10.02.2009

Hero

Many little children long to be fire fighters, police officers, or EMS personnel. They want to help people and, unconsciously, they seek to be citizens worthy of public approval. Unhindered by societies appetite for defamation and luscious gossip, children seek to help others. They like praise. Elementary school teachers give stickers and write words of praise on completed homework. It boosts self-esteem and their perspective of self-worth.

Other children, more in tune with movies or video games or comics, want to be superheros! When they grow up they want to be superman, spider-man, the hulk (well....maybe that was just me), wonder woman...people who, out of the kindness of their hearts and the magnitude of their ability, helped others without much reward, save the occasional "thanks!"

One of my best friends taught me a few years ago that it's ok to keep childish tendencies whilst growing up. And I agree.

I still want to be a hero.

Not the kind that rushes into a burning building to rescue an unconscious child. Not the kind that leaps tall buildings in a single bound and saves the elderly from a wayward train. Not the kind that travels the world, takes up arms against our adversaries, and defends the freedoms we daily take. Those heroes are much greater than myself.

All I want is to make a difference in someone's life.

I live a modest life. I tend to not buy expensive things or have pricey tastes...aside from a deep love of seafood. And cool electronics. But in general, I have a very moderate lifestyle. The things in which I do engage, however, fascinate me. And I, like many of you (presumably), enjoy being intrigued.

Magic has always fascinated me. I've always wanted to do magic tricks. To me, it would be one of the coolest things ever just to do some little slight-of-hand trick. Turn a handkerchief into a rose. Levitate an object. Make a tennis ball disappear.

I've had people tell me that I am interesting, or that I make them smile (that's one of my favorites...I love making people smile). I feel like I'm actually contributing to humanity when I have positive effects on people, as if my existence does mean something and I am making a difference.

But a smile doesn't tide me over forever. And a chuckle at some terribly punny joke won't satisfy.

Someday, many years from now, I would love to run into an old friend. And I want talk to them, catch up on our lives for the past few years...decades...however long. And at the end, they sigh, look at me, and say "remember when we used to spend a lot of time together? Those are still some of my best memories. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for making me the person I am today. I look back on some of our conversations and realize that we were good for each other." And then I will also look at that person and realize how good he or she was for me.

I feel silly, I really do. But if that happened...just a 10 minute encounter unfolded... I could die a completely satisfied life knowing that someone's entire life was changed for the better because of me.

Another one of my favorite scenarios. I plan on teaching. Someday in the future I get a letter in the mail from a former student. That person is inviting me to a presentation that (s)he is doing in a field of study that I encouraged him/her to pursue. And when I arrive, I am introduced as the one who helped that person through the hard times to pursue a dream.

No one can live forever. People have tried, and the closest that we have come up with is to make a scientific law and be remembered forever. I mean...who DOESN'T know about Archimedes?

But I don't want to live forever...just for a little longer. Maybe it's a week, a month, or 15 years. But I want to be remembered as someone who matters and made a difference.

One man cannot move a world, but one man can move another. And through this all the people of the world can move. I cannot do the impossible, just the highly improbable. Don't ask a miracle, just ask a favor. It's basically the same thing, but the latter sounds doable.

9.10.2009

Is

I was thinking earlier today. I was thinking about a powerful word. The word "is."

Most of us take this word for granted, the use as a helping verb being quite appealing and convenient. But this word conveys far more than that. Allow me to explain.

"is"
verb. third person singular for of the word "be."

Obviously this led me to a search of the word "be." My two favorite entries are as follows:
1) "having the quality of being"
2) "exist"

There is good chance that, at this point (if not before), you are wondering why I am making such a point about this word "is." Great question. But I won't answer that directly yet. Allow me to look deeper at what it means when something "is."

"Is" demands facts. It will not put up with theory or suggestion, it wants the cold, hard facts. When you desire sound knowledge that cannot be shaken, "is" will be there to support you. If you were to look for something, you wouldn't want to the general location...you'd want to know where it IS. When wondering the state of a person, I ask how that person IS. Not how he or she feels, theoretically. Criminologists want to know what a criminal's motive IS, not the off-hand guesses and stabs in the dark.

This word is abused. "How IS your life?" That statement has power. Instead, we treat it like a greeting. "Oh, I'm fine." But that word IS had usage. And the proper response should be given. "What IS your name?" A person's name defines the person to the deepest extent. When a person's name is defamed, it ruins them. Identity theft is a desire to take all that a person has...all that is entitled to that person's name. And IS demands an answer worthy of recognition.

