Posted by: mowriter | September 11, 2010

My Gmail “about me”

Born into “working poor” surroundings in upstate NY, I acutely felt the injustice, while nurturing my creative passions through the written word.  Knowing my future lay outside of Lyons, I attended Christian college, where I met my wife, majored in Writing, and laid the groundwork for a future better than my past.

Moving to the Washington DC area, I worked odd jobs until landing Technical Writing work.  This was the marketable means of using that passion for writing, while earning a professional-grade salary.

I’m currently on a quest to ramp the career up yet again, move more fully into Management of documentation-relevant projects, and push my career into the upper stratosphere.  All this while supporting a stay-at-home wife and two unbelievable children.  Having once been intimidated by my responsibilities, I am shifting to instead take on the challenge, head-on.

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Posted by: mowriter | December 1, 2009

Youtube Comment

The only proof that matters is a changed life. The only miracle that matters is a heart that has repented of it’s self-destruction. The only evidence that matters is a people who alleviate suffering, increase joy (personally and globally), advance Justice, and exhibit mercy.

I don’t need empirical science to prove God to me. I can trust their evidence and still trust my God.

———————————————-

I wrote the above reply to a video claiming to present proof that God exists.  This sort of thing usually makes me roll my eyes, because while I count myself in the “Follower of God in the way of Jesus” camp…I still find myself heavily in sympathy with the Atheist, the Naturalist, the Agnostic, and the Rationalist asking very pointedly for nothing more or less than the only kind of proof they can comprehend – empirical EVIDENCE.

The problem of course, is apples and oranges.  They seek evidence, while Theists speak in terms of TRUTH.  Truth and “preponderance of evidence” aren’t polar opposites; they’re not even in the same ballpark.  You may as well ask for an apple, then listen to a reply saying, “aha! you admit you have no orange!”

I heard a great sermon a year ago by a Salvation Army Captain.  He referenced the biblical miracle of Jesus turning water into wine (MY KIND OF GUY), to a group of recovering alcoholics at a treatment center.  He spoke of visiting them on the outside, seeing their dry refrigerator (i.e., no alcohol) by predicting these men one day saying, “I didn’t see the miracle of water turned into wine…but I see the miracle of God turning BEER into GROCERIES”.

A changed life, a life of purpose and meaning, screams volumes over “mere” empiricism, which will change the second new technologies emerge and more sensitive means of measurement get invented.  A noble calling for those so called, but I refuse to either keep…or lose…my faith contingent upon such minutiae.

Posted by: mowriter | September 1, 2009

Just the wine talking

I’m less than an hour away from the end of what’s been five (5) days without the wife and kids.  Five days of near total silence, punctuated with a few CDs, one visit from Church friends and a cousin and his wife.

I loved it.  I really did.  No screaming and crying, no misunderstandings of intent (deliberate or accidental), no messes made after cleanup occurred.

It’s made me start thinking again about what would bring me to the place where the novels in my head would finally worm their way out…and a worm metaphor isn’t a bad metaphor for the writing life.  An itching, scratching, troubling sensation that finds release in pushing out a story that seems it MUST be said if one is to stay sane.

I don’t know how this will end, other than getting the kids and the wife back, the kids in bed, and who knows what after that.

I’m going to bring the laptop on vacation next week: again in Myrtle Beach, AGAIN at the same hotel (with a better room this year, woohoo!).

Boredom is perhaps the greatest gift a loving creative God could have ever given his ultimate creation, us mortal demi-gods called “humanity”.  Silence as the great precursor to creation….in mimicry of the Creator.

I feel I’m on the cusp of all the bullshit finally coming to a head, ceasing to impress or seduce or intoxicate me; all the idiotic time wasters that tear me away from the Writing Life I love, the novels-within…the great literature inside.

I have endured and agonized and over-thought for so long, in order to build a real worthwhile head of steam that WILL cultivate into literary…Truth.

How can a loving God allow suffering?  I’ve hear the cry from those who haven’t yet come to an understanding of suffering.  And yet time after time, I see the suffering I endured thus far as fuel…hell, as nitroglycerin to Great Leaps Forward in my own narrative.  I’ve heard it said that suffering with a known purpose in mind is almost no suffering at all…contrasted to suffering that comes across as POINTLESS and without PURPOSE.  The random suffering versus that done for a higher cause.  The martyr as superior to the one who suffers randomly and without meaning.

