Posts Tagged 'change'

Deadman’s A-Z Guide to Living: Inertia

Observing the mistakes and silliness of others is a perfectly useful way to learn how to live the well-lived life.

For instance, my mother’s mother, may her soul rest in peace, was a tremendously loving and caring grandmother, but I probably learned at least as much about life from her flaws as from her positive attributes. In particular, I was able to see the damage my Bobba wrought (to herself as well as others) as she bitterly held onto grudges and regrets as if they alone could sustain her, and often retaliated to perceived insults with petty nastiness.

I realized such behavior had to be terribly unsatisfying, and ultimately unproductive, and believe I have embraced a much healthier way to deal with people and events that disappoint me (I forgive easily. I focus on the positives. I take my share of the blame. I think before responding, and try to consider the long-term implications of my actions).

Alas, I’m beginning to realize that a fair amount of my A-Z Guide to Living will also end up serving as a cautionary tale, full of advice which I believe to be critically important but am not following for whatever reason.

Give charity generously, unlike me.

Avoid distractions, unlike me.

Overcome your fears, unlike me.

And now, for my latest lesson, I want you to fight inertia, unlike me.

In physics, inertia is the resistance of any object to a change in its state of motion. When you throw in the additional effects of friction and gravity one encounters here on Earth, inertia basically means that things have a tendency to be still and tethered to the ground.

Or specifically: My ass has a tendency to be tethered to the couch, watching TV.

My college roommate and I used to comment all the time about how our lives were basically ruled by inertia. Recognizing we were powerless to stop it, we embraced its presence, bowing to the ever-looming God of Inertia and offering it regular sacrifices, which of course meant continuing to sit on our asses and watch TV.

It’s no surprise that the root for inertia comes from the Latin iners, meaning lazy.

Unfortunately, with the passing years, inertia tends to exert an even more powerful hold. Energy levels deplete as responsibilities build, so sitting on your ass during those precious moments of free time almost always seems the most appealing option. Indeed, nowadays when I find myself stymied by inertia, it often takes a tremendous amount of unexpected force – such as the passing odor of freshly baked M&M/fluff cookies – to get my ass to move.

I probably don’t need to tell you the problems that will develop as you let inertia work its voodoo, but like those scary stop-smoking commercials, I’m going to anyway: Atrophied muscles, weight gain, poor vision, loss of brainpower, diminished creativity, decreased sex drive, general ennui, a disturbing accumulation of knowledge of lame reality TV shows.

And inertia will increasingly sneak its way into other parts of your life, as well. It will keep you in unhealthy relationships and unfulfilling jobs. It will make the prospect of change seem like the most frightening thing in the world. Its primary goal is to turn your life into one big rut.

Seriously, you must fight inertia with all of your might.

Go to the gym. Play a sport. Find a fun new hobby, like say, blogging. Make love to your wife. Cook dinner. Meet up with friends (but not my college roommate, especially if there is a couch involved). Always be moving. Always be changing.

Yes, it is tiring to battle the God of Inertia, but the most appropriate place to sit your ass down is the coffin, not the couch.

I won’t join you in your fight, of course … but if they make it into a reality TV show, I’ll likely watch.

The world as it should be …

On the same night I wrote about the idealistic Sixties and how the eventual disillusionment that followed has continued to hold its grip on the American psyche,  Michelle Obama gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention about not accepting the ‘world as it is” but striving to create the ‘world as it should be.’

The speech, taken at face value, should have been dismissed as hokey (and was indeed done so by some old white men on Fox News). It was filled with platitudes and buzzwords, and woefully short on specific solutions.

It was the kind of shiny, happy talk that’s all too common at political conventions and campaigns. For a million different reasons, we should be skeptical of Michelle’s speech, and of the entire Obama mystique, the way the campaign tosses around words like hope and change as if they were Magical Concepts, whose utterance alone will be enough to make the world a better place.

