If Virtue Equals Success…

I have a few Facebook friends that work out and love to post inspiring stuff about working out. Yesterday, one said “Everything I learned I learned in the gym. Hard work and commitment are all you need in life to achieve your goals.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it feeds into something I’ve been thinking about in society for a while now. I’ve seen it repeat in my history studies as well, and I think it bears acknowledgment.

What my friend (actually, he’s a bit of a dick) said the above is the echo of the American Dream. Success comes from virtue, being a good person, working hard, honesty, etc. You are rewarded for your Goodness. You can call it God’s Blessings, or Instant Karma, or whatever. They mean that if you are “good” you will have success.

But if that is true, then it would follow that if you don’t have success, you are a bad person. You’re not smart enough, or lazy, or violent, or drunk, etc. You have some flaw that is keeping you from millions of dollars and a yacht filled with women in bikinis and/or men in g strings.

Obviously that isn’t true. Bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad ones. But we cling to that belief like it’s a rope over a pit of lava. It influences the way we see and act toward other people, and not in a good way.

John Lennon was wrong. Instant Karma doesn’t get you. Dumb luck does.

two-face-i-make-my-own-luck

Wealth is Your Reward. Poverty is Your Punishment

“See that family in the trailer park? They must be drunks or meth addicts. That’s why they live there.”

“Don’t give that homeless guy change. He’ll probably just spend it on booze.”

“Those people on the welfare line?” They’re lazy. Get a job and quit sponging off my taxes!”

And on and on. We assume that they are bad, because they have bad circumstances. We use the scant examples of virtue leading to success as proof that it’s all we need. Success is 1% virtue and 99% luck (not data-based stats. It’s probably much less).

To blame someone else for your troubles is cowardice. Bravery is accepting your lot and trying to make it better.

We look down upon the poor, because part of us believes that they deserve it. They are bad people.  We also look up to the rich, because they must’ve earned it. They’re so smart, hard-working, dedicated, etc. We should be like them. It doesn’t matter if their parents were millionaires, sent them to the best schools, found them a great job through their connections, etc.

We worship the rich because we believe that they are worth worshiping, even if they’re only rich from inheritance or a sex tape (or both). But they are no better or worse than us, just like the poor. We all have virtues and vices, and they are separate from fame and fortune.

The Blame Game

“So why aren’t I rich? I’m a good person. Someone’s keeping me down. It’s not my fault, it’s their’s. They took our jobs. They rape and murder. They blah blah blah it’s not me.”

Sound familiar? It’s because you hear it every day, thrown at every “other.” It’s the immigrants. It’s the Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Pagans. It’s the feminists. It’s the government. They’re the reason my life sucks, not me. I’m infallible.

superman-immigration

People need to find a reason, no matter how absurd it is. To blame luck is to accept the random futility of life. You are not suffering because of anyone else. You are not suffering because of yourself. You are suffering because people suffer without cause and effect. The sooner you accept this and stop blaming others, the better off you will be.

Remember, you can play the game perfectly and still lose.

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Praying to the Dollar

There’s a quote usually attributed to John Steinbeck, but I’m not so sure about that. It goes “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

I don’t think that it’s true, and I don’t think it has to do with Socialism (and I really don’t give a damn about Socialism) so much as how we see the rich and poor. It’s because according to the American Dream, the rich are virtuous and the poor are laden with vice. You reap what you sow. You get what’s comin’ to you, etc.

It’s bullshit. Stop worshiping the rich. Stop crapping on the poor. Start treating people like they’re people instead of a tax bracket.  Stop blaming others for our lack of joy. We’re all in the goddamn fights of our lives, and we’re all going to lose at the end.

Joy doesn’t come from winning, but from playing the game.

Stop complaining. Keep fighting.

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux

On Turning 40

(This is a bit introspective, but it’s my party and I’ll kvetch if I want to).

I keep telling myself that it’s just a day. I’m one day older than yesterday, no more, no less. But that’s not true. A birthday isn’t a day, it’s a milestone, a click in you lifetime that doesn’t mark time, but experience. It’s a scenic rest stop on the highway where you get out of the car, stretch your legs, and look at where you’ve been.

I have experienced 40 years on the highway, and I’m looking back. And the road behind me is not impressive. It’s gunk and potholes and endless, endless construction. It’s like driving through Northern Jersey.

