The Dichotomy of Control

I’m in a better emotional state than I was from my last post: An Analysis of My Recent Situation  written a couple of months ago. I feel very proud of myself for allowing the insight of two special individuals concerning my confirmed metamorphosis. Noticing my struggle one of my life mentors (that sounds about right. That’s what I’ll call my two go-to people), referred me to William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy which is based on a branch of Hellenistic Philosophy particularly Stoicism as taught by Epictetus. Whew! That was a mouthful.

In recent years I have been unconsciously, and most recently consciously working on myself in regards to increasing my quality of life. I’ve been removing myself of material pleasures and separating from the feelings of insatiability due to constant desires of things that I’m either not ready for or that are not in my control. I probably wouldn’t have worded that in that specific way before reading this book, but I’m happy that I am able to point to something tangible in a sense.

Before I dive into my reflection on the Dichotomy of Control chapter and the techniques to becoming invincible I will, in my best terms, describe Epictetus. Epictetus is a Roman Stoic Philosopher from like over a thousand years ago. His philosophy was this: analyze the why of life. He was an early Cynic or had Cynic principles/lifestyle before being described as a Stoic. He had two requirements for his students: 1 – wanting to benefit from philosophy (meaning he didn’t want no half-assed efforts from them because this was a lifestyle to be taken seriously) and 2 – understanding what a commitment to philosophy entails (meaning the student had to be aware that philosophy was not a joke, that he/she needed to take this seriously in order to make life worth living and to find purpose). His ideal pupil is someone who will be satisfied if he can live untrammeled and untroubled. I had to look up untrammeled; it means not deprived by freedom of action or expression; seeks to be tranquil and free from turmoil. His belief was that students of his should be leaving his school feeling bad about themselves because treatment likely to cure a patient is also likely to cause discomfort. Here it is again: treatment likely to cure a patient is also likely to cause discomfort. He taught dialectical lessons (e.g. examining yourself) and the art of living, what your cosmic scheme role is, and to live out the functions of being a human.

Here is what the dichotomy of control is: it is to ask ourselves if we concern ourselves with things external to us or things internal? A Stoic reflects and looks for the benefit and harm that comes from within himself. A Stoic gives up the rewards the external world has to offer in order to gain tranquility, freedom, and calm. Part of working to become a Stoic is to change our desires – to not be frustrated by what we cannot attain in order to decrease anxiety about whether or not we will get what we want. Some things are up to us and some are not up to us. For Epictetus it’s foolish to spend time thinking on things that are not up to us because they’re not up to us and worrying about them is futile.

So, what IS up to us? According to Epictetus opinions, impulses, desires, aversions, and our goals are up to us. What is NOT up to us? Possessions and reputation. Internal versus external controls. Internal goals affect our external performance. Our goals have an impact on our emotional state. Internalizing goals leads to preserving our tranquility. We have control of our values and having such control we choose the genuine value of things and be indifferent to things that lack value.

How does this all apply to me and what I’m going through? Oh, it applies perfectly- in my personal life as much as it does in my work life. All of this goes back to what is in my circle of influence. What are the things over which I have complete or some control? I have control over how well and efficient I do my job by doing the proper research, applying the knowledge I’ve gained so far, and to always have and ask questions. I have control over my career goals and the focus I place on achieving those goals. I don’t have control over the perceptions people around me have, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I worked hard and did my best.  I have complete control of my character and how I carry myself. Knowing that much leads me to tranquility and a life free of anxiety, anger, and sadness. So, what about my personal life? I don’t have control over whether people will love me the way I want them to, specifically my s/o. I do have control over treating him well, and loving him the best way that I can. I also have the control over ending something I no longer want. I don’t have control over his feelings or actions, but knowing that I did my best for him and by him that should lead me to tranquility. I have control in maintaining relationships by paying attention to them and continuing to appreciate them by using the Negative Visualization technique of a Stoic. I have some control of my financial situation. I can save and manage my spending, but I don’t have complete control because there is the unexpected rainy day. I have control over the things I place value in and that has shifted from the material to intangible experiences. I want to be at peace and not have to stress over what I don’t have. Remember this post? I Have A New Favorite Quote  One of my quotes is: Happiness is Wanting What You Have Not Having What You Want. Wow! I’ve been a Stoic without even knowing it.