How can we not, after the last eight years, doubt the Obamas’ sincerity or wonder if they’d be able to fulfill their promises once elected, even if their intentions are pure.

Yet it somehow feels right to believe. We allow ourselves to not be so cynical, despite the fact we know we should know better. Young adults around the country, in particular, have been inspired by Obama in a way that hasn’t happened for decades.

Perhaps we believe the Obamas because we’re amazed that it’s even possible that an African-American couple has gotten to this point, so close to the White House. For if that is now possible in this country, then what, really, isn’t possible?

Or perhaps we believe them because the alternative is too depressing, and we’re so tired of being cynical, of Clintons and Bushes, of blow jobs and snow jobs, of Watergate and Whitewater and Blackwater, that we’re ready to believe again that it doesn’t have to be that way.

A recent book by the pollster John Zogby “The Way We’ll Be’ suggests that America’s youth – the ‘First Globals’ he calls them – are exceedingly optimistic about the future, crave honest and courageous leadership and believe that they can save the Earth.

I’m not so sure why that would be, but if it’s true, then perhaps the spirit of the Sixties isn’t entirely dead after all. And perhaps the world as it is will soon get a little bit closer to the world as it should be.

China’s Got Talent … Eventually They’ll Have Freedom

I was going to write tonight about John Edwards and his affair but that sleazebag can wait because I just got done watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics. And all I can say is …

WOW!

I mean, seriously, i feel so bad for the Londoners planning the 2012 Summer Games. They’ve got to be shitting in their pants wondering how they follow that act. Hell, I can’t imagine any country ever putting together a better show. The Beijing ceremony was majestic, stunning, artistic, intimidating, dazzling, and at times, emotional and moving. It’s the type of event the word awesome was created for.

But it certainly wasn’t surprising. I’ve been to China twice in the last five years, and nowadays they do most everything B-I-G (I never saw so many cranes in my life, and I left the country committed to making sure my future children learn Mandarin).

China is clearly a country obsessed with progress – and damn the associated costs and trade-offs (environmental, social, historical, etc.). The Chinese people and government often seem insecure about their country’s standing in the world, so I had a feeling no expense would be spared as they prepared to strut their stuff during the Olympics.

Of course, the Beijing games are also causing a fair amount of controversy due to the country’s horrid human rights record, which basically continues to this day. Civil liberties are a joke. The justice system is a farce. And any significant dissidence is just not tolerated.

Some people are boycotting these games to protest the Chinese government’s policies and practices. That’s their right, of course, and I do think it’s important at a time like this to shine a spotlight on the negative part of China as well. But i also think these Olympic games are going to do a lot more good than harm. Nothing will bring about change faster in China than by welcoming the country and its people onto the global stage.

It’s the same reason why I disagree with people who want U.S. online companies like Google and Yahoo to avoid doing business in China rather than cooperate with its government. The Internet is tough to totally censor, and I just feel that true, lasting change is much more likely to occur once the Chinese people get a taste of the freedoms we enjoy, even if its a small, limited taste. Stay out of China, isolate the country and its people, and I guarantee no one will hear you; Why not at least open up the possibility of incrementally altering attitudes from within?

I personally think the Chinese government has already sown the seeds of its destruction by introducing  market-based aspects to the economy. In the long run, political communism and economic capitalism aren’t compatible, and history shows very clearly which side is likely to win out. It may not happen as quick as we would like, but it will happen.

I’ve always felt that change is usually an inexorable part of history, but that it only comes when the time is right. It can’t be forced. That doesn’t mean that you should stand idly by and wait for change. People’s actions can absolutely accelerate the pace of progress, and you never know which spark is going to be the one that lights the fire.

The students at Tienanmen Square didn’t waste their effort or their lives; they just set the stage for the next act to follow, one that will hopefully be much more meaningful than the visually impressive but ultimately shallow spectacle put on last night in Beijing.


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