Why do I mention this? What purpose does this word have that I should give it so much mention?

I want to know how things ARE. I want to do more than breathe, I want to exist. I want to have the quality of being. Some movies use black and white to show depression, while using color to show life. I want to live in color. When something happens, I want to see it as it IS, not as I want it to be or how someone else tells me. The truth is my main desire. WAS doesn't matter. WILL doesn't matter. WILL can change. WAS may affect IS, but it's not IS. While the past can help foresee the future, it can also blind one to the present.

To BE is to live a life worthy of recognition and rememberance. Going and doing aren't enough. I want to BE. I want to EXIST.

I want to experience the essence of IS.

8.17.2009

Blank

A story teller does more than tell stories. A story teller creates.

It is more than just a way of relaying events. It is a way of displacing ideas, thoughts, desires, and emotions. When I tell a story, it usually is for the purpose of informing, as well as creating an environment that is pleasurable. Story telling is my music. Most people play or listen to music to create their optimized situation. I tell stories. I paint pictures. I sculpt. I decipher. I manipulate. They are all the same.

Many people thrive in the details. They plan how each atom will run into the others. Not I. People such as myself generalize. I learned long ago that the details will happen if the main ideas are set in place. For example. I'll soon be packing for school and moving back in. I will pack my belongings and transfer them. But I have no clue how I'll put them in the car. And I haven't any idea how I will arrange my room. The car will pack as things fit, and my room will get arranged by necessity as well as convenience.

Stories are my escape. When I tell a story, a take myself and whoever is listening to a new place. And I make that. I make it whatever I, or the listner(s), want it to be. That is my art work. And like all artists, I have masterpieces that I display time and time again. And also like an artist, I never "finish" something...it always needs improving. Unlike the artist, I can easily improve my work everytime it is shown. You'll probably hear me tell the same story more than once. And you'll probably notice that things change. Like any story teller, I embellish. But that is the nature of what I do. It is a controversy that plagues all relays of information, be it stories, art, music, history. Do I tell what happened, or what almost happened?

Such is life. Do we accept life as we have it, or search for something better?

I tell stories. They don't always have a happy ending. But they always have the ending that they're supposed to have.

So maybe that makes them happy in their own way.

7.02.2009

Who, then, shall save us?

I have acquired some new insight, recently. I began reading a new book that has opened my eyes to some current issues.

Also recently, I have had three quotes running in my head.
The first is by Benjamin Franklin. After helping form the Constitution, a woman asked him "what have you given us?" He replied "a Republic, if you can keep it."
The second is from V for Vendetta. V takes a hailstorm of bullets, then calmly and choreographically takes down the half dozen or so guards protecting a certain Mr. Creedy. After Mr. Creedy tries to understand V's indestructible state, V replies that "Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof."
The third is from Watchmen, spoken by the character Rorshach speaks of the city that he once protected, says "[they] will look up and shout "save us!"...and I'll whisper "no."

The ways in which these words play together frightens me. I try not to force my agenda upon...anyone, really. But I am afraid.
One of you brave souls, I'm sure, is wondering of what I am afraid. And to you, I say "thank you for asking."

I am afraid of us.

The first quote represents something that few people will understand...and I don't know if I fully understand it either. The first quote expresses the depths to which America is founded. In its beginning, the rules by which a room full of men decided to run the country was based upon hard work, loyalty, and the desire to do the best for the people. These men could have destroyed the system, putting in loopholes that they could later navigate and thieve from the people as they would. But they had honor and integrity to put their very lives on the line to protect their children, their wives, their family...and even their enemies. Imagine yourself. Someone comes to your door and says "I need you to give up all your possessions, be humiliated and hated by the people, stop sleeping and eating healthy, and...leave your family and friends. In return, you have the chance to save your country...buuuut it might fail anyway." Would you take it?
I am daily grateful that almost 240 years ago, a room full of men decided to take that risk. I wonder what choice they would have made if they knew what had become of their true love: freedom.
I hope they still would have made that choice. But I wouldn't blame them if they didn't.