While I don’t think of myself as a martyr, my own struggle over the last 5-6 years MUST have a purpose.  It MUST be to teach me something.  I could not write a thing that would resonate with all humanity if I don’t have a dark time of the soul that precedes it.  The suffering must be for cause, for reasons, for purpose.

It must.

Posted by: mowriter | June 19, 2009

Everything gets old…

Maybe I’m just having a moment…but I’m pondering this idea, this “world weary” thing.

I’m no open book, and you sure as hell aren’t my priest (don’t have one), so no deep, dark confessions, here…but it’s such a fascinating moment when your vices cease to scratch your itch.  When you see them for the utter Novocaine that they are.  Temporary alleviation of “pain”, that truly only deadens your senses and keeps you unaware.

Between the vices, scanning old friends Facebooks from college, the thoughts and desires THAT ends up stirring up, some minor issues at work, and the upcoming Guatemala trip…I’m left remembering again that utter stupidity that is our vices, our sins.

The wife’s raw vegan diet is a hell of a good metaphor.  On the one hand, there’s the natural abundance of clean, water-rich fruits, vegetables, and greens;  and on the other, cheaply produced, chemical-drowned, nutrient dead candy.  Knowing full damn well which one’s right for me…knowing how grimy and devoid I’ll feel after the WRONG choice.  Or the hand offering enlightenment, versus that offering darkness…

…I reach again for darkness.  Cheap thrills that leave you grimy, not cleanliness that ultimately, in the larger picture, tastes better (and truly it is ultimately about “TASTE”).

I’ve been asking myself if what I’m putting myself through lately isn’t just a period of mourning for my youth?

Watching my college on youtube, seeing pictures from campus, getting echo flashes, brief leaps backwards in time, imaginary past moments where I am a student there, again…contrasted against my last visit where it was clear, it was obvious, that I was merely a visitor.  And kind’ve a lame visitor, too; looking more like the creepy old man archetype from the perspective of those 18-21 year olds (LOL).

Many years ago, I read a survey in Writers Digest:  Why do you write?  Answers ranged from “for money”, “like the craft”, and others.  But each were the minority.

The number one answer?  “Because I MUST”.  The agony of the unspoken, the un-elucidated undeclared weighing on them like a grave stone.  To speak out on paper was release from that familiar, well known agony.

Frankly I haven’t written the great Novel within me yet because I’m pissed off at the so-called creative muse.  Where they hell was she when I beckoned?!  Screw her, I’ll go make money in the professional arena, using my skills and capabilities, there.

And then the creative comes beckoning again.  Again not on MY PRECIOUS TIME TABLE.  And so I type, when vices beckon, when even legitimate sleep beckons.

Many years ago I was a strident advocate of man’s Free Will In The Universe (C), specifically when it came to theology, but larger, in the whole human experience.

I’ve since gotten ahold of the idea…

Excuse me, I misspoke.  I feel…enveloping me is this notion…that the great Other-Which-Cannot-Be-Named (Jews limited his name to four letters, YHWH)…seems to have had a hold on me, from the beginning.  Something I wanted to throw away many times, yet which I know that if I did throw “it” away…the larger experience of religion and faith…I would give only victory to the Lie…and the Truth would suffer for it.  So against much empirical evidence…I retain the faith.

—–

I’ve just come back from tending to my oldest child, who just vomited all over his bed, the floor, some books, and his bedding.  I do what’s right, even as I sense it’s the banal that takes from me little by little.  A right-headed pragmatist would call me the stranded mother of the half-feral “John” character in Brave New World…mourning the mindlessness and non-reality I used to inhabit all the time.

Posted by: mowriter | September 10, 2008

The Value of Sand Castles

I just came back from Myrtle Beach, last week.  I went down with the wife and kids for the week following Labor Day.  We rolled in on Labor Day afternoon, spent the week there, left mid-day Friday as clouds of Hannah got thicker 🙂

As great, theraputic, meaningful as my Guatemala trip was, the shorter Myrtle trip had it’s teaching moments, too.

1. Getting up to your neck in the ocean and watching incoming waves roll past you, crashing behind you, gives you a beautiful sense of one’s actual place in the universe.  Pretty damn small.

2. Building sand castles inside the tidal line is a lesson in futility.  For all we build in our lives, and again I live in a high-stress, high achievement area…at the end of the day, Nature (God? Destiny? The Universe?) has its way, and all the great accomplishments we think we achieve become so much gentle hills on a flattened stretch of sand.  Pointless, and so much expended energy on something blatantly impermanent.

