When I started writing my unfinished book many years ago, I had a mountain of material to leverage from the old days of battling it out by email. As it is now it was back then — I didn’t change anyone’s mind about anything that conflicted their calcified conclusions.
My efforts were writing exercises more than anything else though. Sure, I hoped I’d make a dent — but I found great value in reflecting on each exchange regardless of the outcome.
I go in stages between my career goals in IT and my observations on life that I love to write about from time to time. But I rarely comment on current events anymore — and when I do it’s usually in the Notes section on Facebook. My writing is NEVER in pursuit of political gain for any party — but rather the pursuit of truth (that occasionally might be couched the “political” context of the moment).
When I’m in my IT zone of study — I have the same commitment to craft that you see on this site — the same “obsessive” search to get it right (which I’ve had all my life). But in that quest for knowledge, I’ve needed a lot help over the years (especially in the early days).
I’m continually amazed by the excellence I find on YouTube and other sources — people explaining concepts in minutes that didn’t register after reading entire chapters for hours. In no way is that a knock against books, it’s just that I’ve gotten better about how to harness my mix of materials to get me where I wanna go.
Far and away the most critical factor has been the focus on smaller components — isolating my areas of study and incrementally building on them.
On my professional profile site below, it states:
Essential to this site is the idea of leveraging knowledge
The site you’re on is about the exact same principle.
Accuracy has always been at the forefront of my pursuits — so even if something is in my interests (politically or otherwise) — if it’s not true, I won’t stand for it.
And if I’m not a fan of a particular president — and he’s mistreated or misrepresented in any way, I won’t sit back in silence on that either. The media is full of frauds — but if they’re making sense and speaking the truth, then I’ll support that (even though their hypocrisy is patently obvious).
The point is that I can see what’s what — regardless of the source, and that’s taken a lifetime of practice (including the welcoming of criticism that comes my way). I’ve been on the receiving end of ridicule that was way over the top and mean-spirited — but that doesn’t discount the fact that their scorn was rooted in some truth.
I would add that ugliness can have good intentions (sort of a twisted form of tough love). So while we may not like how we’re being treated at times, we would do well to remember our people for the totality of who they are — and that maybe they were harsh because that’s what they felt was needed.
I’m gonna look for truth whether I’m offended or not — and I’ll make it matter if I find it
But all the practice in the world won’t make a damn bit of difference if you don’t really want to know the truth.
Sometimes it takes years to figure out you were wrong
What will you do with that newfound knowledge?
In that spirit, below is a brief snail-mail letter that shows a striking contrast between my attitude and almost all those I have confronted over the years — resting assured in their certitude like it’s their birthright.
Just to set the scene — the recipient of the letter is the husband of a longtime friend in the Netherlands (she and I were very close before she moved there). Though we all managed to get along during my previous visit, there was an always an undercurrent of tension — mostly because he’s possessive and occasionally psychotic.
And then there’s this factor — how a friend cleverly called me a “transatlantic threat.”
I had heard about his psychologically abusive behavior from my friend, but I saw it firsthand on my 2010 trip. The fact that I wrote this letter to someone I think so low of is precisely the point — to accept responsibility wherever it is warranted, regardless of the parties involved.
His tirade at his wife could have been avoided had I been paying more attention.
While his actions are inexcusable, that does not absolve me for helping to create the conditions that led to them. Maybe two weeks was too long, but that’s what I was invited for, and everything would have been fine had he not gotten sick. That changed everything — and my failure to factor that in is where I royally screwed up.
October 16, 2013
Dear [name removed],
It dawned on me recently that I should have been more courteous when you got sick 3 years ago. Nobody likes being around outsiders when they are ill, and you were having a really tough time. Had it even crossed my mind to get a hotel to give you some space, I would have done so — but I was having too much fun to be looking out for my host, and I apologize for not doing so.
I’m really discouraged with myself that it took me 3 years to figure this out.
As I am writing a book about human behavior, I’m supposed to know better — but sometimes I’m just too damn slow because my mind gets wrapped up in so many other things. One of the reasons I know so much about psychology is because I’ve spent so much time reflecting on my own mistakes. I’m always open to examining all the angles of every situation — persistently probing and continually asking, “What am I missing here?”
But I blew this one by a mile.
I have made an enormous amount of progress on my book over the last couple of years, and one of its key constructs is the idea of mutual responsibility in a social contract. I owed you some thoughtfulness and didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.
But whether it’s in the moment or many years later, whenever I discover that I am wrong in some way — I do whatever it takes to own up to it.
I owe you an apology and I hope you accept it.
