Yo Dre, Why Are You Always Talking about Changing the World?

earth

I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of friends recently and it’s been cool to catch up with all of them. As I’ve shared with them the many changes I’ve gone through over the past year and a half or so, there has been a trend I’ve noticed: people asking me why I care so much about changing the world.

Wait… wanting the world to be a better place is a weird thing? LOL.

Okay, okay, I’ll explain it like this because after a call I had with my fiancé, I feel like I finally found the words to properly convey my mindset.

*deep breath*

Much like everyone else, most of my life was spent just trying to make my way through this world. I tried to play fair within the boundaries of the rules everyone told me to follow. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part I was just the nice guy who had to earn his confidence over time rather than having it all my life.

Actually, I started off as a super confident kid, but adolescence isn’t for the weak of heart. A brother’s confidence caught a beat down, y’all.

There was also a nagging thought I had had ever since I was a kid: I’m alive right now and one day I won’t be. I kept that to myself for YEARS because I figured I’d be looked at like a weirdo if I started posing such esoteric concepts as a ten-year-old. Still, why was I alive? Am I supposed to just live and die and that’s it?

Was I a sinner for making a joke about Jesus? I mean, it’s Jesus, for… uh… Christ’s sake. He should know I’m kidding, right?

Am I supposed to spend my entire life working and hope that I stay alive long enough to enjoy retirement? That sounds like a bum deal.

I kid you not when I say I had these thoughts and questions for the majority of my life. I felt like an effing alien because no one else I knew seemed concerned about any of this.

Andre: King of the Weirdos.

During college and afterward, I met a handful of awesome, open-minded people. Folks who are fine with conversing about this stuff. Coupled with that, I soon found out that everything for which I had ambition (a high salary, lots of stuff, a misguided definition of love) brought me temporary happiness at best and straight up unhappiness at their worst. I mean, by and large I was a happy person, but every once in a while the disappointment of not being able to swallow society’s expectations of me and the goals I was taught to have manifested itself in not so pretty ways. In short, I was lost.

If only I knew I wasn’t alone, but people who are lost rarely see the big picture.

I took it upon myself to figure this thing out. I’d love to get into the details of how I did it, but not everyone in my personal life would be accepting of the choices I’ve made even if they’ve helped me for the better. I personally don’t care about the opinion of others, but I’m not about to stir the pot unnecessarily either. That being said, I figured myself out. I figured out that I was much more and much less than what I thought I was. To be specific, I’m not special. Not as an individual at least. But I’m also much more than just a man; I’m a part of everything. Just in the same way that a blood cell is both the individual cell and the blood. I am this reality in which I exist, the individual and the collective.

It may sound crazy to people who won’t get what I mean, but stick with me on this because it all ties back together.

I found my happiness and it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I spent some time patting myself on the back for having the wherewithal to discover my own answers while still being open to the beliefs of others. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered not everyone reciprocated this feeling. On top of that, I was all too aware that I didn’t actually care about the fancy job, having a bunch of stuff, or many of the other things I was taught to want. What was the point? My happiness and sense of peace was far more important and I learned I could have that independent of any external factors.

So why was I still here?

This next part may sound concerning if you don’t know me at all, but I’m not about to apologize for thoughts that crossed my mind. I seriously questioned why I should keep playing this unfair game of life. You know, the one where we’re expected to follow rules that not everyone is actually following. Where people hate, murder, cheat, steal, and whatever other vile acts humanity is capable of. Why do I want to continue working at a thankless job where I didn’t agree with many principles? I already found my happiness. What was the point of continuing? None of this would help me maintain my sense of inner peace. For all intents and purposes, I would have welcomed being done with life. Not in a negative way, but more like there was nothing I felt this world could offer me and I certainly didn’t want anything from this world either. I was happy being benign, but family, friends, and the rest of society had invested too much in me already. I wouldn’t be let off the hook that easily.

Sigh…

Then a funny thing happened: I met my soul mate aka my fiancé. The story of how we met is nothing short of fate. I say that because, seriously, how it happened is ridiculously improbable (I’ll save that for another day). The point is, I found my reason for enduring a life in which I had no stakes. Soon afterward I was laid off from my job, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite it being an initial burden. I had the opportunity to create a life that I wanted, not one shaped by what I was taught to want. I wasn’t about to sacrifice my own happiness again.

