Temporary Home

A recent topic of discussion with my wife and her family has been the amount of time I’m away from home.  It always surprises me when I take the time to add it up.

For one particular destination, the hotel rewards program keeps an easy to access tally: 202 days away over the last 4 years (including tonight).  I’ve probably had another 40-50 days to other destinations for work.  This doesn’t count the days where I’m gone most of the day traveling back home.

Before 2013 back to when I started working remotely, I probably was gone for another 250-300 nights–most of that during a 2 year period where I was traveling 3 weeks a month.

So, a pretty safe estimate is I’ve been away for almost 2 years of my 15 years of marriage.

There are some positives to this abundant travel: I’ve racked up enough hotel points and perks that I rarely pay for a room when I travel for fun and even those free rooms usually get upgraded.

On the downside, you start to lose the sensation of “home” after being gone so frequently.  I was gone for almost 70 nights last year and it seemed like my time at home was a never-ending transition from returning from one trip and preparing for another.  Thankfully, I don’t have children or this would be a big problem with my relationship with kids.

My feelings about the travel go in cycles–there are times that the solitude at night can be really helpful.  I struggle with stress due to work and not having to interact with others for a few hours at night can really help me reset.  The flip side is when I don’t need that kind of reset, it can get quite lonely and I don’t always handle that well.

It would help if my destinations varied more, but most of my travel is to the city I grew up in–so there isn’t a lot of novelty to enjoy as a tourist.

I think it would impact any relationship, but being gone so much really has challenged my marriage at times.  While it does make you not take for granted your time together, you miss of lot of the small things that happen every day.  At least for my wife and I, we’re not big long distance communicators, so only big things tend to be shared and our calls are fairly brief.  That is not at all how we share when we’re together (when I’m not in the early stages of my return transition, anyway).

The forced distance has helped our disagreements–we’re forced to decide if the issues are important enough to revive when we reunite.  Yet that same distance at times makes us feel disconnected or as if we’re leading very different lives (my wife hasn’t had to travel for work for a few years).

All the goods and bads aside, my desire to continue being gone so often is waning fast.  I will be making that a factor in my next position and hopefully will regain that sense of home I’ve lost these past few years.

Bad Faith & the Futility of Discourse With Someone Uninterested in Facts

Anyone who has banged their head against the wall after arguing with someone of the alt-right persuasion or raged about President Trump’s latest trolling effort should give this quote from Jean-Paul Sartre a read. I saw this pop up on Reddit and thought he summarized the concept of bad faith used by racists and fascists so well and why argument with them is pointless: their position is not because of ignorance of the facts, it’s anti-rational response to them.

From “Anti-Semite and Jew” (p. 13):

Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.

It’s challenging to accept this reality–especially for those of us who enjoying engaging ideas that are different from our own.  We believe that if we could only make those stuck in the mindset understand the logical flaws of their arguments or the lies they’ve built them upon, they will come into the light.  We have to accept that maybe they are committed to a cause that has moved beyond reason–like religious fundamentalists.  They want the ends so badly, they’ll say and do anything to get there.

Let’s hope exposing them for what they are contains their ability to achieve those ends.

The Human Condition

“The Human Condition” is one of those phrases used so often during my literature courses in college that it lost all meaning.  In fact, when I’d hear it I’d sort of do a mental eye roll and prepare myself for the inevitable flowery bullshit that was about to follow the phrase.  It was something that people would use to sound more intelligent or make their points sound more important.

In case you have not be subjected to the phrase ad nauseam (see, that’s another flourish used to sound more important), “The Human Condition” is supposed to refer to the shared challenges we face living in the modern age with all its contradictions and complexities.  What it often really refers to is how upper middle class white people in American suburbia deal with their ennui (again–score!).  I don’t say that to be flip–rarely would you hear of examples prefaced with “The Human Condition” that deal with abject poverty, the plight of the working class, or what it means to be in some marginalized group.  It’s something other American upper middle class white people say to universalize their own challenges, which may be legitimate but would be subject to derision among people facing more immediate crises.

So, with that healthy disclaimer showing I realize the folly of what I’m about to share, I give you an interesting thought that popped into my head last night:

The human condition is this: We feel the pain and loneliness of no one knowing who we really are, but we fear the rejection of sharing that authentic version of ourselves.  This contradiction and the resulting actions and thoughts constitute a deep dissatisfaction with a life that is by nearly all accounts comfortable, safe, and desirable.

I’d like to say this is a little more applicable to the general American populace than most of these kinds of statements, but I realize my perspective is limited by my own situation that fits wholly into my characterization of the type of person described above.

Own It

If we want to solve problems, we have to admit our mistakes

I think a lot of the problems in our country, with our dominant set of values, and with our culture is this idea that something must either be without flaws or it is without value.

We have a very hard time telling the truth about ourselves, our families, our culture, and our national history. Why can’t we see the problems and failings as opportunities to improve? Why can’t we accept that we have made and will continue to make colossal errors, but do our best to right the wrongs when we understand that we’ve screwed up?

Our current values turn denial and delusion into the preferred way of dealing with problems—no wonder we rarely solve any of our real issues.

One of the bravest things someone can do is to say: “I’ve really messed up, I’ve hurt you, and I’m so sorry. I’m going to do my best to change so it doesn’t happen again.”

How I would fix Congress

Assuming I have magical powers

  1. We change Congress to a more Euro-style legislative body with many, many parties. This way any fringe parties can win their 1-4 seats, speak their lunacy, and have almost no real power. Also, this would mean no single-party majorities unless that party was extremely popular. So most of the time, by necessity, the people elected will actually have to compromise and negotiate.
  2. Elected officials who take special interest money must not only disclose all contributions, but they must wear advertisements for those special interests on their clothing like a NASCAR driver.
  3. 2 consecutive term limits for all elected officials. You can run again after sitting out a term, but you only get 2 terms consecutively.
  4. Performance-based incentives for things like passing a balanced budget, passing bills with a low pork index (independently calculated), and reaching certain productivity metrics (also independently calculated)
  5. If you run for another office, you must resign your current elected position