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When you’re young, you love birthdays. They’re about excitement and joy and parties with friends. I’m not having a party. I have panic attacks when there are too many people around, and I don’t have many friends any more. I don’t really like bars. I don’t have room to have people over. When my dad turned 40, we threw him a big surprise party in our house…we had a house! I only know a few people my age that have houses.When my mom turned 50 we threw her a party at a hotel. I always thought that I’d have the same. I wanted what my parents had. Family, friends, and a place to celebrate with them.

Anyway, when you’re young, it’s about celebration. When you’re old, it’s about introspection. I think about my life: where I’m at, my successes, my failures, my flaws and things left undone. I think about the roads not taken, and whether they would have made a difference. I think about “what ifs” and whether I can back track with what I know now.

It’s why people have mid-life crisises. They’re not about “oh my god, I’m getting closer to death.” It’s about “oh my god, why didn’t I make the left turn at Albuquerque?”

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I have a lot of regrets. I wish that I could’ve been there when my mom died. I wish that I was able to save Valerie’s life. I wish that I didn’t waste so much time. I wish…I wish the world would slow down so I can catch up. But I don’t wish for a sports car or anything cliche like that. I wish that I could’ve done more Good. I wish that I made more of a difference. I wish that people didn’t suffer because I didn’t act. I wish I had the power to make a difference.

I don’t. I can’t even help myself.

I can’t say whether I’ve had a good or bad life. There are hundreds of millions of people who have it far worse than I do, and just as many who have it better. I wasn’t dealt the best hand, what with all of my medical problems that keep me from living a “normal” life (whatever that is). But I haven’t been homeless in a few years, and I don’t have to beg doctors for medicine anymore. Whether that changes in the future, whether the bottom drops out and I live out my life in a group home or a cardboard box, I don’t know. Whether I’m dead in five years, I don’t know. But right now I’m alive and in a good place. 40 is not an age that I ever expected to reach, so I’m ahead of the game.

I hope that on the road ahead, I can do more than the road I’ve left behind. But the car is getting old and rusty. The shocks are going, the radio doesn’t work, and a dog peed in the back seat. And that road goes on forever, with or without me.

But I’ll have some cake. Cake will make it better.

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doge-in-space-card-redux

 

So We Come to the End

Don’t worry, this isn’t a health post. Although I’m still worried about the heart issues, I don’t think i’m gonna croak any time soon.

Ever since college, I’ve been keeping a journal. That’s pretty common, a lot of people do. Not many people keep it in the bathroom.

Yes, I have a bathroom journal. No, I do not log my shit in there. I just find that the bathroom is a good place to write. I was originally inspired by my friends in college, who kept one. It was a communal book, and they all wrote in it. Sometimes they had conversations through it, other times just random entries about their lives. I did the same with my roommates, and anyone that graced the porcelain god in my apartment was encouraged to do the same. What i ended up with was a record of mine and my friends lives from college on.

We finished the first book my last year in college (it’s in my bookcase), and I started a second, thicker book. Since I lived alone for most of my adult life, it was mostly me that wrote in it. These days it can be weeks or months between entries. But i love it. Sometimes I’ll look back and see snapshots of my life, remembering all that happened, and where I came from.

And so we come to the end.

I am on my last pages of the journal. By the end of the month, it will be filled. Of course I’ll start another one, but I’ve been using this one for 15 years. 15 years of my life, my loves, my failures, the roller coaster of my crazy life, now archived in my bookcase. Maybe some day I’ll take it out to read again, but I don’t do that with the first book. Maybe when I die, someone will find the books and think “why is this guy writing while he shits?” I’ll have no answer (cause I’ll be dead).

The journal is dead. Long live the journal.

guinea pig card

10 Things I Learned About Life From War Games

For the last few months, I’ve been playing this xbox game called Happy Wars. I like pvp team combat, and this a great game for it. You get less of the “in it for themselves” snipers that you get in Battlefield, Gears of War, etc. That’s because it’s a fantasy setting, you have to be in close to kill, and the combination team skills are what will win you the match. It’s the same thing that I liked about WoW pvp settings (Arathi Basin, Warsong Gulch, etc)

I noticed that a lot of winning tactics are the same as what you see in team sports like football and basketball. They’re also similar to truisms I’ve heard about life. So in an attempt to be a douche, I’m taking what I learned from war gaming and apply it to life.

1) Speed Kills: The best team skill in Happy Wars is Group Rush. With this mass speed attack, you force the other team back on its heels. Once they start retreating, it’s hard for them to regain momentum.

Historically, you can look at the classic cavalry charge, or Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg attack. In everyday life, it means that we are all going to die, so do the shit you want to do now. If you want it, stop dicking around and do it.