But then I looked at the the rest of world and couldn’t help being put off by all the ills around me. Remember, I saw myself as both the blood cell and the blood. I’m both the being and the reality. Therefore, how could I just sit idly by and be unconcerned with inequality, war, discrimination, greed, etc? That’s quite the impossible task given the way I think nowadays.

We’re all sharing the same house. If I was living with someone who treated me unfairly and was trashing our home, I would probably move out or ask them to leave. I don’t have that option. I have to figure out how to coexist in this house. But I don’t want to live in a sh*tty place either.

This time there are no questions. I have to do what I can to fix this house. Not just for me, but for all the people out there who are walking the path I once walked. We’re all just trying to figure our way through this life and we’re the victims or beneficiaries of people who came before us. That doesn’t excuse crappy behavior, but I understand why we aren’t living in utopia right now; there are a lot of lost people out there just trying to fit in where they can.

And this is why I want to bring positivity to this tiny, insignificant rock we call Earth. If I have to be here I’m going to do my damndest to only make an impact that helps rather than hurts. It’s why I’m going vegan. It’s why I want to exclusively use reusable energy. It’s why I’ll always be against our current form of capitalism. It’s why I’m writing this now. Believe me when I say I love you all and I only want to see you happy too. ALL OF YOU.

But I’ll always love my fiancé more. After all, I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for her, heh.

Peace out, party people.

Essay: We’re All Just Dumb Monkeys

metal monkey statue NY

Human beings are stupid.

Shock and awe, amirite?

Let’s take a few steps back. The other day, I was watching the season premiere of Brain Games (an awesome show you should definitely check out). One thing that stood out to me was an experiment that was conducted on two monkeys. The first monkey was given a task: a researcher hands the monkey a rock, the monkey hands it back, and gets a piece of a cucumber as a reward. There’s another monkey in the cage next to him who’s given the same task, but instead is given a grape as a reward. Everything was good in the hood until that first monkey noticed something was afoot.

Oh you’re just going to give him grapes while I’m just given these wack ass cucumbers?

Well, that first monkey was none to pleased. While he was fine with them initially, he soon began refusing the cucumbers for doing the task. And I mean refused. Homeboy threw it back at the researcher, banged the rock against cage, and even tried reaching for the grapes through the cage.

Anger? Violence? Attempted theft? All just because something is unfair? If you’re good at connecting the dots, you can easily see how this is reflected in our society today.

Here’s another fun fact: We trust those that are genetically closest to us faster than those who are not. This is tied to survival for primates (other creatures too, but let’s stay on topic) and is tribalism at its very essence. This is why family members are (usually) seen as those closest to a person, especially the nuclear family. It’s likely the reason why if someone loses trust in a family member at an early age for whatever reason, they have a very difficult time trusting others overall. Most importantly, though potentially least valid because this is just my opinion, I think this is the basis for discrimination and mistrust at any level. Not the cultural kind we experience today, mind you. I’m talking about the mere existence of them.

It’s a leap, but not an unwarranted one.

Did you know that hunger increases the likelihood of a “fight” reaction during fight or flight responses?

Did you know stress hinders short term memory

Did you know people mirror the behaviors of others for reasons like wanting to be accepted or general kinship?

Did you know our brains constantly creates false leaders for all type of activities so it can be a follower? Even simple ones like walking at a certain speed or standing in a line.

I think most human beings don’t have a fundamental understanding of themselves and why they are the way they are. This hits us at a personal level, as well as society at large. I’m purposely emphasizing the word “understanding.” You can know all the facts you want, but understanding is another story entirely.

Do you understand why we have religion?

Do you understand  why we separate ourselves into races?

Do you understand why human beings have conflict?

Of course there are individual reasons as to why these things happen, but that’s not what I’m asking. Do you understand why these things exist? Do you understand why your brain and body act the way they do? Have you connected the dots? No? Well, congratulations; you’re officially a dumb monkey.

A dumb monkey with potential, at least.

Don’t feel bad; I’m a dumb monkey too. Ooh ooh, aah aah, and all that good stuff.

