What You Can Do Today

Worry not what the future may hold,
It’s present day that is yours to mold.

In the far off land of days yet to come,
You’ll arrive only by where you came from.

It matters not what tomorrow may bring,
Today alone can you change anything.

Future value does not yet exist,
Cherish today’s before it is missed.

Create what you can wherever you are,
Pack up your bags; it will take you quite far.

Though much of this life lies beyond your control,
Embrace the uncertain and create your own role.

What you do today will be solely your choice,
So go out there boldly, in your labor rejoice!

My Librarian, The Drug Czar.

I didn’t get really into drugs until I was about six or seven years old. During the summers, I used to visit the Enid Public Library and wander about the shelves, carte blanche. It was there, cloaked from the public eye behind numerous texts, where I would be administered dosage upon dosage of fresh, new, enlightening psychotropic devices. Even so, this freedom to binge diminished as I relocated during the school year to a more cautiously monitored environment: the public school library.

Potent substances of epidemic proportions, if you look carefully enough, can be found littering the shelves of most libraries, though, and I was determined to find the most satiating of these. This, in my opinion, must have been why I was banned from visiting certain “Dark Arts” sections as an elementary student. It must have been that look in my eyes. Perhaps they were too red, or maybe the librarian had begun to take notice of that slight change in my disposition each time I made a new visit to this wonder emporium. Either way, I had to proceed with caution most days, if I was, after all, going to get my fix.

One day, in fact, the librarian caught me perusing around this “off-limits” section of the bookshelves. There I was at 11 or 12 years of age, Atlas Shrugged in hand, when that user’s itch overtook me. I dropped the book immediately and began frantically convulsing, part from fear of being caught in the act, part from knowing my stash was about to be flushed. All the while I knew if I did not administer soon, I would surely die.

It was no use, however, the ruse was up. At that age, I was hardly tall enough to see over the counter to check a book out, let alone hide a 1,200-paged manifesto behind my wimpy little back. So, I picked the book back up from the floor, replaced it on the shelf, and obediently followed the orders, promising myself I would find a way to unlock the potency of its contents at a later date.

That memory seems so long ago; I oftentimes wonder if it happened at all or if it was no more than the birth of some intense trip. After all, I have been using most of my life, and, it is not uncommon for me to drift entirely from all tethers to reality into fantasies tucked deep away in the darkest crevices of my mind, readily awakening to the inspiration I find in each new literary drug.

Subsequently, even if the instance with the librarian did not occur, I am certain the restrictions to prevent me from self-medicating or overdosing at such a young age were, in fact, in place. I despise that truth even to this day, but realize it did not stop me from introducing myself to those much harder drugs, so much as it merely delayed me.

However, what I know now is that had I simply been allowed to satisfy my craving when it initially had sprung, perhaps I would not have been so receptive to its effects or so keen to discover even harder, more illicit scholarly substances to fill the void such a prolonged introduction had created.

Furthermore, perhaps under the cautious supervision of the librarian or some other pedagogue dealer of dalliances, I would not have—once self-prescribing—been so keen to consume far above the recommended dosages. Perhaps given the opportunity at self-discovery—though this might be a stretch—I would have even hated the drugs, and rejected altogether any such interferences with my worldview as it then existed.

Even so, such was not the case, and it was made clear that such voyages into the unknown were impermissible for such a young, budding mind. This created nothing but contempt and inspired in me a sense of rebellion, a sense of courage to gallivant off into uncharted waters as a freelance pharmacist for myself, eager to indulge in every new available banned product I could find. So, too, did it make me more receptive to the mind-altering nature of these unapproved commodities. I found in these not merely a delightful escape, but more importantly, I discovered truth. I felt alive and aware, as if my eyes had at last been opened to all that was around me. I saw the world not as I thought it to be, but for what it truly was. I saw myself juxtaposed to the universe as a finite entity, both free and powerfully awestruck by the magnitude of what I had previously not only not known, but dismissed as impossible.

Those substances freed me from the restrictions imposed not only by coercive authorities, but of the inhibiting limitations I had enforced on myself through ignorance. Upon discovering this newfound, vast expanse of intellectual wealth, I gained a new appreciation for life, for learning, and for contemplating axiomatic truths.

I discovered how to listen rather than talk, how to humbly promote myself rather than boast, how to speak sincerely rather than with grandiosity. But far and above more imperative than all, I came to know how to love myself and as a result, how to love others. The ideas resulting from of all these trips and highs in prose and poetry unlocked all of these things for me, and I think they can for anybody courageous enough to give them a try.

So forget about prohibitions, censorships, or coercive deterrents. Why don’t you give the unknown a shot? Why not explore the limits of your own vast cognitive abilities?

Go pick up a book today, who knows? Your gateway drug could be waiting for you.

 

 

The Why Chromosome

Take-Home Message: One thing that separates those who change the world from those who simply watch: A Vision. 

vi·sion·ar·y
adjective

  1. a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.

Have you ever observed someone describe a deeply-held belief? What did they look like doing so? What did you look like listening to them? How did it make you feel?

