Day 117: The Man and the Plunge-50,000 Leagues Under the Sea; ‘Giant’

nanowrimo

I first heard of NaNoWriMo in high school. A friend of mine mentioned she was going to take on this seemingly insane endeavor of writing 50,000 words in a single month. I was always into writing and I had submitted a few short stories to our school’s literary magazine but they were short little things and they had taken me months to write. Let’s face it, I’m an easily distracted procrastinator. It would have been a terrible and unrealistic task for me but I rooted for her and watched her go. Excitement, eagerness, and anticipation in the beginning, a bit of skepticism around the mid, and by the end we were eating consolation sundaes at the mall and we never mentioned the phrase ‘word count’ again.

nano-blockFor those of you who may not know what NaNoWriMo is, it is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is a collective writing event internationally held during the month of November as a catalyst to help all those aspiring and professional writers who have always believed there was a novel inside of them that they just needed the right kick in the pants to get out. The average word count of a novel is 50,000 words so the challenge is for writers to write 50,000 words in the time between Nov 1st and Nov 30th. In case you’re wondering, that’s about 1600 words a day. The online community gathers on their official website to offer encouragement, share their successes, but most importantly find inspiration and support when the task begins to wear on them. Very few people have ever sat down and devoted themselves to so many words in such little time. A few notable novels have been published as a result of NaNoWriMo efforts. A personal favorite of mine is Water for Elephants, which was then turned into a fantastic period piece movie with Christoph Waltz, Reese Witherspoon, and the sparkly Twilight guy. For those crazy enough and hungry enough, it’s a fun project and could be a significant undertaking.

Ever since then the paths of myself and the 50,000 word count never crossed. I dated, went to college, became a teacher, got a new career, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten even close to that many words. Until now. The average word count of my posts borders around 1200. At 117 days, a conservative estimate would be I’ve written around 140,000 words since I began ManVsLoneliness. While they have all been loosely organized around my experiment, they have all for the most part been separate individual collections of thoughts. Minus a few series on the importance of setting routines, meditation, gratitude, etc, I’ve never tried to organize these posts into any sort of cohesive arrangement or towards any particular goal or purpose.

Starting on Tuesday, Nov 1st, I plan on trying my hand at NaNoWriMo. I’ve had some time now to get into the habit of naturally writing that much each day and I feel I’d like to try and organize my thoughts into something that could benefit others and create a compelling narrative and perspective. I’ll be foregoing the daily prompts for the entirety of the month and instead each day’s post will be my progress for that day. 1600 words or so towards what could maybe be the story of Man and Beautiful that I’ve been trying to work over myself anyways. nano-comicThe premise of what I’d like to write centers around my history with Beautiful and, to a lesser extent, all my previous relationships. What I’ve learned from them all, what they’ve meant. I used to think that the story of Beautiful and I was something unique, that we felt love and I felt longing on a level that few would ever understand or experience. It was that uniqueness that drove me and also made me feel like I couldn’t possibly find another. Writing will help me see the story as it relates to everyone else. What was once something I obsessively clung to for its uniqueness is now what I want to tap into to touch on a universal desire for love and universal pain of loss that we all feel in our lives.

I also want to talk about the expectations and templates we create for ourselves that inform our relationships. Whether its from literature or TV or films or music or our families and friends, we all have certain stereotypes of what we believe love should be like and I want to see how this affects us, for better or for worse. I want to talk about the myths of love. My chapters will be centered around those commonly held beliefs, how they’ve manifested in my relationships, and how they are either harmful or actually beneficial. Myths like the ‘meet-cute story’ that all good loves have. Or the myth of soulmates or love at first sight. Myths about love and sex and intimacy and trust. I’d like to ask you all for a little assistance in this. If you believe there are certain fundamental beliefs that we share about love or relationships that would be worth discussing or investigating, please share them with me so that I might be able to dedicate some portions to it. The societal pressures and beliefs of love, the personal results, and the use or harm of holding these. That’s the focus of my novel. Lots of personal anecdotes, and hopefully some important lessons too.

nano-shieldIf any of you are interested please check out the website. If you are crazy enough to try, let me know and I’d love to create a circle of support and encouragement. Or if you just want to watch a man’s descent into madness, sit back and enjoy. This will be a giant undertaking but I think there’s a story here that’s worth sharing and this fire is just hot enough and just big enough to fit comfortably under my butt. Hahah. I have one more day to rest before I begin!

 

Day 117

Man: 96 Loneliness: 21

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Day 116: The Man and the Beauty of the Path; ‘Bridge’

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One of my favorite parts of driving everywhere for work is whenever I get an opportunity to drive over bridges. Going north, I have my choice of the George Washington Bridge or the Tappan Zee Bridge. Heading south, like say to Atlantic City, I get to cross over the Driscoll Bridge which goes over the Raritan River. Did you know that Pittsburgh is second only to Venice for having the most bridges in the world? When I was there for work I made sure to book a river cruise sightseeing tour to go under or around as many as possible. Same for Chicago and even in New York, one of my favorite date options is to take a girl on a sightseeing tour of Manhattan that goes under every bridge around the island.

Obviously the question asks itself. ‘Man, why so fascinated by bridges?’ It, hopefully, isn’t for what you might think. See, most of the time when I hear bridges being mentioned GWB.jpgeither figuratively or literally, it is to discuss the importance of bridges as a means of ‘connecting’ people, places, or ideas. Bridges literally cover the great divide that separates us. And in that though, the inherent beauty of bridges is lost. People are so focused on getting from point A to point B that they forget to appreciate the path. Bridges unfortunately lose their individual value and are seen only as a means to an end.

I love bridges not just for what they do, but for what they are. Did you know that the George Washington Bridge’s towers were originally supposed to be covered in stone? The original design was meant to make it look like most other bridges at the time, constructed of stone and concrete. Once the Great Depression hit, the cost of procuring that amount of stone and installing it became much too impractical, and besides, the architects thought, there was a natural beauty in exposing the steel frame to the world. You can however, still see the giant hooks installed on the bridge to help hold and anchor the stone slabs.

Bridges are beautiful pieces of architecture and marvels of innovation and design. I love seeing them in the distance and watching them become larger than life as I get closer and eventually cross over them. When I was in Singapore I loved walking along the Helix Bridge at night. When people actually care about how they get from point A to point B, some beautiful things can be created just along the journey.

helix-bridge

All this reminds me of a conversation I had with my cousin last weekend.We were discussing how to be more open-minded and non-judgmental. For her it was specifically a matter of craft and skill as being able to investigate multiple approaches, multiple perspectives, and multiple paths to a set point would allow her to broaden her range of expression and character development. But both of us could agree and appreciate the applicability of that flexibility when it came to relationships, expectations, life goals, etc.

london-bridgeSee we are goal driven people. I think that’s true of most people actually. We have desires and wants and we are often more equipped to figure out what we want than we are given the tools to investigate how to get it. Being open to possibility and opportunity gives us more chances and instruments to get to where we want to.

What I wanted to share with my cousin, the point I wanted to get across to her, and now to you, is that sometimes letting go of control can still get you to the same destination and perhaps might even illuminate other things along the way.

