Saturday, March 31, 2018

Movies and life lessons

Last night, as I drifted in and out of sleep on the sofa, cursing insomnia and a sore back, I happened to catch the movie Hero with Jet Li.

The synopsis of the movie, per IMDB: "A defense officer, Nameless, was summoned by the King of Qin regarding his success of terminating three warriors."

It's a little more complex than that. Based loosely on an assassination attempt by Jing Ke, the story is an elaborate weaving of how a Qin warrior, known only as Nameless, successfully killed three known assassins and, as a result, was allowed to proceed within ten paces of the emperor. Nameless has perfected a technique where he can attack with lethal speed from ten paces in the blink of an eye.

The movie, by legendary director Zhang Yimou, weaves this basic tell from three perspectives. And that's what had me thinking most of the night.

First is the perspective of the story as told by Nameless.

Second is the story as interpreted by the Emperor.

Third is the story as it really was.

There are strong parallels to life in this movie.

How often does the interpretation of reality so radically differ from the truth? We form our memories of events to fit with who we are. Maybe we don't want to do that; probably most of us don't know what's what is happening. But the source of much of the world's woes is that two people can see the same exact event and remember it two different ways. You only have to look at politics to see this in action; or a sport team. We form reality to fit our opinion, rather than the other way around.

There is no way around this, if history is a predictor of future behavior. Yet maybe things are changing, slowly. So I challenge everyone to go out today and try to be the person others aspire to be. Mold your life around the concept of kindness. We can be the change in the world; but we have to understand that change might not be something we agree with. So accept that, and move on.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Too serious

"Why do you look so serious?"

So asked a friend at the gym this week. He smiled and shook my hand.

"I'm always serious," I said, meaning it to be lighthearted, an off-the-cuff comment between friends.

"Don't be," he replied.

We exchanged some more banter; he was leaving, I was going in, and we went our separate ways.

Is it so simple? That thought (predictably) occupied my mind as I worked out. I have been told a lot in my life that I am too serious. A friend said that in college I was the oldest freshman she knew. Not that I am the focused, intense sort of serious; not a lot, anyway. Put me in a crisis, yes; if you see me playing a sport or riding my bike you can witness the intensity with which I approach things.

But to not be serious. Just like that. What would it take?

I've been working on my philosophy of the binary life. It's not a new notion at all. The idea is that every decision can be distilled down to a choice between two things. Sometimes this is easy. Sometimes not. Look for more on this in the coming weeks.

I am committing, again (as it were), to not take things so seriously, to make that decision to be happy, to be less stressed, to de-focus for just a bit and enjoy the world as it happens.

We'll see.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Anniversaries. Again.

At my mother's funeral, just under four years ago from the time I am writing this, I spoke about a binary choice that we're faced with every day: to be happy or not.

It's not an easy choice, and there are great arguments as to why it isn't as cut and dried as that. But we humans crave complexity, it seems. It quests after us as much as we it, a symbiotic relationship that keeps chaos alive and well in the world. Stress and anxiety are perhaps more familiar than happiness. Our lives are lived in a constant push-pull between obtaining the things we need to survive, on one side, and the work/life balance that for a generation has been a mantra of self help gurus.

Have you ever tried to distill things down to a binary choice?

It is very difficult.

A good example of this difficulty is going out to eat. That is also a good example of the way we naturally go for the binary process. First there's finding a place to go; Greek or Italian? Neither? Sandwich shop? Chinese or Mexican? Ethnic or American? Then there's the decision we make inside the restaurant. A menu, even a simple one, will have many things to choose from.

In the end, though, it's a binary decision.

Four years ago I recommitted myself to the quest for happiness. Every single day I commit myself to choosing happiness - Joy (which was - is - my mother's name). It doesn't work most of the time, to be honest, because of the chaos that thrives in our world.

But I try. And that effort means a lot to me.

So you, too, should attempt to find that happiness in your life. Make that decision to seek a happy path, even if faced with every reason in the world to be sad.