At the time of the foundation for all that followed — this movie poster was on the wall in my high school’s vocational building — and I’d walk by it every day on my quest that consumed me. The school didn’t make a habit out of promoting the latest movies — there was a reason why this particular poster was showcased. Above all else, I believe that reason is right here in the ending (particularly the line below).
You see us as you want to see us — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions
And yet — our country has become increasingly crippled over the years because of seeing people in the “simplest terms” and “most convenient definitions”
That aside — who doesn’t love the ending of The Breakfast Club?
I don’t spend my life adding to the bunk-filled barrage of rapid-file ridicule that has taken over the times. Humans are hardwired to want some degree of attention, and forums like Facebook are phenomenal for sharing what matters to us. But the ever-rising ocean of partisan pettiness is gluttony under the guise of concern.
If browbeating for sport is your game, so be it — but perhaps you could take a break once in a while when you see someone who doesn’t fit the mold?
The advent of the internet along with the hostile takeover of the cable clans — created a madness in America that makes it nearly impossible to cut through the crap to get to the compelling.
When someone shares a song or uploads images of their lunch, kids, a trip, a concert, and whatnot — we all appreciate those tiny moments of pleasantness and how it can shine a little light our way. For the most part, nobody impugns the motives behind the innocuous.
But if you dare to question an issue driven by one side — you’re automatically on the other — no matter the purity in your purpose
Our never-ending battles to claim Victory for Values has become trench warfare between armies of unreachables. Raising questions that simply cross paths with a worldview is seen as a challenge to entirely undo it — so the good soldier pooh-poohs any effort that could tarnish their utopian image.
Every time you post something online — for good or ill, you are “promoting” something. I spent a lot of time, effort, and money to promote reality. If i were on the Left or the Right — why would I do a documentary that exposes them both?
Prior to 4 years ago, I never would have imagined writing a script (nor did I ever intend to put myself on YouTube). But with what I witnessed in the news that summer (after just returning from interviewing a world-renowned nuclear scientist in Virginia) — I had an idea, and it would be unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before.
I’ve been down this road before on all kinds of crazy projects — and I hope you’ll think about my documentary in that light — as just another project driven by a guy who will go any distance to get it right.
I find it incredibly disturbing that people are seen in one-dimensional ways — without an inkling of an understanding of their background. Far worse are the ones who know you well — and yet abandon that knowledge to preserve the perception of themselves and the party they protect (political or otherwise).
Years ago I was catching up with an old friend and he invited me up for a visit. In our next conversation he relayed what he told his wife about me:
Rick’s the most honest person you’ll ever meet.
But none of that mattered on the most world-altering lie of our lifetimes — that few people on the planet know more about than I do (anybody could do the same — it’s just a matter of taking the time).
That person is the one behind I’M OKAY, YOU’RE OKAY.
It wouldn’t bother so much if people just said, “I don’t care if they lie. If it serves my political interests — I’m for it.” At least THAT would be honest — and however much I detest that mindset, I could respect it to do a degree.
But our country is chock-full of people who want to have their cake and eat it too
People believe things that fly in the face of common sense, but worse than that — they are relentlessly loyal to the same people who are repeatedly (and glaringly) wrong. Even though the truth could not be more obvious — no amount of lying will deter them in their baseless beliefs.
“affirmation independent of all findings” — as Martin Buber put it
Imagine entering into a discussion on Shakespeare with a world-renowned expert — and the extent of your knowledge is from DiCaprio’s Romeo and Juliet. You can hate Shakespeare and that’s a valid opinion — but to debate anything of substance, you need to do some homework first.
Whatever your view — shouldn’t you show at least a morsel of deference to the person who’s an authority on the subject?
But that’s just it — our culture has no notion of deference to expertise anymore when challenged on our opinions. For me, there’s a work ethic in all that I do — so how I establish my take on an issue just innately follow that form. But with what our country has become — belief is now the only qualification for truth.
The freedom from doubt that has contaminated our culture is perfectly put below:
It is as though with some people — those who most avidly embrace the “we are right” view — have minds that are closed from the very get-go, and they are entirely incapable of opening them, even just a crack.
There is no curiosity in them. There are no questions in their minds. There are no “what ifs?” or “maybes.”
And the dead-certain skate on by scot-free as the country goes to hell in a handbasket — without an atom of reflection on their role in our decline!
Some in my circle seize on my history of conflict as a way of conveniently avoiding questions that come their way. Their calculus is as one-dimensional as it gets:
If I’m to blame — they’re not!
