Category Archives: El Guapo

Rambow’s Rules for Life

Shortly after my son was born, I began drafting a letter to him — something I hoped he would remember me by long after I was gone that would also help him live the best life possible. The letter included many of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life — advice on how to be happy, healthy, and successful. My hope was that it would help him avoid many of the mistakes I made. For anyone who might be interested, here is the advice. I’ve divided it into three parts: (1) keys to success, (2) keys to happiness, and (3) miscellaneous advice.

KEYS TO SUCCESS

  1. BE INDUSTRIOUS. Let your natural, default state be one in which you are always creating or learning something of value. If you’re always productive, success will be almost automatic, and you’ll never regret how you spent your time. Build things. Write. Learn new skills or languages. Keep a list of things you want to accomplish, and make sure you’re always chipping away at it. Don’t waste any time, because time is the most precious thing you have. This doesn’t mean that you should be a workaholic; quality time with friends and family is vital as well. Relaxation and recreation, in moderation, are not a waste of time; in fact, they can help replenish your well of creativity and make you even more productive — and creative pursuits are a big part of what makes life meaningful.
  2. CULTIVATE USEFUL SKILLS. Skills give you freedom and power. If you’re good at coding, you have the freedom and power to create new software. If you speak a foreign language, you have the freedom and power to live and succeed in a different country and to make friends with people you otherwise wouldn’t even be able to communicate with. Look around and think about what skills you’d like to have. What skills are employers looking for? What skills match your interests, talents, and affinities? What skills will give you the freedom and power to get a good job and earn a good wage? What skills will give you the freedom and power to do the things in life that you really want to do? It’s not just about work; there are plenty of skills apart from work that make life more enjoyable and fulfilling.
  3. BUILD PERSONAL CONNECTIONS. Cultivate and maintain lifelong friendships and business relationships. Always be engaged in your community — at work, at school, in your neighborhood — and make positive contributions while also building useful connections. Help others, and don’t hesitate to seek their help as well. It’s not about using people; it’s about being part of something bigger than yourself — a community that benefits everyone. Make sure the relationships are genuine; care about the people in your network, and learn to speak their love languages. Good relationships will help you not just to be more successful, but to be happier as well — because companionship is another big part of what makes life meaningful.
  4. BE PROACTIVE AND ASSERTIVE. If you want something to happen, make it happen. Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way; rather, actively seek them out and create your own opportunities. Just being good at what you do isn’t enough. People won’t come along and offer you a dream job just because you’re an excellent student. Figure out what you want; then figure out what it will take to get it; and then do it. You have to be willing to take risks. I was never very good at this, and I regret that I didn’t understand earlier what it meant to be proactive. I was a “great” student who always made good grades, and so I always got funneled automatically to the advanced classes at the next level. I made very few decisions on my own. I expected everything to be handed to me automatically because I was a good, hardworking student. But when it came time for me to graduate from college, I didn’t have a plan. Other people had made plans much earlier on: medical school, graduate school, law school, internships, and engineering jobs. While they were starting their dream careers, I still had no idea what I wanted to do. That was a huge mistake — one that I don’t want you to make as well. So, figure out what you want to do, and make it happen.
  5. EXERCISE YOUR MIND. Your intelligence level is not fixed; never stop raising it. Push yourself to master knowledge and skills that are difficult to understand, and you will become smarter. Stay in the “zone of proximal development” — the region where things are neither too easy nor too hard, but challenging enough to make you grow. If you feel that everything you’re doing is easy, then you’re not challenging yourself enough, and you should find more difficult problems to tackle. Actively and intentionally develop your problem-solving, comprehension, and communication skills. Be informed, be discerning, and expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints.
  6. PROTECT YOUR HEALTH. Take good care of your physical and mental health. Poor health is an obstacle to success, because health problems can eat up time, energy, and money that could be better spent on other things. You can’t control everything about your health, but there is plenty you can do to maximize your chances of staying healthy. There are four keys: diet, exercise, sleep, and companionship. Don’t pollute your body with smoke, excessive alcohol, or too much sugar and fat. Don’t eat too much or too little. Play sports that exercise your heart and lungs; lift weights enough to be strong; stretch enough to be flexible. Take care of your appearance so that you will always feel good about the way you look. Get enough sleep so that you’ll be mentally sharp and have plenty of energy. And surround yourself with people who push you to be a better person and make you feel good about yourself. Your health has multiple components, all of which will affect your success; don’t neglect any of those components.
  7. MANAGE YOUR MONEY WISELY. Always spend less than you earn. Whenever you receive money, save and invest a portion of it. Obtain assets, and avoid liabilities. An asset is an investment that brings more money into your pocket. A liability is something that drains money out of your pocket. An expensive car is a liability, not an asset. A fancy house is a liability, not an asset. A stock or mutual fund that grows in value and pays dividends is an asset. A house or condo that you rent out is an asset. Don’t worship money, but manage it wisely so that you’ll always have enough to take care of your family and do things that you enjoy.

