My thoughts today are recursively battling themselves, and then stepping back to assess if there is a winner behind the carnage of the mental battlefield. Before getting to the bloodshed, though, let’s hit the food part first.

I remember once talking with the chef Pascal Sauton (of Carafe). There he was surrounded by the complexity of his French menu, but he only got really animated when he started to speak of cooking a whole side of lamb with nothing but a wood fire, salt and some pepper – oh, and maybe an herb. This short interaction with him engendered a love for simple good cooking. Thus tonight, it is chicken breasts with lemon wine sauce served with couscous and a big balsamic fig summer salad. Simple in that it went from idea to table in about 20 minutes.

Secret Ingredient: the one thing I forgot to add – the capers!

Music Accompaniment: ah heck, “We are the champions” by Queen – at least while cooking.

Lemon Chicken

So now to the battlefield – I had lunch this past week with a self qualified “ultra liberal” who owned a military contracting company. Not too different from my own situation of doing military reconnaissance work while being such a pacifist that I can’t run over the worms on my driveway after a rainfall.

People are filled with cognitive dissonance – from relationships to careers to lifestyle choices. No one is immune to compartmentalizations in order to preserve a premise for consistency. Let’s be honest here – for all the bluster in ethical and rational purity, it’s is a sham. People are inherently chaotic and relativistic, mapping to the needs of a situation or even the chemical balance in the mind at any given moment. Meanwhile, the mind drags along morality behind it, barely dressed and certainly given the hard task of trying to clean up the mess that the rest of the brain has made in actions – like the mess of a kitchen I have from “just” a twenty minute dinner.

For me, I have always embraced Sir Walt Whitman’s statement “You say I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large and contain multitudes“. Being large, you have the freedom to embrace different perspectives, with the risk of a wavering moral compass, or an inconsistent core identity.

So it is with this context that I’ve been pondering, why did I not have a stronger internal rebellion over the cognitive dissonance in my career vs personal belief? I am at peace with the dissonance – but how and why, and ultimately is it really a flaw of morality that must be rooted out by having that peace? If I answer yes, then I shut down much of my ambition – if I answer no, then I’m floating in a flat sea of relativistic meaninglessness, with no mountains, paths or tools to guide me.

Since I’m in the witness box with this post, I’ll reveal that I’m in the latter boat – no, the contradiction does not need rooting out and is not a sign of ethical, moral or personal decay. But while I am getting at peace with having dissonance, I haven’t found peace with the imagery that all things deteriorate into equal nothingness without having some absolutes to build upon. It’s like looking around and realizing that everything is made out of protons, electrons and neutrons – and thus everything is ultimately the same everywhere with no differentiation – and suddenly the richness of life went out the window, and anything hinting of vibrancy that is left is merely a sham.

So that’s the wasteland of the battlefield to me. I’ve won the war by establishing peace between the warring sides – and in so doing have exposed myself to a far greater existential danger of cold lifelessness. Winter is coming.

Hmm.. must be Game of Thrones time.