In both instances, I feel I got to see my real place in the universe, disassociated from the pretenses we drape around ourselves.  Ultimately microscopic against the backdrop of Eternity and the Universe, and limited in my actual reach forward, same as every other human being who ever lived.

Believe it or not…this was comforting. 🙂

Posted by: mowriter | June 13, 2008

101 things Men Should Know: My contribution

So I saw a link on facebook for a writing forum, a chance to contribute to a creative venue that honestly had a topic that interested me.

The topic? 101 Things Every Man Should know (available at http://www.webook.com/project/101-Things-Every-Man-Should-Know)

Topics included things like making a mixed drink, etc.  But I went deeper.  Much deeper.  Here’s my submission:

QUIT WITH THE LITTLE MAN SYNDROME

We all know about it.  Some of us actually suffer from it, directly or indirectly.  That belief that our…well, our main tool is less than sufficient in size, or that we are too short, too weak in total physical stature, from which we conclude that we are inadequate as Men (with a captial “M”), as a result.
“Directly affected” would mean we, personally suffer from this malady, and inflict on the world a reactionary, hostile persona, put on a thin veneer of bellicosity and bruteness, ranging from outright hostility and demands for others to submit to our authority, to threats–real or implied–of physical violence for “failure to submit”.

“Inidrectly affected” would be those of us who had to endure one of these nimrods;
those of us who never entertained thoughts of inadequacy until confronted with one such sad little man.

I recall a “period park” with log cabins and 19th century implements.  I was 8, maybe 9, running a spinning whetstone, when pinky-dong strutted into the building, girlfriend beside him, easily in his twenties, and said to me, “hey, you shouldn’t play with that!”.  I was suprised the guy would presume to interfere in something not clearly off-limits, and said so.  “Oh, I didn’t realize this wasn’t meant to be used, nothing said not to!”

Immediately this guy punctuated the silence with, “What did I just say?!” snapping his head up to emphasize what a large, strong early 20’s person he needed me to believe he was.  Girlfriend said nothing.  Perhaps she knew how to behave when ‘napoleon got this way’.  Sullenly sensing the implied threat, I left the sharpener wheel seat, sulking away myself, looking for my parents.

Little man syndrome also showed up in the challenge, “you calling me a liar?!”.  An instant end to the conversation, an instant escalation to acquiescence…or physical conflict.

Finally, even man’s best friend is in on the gig.  Count the number of unsolicited barks you get out of a chihuahua.  Now the number you get out of a St. Bernard, or any of the lock-jaw ghetto-prominent fighting dogs.

Think of the men you know, just like that.  Strength is as strength does, and only the little dogs bark the most..

Well, it’s pathetic; a real man should be above a little dog.  And the solution is simple.
Get over your mistaken thinking.  Chances are you’re of average length.  And chances are you affect a positive mental attitude, not only will that false belief dissipate, but the average Joe you encounter throughout your day will come to respect the BIG MAN you exhibit, regardless of your stature.

So I’m surfing on youtube yesterday, looking up vids by a few guys considered part of the “Emerging Church”, which among other things has been called the “Christianity to the post-modern world”, a more seeker-friendly Christianity, and a Christianity that attempts to disassociate itself from the “Americanized, politicized Republican red-headed stepchild” of more traditional, biblically accurate, centuries-spanning, multi-cultural Christianity

If the last Presidential election is any indication, any attempt to disassociate Christianity from the Republican party will be met with hostility. From delusional Christians, or angry Randian Republicans who don’t “get it”; surely Jesus was all about punishing the poor? Surely God is all about bombing our enemies over economic reasons? Surely only Capitalism and the love of money aligns with Jesus?!

And to look righteous, to come across as morally superior, they will invoke increasingly granular references to debatable theology. Theology that is not universally agreed-upon by all Christians, anyway, but by their insistence is the only accurate Truth.

Or, in my own observance, they quite obtusely invoke small snippets or sound bites from Emerging Church leaders as “irrefutable proof” that the speaker is “apostate”, when what appears to be the case is a rabid choice to misinterpret that sound bite. Oh, and words like “Heretic” and “apostate” pepper their diatribes, too.

So I comment on a vid by this guy, Rick Warren. He wrote “The Purpose Driven Life”. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you even read it. A book on the role of Jesus as the means to adding meaning, purpose to one’s own life. After all, he’s a minister. So of course his pitch is the way Jesus accomplishes this. Were he an actuary, perhaps he’d have written how Actuaries add meaning to life.