Take for example, since she is studying to become an actress, the plot of a story in relation to its script and its characters. As the performer, you know that no matter what you do, no matter how you do it, or what you say or how you say it, the plot will continue. The play will end, the characters and conflicts will gain resolution, and all the major points that needed to be hit, will be hit. That’s point A to point B. So, wonderful, we can trust the process, trust the journey, know that we are aware enough to know the destination and set the objective, but we are flexible and open enough in how we get there.

nowhere-bridgeThat freedom, that license for investigation, that’s where the meat is. That’s where the fun is to be had. Where characters become more human because of the choices we make. NOT the choices in getting to point B, because that’s already been set for us. Just the choices in how we choose to get there. But we will, no matter what, get there. There’s less pressure on us when we think like that. When we trust our resolution and that the entirety of the summation of our decisions and choices will get us where we want, not just in every single minute one. That lets us be a bit more free, have a bit more adventure. That makes a performance unique because you had to fill in the space between A and B. You had to build your own bridge, not just march heavy footed across one already made.

So how does that then reflect back to relationships, of which the majority of the rest of us can still relate to, since not all of us possess the grace or poise of a thespian. Well, let’s take this past week for example. On Sunday while walking around with my cousin, and during the week when I was doing store visits around Manhattan, I couldn’t help but notice just how many beautiful women there were in the city. Riding on the subway, walking from station to destination, buying my bubble tea (ViVi Bubble Tea all the way), there’s no denying that a city as densely populated as New York is going to have a large population of attractive young women. I’d be lying if I didn’t say those little pangs of bitter loneliness didn’t spark every now and then. Of course being single and alone made me look at every one of these girls and feel the pain of loneliness and missing the company of a special someone.

And it would have been this pain that to me, was what I needed to build a bridge over. And if point A was me alone, point B was me with someone. And if I wanted to just get over that river as quickly and easily as possible, I would have thrown myself at online dating or just ask to be ‘set up’. But that is a fragile bridge and it lacks the beauty and substance and foundation of a bridge that is meant to stand for years to come and to be admired and appreciated and, most importantly, be one I would want to cross again.

I’m not slamming online dating or even the well-intentioned ‘set up’ of a friend. I’m night-bridgesaying I would never invest the time or energy to make it more than just something to keep me from getting my feet wet in the river or getting swept up in the current. What I want, what I need, what is important, is to realize that the bridge is part of the journey. I am not at point B yet, and I for the most part do not yet feel any pressure to start running. My bridge is strong and stable, and there is beauty in the architecture I have yet to unlock and appreciate. I know where my destination lies. There is a beautiful woman who will love me on the other side of this bridge. So I don’t have to worry about if my next step is the last one, because no matter how many steps it takes, I will get to the same place. Bridges aren’t meant to just be crossed as soon as possible. At least I hope more people can see it that way. They’re gorgeous and they often cross some of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine. Long, winding, majestic structures that can take you across long distances or elevate you to a point where you can see for miles around.

I hope more people get a chance to appreciate them just for being there. It doesn’t matter where or when or how you find yourself at the beginning of one. Be brave enough not only to take the first step to cross, but be brave enough also to know you can take your time and trust whatever it is on the other side. After all, we aren’t exactly in the habit of creating bridges to nowhere.

Day 116

Man: 95 Loneliness: 21

Day 114: The Man and the Bellowing Sorrows; ‘Smoke’

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Finally an opportunity when things have relatively calmed down. It has been a hell of a week which has been quite the shame considering how great the past weekend was.


Got a chance to watch The Accountant with Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick. Great movie. I don’t know why the critics panned it so much. I feel somehow somewhere along the line, perhaps around the Giglii era, Ben Affleck turned into critic and box office poison. He has since proven himself again. The Town was great, Argo proved his abilities as an actor, producer, and director. Yet everyone was so eager to see him fail as Batman that I cannot really get a sense of where people are in terms of Ben Affleck anymore. I was always a fan and Anna Kendrick, though she pretty much plays the exact same person in every one of her films, still plays it well and convincingly and she’s just so damn beautiful. There was an entire subplot with JK Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson that, though interesting, provided very little to the actual story. But the character was compelling and the intrigue was captivating. Highly recommended.


Saturday my friends and I got to go to Six Flags Fright Fest. The day was perfect for it. Fright Fest.jpgOvercast, slightly misty with sporadic rain, and 50°. The rain was moving through southern Jersey heading north so by the time we got there it had pretty much cleared up, but the weather did exactly what I hoped it would. The cold and rain kept most people away from the park so as soon as we were in it was nonstop rides. The shortest lines I’ve ever experienced and that made the cold so worth it. Plus, it’s crazy to feel the wind just freeze your teeth off as you’re screaming down a long drop. I’m a ride junkie so it was great but I was most proud of my one friend K, who hates rides. Something about Saturday just lit something in him though and he was on most of the rides with us. Some only I got on because everyone was too nervous to try. Joker was a solo ride because no one else wanted to try it. If you haven’t seen the ride or know anything about it, it’s a free-rotating and spinning rollercoaster ride. It goes straight up like an elevator and goes along the track with the carts suspended over the railing and Joker Ride.jpgspinning off. Green Lantern was fun and I love the gimmick of standing to ride. Superman you ride on your stomach. Batman the track is above you so your feet are hanging off. I love rides that are beyond your standard car and track. Having said that, the BEST ride experience of Fright Fest was after sundown, in pitch darkness, seeing nothing in front of you and going down an INTENSE drop at 70mph on El Toro. The frights of Fright Fest were okay, predictable, and the haunted mazes were unfortunately an extra cost, but just being able to do roller coasters in pitch darkness was entirely worth it. That and the hot cocoa and churros. Six Flags churros are the best.


Sunday was a thrill as well. I met my cousin in the city to try an escape room experience and take her to a bar in the Lower East Side that has some great drink and oyster specials all day on Sundays. I’ve done escape game before and I love them. Open ended puzzles, usually some great theatric elements (our had secret panels coming out of fireplaces and Mission Escape.pngsecret doors that opened to other rooms and chessboards that lit up when you placed pieces in certain places), wonderful opportunity to be working with friends or even strangers in small groups, and themes that to be honest, I could take it or leave it. The ones that are too over the top or try too hard actually turn me off to it, but just enough to create ambiance are fine. The one we went to was called The Hydeout, where we had to investigate what happened to Dr. Jekyll and how it relates to the mysterious killer Mr. Hyde. It was my cousin’s first time trying it and she admitted it was a bit out of her comfort zone, but I was so happy that she was willing to try it and I think the level of difficulty, the intricacy of the puzzles, the friendliness of the staff and our group, made for a great first experience and I think she sincerely enjoyed it. Afterwards I took her to The Essex, a restaurant in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It used to be an old warehouse which gives it a great setting with high windows and a second floor loft. Unfortunately a rather…rowdy….birthday party was going on literally right next to us but as soon as they left it quieted down and we were able to have conversations without yelling over each other. The drinks were great (and half off on Sunday) and the oysters were only $1 each. Essex.jpgFresh, good flesh and flavor, enough saltiness, great pairing for the night. Actually almost missed my bus because we spent so much time talking and drinking! I’ve been really looking forward to these opportunities to spend time with my cousin since I never got to really know her whenever I would visit the Philippines. We talked about relationships and life decisions and all these wonderful engaging complicated topics. Always fun to stretch the mind that way. Feel bad though because I know it can be exhausting as well. Maybe next time I’ll talk to her about the weather. Hahah.


