12.25.2008

My Gift to Society, as it were

Often I sit here and wonder what I have to offer.  Often I sit here and imagine my purpose.  And often times, I do not get a satisfying answer.  I get down on myself when I see a dream undergo trials.

I look into a field.  It is beautiful.  It has green grass, rolling hills, a grove of trees on the side.  And the sun smiling down on me.  And then I see the ground open beneath, expunging putrid smoke into the sky.  The trees burn into a smoldering rubble.  Grass burns, leaving a trail of black across the scene.  An explosion of red bursts into the heavens, causing the sky to run in fear.

Do you ever feel that?  You have the review, that test, the experience that takes your dream and smashes them to bits.  And I want to so badly believe that it's not the end.  I want to believe that failure can be salvaged, and dreams may still be procured.

The lodgepole pine tree requires intense heat to release the seeds from the cones and reproduce.  Commonly, forest fires will cause this.  These fires often devestate acres and acres of land.  But without this, the lodgepole pines would be stuck to rot, surrounding by other foliage that is just taking up space.

Do you see it?

Yes, it's rough right now.  Yes, you failed at whatever it was.  But everyone has.  And often times a rough time is needed to get rid of the excess that bogs you down.  Fire can destroy, but it can also bring life forth.

In this life, I dream for many things.  And many of them I will not get.  But some of them I will.  And my goal is to keep my dreams as close to reality as possible.  Life can live up to a dream, but if the dreams are small, then life will be even smaller.  I dream big in hopes of hitting something.  I hope often.  I dream big.  And someday a dream will come true.  And it will be the best day of my life.

Sometimes...often times...it's ok if a dream does not come true.  Sometimes it's not the dream itself that I need or desire.  Sometimes it is the journey that I require.

Maybe I said nothing.  Maybe I said something.  I don't think it matters what I said.  I think what matters is what you heard.

12.07.2008

Christmas: The Problems and The Hypocrisy

Many people have heard my views on Christmas.  But hopefully I can enlighten you on an alternate view, as the advent season has started and the long-awaited day creeps closer and closer.

Christmas.  How much I desire it.  How can I not?  It is the epicenter of happiness and tradition.  We sing joyously these tales of happiness, giving love to each other and taking part in the giving attitude of the season.  Truly, this is a pure resemblance of what Christ did for us, giving wholly of himself, seeking nothing in return.

That IS what Christmas is about...correct?

Friday, November 28th.  Thanksgiving has been over for about five hours now.  The dishes have been cleaned, leftovers put away, and at this early hour lines form outside in the bitter cold, waiting for the sales on merchandise in the stores.
Ah yes, Black Friday.  Corporate heaven, employee hell.  The start of the Christmas season (if not earlier).  The start of this joyous feeling.
I was standing outside ABC Warehouse.  The doors had just opened and those of us who had been dutifully standing in line were ushed in by the store manager.  He was doing a remarkable job of making sure that only those who had been in line were getting in the store, while those late comers who were attempting to squeeze were sent to the back of the line.
One middle age man who was not in line (but wanted to get in the store) was very unhappy about this set up.  He strongly desired to get in the store and make his purchase.  He found disfavor with one certain young man...
Young man: "Back of the line! We've been waiting!"
Middle age man: "F*** off!"
Young man: "Excuse me?  What did you say to me?"
Middle age man: "You heard me.  I told you to p*** off!  And that's not just to you.  That's to everyone here!"

Merry Christmas, anyone?

I'm sure we've all heard the Jdimnytai Damour story.  The man was working at Wal-mart and was trampled by some people eagerly embracing the Christmas spirit.  Perhaps I should emphasize that.  Someone was killed over some $2 DVDs.  Really?  Could no one realize "O hey, I'm stepping on this man's face."  I wonder if those people had ever murdered before.  I imagine they're all proud of the fact that they saved $8 on a movie...and killed a man.  I'm sure that movie will that much more enjoyable.  AND!  The storied that can be told!  I'm sure they'll be telling that one for ages.  "Did I ever tell you the story about how I helped trample a man to death to save $8 on a movie?  O, those were the days."

I am often called a Scrooge.  And I have become very fond of that name.  Because in watching the character of Scrooge, I note some very interesting things.  Mostly I came to this understanding after watch a play called "The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge" by Mark Brown.  And in it are some very fascinating points that I think have validity.  If every you get the chance to read or watch the play, I reccomend it.  FYI.

Perhaps I am uncultured, but I do not believe that need raises much more on Christmas day than on other days.  Except for things like extra heating and clothing (which we can attribute to the weather, not the day of the year).  But I don't think I need any statistics to say quite accurately that the average person gives more to churches or other organizations during the Chrsitmas season than during other times of the year.  Again, perhaps I am ignorant, but I doubt that many people use all of their Christmas bonuses for charity.  So that must mean that they have some of the money to use the rest of the year...hmm....

I am a college aged, American boy.  I come from a middle middle class rural-suburban home.  I have a part time job.  I have some scholarships.
I do not recall the last time I went without needing something.  I do not recall the last time I counted dimes to pay the electric bill.  In fact, I have never paid the electric bill.  Or any bill, for that matter, except for school.  But my parents are taking care of most of that anyway.  I have never slept outside in fear that an angry parent would abuse me in my sleep.  I have never begged a stranger for food because I hadn't eaten for so long.  I have never gone barefoot because my shoes are too worn out to stay on my feet.

I also do not remember the last time I did not get a Christmas present.  Or the last time I did not give a present to a family memeber, all of whom are in essentially identical situations.  We do not need.  But we give gifts to each other.

Some interesting statistics.
As of yesterday (12/6/08) the National Debt was over $10.6 trillion.
Americans spend about $450 billion on Christmas.  Every year.
It would take about $10 billion to get pure water to the entire world.

