Lucas Weismann

Every Soul is for Sale

Did I ever tell you about the time I met the Devil on the road?  It’s true.  I did!  Well-dressed chap on the side of the road.  Small goatee, suspiciously cloven feet, faint smell of campfire… Anyway, I was tired so I sad down next to him.  “Ho, Old Scratch!” says I, to show him I’m on to him and not interested in any of his tricks.

He nods to me and moves aside to make room on the log on which he was sitting.  Well, not being ignorant I’m ready to make the sign of the cross or quote a scripture at him at the first sign of trouble.  But he just sits there, as if I’m nothing more than any other traveler.  Finally he looks at me and says, “Well?  Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?”

This has me at a loss, as it would you I’m sure.  That’s the one thing I couldn’t have expected him to say.  “You mean you don’t already know? I asked.

“What?  You famous?” He asked.

“No,” I said, “I just thought you knew these sorts of things.  In all the old stories you-“

“Bah, stories,” he dismissed them like he was waving away a bothersome fly.  “Stories are troublesome things, can’t trust ‘em.”

“Huh.”  I thought about all the stories I’d heard of an evening and realized that more often than not they were more than just exaggerated.

“Stories.  I suppose in the stories I’m out to get your soul and trick you out of it right?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Hmph.  That would be the ones that get around.  As if no one ever went though a time when they were a bit of a jerk.”

I had sympathy for him at that point, for I remembered a time when I myself had been the subject of scurrilous rumors.  Then I imagined what it must have been like these last 5000 years the priests tell us the world has been around.  I told him my name and asked him his.

“Lucifer,” he said, “Not that anyone asks any more.  They just call me Satan or Deceiver or any number of other insults and eventually my temper gets the better of me.”

“Must be awful,” I said.

He nodded.  “You’re the first person that hasn’t tried to ward me off with the sign of the cross or quoted scripture at me.”

“Yeah, that would be rude.”

“It’s always ‘begone deceiver’ this and ’get thee behind me that’.  I mean, if someone has a nice posterior or flattering jeans I don’t mind, but it gets so old.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”  I asked.

“Go ahead,” he replied.

“What do you do with them?”

“What?”

“With the souls.  What do you do with them?  The ones people sell you I mean.”

He looked tired.  “You too?  What the hell would I do with souls?  I have no use for them.  Besides you can’t be separated from yours.  Not until death!  Can’t happen.”

“But what about…”

“Can’t happen.  That Faust thing is just a load of fiction.  Hell, I can’t even get back into Hell because I can’t find the keys.”

“Hell has keys?”

“Of course it does.  You think I want to go letting it open with all the murderers and demons and bad guys running around there?”

“Huh, I never thought of it that way.” I said

“Ugh and the smoke.  I can’t get it out of my clothes no matter how much I wash.”  I remembered my grandpa’s sweaters and how even after he quit smoking they always smelled like cigarettes.

“Sounds rough.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“So you don’t buy souls?”

“No.  Course not.  I was just sore at my dad for taking me off the angel choir to babysit a bunch of delinquent humans for all eternity.  You have no idea how terrible the company was for awhile.  Out of boredom I started trying to attract people I’d want to spend time with.  You ever wonder why there are so many musicians in Hell?”

“Because they sold you their soul?”

“No… because the music filled them to the point where there was nothing left.  No room for anything else.  They resonated with the divine music of the spheres and as reward, Dad sends them to me.  All the greats are there.  Even some of the really good gospel musicians.”

“Even the gospel ones?  How come?”

“Because they loved music more than they loved what their music was about.  Dad hates that.  He thinks everything has to be about him.  All the time.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.” I said.

“Of course it’s fair” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Dad said it, so by definition it’s fair.”

“This is very illuminating.” I said.

He actually laughed at that point.  “Well it ought to be.” He said.

“What?” I asked.

“My name is lucifer.  Means morning star.  Or Light bringer.  Illuminating.  Get it?”

“Oh!” I said, comprehension dawning.

“That’s actually my job.”

“It is?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said.

“My job is to show people the light.  Teach them things.  Things they might miss otherwise.”

“What about all the punishments in hell?”

“Teaching too.  Dad was really old-school about it.  Wanted fire and brimstone.  I asked, ‘why not have some rehabilitation classes and reincarnate until they get it right?’ He just said it wouldn’t work and that it was better to start with something pure and clean.”

“His ways are mysterious” I said.

“He’s impatient and hates admitting improvements could be made.  That’s why he tried to keep a lid on evolution for so long. Everyone brings up the bad stuff, but I ask, what about the good stuff?”

“Good stuff?”

“Yeah!  Good stuff.  Like giving Eve the apple.”

“Good?  That got them kicked out of paradise.”s

“Nah, they knew what would happen.  I told them.”

“Yeah, but how could they know what it would be like?  I mean, he said ‘don’t eat’ and I said, hey.  You eat this, you’ll know right from wrong and be able to make your own decisions.  I helped them to find free will.”

“But we have to work now.” I countered.

“Instead of what?  Being two birds in gilded cages, they became to adults.  Free and able to choose your destiny and do more than just sit in a garden eating and lounging about?”

“Okay,” I said, “What about Job?”

“What about him?”

“What about the fact that you tortured that poor man.”

