The Mark Baxter Podcast Episode 2 – Illimitable Man

The Mark Baxter Podcast Episode 2 – Illimitable Man

I had the distinct privilege of welcoming Illimitable Man to the show this weekend. We had an excellent, wide-ranging conversation that spanned over two hours. We covered everything from South African politics to whether a man should get married. Listen and enjoy!

I will host these podcasts on for the time being, however, as my Patreon grows I will move it SoundCloud and then work towards iTunes so we can spread the show to even more listeners. If you enjoyed this show, please consider a contribution.

Swim Raft Summers

Swim Raft Summers

As I book my family vacation for next summer I am reminded, once again, about the passage of time.

Eight years ago we had our first Northern Michigan vacation, my youngest son had yet to be born.

Nearly every summer since then the highlight of vacation for my kids has been the swim raft floating a few dozen yards from shore.

The idle wooden platform has provided more entertainment for my children than any expensive excursion ever could.

It is the most talked about memory from each and every family vacation. This last summer’s was disappointing because the swim raft was difficult to access and our cottage was not directly on the lake.

This tradition has carried over into our post divorce lives, a gentle reminder that while much has changed, many things have stayed the same.

Now, as I get ready to send in my deposit for a new rental for the summer of 2017 I am reminded that there are only so many swim raft summers remaining.

The man renting the cabin to me noted that my kids are the perfect age for the swim raft. His comment jolted me awake.

As my kids approach puberty they will inevitably lose interest in such a basic activity, I see other kids stop joining the fun around 12 or 13.

This means I’ve only got a couple of more years left of these most cherished swim raft summers.

The vision of my children jumping playfully from that raft on a warm sunny day in July warms me as I sit in this florescent lit cubicle, as physically and metaphorically removed from that moment as possible.

It will be replaced by other, grander adventures, but we will always look fondly upon those simple days when a lake and sunshine were enough, more than enough.

Pearl Harbor, WWII, Fate, and Time

Pearl Harbor, WWII, Fate, and Time

My grandfather was on a ladder painting the outside of some old barracks on this day 75 years ago. A single man, 20 years old, enjoying the Hawaiian sunshine when the drone of aircraft engines grew louder and louder until the moment he realized that life would never be the same.

In Canada, just on the other side of the river from Detroit, my grandmother anxiously awaited the news of her fiance’s fate. With Canada joining the conflict a few years before the USA, his Canadian Army unit was already deployed to Europe where the conflict was raging.

Over the next four years my grandmother would receive two devastating telegrams, both  her fiance and brother wouldn’t be coming back from Europe.

My grandparents would ultimately meet a few years later and build a great family with four children. But how different things looked just a few years earlier?

This date always gets me thinking about fate. How things would be so different had my grandmother’s fiance not died in the war. How we don’t see the things that don’t happen, only those that do. Some other future family tree was wiped out by those bombs in Europe, while another was created the same day.

Today is a great example of fate on a smaller scale. I am at home typing this because there was a power outage at my office. These thoughts would never have made it onto the screen had that not happened, and perhaps these thoughts will resonate with someone else and change their course.

Today I also reflect on how the passage of time ultimately leaves everyone forgotten. My grandfather passed away 20 years ago, my kids never met him, they will never remember. My grandmother’s first fiance and her brother will pass from memory when she perishes in her nursing home.

Who will be left to remember any of us? Given enough time we will all be forgotten. We worry about legacies and leaving things behind, but deep down we know it will all be forgotten someday. Even those who fought valiantly for freedom are soon forgotten.

Then what matters? Is it simply the experiences that each of us go through that shapes our souls? I go to church on Sundays, but only occasionally does anything there resonate to my core. I’d like to say I see the truth, but that would be a lie, and if most others were honest they’d say the same.

But today, on Pearl Harbor Day, I most often ponder the passage of time. As I watch my children grow, and I reminisce about how much they’ve changed in a few short years, I can’t help but think about 100 years from now when only a handful of people will remember me, at best, and ponder exactly what I should do with this knowledge.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. Trying to hang on to time is like trying to scoop sand with a tennis racket. I am deeply aware of this passage of time, yet powerless to change it, and uncertain about what to do with the finite amount of it I’ve been given.

I’ll sometimes ignore it, or distract myself with pleasures of the flesh, but the question always remains, “what should I do next?”