The ones who impacted me most profoundly made me feel something powerful awaken inside. They made me believe. If for but a moment, I shared their vision too.

They paint with their words. Not simple pictures, but beautiful, distant landscapes, and unfathomed horizons with brilliant, vivid clarity, these artists take hold of their brushes and gently, masterfully apply stoke after stroke with seamless effort, offering us an invitation to imagine.

These artisans paint us, too. With original insight, they carefully incorporate into their masterpieces our deepest fears and the sullen images of every shattered dream we ever encountered. Then, surreptitiously, the skilled hands of a genius fast at work replaces those pagan images of ourselves with bright, beautifully-colored, novel self-esteem and faith.

They possess a fierce, yet compassionate presence. They intimidate anyone unwilling to share in the enjoyment or embodiment of their vision. Simultaneously, they welcome into their presence all who share it.

Many mock them for their baffling distortion of reality. Yet, if at all moved by detractors, they become only more driven. They exist relentlessly for the pursuit of higher ideals. In the face of defeat, they embolden their vision all the more menacingly. They refuse to die until winning many victories for mankind.

Their beliefs do not equate to fantasies. Not to them. They see what we do not, they see that which exists beyond the veil. They hold confidence in both ideas and their ability to cultivate these into realities.

Others perceive them as discontent with each new creation. They simply see more yet to be done in their time. Others dub them profit-mongers, heretics, and cheats. These accusations distract them not. Their vision propels them toward a society of more apt standards of valuation for a man’s worth.

They envision the world as it could be and as it will be. They fret not of the present. To them, the future remains static, and we must approach it boldly.

They do not ask what. Rather, they contemplate why? They do not question how. They wonder when.

They live today to create tomorrow. We call them visionaries.

Until Failure.

Take-Home Message: Don’t erect more barriers for yourself. When opportunity knocks, kick down the door.

Your best work could be waiting for you. Maybe you’ve dubbed yourself as someone unqualified to complete one of your ideas. Maybe you’ve given up when success was just another furlong down the path. By fabricating excuses, we erect more hurdles to jump over on our way to greatness. Whatever the case, don’t forego that greatness for mediocrity.

One famous example of this from history can be found in the story about the Sistine Chapel:

“In 1508, 33-year-old Michelangelo was hard at work on Pope Julius II’s marble tomb, a relatively obscure piece now located in Rome’s San Pietro in Vincoli church. When Julius asked the esteemed artist to switch gears and decorate the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, Michelangelo balked. For one thing, he considered himself a sculptor rather than a painter, and he had no experience whatsoever with frescoes.*”

Reluctantly, Michelangelo accepted the job and set to work on what is regarded to this day as one of the most outstanding art portrayals of the relationship between God and Man. In spite of this acclaim for Michelangelo’s work, the painting allegedly came at a great personal cost to him.

In a letter of correspondence crafted as a poem to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia**, Michelangelo mentioned various physical hurdles the painting required of him. These include an alleged developed goiter from looking upwards as well as complaints of his face making a nice floor for paint to drip upon. He also made reference to a desire to leave the project.

“My painting’s dead. I’m done.
Giovanni, friend, remove my honor’s taint,
I’m not in a good place, I cannot paint.”

–Michelangelo’s Letter to Giovanna da Pistoia

Popular conjecture even remains that Michelangelo may have developed partial-blindness from painting on scaffolding while laying on his back. While some historians dispute this claim, it no less dismisses the great physical toll this work took upon Michelangelo.

Yet, in spite of this, Michelangelo’s work prevails as one of the most hailed pieces of artistic creativity and insight. And all in spite of his initial reluctance to accept the gig, and his claims of not being a painter.

I reflect on this story because I think it holds many truths about our own pathways toward success. I often find myself analyzing any and every decision until I can come up with enough excuses to entirely dismiss the choice. This is an unhealthy practice. In fact, it’s cheating myself when I do this. I’m cheating myself not only out of an opportunity for success, but also out of an opportunity for substantial personal growth.

We are all expert con artists with ourselves, though, because we intimately know the things that make ourselves most uncomfortable and dismayed. When I have big decisions, I find it hard to overlook these self-erected barriers with the confidence that I can overcome them. Yet, each time I say to hell with it, and decide to go follow my gut, find a way and keep moving, I can feel the growth that takes place as a result–even if the hurdles have to be climbed rather than jumped.

I think this is an important element for every self-starter out there. I’ve been dealing with it for most of my life, and the more people I talk to about it, the more I find it to be a common thing to overcome. For me it has taken a conscious effort and an awareness of this to begin making strides toward eradicating the unhealthy excuses altogether. Following your gut shouldn’t be so scary. It should feel natural.

So, when opportunity knocks, stop holding out to see if it will ring the door bell and eventually leave if you don’t answer. Stop fearing the uncomfortable scenarios pursuing new chances might create. Stop squashing your chances for greatness. You might be a sculptor instead of a painter, either way, you’re an artist. Just pick up the damn brush and start painting!


*”7 Things You May Not Know About the Sistine Chapel.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.

**http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jun/19/giovanni-da-pistoia/