Welcome to the Orwellian Nightmare of the Twilight Zone…but Watch Your Ass

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I imagine a scene in which Rod Serling is standing in a corner, tight-lipped, being broadcast in black and white. In his clipped way of speaking, he introduces the viewers to another dimension. In that world, the laws of common sense are out the window and a skewed perspective has taken their place.

The alternate reality is one in which hyper-violent images flood the screens of every television, computer, and media device. We see corrupt law enforcement officials abuse the power that was granted them to serve and protect its citizens.

People of color, especially black men, are in the crosshairs. There is video footage of unarmed individuals being unnecessarily pepper-sprayed and shot down with folks dying mysteriously while in police custody. But there is always some justifiable reason. Dirty cops are almost guaranteed to get off and most viewers have been brainwashed to declare it business as usual.

We have gone one step beyond. The zone we have entered is that area of nightmare, marked by rapid eye movement, just beneath the surface of waking. It’s a place George Orwell predicted, where the inmates have become their own wardens, and refuse to leave. It’s where we can watch video footage of a white policeman rape a 15-year-old girl and not see it as a racist act; of course, he’ll be considered innocent on all charges until proven guilty.

As a horror author, I can describe many cringe-worthy scenes and flesh out nefarious characters that haunt bad dreams. However, the terror to which we have become numb is worse than any lumbering ghoul or bloodsucking vampire I could create. We have descended into a hell that bonds social experimentation with the police state.

But do not attempt to adjust your television. There is absolutely nothing wrong.

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Dancing for the Organ Grinder v. Pursuing Passion for More than Money

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A few nights ago, my daughter was watching some run-in-the-mill reality show about wannabe Hip Hop stars. The program featured ladies wanting to break into and make strides in a male-dominated field. One of the greatest who ever did it, MC Lyte, was there to help them set up a concert.

For those that don’t know, Lyte was one of the few ladies in the game in the early 1980’s, getting equal respect on the mic as did her male counterparts. So, for her to be on set to serve as a guide for those women wanting to break into the rap game was a serious matter.

But they weren’t ready. When left to them to determine the order, they got into a huge, unproductive disagreement about who was going on first. The argument was that the first few acts wouldn’t get the exposure to the crowd, since some folks tend to show up late.

What they were really revealing was how ill-prepared they were and how little they believed in their own talent. By not seizing the opportunity to start, they were pinpointing their fear and reducing it to a money game.

Passion is about more than money.

Imagine if I would ever be so blessed as to wind up on a panel with the likes of Toni Morrison, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Walter Mosley. Picture them telling me I had to go on first, reading some of my relatively unknown work, preceding those living, literary legends gracing the stage. But, instead of seeing the benefit, I begin to get afraid that their more proven talent would outshine mine. And, in a juvenile move, I incite an argument, showing how little I believe in myself, even in the face of giants.

Some of the best music groups and motivational speakers began giving their all to nearly empty venues. There are preachers who started out honing their craft in front of tiny congregations during a weekday service. However, any potentially great performer would know that people need to hear their creative output, just as speakers know a small audience still needs to be encouraged, just as preachers know there are souls to be saved.

The Bible states that those who are faithful over the few will be made rulers of the many. By not being ever-ready only proves it’s amateur night instead of opening night.

The passion inside has to be so intense, it doesn’t matter if you have to put on a show for a handful or a venue as grand as Wembley Stadium. Playing Carnegie Hall starts with the unshakable belief that you can and will eventually sell out those seats.

I was recently hanging out with a friend over the course of a weekend. He was surprised that, whenever we weren’t doing wings and drinks at the local sports bars, I had my laptop nearby, so I could constantly be writing. He began to think himself a rude host but I assured him that I am a writer and this is what writers do. Whether someone is making a big hype or nobody is around, I’m scribbling, jotting down ideas, and developing plot lines. If you were to sneak up on me, you’d probably catch me writing something.

Find the thing about which you’re passionate. If you have so much devotion to that thing that you do it whether or not money is involved, that’s probably key to your destiny. Don’t be afraid to practice it, hone it, and showcase it at every opportunity. When called upon, don’t hesitate to share it. Be ready and be motivated by more than just money.

After all, only monkeys dance when the organ begins to grind.