I will freely admit that I do not contribute as much as I should.  Not NEARLY as much as I should.  Right now I'm still trying to figure out this whole "life" thing.  No, that's not a good excuse.  And I don't use it as excuse at all.  I use it as something that I can work towards.  And it's hard for me.  I'm busy and when I'm not busy I want to rest and be lazy and selfish.  If nothing else, I'm honest.  But I'm working towards doing more.  This past school year I helped at a local school with an after school program.  This Christmas I'm going to be helping at the Salvation Army or some other organization.  In the summer I'm trying to get a job at a summer camp.  These are different needs that need to be met.  But we each have our parts.

Hopefully this all makes sense.  I write this not to throw abstract ideals at you, but to help you see another reality.

Such is the case with the Invisible Children.  Thousands of children that must daily seek refuge from miltaristic rebels that will strip them of everything and force them to kill.  Or be killed.  But who has heard of this devestating catastrophe?  Everyone has heard of the War in Iraq.  But...children killing people?  That doesn't happen!  Does it...?


It does.

Be aware.  That's all I ask.  Realize that Christmas has become more than a time of giving and happiness.  For me, every Chrsitmas song, every tree, string of lights, wreath, decoration, is a reminder of what we have become.  Stagnant.  Desensitized.  Desiring everything, needing nothing.

Tyler Durden from fight club has a well said statement about what we have lost in being human.  I want to change it a little.  "[Chrsitmas]  has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s*** we don't need."

Just think about that...

10.29.2008

The Brilliant Mind: A Journey Worth Failing For

Let me begin by stating that I am, in no way, brilliant.  However, I find the idea of excellence to be captivating, and I felt compelled to blog on it.

Every person goes somewhere.  Whether or not you want to admit it, over the course of life, you have gone from being a small child, new to the world, to whatever stage in which you may lie.  The part that I find scary is that no matter what I do, or no matter what I do NOT do, I will continue to move in some direction.  As all people do.  Even the "man" who lives in his mother's basement...he has moved from the place in which he began.  It just happens that often, that direction is backwards.  As in the case of the grown man in his mother's basement, he has gone from expecting his mother to provide, to being grateful for her generosity (once he is older), but then backwards towards hostility if the generosity is not carried out.  I can't help but think of Warlock from Live Free or Die Hard.  He has grown to become a technology god...but still lives in his parents basement.

Where is this headed?

One of the biggest strategies I have discovered in the journey towards brilliance is the idea of Initiative.  This is thinking and doing before everyone else even recognizes the need.  It's planning and executing the plan before the average person even acknowledges a problem that needs to be fixed.  The best way to begin this is by starting with immediate needs and taking care of them.  Efficiency is key.  Get the immediate things done before they are due, then start working on future things.  The brilliant mind can control past and present events, while idealizing the future.

A normal person imagines only what other people already do.  A great person does what other people only imagine.

Every great mind in history has been a dreamer.  There is great strength and importance in remaining true to reality and understanding the boundaries of fantasy.  But the worst thing you could do to your mind is to cage it in.  I have yet to find a reason to hold back an imaginitive mind.  Yes, they might be risking some reality.  But I would rather attempt to do the slightly improbable than remain stuck in the ridiculously overdone.  

Aragorn: What do you fear my lady?
Éowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond beyond recall or desire.

I have felt, I have not felt.  I have dreamed, lost hope, lived, and died.  I have loved, hated, and known passion unfathomable.  And in all my experience, nothing is worse than feeling empty.  To lose feeling is to lose a part of humanity.  It is to lose part of the very essence of being.  It damages the soul.  I would rather lose my mind to a dream than damage my soul to that dream's death.

Why would you desire to be of brilliant mind?

For me, it is because I am not satisfied with how life will take me.  I am not satisfied with being "another guy."  I want to be remembered.  In 30 years, I want my current friends to look back and remember "wow...what would I have been like without him?"  Eric Erickson produced a wonderful theory of social development.  And at the end of life, we are faced with the crisis of Wisdom: integrity versus despair.  Will we be happy with our lives, or are we sad that it is not what it could have been?

I know that there are two things I must to do avoid despair.  And it starts now.  I must fulfill my goals for my life, and I must fulfill God's goal for my life.

My goal is to be remembered and to change people for good.  I want to be able to know, in my old age, that there are people in my life that I mattered to.  That they look back and realize what they would have been like without me, as I look back and imagine what I would be like without them.  This is a large part of why I am teaching.  I want to change my students for good.  I want them, even if they hate math, to realize that one person does care about them, and wants the best for them.  And in their old age, they will realize that I helped them through a pivitol point in their life.

God's goal for me...I am still discovering.  I know how to find it.  But I'm not there yet.  I believe that God's will for me isn't about finding the hotel at the end of the map.   It's following the map that doesn't always make sense, but is guaranteed to get me there.

I think that Theodore Roosevelt said it best.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

No child wants to have an office job when they grow up.  They want to be firefighters, police officers, super heroes, astronauts...I can keep going.  They have dreams of bigness.  And somewhere, that dream dies.  As does a part of their soul.

Today, go and dream.  Today, go and take a risk.  Tomorrow, accept the consequences, good or bad, and be thankful that you were able to take that risk.  Because the critic will mock you, but will NEVER know the thrill of striving for a dream.

That is the heart of the brilliant mind.  To know how to dream, to take defeat, to turn it around and demand victory.  To get ahead of everyone else and make your dreams reality, and let other people dream of your life.  Not for the sake of jealousy, but for the sake of bringing them up.  The brilliant mind never seeks for self.  Self is too small.  The brilliant mind lives on behalf of a greater good.

So go out, and remember to look both ways before crossing the street.  For you never know what winds may come, nor where they may take you.

9.28.2008

Time: More Fatal Than Oxygen

I had an interesting discussion with a good friend the other day. We were talking about theories of time travel and I was making up something about how "all you had to do" was make time equal to a function of the earth's volume, as time is the fourth dimension, volume being the third. And she cleverly noted that time is more than just a measurement. She went on even further and said that because we do not really understand time, we kind of push it to the side and ignore it.