The thing that for a while I wanted to make people listen to me. To listen to my ideas and make them change. Pretty much I was forcing my ways onto people and then I was angry and frustrated because no one was buying into it. Then I re-focused on just “doing me”. Putting my ideas into action for me. The results started to speak for themselves. I had questions on how am I able to manage my time so well? How is it that I know the exact status of every action? How is it that I can reply with the right references and resources in a timely manner? How is it that I’m able to live so far away from my familiar friends and family and explore new things and places without needing to be with those familiar to me? How have I not lost myself by living on my own so far away? All of these things come naturally when the focus is re-centered to things that you can control. It’s not easy, it’s something that takes time, but I’m glad that unconsciously the new me was going through that process. Maybe it was the books I was reading. Maybe it was my Main Mommy, Christina P. Maybe it’s the universe aligning itself for me. Maybe it was my awareness of self. I just wonder and hope that those struggling to find tranquility find it soon. I’m still working on it and still reading The Guide to the Good Life and looking forward to the other techniques.

Below are some episodes from one of my favorite Podcasts: That’s Deep Bro with Christina Pazsitzky. Listening to her has been an awesome experience so far and she never fails to make me laugh on each of her episodes. The below relate to the above and the philosophy of what it all means to be Me (i.e. You).

  • Episode 43 What do you really, really, really want?
  • Episode 36 Find Yourself Then Get Over Yourself
  • Episode 29 Expect the Unexpected and Whenever Possible Be The Unexpected
  • Episode 27 The Illusion of Control
  • Episode 20 Compassion, Anger, and Control with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan

 

 

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Madly Chasing Peace: How I Went From Hell to Happy in Nine Minutes a Day by Dina Proctor – Book Review

I’m currently reading 10% Happier : How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works- A True Story by Dan Harris. Man that was a mouth-full. It reminded me much of this other book I read (read the title of this post) that was recommended to me by my younger sister. Below is the review I wrote on goodreads.

Almost done with 10% Happier … so I’ll be reviewing that shortly

Mady Chasing Peace

If I’m correct in my thoughts about this being my first self-help book then I’m so happy that this has been my first. For almost a year I have tapped the waters of meditation, higher conscious, and what may seem like atheism but its what I believe to be connecting to spirituality rather than a defined God or religion.

The part of the book that resonates loudest to me is when she quotes Jack Canfield on living life with the emergency break on. I am still driving with the break on and so many times I’ve reached to release but moved away. I believe that now, with Dina’s experience in my literary canon, I can begin to reach, grab, and release that break. The negative thoughts that have held me back have been what others might think. But as long as I find that connection with my being’s center I know now that I will be OK. I shan’t be afraid- only free.

I cannot believe how much I love this book, Dina’s experiences, and what can become of me when I apply and play the games. I’ve heard and read about many similar experiences but felt skeptical- almost as if the individuals going through them were telling fantasies. I believe that I felt this way because I was feeling jealousy of the control and freedom they had on their thoughts and lives. I’m ready to be centered.

Writing this review/self-reflection almost feels unnatural; not only because I’ve never written a review on any other book without feeling I HAD TO, but because I feel like everything that is being transcribed is happening on auto. I just felt compelled to write a about it and well, there it is.

*written 2/4/2013

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Book Review

 OK, I know I know I have a photo of me on my blog, but sometimes I think putting a face to the author helps. For instance, if the author has a picture of him/her self on the book I’m reading I constantly look at it- in between chapters, in between certain scenes; it creates a sense of peace for me. So that’s why you see a picture of me holding up the book in case you may feel the same.

Americanah was something else. It was my first Nigerian novel and it will definitely not be my last. In many ways I related to Ifemlu, but I don’t think I’m as complex or believe that I long for something as much as she does. Here is my best attempt at reviewing this book.