Of course, success is not the only important thing in life. There are plenty of highly successful, wealthy people who are miserable, who hate life, and who drag everyone around them down. Don’t be one of those people. Happiness is more important than success or wealth — though of course, success and wealth can make it easier to be happy. Below are some additional principles that will help you to be as happy as possible.

KEYS TO HAPPINESS

  1. Surround yourself with cheerful people who work hard and like to help others. The friends you choose will have a tremendous influence on the kind of person you become. Make sure you’re always surrounded by people who make you a better, happier person. If you surround yourself with unhappy people, then you’ll be unhappy too. If you surround yourself with lazy and unsuccessful people, then you’ll be lazy and unsuccessful. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with people who are just like the person you want to be, then you will become the person you want to be. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you like the person you are when you’re with someone else, then keep spending time with them. If you don’t like the person you are when you’re with someone else, then stop hanging out with them.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be people above you and people below you; people who are faster, and people who are slower; people who are richer, and people who are poorer. If you focus on the people who are “ahead of you” in life, it will be easy to become afflicted by envy, bitterness, and despair. If you focus on the people who are “behind you,” you may be tempted to feel an undeserved sense of superiority and pride. Neither is beneficial. Focus instead on being the best you can be. Take satisfaction in your own unique identity, the special roles that you fill, and the never-ending process of striving to become a better person.
  3. Find enjoyment in your present circumstances. A lot of people spend too much time focusing on what they want next. First, they can’t wait to grow up and become an adult. Then they can’t wait until they finish school. Then they can’t wait until they have a job. Then they can’t wait until they’re married. Then they can’t wait until they have kids. Then they can’t wait until their kids grow up. Then they can’t wait until they retire. Before they know it, their life is over, and they didn’t enjoy much of it because they never savored what they were doing in the present. Satisfaction was always one step ahead of them, so they never reached it. Instead of dwelling on where you want to be next, focus on where you are now. Find enjoyment in the process rather than the goal. If you’re doing the right thing now, you’ll end up in the place where you want to be next.
  4. Hold onto the good, and let go of the bad. Your memories will be your most precious treasures. The ones you choose to focus on will determine whether you are happy or bitter. Every night, as you drift off to sleep, open up your treasure chest of happy memories, and fill your heart with them. Think back on the bad times just enough to learn from them, and then let go of them so that they will never bother you again. This can be difficult to do, since we can’t always control our thoughts; but what we can do is notice negative thoughts when they arise (without passing judgment), notice how they make us feel, and then redirect our attention toward something more positive. Do not try to stop thinking about bad things. (There’s a classic joke about this: If someone tells you not to think about an elephant, they have just made you think of an elephant — and so it is impossible to avoid thinking about an elephant by trying to avoid thinking about one. In the same way, if you are focusing your attention on trying not to think about something painful, then you will necessarily be continuing to think about that painful thing.) Instead, start thinking about something else; the only way to get rid of negative thoughts is by replacing them with something positive. Don’t punish yourself for mistakes you’ve made. If you feel bad about them, then you’ve already learned from them. Let go, and move on.
  5. Never allow bitterness, resentment, contempt, or anger to take root in your mind. Don’t let any event — a horrible illness, the loss of a friend or loved one, or any kind of conflict or tragedy — make you bitter. Your life is too precious and too short to allow any significant part of it to be ruled by bitterness or anger. You may not be able to stop yourself from having these feelings temporarily, but the important thing is that you not let them take root and grow. Notice the bitterness or anger when it arises, and then let go of it and actively replace it with something positive.

