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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Star Trek and "John Elway Syndrome"

I grew up in Colorado. I'm a native, not a local. I was born in Denver at the old St. Luke's hospital, and I lived in a town of 5,000 people at 7,000 feet above sea level, nestled in the Sawatch Mountains. Being a native, I have come to be a die-hard fan of the Denver Broncos, a team in the western division of the American Football Conference of the National Football League. When I was a kid, we lived and died by the Broncos, or, more specifically, by John Elway. He was a god. It was a running joke that, although they were the winning-est team in the league during the regular season, they always choked at the end, having dropped three Super Bowls, the worst of which was to the San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIV, where Joe Montana led the Niners to a 55-10 stomping. I was 8. I don't even remember watching the game. I just remembered that whenever I'd travel outside the state, or meet someone that wasn't a fan, THAT was the game they held over my head.

Finally, though, in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, the Broncos, led by John Elway and Terrell Davis, got back to back victories against Green Bay and Atlanta respectively. XXXII was an intense game, where John Elway made his infamous run for the endzone, being thirty-seven years old, and getting hit in mid-air, spinning his old body around 180 degrees... for us in Bronco Country, this was epic. He wanted it. We wanted it with him. We edged by. It was amazing. XXXIII was even more vindicating as the victory, a 34-19 landslide against Atlanta, came against former Broncos coach Dan Reeves, a man who many blamed for the Broncos choking in the post-season.

Then John Elway retired. He retired on top. He held a press conference, saying he just couldn't do it anymore. He teared up. I teared up. I still get misty eyed thinking about it. It was a bittersweet day. The good old days of Bronco football seemed to have retired with him. Since then, the Broncos have been lackluster, going through quarterbacks like a racecar going through tires. We had Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, and most recently, Kyle Orton and now Tim Tebow. While some of these guys were royally abysmal players, some of them were actually pretty consistent. Jake Plummer, as long as he didn't get flustered, had one of the highest passer ratings in the league and Kyle Orton, while not having many quality people to throw the ball to, still managed a pretty good start his first season with the Broncos, especially when you consider they started a new coach, Josh McDaniels, a very young coach by any standard.

But the variable here is the so-called twelfth man, the Bronco fans. After Elway, we simply couldn't accept a quarterback that wasn't equally spectacular. We had high hopes for everyone in the pre-season, but by the time the middle of the regular season rolled around, every single thing that was wrong with the team was because the new quarterback, whoever he may have been, simply wasn't as good as John Elway. And at the end of the season, we called for their heads, thinking that they never were going to be as good as Elway, and therefor, never going to be good for the Broncos or amount to anything else at all. Period. That's how it was. That's how it is.

Now that I've gone ultra macho and manly with my sports knowledge, I'm going to geek out and say that Star Trek has largely had the same problem.

I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and later Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. I remember once a week, I would rush home and watch DS9's new episodes, especially when their story arc with the Dominion Wars started up in earnest. It was excellent TV. It was brilliant story-telling. The writing and production staff, people like Ron Moore and Ira Stephen Behr were amazing. The acting, especially by Avery Brooks, by Marc Alaimo, Casey Biggs, Armin Shimmerman... I won't bore you, but it was a great, solid, dark, realistic, un-Star Trek show, and that's what made it the best trek series ever.

Then Enterprise came out. Enterprise was a radical departure, a prequel series to the original Star Trek show, set 100 years before Kirk and Spock, and 150 years after present day. We Trekkies felt like this show had amazing potential, but we knew even before it started that it wasn't going to be as good as Next Gen, DS9, the original series, or even Voyager. It ran for four seasons and got cancelled. I've recently had the opportunity to watch more of the later seasons, and, like every other Trek series, was finally getting it's footing. The stories were gelling better. The crew were more personable and more like strong characters than simple dossiers of what they were supposed to be.

Star Trek, it seems, was effected by the same problem as the Denver Broncos... people didn't give change a fair shake. They were so bent on honoring the days of old that they didn't give the new anything more than a passing glance and a ton of judgement. Both have been limping along since their respective "endings", and both have somehow managed to get by, perhaps Star Trek more than the Broncos with the release of the J.J. Abrams movie Star Trek last summer.

