Play the Tape

[Still hanging in there, but not yet well enough to be at a computer long enough to write a full column. (My fervent goal is to have one for tomorrow.) Luckily I realized that January is Motto time, so last Friday and today I'm running old Motto columns. This isn't a motto for the website: it's a motto for you to live by! If you have a suggestion, we want to hear it! Also, there is TONS of new stuff on Monkey Barn. Enjoy and thanks for bearing with me. -H]

The Hyperion Chronicles

“What, no hug?”

#332 Motto O’ the Year

Friends, Romanumeralians and Countrymusicans, lend me your eyes1. It is once again time for The Hyperion Institute’s Annual Avidly Anticipated (especially by hot massage therapists)…

*************** Motto O’ the Year. ***************

[hold for applause]

Every 12 months we looks deep within ourselves to find a guiding principle to help improve our lives2. I can’t tell you the thousands of people who have written, telling me how our motto has given them refuge and strength as an ever-present help in trouble.3

In 2000, our inaugural year, our Motto was “Please Read This” (later changed to “Vote for me you Imperialist Dogs,” once I decided to run for President).

In 2001, we invoked Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with, “The Valiant never taste of Death but once.”4 The meaning of this (besides being something cool you can impress the ladies with) is that you’re going to make people mad no matter what you do, so make what you do count, and go down swinging; fighting for issues that matter.

2002 was not a banner year for the Institute, and justifiably we had, “People are out to get me just because I’m paranoid.” And don’t think I can’t see you roll your eyes.

2003 saw us getting our Exodus 3:14 shwerve on, and going with, “It is what it is.”5 The meaning here is to codify that sometimes things cannot be changed, and all the wishing and complaining otherwise won’t make it so.

Finally, last year, 2004, saw the brilliant S.I.U., W.I.O., & G.O.I., which stands for “Suck It Up, Walk It Off, & Get Over it.” I would hope the meaning couldn’t be clearer: get over life’s hardships and do what needs to be done.

Now, in 2005, we’re taking it up a notch, to something a bit more advanced. The Motto for this year is: “Play the tape all the way through.”

What do I mean by that? Imagine a movie on video tape. In the middle of the movie the hero is in danger or perhaps the girl is about to go up the darkened stairs by herself (ignoring the ominous music). Within the context of the movie, the characters don’t know what is going to happen to them. Your first time watching, don’t know either. But you (and the characters) can find out by playing the tape all the way through. After that, every time you watch the movie you KNOW what’s going to happen even if the characters don’t. the movie isn’t going to change. It’s already been made. It’s inevitable. You can play the tape all the way through and see how it ends.

Now; this part takes a bit of logic, so work with me. Every day, we get involved in situations we don’t want to be in. We’re like the characters in the movie, wrapped up in our own drama. What I suggest is to be more like the people watching the movie who can play the tape through to see how it ends, instead of the people in the movie playing out their roles.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in Free Will and Choices. At the beginning of a situation we have a lot of choice. As each choice is made, though, it leads to a narrower and narrower path until it seems like our behavior is pre-ordained. Think of a Triangle Pachinko board.6 You can drop the ball between any two pegs up top, and it’s impossible to predict which way the ball will go. But as the ball gets closer to the bottom there are fewer and fewer possibilities and no matter where the balls start, they all end up in the same slot.

A good way to look at this is conflict. Is there a person—a husband or wife, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a child or parent, a coworker or friend—that you have the same problems with over and over? Each time you swear it will be different and you will not get mad or emotional and you will say all the reasonable things you thought of yesterday at two in the morning. And it never works, does it? You get to a point where the same feelings and ugly emotions come to the surface, the same triggers that set you off, and then it’s the exact same fight you’ve had a thousand times before.

I know it’s hard, but what I want you to do (and me too) is: when you get in these situations—or ideally, before you do—play the tape all the way through. How is this “discussion” going to end? Are you going to get mad? Will she? Will hurtful words be spoken? Will one of you leave the room looking for a door to slam? If you’ve seen this tape before, and you know how it ends, then in the name of Kessler7 TURN OFF THE TAPE!! You don’t have to be a character in the same movie over and over again.

Maybe that doesn’t happen to you too often (although I wouldn’t bet on it). Maybe you’re higher up on Maslow’s Self-Actualization Pyramid,8 and ready for Stage 2. There are many situations we get in where we haven’t been there before, and nobody knows the future. Nonetheless, with a fair amount of certainty (it gets easier the more you do it) we can predict what’s going to happen; we can play the tape all the way through. We can see that, “If I do this then he’s going to do that and if I say X then she’s going to say Y.”

It’s like playing chess: when you first start you’re just trying to remember how the different pieces move and keep the Queen away from the horses.9 The more you play chess, though, the more you start looking at moves out in the future. By the time you’re a grand-master, you can often see the endgame after only a dozen moves.

Your life works the same way. I’m not saying you can predict the words and deeds of others with 100% accuracy, but the more you apply advanced logic to a situation, the more you will see the inevitable paths.

I, too, want to work on this. I’ve been doing it for years but want to really step it up. Why? Well, if it isn’t self-evident by now let me break it down for you: if you can avoid getting yourself in damaging situations and avoid hurting others, you are way ahead of the game. This sounds simple, but how many people actually do this? How many times this last week did someone say or do something hurtful to you, or you to them?10

You can’t avoid every landmine out there. Yet, you can go a long way towards reducing your stress and being a calmer happier person by playing the tape all the way through.



January 18, 2005 [347 b.t.e.]

End Notes

1 Seriously: this has to be the funniest line I’ve written in some time. It gets funnier the more you say it out loud. Go on, try it! Also, I’m compelled to point out for those of you who flunked 10th grade English to go smoke behind the gym, this line comes from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and was spake by Marc Antony, after the death of Julius Caesar. The complete line reads, “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen; lend me your ears.” Now do you think it’s funny? Ah, who asked you?

2 I’m using the “Royal” we here.

3 This line is a take-off of Psalm 46. Yes Friends; that’s what you get here at the Hyperion Chronicles: Shakespeare and the Bible.

4 It really is a great play; you should read it.

5 Do you notice a theme here?

6 Originally I called it “an upside-down triangle peg-thingy” until Bear pointed out it did have a name.

7 When I lived in Atlanta (before I moved to Canada to be part of the Witness Protection Program), I used to read the Atlanta Journal, and Jonathan Kessler was the Food Critic, and by far the best writer at the paper. Since I hold him in such high regard I am using his name here as I would any minor deity.

8 Abraham Maslow came up with his Hierarchy of Needs, which is a pyramid of needs we human have and the order we have them in as we evolve. Take a look at it here:

9 I suppose this is a vague Lady Godiva reference. I didn’t catch it the first time through, but one of my River Midget interns alerted me to the possibility.

10 If you think you didn’t hurt someone else you’re obtuse as well as callous.

11 Nobody is entirely sure what “Selah” originally meant; only that it was used to end several Psalms. The best guess is that it’s a pause in the action, or an division from one part to the next. I suppose I just could have used “Amen,” which means “So be it,” but we here at the Hyperion Institute care about your learning, and so we go the extra mile.


Thanks for Bear, Laureate and Tootsie for Editing

Thanks to Bill Shakespeare and whoever wrote the Bible

[Special Notes: the painting is called "The Pirate" by Jirayr Zorthian, if you're interested. Secondly, there is something special about the motto (Seethe Pithy Intrusion) currently up. Ten points for the first person to figure it out. ]

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