Monday, December 10, 2007

Fatherhood

I found out last week that I am going to have a little boy. The gender wasn't that important to me. I just wanted to know if the baby was well.

It was a relief to find out that he is healthy and growing well in his mummys's tummy. The doctor did a 4D scan which covered everything from head to toe. We could even look into his brain, heart, lungs and kidney. When it got down to the nether regions I had little doubt that we're going to have a big boy in our hands.

I am excited. Can't wait to meet my boy. The ultrasound showed that he sleeps like me with his hand to his mouth. My wife says he even looks a bit like me already. I hope he doesn't look too much like me though. He won't thank me if he gets my nose. He would do much better to look more like his mother.

I don't know how good a father I will be but I know for sure that I am going to have fun with him and spend as much time making sure that he grows up a happy and healthy person. I will try to raise him to have all the self-esteem and confidence that I lacked growing up. That's one thing I will try my hardest to make sure of.

I've been reading up on all things concerning fatherhood lately. I'm going to sing and play lullabies on the guitar so that I can amuse my boy. I've already got a list of children's books that I want to read to him when the time comes. I even know how I want to dress him and comb his hair. When he starts walking I'm going to teach him how to kick a football. The list goes on...

First off I just hope the next few months before his arrival goes smoothly. I may be getting a little ahead of myself but I can't help it. I'm just excited. Millions of fathers in my position have felt the same I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Music

I was a very awkward kid growing up and felt out of place everywhere I went except the football field. There were few years in my early teens in boarding school where I was the best player in sight.

However, by the time I was fifteen or sixteen I had lost interest in football and didn't want to train anymore because it became a chore. All I wanted was to play for fun. Going through the drills or fitness training was not for me. So it wasn't long before I "lost" it and everyone else suddenly became better because they were training and I wasn't. Anyway, by then I didn't care.

Music became my new love and I practically slept with my guitar. Apart from attending classes, all I did was listen to music and mess around on the guitar. I took joy in taking parts of different songs that I liked and rearranging them into something better. I was bad at covering other people songs anyway so it wasn't long before people started asking me if i wrote whatever song I was playing at the time.

So, I guess I became a songwriter by default. I am still writing and playing to this day and even released a couple of albums and EPs. That is something I hope to do for the rest of my life because it gives me a reprieve from the grind of daily life and makes me feel like I am still a kid.

Channeling my expressions through song is rewarding for me and it is sort of a diary of where I am at the time. I have gone from being morbid, depressed and an existentialist to being a hopeful person in love. I used to write dark depressing songs when I was younger. Now my songs tend to explore love and life while looking to the future.

Does my music change me or do I change my music as I become older and more mature? I can't deny that music is cathartic and a form of therapy. Maybe I have not exorcised my demons completely but I have managed to keep them at bay.

I no longer want to kill myself like I did on my first album "Truth and Consequence". My most recent album "Songs That Won't Sell" may have a pessimistic title but the songs are all about the love of my life and how I am "Never Lonely" with her here by my side.

Lyrics speak for themselves. Compare the lyrics of these two songs- "Afterlife" from my first album and "Never Lonely" from most recent.

AFTERLIFE
Sitting in the dark in the back seat
Taken for a ride
But I think that I'll be going nowhere
I don't believe in any afterlife
Even if I did it wouldn't do me any good


NEVER LONELY
I would never only watch the time go by
I am never lonely with you here by my side
I won't let it show but girl I love you so


Only love has the power to change a person or a song that is being sung. I can't wait for the day when I see my little baby so I have more to write about.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Education

My wife completed her Master's Degree in Education a couple of months ago and graduated with a distinction. But before she got her results the poor deluded woman put herself through the turmoil of being worried sick for weeks because she thought she was going to fail. Alas all her worries were unfounded, as they usually are. I was never worried. She is the one with the brains in this family.

Seems like an eternity since I had to worry about keeping up the grades and graduating. It has been almost ten years since I last sat for an exam or wrote a paper that would determine if I would get something out of all the years I spent in College. I took it for granted but I really miss those days now.

I wasn't a great student. My lack of direction at the time was no doubt frustrating to my father. Though I was never in any danger of flunking out, my grades were nothing to write home about. Being motivated wasn't one of my character traits. It still isn't.

