Sunday, June 24, 2007

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye

When I moved to Las Vegas I left quite a few friends behind, most of whom I have never seen again and a few I have only seen a few times before finally falling completely out of contact. Jason, Ishmael, Shannon, Toni, Glenda, my friend and trainer Kru Sam along with all the guys I trained with at Team USA, Anthony, John, and a couple dozen other friends and acquaintances. Some were very close friends and confidants who'd been extremely important in my life. I had to move on in order to seek greater opportunities and to grow and because frankly, San Francisco was dangerous for me. There was no possible way for me to be a good husband and father in San Francisco. The temptations were far too great and the women were far too easy.

I have seldom regretted my decision to leave. It is doubtable that I would have had any of the experiences I now cherish had I stayed and even more doubtable that I would have been able to provide for my family in the manner I am now able to if I were still struggling in SF. My only regrets are the friends I have left behind in California.

I have recently reconnected with one of my closest and oldest friends and I could not be happier. He has been like a brother to me for more than fifteen years. Yet, at the same time one of my oldest friends in Las Vegas is moving to Texas on Tuesday. In addition to that, one of my closest friends and the most successful fighter I train will probably never fight again and if he does I will most likely not be in his corner, which puts big doubts in my head as to whether our friendship will continue.

I know how it goes when you go through something life changing like retiring from the ring. Often, you don't want anything around you to remind you of what you used to be or could have become. There is also the fact that much of our friendship revolved around fighting and I may simply become unnecessary in his life now. No hard feelings. I've been there myself before.

When I retired from the ring six years ago, many of my closest friends disappeared. Guys who I'd helped to train, who had bled and sweat with me, who I'd travelled with, who had been to my home, played with my kids, ate at my table, now, did not even bother to call. In fact, to this day I am no longer close with any of the friends I made in the gym back when I was still fighting. That's how it goes. I understand that now. Still, it sucks.

Before that I'd had friends that had been extremely close to me who simply left town. Las Vegas is, after all, a very transient town. My first close friend in Vegas, Maurice, moved back to Ohio after losing a couple of fights. I've never seen him again and he and I were once inseparable. Next, my friend Mike moved back to Alabama. He and I stayed in touch for a little while and he even came out to visit me once or twice before we eventually fell out of contact with one another about six years ago. Then my friend Roger, who I lifted weights with and ran with in the park on the weekends and partied with, moved to Colorado. I have really not had a male friend that close to me since he left.

It goes all the way back to when I first left Philadelphia, I tried very hard to keep parts of Philly with me. I did, in fact, move to LA with a girl I started dating back in Philly. Rene'. I still miss her, truth be told. We fell out of touch several times after we separated, the last time being when I moved to Las Vegas and she called to speak with me just before I left San Fransisco. My ex-wife did not give me the message until a year later; a message with no phone number attached.

I even tried bringing some of my friends from Philadelphia out to California with me. I brought my friend Jason (aka Atheist) to stay with me. He and I had been homeless together while hanging out on South Street in Philadelphia as part of the Philly Punk/Hardcore scene. I couldn't deal with him living like he was still homeless in my apartment and eventually the filth got to be too much and I had to ask him to leave. We remained friends and we were even roommates again for a brief time before I moved in with the woman who became my ex-wife. Then we lost touch and I have never seen him again.

My closest friend from childhood, Rick, even came out to stay with me. He was living in London at the time and had gotten into some kind of trouble so I sent him a ticket to fly back to America and gave him a place to stay. He disappeared two days later and I haven't seen him since.

Recently, the woman who had been my closest friends since I was 29 got married. I did too so I can't blame it all on her. Since we had been in love with each other for many years, our friendship just could not continue with both of us now married. So, another friendship came to an end. I doubt whether she will remain in Las Vegas or whether we will ever speak again. Another one bites the dust.

In the end, it all comes down to family. My mother, my grandmother, my wife, my children. These are the only friends I can always count on. They are the only ones who will always be with me. Until, one day, I have to say goodbye to them too in some solemn graveyard or by my own bedside as I breathe my last breath. Then, I will loose them too.

It is easy to understand why there is such a powerful human longing for God and an afterlife where we are reunited with all of our loved ones. It must be an amazing comfort even if it is an illusion. Santa Clause is an illusion too, but yet for a child, few things can compare to the wonder and joy and magic of Christmas. God is the friend who does not move away, who you don't loose contact with, who you don't grow apart from, who doesn't die. Every bit as comforting and reliable as Santa Clause on Christmas morning but for the believer, Christmas lasts all year long all day long. But just as we outgrew Santa Clause and had to face the reality that Mom and Dad were the only magic on Christmas morning, I think mankind will have to grow up too and face the fact that we, each other, your fellow humans, are the only magic in our lives.