We are all fans of our own lives, in a certain point of view. We have things we really enjoy, and we don't like it when those things don't happen. We get especially down when those things end completely, when people die or move away, or when we lose our job, or crash our van and have to sell it off. From that point on, no matter how good our new job may be, how sweet our new van may be, it's never good enough to replace the old one. We have John Elway Syndrome.

For God's sake, John Elway, I'm a blogger, not a doctor. I have no right to actually name what I theorize to be an illness. I simply have a theory about the way things are with some people, myself included. I theorize that we are resistant to change, that we don't like being outside of our comfort zone. I see it in friends and family members, and in serious cases, it leads to serious addictions or

The point is that we can't be resistant to change, no matter how overwhelming it feels. We need to accept it, and not suffer from John Elway Syndrome. We need to accept that things inevitably change, grow, morph into things that are new, exciting, fun, and beautiful if we'd just give them a shot. We need to give things room to come into their own and support to do so.

Maybe it would help if we thought of every new experience like our own, first child. Say you lose your job. Here you have a newborn opportunity for something grand. Your unemployment is your infant, needing constant attention and love and encouragement. Then you find a new job, and your infant has become a toddler. It's starting to become more self sufficient, getting it's footing, as you are in your new job. If you've given that opportunity all of the love and joy and hope that you have, then it will come back to you with a raise or a bonus or words of encouragement from a good friend/manager/co-worker/boss-type person in your life. However, if you let the symptoms of your John Elway Syndrome prevail, you'll be miserable, as this job will never be the same as your old one. You'll be unsatisfied. You'll be sad. You'll feel lost.

We all have points in our lives where we can't see how there are positives in change. We have the choice to accept it and move on, to set the proverbial baggage down and move on uninhibited, or to compare everything to what was, dragging around everything with us like dead weight, just so we can show people what was instead of letting them show us what is.

Don't be resistant to change. Resistance is futile. Embrace it. Shed the curse of Denver Bronco quarterbacks and Star Trek spin-offs. Become the new Star Trek movie. Enjoy life to the fullest at every opportunity. John Elway Syndrome doesn't have to control our lives.

And with that, I wish you well. Live long and prosper. Get to the Super Bowl and win it. Feel free to leave comments!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Glenwood Springs

This weekend, I went to Glenwood Springs, Colorado with my girl and the boy. We caught up with her family, aunts, uncles, and grandmother, a fellow German. The area is beautiful, and the time was well spent. Here's to many more adventures.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Revising the Status Quo

In recent weeks, I'm going through a tremendous period of self-discovery and exploration. While not necessarily on purpose, it's been re-organizing the perspective I've had, both for myself and for others.

I moved away from Ketchikan, Alaska, into what I was (and still am, although differently) perceiving as a crisis of sorts. The details of said crisis need not be publicly discussed, but the effects it's had on me, I don't mind sharing. I panicked for a number of reasons, got on the first plane I could, left the BW3 there, and just came back to Colorado.

I got off the plane in Denver, and I found myself stepping into a world nearly as strange to me as the world I met when I first landed in Ketchikan. Compared to my last few months, Colorado brought with it epic expanses of sky, miles of mountains and sunsets behind them that could make one all but weep out of joy. The city of Denver offers a plethora of food and culture, nice and friendly people, albeit many, many of them. The temperature is between 30 and 40 degrees hotter here during the day, and that has left me too sweaty, too often.

The feelings, though, were more complex than I've felt in a long time. They shook me to my core. I've felt so lost for so long, drifting from place to place in my mind, not really being present for just over four years. I've felt like a shell. Hollow. Empty. Comfortable in the fact that for me, someday, this will end as easily as it started. (Apply that last statement how you will; it has many layers.) But when I left Ketchikan, I felt genuine sadness, anxiety, anticipation, and excitement. While these emotions seemed hidden in a cloud, as though I were feeling them after staying awake for two or three days in a row, they were still there, and I was grateful.

I've found, however, that expectations can be as damning as they can be productive. I had expected to come home and see everyone and everything in a certain light, a certain way, to do my certain part, and to be treated in a certain fashion. From the moment I stepped off the airplane, all of that got turned upside down. Nothing was as it seemed.