“Hey I get it.  I say in passing that he wouldn’t be so loyal if he wasn’t being protected from harm.  Right?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not what I said.  What I said was, Job probably wouldn’t be so cheery if you treated him like you treat me.  I was griping and next thing you know God is ordering me to kill Job’s wife.”

“Really?”

“Really.  Look none of that really matters, you know?  All that matters is this.  Every soul is for sale.  You will sell it.  But not to me.”

“What?” I asked.  “Who wants to buy then?”

“You do.  You buy it with every action of every day.  It’s the energy you have to spend becoming who you are.  The only question you have to ask is this?  Would you rather sell your soul at a high price to get something you want, or sell it at a low price to get something you don’t want?”

I thought about this for a minute.  “Are you talking about not wasting my time?”

“Well, no time is wasted really- otherwise you’d have some left over at the end.  I’m talking about spending time on something worth the value of your soul.”

“You mean like practicing an instrument to become a musician?”

“Right, but it’s only compared with the relative cost of another way to spend time that the value can be measured.

“So, watching television for 30 minutes compared with practicing an instrument.”

“Exactly.  It’s like buying something with cash versus buying it with-“

“Credit.  Oh I see.  So, you’re saying I should only spend time on things that will get me what I want?”

“No, no, no.  You’ll have to spend time on other things too, after all you need to eat.  But that extra time.  The time you have to find your passions.  That’s the time that usually gets sucked up with trashy novels, re listening to crappy pop music you have memorized and tv-reruns you’ve seen a thousand times.  All of that is low effort, instant-low calorie return.  Just bad economics.”

“You know prince of darkness as guidance counsellor isn’t what I expected.”

“You and me both,” he said with a sigh.  “You have a lot more opportunity than I did.  You can literally go to the moon if you put in the effort and sell your soul to physics.  Me?  I had to choose between Prince of Darkness, lord of hell and tempter of souls, or leader of the angel choir”  at this, he folded his hands mockingly.  “Trust me, with all its problems, this world is still better than it ever has been and you have more choice than ever.”

“Well, Mr. Morningstar, this has been enlightening.  Thank you for lighting my path and giving me a rest.” I said.

“Of course.”

“I feel like I could go out and take over the world!” I said with enthusiasm.

“You can if that’s what you want to sell your soul for,” he said with a wink.  “Just promise me you won’t sell it at a price less than it’s worth.”  And he extended his hand.

“It’s a deal.” I said and shook his hand in good humor.  Then, I walked down the road feeling strangely lighter than I had before heading off to make my mark on the world.

(To hear what happened when I ran into the prince of darkness at a later date, click here)

6 things you can to do to get more dances.

What should you do if you’re not getting dances and you want to dance more?

Good question! Now that you’ve asked one question lets ask some others:

1. Check your attitude

Are you someone people want to be around?  This is a tough one, as most people are stuck with themselves and so tend to assume other people want to be with them as protection from self-reflection.

Do you complain a lot?  Valid complaints or not, this may drive people away from you.
Are you disdainful of less-experienced dancers?  If so, why should the dancers you look like treat you any differently?

Basically, if you weren’t you, would you want to go on a road trip with you?  This is an important question that should be asked of everyone, not just dancers.

2. How’s your hygiene?

This is not just a question of body odor.  Many people are adverse to body odor, strong colognes and perfumes.  The less strongly you smell, the more people are likely to want to get close to you.  Few people like leaving a dance smelling like their partner.

How is your breath? Mints are often provided, but in the case of bad breath, you may need to see a doctor as it can indicate real health problems that can be dangerous if left untreated.

Are you sweaty, or clammy to the touch?

If so, bring extra changes of clothes.  More than you think you need.  If you run out during the dance, you need at least one more shirt.  In some scenes dancers bring golf towels with them to dry off between dances, particlarly if there’s no air conditioning at the venue.

3. Do you look like one of the crowd?

We all like to think this isn’t important, but a surprising number of people never learn that it’s the skill, not the clothes that make the dancer.

Why is this? Your attire is strong signaling behavior and is an instant way of telling people if you’re part of the group.  This might mean sequins in west coast swing could be in vogue and gauche in lindy hop, it might mean a vest with no shirt in some crowds or tights in another.

Additionally, people are inspired (whether they realize it or not) to dress like their mentors and the people they aspire to be like.  If your dress similarly to them, they may assume you share inspiration.

After all, if you can’t dance like your hero, you can at least dress like them.  This might sound a bit silly (and it is), but can you spot a ballerina, a tango dancer, or a lindy hopper who is experienced in a group?

Maybe not with 100% certainty, but if you’re trying to gain acceptance in a new group, you can always start out by showing people you’re like them and shift your look back to your own style as people realize that you’re one of them.  (this is a technique used to great effect by Alexander the great who made sure his generals and governors dressed and acted like the people they’d conquered so there would be as few feathers ruffled as possible).

This is not to imply that it’s fair that people judge by looks. It’s an acknowledgment that people are people and you *might* benefit from this technique.  )Incidentally, you might be doing this already without realizing it)

You may even have been drawn to a dance more strongly where the dress matched your pre-existing wardrobe without even realizing it.