I thought about this for a while, and I wondered how much we really DO know about time.

I just finished watching Donnie Darko. I really enjoyed it, but it made me think of this whole time issue again. How was Donnie able to travel through time to a specific day without going into the wormhole, and how did he know that changing his decision would keep Gretchen alive?

So I wonder: what is time? What does it mean to travel through it?
Obviously we are traversing time right now, going forward at a constant rate of 60 minutes an hour. Is time just a measure of duration?

Time is like air. We will die without it, but ultimately it kills us. Oxygen is not a safe chemical. The oxygen in water combines with metal and rusts it. This renders a typically strong metal to a state of uselessness. Excessive oxygen results in "oxygen toxicity," which is damaging to optic nerves and eventually damages the brain.

Time also kills. Some people die before time can take its toll, but only two people (Enoch and Elijah) have entirely evaded time. But even they could not master time, bend it to their will.

So where am I going with this. Here we have it.

Time is a theory killer. Theories look great in concept design. But because they are theories, we never know what really happens. Astronomers and physicists have all the calculations and measurements to determine what happens when one goes through a black hole, but they don't REALLY know what happens because they have never personally gone.

We have all the theory to support time as a relation of space. But there are calculations that support 26 or more dimensions. But since no one has even mastered the fourth, I say forget about the other 22 until we get this one down solid.

Here we are. The solid explanation of time is hinted at in business. "Time is money." So very close. But this statement assumes that money is the center of the given universe.

Time is a commodity. We are each awarded "some" at birth, though not one person knows how much he or she have. I have no advice on where to use it, or how much to use where. But I know two things:
1) Time is like Counter-Strike. There is no respawning and death is final.
2) Time is like a coin. There is only one. And I suggest you spend it wisely, lest someone spend it for you.

9.05.2008

But Which Battle Do I Fight?

Recently I encountered a situation that, to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of.

As humans, we are faced with situations (frequently) that require us to decide and make choices that we don't like. This is an obvious statement. But what I am faced with is this: how do I know when fight and when to back down? How do I know when I should keep on with an apparently fruitless encounter and how do I know when its honorable and acceptable to let go and let such matters attend to themselves?

In life there are countless trials that we face and always we must choose how to pursue a solution. But there occurs a time when a battle must be given up. Whether it is from lack of energy or from the insight that this battle is a fruitless pursuit.

But in lies the question: how do I know that something will not eventually bear fruit, and for not is just in a dormant state?

So instead of a long, lengthy "here is my story, here's how I'm handling it," I'm going to make this short and simple.

I fight until I have nothing left. And at times, I am willingly stupid. I have a lot of hope and trust in people that I know can (and has) been easily toyed with and abused. But I say that people will respect you for what you offer. Yes it will hurt. But in the end, I will know that I have done my best, and that God will look at me and tell me that I did well. I wasn't perfect, but He will tell me that He knows I did my best. And the people that I encounter will know that I always had their best in mind. Maybe not at the time. Because sometimes in order to truly care about them, I must first either a) let them go their separate way and choose if they want me, or b) do my best, but fall in defeat if that is what it comes to. And perhaps in failing it will be seen that I am no longer there. Or perhaps it was all in vain. Either way, I know that I have done my best and I can live my life knowing as little regret as possible. I will know that even if I did not succeed, that I did the best job that I could, and no one will remember me as the one who quit, but as the one that willing to get beat up for their sake.

But that is just me. I fear regret more than anything. And I do everything in a mindset of doing my best to deny regret a chance in my head and heart.

8.22.2008

Why...so...serious?

I didn't want to use the overstated Dark Knight line. But it was just too fitting. *shrugs*

So I've noticed something interesting. And this may sound really dumb to some of you, but it kind of astounded me. Humor is...amusing. It's mechanics are very simple. It involves making someone laugh. That's it. But the effects of it are almost ridiculous.

Person A makes person B laugh. Person B is happy. But it doesn't just stop there. If Person B continues to think that Person A is HUMOROUS, then B's entire outlook of A is changed. Whenever A is around, B will automatically be in a better mood. Also, B is apt to think more highly of and respect A.

The list goes on. But by being humorous, one can completely alter how someone views you. I find this incredible. All you do is make someone laugh. And frequently this results in the other person thinking highly of you. Even if your words are empty and worthless.

This is why we care so much about what celebrities think. Most of them make us laugh. So we "care" about what they say.

Part of this is biological. I found this Google Answer on laughter particularly enlightening. Basically laughter really is the "cure all." But is there more to us so desperately seeking laughter than just a biological reaction?

Well, here comes The River.

Is humor the BEST option for obtaining good relations?

It is easy to make someone laugh. Everyone likes laughing, but anyone can make others laugh. Some are better than others, but it's a pretty universal skill. So again. Is humor the best method of getting people to like you?

I wish there was a specific answer. But there is not. However, the real question is not "is humor best," but "what do i want to do with people?"

If all you want is to make people think you're some sort of demi-god that can eternally make them laugh, and that's all you want, then sure. Laughter is enough. But if you want to actually care about someone, laughter is not enough. It is only a small tool in the method of building relationships.

But, again, it's all up to you. Like almost anything, laughter is beautiful in it's own right, but can be thoroughly abused by humans for their own vile purposes.

And to you, I leave the choice of how to use humor. Choose wisely, for no one knows how many chances you have.

8.10.2008

The Perception of Relevance

All right. This is the part where I require your input.

Two questions that I ask for you two answer in the form of a comment

1) What is it that you live each day for?
2) What do you want from people?

I promise I'll have a real post next time. but...it's 2 am. *shrugs*

7.24.2008

Defining "Definition"

I know this is a redundant statement, but I had an interesting thought the other day. Yes, most of my posts are a result of a interesting thought. But that's the only way I can think of starting. O well.