Now I'm sitting here. It's been two weeks. My ideas, my goals, my "realities" as I knew them, as I built them, are inverted, and the moral compass that has been roughly guiding me has been spinning out of control, not showing me direction in the fog that shrouds the life I will experience from here.

I suppose the best thing to do at this point would be to take one careful step at a time, taking care not to step on anything or off of anything that could devastate my reality any more than it has wound up changing on its own. I can meditate and journal to remind my mind to be at peace with these things, and act gently and thoughtfully, remembering my recent post about the mantra "May everything be exactly as it is." I guess I should remind myself of that when I feel so lost, remind myself that I'm only lost if I stop looking, and that until that point, I'm still seeking the answers.

It's not easy to revise your status quo.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

May Everything Be Exactly As It Is

I'm continually surprised by how quickly in life things change. Maybe it's not the things in life that actually change, but it's how quickly my perceptions change. At any rate, it always catches me off guard when something I thought was reality not but a couple of weeks ago is drastically turned around in moments.

I started writing this yesterday, but I wasn't able to focus on it. Maybe it's just the dry Colorado weather, the altitude, the heat... who knows. Salida, Denver, and Ketchikan are all very different places. I find myself getting a low-level dosage of culture shock when I step into a new environment, and sometimes it takes me a second to catch my breath. (I'm sure the altitude doesn't exactly help.)

Steering this quick, disjointed blog in a serious direction for a second, I must note that I've found myself in a few situations simultaneously where I'm struggling to find the answers to the question of what the right course of action is. This being said, I remembered the mantra "May everything be exactly as it is." There are things in all of our lives that we cannot control. Friends and loved ones pass away. Jobs are lost. Vehicles are crashed. Babies are born. Lotteries are won. It's so easy to hope for a random, uncontrollable good thing to happen, but we shudder when a random and uncontrollable bad thing happens. We find ourselves seemingly dropped into a life where things seem to be spiraling out of control, and for whatever reason, we just can't get any bearings. Then we become angry that we were treated unfairly or sad because we feel helpless. But the mantra implies that everything is, simply, what it is. I know that saying is cliche, almost annoying at times, but I am pushing the deeper meaning. You lose your job. Maybe you're supposed to find a better opportunity. Maybe you're supposed to learn how to tighten your belt and empty your refrigerator. Maybe you're needing to sell your big house and get into a smaller one? And then, down the line, you're happier in a new line of work, you're in better shape, and you have a lower rent or mortgage payment. It sounds suddenly like losing your job was the best thing that happened to you, yes?

We have things we care about, but more importantly, we have loved ones, family, with or without bonds of genetics, that we must care for, must fight to ensure their happiness. We can't do it if we aren't happy ourselves, and we certainly can't do it if we're resenting them for making us work hard for them. What we can do is work hard, be the best we can be, the happiest we can be, and when we have the time, to share that happiness, that joy with them. There is joy to be found in every nook and cranny, from the bottom of the nastiest dumpster to the middle of every seedy, corrupt organization.

While the struggle in searching for this joy feels to most of us as it is never-ending, the search itself can be a positive, life-changing thing. Keeping your eyes on the prize, as it were, proves to ourselves that we know that the suffering and struggle along the way is sharpening our souls and lighting a fire under the motivation we need to keep going.

I'm going to assume you all know a little about poker as I write my closing remarks. I would hope that anyone reading this would take a second to look at the cards they've been dealt. Really look at them. Look at your job, your family, your wife or husband, your children, your parents, your grandparents, your friends, your car, your dog, your cat, your neighbors -I can go on and on, but the point is that, no matter what cards you're holding, you can play your hand. And while you may not be holding a royal flush, I can guarantee you that you're holding at least a pair, and probably a full house. Don't fold. Play the hand, and look forward to the next round of cards you'll be dealt. Assume you're playing with good friends. Someone at your table will be a winner every time, guaranteed, and be happy for them when they do, because when it's your turn, they will share that sentiment.

May everything be exactly as it is.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Bittersweet reunion with SeaTac

I flew in from Ketchikan this morning to a sunny/cloudy Seattle. While my reasons for making this journey back home are for me alone, leaving Ketchikan this morning was bittersweet. It was foggy and rainy, but as soon as I broke through the clouds, it was sunny and bright.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 2, 2010

YouTube Justice!