The only thing that changed with me is I can openly admit I don’t know anything. However, I’m understanding more about life each day. I look at humanity and I’m starting to grasp how we got to this point and why we have the problems we have. We’re too busy being dumb monkeys who think they know more than they actually do. I mean, sure, we invented a slew of cool things like the internet, space shuttles, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

Except that 2014 movie. Much like 9/11, we’ll never forget.

*cough*

Awkward.

…but we can’t seem to move beyond our biological makeup. Realistically, humans have never actually figured out peace no matter how many wars we have. We can’t stop being violent. We still hate. We still discriminate. Not all of us, mind you, and certainly not all to the same degree. But it’s out there.

On the flip side, we have absolutely beautiful things that are bred from the same DNA that willed racism into the world. We have love, happiness, creativity, and more. These are all awesome things, but much like our more unseemly qualities, these are also not constants and everyone experiences these to different degrees. This is all part of being human.  What makes us dumb monkeys is that most of us don’t realize we don’t have to be dumb monkeys.

Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?

The real thing that makes humans special is we have a choice to either follow our DNA or follow that thing in us that makes us more than dumb monkeys – a soul, a conscience, or whatever inadequate word you want to use for the thing that regulates our animalistic urges. People aren’t wantonly discriminating against people who aren’t genetically closest to them. There isn’t true survival of the fittest anymore. We aren’t all getting riled up just because “the man” feeds us cucumbers instead of grapes. However – and this is just my opinion – these things still exist in our DNA. But because our circumstances are different now than they were when we first evolved into homo sapiens, they manifest themselves differently.

Grapes become money.

Genetic proximity becomes racism and nationalism.

Ooh ooh, aah aah?

We apply the modern world to archaic hardware (our DNA) and this is what happens: humans self-throttle their advancement and we play the game of being dumb monkeys. Our software (our minds) have all the potential in the world, but our hardware (DNA) sucks. Imagine running Windows 8 on a computer from 1999. If that was even possible, you’d have to at least turn the display settings down and limit the number of concurrently running programs. It’d be a straight up nightmare.

Imagine all the low definition porn everyone would be watching!

Unlike computers, however, we can operate past beyond hardware. We don’t have to be slaves to our DNA, but I feel it’s not innate in all of use. Some, maybe many of us require a level of understanding to realize all discrimination is the same. Poverty is not a necessity. Freedom is not a privilege. Everyone in this world is just as (un)important as you. You don’t have to be a dumb monkey. You can choose to embrace parts of your humanity, not all of it.

I believe humanity will reach that potential one day. There are a good number of people that already have; the problem is the glut of folk who are straggling behind. Well, it’s not really a problem, right? Maybe we wouldn’t be human anymore if none of us clung to our DNA. Maybe we’d be something entirely different. I mean, can you even imagine a world without conflict? Can you imagine a world without hate? What would love be? What would peace be? Would those words exist?

Perhaps that’s the sacrifice of being human. Maybe negativity is the trade-off for all the positivity we experience. Maybe, the people who show the worst of humanity also involuntarily shine a light on the best of humanity. Maybe there will always be this battle of our physical (dumb monkey) and, for lack of a better word, non-physical (human) selves. Maybe all of our conflicts are a product of an evolution that is no longer taking place at a purely physical level. Maybe we’re done evolving as individuals and we’re now evolving as a collective. Maybe, just maybe, there’s nothing wrong with humanity and we’re all just doing what we’re meant to do, consequences be damned.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just a dumb monkey.

Previously: The Day I Admitted My Feelings for God

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Is Being a Self-Earner Right for You? All You Need Is One Rule

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond
Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Good morning, potential self-earners! Let’s talk motivation, shall we?

I already spoke about the power of persistence, but that was more in reference to maintaining momentum when you already have something going. But how about folks that have yet to start on their journey? Is this right for you? If so, what’s your motivation?

Here’s the thing with being a self-earner: the road is tough. Trust me on this one. It’s not all pots of gold and sunshine as some would have you believe. It takes hard work and dedication, especially in the beginning. Therefore, there is only one rule in determining whether or not this life is right for you.

If there are other things in your life that are more important and require as much or more time than being a self-earner, don’t bother.

I’m being serious here.

I mean, you can do it, but it will be that much harder to actually make any progress. Passion has to be your motivation. Without that, this becomes a less secure version of a job. Do you really want that? If this is your passion, there’s a much greater chance of success, enjoyment, and peace of mind.