But be that as it may, the video detailed his assertion that those who call themselves Christians must learn greater tolerance for non-believers. Tolerance not at the expense of Truth, but tolerance with a caveat to “agree to disagree”, recognizing that, quite often, one can be persuaded to “your” opinion if they feel they are not being coerced into that opinion. Sly? Covert? Perhaps…or perhaps plain old grown up respect. Or as Jesus might have said, “Love your enemies, pray for them who persecute you” (much less those who merely disagree with your Faith).

Whether intentional or not, the person posting this vid has a real beef with Warren. But nothing…nothing in the vid itself really violated actual scripture. It undoubtedly violates closed-minded, far right wing absolutism that paints all “others” (non-believers in any of a number of political or theological sub-topics) as not worthy of respect.

As one raised hardcore fundamentalist before getting a college education (ahem), I recognized all the talking points that would have raised my blood pressure back then: respect for others, tolerance, commonalities with non-aligned persons.

So…in my own mind blending the obvious fundamentalism of the poster with the “expected”, complementary far-right ideology, I emailed the poster and asked what their beef was? Was it the tolerance? Was it the peacemaker element? What?

I wound up becoming the subject of their blog in their response.

At the risk of “repaying evil for evil” (for lack of a better phrase; no doubt they would assert they’re “contending for the faith”), I decided to counter-post. Here, to the best of my understanding, are the posters assertions, with my retorts. This was originally supposed to be an email reply, but stinking youtube’s email feature is pathetically limited.

————————————-

Assertion: I am not A Christian. Or a “Real” Christian. Or not the granular, sub-sub-categorized flavor of theological minutiae that my accuser is.

1. I am a Bible-believing Christian, raised in a fundamentalist Assemblies of God church…but now in a Protestant, non-denominational church originally affiliated with the midwest Baptist denomination….whose leadership since the 04 election has been asking hard questions about the synthesis of American patriotism and right wing ideology with the very Eastern, Jewish, non-American faith that (we believe) finds fulfillment and completion in the person of Jesus. So you can quit with the assuming that since I differ with you I must not be a Believer. Believers can differ and still be Believers.

Assumption: I mistakenly lump this person with the likes of Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Phred Phelps of “God Hates Fags” fame, for (presumably) taking offense at Warren’s advocacy of fellowship with non-believers. And for advocating “being nice” to unbelievers.

Plus, showing that love precludes sharing my beliefs, including warning them of the dangers asserted in the Christian world view…metaphorically warning a kid if they’re about to burn themselves.

2. I certainly have mentally associated you with Shirley Phelps-Roper. Since you opted to provide a video of Rick speaking exemplary things as your “supporting evidence” that he is an apostate…I concluded you took issue with his assertions in that video. By all means feel free to post a video that takes out of context anything he says that appears to fit your belief in his apostasy. I WILL review the links you included in your blog.

“Being Nice” as you put it is in fact respecting the dignity of the non-believer, still believing they are doomed to hell unless they repent, and for that reason NOT making the message of Jesus into something odious by virtue of my approach. And yes, you have the power with your approach to make the message of salvation an ugly looking thing. Refer back to Shirley Phelps-Roper.

And No, loving someone does not mean allowing them to burn themselves or hurt themselves. This is raw straw man on your part. But in that context, if you present the gospel in an offensive manner, the old “reverse psychology” is risked; people may reject Jesus by virtue of rejecting you. But know it is YOU and your odious approach they are rejecting, NOT Jesus.

Assertion: I hate this person, by virtue of disagreeing with their absolutist position.
[Note the dualism in this assumption. Either I 100% agree, or I’m 100% wrong, and I hate them. No in between, no third (fourth, fifth, myriad) option.]

3. I do not hate you. Bluntly, I’m not operating under what appears to be YOUR paradigm in regards to Rick Warren. I am not. Exposing false teaching is absolutely important. But Physician…heal thyself! Unless my googling is mistaken, I believe you are a contributer to Free Republic who, among other things, advocated a Christian-based defense of warfare. When exposing false teaching, do consider the false teaching that blends nationalistic pride in America with the faith of Jesus, again founded well before 1776.

Assumption: My referencing snopes and/or Wikipedia is by turns suprising (someone who disagrees with them knows nothing of snopes) and ridiculed (since Wikipedia is open-ended in article contributors, nothing on Wikipedia “must be” correct)

4. Snopes: Snopes is certainly an excellent resource for myth de-bunking. I can see why Conservatives tend to hate it. Wikipedia certainly has its flaws, but has engineered into its very structure an ability to challenge false data, and the reference sources they include (at bottom) are certainly not mere links to other wikipedia articles, but outside sources. But I know Conservatives are trying to create their own version of wikipedia, on that tired assumption that any open information source (or free press) must have “librull bias”.