You asked for it. Now you've done it. Throw in a Wilhelm Scream, and here we go!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One more day in the books.
Just spent lunch exploring Gravina Island with iTrevor.
The work day is moving right along. Some installs in the sunshine sounds lovely.

Thoughts on Depression and Appreciation

I thought I was tired enough to fall asleep earlier, but then, like an idiot, I thought I'd check my facebook one last time before I went to sleep and happened across a Buddhist monk's lecture on depression. It was an hour and a twelve minutes long. I only listened to twenty-six minutes of it it before I felt compelled to turn my music on and start thinking to myself about the things in life I appreciated, the positives, the accomplishments, the good things in life.

What spawned all of this was a story the monk told. He's based in Perth, Australia. When he first got there, the group he was in had no money. They owed money for the land they had purchased, and had no buildings for their monastery. This meant that he, an ex physicist of some sort, had to build things himself, get his hands dirty and do the work. He was a perfectionist, the type of guy that was tormented if he didn't get things exactly correct at the end of a project.

His first task was to build a brick wall. He would lay it, brick by brick. If the corner of a brick was sticking up, he'd gently tap it down. If that knocked the opposite corner up, he'd tap that one down. If that knocked the brick out of line, he'd straighten it. If that knocked a corner up... the process would continue. At any rate, he built this entire wall, and at the end, he stepped back, looking upon this brick wall with pride when he noticed that two bricks, -two- bricks, were crooked. As you could imagine, this destroyed him.

For three months, he had nightmares about the failure of the wall. He would volunteer to show people around the grounds so he could save them from seeing his mistake. He would walk by it in the middle of other jobs and audibly sigh, stuff up, and once almost cried.

Then a visitor came and asked to be shown around. He looked at this wall, and he told the monk it was a damn fine wall. The monk asked the visitor if he was visually impaired. Of course, he wasn't. The monk was beside himself. "Don't you see the two crooked bricks?" The visitor replied, "Yes, I do. But I also see nine hundred and ninety-eight perfectly straight bricks all around them."

The difficulties and negatives we face seem to be only a small portion of the lives we live, and yet, we seem to focus on those imperfections, not appreciating the good things we've done or seen or experienced to some degree.

Another story he told was a lady who caught her husband lying once and was asking him if they should be divorced. She said she couldn't trust him anymore. He asked them how long they had been married. Three years. Then, being good at math (a former physicist, remember?), he said, three years is roughly one thousand days. He said that if, on average, he made twenty statements to her every day. That turns out being twenty thousand statements. He lied once. That means there's twenty thousand to one odds that he wouldn't lie to her again. I guess this happened a number of years ago. They're still married.

Perspective. Generally, we lack it. We don't see the big picture. We only see the glaring flaws. We see an old man flipping burgers, and he's a loser. We don't know that he's the best burger chef in the country. We see a young woman with two kids and no husband. We don't know that she has been abused or raped or a widow of a soldier or a cop, and that those two kids were still spelling PALEONTOLOGIST by the time they were three despite that.

In my life, I have faced difficult times, yes, but who hasn't? Who hasn't lost someone that meant the world to them? Who hasn't been broke or couch surfed or lived in a trailer or an old apartment? Who hasn't been fired or laid off or rejected or dumped or even just plain let down?

What is harder for me to see is what I've seen and done that is enough for me to die a happy and successful man. It's harder for me to see that I have somehow wound up with people in my life who are or have gone on to be actresses, pilots, fathers, mothers, own two Corvettes, built their own cabins, started their own businesses, fallen so completely in love with the sweetest and kindest people, taught children morals, math, and reading... the list goes on. I can name names, but you know who you are. You're in my life. And whether you've been in my life since I was born or you're the person who sat next to me on an airplane ten years ago, you should consider yourself to be a part of this amazing spread of incredible people.

Now is not the time to think about how difficult life is or is bound to get. It's the time to start thinking about what is good, what we have, what we are capable of. There is so much awesome stuff, and I mean awesome in the full-of-awe sense that the word is intended for, so much good about this place we're fortunate enough to reside on.

That's my two cents for the evening. I think, now that it's off my chest, I'll try to get some sleep now. I appreciate you reading this, too. ;-)