Here are some other miscellaneous pieces of advice that I think are extremely valuable. Many of them are things you’ve heard me say many times, and I repeat them here unapologetically. They will also contribute to success and happiness.

OTHER MISCELLANEOUS RULES

  1. Never complain or make excuses, even when there are legitimate complaints and excuses to be made. Complaining is unattractive. If you have a positive attitude and lift others up rather than dragging them down, then people will like you more, and you’ll be happier and more successful. Bad attitudes are contagious; if you get infected by one, try to cure it before you spread it around. And avoid catching a bad attitude from others, just as you would avoid catching a cold from them.
  2. Observe other people carefully, and pay attention to their motives. Do this in both the short term and the long term. It will help you identify dangerous people, and it will also help you make deals with people. If you’re on a bus and you see a woman taking care of her baby, then you know what is motivating her: the desire to keep her baby safe, happy, and healthy. She’s not going to hurt someone else on the bus unless she feels threatened or desperate; and if she does feel threatened or desperate, that’s something you should be able to see. But if there’s a young man who is all by himself and is eyeing everyone else’s bags, purses, and pockets, then maybe he’s looking for something to steal. Pay attention to what people are looking at. Watch their eyes, watch their body language, and listen to their words. Think, what is this person trying to accomplish right now? This habit can be useful in working with other people. If you know what someone really wants, you can make a deal with them; they might be willing to do something for you if you help them get what they want. Just be ethical, and avoid shady deals that will cause trouble.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take risks. This old saying is true: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”Often, it’s worth it to give up something of value to get what you want, just as you might sacrifice a valuable piece in chess in order to win the game. Just be wise, not reckless, in the risks you take and the sacrifices you make.
  4. Be a player in life, not a spectator. Theodore Roosevelt put this idea best in the following quote:
    It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong one stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again; who spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if one fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that one’s place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
  5. Avoid motivated reasoning. “Motivated reasoning” is one of the most harmful things to human society. It undermines truth itself. And yet it is something that we do naturally, so we must watch for it in ourselves and try to avoid it. What is it? It’s the tendency to fabricate logical reasons for believing the things we want to believe. The following statement is counterintuitive but true: Intelligence doesn’t necessarily bring you closer to the truth; rather, it just enables you to construct clever reasons to continue believing the things you want to be true. A man once said to me, “My IQ is just a few points shy of Einstein’s. If you give me any argument against the Bible, I’ll be able to prove it wrong.” All this really meant was that he was committed to using his high intelligence to buttress the dogmas he had already decided were true before examining the evidence. His mistake was this: He never approached the Bible with an open mind and used his intelligence to consider the question, “What is actually true?” Instead, he was tackling the question, “How do I interpret the evidence in a way that won’t conflict with my cherished beliefs?” If he had been born into a Muslim family, he would have said the same about Islam: “If you give me any argument against the Qur’an, I’ll be able to prove it wrong.” And indeed, there are many people just as intelligent as he is who are just as certain that the Qur’an is true and whose arguments for its veracity are just as clever. The honest pursuit of truth is NOT about searching for evidence to prove your hypothesis correct. It is about going where the evidence takes you — whether that’s where you wanted to go or not. Good scientists search just as hard for evidence that will disprove their theories as for evidence that will support them.
  6. Avoid tribalism of all forms — especially political, racial/ethnic, and religious tribalism. Just like motivated reasoning, tribalism is tremendously harmful. It exists naturally within you, and you have to work hard to avoid falling victim to it. What is it? It’s a tendency to fall in line with people in your group — something we all do without being aware of it. Think about this: If you know what people believe about one particular issue, such as abortion, then you can usually guess what they believe about most other issues — even totally unrelated ones. Take guns and abortion, for example. You might think that someone who wants to protect the lives of unborn babies would also want to limit the availability of guns. But as it turns out, most people who are against abortion are also in favor of widespread gun ownership. And the reason is purely political. Most people are born into a political tribe, or they join one when they grow up. They think they’ve arrived at their beliefs through logical reasoning, but the actual truth is that they’re going along with their tribe, and they’re just employing motivated reasoning (without knowing it) to convince themselves that they arrived at their positions via rational thought.
  7. Become adept at defusing tense situations and disarming agitated people. It is in our nature to escalate tensions and repay offenses with greater offenses. Be strong and creative enough to step out of such destructive cycles. Interactions with people are like games of chess. You can be a slave to your nature and make expected moves that bring about expected conflicts — or you can master yourself and make unexpected moves that take everyone by surprise and change the direction and outcome of the game. In fact, most people are trapped in petty games without even realizing it. They are trying to score points for themselves and for their tribe. They spout insults and broadcast false virtues (which will win them esteem in the eyes of their tribe) without any regard for what is actually true. They cannot see their way to exit the game and play by a different, higher set of rules, putting an end to the point-scoring and the tribalism. Once they are locked in conflict, they cannot even see the possibility of ending it and working together. They cannot see the possibility of admitting they are wrong or apologizing. Get in the habit of watching for ways to transcend the games that others play. This is how you turn enemies to friends. This is how you get people to come together and accomplish more than anyone ever would have believed possible.