The second quote reaffirms the first. It is what every single revolutionary says. But few actually mean it. No, bullets cannot kill an idea. But unless the idea is carried out by followers, bullets can kill the only carrier of the idea. The last time Americans, at large, felt that idea was almost eight years ago. We remembered what it meant to have our hearts torn into. We felt the desire to protect an idea: freedom. Bullets cannot kill an idea. But we have found other things that CAN kill an idea: greed, lust, wrath, sloth, gluttony, envy, and pride. This is the fault of everyone, including myself. We LET the idea die. We wanted more and more! And we got it...at a sad price. It only cost...and idea. Freedom

This is where the third quote comes in, and this one scares me the most, for there is no redemption. The basis of this quote is that at one point, we allowed someone to step in and help us. They did their job well, and it was nice to have some extra help. But then we weren't grateful. We abused our gift. And finally it turned on us. It was only human, after all. What would you have done? And in the end, we will scream...begging, pleading for help...they they will look at us and say "no."

The ones we trusted...like little children we believed their lies...have led us to the slaughtering pin. And we were naïve enough to believe their words, without thinking for ourselves because...its easier to let someone think for us.
Sloth.

We wanted the easy way out, and so we got it. And then we wanted all the great things that OTHER people had... "free health care," all the funding we could ask for, new toys.
Greed. Envy.

But it still wasn't working out right, was it? So we allowed some more power to...oh...go and just TALK to them about how good they had it. But they didn't want us in. So we dreamed of our perfect system... GLARING at how gorgeous they had it.
Lust.

Well, looking wasn't enough, was it? We just had to have it. But since they wouldn't give it...we just took it. By brute force.
Wrath.

But it didn't just stop with one. We had to take their allies. And their neighbors! We had to have them ALL!
Gluttony.

And in the end, we sat back and looked at all the good we had done. We imagined how the world was a better place because we had schmoozed our way into a position of power. Things were looking up for us...we had arrived!
Pride.

And with that fatal turn...we died. We crumbled. The people FINALLY began to understand that there were standing in a house of lies...and like a house of glass, the rock had just been thrown. And we just sat by and let it happen. Now, we need help. But it is too late. It has been too late for some time now. We shout "SAVE US!"

And they say "no."

6.15.2009

Victory

I have always struggled with apathy. When I get motivated to do something, I jump on it because I know the desire won't last. This summer has been great because I've really worked hard to stop WANTING to do things and just...doing them. I've tried to stop being so wishy-washy and just doing it. I haven't played piano in....years. Maybe since I was eleven. But I decided that I wanted to learn Bethena Waltz by Scott Joplin. So I'm doing it. Yes its slow. Yes, its hard for me. But slowly...surely...I am learning that song.

What happens at the end? When we achieve our goal...what have we? Do we get anything from winning, besides a trophy, a pat on the back, and ice cream after the game?

I recently beat Assassin's Creed. I enjoyed it. But at the end of the game...it was over. I had won! I had beaten the game! But there was nothing afterwards.

When I ask people about their future, I often ask "and then what?" to a ridiculous degree.
"I'm going to school." "For what?" "[stuff]" "What will you do with that?" "Get a job." "And then...?" "[Blah]" "I see...then what?"

What comes next? When we get our jobs...we have won! We got a job! But then what? We get paid. And then what? We buy stuff. Awesome. And when we have stuff...what do we do with stuff?

Do you see what happens here? If there ever is an end to this sadistic carousel in life, it usually results in buying something. Which will (at best) wear out or (at worst) we will get tired of it. What is victory without a reward that matters? What DOES matter? What will continue on forever and will not wear out in this life? What thing will never make us bored?

Should we settle for less, for things in this life? Should we settle for premature and material rewards? Or is victory in itself enough to sustain?

Not for me. Victory is a means by which I can get something or somewhere.
But for you....what is victory and why does it matter?

5.30.2009

The Art of Decency

I never understood the difference between a good man and a bad man.  To me, all people had the same mindsets.  And by people, I mean the ones that were in my particular demographic (I suppose).  I grew up in the usual basically suburban, mostly white, middle class area.  And to me, everyone here was decent.  People helped each other and cared about each other.

I know what it means to not be decent.  And it is far different than what I expected.

It has little to do with someone being good or bad, though these are certainly indicators.  It has everything to do with the decisions that one makes on a daily basis.
While at home, I saw the acts of decent men and women every day.  And to me that was normal.  I thought that everyone was like that.  I saw people who were putting their own desires far behind responsibities, other people's needs, and countless other things.  In fact, many times personal desires seemed to almost vanish. 
The "easy way" was not an option unless it was entirely legal, beneficial, and entirely better.  Of course, sometimes the hard way was done simply to build character.

