Thursday, September 18, 2014

Paddling Upstream, Against the Current

Humans are strange creatures.

I often find myself wondering why so many of us-- and I'm not entirely excluding myself, here-- seem to deliberately (and often repeatedly) choose "the hard way" to do things.

Well. OK.

Maybe I am excluding myself-- to some degree-- because a substantial part of my "life's work" has revolved the quest to always find the "lowest point" of the proverbial fence to jump over. In fact, if I can, I will probably walk around the fence (or crawl under it), so I don't have to jump, at all.

As someone once observed about me "You'll put an almost insane amount of effort into figuring out how to not put any effort into something."

So when I feel baffled by people's choices, I expect that part of it is a failure-- on my behalf-- to have much appreciation for the "because I CAN" paradigm for living. Of course, part of it is personal opinion... I believe the world would be a better people if people were more willing to "think" through things, rather than "muscle" through them.

"Yeah, I climbed over the fence at the tallest part, where all the razor wire is! Look at what a badass I am!"

Yeah. No. Who gives a shit? What's more, while you're busy gloating over your superior fence climbing skills, did it even cross your mind that one side-effect of your suffering antics is that several people are now tasked/saddled with tending to the bleeding cuts on your arms?

Sometimes I feel like a better name for this blog might be "Miserably Misanthropic Mumblings."

But I digress.

So what am I really talking about, here?

Since I spend a lot of time in the self-development, consciousness and "enlightenment" business, I am always confuddled by the number of people who actively choose some form of "suffering," operating under the twisted perspective that wisdom (or even just "contentment") in life "isn't a thing" unless you've endured twenty years of hardship and misery to attain it.

It is almost like there is "status" and "ego value" attached to protracted suffering.

Here's a metaphor for you (because I love those!):

We stand before a thorny thicket, filled with a tangle of stinging nettles and blackberry vines. It seems we have to traverse 200 feet of it.

Looking at the thicket and going "Wow, that's a nasty mess, and going through there will cut me to threads. I'm just going to walk a mile down here to the side and go AROUND that, instead" is often not seen as "real" wisdom. It's "cheating," on some level.

"Wisdom," in many cases seems to only apply to the process of painstakingly forging a path through the thicket, getting yourself torn up, scratched and burned as you go, then emerging on the other side as "a survivor." Twenty years of suffering, thank-you, come-again.

Wow. Painful. Let's just walk around, 'm-kay?

"But it's not that simple!"


Therein lies the rub, alas. Somehow we take the opinion of the goo-roo who spent 30 years eating bread and water in order to reach enlightenment as "more meaningful" than the person who woke up one morning and said "Thus sucks, so I'm going to do it differently and be happy." And then is.

It is as if we attach a twisted "nobility" to eternal suffering and considerable skepticism to simplicity and common sense.

Aside from the prosaic truism "Misery loves company," why do we so often choose suffering? Why would we rather try to paddle our little canoes of life UPstream against the current?

Friday, September 5, 2014

So just what IS this "Authenticity" thing, anyway?

Many years ago, I sat with a friend during a workshop break and we discussed moving, life and what thereof follows. I had been talking about my (then) plans to relocate from Texas to Washington state.

My friend said "Wherever you go, you take yourself along."

We added the corollary "... so when you DO go, you'd better make sure the 'Yourself' you take along is someone you like."

I've often thought back on that day, and reminded myself of the importance of not only "knowing" ourselves, but also the importance of being truthful in our self-knowing.

That second bit seems to be what trips people up, more often than not.

Who are you, really?
Who am I, really?
Who is anyone, really?
And are we open to really being that?

As children, we exist largely "unfiltered," at least until we become acquainted with the word "don't!" typically delivered in a relentless fashion by our parents.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. "Don't" is a part of learning not to touch a hot stove, or not running out into traffic. However... the "don't" that potentially represses the truth of Who We Are is not so good. Or, at least, it tends to repress parts of our essence that come back to bug us later, in the form of a "mid-life crisis."

What do we learn, as we walk through life?