We have to learn to deal with the losses and the disappointments like adults. We have to learn to accept that things change and embrace that by continuing to look for new friends, by expanding our definitions of family, and by accepting death and loss as an inevitable consequence of living and not trying to hide from it behind imaginary friends. That old axiom, "It is better to have loved and loss than to never have loved at all." is a truism. It is better. Every friend who has come into my life has enriched it and even if I never see any of them again, I would not trade a minute of my time with any of them. It is hard to say goodbye, so I will simply say, farewell. I wish you all good luck on your journeys and all the happiness and success due to you and maybe even a little more that you don't deserve. I hope to see you all again some day, but if our paths never cross again, I will keep your memories always and you will all be there with me on the day I finally leave you.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Seeds



"When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become."
-Louis Pasteur

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Own Ten Commandments

In Christian Mythology, The Ten Commandments are the ten moral laws given to Moses directly from God. They are commonly understood to be:

1.)"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments."

2.)"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name."

3.)"Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day."

4.)"Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."

5.)"Thou shall not murder."

6.)"Neither shall you commit adultery."

7.)"Neither shall you steal."

8.)"Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor."

9.)"Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife."

10.)"Neither shall you desire your neighbor's house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."


Let's assume that they are not in order of importance. Let's hope anyway. I'd hate to think people really believed that saying "God-damnit!" is worse than committing murder. The first three are pretty much throw-aways. Most Christians don't even put the same level of importance on keeping the Sabbath holy and not saying the Lord's name in vain as they used to. Most certainly wouldn't stone a man to death for working on Sunday as Moses did in Numbers 15 of the Old Testament. These first three commandments seem to be little more than example's of the jealousy and insecurity typical of Old Testament Deity. The remaining commandments still leave much to be desired.

Almost every religion and culture on earth at the time these rules were authored already had laws forbidding, theft, murder, purgery, and slander. There were few cultures that considered disobeying or disrespecting your parents and lusting after your neighbor's wife or possesions a virtue. I can just imagine The Supreme Being with his infinite intellect finally appearing to the world and his sheep looking up to him and asking, "How should we live? What is good and what is evil?" and him answering: "Ummm... well... you shouldn't kill each other. That would definitely be wrong. Oh! And don't steal from each other or fuck each other's wives either. That's not cool."

"Yeah. Thanks God. We sort of figured that much out already."

I don't know, I would have just expected something a bit more profound from an all-knowing being. For that reason, and in keeping with the idea that the morality of society is constantly evolving towards an ideal in which every individual's success and prosperity is maximized, I have decided to write my own set of commandments for the modern age.

1.) Love and Honor yourself. Do nothing which would pointlessly endanger your mental, physical, or emotional health, or otherwise negatively impact your quality of life unless it is for the larger goal of bettering or preserving the overall quality of life for all humanity or a neccessary risk toward the goal of improving or preserving your own quality of life.

2.) Love and Honor your fellow man. Do nothing which would needlessly cause harm or otherwise inhibit or negatively impact the quality of life of your fellow human beings, unless it is in retailation for or to prevent them doing harm to you or another human being. Yet, always act towards the betterment of humanity.

3.) Cherish, protect, and provide for your family.

4.) Fulfill your potential. Strive always towards the highest possible state of mental, physical, and emotional perfection, whatever that is for you, and strive to help others fulfill their own highest potential as well. Do not willing indulge or abide anything which inhibits your potential.

5.) Live always as if your every action were to become the moral standard for all of humanity and the example you would have all others follow.

6.) Never stop learning, questioning, and examining. Reason is humanity's greatest gift and to inhibit reason or subjugate it to illusion and untested untestable belief is the highest sin. Know as much about yourself and this world and universe as is possible and share what you have learned with as many as possible.

7.) Love and accept the diversity of humanity. Tolerate and cherish differences in races, sex, sexual prefferences, and opinions and never discriminate, prejudge, or oppress on the basis of these differences.

8.) Teach your children with an eye towards the future and encourage them to grow beyond you. Do not indoctrinate them to a rigid belief system but allow them to disagree with your ideas and teach them how to reason and evaluate evidence and think for themselves. Humanity is like fruit and when it ceases to grow it begins to rot.

9.) Value the future of humanity beyond your own lifetime.

10.) Be happy. Life is brief.

It is interesting to note that as basic as these few commandments are and as much as most of modern society would now agree with them, most religions, including Christianity, would consider these sinful. The idea that we were to treat even those who were not members of our same religious groups with love and tolerance or that we were not to oppress members of different races, nationalities, genders, or sexual orientations alone would be unthinkable to the Abrahamic religions like Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. And allowing a child to think for themselves and form their own opinions about religion and philosophy would be heresy. Many political groups would take issue with these ideas as well. But yet many of you, who see so clearly how harmless and beneficial these ideas are, belong to those same religions and poltical organizations that would demonize them. Interesting indeed.