4. Do you have a partner with whom to improve your craft?

This applies specifically to partnered dancing, but is useful to have a posse, crew or your troupe with whom to practice even in solo dance styles.  being there for each other means you have people who are likely to want to dance with each other and you’re working on helping each other improve at the same time.

5. Are you taking classes?

Classes are a great way to improve your skill level as well as a way to meet people who are at your level and therefore likely in the same boat as you when it comes to finding people with whom to dance.

Take classes and be friendly.  Let the teacher be the teacher and don’t try to fix the technique of the other students.  Introduce yourself after class and stick around to ask for dances at the beginning of the night while the experience of class is still fresh in their mind.

6. Get feedback or help from someone else.

If you’ve gone through the lessons, maybe it’s something else.  Maybe… you really are nice and happy-go-lucky.

Maybe your breath is always fresh, you’re not sweaty and you look like you fit in, neither overly perfumed or odiferous in any particular way.

You’re taking classes and meeting people and you’re kind and rescue puppies regularly because you’re just that great of a person.

Are you sending signals you’re not interested in dancing without realizing it?

Avoiding eye contact, facing away from the floor, standing off the floor, or blocking body language may all be telling people you don’t want to dance and you may not realize you’re doing it.

Maybe you’re not doing that, but you have a habit of doing things that are considered faux pas in a scene (in some scenes this could be lifts and dips on a crowded floor, in others it might be having too much tone or muscle flexion to be comfortable for a potential partner).

If you’re really having trouble and you’ve been dancing for awhile, chances are you’ve met or talked with someone and you can ask them or a teacher or organizer in the dance what might be going on.  They might be able to give you insight and help you see what’s going on better than you can do on your own if you’re stumped.

Generally hosts and organizers have a vested interest in having people come to the night and will often invite people to come to them with any questions, comments or concerns.  use them as a resource to figure out what’s going on.  They may have answers for you.

BONUS: Why are you waiting for dances?  If you haven’t tried asking people to dance, try that.  If you aren’t doing this already, definitely try asking people to dance.

BONUS TWO: For the intermediate or advanced dancer going to venue/scene/event for the first time.  When visiting a new scene for the first time, wait a few dances and look for a likely friendly dancer with whom you could share a dance.  Ask them to dance.  Sometimes this takes a few tries.  Afterward ask them if, since you’re new to the area, there are 2-3 other dancers you should make sure to dance with assuming this is your only night in town.

They’ll often point you in the direction of someone who they dance with frequently and now there are three of you working on the problem, at the same time, providing social proof that people interact with you.

OR… they’ll tell you some people to dance with and  go from Sally to Betty and say something like “Sally said I you’re someone I should miss the chance to dance with.”

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Who knows, if they like your dancing, you may end up going out for waffles with a group of new friends when the dance is over!

The ways and means of Motivating – Social Pressure as a Carrot and Stick

There are two main types of motivation toward improvement.  Fear and Reward.  Carrot and Stick.  Taking a look at the dance world, we’re going to examine some of the ways that social pressure can be used as both carrot and stick to drive performance and cull the tribe to create a sense of unity.

In different dance scenes there are different costs one must overcome in order to be considered a desirable dance partner.  This means there are different reasons one might need to improve their dance and different difficulties inherent in ‘breaking in’ to a new dance scene.  No matter the specifics of the scene, social pressure is being used to drive improvement in the scene.

Tango – Time Cost – Tango is danced in sets of dance called Tandas.  These are 3-4 songs, 2-3 minutes in length per song and a Cortina or 30 second buffer between each one.  That puts the average Tanda at just around 10 minutes.  That means that there are rarely more than 18 Tandas per 3 hour Milonga (dance).  Now, if we assume that at some point you’ll talk with people, warm up, get a glass of wine (because of COURSE you support your venue and aren’t one of those water-drinker types…), we can assume no more than 12 Tandas per night.  

Assume that a given dancer has one partner they came with and love dancing with, who will dance with them for say, 3 tandas.  This means that we’re down to 9 free tandas.  We can assume they have at least 2 other good friends who each merit 2 tandas per dance.  Now we’re left with 5 songs for people who aren’t known to the dancer that you want to ask to dance.

This means that you need to be worth not just the 8.3% of their likely dances that your tanda would take up for the night, but also the 20% of the dances that are free for strangers or acquaintances.

The question on their mind and the mind of the self-aware novice is going to be “Is this dancer worth 1/5 of my night.”  Maybe not a fair question from your point of view, but t’s one they’re at least considering subconsciously at least.

To prevent awkwardness and to allow people to save face, a few defense mechanisms and social structures have evolved, which allow both parties to save face, but can sometimes make new dancers feel unwelcome.

These are: 

1) Avoiding eye contact with someone you don’t wish to dance with.  It’s a clear (to some) nonverbal signal of their lack of interest in dancing (for whatever reason) and a sign not to approach.  Should eye contact be made for some reason having nothing to do with a request to dance, the second line of defense is….

2) The Cabaceo.  It’s basically the mini head nod, you’d use to indicate “do you want to dance” across a crowded floor so you can ask them to dance even if someone else would get to them before you’re within voice range.  Again, if it isn’t returned, you don’t have to make the long walk back to your drink (that of COURSE you bought to support the venue) after having been turned down for a dance.

