with no goal in particular.

Focused with no goal in particular?

Sounds like most people I know on the internet (myself included). What is usually accomplished on Facebook or Twitter other than mind numbing browsing?

Tech business models are predicated on user acquisition and retention. The idea is to keep you on their platform for as long as possible (to look at their ads), and then to bring you back as soon as possible after you leave (so you can view more ads).

The result? You crave the appearance of the little red flag that is evidence of a new Facebook friend request, or a new Twitter notification delivered to your phone in real time.

Fact is these notices are nonevents 99.99% of the time, and yet we continue checking for them. Checking for email, for new Tinder matches, whatever the case.

This digital addiction can be just as dangerous to our health and wellbeing as bad food.

It causes stress and sadness, destroys our attention spans, robs us of enjoying real moments with people we love, keeps us from sleeping well, causes fatalities on the road, and can even lower sperm count.

Does the tech industry have an ethical duty to design their products in ways that encourage healthy interaction?

That palm shadow

Struck by the beauty of an urban California night,

by the power of that palm shadow,

a touch darker than the dark night sky,

– reminds you of your presence in a world great place –

Driving away from a mistake dinner,

if there can be such a thing,

where a bright young girl announced her affiliation with you to the group she leans on for support and identity.

You could see she was proud to be with you,

even though you’re too old to comfortably blend.

It’s sweet to shine for someone, even as you’ve just emerged from your own unkempt house.

Lovers give us hope,

That the pretty version of ourselves is real.

We spend time with them on special California nights,

with the moon on the ocean,

just up ahead.

We let them shine,

and so do we,

but we don’t see they don’t love us.

We don’t see they don’t see us.

Maybe one day we’ll rest with a Jack,

or a Jill,

or maybe all we’ll ever do is search.

On you go

Stop,

and let your mind listen,

to the sounds of New York City in the snow.

The trucks,

and the men who drive them,

expect nothing from you.

Solo taxis through the slush on Bethune,

making their way to the river,

their small beacon sounds,

float into my kitchen.

The stones,

and the bricks,

and the wood,

no longer speaking hierarchy.

They don’t know.

No one does.

Listen to the streets.

To the snow.

Your stories,

superimposed on it all,

were always a lie.

but you can’t have it back,

so on you go…