They love to share their pearls of wisdom on their “insight” into my trend . . . while flagrantly ignoring the agents of the asinine at the root of it.
I’ve spent my life battling the blowhards, the suck-ups, the jackasses, the intellectually dishonest, the intellectually lazy, the shit shovelers, the obnoxious, the know-nothing know-it-alls, and the “all opinions are equal” crowd with their anything-goes “agree to disagree.”
Let’s not do anything about THOSE people — let’s save our scrutiny for the guy who’s saying there’s something seriously wrong with a culture that caters to them.
As I recently wrote in a letter:
Paying the price for my principles is nothing new — as I’ve always clashed with our culture that increasingly values bullshit as currency.
And let’s not forget the definition that defines it all
Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.
The blurb for On Bullshit (by Harry G. Frankfurt)
I wasn’t sitting around thinking about doing something like this — the idea only hit me because of an off-the-cuff comment from a friend in Messenger — and it wasn’t about politics at all. I was talking about an idea I have for an online tool — and he jokingly quipped, “Make America Great For Once.”
He’s a wisecracker, that one — but in my amusement an idea immediately hit me, and for the next few weeks I wrote this site. There’s a good bit more that I wrote in a page called Runnin’ Down a Dream (borrowing from the Tom Petty song and documentary of the same name).
The Following’s From a Page I Have Yet To Finish:
Runnin’ Down a Dream
Rick’s the type of guy who would lose his job on principle
When a friend and former colleague said that 10 years ago — while I knew it to be true, even I’ve been surprised how many times it’s come true.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced workplace absurdities — I just seem to have more than my share (which has a lot to do with my line of work and career path). Just as the political arena is a pipeline to portray poppycock, so too are my stories in the professional realm.
What I’ve witnessed on all these fronts is no coincidence — it’s all connected
I love Bill Belichick’s attitude on teamwork:
The main point to me is that [the players] have to be coordinated, and the 10 people have to support what that 11th guy is doing, and vice versa. . . . The only way that can happen is for there to be discipline, for everyone to be disciplined enough to do their job, knowing the guy beside him is doing his, too, so that you can count on him and he can count on you, and go right down the line.
Looks like a pretty good recipe for success to me
Doesn’t it drive you crazy when people don’t do their jobs — and it brazenly interferes with yours? Making matters worse is the collective enabling of these people — and how bad apples and inept managers have a knack for ruining a good thing.
It never ceases to amaze me how so-called leaders will spin their wheels on symptoms of problems while flagrantly ignoring the root of them. Wouldn’t it be so much smarter to solve the source of a problem instead of having to deal with all those that result from it?
Something I wrote a long time ago:
What confounds me is why companies coddle people who epitomize the lowest common denominator. Rather than inspire them to rise to standards set by others, the meticulous are asked to accommodate the careless. On top of that, there seems to be a universal rolodex of excuses that gets spun to absolve those in question.
I’ve been confronting the erosion of work ethic in our culture for over 25 years. But the trend of nonchalance is not even the worst part, it’s the song and dance that bothers me most — the broadcasting of virtue while an undercurrent of systemic nonsense flows along with ease.
I like to think of myself as a connoisseur on silver linings
For all the wickedness I have witnessed — I have plenty more to say about all the goodness that came from it (people I’ve met, places I’ve seen, and harnessing the rage from my setbacks to channel that energy into accomplishing some pretty important goals).
Note: My hope is that through a bit of my background below — maybe we can relate in the way human beings used to — by connecting through commonality.
One of my favorite things about hopping around the country the last couple of years is how my mom is always running ops from Central Command — she scopes out everything and she’s exceptionally good at it. While she hasn’t been involved on this project, she’s had her hand in most others that involved editing and design work.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of time we spent on that documentary postcard — well, maybe you would just in seeing this site. ;o)
The bottom line is — whatever I’m up to, if she touches it — it’s invariably better!
Sometimes it comes in the form of a flat-out change — and other times it’s a collaborative process where we shape the result together (and have fun every step of the way).
I’ve always been lucky that way — with a long line of immeasurable influences
Now this guy . . . talk about ideas — his ingenuity is off the charts. I’ve never seen anyone who could do more things in more areas — and accomplish them all with the same top-notch skill.
I call my dad the Working Man’s MacGyver
For those who might be interested — there’s more on Wisdom Begins In Wonder. And if you really wanna go deep — I annotated 250 photos that revolve around my CD storage wheel called Music In Motion (told in two albums FULL_CIRCLE_PART_1 and FULL_CIRCLE_PART_II).
