Embracing The Empire

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The opening scene of A New Hope–or Star Wars, as purists insist on calling it–is a display of efficient storytelling. In only a few seconds, the movie reveals itself as a David and Goliath tale, as we see the rebels cruising along in the intergalactic equivalent of a jalopy, trailed by the powerful and ever-reaching empire.

Once the movie introduces us to Luke Skywalker, we cling to the reluctant farmhand because we all know what it feels like to be denied a greater destiny due to forces and circumstances beyond our control. Later, when the Death Star explodes into space scrap and Princess Leia has donned our heroes with some new bling, we bask in our happy ending while never having asked what made the empire despicable in the first place. We merely accepted that we were rooting against them for two hours of runtime.

Sure, we can judge Darth Vader as evil since he wastes no time choking fools and throwing them around like rag dolls, but sometimes leaders have to exercise extreme measures for their desired results. With no elaboration of the situation, we could see Emperor Palpatine (who is, of course, introduced in the next film) as Abraham Lincoln and Vader as Ulysses S. Grant, both doing their best to keep a nation together.

In hindsight, this story formula likely explains my reluctance to embrace WordPress when I re-entered the blogging world. I previously used WordPress for a former version of jakelacaze.com but was determined to stay away when my domain freed up again after I let it go like the idiot I am.

I likely wanted to rebel for rebellion’s sake. I can’t help rooting for the little guy (which might explain why I celebrated the fall of the empire despite never understanding why it might be a good thing), and WordPress is the empire of the blogging world. Hell, it’s the empire of websites in general, as WordPress boasts that it runs nearly 40% of all websites.

My blogging rebellion led to hosting my blog on write.as, a platform focused on privacy and simplicity, the latter of which is why I was able to focus on writing and publishing anything on the web. But as my writing progressed, I started wanting something resembling a traditional blog or website. I wanted fully responsive and easily customizable navigation menus. I wanted flexibility on certain page layouts. I wanted the world! In short, I had become something other than part of the market for write.as, but I am grateful for finding it when I did. write.as was the right platform at the right time. Maybe I’ll be back when the platform matures since I locked into a five-year subscription only earlier this year.

As I get older, I have less time to tinker, so now I understand what the old people meant when they used to say they wanted something that just worked. Telling people you use WordPress may not get any reactions or cool points, but WordPress does work. Just to be clear, I’m not going to go out on a limb and possibly equate it to the Abraham Lincoln trying to keep the internet together. But it’s a company that offers a platform and helps people run their websites and businesses.

The masses have spent the last few years waking up to evil empires, most notably Facebook, Google, and Amazon. While I have no problem saying that WordPress is an empire, I’m not sure that to tack on the adjective “evil” would be fair.

Maybe that’s something I tell myself so that I can feel good about letting go of my ambitions to fight the good fight. idk

Types Of Luck

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Luck is a funny thing, if for no other reason than its many forms.

Sometimes good fortune falls into your lap for reasons you can’t explain. These happenings are luck in its purest form: luck for luck’s sake. Or dumb luck.

And sometimes good fortune appears as luck because of our perception, because we choose to see the good fortune as a gift rather than an entitlement.

And then there’s the luck that we can take credit for–the luck that appears due to our actions. This is often referred to as “creating your own luck.”

Regardless of the specific branch, once you accept that nothing in life is guaranteed and that anything good is some form of luck, you can start appreciating all the luck that you already have.

Perhaps identifying the type of luck isn’t nearly as important as simply recognizing luck when it graces us.

P.S. I was having these thoughts before I discovered Naval Ravikant’s podcast episode titled “Make Luck Your Destiny.” Rather than be discouraged by further proof of my lack of originality, I choose to take comfort in the fact I’m not alone in my observations.

Guided By Story

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Story is everywhere. Story can be found in the obvious places such as novels, movies, and songs. Story exists on your resume. Your Tinder profile. The clothes you wear. The car you drive.

What story does my 2012 Honda Fit tell? It says I’m practical and I’m more comfortable living within my means than riding in luxury. And I love that I ain’t got no car note.

Businesses can tell stories, and whether or not we like to admit it, stories do motivate us to buy. And we love retelling a good story. Some people enjoy eating at Raising Cane’s for the sauce. I enjoy eating there because of the story. Is the story true? I don’t know. Do I really care? Nah. I can forgive a certain degree of hyperbole or fabrication as long as I’m entertained.

Perhaps the concept of story is what drew me to a marketing degree, since marketing is another form of storytelling. People want to feel good about their buying decisions, and the right story told through marketing can make that happen.

If you’ve ever sat on the therapist’s sofa, you may already understand the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. If your parents abandoned you at a young age, you may have subconsciously told yourself you’re unloveable. Maybe you should start telling yourself that your parents made bad decisions that you ultimately must learn to handle in your own way. The event itself should not dictate the story you tell yourself.

On the flip side, if you find yourself in a wave of unhealthy relationships, telling yourself that everyone is the problem is not a healthy story. Maybe turn that story more inward.

The pandemic has forced me to think about my own stories. I have made myself sick and depressed with certain stories I’ve told myself about America and its future. I’ve beaten myself down with stories of coming professional catastrophes that have so far failed to materialize.

But I’ve also had time to think about the stories I hope those closest to me will tell about me after I’ve died. I hope they tell happy tales. And I hope they miss me, because no matter how I may try, I am still selfish and insecure and I need to feel as if I made a difference somewhere. And if we all would stop telling fiction about ourselves, we could feel comfortable admitting the same, and we could start pursuing these ambitions in healthy ways rather than convincing ourselves we’re somehow making a difference by yelling at each other on Twitter.

