The Importance of a Setting in Real Life, Not Just in Fiction

 This could be Heaven or this could be hell.What makes old graveyards creepy, besides our sneaking suspension that the bearded ghost of a Confederate Army General will appear through the foggy mist and try to tell us a haunting story of he ended up with a hook for an arm?  (Pirates don’t have exclusive right to those things, you know…)  Take away the graves and all the preconceived ideas that human curiosity has handed down to us over the centuries, and chances are, the land itself is still not a beautiful piece of land to begin with.

I assume that the land used for graveyards and cemeteries often was the land that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as the acres used for building homes, schools, and businesses.  Safe to say it wasn’t feng shui. 

Instead it was the leftover, out of the way, dreary land that someone was just trying to get rid of.  So they sold it for less than they would have liked to an investor who saw its best potential and destiny was for it to become a graveyard.

We choose destinations for a reason.  Why do coffee shops serve as such a great pre-date and unofficial first date venue?  Because there are plenty of other people around in a coffee shop whose collected friendly conversations make for the perfect background murmur, so that while the two single people are surrounded by people, it’s intimate enough of a setting where they can, in a sense, feel alone- without the awkwardness of actually being alone when they don’t yet know each other that well. 

If nothing else, the coffee itself serves as a convenient social crutch, as mentioned in Campfires.  A coffee shop is a setting of safety, comfortableness, and relaxation, as well a symbolic “garden of growth”.  I know this first hand:

Before I asked out my now-wife to the sure-to-get-a-second-date John Mayer concert, I primed our new friendship with several Sunday night meets at the local Starbucks.  It was the coffee shop that watered and fertilized our friendship into dating, then a little over a year later into marriage, and two years after that (present day), a baby.  A human life is scheduled to make its first out-of-the-womb appearance this November.  And it all started, in theory, by me choosing the right setting- which in this case was a coffee shop.

What if instead of asking her to coffee when we first met as strangers, I would have asked her to dinner?  It could have been awkward.  Eating with a stranger she just met the week before.  I could have ended up in a category of guys she had dated but it never really went anywhere- and I wasn’t willing to make that gamble. 

I knew that if I built the relationship on true friendship first, it would be much more natural and relaxing to eventually eat a meal together at a restaurant.  But not before coffee at a Starbucks.

We can choose where either good or bad memories will take place.  Where does a guy propose to his fiancé?  Where do parents announce to their children that they are getting a divorce?  Because those places will never be the same again after that.

Where were you when you found out the cancer is in remission? Where were you when you heard about the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers?  Those places will always be associated with the big news, good or bad.

It’s why the phrase “may I speak with you for in a minute in my office, please?” is so epic.

Whether we choose the place, or it chooses us, the setting is everything; lasting an entire lifetime as it attaches itself to a memory of hope or a memory of damnation.

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Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground: My First 10,000 Hits

Thanks for 10,000 hits.

I am not a writer who consistently relates to mainstream readers.  People have to find me here in the back corner of the Internet.  It’s because I want my writings to speak louder than me the person.  I make a point to avoid shameless promotion.  Because the way I live my life, I say if a product is worth buying or trying, it travels through word-of-mouth and that’s what leads to a solid following.

Not everyone “gets” my writing.  It’s not for everyone.  Because not everyone is in touch with their “weird side”.  But the weird side is the only side I’ve ever been on.

I write for people who space out like I do.  People who stay to watch all the credits roll after the movie is over.  For those who don’t think Dane Cook or Larry the Cable Guy are funny.

It’s not an exclusive club.  Everyone is welcome to this hideout.  But not everyone wants in.  Not everyone wants to come back.

I want to be perceived as “down to Earth” but I know I’m a little too abstract to actually be.

Just like Dexter (the fictional serial killer) has a certain code he strictly follows in the first two seasons of the show (he has to always be one step ahead, he only kills murderers, he only kills people who he has proven guilty), I have a certain code for the way I write.

My code is inspired by a book my wife got me a year ago for my birthday on how to write professionally. It helps keep focused and hopefully from sounding like I think I’m cool just because I have a website.

Now that scenicroutesnapshots.com has received its 10,000th hit this week, as a thanks to those who keep coming back, I will share my secret code.

Nick Shell’s Code of Writing:

1)     Avoid the use of the word “you” and the phrases “you know what I mean?”, “now I gotta tell you”, and “think about it”. There’s an importance of maintaining a balance of both a professional distance and a personal connection.  This is a non-fiction commentary on life, not a campy sitcom like Saved by the Bell.  Therefore, don’t break the 4th wall by talking directly and casually to the audience.

2)     Avoid using the phrases “I think”, “I feel”, “I guess” or “my opinion is”. While everything posted on the website is an educated opinion, don’t make it obvious.  Speak with authority.

3)     Avoid putting the unnecessary details of your personal life in the writing. This isn’t a reality show or facebook.  There’s no reason to list the full names of people close to me in my life or to make a habit of inserting pictures of my personal life unless it directly relates to what I am writing about.

4)     Avoid profanity. I’ve heard it said before, “If you have to curse to get someone’s attention or to get your own point across, then you need to find a way to be more creative”.  I don’t go around using “awesome” or “stupid” in every conversation, so it’s just as lame to overuse curse words.