Most of us learn how to "act," and how to put on the facade we believe "best serves" us. Yet, no matter how good we may become at maintaining our carefully constructed "self images"... there are very few people who don't eventually "show us" who they really are, below the veneer.

What does an "image" do?

It seems it allows us to have an "affiliate identity" aside from merely being a Human.

I'm a Goth.
I'm a Healer.
I'm a Warrior.
I'm a Pacifist.
I'm a Geek.
I'm a Hipster.
I'm a Badass.

I'm a Guru.
I'm a Mystic.
I'm a Christian.
I'm a Buddhist.

Perhaps... for some people... these terms (and untold thousands like them) are no more than semantic identifiers that afford us a shortcut to placing ourselves "somewhere" in a meaningful context of the overall human experience. In a psychologically healthy context, it's merely a bit of descriptive text that allows us to have a sense of place within the card catalog of the Library of Life.

I am a Highly Sensitive Person. I am an Introvert. I am a Dane.

These things "describe" me, but they are not what I essentially "am."


What happens when the image becomes the person? What happens when we become more strongly identified with the self-image we've created, than our (often hidden) inner truth?

People eventually show us who they are, as people.

And there's the rub. We are not our "images." And even those who have very carefully manufactured "masks" will have moments (and often many of them) when they inadvertently let their "human-ness" show, no matter how carefully their facades may be constructed.

Which begs the question "Why are you afraid to just be human? To just be yourself?"

I started thinking about this several years ago, as I was gathering my thoughts to write an article (which I still haven't finished) about why the majority of HSPs are afraid of letting anyone actually see that they are Highly Sensitive. There's a "disconnect" between between outward expression, and inner essence.

Sarah and I were talking about our "super powers," yesterday. She's a clairvoyant and world class psychic... her super power is the ability to "sit inside" other people's energies and immediately being able to see their "story." My own super power is more akin to being able to immediately evaluate the "relationship" between what someone says they "are" (their words) and what their actual doing and being says they are.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people's actions and true essence betrays their words... no matter how skilled they are at conveying their "story." This is especially true of those who seem "addicted" to labels... labels they use as a way to excuse themselves from their humanness, by substituting the attributes of their chosen label for their true essence.

I'm sure you've met them: "I have/can't/do/am XYZ because am an ABC" and variations of the preceding. Sometimes true, but often an excuse.

"I can't work because I'm ADHD."

No, not true.

The point being that it's a truly beautiful-- and quite rare-- thing when someone's "story" and their "essence" are totally in synch. And that, to me, is the definition of true authenticity: There's no "story" that deviates from the essence of who someone "is." Not only do such people "live their story;" their story is an authentic expression of who they genuinely are.

But it's hard work, and perhaps that's why many people resort to labels, rather than allowing their authenticity to shine. Labels are easy. "Images" are easy. Many many moons ago, I remember someone saying (about their rather ambiguous profile on a dating web site) that "it's less painful to be rejected for a projection of myself, than being rejected for my REAL self."

True words, those.

But do we really want to live in a box of lies?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Modern Web Sites are Stupid!

Sometimes I have "inner debates" with myself.

For the faint of heart and delicate of mind, I should give advance warning that my Inner Self tends to be a "potty mouth." Consider yourself warned.

Today's topic of discussion revolved around whether I am simply "getting too old for this," or am merely blunt enough to point out how stupid and dysfunctional it can be when the world allows "hot trends and coolness" to override common sense and functionality.

I'm talking about web sites. Specifically the current trend in "new look" web sites that seem to have been de rigeur for a couple of years now.

Strategically placed serene forest path to help
lower blood pressure
You've seen them... and you've probably visited them.

There's some big huge GIANT image up top-- usually pretty "artsy" or "cosmic" or "hip"-- and about three words visible on the page.

So I get there, am thinking to myself "That's really pretty... but where's the actual CONTENT?"

Well, it's a splash page...

Sure. Fine. Let me splash on, here.

So I'm sitting there, looking at the pretty picture, trying to figure out what to do next... moving the cursor around on the page, trying to find a "hot" spot to click on. Which, in due course, I do.