Those Back-to-School Blues

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For the first time in a long time, there are no children in my house heading back to school after Labor Day. I remember when my brood contributed to the scourge of rugrats, armed with backpacks and t-squares in droves!

THE SCHOOL BUS NAZIS ARE AFOOT! LOL!

Here’s what you can expect:

– Kids walking in the road, apparently not caring that you’re driving a 2-ton tank that can steamroll their little asses flat!

– School buses EVERYwhere. Even when you take an alternate route to avoid them, the buses will take that SAME route…just to piss you off!

– All 20 of your kids’ teachers will send THE SAME EFFIN’ FORM TO REPEATEDLY FILL OUT!!! Doesn’t the friggin’ art teacher ever talk to the social studies teacher?! Why, in 2016, are we even killing all these trees when we could fill out the info one time online and it be distributed to the teachers who need it?!

– You will be hounded to join the PTA! If you don’t join, members of the PTA will follow you home, beat down your door like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and target you for a hit!!!

– If there is a team or activity to join, your child will always join the one for which the school does not provide transportation (i.e., swim team practice ends at 5:15 and the late buses stop running at 5…)!

– Your child will lose whatever paperwork you have filled out, which means you’ll to have to fill it out again!

– If you send money, even as a check, it WILL be lost!!!

– Your little crumb-snatcher WILL lie to you and say either, “I don’t have any homework,” or “I did it in study hall!” LITTLE SAWED-OFF, BOLD-FACED LIARS!!!

– If there’s a project due post-haste, your child will tell you the NIGHT BEFORE! And it will start off something like this: “Oh, by the way, Daddy, I need $500 worth of poster board, markers, glue, and some other esoteric BS that we don’t have so I can complete this project that determines my final grade–and it’s due TOMORROW!!!”

– In the above scenario, your face will turn beet red as you demand to know why your child didn’t tell you when they first got the project assignment a month ago. The rotten apple of your eye will then shrug his/her shoulders and simply say, “I forgot.”

You see, the whole back-to-school thing isn’t just for your children’s educations; it’s also designed to drive you out of your friggin’ mind!

Parent-teacher conference, anyone?!

The Faith Crutch v. Immediacy of Action

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I already know this is gonna piss some people off. Those who take offense are the very ones who need to read this a couple more times. They’ll be alright, once the swelling goes down.

Many systems of religion existed before Christianity and I would guess many of them will follow in the centuries to come.

I was raised in the church and have no problem with having faith in a Higher Power, the Universe, or God. In the words of the Doobie Brothers, “Jesus is just alright with me.”

He really is.

In the days of antiquity, mankind was afraid of everything. Being at the behest of predators, parasites, wild swings in weather, and trying to make sense of a world that was beyond our collective grasp, ancient man created and assigned deities to everything.

The Greeks, not wanting to offend an entity they either did not know or forgot to acknowledge, dedicated a statue to The Unknown God. We now casually dismiss most of those outdated systems as mythology but at one time, they were religions.

It had to be a great comfort to attribute a reason for the crops being pummeled by hail as the wrath of an angry being to whom we had forgotten to make sacrifice. It was the Blame Game, taken to another level.

That game has not gone away.

I’ve got an example I like to use when it comes to prayer, as it relates to maturity and common sense.

There was a little boy who was born into a family as all boys are. As a baby, his mother and father had to feed him, change him, and bathe him. It was a comforting feeling to be cared for and taught by those who’d preceded him.

When he was 2 years old, his father would sit out cookies and a sippy cup of milk at snack time.

When the boy reached the age of 5, he could ask permission and, with some help, pour his cup of milk.

By the time he was 10, he knew when it was snack time and could do it all himself.

At 16, he was working and could actually purchase the cookies he liked best, plus some of his mom and dad’s favorites.

After graduating college, the little boy got married and started a family of his own. With his wife pregnant, he would soon be guiding his own children in the ritual of snack time.

The above gives a linear account of a child maturing and a bit more responsibility being introduced as his understanding and coordination matured. So, at the age of 30, should the little boy call back to his parents’ home and ask his father’s permission to break out the milk and cookies at his own house?

It’s a ridiculous question but this is how many people of faith tend to operate. Always wanting a safety net and someone else to blame if the milk gets spilled and the cookie bag has been invaded by ants, they ask their Heavenly Father permission for things they could do on their own.

There is a time to pray and ponder and meditate and wait. But then, there is a time to take all your years of experience, go out and immediately get it done.

