Lesson: Learned

This week I had the uniquely rewarding experience of enjoying the payoff of having learned a lesson. I’d like to share the lesson, then describe the experience, then explain why I consider the payoff a moment of “joy”.

Up front, I want to emphasize that I use the word “learned” in the truest sense – fully assimilated into my psychology and internalized to the point of automation. Contrast this with a “lesson heard”, or a “lesson appreciated”. If you have ever read a book containing profound lessons and thought to yourself “Wow, this is really great material! I need to remember this stuff” only to revisit the material years later and realized that all those lessons went in one ear and out the other, then you understand the difference between “hearing” a lesson and “learning” it. (I had that experience with Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. I read it with enthusiasm at the age of 20, and when I re-read it at the age of 35, I realized how little of its wisdom I had actually assimilated into my character. Upon re-reading the book, I learned how difficult learning truly is.)

A couple years ago, I was introduced to a commencement speech given by the late David Foster Wallace now known as This is Water. Understanding as I do now how difficult it is to learn lessons, and recognizing the profound importance of the wisdom I heard in that speech, I proceeded to listen to it several times in succession, then several times the next day, then periodically a few more times after that, and still again and again to this day. The speech is only 22 minutes long, and I can say with a good deal of confidence that it required no fewer than 10 listenings before I was able to even begin to internalize the wisdom contained therein.

This is important to understand. No one who has ever known me has accused me of being a dumb guy, yet it took me at least 10 listenings to truly begin to absorb a 22 minute speech. I say this not to denigrate my ability to learn, but rather to demonstrate how difficult learning truly is.

The theme of the speech was that, while most of us cannot choose what frictions we encounter during our day, we can choose how to interpret them. For example, when we get cut off by someone on the road, we can choose to either chalk it up to a catastrophic character failure on their part (“That guy is an asshole!!!), or we can choose to give them the benefit of the doubt that the behavior we see from them is the exception rather than the rule (“They might be in a state of true crisis – I hope they make it safely to where they need to go”).

Those interpretations we choose determine our emotional and psychological disposition. That’s the theme of the speech. How others behave is not in our capacity to control. How we interpret the behaviors of others is. Therefore we do not need to control the events around us in order to control our consonance with those events.

Seems simple, right? In fact, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, that’s true! I’ll just remember that from now on.” (To which I would say “Good luck… don’t hold your breath”)

Last week I was running in the gym on the ship I’m embarked on (USS Essex) when a guy got on the treadmill next to mine. He was not clean shaven so he was either a contractor or he was in the Navy (I’m guessing contractor), and he was most definitely not dressed for a run. He looked entirely lost, and when he finally got the treadmill to work, he ran at a speed clearly exceeding his capability to sustain for any length of time, stopped to breath, then tried again. He was clearly not familiar with his own capabilities, and appeared to be another one of the thousands of dudes I’ve seen throughout my lifetime that walks into a gym for the first time wanting to outdo everyone else so that he doesn’t look like the newbie he is.

Those guys often cause nothing but headaches for the rest of us. They don’t wipe down their equipment. They leave weights all over the place. They have no knowledge of gym etiquette, they flail around trying to lift weight that’s way too heavy for them, they try cardio routines that are way too intense, they punch the heavy bag trying to look like Bruce Lee, and they always seem to be in the way. So when I saw him gasping for air on the treadmill, my years of conditioned reflexes kicked straight in. I felt an immediate wave of contempt, rolled my eyes, shook my head, and braced myself for yet another idiot taking up valuable gym space.

Then I remembered Wallace.

Actually, I didn’t remember Wallace explicitly, or even the things he said. Rather, I began thinking the thoughts Wallace insisted are within our ability to choose to think. My line of thought went, almost verbatim, as follows:

“Jesus, this ass-clown is going to be a supreme annoyance, and probably wind up breaking that treadmill. I can’t wait until he gives up and leaves. He’s probably some lame sailor who doesn’t give a crap about learning how to use this gear the right way.

I don’t know… maybe he’s a contractor on a lunch break.

Maybe he was raised in a culture that didn’t value fitness at all.

Maybe he has always wanted to start going to a gym, but could never afford it.

He could be a contractor, raised in San Diego, who worked hard against difficult odds to get the job he has.

He might have been working on this ship for a while now, watching the servicemen work out in the gym during lunch, and it’s possible that he’s been working up the courage to come in here and try it out for himself for a long time.

