Irresponsibility Is the Youth-Killer

There’s this myth in our culture that youth is a blank check to be irresponsible. “Have fun and cut loose a little,” older folks tell us, not without a little envy.

But being young is not the opposite of being responsible. And to be carefree is not the same as to be irresponsible. In fact, irresponsibility is the youth-killer – the very reason that our older friends and family look and feel the part of the elderly before their time.

The 20 or 30 year-old who eats irresponsibly (“donuts! pizza!” etc.) becomes the overweight and chronically-ill 40 or 50-year old.

The 20 or 30 year-old who manages finances irresponsibly (“let’s go out for margaritas every night!” etc.) becomes the 40 or 50 year-old with no retirement plan and debt which will outlive them.

The 20 or 30-year old who fails to take responsibility in work (“I just want to have a high-status job,” etc. ) becomes the corporate drone, the underachiever, or the sycophantic overachiever at 40 or 50.

The 20 or 30-year old who dates irresponsibly (“I’m just looking for a good time!”) becomes the 40 or 50-year old with one or more divorces.

This should scare you very much.

Time goes quickly (as 20-somethings discover), and action inevitably seeks its consequences. If you would keep your youth, dump this idea that your youth gives you so much margin for error. You can make some mistakes, but you can’t afford to live destructive lifestyles day-in and day-out.

Run like hell from people who want you to squander your youth with them.

Youth is a gift your parents’ responsibility gives you at birth. It’s a gift you only get to keep if you choose the path of responsibility. That path of responsibility is the only thing which maintains the attributes of youth which we (rightly) love: good health, strength, freedom, curiosity of mind, beauty.

These things we value take great work and great care. And they can last for a tremendously long time. There are 70-somethings running long distances and 80-somethings skiing down mountains. And you can be one of them.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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3 Practical Reasons To LOL More Loudly

I’m of the belief that any laugh quieter than a donkey’s or a drunken medieval tavern-keeper’s is not worth the breath. I like laughing loudly, not at “polite” volumes.

While uproarious mirth may not help me with sophistication, it has many powers for good. Here are three reasons you should embrace the belly laugh:

1) It feels good – The first reason is a simple one: belly-laughing just feels good. You put your whole body into the task, and you find that you can relieve stress and tension in the process. When I’m anxious, there’s nothing like a good hard laugh to set me at ease.

3) It sets others at ease – Laughing helps when you need to set yourself at ease, but it can also help others loosen up. Have you ever been in a crowd of people who are taking (perceived) authority, convention, and social pressure too seriously (say, in church or school or a business meeting)? Laughing just a little louder than authority, convention, and social pressure will permit can go a long way toward helping people out of their emotional handcuffs. It’s hard not to feel at home when a good laugh is going around.

4) It signals your sense of life and humor  – If you want to spend your time around people who go full-bore into life, laugh loudly. The more uproarious your laugh, the easier it is to know that you’re turned up to 10.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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The Shared Lyft Ride Should Replace Public Transportation

There are many people who feel the future of transportation is public transportation.

I shudder at the thought.

Sure, I’d like to reduce negative human impacts on the environment, too. But I’m also not a big fan of drab, boring, bureaucrat-administered travel experiences – not to mention the non-consensual funding, political manipulation, and supply/quality problems natural to government-run systems.

Enter the Lyft shared ride.

Without calling in government subsidies, Lyft has managed to create models and incentives that *voluntarily* bring several (or more) people into a car together for shared travel.

Given the abundance of these things, you can see how this is reducing the need for more cars on the road. Given time, the environmental impact could really add up.

Beyond efficiency, though, there’s more to the shared Lyft ride that public transportation lacks.

Now that I’ve been a passenger and a driver (my first time driving for a shared ride was this weekend), I feel qualified to say that these experiences create magical connections between people.

There’s something about getting into close quarters in a car with a group of strangers that tends to lower peoples’ walls. In the shared ride I gave on Saturday, my passengers (one coming from restaurant work, one coming from a symphony, and one hailing – or so it seemed – from the Czech Republic) bonded over film score music and foodie locations around Atlanta. I’ve had shared rides of my own that have been a barrel of fun, with people and conversations I would never expected to have found together.

So it seems that Lyft has successfully replicated the randomness of shared public transportation. But it does so in an environment of true customer service. The driver (hi!) and the company must both create experiences of safety, convenience and even delight – they won’t survive if they don’t. This creates that feeling of confidence and safety you have when you climb into the back of a strangers’ car, assuming that it’s a Lyft.

I think it’s this feeling of safety that enables people to be so open with each other in shared Lyft rides. Unless you work really hard, you just won’t find the kind of regular spontaneity and friendliness of a shared Lyft in your next subway ride.

