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vonnegut-1

It’s all a Dream?

You know how they say in your final moments your whole life flashes before your eyes? It appears then, that I’m presently dying.

The only question is if it’s the slow, inexorable march towards entropy, or like, my severed head is replaying everything that’s ever happened to me? Where is my mind? If it’s the slow train to dirt-nap city, would that be enough to cause all of this sensory feedback?

Is it all a dream? 

But seriously, I feel unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five; existing everywhere, and when, at once. I can feel the cushioning of my untied Nike Cortez ’72’s from 2001, and the spring of the concrete pads of the stairs in my apartment breezeway, and how they sang as I bounced down them on my walk to the office, where I worked.

vonnegut-1

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book called “Breakfast of Champions” which is why this is ridiculous and great.

The way my hands looked on my balcony in ’99 when I stared at them trying to see what they looked like, via the memory of my 84-year-old self. The grips on my bike in fifth grade, tooling around the apartment community where I lived in Sarasota.

The feel of running behind my Tonka truck at age 4, and the subsequent rug burn that came with sliding on my knees behind it. The smell of the latrine at camp in ’91 and how I never wanted to be within 100 yards of it. 1995, the newspaper ink on the tread of my right hand, crossword puzzle being blackened like Prince William Sound.

I recently had the overwhelming compulsion to purchase this guy, for some inexplicable reason. It was my most prized possession when I was 7 years old. Thanks to Ebay, and $11.25 via Paypal, it was mine again.

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People have pointed out the resemblance. Penny for scale.

They were a series of toys called M.U.S.C.L.E. MEN, that came in little opaque trash cans and featured, hard rubber wrestlers, mutants, and stuff. The whole series ran about 140 of them and this guy was the rarest – likely on the account that he was the announcer and who the hell wanted the announcer?  Seven year olds, apparently, were not without a sense of scarcity-value.

But why did I think of it now? A sense of my own mortality in the face of the sea of dead celebrities? It certainly wasn’t to buy back my youth, I can tell you that. Cause they don’t sell that on Ebay – not that I looked.

I don’t know. Am I dreaming? Am I having a Jacob’s Ladder situation where I’ve actually been shivved for my little guy here, and in my last moments I’m imagining all of this? If so, bravo 7-year-old-Rob. You have quite the imagination.

Maybe it’s the holidays? The end of every year finds me with an insatiable hankering for creative expression, it seems. This year, I’m thinking of a retrospective through all of letters from friends from high school. I still have hundreds of them, in date order from everyone I corresponded with. I don’t know of anyone else that still has that stuff, but I think it could make for a cool project. Maybe I’m just a solipsistic pile of shit?

Maybe I need the project to distract me from the fact that I’m already dead? or “already dead”, in the respect that I’m aware that I’m a finite creature that is aware that we only have so much time left in this crazy world?

They don’t understand. What’s the master plan? …Yes my man, I’m true to that.

It could be the hallmark of the first introspection I’ve allowed myself to have in a while. I haven’t wanted anything in sometime. Not really, anyway. Not outside the superficial wants I think we perpetuate just to continue to feel human. Perhaps I bought that Kinnikuman figure because I should want it? Right?

I think when we want stuff, like really want it, we’re blinded to everything else around us until we get it. And then, when we get it? What then? You think Leo is made whole at the end of Gangs of NY? I don’t. I think Bill realizes the futility as well, which is why he declines to put another hole in him; which is why he holds his hand as he fades to black. It’s all over with.

Am I all over with? Hardly, unless I really am laying somewhere with my head in a gutter. If your head gets severed, they don’t tend to do open-casket, do they? Even with aid of a turtleneck?

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Maybe time is a flat circle, heh, Rust Cohle? Maybe the detailed rememberings of simple and uneventful things is something everyone experiences from time to time? Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all.

What I am sure of is that I’m definitely dying, as are you. I just don’t know if I’m doing my best impression of Usain Bolt, or Stephen Hawking as I beg Lachesis for a hefty pull.

kanttouch

Be A Super Ethical Leader in 3 Easy Steps

 

Immanuel Kant is a boss. Like, the boss of bosses.