In fact it’s entirely possible that what he’s doing now are the very things he *had to do* in order to build up the nerve to come in here and try to learn how to use the gym equipment without the humiliation of being pegged as a 20-something-year-old guy who has never been in a gym.

You know, I’d be willing to bet that he’s suffering anxiety at this very moment because he very desperately does not want people thinking the *exact thoughts* I was thinking when I began thinking these thoughts!!!

Man, I’d like to help this guy out. I hope he sticks with it and doesn’t give up. Come on man, slow down your pace. Control your breathing. You can do this!”

As easy as it is to articulate the line of thinking I progressed down during the 60 seconds-or-so it took to get me from that first thought to the last, it is much more difficult for me to articulate the true emotional journey that took place over that same minute. I wish I could, because therein lies the reward I spoke of. Put simply, I went from feeling supreme annoyance and aggravation in one moment to, over the course of about 60 seconds, feeling a sense of sublime solidarity, optimism, and camaraderie for a guy I didn’t know a thing about. The journey from “Jesus” to “You can do this!” was as rewarding an emotional experience as one can have, and even while watching him crawl off the treadmill to start fighting against a way-too-heave stack of iron, I felt like I was running on air. I felt like we were all in this thing together. I felt in complete harmony with my environment. The moment felt, as Wallace described it, “sacred”.

Of course, that dude might have been a total poser, who had no interest in fitness, and just wanted to go in there to show people up before coming face-to-face with the reality of his own limitations. He might have been some sailor who was just in there because his chief demanded it, and didn’t give a rat’s ass about self-improvement. There are a thousand possibilities, I guess, and I will probably never know what his real story is.

But as Wallace taught, I did have a very important choice. It was a choice of what assumptions to favor. It was the choice between dissonance and consonance. A choice between negative and positive.

“The choice between darkness and light.” – N. Peart

And once I made that choice – a choice that is now become more and more internalize and automated, one being made for me, without having to run through the internal dialogue – I began to realize that the lesson has been learned. The reward is abundant and unmistakable, and well worth the effort.

 

 

It’s not what you believe right now that matters most.

Imagine the following scene: There is a stream of water that stretches as far across as the eye can see. In one direction there is a perilous waterfall, and in the other, dangerous rocks. You are compelled to cross it – staying on the safety of land is not an option.

The stream seems calm on the surface, but you can clearly see people being swept away by an undercurrent which seems to run in different directions as people cross the stream. Some people are being swept over the waterfall while some are floating in the other direction uncontrollably until they smash up against the jagged rocks. But looking straight ahead, you find what appear to be some safe stones leading to the bank on the other side of the stream, and some people have found a way to reach those stones one-by-one, as they progress across. You aren’t sure what awaits you on the other bank, but you know you can’t remain at the one you’re on. You have to cross.

The most important concern you have right now is how to cross safely. It seems that there are ways that work, and ways that don’t. You aren’t sure what to do, but you have to figure it out.

You contemplate this for a while, and then an idea occurs to you… you need a *method* of crossing. You realize that you can track the undercurrents by watching people float across, and in doing so, you can swim in the right direction to the next safe stone. In this way, you can progress across the stream indefinitely without being swept away in either direction.

As you cross, you find people discussing how to safely navigate the stream. The voices are more numerous than you can count, each seeming to have their own idea of where the safest place in that stream is.

  • A lady is waste deep in the water. She is drifting toward the waterfall and confidently assures you that the water will always steer you in the right direction. She decides that if the water steers you over the side, then that’s the right place to go.
  • A man swims furiously toward the jagged rocks, screaming that the waterfall is terribly dangerous and the best way to avoid it is to cling on to one of the razor sharp rocks. He insists that the jagged stones are the right place to be.
  • A man stands on one of the safe stones. He got there by closing his eyes and jumping, and suggests you do the same. He invites you to join him on his safe stone, declaring it the only good place to stand.
  • A woman floating by tells you that it doesn’t matter – the stones and the water, the waterfall and the rocks, are all equally safe, and that everything will be alright no matter what you do.

A cacophony of other voices join in, each of them standing in a location they consider safest, insisting that where they stand is the right place, and all those who stand elsewhere have made a grave error.

The one thing you notice about all of the people you encounter is that they all seem to endorse where they stand at that moment, even those who have occasionally moved. None of them seem to be concerned with how they got there, or how (or if) they will take the next step. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of them are convinced that where they are currently positioned is the only right place to be, and that being anywhere else either means certain doom, or is a complete waste of time. They all appear to be planting their metaphorical flag in the spot where they are, and they banter incessantly about which place is the right place to be. Even the few who agree with each other seem to be standing on different stones.

