Saturday, October 8, 2011

My meaning of life

I'm looking out my front window and see the sun poking through the autumn leaves. It's nice to see the sun after a few gray days and as late fall and winter approaches we have to absorb more of it, sort of hang on to it as a memory of the year that passed us. People sometimes like to reflect on their year in the winter. That leads to a more depressing reflection because we've been in the cold so many months we forgot what the sun felt like. I think it is best to reflect on the year in the fall. The leaves are changing and falling just as we are aging ourselves. We are in a sense getting ourselves prepared to bed up in our bunkers for the next few months. We won't be out as much, the gym will get visited less frequently, and there are more family Holidays but less time with friends.

There is an uneasy restlessness in our society. We are mad but we don't know exactly at who. The politicians and media wants us to lay blame somewhere but it could very well be at ourselves for listening so much to the politicians and media. There always needs to be media just as politicians always need a cause to push for. There is less honor in the workplace. Maybe there was always the illusion of honor and honesty but even that guise has been lifted. We are told to eat our cold porridge and be grateful for it. When people are throwing tomatoes at you that can be a lot harder. Causes are easy to join because they separate ourselves individually from our decisions. If we stepped back for a moment and looked at our own choices we may see that some of the blame lies within ourselves and not at this blank screen everyone wants to hurl their anger at together. Individual choices don't sell advertisement dollars or bring in television cameras however.

The internet brought people together. There is no denying the power of technology. It also has let us shift a lot of individual reasoning to mass appeal. We no longer have to search within ourselves for answers when we can google something closely resembling it and fill in the blanks from there. We no longer have to soul search, we search engine it. It used to be fun to remember and imagine our past now we can youtube clips of it. Somehow it seemed better in our memory.

I remember playing Legend of Zelda and thinking it was the coolest game ever when I was a kid. Youtube clips tell me I was mistaken. I remember playing Where in the World is Carmen San Diego on an ancient Apple computer and loving that game. I hope I never find the clips of it to change my mind. We act as though it's always been this way, yet the majority of us have had the internet for 17 years of our lives. Who knows what mass hysteria would have existed if we had access to it 20, 30, or 50 years ago.

Life isn't about quick decisions, about instant answers, nor is it about laying blame. Maybe we expected too much. Maybe we were told something was possible when it really wasn't at all. Or maybe we were told something was going to make us happy but when we got there and landed on that spot we didn't feel the way that we were supposed to at all. Television and the internet can inspire many surface emotions, but they can't penetrate into your soul. They can't tell you who you are, though they will forever try. We are not the music we listen to any more then we are the food that we eat. We are not the things we buy any more than we are the places we like to visit. We are not where we bank anymore than we are where we go to school. These are marketing tools. You are being sold something.

I'm as guilty jumping on the next conspiracy as the last person. I pretty much have laid blame on everyone from the CEO's, the government, to the sun shining down upon me. You can find every reason in the world to feel lied to, misled, betrayed, and guilty. Just put something in a search engine hit the send key and off you go into whatever tangent of life you want to satiate at that moment. Go for it. But today on this fall day in October I am only searching  the engine in my own head for answers. If it takes me sometime, I'm ok with it. If I never find the answer I seek well then I will wander aimlessly through life for a while. I'm done giving over the most valuable commodity we have left on this planet away for free, our minds.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Making, no now, wait...NOW

The news that Don Lapree committed suicide in his prison cell awaiting his trial on a 52 million dollar fraud charge brought me back a few years. I was enthralled with the idea of easy money and remember watching his late night infomercials with the belief he was the smartest man in the world. Down on his luck Don, had somehow defied the odds and become a millionaire and he was graciously sharing his success with us. He wanted ALL of us to make money with him.

I was 17 when I fell in love with the pitch: Making money now, Making money easy, and most importantly making money. The images dazzled. Young guy on the screen talking passionately on how he succeeded against all odds and you can too. All you need to do is buy his video with his booklet on the steps following his own path to success. I was ambitious and ready to start my own empire I picked up the phone and ordered the program. Don Lapree’s Making Money program arrived in the mail two weeks later.

At least I was 17 when I picked up the phone and dialed. In hindsight the advertisements were horribly made and the package I received even worse. The video showed Don in a conference room scribbling his vision on a white board while they all nodded in scripted fascination that we would later call reality television. “Oh so we just make ads in newspapers and advertise them across the country?” “Oh, so we don’t really need a product to sell..we can sell anything.” “Oh the most important thing to do is find newspapers where we can place these ads and the checks start rolling in.” The video while probably shot in the early 90’s looked straight from the 70’s. The men and women could have been shipped from an instructional video for any bank in 1980. The men wore ugly suits, the women offensively hideous dresses, and Don was wearing his trademark everyman t-shirt teaching these business professionals how to “really” make money.

This prevailing attitude stuck with me unfortunately for years. Success wasn’t about education it was about effort. He just worked harder and he out-smarted the system. He used his passion and drive to create his wealth; he didn’t follow the path given to all of us. We could either follow his lead or become these people sitting at the table in their ghastly attire. We could punch the clock everyday and live in want, or we could seize the day and start making little newspaper advertisements and selling some anonymous product to other people nationally. Granted, this was before computers and the internet became a household appliance when newspaper advertisements were still something people actually purchased. Join or be left behind a desk wallowing while the other Don Lapree disciples lounge on a tropical beach with a mai tai in hand while their money is made overnight.

Now almost 20 years later we remember the folly. As in anything in life, the illusion is always more fascinating than the reality. We want therefore it must be possible. The images glossy, the voices animated, and the reality television life not as real as we all believed it to be. Madison Avenue can sell us any product and we lap it up. The news media can feed us any story and we respond in kind. We are hungry for information so we will devour anything, be it what is force fed or what is given to us as unhealthy substitutes for actual knowledge. Somehow we cling to what we know is fiction because the reality is less satisfying, rewarding, or inspiring. That fiction however perpetrates into lifestyles as unfulfilled and unobtainable. You are chasing a balloon that slipped through your fingertips into the atmosphere above, a balloon that you will never capture. The higher you climb in altitude in pursuit of it the less of a prize awaits your grasp. You start to realize it was all hot air. And as your hand reaches its final desperate grab, it pops, and you are 12000 feet above the ground with no parachute. A life you lived only an illusion, but the ensuing fall before you is very, very real.