Monday, May 25, 2015

We are ALL 1%'ers

Anxious, mind racing, feeling very unfulfilled, knowing life was passing me by.  My brain on overdrive, sitting at my desk Friday afternoon contemplating if this was it.  If this was as good as it was going to get.

Whatever amount of brain power we use on a daily basis, 1%, 10%, 20% (ten percent seems to be the most popular opinion), it is for some people, I'm sure, far less than they would like, while for others too much.  It's only fitting that science cannot yet determine the full capacity of what our brains can do, that three pounds of jelly inside our heads made up of 100 billion neurons with electrical mapping that is as unique to each one of us as our own fingerprint.  When you pause to think, it truly is the single most significant and complex organ in our body.    

My father died in August, 2012 of ALS.  His last request was his brain be donated to science for ALS research...they are still studying it!  It will be three years in August that Pop was carted out of the den at home, little did any of us believe we would still be waiting to officially bury him three years later, and when that day comes it will no doubt be a true Irish Wake!   

My own intrigue of the brain stems from two specific yearnings that seem to constantly fight for my attention, my thirst for liquor and my thirst for knowledge.  One physical, one emotional, they both provide me some level of unique satisfaction.

I go through stretches of time where I have this desire to learn something new, or learn more about something that interests me, then I will go through a period of darkness...heavy drinking, not much thought.  A couple weeks ago I was at the computer, early in the AM, watching a Yale Professor, Robert Schiller lecture on Financial Markets.  A 75 minute lecture he gave to his class (ECON 252 - Financial Markets) which was made available on YouTube--I understand this is not for everyone, but obviously Finance interests me.

By the way, if you were not aware Yale makes many of their college courses available for free to the public via Open Yale, mind you with no course credit or degree available, but kudos to them for doing so.

So what happens during these stretches of enlightenment that I have when I abstain from alcohol for a period of time?  Do I think more clearly when I have not drank for a few days or even a full Week!?!? 

Yes, I most definitely do.

Am I sharper in my exchanges with people, my communication with them? 

Yes, at least it feels that way.

Do I write better? 

Without question I write better.   

So then why continue to drink at all? 

Because I enjoy it, arguably as much all of the above.

Which brings me back to the power of the brain.  One act is better for me and I know this--it allows me to create, do, and achieve, the other causes me to think less, slow down and go dark, only to ponder whether I like Tito's better than Ketel One.  And that's about the time when I get that internal question again…Is this it? 

The modern day human/spiritual dilemma that there must be something more to life than this.  Have I in fact reached my full potential? 

It can be argued that life, the daily pressures of living it, prevent some of us from ever beginning to realize our full potential.  I am always amazed when I come across a single parent that's managing to do it all: raise their children, keep food on the table, keeping their kids' lives enriched with sports or after school activities. 

Couldn't it be said that single mother or father is not reaching their full potential because they are too busy seeing to the lives of their kids?  Certainly a very subjective opinion, however they (mom and dad) may say the exact opposite of what I think.  Just knowing they are doing the best for their child that they can, is fulfillment enough for them.  The beauty of our minds, they all work so differently and yet it is for that very reason that we have neurosurgeons and truck drivers, teachers and investment bankers, garbage men and architects.

Anxious, mind racing, feeling unfulfilled put me in my car, about an hour’s commute home, and I was struck by three things that I saw.  The first was two women standing outside of John's Bar (not kidding, that is the name) a few puffs into their cigarettes they looked like they were well on their way to kick starting the Memorial Day weekend.  They were laughing out loud happy.  The second, a silver haired man, probably in his mid-fifties, singing a song as he sat in traffic behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz in the opposite lane from me. Both at a stand-still, I turned my own radio off to try and catch a sound of his beat, but the noise around us was too much.  He turned and looked at me, we both smiled at one another and shared a chuckle and a nod.  And the last—the airplane that glided over my car as I drove down I-95 and the man I imagined, in my head, that wasn't sitting on that plane.

This man, in my head, let’s call him Adam--a production of my recent enlightenment that had happened just seconds earlier--has a plight that begins a few months back when he interviews with a new company for a job making more money with perhaps less pressure.  A very desirable position and one he covets it is between he and one other candidate.  He's had one phone interview and two face to face interviews over a three month period, all three interviews have gone well.  His contact there, Tom, informs him the last step in the hiring process is a trip to Chicago, where the company is headquartered, to meet with the top brass, basically a rubber stamping of things. 

Adam pencils in the date, he’s there, he knows it.  A few days go by and he receives a call from Tom.  “Sorry Adam, but we decided on the other candidate.  I won’t be brining you to Chicago.”

Adam’s devastated, he's been working toward this new opportunity for months.  He wanted it more than anything in the world, but by midnight he resigns himself to the fact that it wasn’t meant to be, that there was something bigger happening here and he would find his place--that better job opportunity--in the future.

Two days later a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Chicago crashes in Indiana, there were no survivors!  His phone rings, it’s Tom. “Adam, we’d like to bring you to in, can you fly to Chicago tomorrow?”

Adam pauses, his world slows down.   Do I take a job that almost killed me or do I owe it to Tom to take the job because he saved my life? 

I couldn’t answer Adam’s dilemma myself, however celebrated my new found protagonist by pouring myself a stiff drink when I got home…perhaps Adam and his predicament the makings of new short story.

Anxious, mind racing, feeling unfulfilled had turned into an evening of relaxed cheer and celebration, every once and a while that image of Mercedes-Benz guy popping up in my head and the fleeting moment of amity that we had shared.

Then it dawned on me that it doesn’t matter who is using their brain to do what.  We are all people who put their clothes on the same way and there’s no better moment in anyone’s day than a shared moment of humanity with a complete stranger and that there is nothing fleeting about that. 

Connect with someone today!  There may be no better medicine for snapping yourself out of a “mood” or “funk” than old fashion human interaction.
If you found the last two minutes entertaining and perhaps a little reflective, please consider liking this post, leaving a comment or suggesting it to a friend.  Also, be be sure to check back and see what Adam decides…

Bumper sticker of the month:  Nothing jumped out at me, however has anyone else noticed that states are no longer “stamping” license plates?  You either have a stamped plate or you have a 3-D printed version of it.  Seems even the inmates have lost jobs in this recession.

Great song I forgot about and fun to sing in the car — Do You Believe in Love, Huey Lewis & The News

Whiskey tasting…Monkey Shoulder.  A blended malt scotch whiskey that smells great (like vanilla beans), but finishes like a menthol cigarette (at least for me and I do not smoke).  Sorry Monkey.

Born this month in American Literature — Herman Wouk, May 27th, 1915.   Well known for his most celebrated novels, The Caine Mutiny and War and Remembrance, Wouk, just this week, will also be known for becoming a centenarian.  On May 27th, 2015 he will be 100 years old!  He is a decorated World War II veteran who has been translated in twenty seven languages and has been publishing novels well into his nineties.  God Bless Herman!