I find it fascinating how people define themselves. They start their lives, gaining a personality, and at some point they are labeled. If the person embraces this label, the continue to do things that fit that label because that is their natural action. Someone who is labeled as "smart" will continue to do "smart" things, like being successful in school or carrying on intelligent conversation.

At some point, a person's label is well defined. Now here is what i find to be curious: after acquiring a label, people will do things that is a characteristic of that label, not of themselves. While it may not be totally out of character, its not their normal action.

For instance. I have a friend who has always enjoyed art things. She has always been considered an "art person." But the older she gets, the more I can see the definition taking control. Things she does are more accustomed to an art person than to her.

In the end, the word can be more powerful than the user.

It starts slowly. Things like "well, I'm a science person, and that's what science people do." Or even "I'm John, and that's what I do." But soon, The person will stop controlling the word, and the word will control the person.

So remember always WHO you are, not WHAT you are. If you stop being a "who" and become a "what," then you lose your human identity and become an object. And...well, I'd like to remain as human as possible.
Part of that is being able to decide who you are. Having the free will to choose "THIS is who I am, and I will define myself. No one else."

Words have power. Extreme power. We decide what they mean, but so do other people. And it is easy to take on a description and then BECOME the description. But it takes strength to resist and be yourself. Because no one can be described in a simple definition unless we allow ourselves to fall into the mold.

That is the choice of free will: deciding who you are and who you want to be. But be careful with that choice, because sometimes you only get one chance.

I'm sure there's a good way to end this post. But I can't think of one.
So. Carry on.

7.11.2008

The Great Big Conspiracy of Life

To start off: Wall·e is amazing. And you should go see it now.

So the other day I was looking at my Facebook friend's recently joined groups, and i noticed a peculiar discussion. It is entitled "Is Water and Alternative Fuel Source?".
Some of the "well educated" comments:
-"
YES! its a SECRET the Oil Companies would not like to discuss with you. As far as possible YOU should be clueless about it. WHY? it's CHEAPER than their GASOLINE ..that's why."
-"i dream of a day when well have nuclear reactors in our cars personally ;)"
-"...portable cherynobles"
-"You're out of your mind if you think Brazil's society is more "sustainable" than ours. We do not illegally destroy millions of acres a day of the most biodiverse oxygen-producing forests on the planet. We may SPONSOR it by our consumer choices, but per capita i guarantee Brazil's deforesting and general polluting is far worse than the USA's."
-"trains are were steam powered that means you have to use coal so .....no your dumb"

You get the idea. [with sarcasm] These are obviously some VERY WELL thought out ideas from economic, environmental, and scientific experts.

Part of this has to do with the Forum Effect: that forums will, almost always, get off topic and end with unimplementable solutions or name-calling. Usually both.

But I have a hard time with the central conflict of this topic: that oil companies are keeping this big secret from the general public. This...almost desire for something big and secret is slightly confusing. It seems that people feel as though there is more to life than life. It is assumed that everyone has a hidden agenda, that the government keeps secrets from us (just to keep us ignorant), and that people lie and gossip to keep information to themselves. People think that everything is more than it appears to be.

We, as humans, are always searching for more. We appear to never be satisfied with how things are...always seeking what will be (or what we want to be). Most people aspire to be more affluent. But money loses its initial fulfillment after having it. And no matter how much you have, or how many things you own, you will want more.
People are always trying to be better. Olympic athletes do not just settle for running "well." They are happy if they win. But they REALLY want to set a world record. But records can always be broken.

So what is this Big Conspiracy of Life? What is the big secret that is being kept from us? The secret of happiness, eternal youth, or maybe even limitless wealth?
And who is keeping it? Is it the oil companies, the government, the UN...who?

The answer is very anti-climactic. But it is the truth.

There is no secret. The greatest secret of life is that there IS NO big secret. Life is what it appears to be at face value. No one is keeping a big, life-changing secret from you. And any secrets out there, I bet, are not the big ones you imagined they were.

Yes, yes, at the end of reading all that I must spoil it by telling you that there IS no big secret. But imagine the implications. Imagine the freedom you now have. You now have the power to take things at (and only at) face value. When your boy/girlfriend tells you something , don't assume they mean something else. Believe them! When your parents, your boss, your teacher, your friend...anyone...tells you something, don't assume that they REALLY mean something else.

No, people do not think like this. And if you go around believing anything someone tells you, bad things will happen. But it won't hurt to trust. To take that first step that so few are willing to take, for fear of...anything. Perhaps fear of being first? Fear of standing out? Fear of...being different?

I suppose that we could all resign to continue as we have. But i think we can be different. We can try to just look at the face value, and not always read between the lines.

In closing, a quote that is attributed to Sigmund Frued:
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar"

6.16.2008

Weapons of Mass Destruction

It's been a while. O well. Here we go.

I had this thought for the past week that I was going to write about, and then I didn't feel like writing about it. So I'm making this up as I go...as usual.

What is strength? Is it anything more than a comparison to other people? Isn't that what all descriptions are? Just simple comparisons to other people?

In that sense we decide what descriptions mean.

So I warn you, be careful with your words, not blindly through words out, but carefully considering them. Those who control their tongue control their body. Words can create, they can destroy.

Don't say anything unless you sincerely mean it. Sometimes your word is all you have, and if you can't keep your word you can keep nothing. Integrity is an art that seems to be forgotten.

Be remembered. Be different. It is the only way to live forever on this earth.

One cannot give their word until they have learned to keep it. But what good is your word if you keep it to yourself?

And with that bunch of random thoughts, I leave you.
Read if you will, synthesize if you can, comment if you have a keyboard.

5.25.2008

Would you kindly: The Movie Effect and The Simple Question

I have two very different thoughts on my mind at the moment. Maybe they'll tie in, maybe they won't. We shall see.