Assumption: Since I didn’t know that Ted Kennedy accidentally called Obama “Osama Obama”, and Faux News aired it, I must be ignorant about current events.
[I assumed this presumed far right writer was repeating the myth that Obama is some sort of al Quaida agent.]

I assumed the Obama Osama reference related to the pathetic false rumor that Obama was an al quaida operative. My mistake, but understandable that a presumed conservative would also jump on that debunked bandwagon.

And your link to Obama Osama directs to a Fox News clip. Sorry, the “when Animals Attack” network isn’t the most trustworthy of news outlets. Fox was the #1 network of polled viewers who mistakenly believed Saddam was behind 9-11, that WMDs were found in Iraq, and that Saddam acquired nukes. And yes, memo’s instructing its journalists to massage stories to fit conservative biases is very real. Fox’s conservative bias is pretty much a part of the national “Zeitgeist” at this point. The clip is real, and Ted needs to learn to speak better, but I avoid Faux News like the plague, so I would not have watched that bit.

Assumption: An article by one Joseph Farah of World Net Daily will affirm the position that Rick Warren is a liar/apostate/heretic, etc.

And Joseph Farah? Contributor to World Net Daily? WND makes Fox “News” look like Mother Jones by comparison. An even clearer politically conservative bias…meaning they will see nothing but their prejudiced “haters o’ freedom over thar'”…and Ricks “two lyin’ eyes” become part of the conspiracy that threatens their ideology. So of course the choice will be to attack Warren’s “two lyin’ eyes”.

Assumption: Somethings wrong with me for referencing Snopes and Wikipedia rather than the Bible with regard to the condition of Christians in Syria, nowadays.

5. The Bible is not going to tell you the modern demographic of Syrian Christians. So we can either assume Rick is another sleeper agent for al quaida, secretly wanting to harm Syrian Christians further….or he speaks his observances of what he witnessed in Syria. Regardless, at worst he is demonstrating love for our enemies. And when Muslims and Christians can come together as human beings and converse, our Truth WILL get through, provided we don’t choose to be ugly in OUR approach.

This is one of those moments where we have to put our (hey, even my own!) Americanized distrust for the middle eastern muslim on the back burner, in favor of Christ’s approach of Love. Yes, loving engagement with the Truth, but in a way that doesn’t alienate them. They probably know our theology better than we know theirs, anyway. We’ve certainly pitched it from the tips of our swords throughout History (that slippery topic which an understanding of would have prevented GW from calling the War on Terror a “CRUSADE”).
Assumption: I ought to be offended or fired up because Syrian…or Chinese Christians are under greater oversight by their respective governments. Fired up that their relationship to the government differs from my own.

6. Pointing out Syria and (straw man) China’s state control over Church’s neglects to contemplate that this prevents what Greg Boyd (another heretic, pant-pant) called the “top down” means of Christians controlling society…in favor of the bottom up approach, where Christians MUST behave like Christians, since they are not the domineering power.

I cannot speak to the total status of Christians in Syria, so either we take Warren’s word for it that outside of America (gasp), culturally Syrian Christians live peaceably with culturally Syrian Muslims, or we again assume he’s in on some nefarious conspiracy.

Assumption: Integrating one’s Faith … with tangible demonstrated healing ACTION in the world, is heretical. Faith only. Do nothing, get your own head straight, pitch to non-believers while doing nothing else but pitch to them. Religious traditions that merge faith and works are “compromised”, “works oriented” , contrasted to a strictly faith form of salvation, etc.

7. I find your ridicule of “faith plus works” Christianity….perplexing. I “get”, as a Protestant, the hostility towards what we think is Catholic “salvation by works”, but again, if all we ever do is get our own personal faith in order but do not go out and demonstrate light and salt to the world, how will they know? Surely you do not practice a “Works Free” faith?!

And, like you, I want to give Coptics the benefit of the doubt that there are believers among them. Again, most Christianity in the world precedes 1776; it would be error to believe flat nothing Christian exists in the middle east, that Christians don’t represent, or even flourish and live at peace with typical, non fundamentalist Muslims.

Assumption: Since I differ with this far right Fundamentalist on a few points, I must not believe in the Bible’s account of “Judgment Day”. [Again with the “all or nothing”; no grounds to consider everything individually.]

