To be honest… I think I’m conflicted

To be honest… Today i have just realised that i am concerned ( and where this concern actually resides, o don’t know) that if i really truly adopted and embraced truth telling and proper genuine honesty (radical honesty?), that i would spend much time ( and cause much pain and suffering to others) openly telling people i cant stand them. Because, honestly, i have all these prejudices and dislikes and condescensions. Either towards a particular individual because of a particular trait they have (say for generalised racial or cultural reasons).

No doubt these prejudices and condescensions abound out of some sense of fear of others (insecurity) and were probably seeded behaviourally by my upbringing (mother).
Presently, i don’t go around telling such people that i cant stand them because i anticipate it would cause them grief or pain (or to others connected to them, who i consider friends). This is how i know i am not a sociopath (Phew).
What to do?
Should i work on my prejudices and dislikes with a therapist? I reason there must be a psychological explanation as to why i have them in the first place. Something i could iron out with a few sessions. But what about if i didn’t want to iron them out? Where is my honest, true feeling about all this? Is my not wanting to relieve myself of prejudices and condescensions, merely my ego protecting its silly little ideas about other people? While at the same time, it protects itself on another level by protecting me by not allowing itself to honestly express its honest views about certain people to those people. After all, why would my ego expose me to the risk of harm (physical or psychological) or causing myself grief (because i caused others grief) when it can just keep those thoughts to itself ( where no one can contradict them) and continue to feel smug with no real consequences.
To be honest, it all seems very hard. Way easier to just continue take this same well-worn, half-assed approach to “fumbling through” everyday and continue to be broken. Isn’t it?


A (possible) Return to Honesty

Dear readers (for those of you who remain, or still care, or stumble here accidentally),
I have recently been again inspired to post again and to take up the banner once more for honesty…a new slant on my honesty project.
To be honest, I was prompted to log in to WordPress by an email to my inbox reminding me it was time to pay and renew my domain name and WordPress account. It was use it, or lose it, time. I felt there was value left in what I had started.  I feel that the pursuit of honesty is still important to who I am as a person. I am still searching for a satisfactory, personal paradigm of living honestly.
So I renewed. And here I am. Posting. For now. I’m infamous for getting excited, then getting distracted by my various hobbies, so i make no promises about regular content, nor the Honesty Project. 
This is an opportunity to try a new tack on honesty and what this blog is honestly about.
I have been reading in the meantime. One book in particular is giving me a new perspective and in a refreshingly no-bullshit kind of way.  My kind of book.  I’ll write about it soon, maybe even regularly.
A bientot,

Milestone marked with plastic bricks

I love Lego.  There, I said it.

And I recently turned 30.

Hi, my name is Dean Katsavos, I’m 30 years old and I am a little bit addicted to Lego, but I can stop anytime...

So, how to reconcile the two?

Well, it’s easier than you would think.  Just be honest with yourself and admit it openly to everyone that you love a particular thing or hobby.  Be honest about who you are inside.  No need to be shy about something you love doing, even if it’s a little silly, quirky or childish.  No need to hide out of embarrassment in case people judge you.  Let them judge.  But, you be you.  It’s healthy for you and good for the little child inside. Then, every time you have a birthday or pass certain milestone, people know what to do.  They will feed your habit and buy you Lego (at least in my case).

My birthday Lego haul

My creative entanglement with Lego started when I was small.  I was spoilt with some super sets.  Lego in the 80s was cool (but, looking back, clunky by today’s standards).  I recently stumbled across Brickipedia and took many a meander down nostalgia lane at all the old Lego sets I got for Christmas, birthdays and any time I could con my mother into buying me the odd set here and there.  I could almost tell you which occasion I got a particular set.

The most momentous set was the Barracuda 6285 – Christmas 1990.  I was 7 and still have a fading old picture of me proudly holding up the massive boat, Christmas tree in the background, still clad in the pyjamas I woke up with that Christmas morning.  The set even had its own monkey.  Coincidence, I’m sure.  (I’ve since tried to reclaim the joy I experienced building that set, when I bought the Imperial Flagship 10210 – more impressive in size and complexity, but you just can never reclaim the emotion and excitement attached to an experience like that at age 7).  My earliest Lego toy was the Ball Rattle-Teether 2015.  I was exposed to the Lego brand at a very very tender age.  My earliest Lego sets were the Freight Loading Depot 7838 and the Mobile Rocket Transport 6950!  Memories.  I’ll never forget the individual pieces in those sets.