I enjoyed it. Ifemlu and Obinze (whom she calls Ceiling) are high school and university sweethearts. Due to economic and government troubles in Nigeria Ifemlu arrives in America on a student visa while Obinze stays back home. The irony of it all is that Obinze has a romanticized view of America and it’s he, not she, that wishes to be a part of it all – all that is America. From the start of their relationship they have this unspoken peace and understanding and throughout the novel Ifemlu is ever searching for this peace and understanding with Curt (her White Hot Ex) and Blaine (Professor Hunk) her American black boyfriend.

After almost two decades she returns to Nigeria- Lagos to be exact. At first she feels estranged and I dare to say very superior, high and mighty. She’s fully aware of this, which I like and can relate to in some way. She avoids reaching out to Obinze, even thought they had recently began emailing one another shortly before she returned. During her time in America Ifem found it hard to understand the race issue with black, white and non american blacks- so she starts a blog. But before that she goes through many tribulations and I’m glad that she has he Aunty Uju and Dike to keep her grounded. The reason she stops talking to Obinze after she arrives in America? She found it hard to get a job and after one bad experience with a tennis coach, she feels dirty and guilty and this is why she stops all communication with Obinze (he’s broken because she just cut him off). She gets some jobs here and there and eventually her blog becomes her source of income, which one can only hope. I won’t ruin the ending, but man was my heart beating rapidly as the final pages were coming and I was fearing the worst. Obinze also goes through his stints of trying to be someone abroad. He finds it difficult and after being under false names and working odd jobs, he is deported. He eventually becomes a wealthy man.

Anyway, I did the inevitable and read reviews. Most of them were good and many loved the novel. But one stuck out the most and it was such a long, unnecessary review, but she wrote it and I read it. Based on what I remember the reviewer, who admittedly has a lot of “friends” on GoodReads, mentioned that she thought she was going to get a love story. Hmm… I re-read the back of the book and it reads, “… Americanah is a remarkable novel of race, love, and identity …” I guess she only focused on the love part.

She also said that the novel includes too many names and unnecessary characters. The book is written in third person omniscient, but it reads like I speak, personally. I would rather say: I went to lunch with Lisa, my friend with the big teeth and then always refer to Lisa by Lisa. This annoys the BF since he says it’s not important. But when the story carries on there are references to those people and although small appearances, they return later in the novel, so I would rather have Lisa written all over than to always have to refer to “the girl with the big teeth” or have to leave her out of my story.

At one point this reviewer said, not verbatim, but something along the lines of: if you’re looking for a novel about love you won’t get it in Americanah. Apparently she felt cheated because the book focused too much on race and on Ifemlu’s character flaws. I was pleased to read a lot of the responses to her post because they fell in line with checking her. It IS about love. It’s about the tearing apart of two souls due to things that are not in their control. And about the experiences that lead you to realize that nothing will ever be the same as it was with this ONE person. This ONE person that understands every bit of you and accepts you. She does love Curt, but not the same way as she loves Obinze. She also loved Blaine, but it’s a different love- they are safe loves. While on the other side of the world is Obinze, familiar, understanding, challenging, appreciating. There is one part in the novel that Ifemlu accepts that with Obinze she does not have to explain herself – and to me, there is no greater feeling than what being 100% yourself brings. And Obinze too, he marries Kosi knowing he shouldn’t, knowing that they do not see life the same way. All that I just said is a story about race, love, and identity.

I found the novel funny, moving, eye opening, and recommend worthy. I liked to read other reviews on how much they appreciate the references and being familiar with certain stories. Kind of like when I read novels or stories about Latinos in a world where stories about white women or men are abound.

Is It Just Me? By Miranda Hart – Book Review 

  
This book took me longer than expected. I’ve  had it on my wish list for quite some time and during a flight back home I bought it on Google’s Play Books. I can’t recall what attracted me in the first place but here I am doing a review.

