Chuck Palahniuk

Connect the Dots, See the Picture

Should we really be trying to create jobs? My guess it that the system is probably broken if we don't have something for all these people to do. The common assumption is to discover a void and fill it. But what do we all need besides the basics? We're advanced animals in need of food, water, clothing, shelter, and air. Some don't even have that, but as it goes, progress pushes us forward.

It's easy to see a job as a prescription plan to get what you want in life, but behind the scenes a job is the primary way to contribute to society. It is the new survival guide: contribute and you're valuable enough to survive. Currency is mixed up somewhere in that. It's not quite as simple as hunting prey and living near a waterhole anymore. We need to negotiate. The irony of the situation is that the business world revolves around competition as everything is getting easier to do. If we all needs jobs to create competition in the markets, there has to be tons of bullshit out there. Do we really need hundreds of restaurants, delis, and clothing stores? Dollar stores? No. Despite what you've been told, variety is not the spice of life when it comes to products. It is the cure for seven billion people to distract themselves from their contributions. If we're focused on consumption and not valuable contribution, we're not going to all be satisfied by iPhones and the Internet. We end up craving options. Hell, there are seven billion of us running around. The beauty is in the cracks, though. Something like a smartphone is a clue to our future. With the capacity to consolidate the phone with a calculator, calendar, GPS system, high-definition camera, alarm clock, and more, jobs are headed to the grave, stared down by efficiency. All this means there is less for us all to create in a currency based system. We're seeing too many people, not enough stuff. We're getting down to the core.

There is this idea floating around that the world needs competition to motivate us all out of bed. I don't know about you but the first thought on my mind in the morning is not to battle my next-door neighbor for sales trophies. I don't believe everyone wants to kick back, day in and day out. Sure, we all want vacations, who wouldn't? The motivation doesn't come from an inherent need to be lazy though, it comes from the anticipation of achieving something larger than us. We want that island getaway or even quiet morning to sleep in because it is so often denied. It's the carrot at the end of the stick. Or it could just mean that we're not motivated to do things that suck. We're not connecting with anyone if we're sitting behind a counter or in a cubicle. We're just shuffling papers and folding clothes. There is no heart in driving business. 

Downshifting to part-time junk removal, I'm staring down the staircase at my next step and I'm torn. I feel impatient and weak and pretentious sometimes because I don't want a job. Who really wants to work hard for eight hours a day? Very few people I know. Who wants to fight for a company they really don't believe in? Not me. Most of us are too good for our silly jobs, even if we consider the product or service we're providing. Sure, I've gotten tons of praise and admiration for helping people organize and clean their spaces, but it's not enough for me. We aren't helping people realize they have too much stuff. We're all slowly hoarding and I'm just contributing a temporary service as a distraction. It's the pressure of a system that needs me to contribute. The real problem is we need to contribute more. I want to contribute more.

From the moment strangers scoop us up outside the womb, we're thrown into a world where we zip around and bounce off one another. Sometimes we make connections, sometimes we make sparks. What we contribute to this world means nothing without other people. Whether we contribute or compete, the essence is the connection. It is the foundation for a new theory I've been mulling over. I'm starting to wonder if we're all just animals tricking ourselves that we're meant to do more than our biology tells us, more than our struggle to reproduce. But as the human race grew and boiled over the pot, we slowly saw progress. Our connections with one another made the collective smarter than the average chimp and we started pumping out cell phones and Internet and hot showers. It's not the product of one superhuman man, it's a collective effort. Dozens of lab technicians stood in white coats next to Edison, working to create the light bulb. Who knows which one of them said good morning to Edison on the right day to make something click?

Inspiration keeps coming back to me as a calling to contribute. Jason Silva probably said it best when he explained, "Inspiration can be a very lonely experience. It happens in our heads and then the goal of every artist is to somehow communicate that ecstatic vision in song or in writing or in poem or in film, to let you know how it felt to be in our heads during that moment in which we connected the dots. That experience of revelatory ecstasy is what we're trying to transmute and so inspiration tends to be ephemeral and fleeting and part of my attempt is to eternalize or immortalize or hold it in stasis. I think that's something humans beings have always done." We want other people to connect so deeply they can explore our brains themselves. We want endless, seamless connection. 

We like to think we're more than animals and we think therefore we are. The truth doesn't matter as long as we believe what we do. We make our own truth. If our minds tell us we can create everything we see then anything is possible. And if anything is possible, I'm starting to think I'd like to write full-time. I don't know how and I don't know when, but I do. After all, it's like Chuck Palahniuk said in his novel, Diary, "We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will."

Beyond the Bored Zombies and Dreaming Too Little

I'm becoming a big collector of quotes. Note: I'm not a hoarder. A few days ago, I ran across these words from Hemingway, "When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead." Taking this thought with a grain of salt in the form of his long-running alcoholism and eventual suicide, Hemingway has a point. Life is nothing if you don't enjoy it. Fight Club author, Chuck Palahnuik mirrored the sentiment when he wrote in Invisible Monsters: "All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring." God or not, they are boring people among us, living and barely breathing. The boring are the zombies. They are dead inside. How can they fail to see the juice of life dripping right in front of their lips? Blind and deaf, Helen Keller would have kicked their asses. She wrote, "Life is either daring adventure or nothing at all."

Can we all sit at the table and agree that life should not be boring? OK. Good. 

Because we're more than animals and instincts, we're given the opportunity to reason and explain ourselves. Who are we? What should we do? They're not far off from the questions I'm sure we all ask ourselves when we wake up Monday morning. What animals attempt to do is survive. If that means they have to migrate or murder, they do it. What humans have is some kind of infection to move forward. We're pushed further into space, conquering the world in front of us. We've created pyramids and the Sears Tower, pocket-sized devices to communicate over masses of water instantaneously, and explanations for why orbiting masses are no good for us to live on. I'm no philosophy buff, but my thought is we're trying to see how close we can be to becoming God. We adapt and master our environments. While we cry global warming and worldwide war, we forget how we've grown to seven billion, obliterated illnesses and made food vastly easier to create. We develop and destroy, and in the meantime we each inch toward greatness. Or at least that was my thought last week.

Personal development can be corny. There is no doubt in my mind. My immediate understanding is that we're so conditioned to be mesmerized by the boredom-killing machines around us that shooting for the stars becomes relegated to high school graduation speeches and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. We see visible goal-setting as a sign of weakness because dreamers are actively trying to design a life and not allowing it to flow. In a way, it seems uncool to care about life? I could be wrong, but I know people scoff. Last summer, my interest in personal development gave me the focus and motivation to take a cross-country roadtrip and eventually propose my promotion as a recycling coordinator. That's enough for me to smile. 

We're nothing without one another. I want you to know and I want to know you. What are your big, scary dreams? What are your sexiest nightmares? Take some time, put some extra thought into it this morning or evening and hit me with some knowledge. We can start a conversation to look back on and make us happy we started this journey.When we start talking about our life, it becomes real. We are our thoughts after all. Hell, your dreams are nothing if you don't wake up and share them. Chances are you dreams involve the world anyway. 

If you're still unsure about motivational speaking or sharing some serious thoughts or just dreaming too big, I'll leave you with the brilliant words of one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."