Then I got other significant sets like the Deep Freeze Defender 6973, the glorious Monorail Transport System 6990 (my first Lego set that needed batteries), Galactic Peace Keeper 6886 the list was not endless enough.  They were really touching memories, the hours I spent on the floor of the various houses we lived, me pottering quietly away, inventing, designing, building, refining, destructing.  The cycle of my own inventions was endless.  My only limit was the number of bricks I owned.  But even then, limitations breed creative solutions.  When I ran out of a certain kind of piece, I would just spend a bit of time coming up with an alternative way of solving the construction problem.  Reflecting, I think this developed my brain in a certain kind of way.  I became a natural problem solver.  I love problems and natural leap at crosswords, mind games, mechanical objects and even other people’s moral and emotional dilemmas.  Even now, this habit and ability helps me professionally.  And not just to solve a problem, but to invent and re-invent more than one solution to both daily and commercial problems I’m faced with professionally.

Play, as a child, is a potent way of developing cognitive skills (and emotional ones, where play involves interaction with other children).  But imagine putting that on my CV under the “Skills” section.  “Loved Lego as a child and this helped me develop into a creative problem solver.”  It might work if you are applying to the Google campus where they appreciate creative thinkers and foster an inspiring, creative environment, but most law firms look for any excuse to can your application.  A Lego fetish is not high on their list of attributes.  They don’t need those skills.

But at some point (I think 2005), my Dark Age began.  To Lego fans a “Dark Age” is the period where you stop playing with Lego.  I did worse; I gave my Lego away.  I hadn’t played with it for years and the collection was just taking up space in the cupboards.  I gave it to my nephews and have not seen it since.  They didn’t grow up with it and didn’t appreciate its value – not in contrast to PC, PS2, PS3 and DX.  Dark days indeed.  But then again, looking back, I think even Lego kinda lost its way a little in the late 1990s to early 2000s with their choice of themes.

I have since had a Lego Renaissance.

So, when it was time to celebrate my 30th birthday, not only was I buying myself Lego (via the highly-addictive, but Lego was the gift of choice for those celebrating with me (thanks mum!).

With a super-efficient source of Lego bricks paid all by credit card and delivered by Australia Post to my door, I am slowly and expensively rebuilding my Lego brick collection.  I am currently in the creative throes of an Lego Architecture-inspired burst of construction.  The creations will adorn (and eventually take up) my office space – another thing you can’t get away with in a law firm – where I hope the aesthetic value of Lego can be appreciated.

So it’s almost not surprising why my “adult” decision to enter the strictures of the conservative law firm environment never sat comfortably with the imaginative, creative, self-content little child inside me that loved playing on the floor with Lego for hours and hours without a care in the world (other than how to get more bricks).

Now, having left that conservative environment behind for a creative, open workplace that deals with the architectural profession (but still doing serious legal work occasionally), I finally feel I can reconcile my serious lawyer side with my silly, creative side.  I can, these days, get whatever Lego brick I desire online at a moment’s notice and so my creative potential is truly limitless.  Such is the infinitely iterative aesthetic of Lego.

I guess the only thing that’s changed is that I now play and create on our huge kitchen table.  At 30, I’m too old for playing on the floor.  To be honest, I also pretend to justify my Lego habit on artistic grounds, when really, all I want to do is create cool spaceships with lasers and soaring buildings.  Still a kid at heart.  And I’m happy and proud of it.

Other kids are just jealous because my mummy said that she will buy me the biggest Lego ever, as my wedding present.  Yay!

Bowlergate: A forum for the truth

The other week, I had a rant about an incident involving a driver acting aggressively towards a cyclist, then coming out and making less-than-entirely-honest statements about how the incident unfolded.  In the meantime, witnesses have come forward telling a very different story to the one claimed by the sports celebrity driver.

