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In any new or daring task, it’s not a bad idea to charge ahead as fast as possible. Leonardo da Vinci believed that it was essential for artists to work quickly to capture the “first flash of inspiration.” Ralph Waldo Emerson concurred, saying, “In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.”

It is also the advice of the Japanese master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, who described the “sekka no atari” — or “lightning strike” — as charging in with strong legs, strong body, and strong arms combined for maximum speed. As he plunged into battle, Musashi had no time for worry, fear, doubt, or regret. He relied on having mushin, or “empty mind,” to detach from whether he’d emerge victorious or chopped in half. Foreseeing the possible outcomes could serve no practical purpose. The truth would be revealed through action. So stop foreseeing and just go, go, go!

NOTE: This secret stands in complete opposition to statements elsewhere on this site. Further proving that contradiction is not feared, but embraced, by the true SuperOptimist who savors a complex universe.

It’s a documented fact that during the seasons known as fall and winter, the decreased amount of sunlight can lead some people to feel down, dopey, and lethargic. It’s called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD. What’s not known to many SAD sufferers is a readily available antidote that can relieve many of their symptoms. And that is to jump out of bed, run out the door, and get some pie.

Eating pie has the unique ability to distract you from the demons of darkness who come knocking at your chamber door. Pie also goes great with coffee, yessir. There are literally hundreds of pies to bake and eat: here’s a short list to get your mouth watering:

Apple pie

Cherry pie

Banana cream pie

Pumpkin Gingersnap pie

Rhubarb Meringue pie

White Russian pie

NOTE: Alternatively, to lift your spirits, you can always take a whole pie and throw it at someone, preferably a politician who’s not telling us the truth or a public figure who is woefully misinformed.

It’s been a week since Mercury went retrograde* and things are all out of whack. At least, that’s what the SuperOptimist keeps hearing from many quarters. Meetings cancelled, elevators stuck, phones malfunctioning, promises broken, limbs broken, blood clots revealed — it seems everyone we know is being affected.

In fact, just trying to type this post, our laptop went on the blink and we had to hit “Restart.”

We have been warned not to take on any new projects, or buy major appliances, or sign contracts…in fact, it’s probably best to just stay indoors with the covers pulled over our heads until the bad juju passes. After all, just look at the people we know who have been felled by the mighty gods of astrology.

This book on astrology is quite intriguing.

But there’s a positive aspect to the zodiac zeitgeist that people fail to take into consideration: Mercury retrograde is a great excuse to not do anything we don’t want to do. We look for this kind of rationale all the time. Now we have one!

We can turn down the cocktail party invitation from that colleague who bores us to tears. We can claim “computer trouble” for continuing to miss the deadlines the boss gave us. While we’re at it, we can postpone doing chores around the house and cancel our plan to wade into weekend traffic to visit the relatives.  It could all go haywire, so better to leave well enough alone.

Probably wise to take to the hammock and stay there.

Understanding that 90% of people on the planet know their astrological signs, and 70% read their horoscopes regularly, there’s a wide berth for saying “Christ I wish I could ______________ , but you know, it’s Mercury Retrograde.”**

(Meanwhile, if some weird shit happens to you during this period, look at it as a positive: this planetary event is drawing attention to some part of your life that you’ve been ignoring. Rather than avoid the issue, embrace the upheaval and see if you don’t come out better for it on the other side.)

Can’t hurt to read this either.

*Every four months or so, the planet Mercury goes into “apparent retrograde motion,” where planets appear to temporarily reverse the direction of their orbit from the point of view of Earth. And yet, since Mercury is 48 million miles away and often obscured by sunlight, no one really sees this occur — even astrologers employing a 3 inch Newtonian reflector telescope with 300 mm focal length lens. 

**This particular cycle ends on October 18th.  So plan accordingly.

Why is it that the girl or boy of our dreams almost never materializes, yet we can always attract somebody who we’re not the slightest bit interested in? Why is it when we’re in a real rush, there’s never a parking spot, but when we’ve got all the time in the world, somebody pulls out right in front of us?

A lesson here? Remove the word “need” from your vocabulary. If you don’t give a monkey’s toss what happens at any given moment, the universe will expand in direct proportion to your disinterest.

Here’s Christopher Walken, admirably demonstrating offhanded insouciance:

EXERCISE: Act completely aloof at your next job interview. Chances are, they’ll make you an offer. Refuse — and they’ll up it to a management position. Shake your head no, and boom! Senior vice presidency. Move towards the door waving goodbye, and they’ll drop to their knees and plead with you to take a seat on the board. Walk out the door without agreeing to their terms and you’ll be 5 times closer to your real goal!

Despite being alive in this very moment, human beings have a tendency to want to “know” the future. Folks imagine a “career track” at work. At home they wonder about the “future of the relationship.” The United States government encourages us to believe in “social security” and legally requires citizens to pay exorbitant taxes so they can invest in the invisible future of 2074 A.D.

The aspiring SuperOptimist can take a lesson from Nobel Prize-winning Danish physicist Niels Bohr. Professor Bohr conducted countless scientific experiments where he would try to guess the real outcome of events imagined beforehand. With the best theoretical models available, he still could not predict the future any better than a drunken tourist at a craps table in Las Vegas. Professor Bohr summed up his career of deep scientific thought by saying: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

Bohr proves that no matter how smart you are, you can’t reliably predict 5 days from now, much less 50 years. That’s why the SuperOptimist believes that the “good time” is not in some imagined far distant future, but in every tiny moment of existence at this very moment right now. And now. And now. And…now.

The bosk, or common bush, resembles the human in many ways. It is messy and multi-layered; thick in some areas, patchy in others. But that’s where the similarity ends. While people are apt to complain about the slightest problem, the bosk remains imperturbable in its approach to life.