As mentioned before, this can make an uninitiated newcomer feel quite unwelcome in the world of tango, but the system is in place to avoid awkwardness rather than to create it.  A brilliant way for beginners and unknowns to get dances in without having to deal with this is the following:

3) Taxi dancers.  Whether it’s a sort-of dance gigolo like in the traditional sense, an experienced dancer who is paid to dance by a group of people who lack the standing to be in demand; or a refreshingly modern sense, a volunteer (paid or unpaid) from the community who is there to dance with any dancers on behalf of the organizers of the dance.  This tends to make new dancers feel more welcome and is sometimes even introduced as a taxi dancer during the announcements portions of the evening either immediately at the beginning of the dance session or in the middle of the evening.  This is a fantastic tradition and would be wonderful to implement in any scene that is having issues with newcomers feeling less-than-welcomed.

Lindy Hop – Danger – Ahh lindy hop.  It’s dynamic, it can be fast.  If done improperly, you can REALLY hurt someone.  This alone is a good reason for people to be reticent about saying yes when someone unknown asks for a dance.  I cannot stress how much I support people saying ‘no’ in any situation where they feel there’s a likelihood that they might be injured by taking a chance.

Balboa – Speed – Traditionally Balboa is danced fast and in close embrace (this means a body to body connection).  The story goes that the owners of the balboa ballroom packed the dance floors like sardines.  Why?  Each dance couple was worth a dime to them (back when a dime meant something) per song and so… ….the more couples on the floor, the more dimes you made.  

The bands played faster and faster to increase the thirst of the dancers and because there was no shortage in the 1000s of dancers who went every night during its heyday.  A house rule was that any couple that broke from Close embrace would be kicked off of the floor by the bouncers.

As a consequence, complex footwork and fast tempos became the order of the day.  This means of selection against dancers often results in self-selection away from the dance.  If you’re not good or in good shape, you don’t dance… at least not a lot or for very long.

Ballroom – Expense – Ballroom is expensive.  It’s expensive.  Lessons are expensive. The surreal sartorial expressions of mad dressmakers they call dresses are expensive, the swarovski crystals they glue to themselves like so many burlesque dancers are expensive, the hair and makeup and cost of paying your teacher to compete with you are expensive.

This one works to make people improve because 1) there is more pressure on instructors to work on the craft of teaching, 2) by paying a living wage to the instructors, they can devote more time to being better teachers and 3) people value products and services proportionately to the amount they pay for them.

West Coast Swing – Gamification – A variation on the competition is the points system that is in the West Coast Swing world.  Maintaining your points for many people is a way of getting into the “better” levels of competition.  Failing to do this means you have less of an opportunity to access the more interesting and desirable dancers.  This is by no means universal as there are social west coast swing scenes, venues and clubs, but it is a means that is being used to drive people in some cases to essentially grind for xp so they can quite literally “level up” and get to the good dancers.

Hip Hop and Lindy Hop – Jam Culture – This is a friendly competition that occurs either regularly or spontaneously in which a group of people crowd around a central dancer or few dancers, cheering them on as they take small sections of a song to show off their skill.  Now days in the partner dance worlds this is often used to welcome new people; out of towers; or to thank instructors, organizers and volunteers.  

But in more traditional sense, it’s a low cost way to get respect from your contemporaries by giving a platform for you to show what you’ve been working on in the past week.  Because of it’s voluntary nature, this is somewhere between competition in a traditional sense and Show and Tell.

Because Jam Circles don’t take from the regular time from the dance like an organized competition and are often spontaneous, they serve as opportunities to inspire and galvanize dancers to greater heights, even those who don’t participate directly, by going into the circle.

a note: if a jam breaks out.  please clap on beats 2 and 4 and keep the circle continuous so the energy doesn’t “leak out”.  being part of the community in situations like these is further social proof that you are ‘one of us’ for the people around you and in people’s exuberance after a jam, they are often more likely to say ‘yes’ to dancing with a stranger.  These are great times to see the possibilities inherent in a dance if you put the work in to improving your skills.

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Most of these mechanisms become both filtering mechanisms, weeding out those who lack discipline and would be lukewarm on the dance; as well as proving grounds driving others to excel and improve their dance.

Social pressure can be overcome with social proof.  For instance, getting points leads to a higher level competition being open to you, which means the better dancers know you and you unlock more dances.

Bringing a partner is a clever way.  Dancing the first song with the person you came with is a means, not only of warming up and setting the tone for the evening with someone whose dancing you probably enjoy, but also a form of social proof that shows the other dancers whom you’re likely to ask for a dance what your dancing is like and whether you’re worth their time, risk of injury, and etc…

It also shows people that at least one other person is willing to dance with you and if there’s one thing that interests people in a person, product or service, it’s a testimonial.

Okay, so what if I want more dances?  Well… in the next article I’ll talk about six things you might be doing to prevent yourself from getting dances and what you can do to improve your lot on the floor.

What is the Point of Teaching

Why the hell do I spend the effort teaching?  What do I hope my students will gain from it and what what do I gain from helping them to learn?

Why do I spend the effort teaching?

There are several reasons I suppose.  

1) I like people who are skilled and the confidence with which they can approach the world.

2) I like to share the experience of dance with someone who can understand music similarly to me.  After all, every class any teacher teaches on the subject of social dance for example, is how to dance with that particular teacher or teaching couple.