Building character.  It took me a very long time to understand what this really meant.  For me, it meant "manning up."  The more character I had, the more respect I was garnered from others.  Not because I had accomplished so much.  No, it was because I had gone through whatever trial and could now help one more person.  Character was what gave the qualities necessary to help others, not a medal to add to a trophy wall.

And now I return to that realm of decency.  After two years and that pit of filth, I realize what the difference is: here, I live with decent people.  But not everyone in that other place was fortunate as I to have grown up in such a place.

I say filth not to condemn the people, but the situations.  And I mention my upbringing not to glorify myself or those that were involved.  No indeed.  Once leaving home, I spat upon my upbringing, losing many good qualities that I did not realize were so vital.

What happened to sincerity?  What happened to doing good because you know it's right?  What happened to honesty and charity?  Where are the heroes that fought for us, showing us how to live and how to be righteous, just, and honorable in the face of adversity?

I used to be good.  I used to do good work just because it needed to be done.  I used to be "the guy you bring home to your parents."  I used to consider myself to be a good role model.  But I don't feel like I'm any of that anymore.

Once again I am reminded what it means to be decent.  I have decent people around me now, and they show me by example.  They show me how to be selfless, how to be generous in giving and cautious in taking.  How to be efficient, polite, and cherish everyone that I meet.

Perhaps this summer will be different.  Maybe I shall regain my humanity and become decent once again.

So for you who is looking to become decent, I suggest this humble advice: give all that you have to everyone that you see.  Only reveal that of yourself which is beneficial, wholesome, and uplifting to all.  Focus on the positive and banish the negative and impure thoughts.  And most importantly, fear nothing.  Nothing is too big to handle or too small to ignore.  Take everything with a grain of salt, but be trusting an trustworthy.  Be the hero.  Not for your glory, but for the good of the people that are being helped.

5.09.2009

Will you be my nieghbor?

I was talking with a good friend the a while ago and he looks at me and says "For as often as we hang out, I don't really know much about where you come from.  I don't know what your home is like, I don't know what your life story is."
I replied that this is pretty typical, and most people don't know their friends' backgrounds.

It hit me later: WHY do we not know our friends' backgrounds?

I mean...I know that it's usually because we meet them and just go from there...no need to dwell on the past.

But why NOT?  Why do we not tell our life stories to each other?  I have many friends of whom I would LOVE to know the story.  But how awkward would I be, walking up and saying "O hey...what is your life story?  No it's fine...I have time."

What is a friend?  Is it simply one for whom we have memorized a list of likes, dislikes, and attractive qualities that we call upon when around this person?  Is it someone who we know?  What does it mean to know someone?

Answers.com defines a friend as "A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts".

What does it mean to know someone?

This definition seems so...intimate.  Trust involves closeness and confidentiality.  Liking involves being compatible.  These are both very close and intimate ideas.

So what is knowing?

I haven't lived very long.  I turn twenty this year.  But in my short life I have already been so blessed and knowing many people.  I have encountered countless people.  But the ones I will remember are the ones that I know.  No, there are not many.  But I hold each one tightly, fearful of losing...fearful of breaking.

To know someone, you must first learn their past, the understand their present situations, and finally help them dream about their future.  Knowing someone is to share a mind, even if only for a split second or less.

But most importantly, knowing is a journey.  It continues on.  The present becomes past, the future becomes present, and new futures must be dreamt.  As a friend, the responsibility lies on you to satisfy these requirements.  I cannot stress enough how much it is worth it.

I just finished looking at some of my sisters' pictures on Facebook.  I understand knowing someone.  I understand what it means to be a friend.  I have experienced good times, bad times, and oh dear God how I want them all again.

"I've got some friends, some that I hardly know
But we've had some times I wouldn't trade for the world
We chase these days down with talks of the places that we will go"

-Swing Life Away (Rise Against)

Is that friendship?  Simply having good times?  Or is it investing time, money, and work into something that you can enjoy for years?   Is it instant satisfaction or something that has gone through happiness, fights, and many tears?

That is up to you.  I know where I will always stand, but I would never want to sway you.  It is a choice made by you alone.

Choose wisely.

4.06.2009

I call it a Valley

Thought:
You know what it's like to be excited for something?  To have this feeling of dedication that you would go all in for something, even when it is high commitment and time consuming?  

As difficult as the task may be, it is relatively easy to abide by extremes.  Whether it is extreme passion (such as moving to a third world country and becoming a doctor) or extreme apathy (sitting at home and doing little more than going about your business), once you take that first step it is easy to stay the course.

But what I've always found to be most difficult is the area between.  What about when all your choices do not revolve around your passion, but they are still important?

