the persistence of ego: flash lite

flash-lightEach of us is born with distinct gifts, to be developed and expanded through discipline and desire, or to be left to fade through apathy and anxiety. They
encompass the kaleidoscopic range of human experiences, from construction worker to concert violinist, from doorman to doctor, from gardener to golfer, from proctor to president. Yet why must society make delineations, create class categories, foster exclusivity?

A concert violinist must go through decades of disciplined practice on top of requiring the inborn gifts, yet is the construction worker—who labors through years of apprenticeship and stultifying weather conditions while helping to create the concert hall—a less valuable person?

A doctor must go through endless years of highly specific training and staves off disease, yet is the doorman—who helps to guard the doctor’s co-op against crime and murder, and keeps order—a less valuable person?

A professional golfer must devote immeasurable time to drives and putts while offering entertainment and ready aspiration, yet is the gardener—who maintains the course and cultivates beauty and oxygen with perpetual toil—a less valuable person?

A president, whether of company or country, must cultivate expansive education, political skills and charisma to guide and inspire groups of people with much at stake, yet is the proctor—who oversaw the president’s bar exam and ensures integrity and discipline within life-changing circumstances—a less valuable person?

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being held up: mug shots

The 8:30 a.m. conference at your downtown office will emphatically not wait for being held up in rush-hour traffic, for getting the kids ready for school in time for the bus, for finishing your preparation for the pending presentation, for putting gas in the car, for stopping at the ATM, for… for… for. If only youcoffe-mug could have something to hold you up amidst the stress and lack of sleep that seem to purposely invade each week. Add waiting in line at Starbucks for that shot of espresso that briefly jolts the brain and body.

Why do we put ourselves in such a position? Must we stay up so late answering that enveloping stream of emails, watching and/or reading the end-of-day news, overextending to spouse and children? Well sure, this is contemporary life, when wanting it all comes with an inflationary price that only the weak decline to pay. Let the morning mugs of Colombian coffee be drained, let them be damned, but let them work!

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shared experiences: risk verse reward

career choices: post-office

the corporate ladder: climb and punishment

For so many teenagers, it’s simply not an option. Their grades must be exemplary. Their SAT and ACT scores must be in one of those coveted eat-sleep-and-drink percentiles. corporate ladderTheir college applications must be loaded with everything from athletics to community involvement. Their college grades must stand out, even when surrounded by standout students. Their graduate school years must reflect pinpoint focus. All of this more often than not leads to punishing 80-hour weeks at that longed-for corporate job, where creativity, freedom and empathy are shunted aside in favor of six-figure prestige and tireless climbing.

Companies like Google, with cash streaming in faster than it can be printed, can and do take advantage of that circumstance to encourage their employees to eat well, to exercise, to be creative, to give back—and set up their corporate campuses accordingly. Many more, though, under the constant pressure of relentlessly judged quarterly reports or simply meeting monthly expenses, demand more than the body can realistically sustain. Over time, sleep becomes a secondary concern and exercise a tertiary matter, with family activities fit in whenever possible.

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avoiding the instinct: gesticular cancer

That one gesture, that universal conveyance of anger and defiance, that singular finger. Yet beyond what can causally be attributed to this or that surface09a4fd_39633f424aee474b8d708d4d9a20eabb offense or vernacular veneer, why is it so pervasive? What lies under the skin that ignores patience and forgiveness?

Looking outward: Someone aggressively weaves in and out of congested traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway with the no-holds-barred determination of getting to that McDonald’s or bank drive-thru window 90 seconds earlier. Rather than react with that all-too-common shot of disgust, rather than increase hormones and heartbeats, why not just let it pass? As difficult as it can sometimes be, love thy neighbor as thyself isn’t just some Biblical catchphrase to be tossed like so much salad dressing. Why buy into the kind of pharmaceutical-grade drama that can suck the life out of an otherwise peaceful moment? Why not consider stepping back and feeling empathy for that person, grateful that your own stomach is full, that you’ve got use of both legs, that your breathing is regular, that you’re not lying in a hospital bed?

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learning another language: cursed words

It’s a very safe bet that everyone reading this has either directly had the following experience or knows someone who has—spouse, child, friend,oui-non relative or colleague:

You’ve taken three or four years of high-school French or Spanish, then another three or four more years in college (where the offerings are significantly broader, extending from Mandarin to Russian to Hindi and all points between)… and six months later you remember a few dozen words and cannot speak or read the language, as far from fluency as Paris is from Beijing. You’re intelligent and motivated, and did all of the requested homework, yet the results speak for themselves. I simply have no gift for languages, you think, and move on to other areas of study and projects that yield tangible results.

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conflicting agendas: sham pooh

You’re entrepreneur with a great idea for a product or service not currently provided, or otherwise unavailable within the scope and parameters with which you envision. YouShamPooh run it by a large swath of potential supporters, many of whom may pooh-pooh your idea and not support an otherwise solidly considered endeavor. Are their reasons pure? Is their faith in you complete? Are there conflicting agendas at play?

Are you discouraged?

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the calendar’s relentless progression: autumn leaves

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The latter part of September perpetually hosts the first day of fall—a time of moderating weather, heavier work schedules and looking ahead.

During one’s teens, 20s and even 30s, this annual period typically seems full of hours and days, its farewell comfortably in the distance. Yet into the 40s and 50s, those selfsame hours appear ever briefer, ever more precious. As much as the numbers themselves do not change, our perception of them moves ever faster. While not able to slow the calendar’s relentless progression, making the most of each 24-filled gift basket goes a long way in mitigating it. This applies to finding fulfillment in work and career projects, to spending dedicated time with family and friends, to enjoying vacations and travel, to lifelong learning.

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sitting in traffic: road kill

The concept of sitting amongst interminable traffic is so widespread and familiar as to make regular clichés seem like fresh air in Beijing. How we respond can make the Wait Lossdifference between being impatient and forlorn for the entire day or at peace with productivity in light of what cannot be changed.

Do we curse or listen to an audiobook? Do we throw up a thin body part in a form of gesticular cancer or do we put on a foreign language-learning CD? Do we feel stress to the point of needing a heart stent or do we call ahead and let them know that we’ll be late?

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