The Movie Effect
When a new movie comes out, the expectations for it's goodness are often based upon the trailer. Different people look for different things in trailers (some prefer information on plot and such, while others prefer that to be kept secret), but in most situations people are swayed to some degree by the movie trailer. But when the movie comes out and people actually watch it, they expect it to be better than the trailer. And then the DVD comes out and they expect there to be extra features, alternate endings, deleted footage, gag reels...which make the experience BETTER than the movie. And then, the sequel. Just the thought makes many people cringe. People know that the sequel is rarely as good, but they HOPE for something better. And often are they disappointed.
So it seems that as the "movie experience" progresses from trailer to theater to DVD to sequel, expectations grow. But why is this?

As humans, we look for a greater good in the later elements. We expect life to get better as it goes on, we expect to get raises as we work at our jobs longer, we want better upgrades to our technology as time goes on. I call this the "movie effect": as time goes on, we desire more satisfaction from the same commodity.
There is a solution, but how willing are you to be less satisfied?

Expect less. Instead of desiring more from succession, respect everything in it's uniqueness and singularity. And above all else, don't be deceived by promises of greatness. Instead be impressed by the satisfaction of fulfillment.

The Simple Question
There is an unusual authority that comes with simplicity. Sometimes people get caught in the depth and detail of everyday life...the intricacies of survival...and forget to be simple. They forget to be plain. And they forget something very important about interpersonal communication: sometimes the best way is to ask nicely.

"Would you kindly?" This question was asked many times by Atlas throughout the award winning Bioshock while Jack ventures through the underwater city of Rapture. "Would you kindly take the shortwave radio," "would you kindly go to Ryan's office and kill [him]." Perhaps over done...or is it? Will people really obey, simply by asking nicely?

The famous Milgram experiment from 1963 may suggest otherwise. Briefly: subject A was told to give progressively more powerful shocks to subject B. Even to the point of a fatal shock (450 volts). 65% of the studied group knowling administered a shock that would kill a grown man. All because a man in a lab coat told them to.

The illusion of authority..."they know what they're doing"...because they have a lab coat? Because they're famous? Because...and the reasons go on and on. But really, why do certain people have more credability than others? And not to sound superior, why should I be allowed to tell you anything? Who am I to tell you my thoughts?

Frankly, I am your equal. Everyone is. There is no human that is greater than another, wonderfully stated by Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

So, can it be that simple questions can have power?
It can be. But it can also NOT be.

Find out. It never hurt to ask.

5.18.2008

Value, Ownership, and the Concept of Freedom

I find it interesting that we, as humans, hold on so dearly to our possessions and, in fact, claim things we do not even own. We go about our days taking and possessing things that really are not ours, nor anyone else's to have. "Excuse me, that's my seat." As if you own that and it is yours to hand out as you please. Walk into your favorite dinner and get "your usual." Your meal that you designed? I thought as much.

Another of my personal favorites: MY girl/boyfriend. I cannot express how much this irks me. To be sure it is a convenient term, but it has depth that I dare not claim. To own a human being...appears to either be slavery or a task that even the wisest should take with greatest caution. Abandoning the idea of slavery, to take some one's life as a burden is overbearing to dwell upon (which it should be. It would be folly to simply take a life in such a manner under idle thought.). It is enough responsibility to care for oneself and from my experience few people even do that well.

Perhaps an even larger lie stems from the previous statement: that you own yourself.

This brings to question the very core of the matter: what does it mean to own something? Is it simply taking care of something? Or accepting anything that happens to it and resolving any issues with it? Is it more than being a good caretaker?

Unfortunately, the idea of "owning" something is a lie. This really just hit me as I was writing this, but it is completely true. We do not own anything. And here is why.

Let's assume that something can be owned. The first item that someone owns must be given to them, usually at a very young age (unless a certain newborn baby is able to produce their own sustenance, which I am not aware of ever happening). This means that someone owned this commodity before. The original owner probably bought this item, receiving money from ANOTHER person. Presumably then, every person earns money and buys (and thus owns) items using the money that was earned and given to them. This money is given from a higher power, but that higher power must receive money from somewhere else. By the original statement (often called the "base case" in logic by induction), the pattern continues infinitely. However, there is not plausibly an infinite chain of people issuing money...thus this system has no beginning. If it has no beginning, it cannot have a body or an ending. Thus there is a contradiction and there is no ownership.

There are other details that I purposely left out, but I think you can see the concept behind.

So now what is left? There is no ownership...is anything left?
There is a feeling of...no, just a feeling. That is all. A feeling that something should be owned, used to satisfy oneself, and cared for. So we satisfy these needs by creating words like "my" and "mine" to represent this false accusation.
Do we purposely live behind this veil? I believe we do. Because we do not wish to face the reality that all that we "have" is really God's. And He choose what He lets us play with.
So play nice, and share your toys.

5.07.2008

What is left when everthing is gone?

Tired, beaten, worn down, exhausted, I write this entry. With the end of the semester quickly approaching, having so much to do yet no motivation is left. No energy remains. Reason quickly fades out of existence. Normality has been gone for months. It seems more logical to play hours of flash games than to finish projects. It appears more rational to stare into space than to try and bring what little focus remains and finish.

A year of work. Fifty years of experience. And...seemingly 5 weeks have past. I woke up in September, went to class, ate, did homework, and now I go to bed in May. May 6th or May 7th...maybe if I blink it will be the 14th. The days run together, and time seems as abstract as the convergence of the atypical power series that stares me in the face, daring me to solve. Daring me to care.

Only in the last week of finals would I find it more plausible to write a blog entry than to finish my homework for Calculus II tomorrow morning, grade the stack of papers on my desk, OR finish editing my final paper due tomorrow afternoon. Not to mention studying for my finals.

My mind is thinking analytically right now. Well, more than normal.
I pose a question to you: what is left when everything is take away?