5)     Avoid referring to the website as a “blog”. Blogs are for people still using MySpace who are stuck in 2006 or that are obsessed with facebook status updates.  I write.  I put up new posts.  I even write articles.  But I don’t have a blog.

6)     Be edgy but not controversial. There’s no need to preach about abortion or turn my website into a breeding ground for debate.  Finding ways to use the certain words  in the majority of what I write tends to give me the edge I need.

7)  Write about weird stuff but make it seem normal. Or is it more like the opposite?  Write about normal stuff and make it seem weird.  A mixture of both.  That’ll work.

8.) Find somewhat unusual pictures to integrate into the writing material, giving the reader a sense of reading a magazine article. I, for one, like cool pictures to look at while I read.  It’s a way of adding another sensory feel to the experience.

9)  Write an excessive number of posts every month. They won’t all be awesome, but it’s often the ones that I predict won’t really connect with readers that  are the ones that really do.  The more I write, the better I’ll be, and the better I’ll know how to connect to readers.

People are the Meaning of Life, Part 6

“Americans spend an estimated 20 billion dollars annually on ice cream.  An amount that could feed 83 million hungry children for a year.” -State of the World 2004 Worldwatch Institute

“…I bet my whole checking account because it all amounts to nothing in the end.” -Jason Mraz, “Curbside Prophet”

Suddenly, the thought of being filthy rich is less intriguing than ever. I’m not talking about turning down the chance to make $100,000 a year. I mean stinkin’ rich. Multi-millionaire. Completely set for life. So rich that it would be expected of me to drive a new Jaguar and live in a mansion with a kidney-shaped swimming pool and speak with a Connecticut dialect and be on MTV Cribs. Set for life.

I came to the realization that I already have everything I need and want.

Aside from paying bills and getting out of debt and buying food, the only money I really spend is on non-fiction books off the discount rack at Borders. So that means the only thing I can’t get enough of that money can actually buy is knowledge. I can gain knowledge through my own life experiences. The other way is to buy it through books written by people who save me the time of living out the experiences they’ve already learned from.

So once I get out of debt, which I eventually will since my wife are strict followers of Dave Ramsey, what would I continually spend a large income on if I ever had it?

More expensive, impressive cars? A huge house, with its higher insurance rates and utilities and more expensive overhead and all the nice furniture and fixin’s to make it look nice?

It all goes back to Forrest Gump: “Now, Momma said there’s only so much fortune a man really needs… and the rest is just for showing off.”

So I imagine having the house paid off, being debt free, happy in a small but nice house, driving decent cars. What do I need a lot money for?

For me, it would be to travel the world. I’ve only been to 4 other countries in this world (not counting a layover in Japan or driving to the Canada side of Niagara Falls). There is so much beautiful landscape to see and so many interesting people to meet and all that weird foreign culture to be exposed to. I could never get enough of that, yet with money I could try.

But.

Instead of sending myself across the globe, treating it and its people as my own real-life Epcot Center, what if I helped them with my time and money ?

Because after a few awesome trips to Norway and Sweden and Switzerland, it’s gonna hit me: This is fun, but ultimately it’s all about me. And I’m not that big of a deal.

And I think that’s why so many big movie stars and rock stars are often so much more aware of the needs of Third Word Countries. They “get” this high concept more than we do sometimes. Because they are set for life, unlike us. They have the time and the money to see the rest of the world. And before too long, they see a need to help the millions of people currently living in slavery and poverty.

It’s inevitable there will always be poor people and therefore there will always be a need to give our time and money: “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'” -Deuteronomy 15:11

So if I was so rich I could just retire now, and still have plenty of cash to blow, where would my money go? How would I spend with my time?

Other people. With them and for them. That’s where all the extra would go.

How would it be fair that I had too much while most of the world had way too little? How would I not be a hypocrite to live a life that acknowledges that true religion is caring for the orphans and widows yet I lived a lavish lifestyle? I just don’t see how having that much money could ever make me happy.

To have too much of anything ultimately means that someone out there isn’t getting enough.

http://www.worldvision.org/

https://www.hopeforhaitinow.org/Default.asp

Strip away food, clothes, shelter, and faith. It’s safe to say that anyone reading this on their computer has all those things. What’s left that actually matters to us?

People.

Family and friends.

And complete strangers that need the extra money we have to get a much smaller version of those things we already have.

Life really is that simple.

So if by writing this I jinx my situation and become filthy stinkin’ rich so fate can test if I really mean what I say, I’m not afraid. Because speaking of learning from other people’s life experiences, it’s often those same movie stars and rock stars that “get it” when it comes to poverty in the rest of the world that are also the same ones that prove that having too much doesn’t make them happy.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” -James 1:27

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

People are the Meaning of Life- Table of Contents

Part 1 http://wp.me/pxqBU-2h

Part 2 http://wp.me/sxqBU-289

Part 3 http://wp.me/pxqBU-7M

Part 4 http://wp.me/pxqBU-8r

Part 5 http://wp.me/pxqBU-j2

Part 6 http://wp.me/pxqBU-tm