The difference between Knowledge and Wisdom

Understanding what it really means/Seeing the grey

10th Avenue in Manhattan, NYC

Worked pretty much this entire weekend. Beat tired.

Life was simpler when you’re young. There was ever only black and white, good and evil, heroes and villains.

As you get older you realize there’s a lot of grey. Unless you never grow up. If you never grow up, then the world remains black and white. You don’t see the grey. Or all of the luck, stupid luck, and stupid involved in life.

If you see the grey, you see that there’s a lot of stupid involved in life.

Have you ever noticed that it’s the least educated, least traveled, least read of the people you know that have conspiracy theories? Because they have no background on which to base a logical conclusion, they make their own out of bits and pieces of trivia and fact.

They can’t discern the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

There’s this example in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books where a writing teacher says to a buncha students that the election is the next day.

They’re to write about what it means.

And most of the kids write about the democratic process, the history of nation, the candidates, etc. Information, data, knowledge.

But one student understands what this really means. It means: No school tomorrow.

That’s wisdom. Understanding what things mean.

There’re people with the ability to see the grey and everyone else.

Stranger: How do they know they got the right guy? I mean, besides the shootout, the cop they shot, and the pictures, what evidence do they have these guys did anything?
Me: That’s true, besides the shootout, the cop they shot, the pictures – and the chase, the video, the ATM pics, the multiple eye-witnesses – besides those things, I suppose you’re right, they don’t have anything.

Location: in front of more papers
Mood: weary
Music: giving the academy a rain check
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Southern food in the Upper West Side

Smothered Country Fried Chicken? OK, if you insist…

A soda in a mason jar

Him: Will you let me take you out for your birthday?
Me: It’s fine, you don’t have to.
Him: You say that every year; I insist.

Besides a quiet dinner with the wife, didn’t really *do* anything for my birthday.

It’s funny. I have some friends who never acknowledge my birthday at all – but insist that I go out to celebrate theirs. I’m always cutting those friends.

Others call, text, or email, which is really good enough. A few others send cards, which is really nice. Then I have one or two that want to take me out or something. For those people, I just don’t want them to go out of their way.

But my buddy Paul dangled the promise of some smothered country fried chicken and cheesy grits in my hood. How could I say no?

So last week, Paul, his girl, and I went to eat at Jacob’s Pickles around the way. Thee wife was working on a last minute project so that meant more southern food for me.

We all chatted for a bit and caught up before we headed back downtown.

One of life’s more satisfying moments is a nice dinner out with close friends.

Cheesy grits and smothered country fried chicken don’t hurt either.

Smothered country fried chicken with cheesy grits at Jacob's Pickles in the UWS

Braised turkey leg at  at Jacob's Pickles in the Upper West Side, NY

Location: getting ready to meet a client at Columbus Circle
Mood: hungry!
Music: I watch the people go shuffling downtown
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The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

On evil: Nothing is ever anyone’s fault

Incandescent light bulb

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.
Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects (film)

The insomnia’s been pretty bad lately. I should just stop wasting your time and my time and just write, “insomnia” and move on.

Insomnia.

Being awake at night, thought about Boston, Newtown, and Aurora and the nature of evil. Something about the dark turns one’s thoughts dark, I suppose.

People wonder if there is evil even actually exists.

I believe it does.

People are always surprised by that. They think I’m naive, but I submit that I think you’re naive if you don’t.

I think some people are evil not because of how they were brought up, or what happened to them. Theyr’e just twisted with no other explanation for it. Not biology, not upbringing, not society.

Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You have given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You’ve got everybody in moral dignity pants – nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?
Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs (novel)

Put a little less eloquently, some people are just born ______-up.

Don’t believe it when people try and convince you that there’s no such thing as evil. It’s there. And the sad thing is that you don’t need to go far to see it.

As I wrote the above, I got a news alert on my computer that five people were dead in a shooting. This just happened.

Which just makes me wonder if evil is a self-destruct sequence for our kind. Then again, all this is just my opinion. What do you think?

Me: Do you know why I hate things like the Disney films?
Him: No, why?
Me: Because the monsters all look like monsters. But Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Mao – these guys were just normal, plain-looking dudes. No one would have looked at them and thought, “Monster.” But that’s what they were. (later) Thanks for not choking me until I passed out.
Him: (laughing) Anytime, man.

Location: about to run to Chelsea
Mood: pensive
Music: I saw Satan laughing with delight the day the music died
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Logan’s 40

Joy inevitably comes

The Grace Building in NYC

Like you, I was glued to the television watching the bombings in Boston.

The first thought that came to mind were words I can’t print here, but they rhymed with “mothers that drive trucks.”

My second was: The people that point and the people that run in. Around every tragedy, you will find the people that point and the people that run in.

The people that point are the ones that use a tragedy to push their own personal agendas: Religious, political, or simply, look at me because I will be different than all the others because I need to be noticed.

Regarding this pointing, on FB I had a two guys talk about all the people that die in Afghanistan and that it somehow means we shouldn’t mourn the people here. But that was pretty much the extent of it.

How many did you have? Make note of those people. Those are the ones that want, desperately, to be heard.

Regarding the people that run in, that was on full display that day as Patton Oswalt eloquently noted. It gives me some hope for our kind. I hope he’s right that that the people that run in outnumber the others. The ones that harm. The ones that point.

Today, I’m 40.

Had this whole long rant about being so old and creaky but instead, let me simply sum it up by saying this: I’m old and I’ve seen a lot more things than I’ve ever wanted to see.

The world is an ugly place. But it is made bearable by the good souls. The ones that bring us grace and mercy.

The fact that I’ve only had two really stomach turning posts on FB since this thing happened is a small indicator, I think, that I’ve managed to have more good souls than not in my corner of the world.