I began the year full of life, energy, desire...all those beautiful things. But everyday wears at me, everyday breaks me down a little more, everyday eats at my soul, daring me to continue, watching for me to fail. Everyday equations run through my head, constantly finding new hiding places in my brain, trying to settle down in the swirling mass of mystery that is my brain. Not to mention other classes trying to fit their words into my skull. Meaning is lost. My brain moves about in a pattern similar to a discrete math function: unconnected, only scattered points. I have nothing. What is left?

My body cries at me at the abuse I have put it through in the past year. It begs for me to sleep, to eat something besides cafeteria food, and to get sunlight. And I give it...naps, grease, and artificial light. What would I do without you, overhead light? I don't even remember the last time I got up for breakfast. The extra 20 minutes of sleep is vital.

What is left? Worn down to the bone...no...past the bone. Scraping at the cell structure, I am being eaten alive. Can it all be taken? Is there anything deeper than what I have presented?

One thing: heart.

Every athlete knows the feeling of being in the last period of the tournament game, the last round, the last...whatever. The potential end. When every bit of training has gotten you this far. When adrenaline is running out. When muscles ache and brain functionality has ceased and you play by feel. When pulled muscles are ignored, blood is wiped away, and joints are beyond agony. At this point the only thing left is the amount that you want to win. No, it's not longer about winning. It has become survival. Do you want it more than the other team? Skill doesn't matter. Speed doesn't matter. Heck, bribing the ref barely matters. The only thing left is heart. Play with emotion.

At this point all I have left is survival. It is no longer about winning. It is about coming out alive. It is about that first night of sleep on my bed at home. where I sleep until I feel like getting up. Even if that's not for a few days. Right now is about being positive, knowing deep in your heart that you DO have something left to give. You have your final act. And you are going to astound the crowd, and they will ask for more. This is the one trick you've been working on all year, perfecting it for this very moment.

Be free from what your mind tells you and think through your heart. You don't need to listen to your mind, telling you how tired and worn out you are. Thought has ended. Now we play by feel, we play by heart, we play with emotion. Do you choose to push through or simply succumb to the forces that be.

A line from Bioshock drives this point concisely:
"A man chooses. A slave obeys."

5.01.2008

The Virtuous Life

Death. Usually a reference to the process by which all people exit life, entering whatever may come next. It refers to the final breath, the painful wandering, the gloomy expenditure of existence. Most associate death the absence of life in another living being. But too often it refers to more than people, more than organisms. Too often ideas die. Ideas that are not radical, not riot inducing or mind-bending. Those are the ideas of conspiracy theorists, finding something that doesn't fit and suggesting something that most people find outrageous...yet...believable?

Today's death that I shall talk about is one that is very close to me. It may soon see a resurrection, but I do not expect it.
This is the death of chivalry, integrity, and virtue.

A friend once confronted me about how boys no longer hold the door open for her. The next sentence was exactly what I feared it would be: "Why can't guys be gentlemen?" Not wanting to destroy her eardrums with a 3 hour monologue, I simply said "there is more to being a gentleman than opening doors" and changed the subject. I knew she didn't care. But it's very true: there IS more to being a gentleman than opening doors for ladies and offering one's coat when it is cold, though these are both part of it.

Chivalry is about treating other people better than yourself. It is about being selfless, taking care of other people, and unconditional love. The first thought of a chivalrous person in any given situation is "how can I make them happy?" Chivalry is never self centered, never objective, and never hating.
To those paying attention, this may sound familiar. First Corinthians thirteen, anyone? The famous "Love Chapter." Love is this, love is that, love never this, love always that. There is an important part that many people forget: Chapter 14, verse 1 says to follow the way of love. That means we have this example set before us, we know that it is the greatest, now do it! Love other people, treat them with respect, be...chivalrous.

We live in an age where the only way to get ahead is by stepping the faces of those we need to get above. "Don't look back because you're never going there again." This is cutthroat, this is accepted this is normal. And this is what we want, isn't it? To be normal? To be like everyone else, forgotten, accepted as background noise, never to be recognized.
Yes, that sounds tempting [said with painful sarcasm].
Be different. Be alive. For God's sake just don't be like everyone else! What makes someone different is when he or she is well known for something good, not something bad. Avoid the norm, dear reader. When most people cheat their way around the system, lower your shoulder and take it head on. Use one of the greatest tools you can have: integrity. As one with this virtue, your word is your oxygen. You live by it, fearing the circumstance when you break your word. Nothing would be worse than to not be able to keep a promise. When nothing else in this life is certain, it is comforting to be sure of your word. It is comforting to others to know that they can trust you. And you will be remembered as the one person who cared.

The virtuous life. Living by truth and surviving by wisdom. We, as a society, seem to have forgotten the concept of virtues and proverbs, instead taking on the ideology of self and forgetting others.
I am about to link you to one of the most important things you could ever read. This is a list of all of Aesop's fables. It will take a while, but it's worth it. This is ageless wisdom. The stories are short, but they embody almost every virtue.
One of the most important parts of virtue is maturity. It is denying youthful rebellion and independence and acknowledging that to survive, you must grow up. Leave your state of immaturity and enter the realm of virtue. Sadly, many people try to grow up with out first becoming virtuous. This results in middle age boys and widowing girls.

In closing: be free. Set yourself free from what could be done and embrace what NEEDS to be done. But first, understand what the necessity is. Control virtue, then gain wisdom.

That is all.

4.23.2008

Hello, and, Once Again, Welcome

I got philosophical again...

Why are we here?
What do you do?

The other night, I was getting ready to fall asleep, when three thoughts came to mind. and had it not been 3:30am, I would have written my note then. But sleep beckoned me, and I willingly answered.

But these thoughts...these three thoughts..were this: Life is Short; Speak Loudly; Love Freely.

And now to elaborate.