3) I like to see the inspiration in the student’s eyes as they realize they can do something that they couldn’t do before.  This is a big one.

What is it that my students are actually gaining from learning?  Well knowledge, for one thing.  Knowledge of a particular art.  This knowledge gained from disciplined practice for a long time is called Kung Fu in chinese.  Kung Fu isn’t necessarily anything to do with martial arts, though the most common way people think of the idea is a martial arts master.

One of my favorite philosophers and Kung Fu practitioners Bruce Lee said that “all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge.”  If I follow that line of thinking, what we do when we teach, is to teach our students about themselves by taking them along the path of discipline we’ve used to discover who we are.  

As the student learns or doesn’t, we gain further insight into who we are and so, achieve greater self-knowledge as teachers.  

There is never a teacher who is not first a student, nor a student who is not a teacher.  The best teaching relationships are those with greatest discipline, though not necessarily those that are most serious or those that push the hardest.

The best teaching unlocks the potential of student and teacher and helps to discover and grow the joy of the art (no matter the specifics of the art) in both.  This means that the best students and teachers are combinations that are made based on the personalities of each as well as the art in question.

If you are teaching something like medicine or hang gliding, where lives may be lost, perhaps a more serious approach is warranted.  If you are teaching something that is difficult, but not life-threatening or inherently risky, perhaps a lighter touch can be used.

There are different ways to achieve the same end, and as with raising children, no approach works perfectly with everyone.

On the Noble Art of Setting Goals

Setting a goal is like getting a map and compass to orienteer your way to your desired end.  In another section, I’ll talk about the value of a mentor or teacher and we’ll see how much easier it can make things.  After all, asking for directions (though a possible blow to the ego, can help us get where we’re going better than having no one to ask).

The nice thing about goals as opposed to physical maps is that they don’t really have to correspond to physical reality as strongly to be useful.  Again, if I have no wings, no fitness goals will make me strong enough to generate enough lift to fly.

Here are the features that distinguish a goal from a wish or unrealizable desire:

Possible – Again, no flying under your own power as a human, but… if we adjust our expectations of what human flight looks like to include mechanical contrivances?  Now flight is a potential goal.

Achievable – A goal must have a clearly stated “win state”.  You need to know that you achieved the goal.  That means working on the clarity of your vision so that you know exactly what your desire looks like.  The fewer words you need to define your goal, the more likely it is you can achieve it.

Time-Sensitive – You need to set an amount of time in which you intend to complete your goal.  This will give you a sense of urgency, as well as help you for when you need to set the intermediary steps that will help break your goal into bite-sized chunks.

This is a hugely under-valued part of setting goals and one of the most important.  A warning though:  Urgency will add stress to your life.  This is only a bad thing if you think that stress is something to be avoided.  Stress can be quite beneficial, as with the case of building muscle via working and stressing the tissues, which become stronger and allow you to do more later.

One technique I learned from my father can be used to great effect: adding a non-goal-related reward for achieving your goal on time.

For instance, if I did X pushups with good form in a row, we would go out for Ice Cream.

You can do this for yourself, or better… with a friend.  Then when they ask, why you’re doing the fun thing, you can tell them about the goal you’ve accomplished and reinforce the positive feelings associated with accomplishing what you’ve set out to do.  

It is more useful if the reward is something special that you wouldn’t normally take the time or expense to do.  For instance, if you always have a wednesday coffee date with someone, then taking them for coffee on wednesday isn’t much of a reward.

Taking a groupon for a spa or going away for the weekend might be a good idea, depending on the size of the goal.

Also, the goal’s reward should not undermine the work you did to accomplish the goal.  For instance, if your goal is to lose weight via improved health habits and exercise, staying home to eat cake and watch a movie is a bad reward.  It will reenforce the idea that cake = reward and exercise = punishment.

A better reward might be getting a new outfit (second-hand if you’re on a budget) to reward the work.  Then, you’ve earned it and solved the problem of your now-baggy wardrobe.  Plus, you’ll be amazed how great you look in your new (or new-to-you) outfit.

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It is at this point that I should stress (hehe) the importance of taking small steps if you’re new to the goal-making habit.  This can be done in two ways.  

1) Make small goals- this is a habit and you’ll be tempted to overdo it and take on more than you can cope with at the beginning.  Consistency and teaching you to associate goals with positive feelings of success is going to make building this habit a lot easier.

2) if you have a large goal, break it into manageable bite-sized chunks.

On How to get what you want.

In life there are three ways to get what you want.

1) Adjust your expectations.  You can’t always get what you want, so one of the ways you can is to realize you want what you have.  That’s a good aim in situations where you need to adjust your expectations.  I want to fly by flapping my wings, but since I have no wings, I need to adjust my expectations to fit reality.

2) You have to know what you want.  This is sort of the literal version of a lot of the “manifesting your bliss” type advice you hear, but this doesn’t have the lens of spirituality.  Here’s the deal:  In life, there are opportunities around you all the time.  Most of us are too busy with little things in life or don’t know that we might want something and so we’re not looking for it.  Then those opportunities pass us by and we missed our chance. 