8. Yes, I believe in Judgment Day. I AM a Believer. But I deduced from your commentary, and later your journalistic affiliations that, like many Christians, you’ve been seduced by the Religious Right, and hold a much higher THEOLOGICAL-grade respect for America than is biblically defensible. Certainly not uncommon in the last 30 years, but inaccurate, nevertheless. Just be aware….beware that those affiliations do not replace your faith. Because God will certainly take a dim view of ANY idol, even when it’s the Republican Elephant wrapped in the American Flag.

Assumption: Since I believe America is only “on top” because God chose to allow it, and that God could choose differently in the future, I am a pre-destination Calvinist [this is interesting, because most absolutists I’ve ever encountered were Calvinists, too; either this person happens to be a hard-charging “free will” advocate, or maybe they’re Calvinist and wanted to give a “back-handed complement”] .

9. Pointing out that America has been blessed only because it suits God is hardly Calvinistic, which I do not believe in, either. I believe I also asserted that we’ve been blessed ONLY to the extent that enough Christians in America have remained faithful to the Lord. In and of ourselves, outside of that, our nation matters no more or less to god than, say, Antarctica.

The (common) mistake American Fundamentalists and Evangelicals make is morphing that love for country in with our faith, as if God chose America to the same degree he chose…Israel (and you know THAT’S actually in the Bible). Clearly he has used us to further his Kingdom, like he used Britain. But their nation is not the great Empire it was 100+ years ago. I believe that directly relates to the degree to which their nation fell away from pursuing the biblical Jesus, or any Jesus. And you acknowledged this in your blog.

Assumption: I’m throwing something highly confusing and immaterial and foreign into the discussion by telling this person “with all due respect” as a precursor to disagreeing with them. [ISN’T THAT AMAZING? A PARADIGM WHERE DISAGREEMENT EQUALS DISRESPECT?!?!?!]

10. The “with all due respect” is another wiggly wimpy emerging church concept of recognizing you are worthy of respect even if I disagree with you. No, haha, in fact it’s just plain civility.

I really do want you to know that I respect you, though I disagree on a few points. Again assuming you’re also a columnist for Free Republic on topics of faith, you appear to have massive credentials to speak on hermeneutics and theology, far more than me. So be it…I would again simply assert that none of us is immune to being seduced by the old human trick of blending faith with Patriotism. But the two ARE separate.

Feel free to take portions of this out of context in another blog.

Matthew

Posted by: mowriter | August 22, 2007

The gig is up…part Seventeen

This Friday will mark the end of my seventeenth job held since, well, really since the end of 1994. This is counting the first ‘real’ job out of college: meaning a non-temp assignment, non-college break repo job in my home town, non-“handing out flyers for Liquor Stores for $10/hr plus one cold one from the cooler” job. Job number one is the first to actually make it onto the resume, and the first to include (part time side) Technical Writing work (AKA, that “foot in the door”).

I’m moving on to one of the many fed contractors local to northern Virginia, actually in my town of Reston, Virginia. I have literally not worked in Reston since that first side work/full time job that I ended in 1998. My entire full time, professional career has had me working everywhere EXCEPT Reston, where I live.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Not even for the gig itself, as much as for the commute. 2.8 miles to be exact.

Now, I want to be clear that I do not in any way dislike the job I’m at now, exactly. It’s been a little while since I left a job as a form of moral protest. OK, it’s actually been since October 2006, but before that…a really long time.

The current gig has not been a problem for me, beyond just not keeping me busy and leaving me wondering if the whole project was going to dry up like the prior gig at VeriSign. In both places, I hustled the first half of the contract, produced quality documentation, and then twiddled my fingers the latter half of the gig. And then at VeriSign, there were budget cuts and shrugs and lots of declarations of helplessness by the folks who brought me on board, away from a full time job, mind you, just to let me go earlier than their original contract end date. But I’ve bitched about “hipster doofus” private sector IT companies elsewhere, so no point in bringing that up here, too.

Besides…and I think this is the point of this blog: I’ve moved beyond the world of proactively leaving a company for emotional reasons. No more ‘gettin me Oirish oop’ about some bad job situation, or acting from anything other than simple, selfish desire to better my work circumstances. Less “bad to good” job changes, more “good to better”.

The current gig isn’t a bad place; there were several pluses: friendly co-workers, location in beautiful Washington DC, a metro/bus commute that allowed me to read through a book a week (!!!)…

But I get pitched for something that will literally be under ten minutes drive from my house, and I have to conclude that I’d be a damned fool not to take it.

It’s a good place to be, I figure: going from good to better, versus living a world where things ‘always’ get bad, then go from bad to better.