Here's another way of looking at it that may make more sense.  Often times I feel like I'm just going by on my daily life, doing the best I can (whatever that even means).  But I'm just...here.  I know there is more I could be doing, but I don't know how to do it.  Or more often, I can't do it yet.  Currently I'm saving to buy a well.  But it's $2000 and I don't have the money to just dish out for that.
Or
I have plans for how I'm going to teach some day.  Key phrase: "some day."  I can't do it now.  I still have over two years before I (hopefully) get my piece of paper that cost a small nation's income.  Ideally I will then get a job and magically become the best math teacher that has ever existed.

But that's not right now.  IS there anything right now?

One of my big problems is that I assume that I'll do something later.  I'm not just talking about procrastinating about homework, cleaning, or what other daily things I may have.  I mean big things.  Often times I can't do the thing at the moment (for example, I can't start teaching math in a school today...I need a degree first), but I don't feel like I'm doing anything.

I hope this is making sense.

Here we go.  Mountains.  High and exciting.  Those are our goals.  But between most mountains are valleys.  Mountains go up.  Valleys go down.  Often you get to a valley by going down a mountain.  Valley's are not bad in themselves.  But there is more to life than a valley.  There are many people who find a mountain range and make themselves a nice community in the valley.  But what I like is the guy who builds his shack on the mountain.  Or even better: on top of it.

So my question is this, I guess: what do we do with the valleys?  Do we embrace them as a rest before the ascent?  Do we get through them quickly to climb the mountains?  Or do we stay there?

I try to get through the valley and make the best of that time, but still always remember that there is a mountain ahead of me.  But always I move quickly and efficiently, so I may avoid the avalanches.

I realize that this post was a bit all over the place.  But I hope it made sense.  Because many times I do get lost in the valleys, when I feel like I should be doing SOMEthing...but I don't know what.  Not that I am lost (though that is the case at times), but that I feel like I shouldn't just be going through my valley.  I feel like I should be climbing...no...sprinting up that mountain.  And when I get to the top, I want to look out of the land that I have conquered and remember how hard and worthwhile it was.  I want to laugh at the mountain and say "Surely you could have put up more of a challenge than that!"  When the wind threatens to blow me off, I will taunt it in hopes that it will blow just a little harder.  And when nature gives up, I will enjoy my view point and bask in the Sunlight from the sky, smiling as I remember good times.

2.21.2009

A Soul Lost at Sea

There was once a time when people did the right thing just because they knew they should.  Not because of selfish desires, but because they wanted to be good when no one is looking, making sure that they were following the minumum requirements for the social acceptance regime that encompassed them.  There was a time when being good meant helping the proverbial old lady across the street.  Now...the old lady is grumpy because the government hasn't issued her social security check yet and the young man who would have helped her is to busy changing songs on his ipod.  There was a time when honor was the most sought after commodity, when someone doing well meant they had worked hard, not stepped on the "little people" to get to the top by means of trickery and lies.

Was there a time like that?  Or do we just wish there was a time like that?

A few days ago after a large windstorm I was walking through an area that was mostly clear with the exception of a few trees.  There was one tree in particular that caught my attention, for it had fallen.  This was no sappling: it was about three feet in diameter.  As I stared at this tree in awe, I walked close for a better angle and more acute examination.  Upon doing so, I noticed that the entire core of the tree was rotten and almost entirely hollow.  I never would have known it had the wind not come.

Do you get it?  Imagine instead of "tree" you inserted a person's name.  Let that sink in.

Where are the heroes?  Where are the role models that capture our hearts by their selfless deeds and quick responses?  When did the idea of the "satisfaction of a job well done" get shot to hell?  Was it when the credit card's minumum payment came out, showing us that we really don't need to be responsible with our money, only paying a much lower amount than we owe?  Was it when our fathers stopped telling us that honest, hard working money is more admirable than a well paying, deviously made money?  Or when our mothers stopped teaching us the values of being respectful and using manners?

Is it possible to be one's own hero?  Can you look up to yourself?  When running a race by yourself, can you win or lose?  Most runners race not to beat the other people, but to beat their previous records.  Can we live the same way, trying to be better than we were yesterday?

I have found that no one person is good comparison, save for Jesus.  He's kinda an exception.  Every one scews up, and usually pretty badly from time to time.

There are three things now: the one who tries to be the hero, the one who admires the hero, and the one who wants to watch the hero burn.  What I find most interesting is that most often, these are all the same person.