Coming to terms with the complexity of life and the fear of death

I thought I’d write a lighthearted, cheery post, sort of a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year ahead, so naturally, I wrote (and made a video) about how complicated life is and how we’re all afraid of dying, but we shouldn’t be, because zombies and vampires… Wait, what?!

“We trouble our life by thoughts about death, and our death by thoughts about life.” ― Michel de Montaigne

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much… The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” ― Seneca

“You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing any action – that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one.” ― Plato

Here’s (more or less) what I talked about in the video.

Whatever your beliefs about life after death, one thing is for certain: this life you’re living now will end within the span of a few decades. That’s pretty short and it’s no wonder we have a hard time dealing with that notion.

I’d like to submit to you that one way we grapple with death is through the introduction of death-less characters into popular culture. Nowadays, those characters are vampires and zombies. We call both of them undead and we’ve made up all sorts of fiction to explain their existence and ways they survive this event that scares us so much. And yet, neither character is something we’d choose rationally, if we were faced with that choice. Both vampires and zombies must continually kill in order to survive and in that sense, they’re terribly selfish: they sacrifice the lives of many innocent others in order to preserve themselves. In escaping death, they force it upon others. And zombies, those putrescent, barely alive corpses, are never first on anyone’s list of ways to prolong existence.

Both these characters though, are ways in which we’re not only dealing with the question of death, but with the question of life. Both offer simplified ways to view and treat an existence which many of us find to be complicated and stressful. Zombies are the perfect example. Instead of dealing with life’s mind-numbing complexity and options, upon becoming a zombie, you have only one option: eat brains. That’s it. No more jobs, bills, taxes, children, etc. Vampires are a bit more complicated and I think that is because they were invented earlier, in the 19th century, whereas zombies, as a manifestation of popular culture, only appeared midway through the 20th century. The more complicated real life will be, the more simplistic the escapism tends to be.

If we’re to stack these deathless characters by level of complexity against others invented throughout history, we find them on the lower rungs of life. If we step back in time, we find that people invented many deathless gods, most of which led far more interesting and complex lives than the humans who believed in them. But as life started to move faster and became more complex and harder to deal with, as we experienced world wars that terrified and scarred entire continents, we began to look for simpler characters and the unfortunate “best” we came up with were blood-sucking parasites that slept in coffins and blabbering, putrid corpses that dragged their rancid meat through cities and the countryside looking for brains. It’s quite sad really, to see where we’ve arrived.

I for one miss the more lofty deathless characters of old, gods who lived interesting, full lives, were articulate, powerful, higher and better than man (though sometimes just as petty and vindictive) and gave us something to look up to. Now we’ve got coffin-sleepers and tomb-climbers… It makes for good escapism through books, TV shows and movies but it does not make for a good alternative to death, nor does it ultimately help us deal with the complexity of life. Instead, we end up terrifying ourselves even more with the various “end of days” scenarios that are fed to us when we watch or read about these characters.

There’s no easy solution to this. Life is only getting faster and more complex. At least it seems that way, because we haven’t yet learned to filter all that is coming our way, and we haven’t learned to only deal with things that are of immediate concern to us. That’s what people did 100 years or more before our time. They didn’t have access to all that we have now. We should do the same. Just because we can have access to something, it doesn’t mean we should introduce it into our lives. We need to turn off the TV more often, put our phones away and spend more time with our selves, getting to know who we are, developing the skills that we deem valuable, exploring nature, sitting in silence. This won’t take us all the way, but it’ll put us in a much better place so we can deal with life. As long as we continue to be terrified by its complexity and by its quickly-approaching end, we’ll continue to look for quick fixes that are sorely inadequate and unrealistic, grotesque versions of ourselves that end up inflicting yet more of the pain and suffering that’s been scaring us but (in theory) take us out of the routine of daily living and offer us a simpler way to see our existence.

Dealing with anger

I’d like to help those of you who like me, are dealing with anger issues, and I also want to add a few original pieces of advice to the growing body of self-help articles and techniques for anger management. That is why I made this video.

What follows is a close transcript of what I said in the video.

First, you’ll want to ask what anger is, because the definition varies based on the kind of anger you feel.

There’s normal anger. It’s normal for everyone to get angry every once in a while. That kind of anger can even be used for good, such as to spur you on to make changes for the better in your life.