And I exaggerate, too: looking back, there was really only one company departure where I honestly believed the boss intended to fire me, and that was the one I left one month after my daughter was born…because the HMO I’d had for years wouldn’t cover her birth expenses (Long story short, a contract hired me, I dropped the HMO, Ellie the zygote embryo came into existence, the now-job laid me off with several others, I tried getting back on the HMO, got declined for her future birth)…so I went full time with another company after contracting with them, strictly for the benefits…in a department I’d have been wiser to avoid. In other words, I’d painted my self into a circumstantial corner, and feeling trapped, plus scared with another baby on the way, I failed to produce at a level I knew I could.

But throughout the rest of my career, either a contract ended, or I found myself mid-gig with a counter offer I couldn’t refuse, landing on my lap. Back in 2000 I left a major telecom for a ten-dollar-an-hour raise at a data mining company; ANYBODY would have been a fool to decline. And now, I leave a fed contractor to drive 5 or 6 minutes to work, gain two hours of my life that won’t be spent commuting, gain more energy by not enduring that commute fatigue, and gain $130 a month in commuting expenses I’ll no longer incur. Aaand, it’s next door to my gym, so I hit that in the morning, and can almost walk to work.

But all in all, the DC gig is a great place to be in: leaving a good thing to transition into a better thing.

So far, I’ve not mentioned the details of the new thing, partly because I don’t know all the in’s and out’s just yet. I DO know that I’ll be producing process and procedure docs for an operations center, that I’ll have high autonomy in producing these things, and that I’ll be interacting with folks in real time to build these things. All pluses.

As for the whole interpersonal thing…which generally has been the ONLY make-or-break variable throughout my career…well, call it getting older, having kids and thinking first of them, or just plain wearing down…but I know I can manage my attitude and deal with just about any type of boss personality in existence, now. Short of someone screaming at me and dressing me down in front of my peers, which would demand a resignation from any dignified person…I can handle about anything a boss might dish out.

And the longer I work, the more I get the impression that I’ve been ‘battle tested’ more than most folks I know in IT, by virtue of the earliest jobs I’ve worked in this area. Some of the VeriSign folks were veritable bunnies compared to stuff I’ve had to endure. But certainly since going pro, folks would sooner behave on the job like they’re terrified of offending subordinates, than to behave like they think subordinates are chattel.

In the case of the next boss: he’s a suit-wearing guy in a non-suit environment who seems to want his life to be less complicated, and so wants to hand off detail work to someone willing to handle all those details.

For me, this is Beautiful!

This type of boss is usually also willing to not interfere, tell me HOW to do my job, so long as it’s being done and done well. Voila….his life gets easier….I get afforded the professional respect I’ve earned…everyone is happy!

But I say all that because in the back of my mind…I remind myself that a convenient commute does not a good job make. Just because the drive will be easy, doesn’t mean the life in that office will be mentally healthy.

Fair enough. But I can handle whatever gets dished out…and the truth is, he who aligns closest with the company’s best interests in any office politics is he who will win those politics…or will be best suited to move on successfully to something better, unlike the non-performer politics player who’s power resides only from the unique arrangement in their office at that moment.

Finally, I’ve also come to realize that assuming one’s boss is a political back stabbing toady is really an offensive insult to the grown man who, statistically, will act from logic and reason anyway. You walk in with that assumption, and speak to the boss in a way that demonstrates you believe that about them…and you have yourself a nice self-fulfilling prophecy. So I won’t be going there.

MNO

Posted by: mowriter | May 24, 2007

You can’t save the world

I’m originally from upstate NY. A teeny, tiny town in upstate NY with fewer than 7,000 inhabitants. I’ve worked for companies here around DC with more EMPLOYEES than citizens of my home town.

When I left in 1990 to attend college, I figured I would soon be gone from there forever, once college ended in ’94, a feat my brother managed to achieve after he finished college in ’96 (not revisiting until 2006). I didn’t do so well at that goal, and the wife and I visited several times between moving to the DC metro area and having the kids.

After the kids, however, we really started deliberately visiting twice a year, so my parents could watch their grandchildren growing up. And I’ve made a point to holla’ at several folks I know up there just before each visit, and then get together during the extended weekend that comprises each visit.

Well….nearly every time I visit, I wind up meeting up with newly rediscovered old friends and classmates, who so far are all also locally planted, having never left that small town or its surrounding villages (I’ve yet to luck out and have a classmates (now) from NC or NV or FL come up at the same time).

