Calling My Shot

19365_717013806513_9223634_39963040_868241_nThe earth starts to rumble
World powers fall
A’warring for the heavens
A peaceful man stands tall

– Megadeth

We have a set of very simple choices in front of us:

We can be part of someone’s bad day, or we can be that which makes it better.

We can be silent partners in a world in decline, or we can take responsibility for the shares we hold and work toward recovery.

We can take hold of what we have and hold on for dear life, or we can let go and share the wealth, precisely because life is so dear.

One of my favorite quotes, from George Monbiot’s Age of Consent:

All those with agency are confronted by a choice. We can use that agency to secure for ourselves a safe and comfortable existence. We can use our life, that one unrepeatable product of four billion years of serendipity and evolution, to earn a little more, to save a little more, to win the approval of our bosses and the envy of our neighbours. We can place upon our walls those tombstones which the living erect to themselves: the framed certificates of their acceptance into what Erich Fromm has called the ‘necrophiliac’ world of wealth and power. We can, quite rationally, subordinate our desire for liberty to our desire for security. Or we can use our agency to change the world, and, in changing it, to change ourselves. We will die and be forgotten with no less certainty than those who sought to fend off death by enhancing their material presence on the earth, but we will live before we die through the extremes of feeling which comfort would deny us.

Simple decisions? Yes: simple decisions with fearfully complex implications. Once I decide to step up, once I call my shot, life becomes a whole new ballgame. I said in an earlier post that this isn’t about me, and on one hand that is true. On the other, though, it’s all about me. It’s about who I decide to be in relation to the world around me. Which shouldn’t be about me. Who I decide to be, expressed in the actions I take and the decisions I make. Which, again, shouldn’t be about me. Never about me. The world has to come first, starting with my family (spouse, children, etc.) and spiraling ever outward. Because it’s not about me, it’s all about who I decide to be.

Small exercise: Pinpoint one aspect of “you” that might be conceived of as the weakest link. At its most basic, what sort of work does it need? For me, it’s all about patience (impatience, really). So I look to the traffic light. At its most basic, my impatience stems from a belief that my time, my affairs, are the most important consideration in the world, and when I find myself fuming at a red light, it can be boiled down, pretty much, to that selfish impulse. It’s all about me, and this stupid light is getting in the way.

My first step, then, toward moving myself out of the way and living a world-centered life is, oddly enough, about learning to let stoplights be, and recognizing the importance of others’ lives. When I manage even this insignificant little feat, then it’s not about me anymore. Stress levels drop, frustration falls away, and I’m free to love a world my selfish side demands that I hate. And once that first, baby step is taken, I’m ready for the next: I’m ready to cultivate patience in all situations. Waiting for a table at a restaurant, standing in line at the grocery store–am I really the only person in the world who needs to eat? Much as I’d like to think so, probably not… :0)

Impatience lies at the root of my egocentric world; remove the cornerstone, and the whole structure begins to weaken, and will eventually collapse. And that’s the goal. Therein lie the seeds of the new world order: it’s not about political systems, or religion, or economics; it’s all about who I decide to be.

Choose to be a peaceful person in a world of chaos. It just might be contagious.

Snot about Me


Started a landslide in my ego
Looked from the outside to the world I left behind.

– U2

Fire burns brightest when the darkness comes from within.

Last weekend, I was sprawled at the epicenter of the perfect storm. I was sick–couldn’t breathe, nose running several marathons at once, head pounding like Grond at the gates of Minas Tirith. I was also feeling quite sorry for myself. Had there been any worms on hand, I would have been popping them like Skittles. All in all, it was a fairly lousy few days, headspace-wise.

And then, the little metaphorical light bulb went on, and I had a moment of blinding (and in no way Benadryl-related) clarity:

It’s not about me.

Four words. Simple as that. It’s. Not. About. ME.

Over the past week, this has become for me a mantra of sorts. I have never felt more free. Free of myself; free of everything that sets me apart from others and builds walls between us. I can see clearly and to great distances. Once we realize that the horizon is only really the shadow of Self, there is no limit to the power of sight.

This is not to say I’ll never again stumble into the Slough of Despond, or that reciting those words will always keep a smile plastered across my face. I will be depressed, from time to time; I will allow my own pettiness to cloud my awareness of the claims of others to my time and attention. Sometimes, there will be tantrums; other times, there will be inaction lost in the fog of self-pity and doubt. Rajas and tamas go hand in hand.