I had no idea Miranda Hart was British and once I did I couldn’t read without my version of an English accent. That was kind of frustrating. An 18 year old version of herself comes into the book and they have conversations about the topic at hand and after the third time this occurred I decided I didn’t like it.  That’s what took me so long- I couldn’t take the structure seriously. But I shouldn’t have – she’s a comedian. I think I knew that about her but it passed me by until the end of the book. 

So, what’s this book about? Hmmm… Hart writes about her childhood, adolescence, friendships, work life, dreams, holidays (vacations), family, and marriage amongst other things. Remember, there are episodes in which her younger self pops in and she explains the unreal urgency in wanting to be an adult. So, Little M is told by Hart that everything turns out OK and that what she worries about in her teens is no longer a worry when she’s in her late twenties and early thirties. 

Hart has a way of extending her writing in this long-winded style that only led to my annoyance. It’s a reflection on me, I guarantee you that, because I looked her up and she’s dearly loved. I also found out she has a show and to give her the benefit of my doubt I watched the first two episodes; it’s cleverly titled “Miranda”. I will admit that I laughed out loud a few times during those two episodes, but it’s just not my style. Maybe if I knew of her show first I wouldn’t have read her book. Eek, that sounds harsh. She’s the perpetually clumsy, socially awkward, tall girl. I guess I’ve seen too many variations of the same bit. 

I didn’t dislike the entire book so I’ll tell you what I did like. I enjoyed reading the chapter “Dreams” and the one about being single and loving it. I’m not sure if the topic of kids and marriage was tied in with the chapter on being single and loving it, so if it wasn’t I liked those parts too. It makes me happy when people find complete happiness in being who they are- riding solo or with a partner. Hart explains that not having kids is alright because her friends and family give her plenty of children and she can always return them. Being alone is not as bad as it seems and I can attest to that. She scoffs at the pressures of society and tells Little M that when the time comes it’ll be just right. She confesses her adolescent ambitions and breaks it to Little M that it doesn’t turn out that way. Kinda telling all of us not to take life too seriously. Oh, comedians!

That part in her “Dreams” chapter where she wrote about not losing that inner child was my favorite. I like being silly and laughing and making people laugh. I also like jumping in bouncy castles and playing water balloon fights so I related to that part. 

On GoodReads I gave it three stars, but maybe two would have been a better fit?

Zealot: The Life And Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan – Book Review

  
I started this book back in December and just finished it. It’s not that it wasn’t interesting or captivating but it’s a lot of information. 

My family raised me Mexican-Catholic. I’m not sure what that would have to do with anything but I always here Irish people say: I was raised Irish-Catholic. Maybe there are certain traditions upheld differently but the bottom line being Catholic?

I have been baptized, done my first communion, and confirmed my faith. Except for my baptism I was an active participant in the last two sacraments. I enjoyed reading scriptures and completing the assignments. I didn’t question anything, just knew there were people who did and that’s why I was learning the bible and the purpose of my church. 

In my early twenties I was approached by a couple of young girls at a bookstore and they asked me about my religion and what I thought of God. They presented me with this huge idea that flipped the view of my religion upside down. I couldn’t shake it off and I called my parish and set up a meeting with the priest. He wasn’t able to reaffirm or reestablished my faith but I still practiced and cashed l called myself a catholic. Not much later I registered for a Religious Studies course as part of fulfilling my degree requirements. I loved that class. A whole new world had opened up to me. Today I don’t practice any religion and I dance around labeling myself agnostic or atheist.

Reading Aslan’s book opened up another world for me-  that of the historical Jesus. As I mentioned, I never questioned the bible during my sacrament years but as time passed I did question the Old vs. New Testament. I watched documentaries and read pieces of information and I got a better understanding. Again, Reza Aslan has peeled another layer. 

Aslan has chosen to illustrate the views of modern Christianity and answer why it’s so different from the days of it’s inception. I have learned so much from this book on the disciples, the letters and gospels and their origins. I learned more of the way church and state worked, the key players, target audiences, and got a better idea of thought processes. 

In the book, Aslan differentiates the reason people followed then and now. He defines the break in Jewish belief and modern Christianity. The key players, James, Peter, and John of the Old Testament and Paul of the New Testament, have been identified more clearly for me after reading this book.