Meanwhile, you track the currents. You step in the water and swim in just the right direction to get to the next safe stone. You look back and observe you last stone you were on… you watch as the water rises over it… you realize that it wasn’t safe to begin with, and you are grateful that you didn’t stay there. You realize that if the safety of the last stone was illusory, perhaps the safety of this one is as well. You track the currents. You swim to the next stone. You remain in motion. You progress.

Then you look back and notice that many of the people who were bantering about the correctness of their position have been swept away by the changing currents and water level, either over the waterfall, or into the deadly rocks. You continue moving forward to safer stones, as those left behind continue insisting how correct their position is.

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The South Park episode I’d like to see

In the episode “Probably” (which was the answer to the question posed by the previous episode – Do the Handicapped go to Hell?) a bunch of people find themselves standing at the gates of hell, and the “Hell Director” is explaining the procedures to everyone before they go in. As he’s talking, a bunch of them begin protesting… “Hey, wait! I’ve been a devout protestant all my life!” and “I was a good Jehova’s Witness!”, to which the Hell Director says “sorry, you all chose wrong!”

The crowd demands to know which religion was right and he looks at his clipboard… “I’m afraid it was the Mormons… yes, the Mormons had the correct answer”, the which the crowd sighs in unison “awww….” funny stuff.

I have played a South Park episode in my mind… it’s not a real episode, but rather one that I scripted myself. It goes like this…

Jesus (who is a regular character in South Park) walks around and someone asks him which religion is right. He nonchalantly says “Oh, it’s the Mormons”, to which the person replies, “oh… okay. Hmm…” and then walks away. The guy (we’ll call him “Dick”) has been a devout fundamentalist all his life, and the news that the Mormons had it right is a bit unsettling. He was so sure he had it right!

The rest of the episode then revolves around  Dick’s struggle to reconcile what he has heard with what he has always believed. He grew up being told to be on guard against people who would try to shake his faith… and he has always resolved that he would never stray from it. But here was Jesus himself telling him he is wrong. But he knows he’s right! AGH!! What does he do???

As time goes on, he realizes that he can never betray his beliefs. Jesus must have been wrong. There’s simply no way that the Mormons can be right. He resolves that his religion, his beliefs, and his faith trump any suggestion that they are wrong. Eventually, as his faith in his religion becomes more and more galvanized, Dick realizes that Jesus must not only be wrong, but is actively trying to subvert his faith. Jesus is now the enemy, and the guy immediately sets out on a propaganda campaign to discredit this false prophet (Jesus) as a dangerous lunatic.

Jesus, seeing the propaganda campaign against him, decides that he’s going to go ahead and go public with the information that Mormonism is the right religion. He hadn’t intended to do it, but now he feels like he has to. He goes on TV and let’s everyone know. When he does, people of all religions begin one-by-one converting to Mormonism. After all, Jesus himself says it’s the right one!

But not Dick. Dick ramps up his propaganda campaign, calling Jesus a liar and a fraud. Jesus finally goes to Dicks house and confronts him. Dick is furious and demands that Jesus tells the world that he’s a liar. Jesus says “What are you talking about? Your religion even states that I am the perfect creator of the universe! You yourself worship me! How can you simultaneously worship me and think I’m lying to you?”

Dick screams “BECAUSE MORMONISM IS A LIE!!!” and starts flinging dishes at Jesus. Jesus, at his wit’s end, asks his father (God) to intervene, at which time God appears in the house to try to calm things down. Dick reluctantly agrees to listen to what God has to say, but is enraged even further when God says “Yeah, it’s the Mormon’s. They have it right”. He then begins throwing everything he can find at both Jesus and God and demands that they get out of his house.

Now he ramps up his propaganda campaign against Jesus, and now God as well, as people become more and more baffled by how Dick can simultaneously hate God and Jesus for saying his beliefs are wrong while clinging to a religion that worships them. Still, one-by-one everyone (including atheists) convert to Mormonism until the entire world – except for Dick – is a Mormon. The episode ends with him screaming in the streets at the top of his lungs, collapsing in a puddle of his own brain matter as his head explodes when the whole world stands there, hands on hips, trying to explain to him that he simply needs to accept that he has been wrong all his life, baffled at why he can’t accept a truth that is so obvious that literally everyone else can see it.

