What is success? Some think money, some think fame. Others think health, perhaps even notoriety. In the fading light of this Tuesday eve, I humbly propose that success is truth – the truth of being alive, the love of those around you, acknowledgement of this beautiful planet we live on. To be successful is to live in grateful wonder at how lucky we are, and to live with truth as a smile on our face, a light lit forever in our immortal, beating hearts.

Whatever. A great word. A disclaimer against anything; a short, sharp and sweet linguistic up-yours. But it’s rough, too. Possesses a sharp bite, and in some circumstances causes foulness to reign over fairness.

So the other day, I was lamenting something. Whatevering it, really, which means to reduce something to insignificance by not making it my problem. The problem is, the problem remains my problem; whatevering it is simply a way of putting it under the bed to grumble, rather than facing it head-on.

Then, in a recent parking-lot epiphany, a new reality came to me: Water-ever. Now, what the hell is water-ever? Consider this: If asked what the most successful thing around is, what would you say? Dirt, cockroaches, money? I’m going to say water.

To start, we are water. If you’re able to read this, I don’t need to explain this to you. In addition to water forming the fabric of us, it can adapt to anything pertinent to our reality: any state, shape, or environment. Yeah, pretty darn successful.

Also, water is eternal. It was here before us, is us, and will be here after we’re gone.

So, if you put what we are (water) together with eternity (forever), you get water-ever.

Get it?

Next time I lament anything, get pissed off, hate the world and its injustices… water-ever, man. Yes, things aren’t always rosy, but if you can align your reaction with universal perspective (water-ever), you’re probably going to be a little happier than if you whatevered it.

So, here’s wishing you a water-ever day!

I was fourteen years old, sitting in my English classroom one Wednesday morning, goofing around with friends. Our young, female teacher that year was very idealistic, as well as quite hyper. She liked to talk, and that morning was no different. She got going about how happy she was, all because a relative unknown had swept the charts at the Grammy Awards the night before. It was then that I heard the name Alanis Morissette for the first time. She’d received acclaim for her debut album Jagged Little Pill, which I was completely in the dark about.

Fourteen is a sensitive age, and while intrigued by the idea of a new female force on the music scene, I also felt intimidated. I mean, Jagged Little Pill? To me that sounded like a declaration of war. Upon hearing the single You Oughta Know, the avatar of a bitter, angry woman circled round my thoughts, only to get relegated to a shady corner of mind.

As the years rolled by and I thawed to life, Ms. Morissette continued releasing material that sort-of charmed the ears, as well as felt suitably softer than her debut offerings. In spite of this, I still couldn’t remove a block I had against her, there an ongoing vixen-ness about her that continued doing dark, ambiguous incantations in the vaults of my soul.

And only now, twenty years after Jagged Little Pill, have I caught up with what she already knew then. Take the single Hand in my Pocket as an example. It’s a four-minute treatise on what it means to be youthful in the world, an anthem for the unspoken loves and disappointments that accompany that time. I now realize that what I’d labeled to be angry and bitter when fourteen years old has returned to me as intelligent realism, and I’m inclined to think that its soulful orator is a genius beyond-her-time.

To illustrate my point, find a dark, quiet place and put on some headphones. Plug them in, load up Hand in my Pocket, and offer it your undivided attention. Train your ears on the omnipresence of its words, and don’t feel afraid to fall in love with its songstress. It’s a trip, man, to think that for twenty years I’d considered her to be something scary, something to avoid.

Truth be told, she now occupies a haloed light in my mind. By simply doing what she does, she’s taken me on a twenty-year journey akin to an intimate relationship, not in the sense that we’ve shared any face time, but rather that she’s so effortlessly brought such honest light to my life. Thank you, Ms. Morissette.

To do, or not to do? This question riddles the minds of millions the world over, the idea that to propagate one’s love, the species, or to simply satiate familial or social pressure, one should find a way to bring another human being into the world.

It’s a scary thing to read how the world’s population has exploded in recent history. A hundred years ago, the number of human beings on Earth was lodged at around 2 to 3 billion. Now, we’re at a hefty 7.5 billion people (and counting). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what factors have contributed to this: the leaps and bounds taken in agriculture, improved medical care, and industrialization have all made life more sustainable, healthier, as well as more comfortable.