I’ve known there were many people claiming to be the messiah and descendants of God or disciples of the word of God, but in the book I can see why Jesus stuck. I now understand the difference between Jesus of Nazareth versus Jesus Christ. I now have a better understanding of why histories were altered to be able to continue the belief that Jesus was the chosen one. I can see why this is considered the religion of the poor.

One of my favorite parts of the historical presentation of Jesus was the definition of The Kingdom of God. 

The Kingdom of God is a call to revolution, plain and simple. And what revolution, especially one fought against an empire whose armies had ravaged the land set aside by God for his chosen people, could be free of violence and bloodshed? If the Kingdom of God is not an ethereal fantasy, how else could it be established upon a land occupied by a massive imperial presence except through the use of force? (120)

But then Jesus, the revolutionary, the one calling for the overthrow of the roman empire, was crucified and the success of having his vision of the Kingdom of God was never realized. So what now? Jerusalem was now a heap of rubbish and ash after the Temple was taken down and the Jewish religion made pariah; the people had to make a choice. Non Jewish followers of Jesus were now outnumbering the Jewish ones. The Jews people had to chose to divorce themselves from the mother religion or move with the Jesus after death movement. 

To the Jews, a crucified messiah was nothing less than a contradiction in terms. The very fact of Jesus’s crucifixion annulled his messianic claims. Even the disciples recognized this problem. That is why they so desperately tried to deflect their dashed hopes by arguing that the Kingdom of God they had hoped to establish was in actuality a celestial kingdom, not an earthly one; that the messianic prophecies had been misconstrued; that the scriptures, properly interpreted, said the opposite of what everyone thought they did; that embedded deep in the texts was a secret truth about the dying and rising messiah that only they could uncover. (178)

I have known of the altering of stories/events to suit religious beliefs but getting the back story on this one is pretty cool. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, tho, so I encourage you to read on. 

Do I recommend the book, yes! Even if you’re a believer. I agree with Aslan that it’s equally important to know the historical Jesus (of Nazareth) as well as modern day Jesus (Christ).

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak – Book Review

One More Thing Cover.jpg

I had this book on my radar for quite some time. Enough time that I thought I had it on pre-sale. I didn’t. On my last Barnes and Noble haul I purchased it and I couldn’t have done anything more rightly at that moment.

I wish I had the book with me so that I would be able to be more precise but since I finished it at the BF’s house that’s where it stayed. I did just finish it a few hours ago, so I’m hoping my memory of it is still on point.

To start off I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter, or story (the book IS titled One More Thing Stories and More Stories). The story’s perspective was what reallyl got me. After reading it I experienced that, “Hu. Wow! I can’t believe I never saw it that way. It’s so simple and I never saw it differently.” Maybe I had already been given this vantage point but since I feel so enlightened about it I perhaps have not.

We’ve all heard the saying “Slow and steady wins the race” and I believe we all know where it hails from, right? B.J. Novak has changed that lifelong notion that the tortoise is the one to learn from the most. Most people I know that refer to this tale of life lesson have charged the hare with conceit and self-destruction, and have given so much credit to the tortoise. So much so that in this story the tortoise has now made a living on conferences and appearances speaking on how slow and steady gets the job done. The hare, poor hare, has lived long enough in this perceived failure and attempted to restart his life but to no avail. I’m turning this long story turned short story into a long story. I’ll speed it up. The hare requests a rematch. The tortoise declines. The hare trains and begins to convince others that a rematch would be the best thing to do. After much pressure from those around him, the tortoise agrees. The hare wins setting new records and is celebrated. The closing to that story went something like this: slow and steady wins the race. Until hard work and talent take its place.

I mean, you always hear of the person who sat around and waited and finally got the victory. You root for him because well, something WAS accomplished; technically. And you always hear of the undisciplined athlete who should have been at the top and he becomes a clichĂ© because he didn’t. But he becomes the clichĂ© because he didn’t attempt to persevere. That’s what the hare did, that’s what the story wants to convey- that there is a second chance out there after your fuck-up- if you want it badly enough. (At least that’s what I took from it.)