It really is such a shame then that as fun and exciting as the weekend was, this week has been complete and utter trash. A new update that we were supposed to give people time to prepare for and teach them how to handle was sprung on the company on Monday Dwight.gifmorning and suddenly it was mayhem and chaos. People are emailing, messaging, texting, everyone has no idea what’s happening and our responsibility within our team is to disperse the information as quickly as possible. While my team, who were consultants longer than I was and who know more of the agents out in the field, were handling the smaller requests and one on one messages through our FB@Work program, I was the medium between the actual programming team and IT desk and the area stores. I had to talk to our program director and my manager. When our support desk didn’t know what to do, I was the one who spoke to them and coached them through the updates and how to fix it and what to tell people so that they were armed and equipped to help everyone who was calling and emailing in. But this put me way far behind the front line. I was far removed from where people could see who was giving them information so my boss was wondering where I was, asking why I wasn’t helping, at the same time that I was coordinating with our entire support staff and answering the questions of my team members because they weren’t aware of the changes. I was the one who, at the end of the day, had to give a report of my activities because no one could see me posting on Facebook or responding on emails. It was my work pride that took a little bit of a hit when everyone else was getting shout outs and thank yous and special head-eskmentions for how wonderful they were and how on top of things they were. My colleagues are not ones to easily give credit to others (you don’t get far in sales by giving other people your commission, now do you) and I am not one to ever seek or expect recognition. I trust enough in meritocracy that a good job should be recognized as such. I’m not the type to ‘blow smoke’ up someone’s ass nor am I the type to particularly enjoy the sensation of it being blown up mine. I’ll praise a job deserving praise and I’ll accept praise for a job well done, but I can’t ever support anything else as more than superfluous. Yet here I was dealing with the stresses and demands as I should but watching the ones I armed getting credit. It just hurts the motivation and incentive sometimes, vain as it may sound.

On the bright side it’s almost the weekend, and next week I am on the road, getting to enjoy the traveler life again, staying in my favorite hotels, and I even organized my schedule so that I am working my down the shore so I can spend next weekend in Atlantic City by myself. I have a favorite late night Chinese restaurant that has real authentic dishes for delivery like oxtail noodle soup and salt and pepper squid and jellyfish, the hotel I always stay at is giving me a free night and half off their buffet, Philips Seafood does happy hour drinks and oysters all day Sunday, and I’ll spend some time gambling and maybe catch an IMAX film. Next week it’ll be about me and the road and my work and my writing. No reports, no checking in, and the immediate benefit of my efforts will be leaving a store better than it was when I first walked in.

But on a lighter, more humorous note, let’s talk about the origin of the phrase ‘to blow smoke up someone’s ass’, shall we?!


In the late 1700s ‘blowing smoke up your ass’ more than just a figurative expression for meaningless praise to ‘inflate’ your ego. It was an actual medically accredited method of Smoke Ass.jpgresuscitation, particularly among drowning victims. Much as how nowadays you are expected to know the location of an AED in your office or home, the people of the 1700s were expected to know where smoke bellows were found hung along the routes of popular waterways and by bridges such as in London and along the River Thames. To use the device, a tube was inserted into the victim’s rectum which was connected to a bellow and fumigator to create smoke and push it up into the victim. The nicotine was thought to be an accelerant that would speed up heartbeat, thus reviving circulation. The smoke was also thought to be able to warm and dry the victim’s insides, removing excess water. This practice was so prevalent that the Royale Humane Society offered the equivalent of $750 to anyone who successfully revived a victim through this method. Much like how we nowadays tell those who are administering CPR to sing Staying Alive by the BeeGees to remember rhythm, in 1774 the Royal Humane Society released this little ditty to help remind people what to do for drowning victims when administering the smoke enema.

Tobacco glister, breathe and bleed.

Keep warm and rub till you succeed.

And spare no pains for what you do;

May one day be repaid to you.

In fact, smoke enemas became so popular as form of treatment that its use spread to more than just drowning victims. Smoke enemas were used to treat headaches, hernias, and abdominal cramps. One of the earliest and most popular examples of a smoke enema successfully resuscitating someone was when a young man’s wife had nearly drowned and was unconscious. Without the proper bellow and tube, the husband took a lit tobacco pipe, shoved the stem into his wife’s rectum, covered the other end with his mouth, and blew as forcefully as he could. His wife regained consciousness, though I can’t help but think maybe it was really from the sensation of burning hot tobacco embers being blown literally up her ass.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century when tobacco was found to be harmful to the cardiac system that the practice of ‘blowing smoke’ up someone’s ass was finally considered more harmful than helpful and the expression stayed in the figurative sense. Personally, I’m glad for that.

Day 114

Man: 93 Loneliness: 21

Day 111: The Man and the Missing Person’s Report

Apologies for the lack of writing.

Weekend was very eventful. Will have to share when opportunity arises. Went to Six Flags Fright Fest with my friends, and got to spend a great afternoon/evening with my cousin in the city. (Man +3)

Work has suddenly picked up and become quite demanding. With very little advance notice my boss has put me back on the road to help our branches. An update that was not supposed to be released yet was released prematurely, which caused a huge mass of confusion among consultants. In the resulting backlash I’ve been attempting to do damage control, but my visibility has me taking most of the hits as a result. (Loneliness +1)

My parents left today to go on a vacation with my aunt to Yosemite and California. I am rushing home each night to make sure my brother is taken care of and I do not want to leave him alone. I’m tired and I’m sorry for running behind on writings. Still have plenty left to say and I’ve got plenty more topics to discuss! I hope to be writing to you all again very soon.

Day 107: The Man and the Oldest Penis Joke in the World; ‘Ancient’

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This is no joke. The world’s oldest joke, written on an ancient Sumerian tablet in cuneiform, was as relevant 1900 years before the birth of Christ as it is today. That is a fact. This is the joke.

Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did NOT fart in her husband’s lap.

Sumerian, ~1900 BC

I myself have never been married. But I have dated a fair share of beautiful, elegant, bright women. And almost every single one of them has done this with me. It is amazing to me how, though the delivery and subject material may have changed over the years, what our ancestors found funny thousands of years ago is still what we laugh about today. The sheer timelessness of good comedy is something that transcends not only time and generations but borders, religions, and cultures.

How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of women dressed in fishing nets down the Nile and invite the pharaoh to go fishing.

Egyptian, ~1600 BC

Most jokes and comedies, regardless of era, have stuck to the same variants of delivery and method. The common question (setup) and response (punchline) form is evident in ancient Egyptian as much as it is evident in contemporary stand-up routines. I think this is largely because of how simply and naturally this flows in any language or time. By asking a seemingly inane or innocuous question, we are setting the stage. Calling on our shared common histories and experiences we create assumptions and expectations about where this exchange will go. By the time the punchline is delivered we are thrown off guard by the response and it is that unpredictability and surprise that creates the joke. We are not only acknowledging and utilizing the bonds that connect us, we are then outwitting our own expectations to create the witty, the sly, and the humorous.

