PFC Cuming

Private First Class Cuming died on August 21, 2004 when an RPG hit the Humvee he was driving.

I did not know PFC Cuming well. He was in a different section of my unit – a truck driver and I was a mechanic, but I happened to eat breakfast with him on the morning of August 21. He was smiling, excited to go out on a mission. He smiled a lot.

Here’s to you, PFC Cuming. You will never be forgotten.

PFC Cuming Memorial

PFC Cuming Service

Positive Social Pressure

Everything you do either reinforces your friends’ and families’ values or puts pressure on them to change them. For example, my friends apologize when they kill mosquitos because I’ve mentioned that I do my best not to kill living beings. I make sure to say that I am not hurt or insulted by their actions because my values only apply to myself, but they still feel some pressure.

I’ve felt the same pressure and I’m thankful for it. My sister has made me very conscious of water conservation and all she had to do was plant a seed and my mind did the rest. Now every time I run water I think about what she’s said.

Start sharing the change you want to see in the world, without any pressure. Simply sharing it can be enough to make it spread.

Follow Your Senses

One of my favorite things about cooking is how simple it is to integrate your senses into the process. Rarely in my modern life do I need to engage my sense of touch or smell but good cooking relies on both. The pasta is done when it has just the right texture when you chew it. The chicken is done when you smell it from the living room.

You can set timers for each of these while following a recipe but it won’t be as good as if you’d followed your senses. Cooking is one great way to start to get back in touch with your body.

A Drawing

Tonight I drew a picture of my daughter instead of writing (tomorrow might be watercolor):

A Drawing of Emma

Unintended Benefit of Doing the Right Thing

I don’t break the speed limit, I don’t cross a busy street without a walk signal, I follow the rules when I ride my bike, and I have complex work around the house done by professionals. I generally try to do things or get things done the right way. Some of that is the rigidity of my personality – as I’ve posted here before I like rules to remove ambiguity. But there is another benefit – peace of mind.

I don’t have to worry about getting pulled over for speeding or being at fault if I get hit by a car or my water heater exploding because I installed it wrong or any number of the other things that I choose to do right instead of cutting corners. That peace of mind isn’t about having the moral high ground, it is about eliminating fear because fear is something that can keep us from being our best selves.

Connections

Connecting with others requires a caring that leads to learning about others, a shared language, and common ground. The good news is that the simplest connections are easy – we can easily choose to care about the person walking down the street past us and communicate with shared smiles on the common ground of being human.

Deep connections take time. It is much more difficult to care about something over a long period. Words fail to express even the mundane parts of the day to day, serving as a poor form of communication. Body language and tone of voice are powerful aids but much of the time they can further confuse the message. The strongest common ground is similar experiences, the best of which are shared.

Thoughts on Consciousness

A huge cloud of consciousness floats over the land, loosely connected but all the same.

Drops fall from it and land on the ground just long enough to claim their individuality before returning to the nearest stream and joining their brothers and sisters, moving forward together and usually unaware of their bonds. Unaware that they are the same.

They follow the course of the stream, sometimes hopping out as random events push things this way and that. They continue to the ocean, each following their own specific path.

At the end of the journey they evaporate and become part of the larger cloud of consciousness again. Once again remembering that they are all one, if they forgot.

Inside the Frame

I’ve started getting into the basics of photography and shooting video and I’ve noticed something that is probably obvious to most people – in many cases what you see in the frame only shows a fraction of the work being put in to make something of quality.

For an example, I was recently shooting some pictures for a website we are working on. I’d found a picture that had a “feel” that I liked but the cost to license it was beyond our budget. So I staged a similar scene with two qualities in mind, brightness and calm. I think the pictures turned out great, and because viewers can only see what is in the frame, they won’t ever know that I was standing on a metal folding chair over a massage table in the corner of our office crammed less than a foot away from my desk next to a window with the morning sun coming through. They will see brightness and calm.

The same is true for shooting videos with quality audio – the microphone must be within a foot to a foot and a half from the speaker’s mouth but no one wants unsightly microphones in the video shot. So you either put it on a stand or have someone to hold it outside of the camera frame. Until recently I didn’t think about all this effort that went into getting good quality sound in a shot.

This applies to how you see others’ lives also. Like others have said better than I can, you usually only see other peoples’ highlight reel and their finished products. Their hard work and trying times are outside the frame and it is so easy to forget about them. In some cases people do this intentionally – they build up a different view of themselves for the world and most of the world doesn’t dig deeply enough to see the truth. But in most cases it is just not feasible to show all the hard work and tough decisions – can you imagine a realistic rendition of the training from Rocky? You’d be watching a man wake up at the crack of dawn and run and lift weights and train hundreds of times in a row. I’d appreciate the realism but there is no way I’d sit through that.

So after all this rambling, what am I trying to say?

First, if you put up a fa├žade of who you are then you will probably fool most people because they don’t dig deeply. Unfortunately, the ones that do dig deeply are generally the ones who care and will be disappointed in your inauthentic story.

Second, for everything you see that you like in this world, remember the massive amount of work that went into creating it. And remember that you will need to put in a similar amount of thankless work to create your great thing.

David’s Rules - Go Left

This is another post in my series of rules that I use to navigate the ambiguities of life.

When you don’t know which way you should go and there is no map to guide you, go left. Obviously it won’t always take you where you’re going faster, but you are making a decision and moving forward. That is what matters.

Never Been Recruited

Throughout my work life I have worked many different jobs and excelled at most of them. I’m a team player with a strong diverse skill set and very strong work ethic. However, I’ve never had someone try to recruit me to a specific position. Even when I joined the Army, I went to the recruiter and said I wanted to sign up.

Sometimes my ego hurts a bit because of it, but in general I know I’m good at what I do so I don’t worry about it too much. I do wonder about the dynamics of it though – the whys of “Why don’t I get recruited?” and “Why does this person get recruited?”

I know in at least one situation that my friend thought I was too good for the place she worked and so she would never recommend me for it. That’s certainly flattering in a way but a pain when I am out of work. Does my skill set preclude me from some jobs because I’m overqualified? Probably.

I think another factor that weighs in this is that I haven’t been in one particular industry for more than five years and am rarely in any one position more than 18 months. I keep moving up or sideways through companies and then onto the next challenge. That doesn’t make it easy for anyone to classify me in any particular field.

I’ve also always been part of a small team or been the only person on the team. The best way to be able to recommend and recruit someone is to have worked with them before and I just haven’t worked with as many people as anyone who has worked on large teams.

So are these all just excuses? I don’t know. Have you ever recruited anyone to work for or with you? What factors influenced your decision to do so?

Either way, I’m happy about where it has led me, into doing my own thing.