I had the privelage of studying at the right place though. Liberal Arts was always my strong point and Buffalo State College was the largest liberal arts college in the State University of New York system and offered all the courses I was interested in studying.

Indulging myself in taking classes in Music, Art History, Philosophy, Religion and Broadcasting was great. In fact I was close to graduating with a major in Broadcasting until I started taking too many Philosophy clasess and ended up graduating with a major in that instead.

Even though I didn't come back an accountant, lawyer or a doctor, I studied what I was interested in and met some interesting people. It was during this time that I really learnt how to write songs and use it as a form of expression and catharsis. I do it to this day and it has proven to be the cheapest form of therapy for me.

One thing I will tell my kids, when they finally come around, is to enjoy the time they spend as students no matter what they are studying because they won't get that chance again. It only comes around once. Make the most of it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Useless emotion

Any person with a conscience will inevitably feel guilt for the people they have hurt as a result of their anger. Even if they feel the anger is justified, guilt will arise. Guilt leads to depression. Depression is basically anger turned inwards. Nothing good can come of it.

But why are people like me prone "losing it" more often than not? Why can't we look the other way, ignore what makes us unhappy and move on. I am no psychologist so I am not going to attempt to rationalize or answer that. But I certainly need to change before I strain more relationships in my life.

"Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy."

Aristotle said that in his book, The Nichomachean Ethics.

Anger really is a useless emotion. It solves nothing, it doesn't make you feel better, and it causes you to lose control of your behavior. And it's worse than useless, it's dangerous. When in the grip of anger, people make poor decisions, hurt themselves and others.

It has been said that better communication and the use of humour helps. Thinking before you speak and listening before you respond defensively will certainly go a long way. But how often will I remember that when I need to?

Buddhist mindfulness is another thing that I read about. It is a technique that advocates non-attachment to angry thoughts that arise. Basically, one is asked to simply observe one’s anger with disinterest and focus on breathing. In a best case scenario, the anger will dissipate.

Thoughts only acquire force, say Buddhist teachers, when we attach ourselves to these thoughts. Since our inflated egos are our own worst enemies, it pays to think of ourselves as ego-less Buddhas full of infinite compassion, even for the people we attribute our anger to.

Modern psychology borrows heavily from Buddhist mindfulness. Though we may lack the capacity to mindfully dissolve our worst thoughts, we can buy ourselves a few precious seconds before we do something irretrievably stupid. In essence, we can recognize our destructive thoughts as they occur, and then work with them.

I really need to keep a journal of what makes me angry- that would be a very long book I'm sure- perhaps a few dozen volumes. After that I need to find a way to distract myself based on mindfulness. That is my new resolution.

Anger can never be used to get your way. In fact most of the time nobody gives a shit if you are angry or not. At the end of the day you just end up hurting yourself and feeling depressed, or worse perhaps the other way around.

Control the inner beast. If you are thinking of mowing down your boss with a machine gun, for instance, it might be better to take a couple of deep breaths and resolve to take up your grievance at a later time.

If only I can heed my own advice...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

You are not your job

Isn't it funny that one of the first things we ask a person when we meet them is, "What do you do?", as if knowing that will allow you to know the person better.

Are we really defined by what we do for a living? Is that who we are and nothing else?

In ancient Greece a person's profession wasn't as important as who he was in addition to that. No one was lucky enough to be able to do what they love for a living. There was no choice involved. You were born into a trade or initiated into it out of necessity. The first thing people asked was what family you belonged to or who your father was. "Who you were" was where you came from, not what work you did.

Socrates would say that work is only a means to an end and should not interfere with more rewarding philosophical pursuits. According to him the best situation was to be self-employed and not a slave to someone else's trade. It's no wonder that Socrates was known to have lived in relative poverty due to his lack of profession. He can't be accused of being practical because wandering around barefoot and annoying people with philosophical questions isn't going to put food in your stomach and a roof over your head. But he was happy and whatever he did made more of a difference than if he was clocking in from nine to five. Thousands of years later people are still discussing his philosophical ideas.