Comedy Tragedy.jpgThe origins of ancient comedy, as far back as the 400s BC were not necessarily so noble in scale. ‘Old Comedy’, plays from ancient Greece typically from the 480s to 400s BC, were often just chock full of bawdy and raunchy jokes about genitalia and scat (yes I said scat). Aristophanes, who remains the most influential and most preserved writer of that period, elevated this just a tiny bit by using this absolutely raw and racy literary form to mercilessly lampoon and skewer his political and literary rivals. What Aristophanes capitalized on, and what we still now realize today, is that if you can effectively disguise political, professional, or personal attacks in what seems to be satire or parody, you can get away with delivering even the harshest of messages.

Laughter naturally lowers the defenses so even if you were the target, either you are so overcome with the humor of it all that you take it in good nature or the disguise is so complete that everyone else but you is aware of every jab. Some of the best political messages have been delivered in effective satire. Stephen Colbert made an entire successful show based on his satirical portrayal of a die-hard conservative Republican on his Colbert Report. Some of my favorite segments are when he invites Republicans or other targets for interviews and they are completely unaware that he is in character. Quite frankly this has to be the only reason why he was invited to speak at the White House Correspondents dinner and ‘shocked’ everyone when he started roasting President Bush.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of ancient comedy to modern comedy are the archetypal stereotypes that now define the very formulas of comedy. Later Greek comics like Menander and Plautus created a catalog of characters that are still evident in western comedies. You have your ‘angry old man’, your overbearing parent who tries to thwart his child’s romantic ambitions with someone he deems unworthy, the prostitute or thief or someone else of questionable moral standing who hides a heart of gold, or the buffoon who is rough, rude, and arrogant. While you may not know of any characters from Menander or Plautus, you most likely have seen various iterations of these same stock characters in modern comedies. In fact most modern sitcoms and comedic films are what you would call ‘character comedies’ versus ‘situation comedies’. The difference is that while ‘situation comedies’ rely on absurd environments and circumstances to create humor when thrust upon seemingly normal and standard characters (think Seinfeld), ‘character comedies’ create an ensemble of outlandish and exaggerated caricatures of various human follies and watches them try to tackle normal interactions and events (think Big Bang Theory).

A sharp witted observer witnesses a slow runner and says ‘I know exactly what that man needs’. ‘What’s that?’ the runner’s sponsor asks earnestly. ‘A horse.’

Greek, ~400 AD

Two of my favorite recent sitcoms, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, are great studies of ‘character comedies’. You have your stereotypical dumb blond who also plays the prostitute who turns out to be hiding a gentle and noble compassion, the foreigner in strange lands, the overbearing and neurotic black sheep, the seeming ‘every man’, the patriarch who tries to assert authority but is constantly subverted, the gay couple (which is a modern character trope to be fair), the bumbling naive idiot, the sex appeal, all hyperbole of real life but done so well that we can relate to each and enjoy watching the various aspects of ourselves and our personalities try to navigate every day life.

I think there’s a reason why comedy has, out of all the forms of literature and theatre, remained so prevalent and so timeless. Why we constantly study old and new humor and find such striking resemblances. Humor is honest. Forced laughter is so obviously forced and unnatural. Our laughing faces, much like our scared faces, cannot be controlled or restrained. Laughter is an involuntary and immediate response to a situation we find humorous. So the more we understand what immediately affects us, the closer we get to understanding what connects all of us, past and present, east and west, young and old. Laughter makes friends of enemies and strangers. We haven’t yet evolved so far that we cannot still find humor in the same things our ancient ancestors did. And to prove it, I will leave you with the oldest recorded joke in British history, dating back to the 10th century.

What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before?

A key.

Anglo-Saxon, ~900 AD

Day 107

Man: 87 Loneliness: 20

Day 106: The Man and the Perfect Setting; ‘Underground’

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Nothing good ever happens underground.

Only misery and torment could ever await someone in places where the sun cannot pierce. There’s never any real promise of good things to come when you find yourself walking deeper and deeper underground. Perhaps it’s the sensory deprivation that comes from being caught in total darkness, not knowing where you’re headed or where you’ve been and how quickly you lose your orientation of left, right, up, and down. Maybe it’s the claustrophobia that often accompanies underground treks. Subway tunnels that just barely fit your train car as it barrels quickly, too quickly, into the abyss. Caverns that, without warning, suddenly shrink so that you are walking sideways with your lungs pressed against the rocky surface. Maybe it’s just the person next to you that you are traveling underground with. Below the surface there are no rules and no structures. It is a lawless land where the sun does not shine. You are caught in this strange environment with no reference and very few outlets for escape. It’s grimly ironic that the dark tunnels that echo and magnify your terrified screams are also the same that separate you from anyone who would hear and/or care.

Catacombs.jpgThe underground world has always been associated with fear and death. Most religions and cultures assign the dead to a land beneath the earth’s surface. We naturally fear that which we cannot see or understand, and since we cannot see the world beneath our feet it seems to us almost immediately foreign and frightening. Hell, Hades, all realms assigned to the underground. If you’ve ever been to Rome and visit the Catacombs you will realize that you are walking around a city that was literally built on top of the dead and the dead keep the city’s foundations.

In popular culture and media, if you want to scare someone or create a setting for tension and fear, you go deep. The deeper you go, the more you feel your breath getting caught in your throat and your joints tighten. It is a perfect environment for capturing the worst of us and our fears.

The Tunnel

The Tunnel.jpgLast month I saw a great film that took place almost completely underground. The Tunnel is a Korean film about a car salesman who, on the way home for his daughter’s birthday, gets caught inside a catastrophic tunnel collapse. While we get glimpses of the surface world watching his wife, various members of the rescue crew, the Korean government, and the Korean public, the majority of the movie is spent with Jung-Soo as he spends what amounts to months caught underneath the rubble and destruction. Jung-Soo is your average father. He is neither incredibly noble nor despicable. He is not a hero so much as he is a survivor. He has no extraordinary features or values that would separate how he handled the situation from how we might have perhaps done. In his ability to be so accessible and generic his fears and anxieties very quickly translate into ours. Imagine being knocked out and coming to your senses caught underground, with pieces of cement pinning you to your car and dangerously sharp pieces of metal inches from your face. Every movement, no matter how slight, could mean the difference between another day and almost certain doom as you disturb the chaotic balance of structure that keeps the entirety of the tunnel crashing down on you. The Tunnel is an excellent example of how the darkness and the isolation of being underground can make us so afraid. It preys on our fears and makes us think twice about entering that long tunnel to nowhere. Which is especially stressful for me because the Lincoln Tunnel is one of the best ways for me to get into New York. I could see a lot of people with serious claustrophobia finding this movie hard to get through. It does an excellent job of framing the very tunnel itself as the antagonist of the movie. It is large and menacing and reckless and it claims life and land in mere moments with no warning or second thought. It’s stressful, tense, and gripping, which makes it an excellent example.

