Monday, August 18, 2014

It Feels Good to Be Good

I just finished watching the amazing documentary on Roger Ebert called "Life Itself". I went into it uncomfortable at his appearance in his last stages of death, he was frail and there was literally just a hanging piece of skin where his lower jaw used to be. But towards the end he said something that resonated with me as he discussed the way in which doing work was the only way to distract himself from his dying. He said " get in a zone that you can only get into from doing something you're good at".

I was overtaken by this intense feeling of how short life really is. I'm 31 years old, which is more than HALF the life span of my father who died at 60 and the second half moves SO MUCH FASTER. Then I started to call back in my mind the old cliche "life is short, have fun" and it started to make sense. I came to the conclusion that you're given a few things based on genetics, circumstance, luck, that you are good at and also happen to resonate with the world in a positive way. So I thought: "why not just focus on doing those things for as long and as often as you possibly can?" 

I feel like I spend so much time trying to be more than I am. Have what someone else has, not just focus on what I enjoy and am good at. Instead of trying to distill and simplify. Roger Ebert tried his hand at many different things before realizing that rating films was his "thing", so he decided to dedicate his life to doing it better than anyone and he basically created the title of "film critic". It's a specific skill, it worked for him, and he seemed happy. It felt good to be good.

This is the same underlying theory behind why selflessly helping someone else makes us feel so good. They need us and we have a unique advantage that can provide a positive effect for them, we're good at helping and it feels good to be good at something. Giving to a charity, helping someone carry a suitcase, even just making a meal for friends. Maybe it sounds selfish to do good because it gives you some "high", but it's the truth; it's almost the same feeling as being really good at dunking a basketball or telling a joke or writing a great blog post or making a great meal. There is something that makes us physiologically feel better when we accomplish something that meets its goal. And simplifying your life to the pursuit of those few things, will never fail.

Or maybe its late and I just saw a great movie.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Advantages of Being Alone

I'm finally coming home after doing "the road" (stand up comedy in different cities) for the past 15 days straight. As I sit here thinking I've come to three conclusions: being alone and away from home sucks, being alone and away from home sucks, and being alone and away from home can also be a good.

I'll take you on a quick recap of the last two weeks: six days at a comedy club in the largest mall in North America in Edmonton, Alberta, then seven days at the largest mall in America in Minnesota. That's all you need to know, and the answer is "no" I cannot hang out in the cool parts of those cities, I'm stuck most of the day everyday at the malls or in my hotel room, because I have no car and they put malls very far from everything cool and "walkable". Mall creators are experts and making you isolated at their malls. So basically, bottom line, I was alone a lot; which is something I've had to do often in the past two years of my life as a paid stand up comic, but this time felt different, I don't usually do back to back long weeks life this and in isolated areas, so this time I felt really really alone. 

Imagine a life where you wake up, don't have anywhere to be or no one who will expect you somewhere until 7:30pm. You have no friendly faces or friendly locations or routines, just yourself and things you can come up with to make yourself happy. You don't speak face to face with anyone the ENTIRE day then night falls and the first interaction you have with anyone is ONE HOUR of stand up comedy on a stage in front of strangers. It sucks, but then at some point it didn't...

There was a moment around day four where all the self analyzing and deep thoughts and introspection died down, I started to feel amazing. Like better than I did before I left home. A feeling of "self" like I've never experienced and what I realized is that my phone was dead that day, I'd stopped checking my phone, and I'd stopped watching TV and I was able to just "be". It felt like a drug, I felt like I cracked some code in who I am. Some formula for how I need to carry myself and how I can tap into a inner serenity and my motivations and goals and life outlook became super clear. Then of course after an hour or two my brain over thought about it and over analyzed this feeling and it went away. But then over the next week it kept coming back in waves, until I came to certain large scale conclusions in my life and actually felt like I evolved as a human. Then it hit me: being alone is getting to know a friend who you’ve forgotten how to interact with.

You know that friend who you’ve known for years but you barely see anymore. You grew up or used to spend a lot of time together and at your peak you did everything together? Then you see them after a few months  or years, like actually spend an extended time together and at first it’s awkward. It takes a day or two to actually get back in the groove you once had. Then finally at some point, click, you fall back into what you had. What you liked about them, what you liked about being around them, how it made you feel about yourself, then your friendship grows a bit. Well, that’s what I realized being alone is. So here’s today's manifesto…

A Manifesto On the Advantages of Being Alone
Everyone must make a point of being alone more often, putting away your phone and just being alone because we are rarely ever truly alone. Even when we are "alone" we’re with hundreds of people on our phones or our TV. But the uncomfort of being alone: walking around without a phone, being in an unfamiliar town, laying in bed with your thoughts, is uncomfortable but necessary to our evolution. Because it’s only through constantly listening to your own inner voice that you can finally shut it off. Then maybe, just maybe, even evolve.  Or maybe I’ve just been alone too long.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Guerrilla Barry Rothbart Manifesto

I had a dream last night where I was on-stage doing stand up and bombing horribly. It's a recurring dream actually where I'm in a place where you would never expect to find stand up, ie... a wedding hall, a stadium and fancy restaurant. And I come to the stage extremely confidant but then cannot remember any of my material and instead I just start to say a bunch of non-sequiter sentences, and sure enough everyone hates it and I'm humiliated.

However, before falling asleep last night I happened to watch a documentary called "Internet's Own Boy" about Aaron Schwartz, the late founder of Reddit, who through sheer will fought and WON a battle against the establishment's attack on net-neutrality. And in the doc it was revealed that he kept a personal blog revealing his inner most thoughts and opinions and after he was arrested the blog was found and revealed his "manifesto", called the "Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto". In this one page document he states that information and knowledge is power and our knowledge has been privatized by certain gatekeepers who hide science journals, legal documents and other such "public" items behind a paywall, and this must be fought against at all costs. It's what drove him to do most of what he did with his adult life.


But what does that have to do with my dream? Well after waking up and once again having nothing to do in the mornings, which is pretty standard for my lifestyle as a comic, I decided to analyze my dream. And I came to the conclusion, that it was a response to my lack of a "manifesto". My
"purpose" in what I do. In the dream, I'm performing in a non-conventional place where normal people (non comedy seeking audiences) are congregating, and all I can do to relate to them is string together a bunch of meaningless sentences. Is that really what my life is? Am I just a guy who thinks of interesting sentences and yells them at audiences? I concluded that I must have a manifesto, and if not one singular manifesto, at least an ongoing one where I can attempt to edit and revise and search for that purpose and do it publicly where maybe it could relate to others searching for their own doctrine.

After my mind was blown, I googled "best blogging sites", google of course recommended it's own site "Blogger" and now here we are. And after much thought, my first manifesto...


There is a general lack of purpose in entertainment, but I believe that attempting to find purpose, and therefore showing your acceptance of your own existential uncertainty could be a purpose in itself. Especially if this journey is displayed publicly to the masses and given through the lens of an unadulterated search for truth, not a false attempt to claim you've found all the truths. Through comedy, film, journalism, music, science, etc... but it must be deliberate and true. Certainty can be used as a vehicle for explaining this quest, but cannot be the final motivation. Because certainty will only breed laziness. Uncertainty of purpose is something that EVERYONE can relate to. And also I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I'll continue to post my thoughts to this site. I will not promote it (as I believe that will muddy the purpose), I'll simply link it to my website and if you want to subscribe or come back or share thoughts, feel free.