There’s also the bad kind of anger, the kind that takes over you, makes you ready to explode and hurt someone. It’s the kind where you lose control and do things you regret afterwards. It’s the kind of anger that scares others and even yourself, because you don’t know what you’ll do once it takes over. This is the bad anger. You have to take care of this anger, you have to fix yourself so you don’t get this angry anymore, before you do something that you might regret for the rest of your life.

The first step when you find yourself angry is to get on top of the anger. Realize you’re still in control. That’s why we have these large brains with a very well developed cortex. We have the power to get on top of our base instincts. It takes a lot of effort but it can be done. If you feel you can’t do it, do the next best thing: get away from the situation. Walk away, get as far away as you need in order to stop feeling the tension of that situation and begin to calm yourself down.

Once you’re calm, you may choose to have a discussion about what caused the anger. Obviously, this only works in situations where the other person or persons are available and amenable to such things. Stay objective, DO NOT BLAME the other but express what triggered your anger and what you and the other person can do to avoid that sort of trigger in the future.

You can also choose to work out your anger through physical exercise. I’ve done this myself but let me tell you, it only works when you’re not that angry. When you’re so angry you’re bordering on mad, you can work out all you want, the anger will still be there and you may also risk physical injury to yourself, because you’ll be tempted to push your body beyond its limits in order to spend that anger inside you.

Anger is disruptive at best and can be lethal at worst — lethal to you or to others. You can easily have a heart attack or a stroke when you’re angry and the effects of those incidents can be temporary or permanent. You can also easily injure or kill others when you’re in a fit of anger, because you’re not in control of yourself, you’re pumped up on fight or flight hormones and capable of greater physical strength than normal.

So it behooves you to control your anger, to find out what triggers it and to work on yourself in order to find out the underlying causes for your anger. It may be that you’re just naturally irritable, it may be that your upbringing caused you to be angry, because you were abused or mistreated or your family dealt just as terribly with anger, giving you a bad example that you’re now mirroring.

Look for a good CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) practitioner. CBT has been proven, time and time again, to work much better than medication. Something that helped me is Ferasa. It’s an ancient Arabic face reading practice. The Ferasa practitioner is trained to look at the subtle movements of the muscles in your face and to sense what you are feeling, then he will ask you questions that will cause you to eventually find your problems and face them. The thing is, you can’t hide what you’re feeling or thinking from a knowledgeable Ferasa practitioner. He will continue to ask you probing questions until you are forced to deal with your problems.

The point is not to ball up in a fetal position and cry about how much of a victim you are. That’s not productive and it won’t solve your anger. The point is to find out what’s causing your anger and acknowledge that cause to yourself, fully. You want to own that cause and you want to say to yourself, over and over, until it sticks, that what happened is in the past, that you accept it, that you forgive yourself and the others involved, and that you’re moving on. That you’re an adult now, that you have a good life, that you are a good person and that you are choosing to behave rationally and considerately, each and every day.

It will also help to have a regular physical exercise schedule, at least 2-3 times per week, and it will also help you to meditate at least 5 minutes in the morning. It’s much better to do it in the morning, because you’ll be starting your day by calming yourself down. And you may also find that you’ll want to do a 5 minute meditation at night, to close out the day, where you acknowledge the good and the bad situations that happened that day and you promise yourself to do better the next time.

The care of our bodies

In this follow-up to my post entitled “Stewardship or possession“, I talk about the care of our bodies, which in a way are our ultimate possessions. How do we and how should we regard and care for our bodies? We each only get one body during our lifetimes. How do we want to spend our last years of life? As invalids, caught in a painful, dreary existence or as vibrant individuals who are still able to move around, spend meaningful time with others and travel to see the world?

Stewardship or possession?

What’s the healthier, saner way to view that which have or enjoy?

Should you regard it as a possession or should you see yourself as a steward of it? What’s the better long-term approach to these matters? Join me for a (non-religious) discussion of the subject in this video. I’ll talk about various topics related directly to this subject, such as the relationship between husband and wife, one’s home, business and other “possessions”, such as cars, furniture, clothes, etc.

I hope this helps you!

The story of a pair of shoes


I’ve owned these monk-strap shoes for over 10 years. I photographed them this morning for the purposes of this post. These are one of the pairs of shoes I use around the house for all kinds of work: home office, going to the cellar to fetch firewood, going into the dusty attic to put or get various things, renovation work, etc.

I used them last night as we mounted this restored door frame back in place, as I used a miter saw in the cellar, carried the various parts up to the house, used a nail gun to secure them in place and assemble the frame.


You can see these same shoes in this video.