Years ago, wrote about Bernard Malamud who said that Life is a tragedy full of joy.

Having been on this planet for 40 short and long years, I’ve learned that tragedy inevitably comes, but the joy also comes.

And so I wait for the joy. Hope you do as well.

And like every year on (or close to) my birthday, I ask you to wish me a happy birthday, all of you bastards that read me and never say anything.

Here’s my stupid mug at almost 40. I would have taken one recently but I’ve been beat.

Logan Lo

Location: with family in my slice of the world
Mood: hopeful
Music: Don’t you keep me waiting for that day
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Mycroft was smarter than Sherlock

Not involved in the nerdy for once

High line train tracks above the meat-packing district

Work’s been getting even busier so I spent most of last week running around to client sites for this or that. Was a blur.

It’s hard to gauge how I feel about the work: On the one hand, not having to stress over coin is always a good thing; on the other hand, man, I’m beat.

On top of that, my bro came into town this past weekend because it’s my birthday in a few days. Didn’t really get to spend too much time with him because of all the deadlines I had coming up but Paul came over with his girl over the weekend and we all had some pizza, rum, and conversation.

I told Paul’s girl about Hopper’s Nighthawks because she and I are both insomniacs. It’s no fun.

While my bro was here, he showed us this game he played and my wife’s mouth was agape when she saw how quickly he played. She’s been playing it non-stop since then.

Me: Well, it’s been nice being married to you while I was.
Her: (deadpanning) I wish I could say the same.

Sherlock Holmes – as smart as he was – freely admitted that his older brother Mycroft was far smarter.

I joke all the time that in my family, I’m the dumb one. This is actually true.

But then again, I’m sure you knew that.

Her: (to my brother) …we treat for schistosomiasis.
Him: With praziquantel?
Me: This is the nerdiest conversation in my house that I’ve not been involved in.

Location: my desk
Mood: ambitious
Music: I’ve been sleeping in my bed
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Growing into one’s self

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong

Tree in the West Village

Me: Winston Churchill once said that, “Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.”
Him: Well that’s the thing, isn’t it? (thinking) “If they grow at all?”

Had lunch with my coach the other day and we were discussing this kid in our class. He’s one of the only teenagers we have and we all look out for him for various reasons. The life of a bullied child is a lonely one.

As luck would have it, tomorrow is Winston Churchill day so I thought the quote fitting.

Remember that scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest truly runs for the first time and realizes that the heavy, metal braces that held him back as a child let him run faster and longer than anyone else as an adult?

It made him antifragile.

Without belaboring the point, there were times when I was younger that I didn’t think I’d make it to adulthood.

I’m glad I stuck around because Churchill was right; I’m stronger because of my childhood rather than despite it.

Me: What are your thoughts on dive bars with wings?
Claire: I feel hugely positive about dive bars and wings.

Thought of that again as I had dinner with my friend Claire the other night. She said that she had a friend that grew into himself after college. I think that’s a good way to put it.

The lucky never realize they are lucky until it’s too late.

I should mention that while Claire, who moved here from LA, and I have written and chatted to each other for years, this was the first time we actually met in person.

Her: I’m glad you’re as nice in real life as you are over email.
Me: (laughing) I try to set the bar really low.

Life is made more bearable by the good souls.

As for the kid in our class, I hope he makes it past these hard times. If he can, I hope he’s the better for it.

As for me, my childhood seems farther and farther away these days. I’m turning 40 next week.

Still trying to process my thoughts on that.

Location: last night, my fave dive bars
Mood: sleepy
Music: I was a lonely soul but that’s the old me
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What if there’s a monster?

That’s why they call you Jerkface McGee.

Washington Square Park NYC in early Spring 2013

Her: I’m going away for three days, are you going to miss me?
Me: Yes.
Her: (smiles)
Me: What if there’s a monster? Who am I going to throw at it?

Bag of Doritos

The wife is off for a work thingy this week so that means I’ve:

  • queued up hours of documentaries on Netflix.
  • arranged what I like to call “rum-tasings” but you might just call drinking
  • already scheduled time at my local halal cart for pickups
  • began what I like to call “cleaning out the fridge” but you might call eating whatever I can find

But first, a breakfast of corn chips.

11 servings per container?

Clearly one of us is not good at math, good sir.

Her: …and that’s why they call you Jerkface McGee.
Me: Only you call me Jerface McGee!
Her: Says Jerkface McGee…

Location: regretting my choice of breakfast
Mood: ambitious
Music: I’ll see you when I fall asleep
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Repetition is the Mother of Skill

Perfect practice makes perfect

First ice cream of spring 2013!

Hope you had a nice holiday if you celebrated anything.

Saturday was beautiful so the wife and took a walk around the hood; it was warm enough for some ice cream. Spent Sunday contemplating my religion.

Saturday night, though, went to teach my fencing class.

A long time ago, there was this fella that had been taking the class for a lot longer than me but I would regularly beat. It was because he was always interested in learning the latest esoteric move and some secret technique while I just worked on the basics.

And the reason was simple: Repetition is the mother of skill –  I had fewer tools to work with but the tools I had I knew well and practiced regularly. He never spent enough time on the basics to really get good at them.

To which I have to clarify the following: That saying that Practice makes perfect is yet another one of those sayings that are only partially true. The actual saying is Perfect practice makes perfect.

Thought about that on Saturday when my old instructor came back to lead the class and reminded me how much of a student I still am. I think he landed four strikes for every one of mine.

And so went home afterward and surely annoyed my wife as I waved a stick around in the middle of the night, going: One, two, three…

Location: in a Monday
Mood: pensive
Music: Too late for the young gun I said This is the year of the knife
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