As we look to creative ways to make transportation more efficient, let’s not forget to make it humane. Lyft hasn’t.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Against “Guilty Pleasures”

I have a burning hatred for the idea of the “guilty pleasure.”

Oh, I understand the concept. You take pleasure from something for which you also feel guilty for enjoying – from watching YouTube cat videos to eating chocolate ice cream.

But as anyone who indulges in these “guilty pleasures” could tell you, the mixture of guilt and pleasure generally cancels out the pleasure. The idea itself is a contradiction, so this should come as no surprise.

Pleasure was meant to be pleasurable. Guilt was meant to be, well, bad.  I think we’re able to live with the contradiction only because we’ve accepted contradictions in our moral standards.

If you feel a “guilty pleasure” for eating chocolate, maybe you need to drop whatever moral standard has told you that eating chocolate makes you a less valuable person. Or maybe you just need to stop eating chocolate. But as long as you have the contradiction of “I like this” and “I think this is bad” going on, you’re just going to spiral into more pain.

If you feel a “guilty pleasure” for having sex, maybe you need to question the assumptions and training which told you that you should feel bad for sexual desire. So many people treat their whole sexual lives as “guilty pleasures” without bothering to consider whether they *really* have a reason to feel guilty (post-religious folks especially). At the same time, many people should probably listen to what guilt might be trying to speak out – pleasure is not the end-all, and so much can go wrong (to yourself and others) in the realm of romance that many moderns fail to consider.

When you feel a guilty sense of pleasure, you should know that you’re being called to go deeper into the feeling, and into your conscious and subconscious values. Then eliminate the contradiction. Let pleasure be pleasure again, and let guilt be guilt.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Trade Peer Pressure for Past Pressure

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. . . Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Peer pressure is shockingly sneaky. Despite all the warnings against it, I’ve ended up falling into many of the lifestyle choices (high-consumption, etc) of people around me – even while being able to break the mold of peer pressure in other ways (skipping college, etc).

I want to try to live my own life, as fully as possible without the (unconscious) rule of following the masses. Maybe that’s possible for me. Maybe I’ll fail. But I have discovered at least one way of thinking about peer pressure that’s helping me on my way:

Even if it is impossible to break free of the sway of others, why settle for such a poor pack of peers?

There’s no particular reason I have to let the pressure of my 21st century late millennial, city-dwelling, and social-media driven peers be my only guiding light and influence.

I’m looking a little further back – and biographies have been helping to change my perspective on who my peers can be.

With the great “cloud of witnesses” of those long-dead I can pick and choose a much better cross-section of peers to pressure me.

I can look to people like Cato to learn how to resist corruption and face death bravely.

I can look to people like Frederick Douglass, who stood up to claim his manhood and freedom from slavery.

I can look to Richard Winters (of the 101st Airborne, Band of Brothers fame) to learn how to lead people well.

I can look to Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and other Americans of the Enlightenment era for inspiration on becoming a learned and accomplished man.

I can look to Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Sophie Scholl or Pino Lella to learn how to act from faith and justice against a system of darkness.

Spend enough time around the good and dead people of the past and you will grow in their direction – just like you might grow in the direction of your millennial peers. Our brains don’t seem to mind treating the dead recorded as if they were living. Several hours listening to an audiobook about Benjamin Franklin might have much the same effect of spending time with the man himself, and being influenced by him.

Listen to the words of wise, good men and women. Read their biographies. Imitate them – play-acting if you must. This past pressure is a far better and far more productive kind of peer pressure.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Use Charity To Become More Practical

If you look closely, you’ll find that even in (especially in) your kind acts to others, you are probably doing an important kindness to yourself.

When I think back to the (occasional) times I’ve helped a stranger jump-start a dead car battery, or the time I stopped to assist a stranger with a flat tire, or the times I’ve tried to help homeless folks, I can see that I’ve learned a tremendous amount that helps me.

These kinds of human interaction (especially for someone who has some shyness) certainly build character and courage. But for me they’ve also been great ways to build a base of practicality in know-how, equipment, and preparedness habits.

Now I don’t go anywhere in my car without my jumper cables or a jerry can for gasoline. I’ve picked up a bit of knowledge  about the homeless shelters in Atlanta: their requirements, specialties, and drawbacks. I even learned some of the basics of the tire-change for the first time from stopping to work with a stranger, so I’m much better prepared for the next time.

I’m not as consistent as I should be in helping others. And when I do I sometimes grumble to myself about it. But I am grateful that I can be valuable in situations where people need help.

Charity can make you more practical – and it’s very friendly to people who want to learn on the job.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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