The Inner Peace of Toast

note: this post was written on my iphone and originally began as a facebook status but somehow, as writing does, it grew into something else, which I’ve decided to blog. This free writing approach is somewhat new to me, but I’m apt to repeat it given how therapeutic it felt.

French Onion soup for dinner (Trader Joe’s frozen section), buttered toast with blueberry jam for dessert, now watching the 1934 version of Count of Monte Cristo (streaming from Amazon Prime). I loved the Jim Caviezel version, and this only emboldens my adoration for one of my absolute favourite tales.

Watching these actors reminds me that all of this is just temporary. We’re just here for a little bit and that kind of makes everything really small but at the same time really big.

My real hope is to live spiritually, and to me that just means loving myself and sharing love with others. It’s easy to be apathetic when you think about the finite nature of life, but to a point the meaning and purpose of life should be to be happy and to be at peace. We forget that don’t we?

We suffer so much and anguish over our lives and our goals but we don’t think about the alternatives. We are fairly lucky if we can eat toast and watch a classic movie under a roof. We are all going to die. Ask yourself what is really important. I can’t find another answer than love. Maybe art. I guess it all comes down to using your humanity for the highest good, and good being judged as the quality of how much you can positively affect others.

Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Not just comparison to others, but to the past or an imagined scenario. Today is all you have. Make love and make art. Even if it’s just with yourself. And don’t take anything too seriously.

I mean having cool clothes and cars and abs might feel like success but the only real success is your ability to experience inner peace.

So the big question of life is what brings you inner peace. For me it’s soup and toast and a good movie. I can’t control everything and I make mistakes and there are things I wish were different, but I can live my life with a consciousness of the following passage from Viktor Frankel’s, Man’s Search for Meaning:

… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory…”

They Didn’t Have Splenda.

I’ve been incredibly busy as of late, and by ‘as of late’ – I mean the past 6 months in particular. I’ve always been a hard working guy; however, these last few months have been especially grueling.

But, all bemoaning aside, I do want to ensure that I write with some degree of relative frequency.

So, the last two paragraphs being my prefaced apology if this post is an absolute piece of shit – here goes.

I live in a coastal community. I like coffee. Good coffee.

I own a couple of Nespresso machines since I am a design fanboy but I typically purchase an overpriced bottle of (concentrated) cold-brew coffee since it’s more alkaline and it’s straight diesel as far as potency is concerned.

That’s typically my go-to, but at times I opt to get a proper cappuccino from a real barista. This is typically when I’ve pulled an all-nighter working. The other instance of when I seek a barista-made-drink is when I’m borderline depressed and NEED the 800+ calories and 80 grams of carbs in my old friend the breve iced caramel macchiato.

The name of that drink probably tells you that I go to Starbucks.

Yes, this once upon a time Seatlleite and perpetual uppity white guy gets down with the uber-gentrified corporate evil machine.

What can I say, they might not make the best damn drinks, but as I learned in some semi-legit sales training from my early 20’s as a mortgage broker, ‘starbucks is successful because they are consistent’.

That being said, I fucking hate starbucks.

So, when the day came that the mediocre coffee / sandwich shop near my house suddenly sported a new name and a fresh remodel, I was all too happy to venture in.

And I was immediately excited about the place. I knew two of the baristas as they were sisters who were former neighbors of mine and the owner was an absolute gem whom I had the chance to briefly discuss both coffee and books.

Which, speaking of books, the new owners had retained the small ‘exchange a book shelf’ that had graced the walls of the former establishment.

And speaking of the former establishment, it was a three star on yelp tourist trap.

However, this new place had me excited. And when I ordered my cappuccino and the barista had to ask the owner how to make it I figured it was no biggie.

When I tasted it and the espresso seemed burned and bitter, I figured ‘hell, I’ll throw a couple splenda in this bitch and it’ll be right as rain’.

But when I went to sweeten my cappuccino, there was a MAJOR FUCKING PROBLEM.

No splenda.

They had table sugar, they had cane sugar; hell – they even had green sugar (stevia) – but alas, my requisite sweetener was absent.

Truth be told, I cannot recall whether I used stevia or cane sugar. But I clearly remember that I left unsatisfied.

I remember because I desperately wanted this place to be my new spot. It had everything going for it. It was independently owned, I liked the owner, the baristas were cute, I even left with a new Simon Gladwell book. (Which I discovered was a signed copy upon arriving home).

I went back a few days later. I felt bad. I came bearing books to replenish the ‘take a book’ stock.

And I stood there. I stared at the menu. But I couldn’t do it.

I grabbed a prepackaged protein shake and sheepishly set it on the counter to pay, before making my final exit from the ALMOST perfect coffee place.

Since then, I’ve walked an extra block to Starbucks. I even take a residential street on the way back, which makes me feel funny. But, I don’t want the (almost) legit place to see what a sellout I am.

But that’s the lesson.

We are all sellouts to our essential values.

I’ve since recounted this story to friends and not one person has been surprised because everyone has been there at one time or another. It might not have been splenda, but whatever was missing was enough to be a deal-breaker.

And that’s haunted me for a couple of reasons.

A: the outcome is one I would have never predicted – and B: I think it says something about human nature.

We are all Jerry Seinfeld.

Our peers struggle to grasp the root of our dissatisfaction with the seemingly ideal, but each of us has a list of splendas in life that we simply are not willing to live without.

I’m sorry but they just didn’t have splenda.