We live in a place where we are rushed around, constantly on the move. We get up early to go to work or to school. We grab our coffee on the way out the door, we grab a handful of cereal, we rush out the door. We sit in class or at work, doing things we've been trained to do or, more likely, BS-ing our way through it. Then we come back to our comfortable home and eat pre-made food to ease a little stress off of our lives. And then we finish up our work, stay up too late watching TV, and go to bed after we meant to. Then we repeat. No real breaks, no true relaxation. We rush around from place to place, but what for?
In America, we are constantly pummeled with the idea that life is short, so we need to take advantage of it. But what does that even mean? Is that just an advertisement for insomnia? Why is it bad to be ill-rested, just for the sake of getting everything done in one day?
Perhaps, instead of just trying to make more time, we should make better time. Quality over quantity?

Ok, so life is short. Are we now damned to its shortness, never to harness what time we DO have?
I think not. I think we need to know how to use the time and what is most important.

I am not an expert. Let's be honest...I have no professional experience of any kind except in making coffee.

However...

Speak your mind. Don't be afraid to say how you feel. But also think before you speak. Careful words from a sage are more profitable than the ramblings of a fool. It's good to have opinions, but you must have some reason for them if you want people to respect them. There is nothing wrong with having a feeling...but its also not bad to question your feelings.
Why do you feel that way or think that thought? Is it simply because that was the first idea you heard, or because you truly believe it? An argument without reason is no more than an opinion, and anyone can form an opinion. However, someone worth listening to has reason.
As such, I give you permission (if you would like it): Be yourself! Tell people how you feel! But THINK, for God's sake! Ingest, synthesize, redistribute. On this crazy ball of planet that kills all its experiments, there isn't enough time to keep your thoughts to yourself. Everyone has something that needs to be heard. But who will know unless you tell someone?

Love. That terribly wonderful paradox. I won't try to explain it...I'm only human, after all. And a male, at that.
But what little I do know is this: don't be afraid to love. Be cautious, but don't fear. If you fear love, you won't get it. If you are timid with giving your love, then timidly will you receive it. Don't be afraid to give your all and get hurt. Unless you take that chance to fail, you can't succeed. You can dream, but you can't have.
And dream. O please dream! Dream big! Dream of anything you can imagine. Because you're dreams are all you have.
Wait, what? NO!
That is a lie! You're dreams do NOT cease at the end of the night!
You have a dream...and who can take that away from you? Who are you to deny yourSELF of your own dream?
I am not normal. I accept that. I love that. I dream...big. I know what i desire. And I now know what that is. I used to be content with a dream and a "if I succeed and maybe my dream will come true." But I was wrong. When I had tasted the sweetness that exceeds IF...when I saw what my life would be like with that dream come true...I could not...can not...turn away. I can no longer idly accept my fate. I now know that whatever lies ahead, it will not be because it came to me. It will happen because I went to it!

Life will come at whatever pace it may. And you will get whatever life may grant you...whatever fortune, for good or ill.
But I am not content with being the same. I am not happy with living a boring life, full of wishes and hopes, but no chance of success. I cannot live by merely accepting.
I will live by taking. If my dream will not passively come to me, then I will actively claim it.

Imagine, for a minute, your dream. Dream big! Don't keep it real! Again, I will say: DON'T KEEP IT REAL! Imagine..think...love.
It's good to be rational, but sometimes it takes irrationality to get beyond the limits of normalcy.

I recently discovered that it's ok to think with your heart sometimes. Not at the risk of losing your mind...but at the sight of attaining your dream.

May your dream come swift. May it be all that you hoped for. But may you be required to fight hard for it. Long, hard, and gruesome. But in the end, it will be worth it.
May your desires be your deepest dreams, and may you be ready for whatever may come. For if it is not by your choosing, I pray that you take...no...master it soon.
May it be wild, vicious...and everything that you hoped for.

Dive in with your heart, but stay alive with your mind.

4.12.2008

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a Wikipedian

So recently I was playing a game with a friend. She would ask me a question and I, using whatever knowledge and/or logic I could conjure up at the time, would try to come up with a conceivable answer. Now, I'm a pretty good BS-er. And I was making some pretty convincing arguments. But it made me wonder: is truth more than a substance controlled by those that speak convincingly and sound wise? Most importantly, who do we believe?

At some point during life, we will be told some truth. Especially at a younger age, this is just accepted as fact. After we grow and mature we begin to hear information, comprehend, synthesize, and then apply this new-found knowledge. But with the maturation has come discernment, and we are able to decide what is reliable and what is not. Certainly we don't just believe anything that is told to us. Surely we don't believe someone just because THEY say its true...do we?

O, how I long to see all sides of the figure and not just the foremost face.

See, there is a controversy right now, concerning the credibility of WIkipedia. Non-Wikipedians argue that because anyone can edit Wikipedia, it is not credible. It is true that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. This is irrefutable. In fact, that is the definition of a "wiki," a website that anyone can edit. But there is forgotten/unspoken information that, when left out, makes WIkipedia look about as useful as an STD. Wikipedia's founders chose to create the site to provide a place where people could learn and share knowledge. This is a much more cost effiecent method of creating a large knowledgebase than to hire a team of professionals to create a online encyclopedia. In FACT, this method is VERY cost-effective. Its SO useful that World Book Encyclopedia uses the same tactic.

O, you didn't know that?

Yes, World Book Encyclopedia, considered to be a credible source, is created by compiling submitted articles from the general public. But World Book is credible because...o, certainly there is a good reason. Because it's a book, and not a website? O, if that were only a good reason.

The interesting thing about the internet and its users is that the same people that denounce Wikipedia will google a topic and read and believe the first article that comes up, so long as it is not Wikipedia. People would believe some persons Geocities' page before a Wikipedia article...for...a reason? Or are some people just SO biased against Wikipedia that they don't even realize what they're saying. Non-Wikipedians will use a non-cited article to back up their claim that there are not sufficient citations. But at the top of the page, the reader is warned about any problems that page has.