There’s a saying we have in the game of dominoes: “Study long, study wrong.” We can miss out on some time-sensitive opportunities in life by overthinking and waiting too long for something to which we already know the answer.

Being a morally upstanding person with Christian values and beliefs, I don’t need to ask God to cosign on my plans to rob the neighborhood bank. I already know that to be covered in the Ten Commandments and that it won’t get his stamp of approval.

Here’s the key: All I need to do is tell the Lord “thank you” for the life, health, strength, and maturity to seek out and take advantages of opportunities. Sometimes, I may need to pray for understanding on a matter that has eluded me, but otherwise, as an adult with grown children and a grandchild under my belt, I know the mechanics of right and wrong.

By removing the safety net of excuses (“I guess God just didn’t want us to have that,” “The devil is fighting me on this,” and “Another opportunity will come along, God willing”), I am able to take responsibility for my actions. I have faith that the Good Lord has already provided me with the guidance I need, allowing me to be humble in the fact that I don’t know everything, but bold in the fact that I know what I know and can learn what I don’t.

Once the crutch is removed, we will be able to proceed with the expectation to succeed on based on our own moves forward. Don’t worry; as long as you’re not doing something morally reprehensible or completely out of step, God is willing to back your play. Just don’t use faith as a cover for your fear. Failure to prepare and take advantage should not be blamed on any Higher Power, just the lack of power and faith in yourself.

Now, fix it.

Transcending the 8-Hour Workday and Embracing the Hu$tle

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Good Things Come to Those

Ever wonder why people come to our country from foreign lands and make out better than we do? It’s because, by comparison from whence many of them have come, America’s street’s truly are paved with gold. The difference is their point of view. They see the opportunity of being able create several streams of income, whereas we make excuses with empty pockets.

In the United States, most of us experience challenges unique to the First World (I wrote about this in a previous blog post called Zero World Problems). To the average person surviving in the upper middle class, the WiFi connection going down is a major game changer. Typically, within a few blocks or miles of our comfortable homes, some people are sorting through trashcans and living in boxes.

Regardless of who takes the Presidency or which two teams are going to the Super Bowl, I believe that most of us can transcend our existences and actually LIVE, provided we see things outside our traditional jobs. You see, a job (which to some is an acronym for “just over broke”) is there to take care of basic necessities: food; shelter; clothing; modes of transportation. However, I think when the work day ends, the hu$tle should begin.

Here’s the typical day for the average American:

  • Get up in the morning to go to a job we can’t stand
  • Sit around at said job bitching, complaining, and wishing we were somewhere else
  • Return home to gripe some more about what went on at work
  • Eat dinner, usually in front of the TV; still murmering about the job during commercial breaks
  • Go to bed only to start the cycle all over again
  • Pray for the weekends which tend to pass too quickly

However, by slightly changing our point of view, this is how it goes:

  • Get up in the morning to fulfill our work day
  • Because we’re grateful to be working, we do our jobs while imagining the day our side gigs will allow us the opportunity to choose to how we go about making our money
  • Return home ready to start investing in one or more hu$tles
  • Sometimes, dinner is on the run or doesn’t happen at all because we’re grinding
  • Go to bed, sometimes a little late; dream about the future we’re forging for ourselves
  • See our weekends as an opportunity to get more things done

Let’s face it: America is the new Rome. Our empire is the dominant super-power and we’ve become lazy. We allow ourselves to be spoon-fed heaping helpings of processed foods and hours of mind-numbing TV, while imagining more ways to waste our money on the latest technological upgrades. We sleep too much, eat too much, and complain too damn much. We’re more concerned with building someone else’s dream instead of defining and realizing our own.

Ask yourself: If I carve two hours out of my day to build my own business and invest in my family’s future, where will I end up 5 years from now? 10 years? 25 years? Is my legacy one of excuses and gripes or of freedom from unnecessary debt and financial security? What do I want to pass on to my kids, nieces, nephews, and godchildren?

I am writing this on a glorified three-day holiday weekend. While everyone else is scrambling over what to bring to the barbecue and which teams will be playing, I’m moving my figurative chess pieces forward. Not knocking sports or good food, but I have a dream to build and a destiny to fulfill. You should be doing the same.

The dream is free. The hu$tle is sold separately.

Get hu$tlin’.