But if I am to accomplish anything, I have to let go of the Vance-centric state of mind. You may not have noticed, but the word “advancement” has me built right into it. It’s too easy to let that thought dominate my thinking, to become all I am about. Ad-VANCE-ment.

The world is pain individualized. But only because we accept the false premise of individuality. We are not many. We are one. Humankind: a word defined by what kind of humans we choose to be.

I can only make something meaningful of this life I’ve stumbled upon if “I” am no longer involved.

It’s not about me.

Autobiography of a Toad

(An epiphany of me)

Born to roam, never
Always quite at home;
Half a toad, half a turtle–
Life’s a joy; life’s a hurdle
To be cleared and caught

Talk is cheap, thought’s
Expensive. Circle wide; view extensive.
Present tense, future perfect and
Imperfect: never not anticipating.
Reborn; restructured;


To say, not much; to
Do, much more: broken window defeats
Closed door. And on and on, and further
Still, bridges to cross, milk to spill.
Words to spell and rearrange;
Clothes to wear and, then, to change.
Danger is but fear embraced–
What’s a life that is not chased by
Angry ghosts and fleeting sands?

The tortoise, only,
Understands the need for speed as
All goes by, so slow, so fast…

Never stop; it
Cannot last.

Who Am I?

Dude! I’ve got plans up in this joint!

(I say this on the off-chance anyone’s taken the time to ask themselves: “I wonder what his plans are?” I’m sure there are quite a few of you who have been on pins and needles, anxiously gripping the edges of your seats, fretting away the sleepless nights about it.)


It occurs to me that most of what I’ve written, while it may address obliquely the question of who I am, never really gets to the heart of the matter. You see, to me, identity is less about the grand “WHAT I BELIEVE” (add impressive echo here) than it is about the little things, the experiences I’ve had that have brought me to whatever place I am now. Because, quite frankly, the “WHAT I BELIEVE” is largely dependent on those experiences. They are the reason why I believe what I believe.

This whole blogging thing doesn’t really do much for me unless I can really share with others the person that I am, without code names, without censorship, without obfuscation (which is, by the way, one of my favorite words to say). I take the time to write because, as I was reminded recently by a friend’s post, I crave connection: I want to know people. This is, incidentally, why I suck at networking–my interest in others lies in discovering who they are, not in discovering what they can do for me. I find that often the people who could do the most for me, be it professionally or personally, turn out to be the least interesting people to know. And vice-versa. It’s also why people who are good networkers want nothing to do with me: I seriously doubt that I will ever be in a position to do anything for anyone, either professionally or personally, but I like to think I’m a pretty fun guy to hang out with. (Of course, that may just be a latent narcissistic streak of which I am blissfully unaware…)

What’s more (and this is intended as a commentary on no one but myself), I’ve learned the hard way that if I have something to say that I’m not willing to own, I’m probably not ready to say it yet. Nor is it generally really worth saying. I try to live life according to the following philosophy, couched in Shakespearian parlance: “‘Tis better to hold up thine head and be cudgelled in thy face, than to remain unbruised through keeping it hid.” In other words, as Martin Luther would have put it, sin boldly; if you are to stick your foot in your mouth, do it with pride. Leave a Sam-shaped hole in the wall, for cryin’ out loud!

All this to say, I want you to know me: not just what I think or feel, but where all that thinky-feely stuff comes from. I want to give you a face to go with all the cockamamie ideas. (Feel free to use it as a dart-board; at least this way you’ll get some sporting fun out of the experience!)

So, first things first: Lo! here I am:

148499_10100741148544263_1419274769_nThat’s “Jack Kerouac” me, to the left there. Generally, I find myself somewhat un-photogenic, but then, generally, that’s probably mainly my fault. Because I’m also an irredeemable goofball. If you really want to know ME, you need to see this (below):


Or this…


Or perhaps even this…


If you’re sufficiently scared, we’ll move on…

You see, I’m not afraid to look like an idiot. I’ve spent far too much of my life standing on ceremony, minding that “image” thing everyone keeps talking about. I’m not afraid to admit that, as standards of beauty go, I’m no Mona Lisa. But then, if you stop to think about it, by our standards of beauty, the Mona Lisa is no Mona Lisa, either. Which is, really, what makes the Mona Lisa beautiful in the first place, isn’t it…?

