Every Conversation Ever

Hello. How was your weekend?

We owe it to each other not to be boring. Our behavior becomes uninteresting when our actions lose variety and purpose. I see this apparent in the daily conversations I have with people. We keep hitting the same notes.

Here is what conversations with me tend to sound like lately:

Me: I generally acknowledge your presence.

You: I acknowledge your acknowledgment and am ready to begin conversation.

Me: List for me all relevant items regarding your well-being.

You: My family, friends, and work are all fine. How about you?

Me: Nothing of note at this time.

You: I’m enthusiastic about this one specific thing that is in the news.

Me: I’ve heard of this same thing. I have opinions on that.

You: Yeah, I’m pretty enthusiastic myself.

Me: But what about this other thing I found out about on the Internet?

You: Is this the thing that everyone is talking about?

Me: Yes.

You: I don’t have an opinion on that.

Me: (pause)

You: I might possibly have other things to do right now. Coincidentally, this is a good place to end the conversation.

Me: You can leave after I list a few more things I am enthusiastic about.

You: I’m listening.

Me: Movies.

You: Uh-huh.

Me: Video games.

You: Right.

Me: Music.

You: Sure.

Me: I’m now ready to leave this conversation.

You: I acknowledge I might see you at some future point.

Me: I’m not wholly opposed to that. We should have another conversation at that time.

Pretty much every conversation I have nowadays ends up following this format. Sure, people provide a little variety with their own unique personalities, but what is accomplished is basically the same. We meet each other, we say whatever is on our minds, and then we leave as politely as possible. Have we truly created anything worthwhile with this?

I recognize the majority of people I engage with are not close to me on a personal level. However, that doesn’t mean my conversations with them have to be basic and safe. I want my words to have purpose. I seek to educate people with my ideas. I wish to change their minds on certain subjects. I hope to motivate people to live out their full potential in different areas. Words can be more than just hot air escaping the body.

This was fun. We should talk again soon.

 

 

The Problem with Ethics

Speaking about this is the right thing. I think.

You can’t have a blog discussing human behavior without giving your thoughts on ethics. Ethics motivate us to behave better and to consider the effect we have on others. Without ethics we would be concerned solely with our own welfare with no thought to the consequences of our actions. In other words, I do not seek to simply be functional in society but to also contribute to it in a positive way.

Defining right and wrong is difficult. Everyone has their own preferences and levels of tolerance. Still, it’s important to decide for ourselves what counts as good judgment. I will offer at least some of my ideas on how to measure goodwill.

In an ideal world everything would be fair. No one would lose to another. However, the world isn’t fair. Some lose and others win. To let others win we must first lose something. That’s the nature of winning. Choosing one path means we lose the opportunity to walk the other. You can’t choose to be a winner and a loser. You can’t sacrifice and gain what you lost at the same time. There is no choice without consequence.

Some of the consequences we trigger cause others to lose. We rob them a win. You can call this hurt or pain. Fairness demands this imbalance be corrected. Balance is restored when the win and the loss are switched. There are two ways I can think of to restore balance. You can either forgive the person who made you lose something or you can demand that they lose something. Either way, someone has to come off as either a winner or a loser if there is to be peace.

This definition should suffice. All I am trying to say is being the better man is not easy. I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer because of me, but I also want to earn my fair share in life. Is it wrong to want to win? Still, I worry about how other people are doing. There are people who can’t win without my help. What must I sacrifice to lift others up?

Think about what makes something good in your eyes. Try to incorporate as many viewpoints as you can. Ethics mean nothing if they don’t apply to everyone. It’s fair that way.

Object of Desire

Don’t objectify me. Only my friends get to do that.

I’ve always felt people rank me lower than I deserve. Most don’t get excited to see me. They’ll compliment me on my talents and laugh at my jokes, but never make any attempt to keep me in their lives. In short, they would use me with no regard to my true worth.

The animal kingdom doesn’t worry about the worth of their fellow organisms. Concepts like honor and dignity are pointless when the only rule is to survive. An animal’s neighbor is viewed simply as either a threat, an ally, a neutral party, or food. I propose that these same relationships exist among human beings.

Threats come in the form of enemies. We naturally respond to them with fear and hate. Allies might be our friends and family whom we treat with love and respect. The neutral party is anyone we pass by in life that doesn’t have any direct bearing on our personal lives. The best we can do for them is to not get in their way.

That leaves the food. The food is anyone we treat like a piece of meat. To be consumed. To satisfy ourselves. These are the people we use up to serve our own ends. The objects of our desires.

I’ve been treated like this in many instances. Women wanting to be in a relationship with me simply to cure their own loneliness. Salesmen treating me like a friend as long as I have money to spend. Political leaders asking for my support and turning their backs to me once they don’t need me anymore. I was desired for my usefulness. I was discarded when I wouldn’t play along.