Sounds awesome, right?

Don’t buy into the hype where people try to sell you on the dream of making millions by just quitting your job and following their secret tips. Sure, some are legit, but many of them are just self-earners on their own hustle. As for you, my best advice is for you to weigh your options and if things feel right, just dive into the pool. Throw caution to the wind and chase that dream like you never have before.

Would you be okay being a half-assed parent? Probably and hopefully not. You’d do the best job possible, even if you make mistakes along the way. This is no different.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Art of Letting Go

Project Update: ZenHacked – Finally Posting Again!

zenhacked

About six months ago I started two blogs. The first one is the blog you’re currently viewing (andregriffiths.com). The second was largely dormant, but it’s finally making a comeback.

ZenHacked (zenhacked.com) was an idea I had to bring the concepts of balance and inner peace to people who still think it’s all about meditation and hippie mumbo jumbo. I wanted to present these ideas in a simple fashion and provide actionable steps toward the end goal of, well, simply being. It was also supposed to be the foundation to a book I planned on releasing. Unfortunately, in typical fashion, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work demanded for two blogs, especially when I’m the only writer.

ZenHacked slowly fizzled while this blog grew.

No more!

Now that I have a good groove going (say that three times fast) with andregriffiths.com, I want to get zenhacked.com going as it’s a passion of mine. I initially thought about posting there three times a week, but I’m going to start slow for once. I’ll be posting once a week on Wednesdays, a day that shall be known as Zendays going forward.

Shut up. It’s an awesome name.

Also, I’m going to use this as a litmus test for my own promotional skills by building an audience from scratch instead of involving my current social media audiences. So, yeah, wish me luck on that one.

Check it out if you feel inclined to do so. I won’t be speaking about it much here save for various updates. In any case, check it out this Zenday…

Ugh… never mind.

…I mean Wednesday, for my return to blogging about zen concepts. If you like what you see, tell a friend!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Blog Update: New Post Schedule

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Art of Letting Go

Photo Credit: Keith Rowley
Photo Credit: Keith Rowley

Earlier this year, I was working on a project with my buddies Pat and Jen. Shortly thereafter, I was laid off from my job and my priorities changed. I couldn’t drop money on a developer to build an app. I had to forge my own path to some extent. As a result, Pat and I got into the first and only argument I can ever recall, and it was all due to failing to complete our idea. As we argued and debated (for hours), I began to realize we were both suffering from an inability to let go.

This post is about to journey deep into zen territory, so if you have an extreme distaste for the subject matter, it would probably be best for you to move on to another topic. For the rest of you, here is what I learned…

We’re all doing our best to make it through this life. The problem is, sometimes no matter how much much effort we put forth, our best simply isn’t enough. And that’s fine, even when it feels like it isn’t. Even when other people tell you it isn’t.

Trust me, it’s fine

As a self-earner, all one can do is try to put themselves in the best position for success and have a contingency plan for avoiding rock bottom. Other than that, even the biggest control freak has no grip on his/her fate. All you have are odds and luck (or lack thereof).

This is reality. This is also why many people opt for the safe route. You know, the one taught by society and forged by forefathers.

And foremothers.

Why isn’t that a real word?

Because sexism! Amirite?

Ehem, I digress.

If you’re going to be in the self-earning game while maintaining your general happiness and sanity, learn how to let go. Let go of high expectations. Let go of fear. Let go of negativity.Let go of ideas/projects/businesses that are not working and cannot be fixed.

Stop thinking and just be smart. As with everything in life, the stakes are only as high as we believe they are. Have some fun for Pete’s sake. If you end up clinging to all of these things, you’ll never reach your potential because you’re constantly restraining yourself.

Forget that noise.

Freeing my mind in this sense has not only helped me stay motivated while traveling this arduous road, but it has helped changed my perspective in all aspects of life. This is all a game to me – a puzzle in need of solving. It’s a challenge and I’m going to crack it or die trying. Either way, the experience is well worth it.

Maybe the same can work for you.

Peace out, party people (I so didn’t know this was the name of a Mariah Carey song until I looked up a video for this link. Please don’t judge me, although I would totally judge you if the shoe was on the other foot. Double standards FTW!).

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Mainstream versus Niche – 7 Reasons why Less is More