I’ve got flaws and blemishes coming out my ears (in some cases, literally). But in those flaws and blemishes, I am ME, the individual no one else can be. Which brings me to the most important fact anyone can ever learn about me: I AM A TOAD! And I’m damn proud of it.

My goal in life is to fit no one’s bill but my own. I was born to break the mold (as were we all), and I am bound and determined to live that way, too. I want to be nobody else but who I am, because who I am is like nobody else.

(And here’s a secret: I only buy all that stuff I just said about individuality most of the time. The rest of the time, I’m one more insecure face in a giant, frightened crowd. Which is to say, I may talk a big line, but when you come down to it, I keep my head down as much as anyone else. But don’t tell–it’s a secret…)

Which brings me back from my constant urge to digress to the reason I started writing this post in the first place: Who I am. I am a scared, lonely, overgrown little boy who for a few minutes each day (if I’m lucky) manages to break free from the anchor-weight of living long enough to glimpse the breadth and depth of life. I am a boat tossed on a sea of uncertainty, hopeful of someday reaching the shore. I am a mystery shrouded in a riddle wrapped in an enigma coated in cliché. I am, in short, one of you. And you are more of me. And as such, I want to touch and be touched; I want to know and be known; I want to love and be loved. Don’t we all?

But I have to do this as myself. I cannot do it as Everyman, because I am not every man. To quote one of my favorite Sting songs, “the mask I wear is one.” I am, at the end of the day, the only person I can be, which is myself. And this mystifies me, too. As much as I want to understand and know others, I want to understand and know myself even more, and after nearly 36 years of trying, I’m convinced that our selves are the hardest people to fathom that any of us will ever meet. So, back to my plans: I want to share me with you in order to decipher my self. Where I came from, those moments in life that define us in silence, without us even being aware that they’ve passed: all those events, encounters, characters that have cast shadows across my path and brought me to the place I am today.

Because the greatest, most important truth of all is this: I am one, but I am many. I am the sum not just of my parts, but of everyone else’s as well. In order, then, to truly undertand myself, I have to understand you. And him. And her. And them. In the end, “me” and “we” are mutually inexclusive. We are all pieces of a whole. without any of which pieces the whole cannot be…well…whole. Nosce te ipsum? First nosce illos ipsi.

So, listen, O bloggers, and you shall hear of all the little things that brought me here. And perhaps, when all is said and done, we will effect a parting of the waters and a meeting of the minds…

Dots, Connected

This space between
Unaccountable as it may seem,
I see your face in every dream,
In every ray of dancing light
Glancing from each dreary surface
And racing toward some foggy distance
Not yet reached by sight or speech.

A thought that leeches flesh from bone
And turns the hottest blood to stone;
Shout of joy made moan of longing
As demons of displacement, thronging,
Gather cloudy ’round my heart and keep us
Far apart.


“I love the stoic elegance of bare trees.”

Victoria N℮ür☼N☮☂℮ṧ

I Would Like to Thank the Academy…

I was pleased to discover, around 11:00 one night, that my blog had been nominated for the Liebster Award by one of my favorite fellow writers. It is nice to know that there really are folks out there who are interested in what–if anything–I have to say.


And now…to the protocol!

Move the First: Thank the Liebster-winner who nominated you.

Thanks, Muggle! I have enjoyed reading your thoughts and look forward to reading more. I’m happy to hear you have enjoyed reading mine, as well. (Visit Muggle’s blog. No, really, visit it! Now!)

Move the Second: Post eleven facts about yourself.