This book is filled with observational commentary of today’s society. There’s a story on how the calendar was invented, which is quite funny because the person who created it is going about his day and journal writing as anyone in today’s world would. The Elvis story is another favorite. Novak has challenged what I think of writers of my generation to be (I think I’m in the same generation, but he’s published so
). For the Elvis one he spins the narrative in such a way that Elvis himself had something to do with all of the Elvis’ in Las Vegas; that he, Elvis, is living and reliving the best Elvis he’s ever been and has always wanted to be.

There’s a story, a script actually, on the Roast of Nelson Mandela. Seriously? I love how there are no boundaries for Novak.

One story connects with another in an unexpected way, which gave me joy because since they were narrated in different styles I wouldn’t think there would be a connection to any previous one.

There are a few one page, simple, deep and insightful stories and there are funny, longer, light hearted ones.

This one story is about a man who purchased a sex robot and returned it because the robot fell in love with him. This guy became the butt of every late night comedians joke and a headline on news sites. The criticism in this one is how society has decided to focus on the fact that he returned a sex robot rather than the fact that a robot could fall in love. Continuing to push the boundary, he questions the motives behind the constant attack of the choices private individuals make by asking what if he had requested for the robot to fall in love with him but didn’t. Would the weight of judgement be the same?

My favorite are the ones about love.

I wouldn’t doubt that this book will end up being a classroom reading assignment. I hope it doesn’t (there’s a story about that, actually). There is so much to pick and reflect on that it can speak to generations now and in the future. I want to buy a bunch of copies and pass them out to young readers because I feel there is much to learn from this book. A lot of critical analysis has gone into every story. If I were to ever think of writing something such as Novak has, I would pass out. His work and writing skills seem to be effortless, but nonetheless impacting.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – Book Review 

  

If I hadn’t read a couple of reviews on this book I might have started this post a bit differently. The first reviewer said she enjoyed it and thought it was funny. The second reviewer, who I believe robbed me a little of the magic, said the chapters felt as if they were short two minute bits of his stand-up. DON’T. READ. THE REVIEWS.


The truth is that they are bits. They’re not bad but they are clean comedy. He admits and owns his “clean comedy” and I respect that; it works for him. Jim Gaffigan talks about the struggle and the joy that is parenthood. He speaks on its takeover and it’s embrace. 

I appreciate his opening chapter because it truly sets the stage on the notion that he doesn’t consider himself an expert and how in parenthood there is no real way of doing it right. He and his wife, Jeannie, are raising five kids in a metropolitan city in a walk-up apartment building- somewhere in New York, I can’t remember if it’s Manhattan. 

He brings up interesting points on etiquette regarding pregnancy questions and how much of an anomaly it is to have such a large family. He calls it, “Five kids, Catholic.” As if the Catholic part absolves  them of any sexual judgement. He talks on how friends have been distanced by their large family and how much sleep he has lost. He praises his wife, which is always nice to read.

Reading this book reminds me of all the things my sister tells me she wouldn’t trade for not having her two baby girls. It also reaminds me of the feelings my mom has said her daughters bring her. Pretty much, it reminds me of anything any parent answers naive, unaware, childless individuals. These responses include: how awesome it was to see his first child be born; how he, lover of sleep, has been able to accept their breakup for his children. He goes over how he copes with the unforeseen events of dad-hood in the playground, at restaurants, in the subway, and in his cramped apartment. 

The people I would recommend this book to is the parent that is adiment on being “text book”. There are events that are completely out of the parents control and you  just have to make due. For example, one day my sister and I were on our  way to the store with my then three year old niece. All of a sudden her tummy wasn’t feeling well, and she chunked.bsrk Barf everywhere, no extra  clothes, no napkins or wipes in the car. We got the kid naked and clean with whatever extra dry clothes there was. A quick detour to a department store and done. I see the struggle  of the crying two year old and I also see the joy of seeing another human being grow and mature and all of the laughs they create. For Jim Gaffigan… They create endless material.