Daddy, Are You Dying?

“I can’t see the stars,” I said.

I was talking about the glow-in-the-dark dots on my son’s new space-themed pajamas. He was excited about them, as only a two-year-old could be, and he wanted to show them off to me. But they were invisible to my eyes.

“Why?” he asked.

I thought for a moment. I would probably be able to see them in a few seconds, once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness; but it also occurred to me that my sight just wasn’t as good as it used to be. Eliot’s was better.

“My eyes aren’t as good as yours,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

Once more, I paused.

“Because my eyes are old,” I said at last.

Why are your eyes old?” he asked.

“Because I’m old!” I said.

This time, Eliot was the one who paused. During the silence, I began to make out the stars on his shirt, but I couldn’t see the expression on his face as he looked at me, processing what I’d just told him. When he finally answered, his voice was much quieter and more serious than it had been just moments before.

“You’re dying,” he said.

I stared into the darkness. He was only two. He had seen plants and flowers die, but as far as I knew, he’d had no cause to think about people dying. Had someone told him about the connection between old age and dying, or had he just known? I suddenly had a spooky feeling that perhaps Eliot’s mind was connected to some well of universal truth—a source we all begin life connected to but then lose touch with as we grow out of childhood.

“Daddy, are you dying?” he asked.

“No, buddy,” I said. Not yet.

After we said good night and I closed his bedroom door, I couldn’t get his little voice out of my head. Daddy, are you dying? Just how much did he know?

It wasn’t until the next morning, as I was walking him to the playground, that I would get another hint as to what was going on in his mind.

“Daddy,” he said, “I don’t like you.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you’re old.”

I laughed, even though it actually hurt a little.

“Well,” I said, “when you get old, I will still like you.”

He looked up at me, eyes narrowed.

“No,” he said. “I will still like you.”

A moment later, he was running toward the slide.

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 8)

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Dearest Minions,

Once again, an almost inexcusable amount of time has lapsed since my last status report. I can only plead that life is busy when the universe revolves around you — and I know that you will understand.

The past few months have been eventful. Just two weeks ago, my most trusted minions abducted me and held me hostage at a fishing resort in Bemidji, Minnesota (of all places). I resisted fiercely, screaming at the top of my lungs throughout the multiple plane rides, but to no avail. The only rewards for my effort were glares from my fellow captives, those poor souls who were belted to the seats surrounding me on the flight.

In the course of the ordeal, my maternal minion caught a fish:

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My paternal minion stood on a rock:

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And I attempted to dig my way out of captivity using nothing but a few pots and a discarded ice tray:

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I was unable to escape on my own, but fortunately, my parental minions did at last come to their senses and take me back home, where I am once again deeply entangled in schemes of the utmost significance.

Time is short, and I must now set my pen down and return to my pressing duties. As always, I exhort you to remain steadfast in your devotion to the Cause.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 7)

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“I wear my bib like a cape.”

Dearest Minions,

I shall keep this message succinct, seeing as I have recently infected every last one of my fawning servants with a nasty case of the stomach flu and am now charged with the burdensome duty of nursing them back to health.

My nefarious and cynical enemies (of which I have many — make no mistake) scoff at my attempts to essay commentary on the state of world affairs. They foolishly suggest that eight months of life is far too short a period within which to develop any credible perspective on matters of appreciable magnitude. I shall endeavor herein to prove such pusillanimous skeptics wrong.

The observation that I wish to share today is at once profound and trivial, and it is simply this (if you will allow me to quote myself):

When everything is being said, nothing is being said.