  1. I collect turtles. Figurines, not real ones. Although I do have a red-eared slider named Turtimus Maximus (which is what happens when you watch Gladiator right before naming a pet).
  2. If it involves bacon, I love it. One of my favorite restaurants is even named Bacon. Guess what they serve…
  3. While working as a stagehand for Stages-St. Louis, in St. Louis, Missouri, I accidentally set a prop player piano on fire when I crossed the wires on the car battery that ran it. It was an accident. I swear!
  4. My absolute favorite place in this world is Holy Island, off the northeast coast of England.
  5. My second favorite place in this world is the Durst family farm, outside of Butler, Missouri.
  6. I love the BBC more than life itself. My favorite BBC show is ALL OF THEM.
  7. I am genetically incapable of producing adequate facial hair, but refuse to accept the fact, so I tend to look like an overgrown adolescent. When I do shave, I just look like an adolescent…
  8. I believe searching is more important than finding.
  9. I lived in Argentina from my 11th to my 18th birthday.
  10. I love being an uncle, and I have no desire to be a parent.
  11. I am at heart an introspective romantic, and I hide it behind a mask of sarcastic jackassery.

Move the Third: Answer the questions posed by the nominating blogger.

1. What book/show do you think everyone should read/watch?

  • Book: Here’s a few–Death of a Hero, by Richard Aldington; The Glory and the Dream, by William Manchester; for your kids, the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. Show: Anything by Joss Whedon (my personal favorite is Angel–it’s a much deeper show than people give it credit for) or Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing inspired me into grad school).

2. Is there anything you would change about your life? If so, what?

  • I would live overseas again. Preferably in the UK, and there, probably in Scotland. I think the Highlands are one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

3. What is your favorite food/drink?

  • It’s a toss-up between bacon and Doritos (the good old nacho cheese variety, not those wannabe follow-up flavors…).

4. Are you religious?

  • No, in that I do not subscribe to any particular religion (at the moment); yes, in that I understand religion as the impulse toward meaning and the unknown, regardless of the finer print, and the ongoing search for enlightenment and a deeper understanding of life and my reason for being, a search in which I’m heavily invested. In the latter respect, I think we’re all just a little religious, whether we identify as such or not.

5. If you could only choose one vacation spot for the rest of your life, where would it be?

  • The UK. No question. I have been many places, and I’ve never enjoyed myself more.

6. If you could go into space, would you?

  • “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Does this answer your question…?

7. If you were reincarnated after you die, would you want to retain your memories of this life?

  • I’d never really thought about it, but I think No. Life is an adventure that I think must be lived from scratch. I like the idea of the tabula rasa, of becoming all over again.

8. Do you consider yourself a writer?

  • As they would say in Argentina, I consider myself proyecto de, an ongoing project, if you will. But I want desperately to be one, and it colors my approach to all the other things I do in life. I’ve published several times, in academic journals and one actual book. Does that make me a writer? Not sure. Does living make me a human? Hmmm….

9. Do you believe in ghosts?

  • I would say, with Fox Mulder, “I want to believe.” I have done my time sitting in a darkened car on rural roads outside ruined old family cemeteries, hoping to see something surprising. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still watching…

10. I love quotes. What is one of your favorites?

  • My favorite quote of all time, and the one that means the most to me, is the one found on the header of my blog, from the Crane poem “Think As I Think” : “I will, then, be a toad.” I first read that poem in the 11th grade, and it has been my governing philosophy in life ever since.

11. Do you have any comments about my blog you would like to make?

  • It is one of my favorites, and I always look forward to new entries. You explore topics that lots of people shy away from, and it encourages me to say what’s really on my mind. I would not, I think, be able to talk so freely about the things I believe, if I didn’t know you and others like you were out there, listening…

Move the Fourth: Ask eleven questions of your own.

  1. What was your favorite vacation/trip?
  2. What is the one event you live for and never miss?
  3. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  4. Life: Is it journey or destination?
  5. What is a food you hated as a kid, but really, really enjoy now?
  6. How do you define “progress”?
  7. What makes work satisfying for you?
  8. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
  9. Aliens: Are they out there?
  10. Who was your favorite teacher?
  11. When you vacation, do you fly or drive, and why?

Move the Fifth: Nominate 11 blogs (doesn’t have to be eleven) that you feel deserve recognition. These blogs should have less than 200 followers to the best of your knowledge.

These are some of the folks I think more of us should hear more from. Each one of them inspires me in their own way: some make me think, some make me scowl, and then think, and some just make me laugh so hard I cry…


Backwards with Time

Corinna Keefe

On Being a Dad

faithfully doubting

Educate for Texas

Shadows of Our Feelings


Verbalizations & Such

The Perks of Being Young and Inquisitive

What Would Nadia Do?

Move the Sixth: Display award badge on blog.