In some ways I desire to be objectified. Yesterday, my co-worker told me she thought I was cute. I told her I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth but that I wanted to know if she meant I was cute the way baby turtles are cute. She then said when she first met me she told her boyfriend that I was exactly the type of guy she finds attractive. This was a first for me. Nobody told me I was desirable without me having to ask first. It felt good to know I’m not unwanted.

Not every object goes unappreciated. I take good care of all my possessions. My favorite belongings are given a place of honor in my home. So it is with people. I cherish the ones I love. I do desire them for their usefulness, their beauty, and all other pleasant things about them. However, I never forget to honor them as equals and superiors. Sometimes I’m the object and I desperately desire someone to want to possess me. To belong to someone.

Loyal to a Fault

I give up. Just a little bit.

My personality doesn’t allow me to let things go easily. I want to win. Watching people or opportunities slip away feels bad and I work hard to keep that from reoccurring. I’m not the type of person to quit what he starts. However, with age comes experience. I’ve learned that holding on is not always the best strategy.

No rule exists saying I have to finish everything I start. But how much time should I give something before giving up? I flip though the radio channels in my car and if I am not impressed with the music I hear within the first few seconds of listening I will then turn off the radio. I flip through the channels on my television and if the TV shows don’t hook me in within the first few seconds of watching I then turn off the television. Same thing goes for looking at videos on YouTube or reading newspaper articles. If I let every piece of media grab and hold my attention, then there won’t be any time left for myself.

People deserve to be treated with more respect than a piece of media. I wouldn’t drop all contact with a person just because I became bored with them. And I wouldn’t stop being a friend to someone just because they annoyed me. A bond with me is not easily broken. No matter the difficulty, I persevere. So when is the best time to stop being a friend to someone?

I have been in social situations I should have walked away from. Not everything works out and I failed to see the signs of failure. Someone like me who is desperate for connection will often overlook the fact some of his friends are not really friends at all. Hope kept me from leaving. Truth set me free.

Loyalty is only valuable to those who give it. I have been a good friend to many only to receive neglect and scorn in return. True friends are those who remain loyal to each other. If someone does not value the loyalty I give them, then there is not much I can do at that point. I have to let some people go now and then. But I won’t give up on the future. I am loyal to the friends I have yet to meet.

Sorry in Advance

I have a lot of apologies to make. Especially in the future. That’s where the majority of my mistakes or going to be made.

Apologies are part of the human experience. Feelings get hurt and they need to be mended. The nature of our relationship with a person is affected when they make us sad or angry. An apology can correct a lot of wrong when a person shows they are willing to admit fault for their actions or carelessness. Feeling bad about what we did helps others to feel better.

Why do so many people insist on never apologizing? They seek justification for their actions rather than forgiveness. It is impossible to go through life without causing some damage to our surroundings. People are going to get hurt by us. To not care about how our actions affect others is allowing the pain to go in just one direction. The only way to lift someone’s burden is to carry some of the weight.

I hate how the word sorry is abused so frequently. People treat it like a magic word you are supposed to say when you get caught that shuts people up when they are upset. I once got hurt on a playground at school because of another kid’s carelessness. He said sorry over and over again like a mantra. He was hoping I wouldn’t tell the teachers on him. He cared more about not getting into trouble than he did the fact I was bleeding.

I strive to be forgiving of all people, but that doesn’t mean I accept every apology offered to me. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to ignore the fact that people are capable of hurting me. An apology is meant to regain trust. I can’t trust those whom I feel are going to make the same mistakes over and over again. Are we truly sorry if we continue to hurt others? Apologies are meaningless if there is no change in behavior and no desire to make restitution.

Not everyone accepts my apologies. They would prefer to stay mad at me than forgive. Sometimes people say they accept my apology but they still hold onto my mistakes as evidence against me. In these cases, the feelings are not mended. Not much you can do at that point. One sincere apology can be all it takes to keep a relationship alive. It is a shame not everyone is willing to take away the pain.

Name Me

What’s my name? Joseph. My name is Joseph.

I was given the name Joseph in honor of a great man. Don’t call me Joe if you don’t like being corrected. Names only have meaning after we take time to honor them. I think I’m worth both syllables in the name Joseph.

The giving of a name is a significant moment in any circumstance. Someone has to come up with all these names we give to people, places, and things. Names should be given with thought and consideration.

The best way to avoid lame names is to plan out all the names you would consider using in the future. Here are some names you should plan for.

Stage name

Not everyone who gets to be a performer has a cool sounding moniker. Executives are less likely to put your name on a poster if you’re name happens to be Rusty Bucket. Plenty of actors, music artists, and pro-wrestlers choose a stage name that reflects how interesting they are. These names range from simple ones to random words found in the dictionary. John Wayne went with something simple. Meatloaf went with an entrée. If I had to choose a stage name I would go with Lance Phoenix. Nobody would question my masculinity with an alias like that.