I also used them when I built our garden shed in Florida.

In spite of all the wear and tear I’ve put them through over the years, a little elbow grease always gets them looking great, and that’s a testament to the craftmanship of the shoemaker. The brand (Mario Calugi) isn’t as important here as the lesson to be learned from the experience.

Lots of people make a big stink about how wearing leather contributes to animal cruelty but the truth of the matter is, using every little bit of an animal that’s going to get sacrificed for its meat anyway, is the right thing to do.

Furthermore, taking proper care of your belongings, especially the ones made from other beings (because animals are beings, not things) is crucial and it is part of showing respect for the sacrifice of that animal, for the protection its skin profers you and for the hard work that went into making the finished good you now have in your possession.

Good leather lasts a lifetime if you take care of it. Great shoes also last a lifetime if you take care of them. Yes, it means changing the soles when they wear out, it means treating the leather and polishing it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s part of being a good, responsible human being to take care of your stuff. Please do it.

Something wonderful happened last night

I want to share something with you, something wonderful that happened last night. Read on, it’s worth it.

Around 4 pm, the water company turned off the water for the entire city due to emergency repairs. Late at night, they turned it back on but it was full of silt and mud, so we let the faucets run to clear the pipes. I went back to my work and Ligia took Sophie to bed.

About an hour later, I got up from my desk and went to see if the water was clear enough to take a shower. To my surprise, the entire kitchen was flooded with about 1-2 cm of water. The kitchen sink had run over. There I was at 11:15 at night, faced with having to mop up all that water when all I wanted to do was to take a shower and hit the sack.

I got the mop and the bucket and got to work, grumbling to myself about the water company and the sink and the pipes and the dirty water and my luck.

A few minutes later, Sasha (one of our cats) came into the kitchen, stepped right onto the wet floor (you know cats, they avoid water) and started looking at me. She even drank some of it.


As I looked at her, I was suddenly reminded of one of my favorite cartoons featuring Tom and Jerry, entitled “Mice Follies”, released in 1954. In it, Jerry and Nibbles (his nephew) flooded the kitchen and froze it with the aid of the refrigerator in order to create a skating rink. Tom naturally pursued them, leading to lots of pratfalls, pranks and laughter.




That wonderful memory of a wonderful cartoon was enough to wipe the slate clean for me. All of a sudden, a late-night disaster was an opportunity to enjoy the moment. My attitude toward it changed completely and I began to enjoy mopping up all that water. I half expected Jerry and Nibbles to tiptoe into the kitchen holding a couple of refrigerator wires in hand, ready to freeze it.


It took about 45 minutes to get all the water mopped up. All of the cats joined me by the end, entranced by the circular movements of the mop through the water. I even started a roaring fire in the kitchen stove to keep me company. I had a blast and went to bed with a smile on my face.


Isn’t it amazing how differently we can perceive the same event if our attitude toward it changes? We can complain and grumble or we can smile and enjoy ourselves thoroughly doing the very same thing. And of course it helps if we also love Tom and Jerry cartoons!

Introducing “The Elegant Gentleman”

I’d like to present a new project of mine, something that I’ve been thinking about and planning for a while. It’s called “The Elegant Gentleman”, and it’s going to be a journey on which I’ll hope you’ll join me, where we will explore clothes, manners and the finer things in life, in the search for a noble, enlightened existence as gentle-men, in this modern world of ours where stress and busy-ness seem to dominate the lives of those around us.


Naturally, we won’t have an enlightened existence without the inner search for higher ideals. A preoccupation with “the finer things” alone will leave you empty in the end. But the practice and appreciation of character traits that ennoble us, and the search for meaning and happiness in the world around us, will make us enlightened. And I’ll tell you a little secret: when the search begins within and reaches outside, those “finer things” will begin to have a meaning that enriches our lives and helps us stay on a higher plane of living.

This all sounds somewhat esoteric, and on some level, it is. That’s why there are so few true gentlemen in the world. So won’t you join me as we seek membership in this exclusive club? The journey will be the initiation ceremony. The dues will be the experiences we will each have. And the reward will be a life better lived, a life worth living, a life full of wonderful memories for us and for those around us.

I’ll be creating and posting videos to my YouTube channel. Here’s the first one of the series:

And I’ll be posting frequently on my Facebook Page, and writing articles here on my site, where I’ve added a new category, called… you guessed it, “The Elegant Gentleman“. There’s even a website by the same name.

See you soon! Cheers!