Of course, Stan would be saying “You know, I learned something today…”

Reason, Faith, Belief, and Certainty

The following is an edited version of an email I wrote to someone in an effort to clarify the relationship between some of these commonly used terms – terms which, when used loosely or without very clear delineation among concepts, can muddle very important issues being discussed. I have posted it elsewhere, but I want it here in order to preserve continuity between other posts I intend to write and to make it more accessible.

It is an explanation of why I advocate the use of reason, and only the use of reason, as a tool of cognition and the basis for what I believe and what propositions I reject.

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A proposition is a statement about reality.

Propositions can fall into two broad categories: Those that have truth value, and those that don’t. A proposition that is verifiable and/or falsifiable has truth value. A proposition that is neither verifiable or falsifiable has no truth value. We call those propositions “arbitrary”, and statements arbitrarily made may be arbitrarily discarded.

Propositions that have truth value ultimately fall into one of two categories: True or false.The placement of propositions into those categories is done by each individual, to varying degrees based on ones degree of “certainty” that the proposition is true.

“Certainty” is a word that describes how fully one accepts the truth of a particular proposition. It is up to each person to judge for themselves how certain they are of any given proposition. No one can decide this for someone else – the degree of certainty is always up to each persons individual judgment.

Certainty always falls on a spectrum from 0% (not at all accepting) to 100% (accepting completely).

On this spectrum, we have certain broad “zones” where we classify the certainty of our acceptance of a proposition. For example…

If a person feels 0% certain of the truth of a proposition, they may say they “do not believe”.

If a person feels 1-20% certain, they might call themselves “doubtful”

If a person feels 21-40% certain, they might consider themselves open to the possibility that it’s true, while not yet accepting it.

If a person feels 41-60% certain, they might consider themselves “on the fence”

If a person feels 61-80% certain, they might say “it’s probably true”

If a person feels 81-100% certain, they might call themselves a believer.

Note: These percentages are rough estimates and only used as an example. The true degrees of certainty, and the thresholds they trigger, are different for each person and must be decided on by each person. There are no real numbers… but there are real degrees, and each person much decide what the thresholds are for each degree of certainty.

There is no law that determines what degree of certainty any person must have about the truth of any proposition. We are all free to be as certain or as uncertain as we want about any given proposition whatsoever.

There is no law that demands what we base our degree of certainty upon. We can base our certainty on whatever we choose, or we can arbitrarily choose to be certain.

So on exactly what should be base our degree of certainty?

The philosophical branch of epistemology concerns itself with exactly this question. Among other things, it endeavors to identify and justify what certainty ought to be based on. (It also speaks about what certainty means, whether it’s possible, etc… but that is outside the province of this discussion).

When we debate faith versus reason, we are specifically debating what the basis of certainty (and thus belief) ought to be.

Reason is a process by which one uses empirically observed fact in order to ascertain facts which are not empirically observed. Reason relies of the law of non-contradiction (A=A), in concert with sensory evidence, in order to gain knowledge and understanding of what we do not observe, based on what we do observe.

Faith is not a process. It is a direct cognitive leap from “not accepting” straight to “accepting”. Do not pass go. Do not bother with scaling belief against evidence.

So how does this apply to certainty? Is it possible to believe a proposition on faith and on reason?

The answer is yes.

In the context of epistemology, reason demands that the degree of certainty with which one accepts a proposition is congruous with the amount of evidence that supports the truth of that proposition. In other words, if you are presented with a proposition, backed up with evidence that supports it to a degree of 50% (for example), then reason demands that your certainty that the preposition is true should be roughly 50%.

If the proposition is backed up with evidence that supports it to a degree of 80%, then your degree of certainty should be 80%

(It is important to point out here that supporting evidence of 100% is not possible. Since all evidence is subject to further discovery, 100% is never possible. We cannot ever know everything – the potential for future discoveries are an inherent aspect of objective, contextual knowledge.)

So, if one is committed to reason, one will always strive to ensure that ones degree of certainty is scaled – to the best degree that one is capable – to the degree of evidence that supports that proposition.

What about faith?

In the context of epistemology, faith is the act of *assigning certainty disproportionately* from the amount of evidence supporting a particular proposition.

In other words, if a certain proposition is supported only with 25% evidence, yet one accepts the proposition with a a 99% degree of certainty – one has “bridged the gap” with faith.

So, to be clear… a person who does this would believe the proposition based on “evidence” (to the degree of 25%), and “faith” (bridging the cognitive gap). In this way, most faith-based beliefs do have supporting, albeit insufficient, evidence.