The cyclist initially did not want, understandably, to make a big media fuss about the incident.  Instead, in a letter to the Herald Sun, he stated that Continue reading

Bowled over by dishonesty and prejudice

I went for a ride this morning.  It was a choice morning for it.  I try to get out on the bike at least twice a week and I love it.  I even commute to work for fitness and to avoid the cost and personal inconvenience (smells) of public transport.  I’ve been riding for a few years now and I generally ride with riders who have at least 10 or more years riding and racing experience – proper athletes.  Also some amateur ones.  I don’t race.  Just never got around to it.  I’ve even had the privilege of training and riding with Cameron Hughes (now of ActivCycle coaching), a well-respected figure in Australian cycling.  Also, I always wear Continue reading

Reflection on the loss of a friend

A friend died last week. Struck by a train.

He wasn’t a close friend, I hadn’t seen him in a few years. But his death has resonated with me so deeply, in a way that not even the death of a grandparent or uncle would.  In fact, it has resonated with most of my close friends too – particularly given our age group.

Only now, a few days after first receiving the news, do I feel sufficiently comfortable or been able to sort my thoughts and emotions sufficiently to write about it.  As always I’ve decided to be honest with myself about what I am feeling and experiencing and to speak (or write) openly about it.

The last close death in the family I experienced was my yiayia (my maternal grandmother) when I was about 6.  I was close to my yiayia, who looked after me occasionally as a child while my mother returned to her career as a teacher.  But, perhaps given my age or maturity, I still felt slightly disconnected from the event of my yiayia’s passing.

When I was first told the news by a mutual friend she described the circumstances delicately, even despite how horrific and graphic a fatality under the wheels of a commuter train would be.  But I was bemused about how this sort of thing is possible.  As the facts and circumstances of the death unraveled, it became apparent to me (and now I’m firmly convinced) that my friend was suffering from depression.  No one knows exactly what or how it happened.  I have only been told a few facts and the rest is probably speculation.  But I feel that on that fateful night both the opportunity and some awful, despairing need arose for him.  Finally, the suffocating weight of all the external pressures of his physical reality collided head on with the derailed psyche of his inner being.  His apparent psychological isolation echoed in frightening reverberating silence.  He must have felt he had no other logical option.  In a momentary, but very ultimate, perversion of the instinct of self preservation, he decided to take his own life.

His death, and my own speculation about the real circumstances of it, has affected me greatly and I have been distracted all week by news of the event.  In fact it has taken me 3 attempts to write this post.  I keep needing to come back to it.

Why has it affect me so?

By way of deep confession, I am no stranger to that despair.  Although, since leaving law school, our lives had diverged to separate paths, my friend and I shared a similar histories.  We were both sons of Greek migrant parents.  We both carried the parental and cultural weight of expectation to make something of yourself.  So we shared similar psychosocial expectations and pressures.  In some ways we both propagated the impression of a “perfect” kind of life.  We were both intelligent and diligent and both pursued careers in legal practice (as had many others of our mutual friends).  So we both experienced high-stress environments.  No doubt we both lived similar levels of material lifestyle and the cost of supporting those lifestyles.  In addition, my friend had also gotten married and, I expect, had a mortgage and a lifestyle to match his burgeoning career.  No doubt there were many and varied pressures and stresses on him in his life.

In contrast (almost 12 months ago now), I made a very scary decision and stepped down from a well-paid role in a large corporate law firm.  I did not have anything to go on.  I just bowed out quietly.  I had reached a certain point – mentally, spiritually, personally – and I could go no further with the life I was then leading.  For at least 2 years prior to making this decision I had experienced many troubled moments – moments of conflict, moments of uncertainty, moments of despair.  I was not in a good place.  Having developed a certain amount of self-awareness, I knew I had to do something about it.  Even my very regular exercise wasn’t helping me bounce back into a balanced state of contentedness with life.  Typical of my personality, I intellectualised my dilemma somewhat and sought out professional therapy over the course of about 2 years.  I also enrolled myself into a psychology course at University – my plan was to learn as much as I could about my psychological being.   Physician, heal thyself?