We can flip this script.  By knowing what you want and focusing on it for a few moments (as a starting point not an end).  You start to notice the opportunities around you.  The clearer you see what you want, the further from you your desired end can be and still exist within reach.

To one using their logic backwards one could think:  I really, really wanted something to eat as I walked down the road and ‘lo I manifested the apple tree as I came around the corner.  No.  No you didn’t.  You used the desire of nourishment to focus your mind and prime you to see food as you came across it.

In fact, if you’d broadened your mind to include grubs and crickets, you might have eaten sooner (principle 1 in action).

If you had desired specifically a pear, you might have walked by and thought the apple not worth your time.  Sometimes gaining what you can now with the apple, in order to keep yourself going until your pear arrives is the best option. 

This is obvious in the case of a hungry person and food.  Less obvious when the ends we seek become more complex.

3)  Set a goal.  This is taking steps down the road toward a known likely end.  In example 2, we’re still opportunistic and so, it’s a matter of chance whether you’re going in the right direction.  Perhaps you walked the wrong way and found only twigs and branches or a desert.  More on goal-setting in an upcoming post.

Asperger’s Moment of the day: Why Do You Think You Shouldn’t Be Judged?

Everything you do will caused you to be judged by people who see it. No matter who you are. So what? Why do people think they are unique this way?
 
Hell, there’s a very good chance I’ll be judged for posting this. Possibly even by you the reader. And you should judge people based on the evidence they provided.  And then when they provide you with more evidence, you re-judge them.  Obviously.
 
So here’s what I propose.  If you are going to post something on the internet, pretend you’re in person.  If you would’t do it or say it with someone in person, don’t do it online.  Anything public is not controllable.  Most people will be kind people unless you’re very unlucky.
 

If you’re wondering why this is clearly something that is provoking a response from me, it’s because I have Asperger’s Syndrome.  No, let me rephrase that.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome and have developed fairly good coping strategies for dealing with Neurotypical (read: non ASD individuals, like you know… normal people)

And for you out there who have survived or gone through some trial (read: everyone).  The specific trial I’m talking about is the one where you go through much of your life unable to relate to people and in a well-meaning attempt to make friends end up alienating people at random and being unable to tell why.

 
Why because all of the Normal (read: people who just “get it” when it comes to nonverbal communication) don’t even realize there’s something to get).  This is where the few true friends who are able to recognize what’s going on and are kind enough to help you with your situation come in.
 
Step 1: awareness.  Realize people are going to comment on what you do.  That’s their right.  If (when) they notice something, they will comment on it.  If you say it in person, they will let things slide.  If you record it, they will have the time to go over what you said and see if it actually makes sense.  And uncomfortable as it is, this is actually a good thing.
 
Sharpening your rhetorical skills is not a bad deal for you.  If you constantly make ad hominem attacks in your defense of some greater good you aspire to, rather than dealing with your detractors, people will call you on it.  
 
When they do, they’re giving you an opportunity (generally without realizing it) to make you harder, faster, better, stronger.  No one likes receiving correction.  Particularly unsolicited correction from people who disagree with us.  But if you’re receiving it, there are a few options- 
 
1) ignore it.
 
2) look at it critically and examine yourself
 
3) cry about it to friends over a beer, or your beverage/dessert of choice
 
4) stop posting things on the internet if you don’t like being criticized.
 

No where here is the option for you to spout off with some opinion and have people just not react.  No where is there a “Butters” for you to just get the good comments.  Public Space is not Safe Space.

Because we have freedom of association, of course we can set up spaces of like-minded sympathetic individuals to help support us in difficulties.  They are friend groups.

 
That is not what public space is for.  If anyone can go there, consider it public.  You have no expectation of the following in a public space:
 
1) privacy – you’re not at home.  Pretend everything you are doing is being recorded.  It probably will be in a few years anyway, might as well get some practice in now…
 
2) Safety – some people are assholes, it would be nice if they are and some places are safer than others, but no. if everyone can be there, so can the “bad” people.
 
3) not having to be confronted with something that offends your sensibilities – in the United States the KKK and the NeoNazis have the right to set up their bullshit stupid protests, but you know what?  That means that when conservative christian groups are offended by my swing dancing, I can do that too!  It also means that the LGBT+ community have (or should have) the right to have pride parades that offend other people.  This is a good thing.  Unfortunately that means that sometime you’ll see something you don’t like, maybe even have to have awkward conversations with your kids if you have them.  Guess what?  That’s what you sign up for when you have kids.
 
4) freedom from ridicule and criticism – This is awesome.  It means that we don’t have to respect other people’s ideas.  This is counter-intuitive, but that’s why awesome protests like the “God Hates Figs” counter-protest to the Westboro Baptist Church are allowed.
 
You might think that someone should do something about this state of affairs.  Someone should make it so you don’t have to see something you don’t like.  Well, guess what?  YOU can do something about it.
 
What can you do?
 
Well, you can stay at home and not watch television or be around people who disagree with you of course!  You can stay off of the internet, or at least not read the comments section if you do post something.
 
Alternately, you can take the opportunity to create something you think is special and realize not everyone will agree.  Realize not everyone is nice and that sometimes people will be mean to you, or hit on you, or harass you.  Does that make your message less valuable because some idiot in podunk, Nowhere was a vitriolic prick?  No, of course not. 
 