2) Fight Past Your Goal: This is a common mistake in both Happy Wars and World of Warcraft. If you want to capture a tower (or whatnot) you have to set up your front in front of it, preferably at a defensible position. If you set up at the tower, you’ll be constantly fighting for it.

In everyday life, interpret it as: try harder than what you want to achieve. Turn disappointment into motivation. Even if you fail to reach it, you’re exactly where you wanted to be. I wanted to be a novelist, so I decided that I’d try to be a famous novelist. I’m not famous, but good goddamn, I’m finishing up my second novel.

3) Work As a Team: I’ve seen it so many times in video wargames, and in live combat games like Dagorhir. A small group that works together will beat the hell out of a larger group with no cohesion. The mage does the damage, the fighter protects the mage, the cleric heals both. In Happy Wars, all it takes is an engineer and someone to protect him, and they can win in a few minutes. The losers feel stupid afterwards, and blame the rest of the team. But it’s their own fault for not working together.

From a fictional point of view, think about how comic book teams like The Avengers and The Xmen work together. If you can get your friends to work like that, you’ll win every time.

In real life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Humans are at their best when they compliment each others’ skills.

4) Find a Buddy and Stay With Him: One of the biggest mistakes you can make in these kind of games is go off on your own. There are times when it’s inevitable, but you should do everything you can to stay with at least one partner. It allows you to outmaneuver the enemy. Historically, you see this in the early dogfights of WWI & II.

In real life, love your friends and never let them down. Some day you’ll be old and lonely. Push that back as long as you can.

5) Technology Rules but Soldiers Win the Day: I’ve seen cannons and rocket launchers completely change a match in Happy Wars, not to mention the Ultimate Weapon team skill. They can lock down a game and force a stalemate easily. The attackers throw themselves at the artillery, and they die in heaps. Engineers are freakin amazing.

In real life, social media is awesome, but hang out with people every now and then. Play some D & D, Settlers of Catan, or Cards Against Humanity instead of a video game. It’s fun, I swear. Remember, you can’t get laid over the computer.

6) Don’t Be a Douche: Don’t be the guy that curses and screams into his headphones and mic. Don’t be the guy that trolls his own team. You’re ruining it for everyone else.

I don’t think I have to explain how this applies to real life. Douchebags soon find themselves alone. See numbers 3, 4, & 5 for why that sucks.

7) Have a Plan: This goes back to #3. If a team comes out with a game plan, they will almost always win. In Happy Wars, a planned rush attack throws a less-prepared team into chaos. In sports, it does the same thing. Football (my favorite sport) is a complicated game where each play required a complicated plan. If you choose the right plan, bully. If not, you get bullied. (See what I did there?)

I plan out my days by keeping a list of what I want to do. I plan out my stories with an outline, plot point study, heroic journey analysis, and chapter by chapter walk through. This is all before I write. I don’t go anywhere without a map.

8) Protect Your Long Range Attackers: Your long range guys like mages and engineers are very important in Happy Wars, but they can’t suck up the damage. They should always have a buddy or two (see #4) to protect them, preferably a Warrior with a good Smash Attack. Let them do the damage. They might get the glory, but it’s winning that matters.

Ok, I don’t really have a real world example for this. Just protect those that need help. Give to charity. Volunteer. Try to be a good person. There’s no glory in it, but we’re all better off.

9) Use the Terrain: My favorite things to do in Happy Wars is to beat a player with terrain. Too close to the edge? I use Smash to knock you off the board. Too close to a wall? I’ll pin you with Spinning Blade or Double Spin. Rocketman from a ledge. Guard/Smash to protect a choke point. It’s very satisfying to win with proper tactics instead of awesome gear.

In the military, they use this all the time. When I did Dagorhir, I would purposely fight so that the sun was in my opponent’s eyes. In everyday life, it means “use what you have instead of wishing for better circumstances.” No excuses. We all have to play the hand we’re dealt. It took me a long time to learn this, and it’s something I still have trouble with, but it feels good to overcome something that fucking sucks.

10)Protect Your Supply Line: I see this in Happy Wars. I saw this in WoW. People get too aggressive and push forward without protecting what’s behind them. The enemy sneaks around and takes down your towers, and now you’re screwed front and back. Don’t let them get behind you.

Yeah, I don’t have a good real world example for this.

This was one of the stupidest, most pretentious posts I’ve ever done. I apologize for wasting your time. Unless you liked it, then you’re welcome.