I was somewhat late in joining Facebook — I really didn’t have any interest in it early on, but as more friends got on board — eventually I did too. I had a lot of pictures from traveling abroad and they were just sitting on my hard drive — so that became my first Facebook project.
And then one day an old friend asked me about my CD wheel — and his inquiry gave me the idea of telling an annotated story about it. I had a 50-picture rolodex from Walmart that was sitting in my dining room area for ages without hardly anyone ever seeing it.
At first I set out to tell the story with just those pictures alone — but what a shocker — I kept coming up with more ways to connect it all. The “full circle” concept is twofold (the first pays homage to the original Walmart picture-flipper, and second is the walnut table you see in the pictures — as it was a high school woodshop project of my dad’s).
I needed to do some test run on the CNC router — and he had the brilliant idea of using his table and turning it into a wall ornament (the table had been up in the rafters forever — so this was a wonderful way to get some use out of it and tie the past to the present).
What you’re seeing in these pictures is what this site is all about — people working together to solve problems in the best interests of the idea (no matter whose it is).
And that mistakes are golden opportunities for creative-problem solving — that you can take a blunder and it turn the result into something far better than it would have been without the mistake.
And then there’s this lady — a Grandmother for the ages. I miss her — very much!!
And this is one of the things I love so much about people working together — how the best idea for one person is a wall ornament, but for the other — it’s a coffee table.
Believe it or not — the particle board piece on the wall above was cut on a Flow WaterJet similar to the one below. I gave it to my grandmother and she turned it into the table with the smoked glass top above.
While I’ve never worked in government, I’ve done A LOT of government work — and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have owners, managers, technicians, engineers, teachers and so on — always step up in my time of need (granting me access to buildings, equipment, tools, sharing ideas, CAD assistance, and whatever else I needed).
I set out to make the most magnificent CD storage mechanism on the planet — and I cannot overstress, that without the participation of a long list of people — it wouldn’t have even come close to what it became.
My quest for precision on that wheel is exactly the same in my documentary — I make no distinction when it comes to my interest in accuracy.
April 1987 — the newspaper clipping. For the record, the caption is incorrect. It states that there are 117 turnings, but the reporter likely got that confused with “17 turnings per chair.” Add the 4 table legs and that makes 106.
Speaking of the table legs, one night I was dead set on finishing one of the legs on the lathe, but I was running behind and it was getting really late. We had a phone in the garage and my parents called me to come down for the night and get to bed. I resisted and had no intention of stopping until I was done, but they changed my mind when they threatened to turn off the power to the garage. ;o)
I made my way down the long lane to the house and did everything they asked — but only until everyone went to sleep. I went to bed with a pair of headphones on to keep me awake, and after an hour or so I snuck out of the house and went back to work in the garage. There was a sliding glass door that would beam the light toward my parents’ bedroom window at the front of the house, so I put piece of 4 x 8 sheet of plywood against the door to block the light. Once I was set to roll on my covert op, I turned the lathe back on and finished what I set out to do.
About an hour before everyone would be getting up the next morning, I made my way back down in the moonlit night of northern Michigan (lived there from ’83 to ’88). What I didn’t expect to find was a dog barking at me in direct line of the house — and I had never seen him before. I wasn’t sure what to do since I didn’t know how dangerous this dog might be, and it’s not like I can outrun him in the deep snow with all the tools in my hands.
I decide to make a run for the basement sliding glass door, so made my best fake to the right and dashed to the left, ran around the side and fell on top of the wood pile, got up and bolted toward the door just in time — and I never did find the calipers I dropped in the cord of wood. At best, I got a few minutes of sleep before breakfast. As we’re all getting ready to head off to school, everyone starts talking about the dog that kept barking.
I just played along until I was about to walk out the door — at which time I said:
You know that dog that was barking? He was barking at me. I went back up last night to finish that leg and got it done. Have a nice day!
Ever since I was little, I loved this mural in the Monticello, Indiana Post Office.
People genuinely working together is a beautiful thing . . .
I was a dating a girl in 1997 who said, “This song is so you!” She asked:
Do you ever run out of stories?
Thank you for reading,
Richard W. Memmer
Remember that guitar in a museum in Tennessee
And the nameplate on the glass brought back twenty melodies
And the scratches on the face
Told of all the times he fell
Singin’ every story he could tell
And oh the stories it could tell
And I bet you it still rings like a bell
And I wish we could sit back on the bed in some motel
And listen to the stories it could tell
So if you’re on the road tracking down here every night
And you’re singin’ for a livin’ ‘neath the brightly colored lights
And if you ever wonder why you ride this carousel
You did it for the stories you could tell