And so, when I find myself on my deathbed (hopefully not alone), I hope I can tell myself a story that makes it easier to go toward the light. I may not know the stories others will tell about me after I’ve taken my last breath, but if I can have data and anecdotes to back up the stories I hope they’ll tell, then I can think of no better way to leave this world.

That’s the story guiding how I’m living my life these days.

Remembering The Dead

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Every year I say I’m going to participate in the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 2. And every year I forget to prepare. 2020 was no different.

My understanding is that the Day of the Dead is a day of celebration rather than mourning. Anyone can see why people would grieve after a death: Someone they love is gone, and the loss cuts deep. But that pain is usually rooted in the joy that loved ones gave while they were living. Why would we miss someone who brought no joy to our lives? Hopefully we’re spending our energy missing somethings worth missing.

I’ve talked plenty about death and loss in various blog posts, as dealing with death has become part of my life over the last few years. I spent the first few years after significant losses attempting to deny the pain I was feeling. The strategy did not work, and my life improved only after I processed my grief and accepted the true weight of my losses. I had to look into the abyss and accept my own mortality and the mortality of everyone else I knew and loved and would ever come to know and love.

It’s better to conquer grief than to deceive it.

Death is inevitable. It’s the last act of life. And along with taxes, death is the only guarantee in life. When I think about death in such a way, I find it silly to waste time fearing it. My time is better spent focusing on maximizing the time I have with those I love because while death is guaranteed, living the good life is not.

And perhaps that’s what we really fear.

It is not death that a man should fear, but rather he should fear never beginning to live.
—Marcus Aurelius

I’ve often said that I would not wish my experience with death on anyone else and of course, I would not wish it again upon myself. But now when I look at who I have become and the deeper understanding and appreciation I now hold for the beauties of life, I can’t imagine how I would be without those experiences. And when I accept that death is inevitable, I have to admit that I would only be kicking the can further down the road. I was destined to experience the pain at some point (unless I died before everyone else). Because I have found a way to process the grief and to learn from the experience, I am almost grateful for the hell I had to live through because having done so has led to the contentment I feel today.

And so, a day late, after having yet again missed the Day of the Dead, I celebrate and honor my dead with a reflection on what I have gained from my losses.

I love how Scott Galloway closes his blog posts, and so I’m going to steal it and use it for this post:

Life is so rich.

The Happening In Aurora, Texas

When you hear about Texas, a few things may come to mind:

  • Cowboys
  • The Alamo
  • Salsa and cheese dip
  • Big AF state

You likely don’t think of the state as possibly being home to America’s first UFO crash, which took place 50 years before the better-known Roswell incident. From my experience, most people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are unaware of the Aurora, Texas, UFO incident, even though it happened practically in their back yard.

Long story short, way back in 1897–before the Wright brothers blasted their fly rides into the sky and made it cry–a cigar-shaped spaceship wrecked into a windmill on the judge’s property. The pilot, some tiny human-like creature, was buried in the local cemetery.

Of course, any good alien story has to have some additional layers to it.

Supposedly, some metal from the wreckage was thrown into the property’s water well and a future owner would claim that the well water gave him gout and so he closed the well in.

When the locals buried the little alien man, they left a grave marker, which was supposedly later retrieved by the army. Truth ears have replaced the marker numerous times with some sort of rock or object over the decades. The cemetery will not allow anyone to exhume the alien, but according to the History Channel’s UFO Hunters, there is a collapsed and deteriorated grave at the alien’s plot.

Perhaps this story isn’t better known because it has been nearly unanimously accepted as legend and was most likely a PR stunt by a local journalist to stir up interest in the dying town. But it’s one I like to tell when I get the chance.

I do not believe in aliens insofar as little green men flying around in bubbly spaceships with strange lights and looking for people to abduct for the sake of a little probing action, but I do love the story behind the Aurora, Texas, UFO incident, so from time to time I go to visit the alien grave. And that’s what the LaCaze family did this past weekend, while following proper social distancing etiquette, of course.

I’ve visited the grave a handful of times over the years, and I never know what to expect before arriving. Before my first visit, someone had stolen the marker for the grave, so I had to rely on blogs and other resources to locate the grave on my own. I would not be surprised if I wrongly identified the spot during my first visit.

For my last few visits, rocks have served as a marker. People often leave little trinkets for the alien, and this past visit featured the most absurd collection I’ve yet to see.

alien grave in Aurora, Texas The current marker for the alien grave in Aurora, Texas

During my latest visit to the alien grave, I regretted not visiting Roswell during the five years I lived in West Texas. The drive would not have been terribly long, and I had plenty of free weekends to cross state lines and gawk at some hokey alien stuff and listen to “The Happening” by Pixies on repeat. I was also reminded of why I enjoy investigating local abandoned places and local ghost stories and such–the stories, man. The stories, which can often entertain while also revealing something deeper about us: our anxieties, our hopes, our pains, our desperation.

another picture of the alien grave in Aurora, Texas Most scholars agree that the alien indeed is not risen.

My son was weirded out by the idea of an alien being buried in the Aurora cemetery. Even after I asked him how he could doubt it after seeing the grave, he held on to his skepticism. I was proud that he was not so easily swayed even by parental pressure, but I hope he was still able to enjoy the lore–the story– of it all.

medical mask on the alien grave in Aurora, Texas The alien will be prepared for the pandemic should he rise.