During one such visit, I saw a guy who just plain shocked me. Perpetually unemployed, physically looking twenty years older than me (instead of 1 year older), wife physically capable but afraid (!) to drive a car, and three kids, all of whom were either labeled “Learning Disabled” or Juvenille home alumni. And both missing a lot of teeth. A lot.

I grew up in these parts, you’d think I’d know what to expect, and yet this shocked and saddened me beyond belief.

I keep in touch with this friend and have his family over whenever we come up. I’ve asked as politely as I know how about his job search efforts, and to his credit he claims he’s done everything he can to find a job (up to and including walking out his front door and knocking on businesses and collecting/submitting employment applications). But I see his son, surly and shy and confused, and my heart aches.

The son didn’t ask for this; it’s not his fault. But he’s living these circumstances and the world just plain doesn’t make sense and he can’t even express or enunciate why he’s so angry….but oh, yes, he’s angry. Furious, blind, unfocused angry.

I’ve talked with the boy the last few times I’ve come up–around the father I’ve affirmed the father’s position (focus on schoolwork, get better grades, get a paper route for personal money, etc.). And one on one, I zero’d in on his love of ping pong and explained to him how it’s a metaphor for success–skill, coupled with intense focus, produces achievement.

But as for the dad, my buddy….I’m just at a loss. I’ve no idea what to say to him other than, “Sorry, man”. What can I say or do that doesn’t come off as patronizing or insulting or shame-inducing.

[mind you, lots of folks could use a good solid shaming. I could use one in some areas of my life to make me cut out some bad habits; but this is a buddy of mine.]

And this buddy is one of half a dozen people I know up there in near-identical situations. My buddy’s technically in better circumstances than some of the others just by virtue of NOT living with a parent. But friend after friend after friend….after parent…are in situations of their own making that would have made me put a bullet in my head, rather than accept for myself or my children.

And in nearly every situation, I’ve played the part of “Tony Robbins” to these people, trying to throw out ideas and suggestions on how to improve their situation. Use my external point of view to suggest a way out of their conundrum.

And without exception, the results have been nothing. Zip. Real, practical working ideas end up falling into a deep black pit. And I’ve heard some of the most monstrous defenses, rationalizations, excuses, and pathetic justifications ever devised. I’ve watched and heard as the human instinct for problem solving literally gets twisted into a logical boondoggle finding new ways to PROVE the inevitability of failure.

Imagine a caveman trapping a mammoth in a pit, spear in hand–ready to plunge into the beast…and the caveman turning the spear around and suiciding on it, instead. And the clan going hungry while the mammoth starves to death.

To say it’s been a disturbing ride would be an understatement. The DC area is such a hardcore, hard driving, status and intensity-driven area, that you pretty much take for granted that the rest of the world operates that way. Not so, and it always manages to amaze me, each and every time I get back up there, that people haven’t figured out what seems so breathtakingly obvious to me: that you have to THINK yourself out of your predicament, and take ACTIONS to carry out the escape plan.

Well….and I don’t know if I’ve yet really “gotten” this yet…but I’m learning that you can’t save everybody. Some people, hell, maybe every person, every adult of average intelligence, are where they are because of their decisions and beliefs, and there’s just no budging them.

Nor should you try to budge them. That’s been the hardest part for me, the futility of arguing the self-evident to those who don’t see it. But it seems to be the way the world works. I can save me, I can exert major influence on my children’s abilities to save themselves one day, and I can offer polite suggestions to the wife (hahaha)…but beyond that…nothing.

One good thing that consistently comes from these visits, though, is a sobering reminder that I’m living a damned good life, something I’ve fought hard to realize these past few years. And that I need to be more grateful for it.

MNO

Am starting this so others who give a damn about the URL (over actual tangible CONTENT) can have a forum to read my work.  And not demean themselves with the unhip (read: POPULAR) myspace blog I currently type away at.

I’ve known about this format for quite some time (blogging, etc.). I simply haven’t bothered to use this forum to do my journaling or exploring or obfuscation-ing out of laziness and/or distraction.

Thus the originating name for this blog, “Melancholicide”…the death of melancholy, within my own life. I’ve extrapolated on this on my myspace blog, and ‘may’ do so again, here. We’ll have to see.

I may also have to do something about that title, “Melancholicide”. May turn off the emo goths who dig on melancholy. I for one am sick of feeling like my life is spinning out of control, and am cooking up a mental boiling point to get the drive to push beyond the laziness and actually accomplish something tangible in my life as a result.

More later.

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