Dragon Head

Dragon Head.jpgOnce again we find ourselves at the entrance of a long underground tunnel with no light on the other side. Only this time we’re in a train instead of a car and instead of the Korean film The Tunnel it is the Japanese graphic novel Dragon Head. I read this back in high school and, considering the protagonist was also a high schooler simply on his way back home from a field day, I found the series unnerving and almost too relatable. A powerful earthquake, preceded by a flash of mysterious light from the entrance of the tunnel, derails Teru’s train and destroys the tunnel it’s in. Teru is knocked out very early on and when he finally comes to, he sees in horror that most of his classmates and teachers have all been killed. Unlike The Tunnel which plays on our fear of the underground, Dragon Head does an excellent job of playing on the fear of what being underground can do to us. There are no teachers, no authority figures, and with rubble on both sides of the tunnel, seemingly no escape. The fear of being pushed to the brink of our civility and sanity is heightened and magnified in the vacuous cavern of the underground tunnel. You could give in to the crushing despair and trauma of not only being trapped but being trapped in a literal coffin filled with the countless dead bodies of friends and teachers. With no light and no reference there is no way for you to count the days as you slowly descend into depression or madness. Worse than witnessing yourself descend into madness would be to watch your fellow survivors get there much faster, and almost more willingly, than you. Teru has to very quickly recover from the initial shock as the seeming security of the underground tunnel unleashes feverish madness in other fellow survivors. There must be something about the idea of being so far removed from retribution or restriction that some people are almost immediately willing to surrender themselves to the darkness. People go crazy underground, perhaps because they feel they are safe from the gaze of others. This is no light read and is filled with mystery and loss and the darkest aspects of humanity. Dragon Head won the Kodansha Manga Award for general manga in 1997 and in 2000 won the Award for Excellence at the 4th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize for its depiction of loss, fear, despair, and ultimately, madness.

Metro, The Descent, As Above So Below, Here They Lie, Etc

The Descent.jpgIn both games and movies, underground settings are extremely popular for immediately placing the viewer in a state of dread and fear. It is not being underground that scares us. It is not who we are or who we might become. It is the fear of what may yet lie in the darkness underground with us. Often times in horror films and games there are moment of brief escape. We know as the sun goes up the demons must disappear. Even if for a brief moment we are given respite. But when you are underground, truly underground, there is no such escape. The sun does not shine and there is no way of knowing where, or when, you find yourself in the dark. This lack of knowing and awareness, deprived of our senses in a dark and quiet world, makes every shadow, every sound, every sensation that much more terrifying. I’ve played Here They Lie in demo on PlayStation and I’ve played both Metro 2033 and its sequel, Metro: Last Light on PlayStation. Both take place in a post-nuclear fallout world where survivors are relegated to surviving underground in the vast metro systems of Moscow. It is a tense first-person shooter with both human and, most terrifyingly of all, non-human enemies Here They Lie.jpglurking in the darkness of the unexplored expanses of the subway system. The further you explore beyond the limits of your encampment the darker it becomes and the more frightening. I remember there were intense scenes when I was just not willing to step any further into the dark with nothing but my flashlight. That same sensation is captured only in virtual reality and in 360° sound. Shadows stalk you in the tunnels of Here They Lie and as they rush behind you, you can hear the raspy breath of whatever it is almost inches from your neck. Personally I love these games but that’s because I know how effective the setting is in creating the promise of terror.

Horror films are smart to use this to their advantage as well. The Descent made great use of minimal lighting and effects to deliver maximum scare factor. As Above So Below set itself in the catacombs below Paris with urban explorers in much deeper than they realized. It is again that combination of claustrophobia, darkness, and isolation that only the underground world can elicit. After watching these films you may want to think twice before going anywhere where you have to leave the waking world not behind but above you.


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Apropos to the season of scream, thinking about the promises of the underground puts us in a great mood to be scared out of our minds. Often times it takes very little, once we realize where we are, to make us second guess every sound and sight.

Day 106

Man: 86 Loneliness: 20

Day 105: The Man and the Virtue of Patience; ‘Waiting’

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Can waiting ever be an active experience?

Think of all the times in your life you’ve had to wait for something. Waiting in line. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for your number or name or table. Waiting for the world to change. What else did you do during the wait? How did waiting become so all-encompassing when it’s so…passive?

Waiting isn’t exactly something we do or seek out to do. It sort of just..happens to us. Nobody wants to wait. It’s the promised reward on the other end of that investment of time and energy that we seek. But often times the wait time feels like it’s longer and sometimes it may in fact be. So between ourselves and our goal there is this significant portion of time that we just let slip away. What can we do with that time?

vulturesYou’re sitting in your dentist’s waiting room, as I happen to be right now while writing this, and you’re surrounded by wrinkled old copies of People magazine and Us and Time. Instrumental versions of pop songs play softly on hidden speakers. You open your phone’s app hoping that your dentist office is popular enough to be a Pokestop. It isn’t. You count your breaths but you become so aware of it that you lose your rhythm and fear you’ll pass out so you try and think of something else again. Your prophylaxis is going to take perhaps all of 45 minutes to an hour depending on how well you’ve been flossing but at least during that time your teeth are getting cleaned. You will spend an equal amount of time waiting in the lobby and in what way will your life have improved from it?

I have a problem with waiting. It’s not productive. It’s not conducive to anything. It’s painfully slow and passive and yet it’s such a big part of our daily lives. We often define our experiences based on how long we waited for something. ‘I waited forever to see this show!’ ‘We waited for an hour on the runway.’ ‘I’ve been waiting for half an hour for you to finally get here.’ (I’m so bad at timing dates, I’m so sorry.) It’s there and it’s inevitable despite all of our efforts to alleviate either the length or the strain of waiting. There are Fast Passes and advanced reservations and pre-orders to try and bypassHate Waitign.gif the wait. We inundate ourselves with mobile games and trashy magazines and poor programming to distract us from the wait. How is Steve Harvey on five different programs at the same time in every single medical office? We add up those hours and half hours and forevers and eventually we’re going to have a very large amount of time with nothing to answer for it.

Trying to sidestep waiting by either trying to anticipate it or direct focus away from it is like digging a hole in the sand at the beach and thinking it’ll keep your feet dry. No matter what you do or how deep you dig, the tide is going to get you. So you’ve built your hole. The water seeped in. Why do we just jump out and then go right back to digging another hole? There’s got to be a way to use all of this waiting we all have to deal with. Is there a way to capitalize on the wait time not to distract ourselves but to better prepare for what it is we are in anticipation of?

ko.jpgI think of when I am waiting for a reservation at this restaurant I must be dying to get into. You know what I do while I wait for my name? I study the menu. I watch the food going by. I try to smell all the different ingredients in the air. I listen to orders. I slobber and froth in such rapturous anticipation that when it’s finally time to sit down I have invested wholly and completely in the experience. I wasn’t distracting myself. I mean I did minimize it a bit by calling in a reservation but I knew the wait would be inevitable in whatever scope it ended up being. But I used it as the beginning of the experience, not just the huge void before it.

So there’s the rub. I realize now that what I really have before me is a 365 waiting period before even considering my next relationship. The anticipation and the desire is there. It’s not unbearable like I’m going to jump on the first person who says hello to me, but I know it’s something I want and there it stands on the other end of the gap and I need to figure out the best way to fill in the void.