Use their critique, criticism and hate as selective pressures to sharpen your rhetorical game.  Make airtight cases with no fallacious arguments.  Engage with criticism of your ideas and realize not everyone is a true-believer.  You’ll never win, or win them over if you can’t deal with them as having actual ideas- even if you disagree with them.  If you choose to evangelize, then you have to first treat people like they are people.
 
Plan What you’re going to say before you say it.  Yes, this is actually not planned out, but I don’t really care much about that here.  This blog is mostly for my rough-draft ideas and my regular writing practice.  I’m happy if people read it, but I don’t expect them to.  I also don’t expect people to like what i have to say.  I fall much more on the “coach” end of the spectrum when it comes to ideas than the “camp counsellor” end.  As such, I’ll just speak my current conception of the truth and not try to coddle too much.
 
What should you not do?
 
Feed the trolls:  Trolls exist solely to mess with your day.  They want a rise out of you.  They’re mean, often juvenile (both in age and mental maturity level) and they want to make you mad.  If you engage with a troll, you lose.  Period.  They don’t actually care about the thing you care about, they just want to watch the world, or at least your YouTube/Facebook/Twitter account burn.
 
Turn off the comments: In addition to silencing your critics, you’re silencing your supporters.  You may just find there are people who will come to your defense when someone wants to start trouble.  This can be a powerful rallying-point for your cause if you just allow it to happen.

The Boy Who Shrank and Grew

Once upon a time there was a boy.  He wasn’t the most popular kid in class.  He also wasn’t the least popular kid in class.  One day, for no particular reason that he could discern, he started to shrink.  For some reason no one seemed to notice, but him and the worst thing was how much more effort it seemed to take for him to get back and forth to school.  After all, each step was proportionately smaller, the smaller he grew.  It seemed like he was spending a ton of energy just trying to get to class or move the pencil across the page.

It got bad enough that he was taking shortcuts by riding in a friend’s backpack.  For some reason though, everyone just went on as if the world were normal.  They all seemed to be moving slower and slower and sounded seemed to be deeper than before, but as far as he could tell, he was moving just as much less through time as he was through space.

By the time school let out on Friday, he was no taller than the length of my index finger, right here.  He didn’t feel well and time seemed to drag on as he trudged home to the safety of his room.  On the way there were so many inconsiderate people.  Meteors of cigarette ash as he passed the area where teachers smoked after school, lakes of puddles from the morning’s rain and a morass of mud where it met the trampled soil of the shortcut across Mr. Jorgensen’s yard.  By the time he got home, he was covered in mud and horribly tired.  So much effort and nothing to show for it.  How was he supposed to go through the rest of his life so small?  Even his toys were too big for him.

Using the last of his energy, he managed to climb the bed and make the treacherous leap to his bedside table where his mother had left him a sandwich.  Thankful, he ate his fill, barely making a visible dent in this mammoth meal before lying down on his pillow to take a rest.

The next morning, he woke up about half as large as his usual self, and though it wasn’t quite the same as usual he was feeling a bit more like himself.  When the boy went downstairs he noticed a slight change with each step… no.  Not with each step.  He made a slight change with each noise.  It was the squeaks and then, the light… the bright sunlight was making him shrink faster again as if all of the stimulus from the environment was making him shrink.  Quickly, he ran back to the bathroom and shut the door.  The shrinking stopped.

Worried, he hugged himself tightly and noticed that the security he felt not only stopped the shrinking, but also seemed to help him return (a bit) in the direction of his normal size.  After a few minutes, he felt large enough to reach the spigot on the shower and turned on the water.  The sounds of water had always been soothing for him and so he reasoned that this water would help him to return to his size.

Probably just wrung out, he thought with a smile.  He took off his pajamas and folded them conscientiously before stepping into the warm soothing water.  The boy stayed under the water for a while until banging on the door from his little sister and a cry of “Mo-om!  He’s still in the shower.”  Took a few inches off of his height and snapped his attention back to the world.

“I’m coming out,” he said and turned off the water.  This is not a good deal.  For some reason, this is happening and I don’t know why, but it seems like things that are comforting help me return to norma and things that are discomfortable?  Uncomfortable?  Un… yeah, uncomfortable are making me shrink.

His sister banged on the door again and was about to yell to their mother, when he threw open the door and said “It’s all yours,” but the energy of the false cheer seemed to make him shrink more than his sister’s yelling.

The shrinking wasn’t so bad of course, after all, he got an interesting new perspective on the world.  It was just how much more energy everything took when he “got small” that frustrated him.  Heck, if it wasn’t such a hassle, he wouldn’t mind staying small full-time.  Sure he couldn’t reach anything and everyone seemed to take FOREVER to say anything, but hey, at least he was saving a bundle on food.

Eventually a few people in his life noticed that he was getting small, and they had different reactions.  Some asked him why he didn’t just toughen up, others asked why he wanted to be small and still others (the ones who really matter) told him they’d be there for him no matter what size he was and they’d do their best to help him around.