The bosk lives in concert with its surroundings. It asks nothing of others. It requires no heavy care or maintenance. The bosk is neither envious of its flowering neighbors, nor takes pity on those considered less fortunate. The bosk does not wish to trade its unkempt appearance for that of the manicured hedge, row of daffodils or climbing ivy. The bosk is comfortable in its own skin, no matter how many layers of itchy vines and bushy leaves hide its Jackson Pollock-like skeleton.

The bosk watches bemusedly as bipeds march past, busy with their efforts to landscape every square inch of yard. People like to try controlling nature, but the bosk knows it’s a fool’s errand. Take a lesson from a nearby bosk and relax into your surroundings. You’ll be glad you did.

You know that warm feeling of a fresh start you get when that swell plate of hot breakfast sits in front of you? And right beside it, the glorious fresh-squeezed orange juice, steaming coffee or stimulating herbal tea. What’s the best time to reboot your day with a cheerful breakfast? We offer this list of great breakfast moments to get your mood back on track.

5 A.M. Breakfast ahead of the curve.

7 A.M. The classic early breakfast.

9 A.M. A civilized start.

10 A.M. The mid-morning booster.

12 noon. Breakfast makes for a great lunch.

2 P.M. Breakfast pick-me up.

4 P.M. The early dinner breakfast special.

6 P.M. Five-course breakfast.

8 P.M. The dessert breakfast.

10 P.M. European elegance by late breakfasting.

Midnight. Breakfast with the night owls.

2 A.M. After hours breakfast with rock stars and truckers.

Scientists have estimated the probability of you being born at about one in 400 trillion. Those odds are ten times greater than winning the Powerball and four thousand times greater than being hit by lightning. (As for winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning together, well, our math skills don’t reach that far.)

It turns out the amount of available DNA is so vast that the chance of it combining in the certain specific pattern to form the person you see in the mirror is virtually impossible. No scientific chance whatsoever. And yet, here you are.

But the news gets more amazing — since those odds of one in 400 trillion against don’t take into account the chance of your parents meeting, finding each other attractive, consummating their relationship, and having a single sperm and a single egg unite in joyous conception. We are now up to one in 400 quadrillion. (Even more if you add in surrogates.) And in case you’re wondering how big a quadrillion is, think of it as 1,000 trillions. In other words, a f***ing huge number.

Are we finished? No, not yet. Factor your ancestors going back four billion years, all the variables that could have prevented them from ever meeting, dating, mating, and so on …well, by the time you add up all the coincidences in this long tail scenario, the chances of you being here are one in ten to the power of 2,685,000. So the odds that you exist are basically zero. But because you do exist, and you’re now aware of how precarious that is, you’re the big winner today in the jackpot of life.  Even if all you’re doing right now is eating a chicken burrito with extra hot sauce.

That makes today a “fall on your knees, cry-tears-of-joy” kind of day.  Dancing is an appropriate response to this news. So is finishing your burrito and thanking the server for the extra hot sauce. Congratulations on that too.

Why are we writing about snow days in August? Because they are one of the great spontaneous joys of life. There should be more of them, and they shouldn’t be relegated to bleak days of winter. And they’re especially important when the heat index reaches 105.

With the right attitude, you can experience a snow day any day of the year. One way we like to get started is by placing a snow globe on the nightstand. When you wake up, give that snow globe a good shake and watch the flakes dance merrily in the glycerin contained within. You can even create your own personalized snow globe for added merriment. 

Now decide whether this day should be a “regular day” or a “snow day”. If it’s the latter, go back to sleep for as long as you like. (Naturally, it helps if your snow day falls on a “summer Friday” or you are self-employed, but this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. A veteran snow-day conjurer can always create an excuse that passes mustard with the powers that be.)

Granted, it’s a bit harder to conjure a snow day when the heat index creeps up to 105. The higher the temperature, the more you’ll need to visualize the snowflakes dancing down from the sky and piling up on your windowsill, with the news declaring your school or business shuttered for the day.

And like an India yogi, you can learn to cool your body through simple exercises and meditation.

Yes, a snow day just might be the best feeling in the world. And with a box of cocoa mix and some comfortable pajamas, there’s no reason why you can’t declare a snow day any day of the year. Here’s School Superintendent Rydell singing its praises. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Right or wrong, good or not-so-good, sane or mad, making a choice and then committing ourselves to it can be considered the most valuable practice in life. To set out on a course of action and eliminate any route of escape reduces the chance of compromise.

The expression “Burn one’s bridge” comes from the very act of burning down a wooden crossing after marching over it during a military campaign, leaving no choice but to continue moving forward while making it more difficult for your enemies to follow.* When there’s no turning back to the cushy existence you enjoyed before rowing away from shore, you have only your goal to go.

When it comes to his goal, the captain is “all in.”

Think of Ahab and his pursuit of the great white whale. He could have cut bait, steered the boat back to harbor, propped up his feet and puffed on a fat cigar. Instead, nothing would deter him from that final face-off with the great Moby D.

Of course, things didn’t turn out pleasantly for the captain. But there’s no arguing that it made for a more striking obituary.  And herein lies the point. It’s the story you wind up with that’s important.  Lashed to a monstrous mammal with your own rope? Now that’s the way to go!

Joe Heller wasn’t a whale hunter, but he did warrant a memorable send-off.

Who wants to die sitting in an easy chair trying to digest another big meal? Achieving a goal requires a climb up a steep, steep mountain, even at the risk of leaving behind a job, a relationship or a soft, comfortable couch that beckons to you when the pursuit becomes difficult in the extreme.

*Of course, you can also use the expression “break the kettles and sink the boats,” an ancient Chinese saying that refers to Xiang Yu’s order at the Battle of Julu in 207 BC.  

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