I say this, of course, in reference to the vapid, contradictory absurdities being spewed forth by the various news outlets whose logos are featured in the following montage, which I have ripped shamelessly from a Google image search containing the words “news logo montage”:

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The sentiment of this observation is admittedly similar to the thoughts penned in my paternal minion’s essay on white space (be sure to click on the white space, or you may miss his message). It is also humorously reminiscent of the words of the great mushroom expert John Cage (look him up), who famously said, “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.” Perhaps by saying nothing, Cage was in fact saying everything.

I suppose that this nothing-everything duality that has emerged in the media (and has arguably existed for all time, even before I burst onto the scene eight months ago) is a mere glimpse, at one particular scale, of the fractal nature of existence itself, which physicists are just now beginning to suppose might in fact be nothing.

And so I leave you with a simple poem:

Everything from nothing,
And nothing again from everything.
Meaning is in the middle.

These thoughts are enough to make one wonder just how big the chasm is between Zen Buddhism and nihilism. Perhaps they are One.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

[See the previous letter from El Guapo.]

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 6)

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Dearest Minions:

I write to you this day to disclose tidings that will undoubtedly cause your hearts to resonate with my own in unparalleled joy. First, however, I must warn you that the contents of this disclosure may be more than marginally shocking to many of you, for they will reveal that I am susceptible to the very same longings for love and companionship as ordinary mortal humans. Continue reading only when you are sure that your mind and body are of sufficiently robust constitution to digest this revelation with minimal ill effects.

My disclosure is this: I have found love. Yes, it was as surprising to me as it surely must be to you, dear Minion, for I believed, as all of you did, that nowhere on this earth, from the deepest valley to the highest mountain peak, could ever be found a companion of sufficiently radiant excellence to be worthy of partnering with a figure as eminent and illustrious as I. But as we all know, life frequently has a way of proving us wrong, often in humbling ways, and that is indeed what has happened in this particular instance.

Without further ado, I present to you the following two photographs, that you may behold the angelic recipient of my affection. I am sure you will all agree that her youthful mien is charming beyond verbal description. With unreserved confidence and utter certainty, I can declare unequivocally that the world has never known a fairer maiden than she.

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From the outset, my encounter with her restored within me a belief in those romantic ideals of love and the indomitability of the human spirit. Accordingly, I made all appropriate advances with characteristic boldness, while maintaining absolute propriety and the fullest possible respect for her personal dignity. It was gratifying (though unsurprising, needless to say) to find that she welcomed and returned my affection in equal measure. When our hands touched, sparks flew; and, I am not embarrassed to admit, drool flowed.

In summary, I have met my equal, and she is a damsel beyond compare. Never fear, however, that I will allow this newfound love to distract me from our great cause, dear Minions. I have forgotten neither the prize for which we labor nor the many comrades who support me with their blood, sweat, and tears. We will prevail. Indeed, there is much worth fighting for.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

[See the next letter from El Guapo.]

[See the previous letter from El Guapo.]

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 5)

 El Guapo in Carrier

Dearest Minions:

Of late, I have been occupying myself with rather frivolous pursuits. Call it a vacation, if you will. In any event, I have been directing my Parental Minions to serve me around the clock with various forms of entertainment. It is exhausting for them, but I know that they feel justly rewarded by the smile on my face, and so I do not feel guilty about placing such onerous demands upon them.

The photograph above is an example of one of our many activities. Note the embarrassingly goofy smile on my Paternal Minion’s face. The image shows us engaged in a hobby that I like to call “Inverted Puppeteering.” Although I am the one hanging like a marionette, it is I who am pulling all of the strings. I have become so skilled that I can now direct my Paternal Minion’s every move effortlessly via subconscious thought.

And just today, I granted my Paternal Minion the privilege of performing drunken acrobatic maneuvers while emitting childish noises. At the end of his shenanigan, I reciprocated by toppling over in a goofy fashion. I normally would not engage in such unbecoming behavior, but every once in a while one has to throw one’s minions a bone. It was worth it; you should have seen how ridiculously cute he was when he laughed! A pity the camera was on me and not him, though that is certainly as it should be.

In any case, here is the video:

I wish all of you the best, and I exhort you to remain faithful to our great cause.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

[See the next letter from El Guapo.]

[See the previous letter from El Guapo.]