I’ve enjoyed all of my little mini excursions and my new hobbies. I still will definitely dedicate time and energy to those. But without taking away from their value or new significance in life, can I say that they are in any way improving what I am looking at from the other side of the waiting line? How does a single person not in a relationship, not seeking one, yet still wanting one in the future, prepare himself as best as he can for what he eagerly awaits? Am I using the most of this time for that purpose? There are a lot of things I can do and accomplish in a year. I have set goals of improvement and achievement personally, professionally, and in relationships with friends and family. But at the end of the year I’ll be kicked out of this world and into a different one, one I wanted to be a part of to begin with, but will I be more or less prepared than I was to begin with.

There are plenty of articles and videos on how those in relationships can improve them in the moment and that’s wonderful but they don’t apply to those who are single. And then there are also plenty of articles and videos aimed at single people about ‘working on yourself’ and ‘loving those around you’ and ‘don’t worry about love’ and all those other exhausting ‘don’t rush it and enjoy life’ and the like. Yeah, I get it. I’m not feeling pressured, I’m not rushing, I don’t lament my current status, I know no one can complete my story but myself. I’m saying even as a single person I can recognize that this is an area I would like to improve in even if I have no reference point. And if I was at the stage when it was time to start looking I know there are plenty of apps and sites and even more articles and videos on what to do to increase your chances of finding someone and where and how and when. But what about a single person who wants to just focus on being a better partner.

I don’t know. It’s an interesting concept. One I’ll have to think about more and explore. How to make a single guy a better boyfriend. How to prepare for a relationship. Single person’s guide to being the best for your imaginary hypothetical future would be partner. Maybe there’s value in taking that dance class on your own. Rather than learning how to step together, you can already be prepared to sweep her off her feet.

Day 105

Man: 85 Loneliness: 20

Day 104: The Man and the Cabinet of Curiosities; ‘Urgent’

Kurios Banner.jpg

The audience is closer to the stage than in any other Cirque show in history, with the stage being only two feet high.

If you are in the New York area any time between now and Nov 27th, you urgently need to go see Cirque du Soleil’s big top touring show, Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities! If you miss out on it here follow them to Miami, FL; Dallas, TX; or Houston, TX where they will continue their tour because this is by far, hands down, one of the most incredible, exciting, gorgeous, and exhilarating Cirque performances I have ever seen.

Kurios features one of the 10 smallest people in the world. Antanina Satsura, who plays Mini Lili, is 3.2 feet tall.

Though my review and post comes to you late, I can assure you it is not for lack of sharing. I have made every possible effort to spread the love for Kurios whenever and wherever I can, with friends and family alike, and I absolutely had to make sure you all knew about it too. I saw Kurios on Friday at Randall’s Island Park in New York, the same place where I saw Ovo, another of their big top shows, back in 2010. The setting is gorgeous, a little island park getaway right outside of Manhattan. The Grand Chapiteau, with its brightly colored spiral tent, is, much like the show, a magical and fantastic setting seemingly out of place and straight out of one’s imagination running alongside the concrete jungle of FDR Drive.

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It takes six days to set up Kurios and two days to bring it down to get on the road.

I’ll be honest with you, I knew little to nothing of this show coming in. I was with my friend and her family, who are much more informed and follow Cirque’s productions a bit closer than I do. It was they who told me about Kurios and I was with them when I saw Toruk which I reviewed earlier [here]. I had this preview video to go by and my friend’s assurances that, after researching the show and following some of the performers on social media, Kurios promised to be one of the best productions in a while, harkening back to such phenomenal performances as Alegria (which in my opinion had some of the best music and clown acts) and Ka (which remains my favorite of all-time with its set and martial arts elements). I knew that the acts would be of a certainly high caliber, and my friend’s brother was particular excited to let us know about the acro-net, a very different performance than their trampoline tracks.

Kurios includes 426 individual props, the most of any show in Cirque’s history.

Kurios Stage.jpg

From the very moment you enter inside the Grand Chapiteau you realize that this is way more than just talk and hype. For such a limited space Kurios makes use of every bit of valuable real estate. The set is gorgeous and members of the audience had an opportunity to get even closer to the action by walking on a suspended walkway that went over and through the stage. The steampunk element is gorgeously done with these fantastic set pieces that inspire the imagination and immerse you in the world of fantastic possibility. Truly I have to commend the designers of Kurios on the incredibly elaborate set pieces, the whimsical costumes, and the stage design. There was simply not enough time just to dedicate to taking in every little element and appreciating the worksmanship and contribution it gave to that feeling of being inside the mind of an inventor and all of his gadgets and machines.

An 8-person live band performs right on stage during the performances. You can often find the singer at the top of the tunnel and the musicians in various spots during the show.

Of course I must speak of the music, which incidentally I am listening to right now to help put me back at that performance on Friday. The 8 person band that plays for Kurios consists of vocalist Eirini Tornesaki, a drummer, percussionist, guitarist, violinist, cellist, accordion player, and band leader. The music is fantastic, especially if like me you are into jazz and/or swing. Almost reminds me of Caravan Palace, which is a French electro swing group. Live music always has a bit more life and energy to it and the pieces all reflect the mood of the acts and help to transition one to another. It is through music that we really get the most communication between the show and ourselves and the message is always delivered clearly, effectively, and engagingly. I could listen to the soundtrack, which is available by the way, all the time during my free time and feel the energy of the performance again and again in my blood.

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Kurios features 46 performers from 14 different countries, all of which are represented by flags displayed outside the Grand Chapiteau.

These acts are incredible, I’m telling you. Absolutely breathtaking. Each act ramps up the excitement and is just even more unbelievable than the last. We’ve seen certain elements of these acts before. Cirque shows commonly feature aerial straps like the ‘Siamese twins’ of Kurios. We’ve seen contortion acts, but perhaps none as flexible with as limited space as the four artists who use the base of a giant mechanical hand to twist and balance and support on top of each other. The clowns are of course always a wonderful feature in any Cirque production and in this more than most I’ve seen recently they are indeed wonderfully entertaining and essentially and critically humorous. The two clown acts, the ‘Invisible Circus’ and when a clown takes a member of the audience on a date at his ‘place’, were unforgettably funny. I was quite literally doubled over in laughter when the clown’s ‘cat’ plays with the audience member. But there are three acts in particular I would like to focus on.

Upside Down World.jpgUpside Down World – Not to be confused with the nightmarish setting of one of my favorite new series Stranger Things, the Upside Down World in Kurios is perhaps the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring act of the entire production in my opinion. A dinner party turns into a fantastical acrobatic balancing act when one of the guests is tasked with reaching a seemingly out of reach chandelier. Meanwhile, completely mirroring their acts, another dinner party takes place above the audience’s guests upside down as the upside guest races to reach the same chandelier. A beautiful ballet of balance and wiring. The very inspiration and spot on execution of such an elaborate piece deserves special commendation.