Which just refreshes the page, because it's part of the CSS that when you click on the main image, it takes you back to the home page.

This is where I start to think I may be "too old" because I am on a web page that doesn't look complicated at all, yet I am not sure what to do next. In and of itself, that's annoying... because I've actually been using the web for more than two decades and it's sad that I evidently haven't learned anything...

I was raised with a school of web design that taught that your most important "real estate" on a web page is "above the fold." Which is tech speak for "what you can actually SEE when you land on a web page, before you start scrolling."

These days, I seem to be increasingly faced with... nothing... above the fold.

As it turns out, my path forward is hovering the cursor over the words that look like graffiti, spray painted on the building in the very "artsy" image. A drop down menu magically appears. How... "interesting"... the words looked exactly like they were "part of the picture."

How clever.


So I click on "Our Services."

Guess what?

I get to another page that's just a giant freakin' picture and nothing else. It's all I see.

Yes, I am now hip to the fact that I will have to (probably?) scroll down to find the actual content of the web site.

So what's the big deal? Why is this pissing me off?

Because you are wasting my time, having to figure out how your web site works. At the very least, put some site navigation up top, in plain view! Remember that bit about where the "most valuable real estate" on the screen is? That's where it goes.

I'm not kidding about that. I spent a long time in the IT industry, specifically studying-- in lab settings-- computer users' eye movements, when sitting in front of a screen. I can gaurum-frakking-tee you people's eyes do NOT start at the bottom right corner to see if you need to "scroll down" to see more.

But I built an AWESOME web site! Can't you see how AWESOME it is? Can't you feel my AWESOME-ness oozing from my web site?

Sure I can. At the very least, you have an "awesome" sense of your own awesomeness. Unfortunately, you are just too "awesome" to understand that your sense of awesomeness actually has little to no bearing on how real human beings use the Web.

But here's the thing-- I don't give flying fuck how awesome your web site may, or may not, be. It is functional? Unless you happen to be a dark and depressed artist with deep dedication to remaining in a state of perpetual starvation for the rest of your life-- in which case you really don't give a phuck-- your order of operation should be whether your site is functional and has good usability first, and is "amazing," second.

Here's the other thing: when Google suggests that your web site has "the answers" I'm looking for, you have approximately two seconds, during which I (and 90% of web users) determine whether or not it's worth looking at the site. If the answer is "no," you'll be rewarded with a "bounce," which is web-speak for using the back arrow on my browser. If I can't tell what your web site is "about" in those two seconds... "goodbye!" And then you can sit there and wonder why your site gets 50,000 hits a month, yet nobody ever seems interested in your product, service or whatever.

Because I really like metaphors, here is one for you:

That giant picture splash page with no navigation and a "cleverly hidden" drop-down menu? Think of taking your clothes to the dry cleaner and being told you have to solve a Rubik's Cube before you can hand in your clothes. You probably wouldn't go to that dry cleaner again, because their place is a pain in the ass.

Part of the problem with "modern" web design is that it has become super easy to build an amazing and "professional" looking web site, thanks to widgets and drag-and-drop technology. In and of itself, that's not the problem... the "problem" is that people no longer need to learn "structured programming" in order to build a web site. This has resulted in a myriad web sites being built "bass-ackwards:" People choose their amazing and beautiful web site design first, before they have actually sat down to create the content they want to share.

The result? A bunch of web sites that look like people paid $1000s to have custom built... yet are functionally a disorganized and virtually unusable clusterfuck.

Phrased as another metaphor, build the bones (content) first and then "dress it up" with an amazing wrapping, rather than "buying the dress" first, and then seeing if you can make the bones fit it.

Last time I was seriously pissed off at web design (in a "global" sort of sense) was when people first discovered Flash. And every new web site suddenly had to become a pissing contest of "Look at how good I am at coding with Flash!" And my response was something like "F**k you, and your Flash!"

This article was inspired by real events. One of which was shopping for web templates and realizing just how many are all about "looking good," with little to no attention given to the actual displaying of information.