Pen name

Sometimes you want to put your work out into the world without having to worry about reputation. Pen names allow you to shift the credit elsewhere. This allows written material to be judged on its own merits and not by the expectations placed on its writer. A good piece of writing shouldn’t be condemned because we happen to know who the author is. Also, we have the right to distance ourselves from a project we feel doesn’t reflect our original vision. Many an Alan Smithee would agree with me. I’m not going to go with a pen name for my works because I want people to know me, but if the need for one arises I could always use Will Wright. Least suspicious name I could think of.

User name

A lot of competition exists for getting the user name you want. No two people can share a user name on the same website. Think of them as serial numbers for people. Another Joseph Meldrum already existed on Twitter and YouTube when I began my social media journey. I had to go with something different. The name I chose for YouTube is Reticent Man. It’s meant to reflect how I don’t write online unless I feel it is worth typing. I wanted to use the same user name on Twitter, but it looks like someone else already thought of Reticent Man. Future generations are going to have a hard time getting the user names they want when we are using up all the clever ones.

Pet name

Names aren’t just for identification. They’re for fun, as well. Not everyone likes pet names, but for those of us who actually enjoy having fun it is a treat. I have already taken thought to all the pet names I don’t like being called. My future wife will not call me honey. I don’t know why, but I have something against being called after the substance that bees regurgitate. In fact, I don’t like being compared to anything animal related. In the other direction, my wife will be worshiped with well thought out pet names. A goddess such as her deserves the best. She’s not my kitty cat or my little muffin. She’s my queen.

Code name

Our welfare often hinges on keeping our identities secret. Speaking in code is necessary even in civilian life. Names need protection just as much as anything else. A code name gives the world something to say while your name is kept safely anonymous. Make your code name enigmatic and mysterious so as to draw focus away from what you are trying to protect. Agent X can’t do his job if he has to worry about people exploiting his secret identity. I could tell you my code name, but that’s a secret.

Superhero name

With great power comes great responsibility to pick a great name. A superhero name says something about the person and embodies who they are. It lets people know what the hero’s cause is or what the hero can do. Most people know me as mild mannered Joseph Meldrum. However, I am also known as Middle Man. I was born as a middle child in the mid-eighties to a middle class family in the middle of nowhere. One fateful day in the middle of September in my mid-thirties I had a mid-life crisis and it gave me the power to come between criminals and their objectives. No evil-doer can thrive when I get in the middle of things. Fear my name, villains, for I am the beginning of your end.

Title

We are born with a name. Some we inherit. Others we are gifted. But it doesn’t end there. Life continues to give us names as we journey to discover who we are. They are badges of honor people give us. I wish to be Joseph the Great. The only way people will call me that is if I live according to the name I hope to be worthy of. In the meantime, I think Joseph is a pretty great name.

A Listening Ear

No complaints here. That’s the problem.

I hear people complain about complaining all the time. They get upset over the fact that someone is upset. I see no logic to this. No one goes through life without getting miffed. The ability to constructively express your dissatisfaction with the world around you is a talent. How can we expect to improve our circumstances if we do not speak out about what is bothering us? How do we improve ourselves if we fail to listen to other people’s complaints?

Many things get in the way of effective complaining. Here are a few.

  1. Amateurs

Communication is a science and an art. Not everyone is skilled in it. We begin our lives as crying children trying to let someone know we need help. As adults we are forced to be more sophisticated in our pleas. A man I encountered at a restaurant said, “Give me ten bucks.” I just walked away. If you’re going to demand my money, then you need to do a better job of convincing me why I should part with it. All of us need help. Figure out how to ask for it with respect.

  1. Noise

We can’t complete all tasks at once. Something has to take priority. Complaining all the time makes it difficult to focus on what is really important. It is harder to ignore one plea for help than a thousand different ones. I only vent my frustrations when I have thoroughly thought out what is bothering me. No one can help me if I don’t fully understand the problem myself. I choose my battles so I don’t end up fighting a needless war.

  1. Fear

People look at you differently when you share your frustrations. You can be labeled a whiner, a crybaby, or a loser for complaining about what ails you. I kept a lot of pain to myself growing up because the people I was surrounded with would criticize, condemn, or mock me. They found me in a moment of vulnerability and went on the attack. My turning to others for help was seen as weakness. Still, today, it isn’t easy to share my opinions to any degree.

Relief

Complaining is power and power alone is neither good nor evil. It is the abuse of that power which creates trouble. Complaining is what we do when we have no real power of our own. If we had the power to solve our problems, then wouldn’t we do that instead of just talking about them? At the same time, complaining brings people together. When people can agree about their frustrations they form groups united in a common cause. Many injustices have been corrected because of those unafraid to point out what is wrong with the world.

The world doesn’t magically get better with time. It improves because someone decides to make a difference. If we take the time to listen, then we have taken one small step in making things better.