(This “bridging of the gap” is what is commonly referred to as a “leap of faith” – it’s a cognitive leap from certainty that is supported by evidence to certainty that is not supported by evidence).

It is important to remember… just because one accepts a proposition based on evidence and faith does not mean that faith and reason are compatible. They are two separate and mutually exclusive concepts. Evidence generates a specific degree of certainty…. and you are free at that point to stop there, or you are free to exercise faith and assign more certainty to the proposition than justified by the available evidence.

To say that faith can be based on evidence is nonsensical. Faith always begins where evidence ends – literally by definition.

My position is that such a cognitive bridge is always wrong. It is always wrong to assign a degree of certainty that is disproportionate to the amount of evidence available. Our degree of certainty ought to always be scaled to what we ascertain via empirical evidence, coupled with reason, any degree of certainty above and beyond that – or even below that – is cognitively unjustified. This is the definitive statement of my position.

So, if you really want to discuss epistemology… this is the place to start.

Reason demands that certainty is scaled to evidence.

Faith is the act of subverting the scaling process and assigning a degree of certainty that is incongruous with the amount of evidence available.

I advocate a policy of strict adherence to the demands of reason. I reject any suggestion that my degree of certainty of any proposition ought to be scaled above (or below) the degree of evidence available.

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Kimmel’s Confusing Questions

Oh the ship here, each morning I turn on the TV and watch late-night television (an interesting by-product of being on the wrong side of the globe) on the Armed Forces Network. I don’t pay too close attention, but one show I see frequently is the Jimmy Kimmel Show. He has one of my favorite sketches, called “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship” which is hysterical. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and find some clips. Great stuff.

He also has a bit called “Confusing Question of the Day“. It basically involves sending a “reporter” out on the street to ask people what they think about something, and they deliberately pose a nonsensical question such as “What do you think about President Obama pardoning the sequester and sending it to Portugal?”. The reporter goes down the street and asks random people this questions and hilarity ensues when the respondent clearly feigns knowledge of the question while struggling to offer an answer that doesn’t give away the fact that they have no idea what they’re talking about.

It’s pretty damn funny, I gotta admit. But I also gotta admit something else… I almost never laugh. Instead, I almost always sit there aghast at the consistency with which they are able to find people that respond this way, and at how shameless the people are who feign the answers.

The bit is funny, but the reality the bit exposes is downright ugly and depressing.

I’ll make a couple assumptions here. First, I’m going to assume that the sample of respondents we see on the show are selectively chosen out of many people interviewed, most of whom probably balked at whatever ridiculous question they were asked. Secondly, I’m going to assume that the respondents we see on the show are not acting. Keeping in mind that these are un-validated assumptions, I can’t help but cringe when I see these clips. Assuming that they are genuine, it means that there is no shortage of people:

– for whom lying is a routine way of life
– for whom bullshitting is part of their engrained, habitual social repertoire
– that are clueless about current events yet speak confidently and authoritatively about them
– who will pretend to give questions serious thought without ever actually listening to it or taking a moment to understand its meaning
– for whom distinguishing between when they’re lying and when they’re telling the truth is generally impossible

Now, I’m not claiming to be surprised that such people exist. What distresses me is how many of them there are, and how naturally they fit in all around us. More distressing still is the fact that no one seems to mind – it’s a joke and it’s funny and ha ha ha ha….

I find it funny because it’s funny to see fools look like fools.

But not funny enough to mitigate the fact that it says something very un-funny about the society in which we live.

On Movies

I was having a conversation with some folks in the ship’s Wardroom a couple days ago about what qualities we look for in movies, and what qualities are dealbreakers.

The number one dealbreaker for a movie for me is any attempt at slapstick comedy. Unless you are the Three Stooges, you can stick your slapstick comedy straight up where the good lord split you. I find it to be such a banal form of humor that it personally insults me to think that someone would imagine they could make me laugh by “fall down go boom” or hitting their head or making some stupid “WhooaoooaOOOAAHH!” sound as they go sliding down a fire escape toward an open dumpster filled with cushy black bags.

It’s fine for kid’s movies. Put it in a real movie, and I write you off forever. This means you, George Lucas.

In fact, I’ll write a movie off before watching one moment of it if the marquee shows a single character with what I call the “shocked idiot” expression. They get the actors to take these pictures to advertise the movie/show. These actors have to put on facial expressions that are in character. If the expression says “Farging Idiot”, I see it as a fair warning that the movie likely has no redeeming value.