The argument can go on and on, but the issue remains: why should we trust one person over another? Even if given a scholarly article, can the citations be trusted? And can the citations for THAT paper be trusted? On and on the cycle goes, and yet, we are STILL searching for the same thing: truth.

Who can we trust? Where can we look?

I offer nothing. I offer no truth, only insight. Don't look to me for truth.

I say this: look to heaven. I believe, I hope, I trust in only one thing.

4.01.2008

The Sun will come out Tomorrow

Ok. Some management issues first.
Please leave me feedback. Please. I need to know how I'm doing. And I have no idea unless you tell me.
I think that's it.
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We live in a society that is run by the clock. Time is our sadistic master. We are never satisfied with the time we have, but we continue on, in hopes of something better. In America, we push ourselves at a remarkable rate. We get up when it's still dark, go to our job or school all day, then work until its dark again. And during that time, we fall into the same pattern. It's different for everyone, yet its also the same. We wake up and start our day, then go about our business, then finish our day. With the same people, do the same tasks, making the same small talk, "enjoying" the same monotony. We live life with people that are barely more than single-serving friends, yet how often do we take the time to get to know them? They are just another part of our schedule, bent on...what?

Think about it for a moment. Where are you going? Whether you like it or not, you are going somewhere. Right now, you are working on doing something with your life. But what are you doing, and why are you doing it? So that you can live a happy life, perhaps. You go to school, majoring in something you like, and then what? You don't get the job you wanted, so you just find some job. Maybe in an office, maybe living in the Land of Cubicles. Then work too hard to earn money you don't need and buy stuff you don't really even want. Is THAT what you're working so hard for? Just think.

Now imagine that you're NOT living for that. Imagine that you're living for a REASON.

We live a paradox of irony. We know that ahead of us is heaven. And this SHOULD give us the hope to live on (this would require an entirely different post. Which will probably happen sometime soon). We know that heaven is greater than anything on earth and that we need to live for heavenly wealth, not earthly pleasure (Matthew6:19). This means we need to distance ourselves from anything pleasurable on this earth, focusing only on life eternal. Right? That's what we are taught in our quaint little churches: be a good Christian, deny pleasure, and you'll get you're reward in heaven.

O church, when will you learn?
O people, when will you think?

God gave us the desire to find pleasure. He wants us to find pleasure in the things of this earth. But evil has corrupted what was once pure and shameless and has caused disgusting versions of what was beautiful. God intended for the joys of this life to be a foretaste of the Kingdom. Not to be a substitute, nor to be avoided. We are to enjoy wholesome pleasure, but we are not meant to abuse it or assume that it cannot get better.

We live in pursuit of Heaven. For now, we may enjoy life...no...we NEED to enjoy life. To deny pleasure is to deny what God has made for us. But we can never, ever, lose focus of Heaven. Obsession for Heaven should drive us forward, reminding us that if we put up with this life for just a little longer, we can have all that God wants for us.

So for now, live, laugh, love, enjoy. Work your hardest now, because a day will come when you can look back and you will see the things that could have been. But never take life so seriously that you can't enjoy it, and so denying God's gifts.

And here, dear reader, I will stop for now. Live as though today is good, but tomorrow is better. Tomorrow is not in this life, it comes with the immortality of Heaven.
Give all and expect nothing back. But have HOPE that every good thing you do now will be reward ten-fold tomorrow.

3.25.2008

Where we listen, when we care

Welcome.

For one reason or another, you have stumbled upon my writings. The logical question that you, the reader, should ask concerns the validity of the material in which shall fill this space, generally known as a blog.
And here, dear reader, is my reason.

You should not consider anything I say to be truth. From this point forward, I do not guarantee truth in anything I say. And even if I did, how reliable could I be just by saying that I am reliable?
However, the idea of questioning truth is appealing to humans. We, especially the young people of earth who are "growing up," have a desire to be rebellious. The "I do what I want" mentality, the independent ideology. And what is more rebellious than to question truth?
So read on, my reader...read on.

We are obsessed with discovering treasure. This really hit home when I saw "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." After watching it, I realized that this idea of huge, all encompassing treasure engulfs our society. No, not our society. People in general. Legends of vasts treasures, cities of gold, or hidden mines flowing with riches pollute our history. It was a driving force behind European exploration: building ships to go get gold and riches beyond belief. Along with history, there some wonderful legends that just kind of solidify the idea that humans are obsessed with treasure. Here are some links: US Treasure, Treasure in the Eastern Hemisphere, Costa Rica

A few questions came to mind. Why are we so obsessed? Why do we think that there IS some vast wealth? Where would such a treasure be? And then recently, a new question came up: is the treasure mentioned in the stories gold, or is it something else? Then things like "The Fountain of Youth" come to mind. So perhaps gold is simply a metaphor for something valuable. Someday cash will decompose and gold will lose its luster. What then?

When all else fails, only one thing remains. Truth. Isn't it? I mean, isn't that what we're looking for, what is truth?

No. In fact, few people even care about truth anymore. Well, not absolute truth, anyway. The idea of relative truth has seeped into modern philosophy like...um...something really seep-y.
Anyway. Belief in absolute truth is dieing. people have settled for the much easier idea of choosing one's own truth. The absurdity of this can be seen in the example of believing that it is ok to punch someone else in the nose. If the relevance of this is lost to you, go punch someone in the nose and convince them that it's ok because YOU felt it was right.

So DO we seek truth? Is that what we really are after, desiring to to see through the proverbial fog and separate fact from fiction? Is our obsession after treasure really just a search for absolute truth?

No. Truth is not the end goal. It is merely a by-product of the goal.

So the question remains: what is the end goal?

That, my friend, is the purpose of this blog. To explain what I think, why I think it, and how it is relevant and makes sense.