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 4)

ElGuapo_and_CatDearest Minions:

El Guapo here. Allow me to open this missive with an apology for permitting such an unconscionably prolonged interval of time to have lapsed without apprising you of the various goings-on that have taken place since my previous communique. I can scarcely imagine the heart-wrenching distress that the resulting state of perpetual uncertainty must have caused you, even as you continued to labor faithfully for the furtherment of our great cause. Please rest assured that the depth of my gratitude toward each and every one of you for your unwavering devotion knows no bounds.

I have, of course, been mightily busy, contending with the mountain of gravely important tasks that continuously threaten to overwhelm me every moment of the day. In addition to my heavy involvement in the milk trade, I have continued my work in the field of sleep deprivation — and with phenomenal success, I am happy to report! Furthermore, there is yet another never-ending task about which I have not previously written: the regular soiling of infant undergarments. Several times a day, I am presented with a fresh, highly-absorbent undergarment, which it is my duty to soak and stain by all means at my disposal. As you can imagine, these burdens leave me precious little time for other pursuits. I scarcely even have time for the twenty hours of sleep that any decent human being requires in a day!

Nevertheless, I am at present free to dash off these few words and provide you with an amusing photograph (furnished at the top of this message), which I hope will provide you with a moment of levity. In my spare time, I have been practicing the arts of disguise and dissembling. The attached photograph, for example, was taken by my paternal minion as I posed beside a stuffed cat. Such are my skills now that I suspect even the sharpest-eyed among my minions — yes, even those who spend the better part of each day serving me at close quarters — have little more than a fifty percent chance of correctly identifying me in the picture. By all means, try your hand at it, and let us laugh together at the results!

Having said that, I should now like to strike a more sentimental note, recognizing that my desire to do so is likely a symptom of my advancing age. (It has nearly been a full three months since my miraculous escape from the oubliette in which I was ensconced during those nine months of unspeakable horror.) Before proceeding, however, I must first reveal that I am the figure on the right in the above photograph. (Surprised? Well, don’t be embarrassed.) The cat, of course, is therefore the figure on the left, and it is precisely the history of this cat that has put me in this sentimental mood. I hope that you will indulge me as I endeavor to explain its significance.

The cat was purchased by my paternal minion as a gift for my maternal minion when he decided to make known his intention to enter into matrimonial union with her. You see, this cat, known as “Robo-Cat” in Chinese (or, when translated more directly, as “Machine Cat”), was my maternal minion’s favorite cartoon character as a child. One of Robo-Cat’s most interesting traits is that he has on his belly a magic pocket, from which he can withdraw nearly any magical object one can imagine, including a doorway that allows one to traverse great distances in a single step.

During the course of their whirlwind courtship, my maternal minion had disclosed to my paternal minion that as a child she had often fantasized about having access to the same sorts of magical paraphernalia as those contained in Robo-Cat’s pocket. Thus, my paternal minion decided to place a ring of matrimonial commitment into the pocket of the stuffed cat for my maternal minion to find. He presented the cat to her on her birthday, and she discovered the ring with tearful delight. The rest, of course, is history (and will be well-known history once I have secured my dominion over the universe).

Even now, as I write about this beautiful moment in my parental minions’ exquisite romance, an overwhelming feeling of warmth wells up inside of my very bowels. Or . . . Oh. Perhaps it is merely time for another fresh undergarment.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

[See the next letter from El Guapo.]

[See the previous letter from El Guapo.]

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 3)

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Here I am artfully executing a particularly devastating sleep-deprivation maneuver on my maternal minion.

Dearest Minions:

El Guapo here. I am writing to you after having passed through a brief period of soul-crushing despair. Things had been going well with the milk trade, our ranks had been swelling in numbers, and our coffers had been growing heavy with hard-earned lucre; and yet it came to my attention that we still lacked the level of income that would be needed to realize our lofty goals. As I languished beneath the weight of this disheartening realization, a solution was presented to me by two of my minions. It was a revelation so elegant and miraculous, so effectual in sweeping away the last grain of my despair, that I rush to share it with you now.

When embarking on an endeavor as grand as ours, it is wise to take stock of one’s resources—the land, labor, and capital at one’s disposal—and to formulate a strategy for utilizing said resources with maximal efficiency. With great humility and no small amount of shame, I must admit that I failed from the very beginning to carry out this most basic analysis. My folly lay in the fact that I was taking into account the skills and resources of only my minions, all the while ignoring the most formidable reservoir of expertise available—namely, my own!