For me, these sessions were an environment without judgment of what I said or who I was.  The psychologist exuded genuine care for who I was as a person and helped me explore…me.  It was during these sessions that I, for myself, came to realise the ridiculous and artificial superstructure I had heavily invested in and built around me.  At that time, the personal and emotional energy I was investing in propping up the ‘external’ superstructure of my artificial identity was now threatening to sink the very person I was.  I had my dark moments.  I increasingly took more and more sick leave and often stayed home just “being” in a vain attempt to buy myself some solace amongst the increasing dilapidation that was my crumbling state of being.

But, slowly, came the realisation that all that pressure I was putting myself through was artificial, was external to “me” and was self-inflicted.  Most importantly, I realised (and was given the opportunity to make the realisation) that I always was and still am empowered to do something about that.  I had the power to stop the pain I was inflicting, subconsciously on myself.  It was a dawning realisation not unlike the moment in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is told by the Good Witch of the North that she had the power to return to Kansas all along.  But it was still months for me, until I finally was able to click my metaphorical heels and return to that place that was, for me, my very being, my true, real, inside self.  I again connected with what’s important to me.  And that was me.  The real me.  The inside me that always me.  The me that got trapped and buried under tonnes of external, artificial superstructure of my outward identity and personality.  I am not the most content with my life that I have ever been.  I feel I have everything I need.  My hierarchy of needs are sweetly, contentedly fulfilled in the most part.  I now look forward to the future joys of life ahead of me.

It is because of my own experience that I really grieve for what my friend had gone through in the weeks, months, even years, before that fateful decision he made last week.  It’s sad because a quiet voice at the back of my mind reminds me: that could have been you.  I know how bleak and dark and isolated and awful that spiritual, personal place is.  Because I have walked that same path, I am familiar with that moment, the tipping point where it almost seems like a really good, sensible, logical option, to take the easy way out of your bleak miserable lonely existence – where you resent yourself and your very existence enough, that you make that decision to step out and into the path of an oncoming train.  It is horrible merely to try and empathise with his state of mind, or try to relate to his feelings that night, in that split second in which he made that decision.  It’s sadder because a quiet voice at the back of my mind says:  he could have been saved.  He could have had the state of being that I now have.  But, alas.

No one should ever be in a place where they make a decision to take their life.  No one should feel so isolated.  So miserable.  So powerless to do otherwise. I believe that people who are suffering from long-term, incurable, lingering illness should have the right and option to take their lives.  Euthanasia is right in such circumstances.  But a charming, effusive, handsome, intelligent man in the prime of his life, newly married and with a long life full of experiences yet to be lived should never be brought to the point of taking his life.

I have been greatly moved by this experience.  It has spurred me to action.  I will not let any other friend take their life because they felt they had no other choice.  Because they felt trapped.  Because they felt isolated.  It’s just so sad.  A waste of human life it ever there was one.

It’s such a small thing – but simply reaching out to your mate could make the difference one day.  Depression is a very real issue in today’s society – particularly for men and particularly in our age group.  Let us not be naive about it.  Let us not pretend it isn’t a problem. It happens.  It happens to most of us.  It has happened to me and to many dear friends of mine.

Men, let us stop pretending “it’s going to be OK”.  Reach out and be honest with a close bro about yourself.  Men, let’s do something about it.  Men, reach out to a friend who you might think might not be in a happy place.  There are so many options for you to help you with what you are experiencing.  There are friends who can help.  There are organisations who can help.  In Australia, BeyondBlue is an excellent organisation dedicated to helping with men’s depression.  Try their hotline:  1300 22 4636.  Try talking to a mental health professional.  Call a mate.

It’s currently Movember.  Funds raised during Movember go to BeyondBlue and to prostate cancer research.  Get involved.  Start talking about depression – start talking about how you an do something about it.  Tell your mate it’s OK to talk about.  Tell him it’s OK if life is getting you down.  No matter what it is.  Reach out.  Do something.  Because you never know when simply showing your mate you care and that you are listening without judging might make the difference between enjoying another beer together, or yet another avoidable tragedy.