Acro Net – Past Cirque Acro net.jpgperformances have used  trampolines and trampoline tracks before to show incredible feats of flips and jumps but the acro net in Kurios is of a completely different caliber. Whereas traditionally trampoline track acrobats would use their own weight and the tension of springs to catapult themselves into the air, the performers in Kurios’s acro net act use the combined weight of almost ten separate acrobats synchronizing their jumps to send one poor unfortunate soul flying so high up you fear they’ll pierce the roof of the Chapiteau itself. How they manipulate the air with such ease and confidence is not only exciting it’s also terrifying. I didn’t know whether to cheer or to scream but I knew I was absolutely enjoying every minute of what I was watching.

Hand Puppet.jpgHand Puppetry – I remember as I was watching the performances I would sometimes be distracted by the shadows cast on the tent’s walls. See one of the interesting aspects of a big top setting is how close you are to everything and how intimate each act becomes. You are never so close to the performers as when you are all under this giant tent. As the spotlight followed the performers it would cast these larger than life shadows on the wall and sometimes I was just mesmerized by watching the shadows dance on the wall. I wondered if this was perhaps intentional or just a happy by-product of our setting. Then I saw the hand puppetry act and I knew that someone somewhere definitely realized the artistic and aesthetic value of playing with light and shadow in this setting. There were no big dangerous or exciting aspects to the hand puppetry. No one was flying ten feet in the air or displaying any particular level of physical strength or baffling flexibility. But still, there was magic in this act. In the delicate way the music framed the scene, the focus and elegance of each puppeteer’s movements, and in the way they played with and manipulated the camera and distance and space, this act, perhaps most of all, spoke to me on a deeply personal level. It’s such a risk to take all this amped up energy and adrenaline and excitement and suddenly punctuate it with this intimate and surreal theatre piece. But Kurios did not disappoint and did not take this risk needlessly. Such grace and skill and deftness, to portray so much emotion and life through just the hands. There is not a single moment during the entire show that you are not surrounded by beauty.

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Kurios is Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production.

In the Seeker’s attempts to create a machine to manipulate time and space, in the steampunk retro elements of the set, in that 20s era jazz and swing music, and in the variety and caliber and dedication of each act, Kurios is definitely sending a very strong message not only of the history of Cirque du Soleil but also of its promising future. I’m not going to lie I definitely love certain Cirque shows more than others and there are a few I could live without. But I could never live in a world without Cirque at all. Productions like Ka, Alegria, Kurios, these speak to me on so many levels. There is a sense of community and possibility when you see how artists and performers from all over the world come together to make these incredible productions that highlight the best of what we have to offer. In focusing on going back to Cirque’s roots Kurios achieves a level of production that will stand triumphantly on top for a very long time looking forward. I cannot sing its praises with enough enthusiasm or eloquence. I just sit wide-eyed and marvel at what the show has accomplished. And when it is done and the performers come out on stage to take their bows, you can be assured I will be one of the very first, urgently rushing to get up, to give them a standing ovation.

Day 104

Man: 84 Loneliness: 20

Day 101: The Man and the Manliness of Praise P.5; ‘Candle’

‘Virtues are acquired through endeavor, which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues can but encourage one’s own efforts.’

– Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine.jpgFor the final part of my series on praise I would like to discuss the act of praise in particular as it pertains to men. I’d also like to issue a warning about the efficacy of praise and the discretion of its use. And finally I’d like to issue a challenge to everyone to become a bit more active in their mindset of praise. We’ve got a lot to go over people so let’s get started.

 

 

The Manliness of Praise

Though I know the majority of my readers are women (as seems prevalent among the blogging community) I cannot ignore the fact that I am a guy and I feel that more men should be able to write and find community and find relevant posts for themselves. And though I may direct this portion towards men in particular I believe there could be benefit in everyone reading this, as it does not necessarily only apply to men and it can also help understand a bit of the male psyche.

I believe that while men may have no issues giving or receiving praise from women, we are particularly restrained when it comes to praising our fellow man. I know I have definitely shared more positive words with women than I have with men and I believe this could be true for many others. The causes for this I think are rooted within our views of masculinity and other men.

See for the most part, guys view others guys primarily as competition versus ally, which is man2man.jpgusually the reverse for women. We are still tuned to want to hunt and provide and fear the scarcity of resources, including praise and success. For many men success, respect, and praise are all ‘points’ to be won and to offer someone praise is to ‘give up’ precious points. Yes, it is true that praising someone is to recognize that they particularly excel either in a particular skill, characteristic, or trait. But success isn’t a game to be won and simply because someone excels in something does not mean there are no opportunities for you to excel in the same thing or something else altogether. The truth of the matter is respect is something we have plenty of to go around and offering praise, while raising one person, does nothing to lower another. In fact the man you are praising most likely doesn’t even think to keep ‘score’ with you so this worry that prevents you from sharing some positivity with your fellow man is just keeping a valuable asset out of the hands of someone who might really need that affirmation.

Further, I challenge men to consider that it is actually the higher man who is able to comfortably, confidently, and consistently offer his fellow men words of praise. Humility, self-awareness, and the desire for improvement are all valuable traits to have in anyone, regardless of gender. Especially for a man who might be hesitant to offer a compliment because of lowering his value I say that it actually shows you to be someone who possesses these three traits. It is honorable for a man to be able to find excellence in others and respect and recognize them for it. Further it shows that he has thought about the traits he wishes to possess and it portrays it in his search for examples of such. Often times offering a kind word can also open the door to improvement. Praising someone for something you admire and wish to also possess can facilitate growth in the greatest way – by finding someone whose example you can follow either in the form of formal tutelage or in spirit.

I also believe that when it comes to men and the manliness of praise, praising another person in particular for their values also reflects positively on the one praising. Remember ‘it takes one to know one’? When you genuinely and sincerely and specifically praise someone for their values or virtues and it is convincing and thorough, you are also broadcasting that you too are someone who recognizes this trait and strives to possess it in its highest form as well. When you can honestly and without judgement or fear of feeling lesser or inferior recognize the great values and traits of others, you are indirectly glimpsing at the greatest version of yourself in various forms. It keeps you focused on your goals and directs your mindset to be seeking and improving on these aspects yourself.

A Warning on the Efficacy of Praise

As powerful and as positive as praise can be, when used improperly it can also be praise.jpgdestructive and have negative effects. For one, remember that praise is first and foremost for the benefit of the one being praised. Any ulterior motive or agenda, wither implicit or explicit, detracts from the value, the worth, and the sincerity of the act. This can jade our opinion of others and make us feel wary or suspicious of any kind words. It also reflects a manipulative and less than honorable image for the one who uses praise for their own benefit. So always be forthcoming with your words and intentions. Sometimes we may also be tempted to offer praise even to someone who may not necessarily deserve it simply because we wish to be kind or perhaps because we think they need it. While the person may honestly need some words of encouragement, if you are not careful to choose something truly noteworthy and simply make something up, you could make this person feel worse than if you had said nothing at all. Remember that the efficacy of accepting and internalizing praise is also predicated on if we believe that we truly deserved it or not. If they don’t deserve praise for that particular thing but you still wish to say something positive, choose something else. Undeserved praise serves no one in any way. And finally, in regards to back-handed compliments, remember that a compliment should be a compliment and an insult should be delivered to the front of the person, and not to their back. If someone is feeling particularly proud or excited about something and you decide it’s up to you to restore ‘balance’ with your back-handed compliment you could seriously damage their self-esteem or their enthusiasm. Praise positively, peeps.