Of course, there were some things he could do to keep from getting too small too quickly; exercise helped, as did eating healthy, and getting enough sleep.  Eventually the boy would go on to other adventures having learned a lot about who he was and realizing that no matter how big or small he was, it was how he reacted to the situation that determined if it was good or bad.  Crossing a forest of grass (that he’d been unable to get mowed on account of his size) was horrible, sure- but finding a way to surf on the back of the behemoth push mower not only helped him to grow back to size, but also could be quite fun when he picked up inertia.

Eventually, he learned that inertia might be a sometimes solution to the problem of his growing and shrinking.  It did seem true that whenever he shrank, he seemed to shrink more until he was totally shrunk. It was also true that when he started to grow, he seemed to find it easier to keep growing until he was the right size.  Sometimes, he would even get too big if things were going really well.  In those times he had to be careful not to overpower his friends, as the littlest bit of effort and excitement might send them flying.

All through his life, the boy dealt with the difficulties and challenges presented by his body’s decision to randomly make things harder or easier by size.  Whether he thought this was such a bad thing would be hard to say, as it taught him to make friends with people who would help support him and made him better at supporting his other friends who had their own idiosyncratic problems to deal with.

On When to Quit

There comes a time an anyone’s life when it is time to stop doing what you are doing and do something else.  Sometimes it’s for obvious reasons like the idea that if you don’t stop it will kill you.  Mostly though, the reasons people quit have nothing to do with that kind of risk.  Most of us aren’t taking the sorts of chances that would lead to this being a likely outcome.

In most day-to-day situations, we quit because of the momentum loss of breaking a habit we’re trying to establish.  Often times when we make a mistake, we end up feeling a sense of guilt or hopelessness that attaches itself like a parasite on to the thing we were doing.  This is not the time to quit.

You are going to screw up.  Repeat this out loud.  (I don’t care if it’ll get you funny looks.  Do it).  I am GOING to screw up.  I am going to fail.  I am going to mess things up so badly that I need to bulk order duct tape and super glue in order to even THINK about fixing it.  Did you say it?  No.  Didn’t think so.  It’s true though.

You learned to walk?  That means you’ve fallen a lot.  I’m sure you probably got back up.  Well guess, what.  You need to be as tough as you were when you were like 13 months old.  Suck it up.  The alternative to tenacity in the face of messing up is misery and death.  

How do you do this?  I’ve had a few teachers and summer camp counsellors use the “how fascinating” method.  Throwing your hands in the air, taking a big breath and shouting “how FASCinating!!!” instead of beating yourself up is silly, but it can be really effective.  More importantly, you need to lear to forgive the sin and repent.  

What repent?  Luke, you adding religion to this?  No.  To sin means to error.  To repent means to turn away from that error (sin).  See?  No biggie.  That means, if you mess up and have dessert when it’s not your “cheat day”, you need to acknowledge it and move on.  No big deal.

This is not when to quit.  This is a minor setback.

 

***

 

There are a few times you SHOULD quit what you’re doing and they are as follows.

1) you realize your goals have changed.

2) you realize your actions are not leading to your goals

3) you realize your pursuit is harmful to yourself and/or those around you on a level you’re unhappy with.

 

You realize your goals have changed

Now is what you’d think would be the most obvious time to quit. 

On Returning To Something You Once Loved

Sometimes coming back to something is like coming out of a hibernation.  Take anything, a sport you love, going back to school or even writing. If it’s been a long time, you’re probably feeling aches and pains.  You might feel like you’re moving through molasses or honey.  That’s no real surprise.  You haven’t used those muscles or those neurons in a long time and it takes a while to get back into the swing of things.

After awhile however, things warm up and you’re going to start feeling good.  Really good.  This is something you love after all!  It’s amazing to hit that ball, throw that opponent, or get those words on paper.   You now want to do the thing!  Great!  Don’t go nuts.

“What? But I haven’t been doing anything!  I haven’t gotten off my butt in so long!  How am I supposed to catch up?”

Short answer:  You’re not.  Lost time is lost.  Just accept it.  You had other things that were more important to you at the time.  Video Games, The Netflix Original Series Marco Polo, or some member of whatever sex/gender combination you are attracted to.  Congratulations.  You spent that time.  You’re not getting it back.

The worst thing you can do when re-introducing stuff back into your life is to overdo it right away.  Why?  There are a few reasons:

  1. You could pull something.  Yes, even metaphorically.  You need to warm up before you can be at your old strength.  Sorry, that’s just the penalty you pay.
  2. You might uncover old patterns that lead to your burnout (if that’s why you took a break).
  3. You’re likely to exhaust yourself without having built up a reserve.

Part of your goal now is to build up a habit and make it stick longer than it did before.  Your goal is consistency, not marathon power sessions.  So, here’s what you do:

  1. Limit your time.  Leave yourself wanting more.
  2. Tell people how excited you are to be doing the thing.  People knowing you’re doing something will make them ask you about it when they see you, so telling people you see often will not only make you more interesting than if you’re just gossiping about celebrity nonsense like the rest of the people at the watercooler, it will also make them have something to ask you specific to you.
  3. Set a goal.  Goals come later, but right know just know it needs to have a specific “win” state.  We’ll work more on setting goals in a future thing.

Okay, these are some basic guidelines I recommend as someone who has taken breaks from things I love and returned to them sometimes, years later.  What things in your life do you wish you hadn’t given up?  Which things would you rather do than watch movies?  Maybe try one of them for a bit and see what happens.

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