This returns us to the question: To do, or not to do? I have two children, and if you ask me why, it’s difficult to give you a straight answer. They weren’t conceived to necessitate some sort-of union between my wife and I; that was already there. I also didn’t feel the need to keep up with the Joneses; if everyone was having babies, I’d go out of my way not to do, preferring instead to live the experience vicariously.

For me, it verged on an ‘ontological awakening’. About three years before my son was born, I felt a tugging at my genes and consciousness that said having children was my destined path. I already knew the responsibility this would require: the sleepless nights, persistent distractions, any smidgen of freedom relegated to fast-disappearing myth. Yup, upon reasoning it out, having children intimates (as well as requires!) a level of self-sacrifice that isn’t for everyone.

Yet it still occurs, the world over, on a scale that registers at two people added to the population roster EACH SECOND. Aye Karumba! Perhaps if off-planet colonization was a reality, this contemplation wouldn’t be so scary. For now, it’s still happening, which gives rise to the question: What world will our children inherit in ten, twenty, fifty years? Will we still have a world? It’s a slippery slope, and in that reality our answer might lie.

You see, life is a grand old dame, delivering time and again in spite of all hardships and travails. Whether you’re born to royalty or paupers, suffering is the great equalizer, and from it we’re gifted its opposite: Joy, predicated on Love and Being. Yes, in spite of living with persistent anxiety over how much ‘quality time’ we might have, we as a species aren’t blind to what an absolute trip life is, and to experience it is far better than not doing so. And that’s why, in spite of hurtling through time-and-space quicker and more confusingly than ever, we continue to have kids, doing our best to make the beautiful madness continue, unabated. And while I’m not the most qualified person to give advice on having kids, I will say that it’s pure joy, and that I’ve been truly blessed beyond all measure.

 

Vampires. A potent search word if you’re looking to direct traffic to your site.

Coffee. An eternal friend, a hug for the soul.

Do these elixirs of modern being have a link? Hell if I know, I’m just jooped up on caffeine and decided to see if I could write an article with them side-by-side.

I’ll start with vampires. I don’t know heck about them, except for the fact that they (used to) live in castles, sleep in coffins, drink peoples’ blood, and usually had pasty complexions (oh, and there’s that thing about garlic too, right?) If that remains the status quo I don’t know, and I have neither the time nor inclination to catch up on vampire lore via any of the billions of books for sale about them on Amazon.

Why are they so popular? Could it be that they lurk as guardians to the subconscious, the keepers of night you’d never be surprised to meet in a dark forest, alleyway, or nightmare? Do they represent the fringe of reality, a place where the lines blur and the humdrum of economic reality melts away into a sensual mix of instinct and psychological complexity – a wet dream painted hemoglobin? Some might even call them incarnations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mysterious green light found in The Great Gatsby, that elusive beacon of understanding the main protagonist so desperately seeks yet never finds. I’ve also heard them referred to as the personification of the Question Mark, this logically predicating the frenzy that occurs whenever a new movie or killer-novel about them hits the best-seller charts.

As for coffee, well that’s closer to my heart. I wasn’t much of a java-fiend in my youth, and only started chugging them down when I became a teacher. I found it sharpened me in a consistently dependable way, and when expending the kind of energy I did back then, I needed an elixir to stay at the top of my game. While I don’t teach with the same vivacity now, the coffee hangover has remained, and I go Hair-of-the-Dog multiple times daily.

Beyond this, I’m a writer, and one that enjoys weighty, epic themes. The fiction that I write explores themes key to my heart, charting waves of birth, death, reincarnation and absolution with a vigor that seeks to inform as well as inspire. But never, ever in the course of my writing have I contemplated using a vampire (or set of them) as central to a story. Thinking about it, could it be such a bad thing to use one (addicted to coffee, of course), and let said character detail the crux of thirsting for blood while terrified of Vitamin D? Hell, am I selling myself on vampires all of a sudden!?  Yup, strong coffee does that to you…