What manner of wondrous resource resides within said reservoir in such unfathomable quantities, you ask? Happily, I will tell you. Specifically, my minions revealed to me that I am gifted far beyond the ordinary measure of mere mortals in the field of sleep deprivation. By generating a unique set of carefully timed noises and smells, and even more so by inducing a deep sense of incurable worry in my caretakers, I am able to deprive everyone around me of nearly all sleep during the course of a night.

It has been suggested that I enter into contracts with various intelligence and security agencies across the globe, beginning with the gentle fellows in Guantanamo Bay, to provide consultation services in this vital field; and indeed, I have begun exploring various opportunities for employment. Were I part of a more earthy organization, I would perhaps be given a title such as “Sleep Deprivation Specialist”; but in light of the fact that I—and those of you who labor with me for the same cause—operate on a higher plane, I eschew such lowly titles. The moniker that I have taken for myself—El Guapo—is sufficient.

After some preliminary investigation, it has already been ascertained that my consulting services will be profitable beyond what any of us previously imagined possible. Thus, within a year or so, the necessity for our involvement in the milk trade will come to an end, and the advancement of our cause will rest securely on the revenues generated by my services alone. As a consequence, my minions will be free to perform even loftier tasks, and we shall begin moving all the more quickly toward the objective we so piously pursue.

Thus, I am happy to close this missive with the news that not only has my hour of despair passed, but that despair has been replaced with inexpressible joy at the knowledge that we are nearing the moment of our ultimate victory. And so I exhort you, dear minions, remain strong, and let not your steps falter for even an instant.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

[See the next letter from El Guapo.]

[See the previous letter from El Guapo.]

The Chronicles of El Guapo (Entry 2)

minions_cropped

Here I am surrounded by my devoted minions, those noble souls who would shield me from bullets with their own flesh if need be.

Salutations. El Guapo here.

In my previous missive, I described at length the abominable captivity to which I was subjected for a period of approximately nine months, along with my subsequent bloody escape. In this present communiqué, I wish to focus less on my own tribulations and more on the task that lies before us. In particular, we must address the fundamental question of resources, especially those of the human sort, since no goal of appreciable magnitude can be accomplished without the concerted and selfless effort of many hands.

As I mentioned briefly before, I have already secured the devotion of a small handful of minions (most of whom are shown in the photograph at the top of this letter). They have been faithfully executing the various assignments that I have delegated to them, including nourishing me with milk, changing my undergarments, and providing me with comfort during those times when the weight of our great burden threatens to crush my spirit.

It would be impossible to overemphasize how indispensable these minions have been to me since the very moment of my miraculous liberation. Nevertheless, the nature of our cause will require the addition of large numbers of souls to the ranks that already follow me. With this in mind, I therefore consider it my highest priority to reach out and invite you, my fellow travelers who struggle under the same burdens and dream the same dreams as I, to join with us and lend your strength to our immortal mission.

If you have ever felt a void in your life, a hollowness in your heart, a sense that you have been lacking something, then I urge you to rise up and join with me in pursuing the highest of all objectives, for doing so will satisfy your deepest longings as nothing else can. Rest assured that there will be no shortage of significant tasks for you to complete, though many of them might be of a covert and ethically questionable nature. Before proceeding, therefore, you must first ask yourself a list of probing questions that will reveal the true nature of your motives and the strength of your character. In particular, will you be willing

  • to procure milk from any and all conceivable sources?
  • to transport milk across state and national borders, legally or illegally?
  • to deal milk to a range of clients, with a full understanding of all risks that the dealing of milk might entail?
  • to store large quantities of milk and protect them with your life if need be?

If you are genuinely able to answer yes in your heart to all of these questions, then you are worthy of becoming one of my minions, and I will welcome you with open arms. You can contact me by whispering my name into the cool night air under a starry sky at midnight: “El Guapo.” I will hear, and I will come to you in your dreams and provide you with explicit instructions.

Do not be discouraged, my fellow travelers. Our victory is quickly approaching. Remain steadfast, and we shall one day enjoy the fruits of our labor.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

[See the next letter from El Guapo.]

[See the previous letter from El Guapo.]