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion."
- Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
-Blaise Pascal

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Cylce of Four

There is a cycle I have noticed in relationships. I call it the fourxfourxfour. Four weeks, four months, or four years. That's how long it takes for things to change. That's when typically all those little things that your lover once thought were so sweet and wonderful, the things that "You didn't have to do" the "Oh my God! You shouldn't have!" type things, become what is expected of you. That's when you discover that those little personality quirks that you thought your lover liked about you or at least didn't mind and accepted become the very things threatening to destroy the relationship. That's when "You're so intense!" becomes "You're too intense!" That's when "Oh my God, you are so sexual!" becomes "Why do we have to have sex every night? Can't we just rest tonight?" That's when "I love how hard-working and ambitious you are." becomes "You work too hard. I never get to spend time with you." When the confidence she used to love becomes the cockiness she hates. When "I love how she wants to spend every moment with me." becomes "She won't give me a moment's peace!" When "I love big men!" becomes "get off me I can't breathe!" Okay, you get the point.

In my considerable experience, with most women this happens in the first four weeks. With others, it takes four months. And with a modest few, four years. I'm told it is about the same with men. If it happens after four weeks then move on. It will only get worse. If it happens after four months, then you need to weigh it out and see how much time you really want to invest in this and if it is worth the effort to try and turn it around. The real pain in the ass is when it happens after four years.

After four years you've invested considerable time into the relationship. I'm assuming you've probably already discussed marriage. You may even be married and you might already have kids and own property together. At the very least, joint bank accounts. Even if none of that is true, the emotional investment is quite large. So what do you do when you start noticing all these changes? What do you do when the complaints become more frequent and the romance and affection increasingly scarce? How do you get it back?

You seriously expect me to answer this question don't you? I mean, who the fuck am I? I've ruined more relationships than most people ever dream of having. Still, I've had some good ones and I've addressed this issue on many many occassions. Once or twice I've even solved it successfully. All I can tell you is what worked for me when I was willing to do it.

The real issue is that not every man or woman is the same. So, if you're looking for one cure-all solution like "Bring her roses" or "Let him watch football when he wants to" or "Write her love notes" or "Wear a tight mini-skirt with no underwear and bend over the minute he walks through the door, grab your ankles and say, 'Come and get it Daddy!'" You won't find it here. Though any one of those might just be the answer. The real solution is the simplest and the hardest. Listen. Find out what he or she wants and set your ego aside long enough to give it to him or her. Don't worry about what he or she did or didn't do for you. Just go ahead and give him or her what he or she wants. Don't worry if it makes you feel stupid or insecure or submissive or dirty or like a kiss-ass. Just do it.

Most of you know exactly what your man or woman wants. You know. You just don't do it, because you think it's stupid or that they shouldn't want that or because you think they should understand that it makes you uncomfortable to do that or because they should know that you think that's boring or silly or that you've worked hard all day and you're tired. So you don't do it. How's that working out for you? Do what you've always done and you will get what you've always gotten.

Remember when you first hooked up with your lover? Remember when you were willing to make a fool of yourself to make her happy? Remember when you didn't mind feeling a little dirty? Remember when it didn't matter how tired you were or how hard you'd worked that day or what you had to get up early and do the next day or whether you thought that music was stupid or you thought that movie was boring or you thought that gift was too expensive? Remember that? You need to find that again. You want someone else to change? You first.

Here's a little tip: Those lovers that change after four years are the rare ones and when they are gone you're back to the four weekers or the four dayers or the four hours and if you're lucky you'll find someone who can keep the lie up for four months before turning into Dr. Hyde. Years can go by before you find another someone who can remain just as passionate at four years as they were at four days.

Why do they change in the first place? Complacency, Routine, Monotony, Familiarity, or because you changed first. So, break the routine. Keep some mystery. And keep your own passion going.

I have this dream of what a relationship should be. Tell me what you think of it. I think the perfect relationship is one in which no one worries about themselves or their own best-interest. The perfect relationship is one in which you can completely trust that your lover is looking after your best interest so there's never a need to think about yourself. All you need to do is think about the other person, work on anticipating their needs and providing them. Think back to your very first love and I bet the relationship felt something like that. Then your lover let you down. They did something selfish, something that was not in your best interest and you learned that you had to look out for yourself or else you'd get hurt and you carried that into your next relationship and the next and the next. Now, when you enter a relationship, you pretend to be that person you were the first time you ever fell in love, the one who lives only for your lover's smile and thinks nothing of themselves. But that's all an act. That's not really you any more. And that fourxfourxfour just marks the limits of your endurance. That marks how long you can keep up the illusion of self-less love. Maybe if nothing goes wrong after four weeks you start to believe in love again and it stretches into four months, then, even when little things start going wrong, your hope carries you for another four years before you crack and go back to your old selfish cynical self. Maybe it's the opposite, and you've been selfish and cynical all along and your lover is the one who has managed to keep hope alive for four long years waiting for you to change before he or she finally gave up and started following your example and looking out for themselves. Either way the answer is the same. Change back.

Try being that loving, giving, romantic, passionate, selfless person you were the first time you ever fell in love and see what happens. If it doesn't work then kick their selfish asses to the curb! You're too good to waste time with some trifling asshole who doesn't appreciate you. There's no better cure for an old love than a new one.