Depression is avoidable.  Suicide is not an option.  Reach out.  Talk.  Listen.  Care.

To be honest… You are just one more.

To be honest…if you had 7 billion grains of sand on your living room floor and you picked one grain of sand up, it would be unique from all the other grains of sand, but that one grain just isn’t that important.

One more squalling infant, one giant milestone for human history.  The human population of Earth just passed 7 billion this week and it doesn’t look like we are going to slow down any time soon.  The number of people on Earth has more than doubled in the last 50 years.  In fact, at the current rate the World’s population is projected to hit 9 billion in just another 40 years – in our lifetime – and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.

Hi, my name is Dean Katsavos, I am 29 and I am 79,261,204,759th person to have lived since human history began.  Although I am unique, I’m just not that important.  If you had 7 billion grains of human on your living room floor and you picked one grain of human up, it would be unique from all the other grains of human, but that one human just isn’t that important.  So neither are you.

How ironic that amongst this long-running and impassioned debate on climate change and global warming and with all the initiatives proposed to tax the mining sector, reduce industry emissions, produce cleaner, greener vehicles, reduce electricity usage and even to decrease the consumption of meat (and hence reduce bovine methane emissions), not once have I read of a proposal to STOP PEOPLE REPRODUCING, with the notable and very necessary exception of China’s One-Child Policy.   But they’ve already got 3.3 billion and they have a decisive political system to implement and enforce such a policy.

But hold on, you say, procreation is a fundamental human right.  It’s what we are here for.  Isn’t it?  In the face of all our modern social issues?  In the face of limited resources for all of us?  In the face of our planet become increasingly less suitable to our continued comfortable existence?  No.  To borrow yet again from George Carlin, you are all diseased and life is worth losing.  You are not that important.  Your offspring are not that important.  It is not that important that you prove your fertility and churn out three or ten children.  It is not important that you leave the small stain of your miniscule genetic legacy on humanity.  If the human gene pool was the ocean we used to swim in during summer as children, our contribution to the gene pool as adults should be accompanied by the same juvenile guilt that accompanied that lukewarm piddle you would quietly release into it and hope nobody would notice.

Here’s the bigger picture, folks:  The more of us on the planet, the more we need to eat, the more crap we make, the less room there is for the rest of us.  The less pleasant it’s going to be to live on this planet.  But we don’t stop to think about that when we are pumping away in desperate, heaving, sweating attempts to impregnate or be impregnated.

Wake up people of Earth, there are too many of us.

Westerners (and Western culture) have a preoccupation with standard of living, life expectancy, mortality rate, right to life and all such related buzz words intended to keep Western people floating naively happily above the rest of the unfortunate pile of human misery that is the developing world.  But that’s why we send just $12 a month to help some poor African child.  It allays any guilt we feel.  How perverse that, on the one hand, we thrash ourselves at work, milk the structures and institutions in our society and consume resources at alarming rates just to keep us fat, safe and happy and our Apple products up to date and our vehicles running and the private school fees paid and our art collections growing and our cosmetic surgeon’s bills paid and our soy lattes at the right temperature.  Then, with the other hand, some of us, sometimes send a miserly, pitiful amount of money to charities that may or may not be providing basic necessities to some desperately needy family in some country we couldn’t even find on a map.

But thank you for playing.

To be honest, we (the human race) really don’t need more people.  We (the human race) don’t really need you to procreate.  We (all non-Catholics) just don’t need you to have more than two children at most.  We (all Westerners in developed nations) don’t need the people of poor, developing nations to continue their rates of reproduction in a primal response to latent infant mortality rates.  We (people of all under-developed or developing nations) don’t need more Westerners having an extraordinary average life expectancy of 79.35 years AND to have more than two children.

In short, breed less, die more.  Enjoy life as you best can, but stop draining our fundamentally limited resources with more human beings.  A new planet is not an option.  Take responsibility now – yes, you, now.  Otherwise the planet, like any good parent teaching discipline to an unruly child, will take responsibility for you.