A Challenge

Yes, I believe it is time we all put our money where our mouths are, so I am issuing this challenge to you all for the weekend with the understanding that I will of course also be engaging in it as well.

The challenge is simple. It deals with changing our negative mindsets to find the positives in our every day and then actively sharing what we see. Over the course of the weekend, preferably once a day, compliment the following people in your life:

  • A family member or friend: This is the easiest one of course, but it is also a great way to strengthen your relationship with the ones you love.
  • A co-worker: For most of us these are the people we will spend the second most amount of time in our lives with so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to improve relations and morale with your office mates.
  • A business you patronize: In a world of TripAdvisor and Yelp and viral reviews it’s a shame that we are more likely to share complaints and negative experiences over positive ones. Your local business thrives on word of mouth and needs the support of the community to survive. Try to spread a good word about a business you frequent not only on some form of media but with friends, family, or even just let them know you think they’re doing a great job.
  • A young person or beginner in some field: Remember from the early on in the series that the young and the novices are the ones who benefit from positive encouragement the most. So take some time to provide that boost of confidence they need to believe in themselves.
  • A stranger: Perhaps one of the hardest to do and yet the easiest in terms of finding something to compliment. Brighten someone’s day with as simple a remark as ‘I love your tie or shoes or etc’. Try to be specific to show that you are genuine and paying attention.

Thus concludes ManVsLoneliness’s seminar on praise. Hahah. I hope it helped in some way and I hope you take on this challenge.

Day 101

Man: 81 Loneliness: 20

Uh…candle.

Day 100: The Man and the Hundred Day Update

On a side note, I can’t believe it’s been 100 days!

Yes, it does mean that 100 days ago my relationship with Beautiful ended, and that was a very tough time for me emotionally. But it means so much more than just a timeline of heartbreak. I’ve been single and pretty happy and secure for 100 days. I’ve been writing for 100 days. At an average word count of about 1,000 words, that means I’ve written around 100,000 words! I don’t think I’ve ever written so much in such a consistent way over such a long period of time. They might not always be the best words but they’ve always been my words; genuine, authentic, purposeful words. For 100 days I have been moving ever forward and I’ve found my little niche in this enormous community where my words can find a home and even an audience. For 100 days I have been reflecting and learning and growing.

So I look at my M/L ratio so far, and I see I’ve had 80 days for Man and 20 days for Loneliness. That’s not too bad, I should think. If we break it down, it does still mean that I have a bummer day every 5 days. That’s still like, one or two a week depending. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it that way, but it’s interesting for me at least to think of the past three months in that way. Obviously it hasn’t been as consistent as just one a week. For the most part, the bad days came often times in a row. A slump to get over. It makes me wonder though at the end of the road, what my days will look like. I’ve never quantified them in this way. Thinking of how many good or bad days I’ve had to experience. I hope in the end I could say I had a bad day in every ten, or maybe even thirty days. I think that would be a very satisfying life.

What I have learned though is that my enemy was not who I thought it was. In the very beginning, Loneliness was the by-product of my breakup. I felt Loneliness in the void Beautiful left in my life. It was the bad reminder of good times long gone, like the charred remains after a house fire. I feared anything that would remind me of her or my relationship, so for a while I lived a shell of a life in isolated sanctuaries I knew she hadn’t yet entered. But I can’t live my life afraid of being burned by a fire that has already passed. So I moved on. Yet Loneliness remained. So I thought it was because I was without a relationship. But I have surrounded myself more now than ever with friends and family. I have been learning to cherish and appreciate these other relationships in my life. I could balance time with others and have time to myself to be alone but not lonely. So I have relationships right now to keep me happy and fulfilled. Yet, Loneliness remains. And now I’m beginning to see that I can sort of see the silhouette of what it is I feel so lonely for. This special, higher, much more intimate relationship. I’m beginning to reflect more on what it is I want in a relationship. I’m not just chasing the shadows of images confusing them for the real thing. I want to investigate the nature of what I want. And now those moments when Loneliness wins, it’s not so bad. It’s a bittersweet reminder of the intense feelings that come from being alive and having loved and having lost. Loneliness is the cloud from which there would otherwise be no silver lining.

I don’t know why but recently I’ve been on a serious binge of really sappy love songs on Spotify. I’d come into work and turn on my computer, log into Spotify, and almost immediately Celine Dion is playing. They don’t write love songs like they used to anymore. Celine Dion, Boz Skaggs, Lionel Richie, those love songs you feel in your heart versus your pelvis. Recently I’ve been having more dreams with these mysterious dream girls. Always different, never the same, never even someone I know. Just these various versions of what I’m looking for. Last night she had long hair and was short and we met in martial arts class. The other night she had short hair and had this pale skin like the full moon and she let me rest my head on her lap. I used to hate these dreams because I’d wake up and focus on not having these things but now I wake up and love how much I want them. I’m not gonna lie I’m almost itching to get back to dating. But I can see so much of the benefits of this time away that I don’t want to stop. There is value and worth in discretion and discipline. I knew it would be difficult and I knew I’d want to get back real soon but I thought it would be out of fear and desperation. Instead I find it’s out of excitement and enthusiasm and wonderful curiosity.

Beside the fact, I wouldn’t even know where to fit dating into my life again at this time. Hahah. What started as attempts to drive loneliness and fear and insecurity from my mind as distractions have become genuine interests and passions. My days are full of activity and growth. On Mondays and Thursdays I’m taking boxing classes. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays I am still going to martial arts. On Fridays if I’m not there I’m hanging out with friends or going out on my own. This Friday I’m seeing Kurios with a friend and her family. On Saturdays I am almost always either with friends or family. Sundays are my days to myself to rest and recuperate or to enjoy my own company doing the things that I love, fully comfortable on my own. I cook more. Next week I am planning a meal for my family and I can’t wait to cook and take pictures and moreover I can’t wait to share with you all a post I already have planned about what cooking has taught me about life. I am blogging now almost every single day and that takes up a good amount of time. Quality content doesn’t come easily or quickly and I’m still trying to find it. I’ve taken up archery. I even built my own target stand. I try to shoot 100 arrows a day to develop my muscle memory, my eyesight, and my instincts (no fancy equipment or sights here). I thought my life was defined by my relationships and that without it I would only be left with silence and thoughts. Instead I find that without a relationship to define me I am filling in the blanks with my own interests and values and spending my time defining myself for myself.

I won’t lie, I miss having someone though. I still fall ever so slightly in love with every beautiful woman who looks my way. But there’s no pressure to do anything about it. I’m not killing myself not having it. Just enjoying that rush and that feeling. I miss having someone’s hand to hold as I walk through the special and wonderful places and times of my life. I miss hearing sweet words directed at me. I miss a beautiful woman’s laughter right next to my ear. The unmistakable sugary flowery sweet smell of a woman’s perfume on my pillow. I miss the gaze of a woman who can see into my soul and see her world. I miss it because I want it. I refrain because I want to earn it. I write these clumsy words because I want to remember how to cherish it.

Day 100

Man: 80 Loneliness: 20