This is why one of my favorite books to read to my children is The Three Questions. In the story inspired by Leo Tolstoy, a young boy has reached an age where he wants to know the answer to three existential questions:

When is the best time to do things?

Who is the most important one?

What is the right thing to do?

Upon seeking the counsel of a wise old turtle, the young boy discovers that the answer to these questions is:

Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.

I would say the adult version of this book is The Power of Now, but I find The Three Questions to be just as effective and it takes a mere minutes to read.

I have a million things I could be doing right now with my time. I could be painting rooms that are long overdue for a new coat, I could be measuring the house for the new floors I’ll be putting in, or I could be filling out Christmas cards, but I’m not.

I have chosen to give this hour to this rambling essay. A look into my consciousness that is therapeutic for me and perhaps helpful for you. You are the one I am with right now, and I am doing all that I know how to enhance the your life at this time.

I certainly hope my grandparents didn’t spend much time wondering “What might have been?” and rather lived in their moment, despite all they saw and experienced. I know I am doing my best focus on those by my side and not waste a second of this precious time wondering, “What if?”

How To Live On 24 Hours A Day

How To Live On 24 Hours A Day by Arnold Bennett puts the modern self-improvement circle jerk to shame. In this book, written 106 years ago, Bennett encapsulates the best advice you’ll ever encounter into a mere 24 pages.

No fluff, no personal embellishment, no self-promotion, no page-filling anecdotes. Just simple, straightforward advice for men that has withstood the test of time.

Best of all, the book is free. And you can read it right now in the next hour, but you won’t stop thinking about it for days. Trust me. I read this book on three days ago and it has filled my thoughts ever since.

Not unironically, this is some of the advice he actually espouses. To think deeply on subjects of importance is to be a staple of a man’s life. He advocates giving ninety uninterrupted minutes per night, three nights per week, to the study of meaningful subjects.

Unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of a night are chiefly wasted.

My favorite theme in How To Live On 24 Hours A Day is Bennett’s emphasis on balance and moderation. When embarking on a self-improvement journey it is common to try to do too much at once.

Most people who are ruined are ruined by attempting too much.

He ends with this theme, but I will start with it because it is of utmost importance.

Let the pace of the first lap be even absurdly slow, but let it me as regular as possible.

And something that I am guilty of quite often:

And still another danger is the danger of developing a policy of rush, of gradually being more and more obsessed by what one has to do next. In this way, one may come to exist as in a prison, and one’s life may cease to be one’s own. One may take the dog out for a walk at eight o’clock, and meditate on the fact that one must begin to read at a quarter to nine, and the one must not be late.

Bennett talks about how we mustn’t talk too much about what we are doing to improve ourselves. Few people care or understand. There is no upside to sharing.

It is as well not to chatter too much about what one is doing, and not to betray a too-painted sadness at the spectacle of a whole world deliberately wasting so many hours out of every day, and therefore never really living. It will be found, ultimately, that in taking care of one’s self one has quite all one can do.

Bennett speaks of our elusive search for this so-called “happiness” that everyone seems to be after. After all, why are we doing what we are doing? What are we trying to achieve? What does winning look like?

And they have attained it by realising that happiness does not spring from the procuring of physical or mental pleasure, but from the development of reason and the adjustment of conduct to principles.

Are we living a life in alignment with our core beliefs? Too often when we find ourselves feeling unsettled it is because we are either living for the temporary pleasures, or trying to conform our standards to someone else’s. A core tenet often missing from self-help advice is first understanding what we want to align ourselves with, what sort of life do we want to lead?

And how does one figure out exactly what HE stands for? What should he study? What program should he follow?

And it is not literature, nor is it any other art, nor is it history, nor is it science. It is the study of one’s self. Man, know thyself.

I am entirely convinced that what is more than anything else lacking in the life of the average well-intentioned man of today is the reflective mood.

And what is most the most important skill for a man to achieve? Mastery of his own mind.

Mind control is the first element of a full existence.

Get your mind in hand. And see how the process cures half the evils of life – especially worry, that miserable, avoidable, shameful disease – worry!

If all of this stuff sounds familiar that’s because you’ve probably read it on popular blogs or $0.99 ebooks without nearly the prose or precision as Arnold Bennett lays down in How To Live On 24 Hours A Day.

The book is FREE, takes an hour to read, and will leave you deep in thought for days.