Both of these elements are specific examples of a more general turn-off where movies and shows are concerned… unnatural responses. I find myself unable to suspend disbelief where unnatural responses are concerned. People casually walking away from explosions, bad guys with no sense of self-preservation, standing out in the open shooting at the good guy while the good guy wisely takes cover behind a car, people getting shot and acting like its no big deal, showing no genuine concern upon finding out that someone they knew was killed, etc.

I can suspend disbelief where circumstances are concerned. I can accept extreme and fictitious circumstances. I have no problem with spaceships, aliens, sorcery, the force, demons, superpowers, or spontaneous song-and-dance routines.

What I do have a problem with is when a purportedly ordinary person experiences something that would normally send someone into shock, and casually shrugs it off as though it was no big deal. I do have a problem with someone being knocked back 20 feet by an explosion (which would kill you) and walking away from it as though it were merely a gust of wind. I do have a problem with huge gaps of information being shrugged off with a wave of the hand.

Personally, my favorite comedy style is deadpan. Unfortunately it’s a grossly underutilized and undervalued style, but you still see it done well from time to time. Satire pulls a close second.

In general terms, authentic human behavior and genuine responses are the essential qualities I look for in movies, and art in general. I do not tend to appreciate contrivances, whether they be found in movies, TV shows, photography, music, art, or performing arts. As Bill Hicks so succinctly articulated, “PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!!”

Slapstick comedy is “McDonalds class” movie making – it’ll always appeal to the lowest common denominator and therefore sell a million copies each time. This is one reason that the level of quality of movies has gone down the tubes over the last 30 years. Quality satire, spoofs, deadpan humor, authentic drama, and genuinely scary movies are becoming a rare breed – they don’t sell as well and are a lot more difficult to create. But if I had the choice between Hollywood releasing 5 quality movies per year, and releasing 500 movies a year, maybe a dozen of which are worth a shit, I’d choose the former. It would be worth it not to have to filter out the crap, two hours at a time.

If you’re really interested in movies, TV, Hollywood, performing arts, and that sort of thing, you may have a good time going through the TV Tropes site. It’s pretty enlightening to find out how many shows share similar characteristics and use similar methods. It also put names to a lot of the more annoying tropes you may have noticed but didn’t quite know how to describe.

P.S. Any movie involving Tyler Perry sucks. Hard.

Things I’ve missed, things I’ll miss, and things I won’t miss

Being deployed means giving up certain things we all expect and everyone understands. Time with the family, holidays, significant milestone events, those sort of things… they are all part and parcel of being a deployed serviceman.

But then, there are those things that not too many people probably think about. Things that make life so much more worth living. Things that might mean something to us that might not mean much to others.

This year I missed Rush playing at VA Beach. Is it a big deal? Well, if you know me you know that a Rush concert is as close to a religious experience as it gets for me. The last time Rush played a show in or near my place of residence was in the 90’s. Since then, I’ve had to travel significant distances to see a show. Once I flew from Japan to LA. Once I was living in Hawaii and had tickets to a show in Miami but couldn’t go due to an exercise in Bridgeport. Last one I saw, we had to travel to Washington DC for.

Plus, considering they’ve been touring for 40 years, every tour is potentially their last one.

Also, I was not able to watch a single game of the NBA playoffs this year. Big deal? Well, the Miami Heat are poised to repeat as NBA champs. That hasn’t happened for a  Miami franchise since the Dolphins pulled it off in 72-73, when I was but a wee lad. This is one of the strongest NBA teams ever assembled, and it represents my hometown. And I missed the entire season.

It appears I also missed the opportunity to visit a dear friend who lives far from us, but was in the vicinity this week visiting family. Very demoralizing.

I missed the first summer in our new house, to include the first blooming of the gardens that came with it – one of the major reasons I bought the house. I also missed the snow we had earlier this year – my wife’s first time ever seeing snow. That means I missed out on some good fireplace time as well.

I missed “The Office” series finale. Huge bummer.

I’m going to miss some of the next NFL season, but not all of it, thankfully. I will also be home in time to see Magnus Carlsen take on Vishy Anand for the world chess title, so that’s a good thing.

I won’t miss the holidays, but I will be gone for both of our birthdays this year.

These are just some of the things I think about out here – things that are nice about being home… things that I look forward to being able to do without a second thought after I retire.

Enjoy the little things, folks.