Personally, I am inclined to take the middle road. In today's world we need to have a skill or some valuable commodity that people are willing to pay good money for. If not you will just collect minimum wage for your time and labour at the check-out counter at the supermarket or loading goods behind the warehouse. That would be a sad waste of whatever talent you may have.

At the other end of the extreme there are people who have so much money that they don't know what to do with it. That is another worry in itself. Having a lot of money means that you have to keep an eye on it. However, is chasing the capitalist ideal with bulging stock portfolios and a hundred and one projects going on all at once really going to make you any happier? The stress of it all may take years off your life and the irony of it is that you may not live long enough to enjoy all the money you have made anyway.

I have to agree with what the character Tyler Durden said in the movie "Fight Club".

You are not your job.
You are not how much money you have in the bank.
You are not the car you drive.
You are not the contents of your wallet.
You are not your fucking khakis.
You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Love and the Will-to-Life

In his work "The Symposium" Plato declared that a man without love is like a creature with only half its limbs. If you folow Plato's reasoning you could say that I am a creature with all my limbs attached and working. As fortunate as I am, like every creature on earth I take what I have for granted. I am no romantic although I can be very silly and affectionate with the ones I love. My wife may lament my lack of romaticism but she will agree that I am not lacking in love and affection for her.

The greatest romantics are usually those who are pursuing love and have yet to find it or are in the process of wooing. During my days as a loner or rather a loser, I was able to grasp the nature and necessity of love although I didn't have it at the time. Loneliness really makes you see things in a different light.

Philosophers have not traditionally been impressed by the trivial tribulations of love but Schopenhauer, one of my favourite philosophers, had a different take on things. He believed that love is important and never accidental. He had a theory, the "will-to-life", that states that there is an inherent drive in human beings to stay alive and reproduce.

Even the most cynical career-minded individuals will be driven to be in the position to reproduce if only because of attraction to the opposite sex. The continuation of the species is seldom on our minds when we ask for a phone number because we are split into conscious and unconscious selves. The intellect and human-will are two different things. The "human-will" always wins over the intellect which explains why even the most intellectual people are capable of the stupidest things when in love.

I am sure you have wondered at one time or another why you ended up with the person that you're with. "Why him?" or "Why her?". Why weren't you attracted to someone else who may have been more attractive and perhaps more convenient to live with?

Schopenhauer's answer is that our will-to-life drives us towards people who are our opposites. The will-to-life pushes us towards people who can, on account of their imperfections, cancel out our own. For example a flat or large nosed person reproducing with a smaller sharper nosed person promises an offspring with a more attractive nose. Short women will fall in love with tall men but rarely tall men with tall women. It is the neutralisation of the two individualities so that the one-sidedness of each cancels out the other.

Unfortunately, Schopenhauer's theory of attraction also argues that a person who is highly suitable for our future child is almost never very suitable for us. Happiness and the production of healthy children are two radically contrasting projects. Love blinds us for as long as it can. The will of the species is so much more powerful than that of the individual.

Who says we are in control of the choices we make in life?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Beliefs

Dostoyevsky warned us that those who reject religion "will end by drenching the earth in blood." But hasn't history shown that blood letting has occurred mostly as a result of religions or other belief-systems, not from the people who reject them.

Beliefs create more social problems than they solve. The most dangerous beliefs are those that are elevated to faith. Faith is belief without evidence and this can lead to mysticism and so-called divine intervention. People have slaughtered each other in wars and conflicts over thousands of centuries and still kill each other over faith in their religions. Political ideologies, and philosophies are just as dangerous because they are also part of a belief system. Hitler had his own belief system and didn't need faith in anything other than his own 'will to power" in order to slaughter millions of Jews

Most scientists, politicians, philosophers, and even atheists support the notion that some forms of belief provide a valuable means to establish "truth" as long as it contains the backing of data and facts. But isn't belief a 'belief' because it cannot be backed up by pure facts and empirical data. If we know something for a fact, it will just become common knowledge instead of something you need to believe in or not.

Does rational thinking require us to adhere to beliefs at all? Do we require any attachment to a belief of any kind to have a satisfied life? Can't we just act on data, theories, and facts without resorting to the ownership of belief?

The truth is that all we have is the empirical knowledge we gain through our senses. We can only believe what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Anything other than that is likely to be bullshit and one that you can't even smell.