As far as philosophers go, he’s like the RZA of this here ethics game. He’s the one that really summed it up nicely, and gave everyone the central cornerstone of modern ethics: The Categorical Imperative!

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Put simply: Act so that the maxim of your actions should be made universal and necessary. 

Ok, put even simpler: In whatever you do, act in such a way that you’re advocating that all people, everywhere, should always act in the same way, in that same situation.

So, if you shoplift, you’re saying by your actions that it’s in the best interest of all people everywhere to do the same. If you disagree, and think all people shouldn’t shoplift, neither should you – so don’t do it. Duh.

If you hold the door for people walking 10 steps behind you and let them in first, you’re saying everyone else should do the same. Also a good idea.

Boom. Lawyered.

Or, philosophized? Whatever. 

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Kant’s other central points were:

  1. People are an ends in and of themselves, not a means to an end – so treat them that way. Don’t intentionally harm them.
  2. A good act is a good thing in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. Even if you failed, a good act is its own reward.

Taken altogether, if practiced, you have the lion’s share of what it takes to be a good leader – or at least not a giant-garbage-person.

My take away?

  • Love people. At the very least, respect their humanity. Every one of them. Treat them decently, even if you don’t like them.
  • Do a good thing because it’s a good thing to do. That means being honest, keeping promises, give your best effort, learn from mistakes. Even if you fail, you did the right thing and that’s all it needs to be. Success received for doing the wrong thing isn’t any success at all.
  • Be a model for what you think is right – make sure you agree with what your actions say you believe in.

I wish I had another Kant pun to throw in here to close this thing out with, but I Kant think of one.

Waitaminute… I see what I did there.  I just Kant get enough of these puns.

Schematic of the Japanese Fu-Go Weapon

Fu-Go, The Japanese’s best kept secret weapon of WWII

One of my absolute favorite things of late is listening to awesome podcasts like Radiolab and This American Life. I love stories, and these guys consistently tell some of the coolest ones around.

On this recent Radiolab podcast I heard the story about the Japanese secret weapon, the Fu-Go. I’m a big WWII buff and I’d never heard the story and was captivated by the sheer creativity involved.

Flummoxed by the Doolittle Raid on their homeland, the Japanese created and floated some estimated 9,000 paper balloons equipped with fire bombs towards the U.S., taking advantage of the eastwardly flowing jet stream.  The vast majority didn’t make the voyage and most of the remaining came down in sparsely inhabited areas and didn’t explode.

A map of Fu-Go landings and known explosions.

A map of Fu-Go landings and known explosions.

These things landed all over the Pacific Northwest and a few even made it to British Columbia and even to outside Detroit. Thankfully, they had virtually no real impact for the volume that were sent and only lead to a few deaths – which are really tragic to hear about.

The military kept the whole thing secret to avoid panic and the media at the time willfully complied as patriotic supporters of the war effort.

Model of the complex mechanisms used to allow the Fu-Go to travel over 5,000 miles - 10x what a typical balloon of that size could travel.

Model of the complex mechanisms used to allow the Fu-Go to travel over 5,000 miles – 10x what a typical balloon of that size could travel.

As the balloon needed to travel at 30,000 feet to take advantage of the fast moving jet stream, the biggest obstacle was the gas condensing during the nighttime. In order to keep it aloft, an altimeter would ignite a fuse, dislodging a sandbag hung from the bottom of the balloon which would shoot it back into the jet stream. The Fu-Go contained 30 of these sandbags to help it bob up and down all the way from Japan to the mainland of the United States.

The creativity involved to solve an insurmountable problem with the minimum of expense or effort would be just awe-inspiring, were the pursuit not so heinous in nature.

If you’ve got an iphone, go to the podcast icon on your phone and search for Radiolab – it’s completely free and new episodes come out weekly. Plus, there’s an absolute trove of back episodes you can download and listen to anywhere.