Wednesday, November 10, 2010

But What If I'm Wrong??

Yesterday in one of my classes we discussed a short story that we read about a family in which each individual had the emotional maturity of a three year old. We talked about how in many families, the person with the most power is the one who is thought of to be in the most pain. This totally makes sense to me, though there are certainly exceptions. The vulnerable get the most attention. **This is not a sob story of middle child syndrome** I have a point. So when people want others to see them as in a lot of pain, they tend to get very defensive. "I'm not perfect, but..." However, the last thing this person wants to hear now is about their imperfections. My professor gave us an example with her own children. She said that sometimes when her kid would come up to her accusing another child of doing something, she would tell the child to stop and tell her the whole story without making the other child the subject of a sentence. Instead they would have to focus on "I." The last time the Israelis and the Palestinians had a successful peace talk it was because they were not allowed to talk about past harms the other had done to them. They started with a clean plate and had to try to understand the other.

My professor also explained this exercise she would try when she was teaching high school. She chose a subject that all of the students would be on one side of, and then she made them argue for the other side. The trick was that they had to argue like the other side was an intelligent person with morals. In other words, they had to argue like if someone who really would argue that side had heard them, they would have no complaints. This seems to simple and essential for learning, but I feel that it is rarely done. The problem that one of her students pointed out was "well what if I argue for the other side and then I realize that I am wrong." Oh no! What a horrible thing learning is. We still have our agency, we will not be tricked into changing our minds just because we think how another person would think. If we disagree, then we have made our beliefs stronger, if we agree, then we have learned a great deal.

Sometimes people are scared to learn about other religions in depth or philosophy or politics or anything important, but if you really believe that something is true, why would you be scared to think for a minute from another perspective? Perhaps you are really insecure about your own beliefs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Having the Courage to Say "I Don't Know"

It feels like we are expected to have an opinion on everything. Politics, religion, that pair of shoes, sports, music, food, etc. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of opinions (have you been reading my blog?) but sometimes it gets a little crazy when we are supposed to have a strong opinion on things that we might not even care about. The result? Well I have definitely seen people make judgments without doing their research. They will say "this is the best" or "that sucks" all day long but cannot produce a reasonable answer when asked why. I know I am being very general here, but just work with me. Part of the beauty of life is that we don't have all the answers, we are still learning. So the next time someone asks you if you are, for example, conservative or liberal, don't just spout out the first thing that comes to your head that sounds right. Figure out what it really means and make an informed decision.

Have the courage to say I don't know, but then have the will to go find out (if its not about that girl's shoes.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Walking home, eyes to the ground, noticing for the first time the stains that leaves make on the cement after a storm.
Locking myself in my version of Antigone’s cave, hoping (but only a little) that my fate won’t be so gruesome.
Three day old water slowly swishes down my throat. Semi-suffocating, I imagine myself fully submerged.
Horizontally resting, but finding no rest. My staring eyes are tired, my view of everything is tired.
Hour after hour pass. I wait for them to say something, to do something. But only silence.
My mind like the planets, wandering (as the saying goes), but mostly still, so still.
Wanting to gasp awake, realizing I wasn’t breathing. But I’m conscious.
Ate a bag of potato chips, decided against eating an apple.
Back under the covers, always stay undercover.
My pen unused, my book unopened.
When does it all end?
12 o’clock time.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Today I read almost two pages by fernando pessoa

"Today I read almost two pages
In a book by mysical poet
And I laughed like someone who'd cried a lot.

Mystical poets are sick philosophers
And philosophers are crazy.

Mystical poets say plowers feel
And they say stones have a soul
And they say rivers have ecstasies in the moonlight.

But flowers wouldn't be flowers if they felt,
They'd be people;
And if stones had a soul, they'd be living things, they wouldn't be stones;
And if rivers had ecstasies in teh moonlight,
Rivers would be sick people.

You need to not know what flowers and stones and rivers are
To talk about ther feelings.

Talking about the soul of stones, of flowers, of rivers,
Is talking about yourself and your false thoughts.
Thank God stones are only stones,
And rivers are nothing but rivers,
And flowers are just flowers.

Me, I write the prose of my poems
And I'm at peace,
Because I know I comprehend Nature on the outside;
And I don't comprehend Nature on the inside
Because Nature doesn't have an inside;
If she did she wouldn't be Nature."

-fernando pessoa

Why do we attach thoughts and feelings to people or objects when we do not know what is on the inside? I am all about metaphors, but there has got to be some intrinsic characteristic about an object to be able to compare something to. You should not say that she is happy like a flower. Flowers are not happy. They are just flowers. Maybe they make you happy but please don't get your own emotions confused with a flower's.

I have realized that I do the same type thing with people. I see some qualities or characteristics about a person and then attach 10 times the amount of my own made-up qualities. The scary thing is that I think that I am right. I have a hard time separating what I want someone to be like and what they are really like. When my assumptions are disproved, I am shocked and put off. But its not the person's fault when they are not what I expected them to be. Its my fault. Maybe I am a sick metaphysical philosopher.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Blanket Weaponry

The newest cutting-edge, mind-blowing weaponry. The atomic bomb? disease warfare? The fastest jet known to mankind? How about a warm, comforting blanket? Suprisingly, this blanket could be one of the most dangerous weapons to the heart of humanity--the individual spirit. Put into the hands of our most crafty enemy and this metaphorical enemy could be the downfall of our society. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but let me explain.

Alright, this is a hard thing to explain but let me try with an inadequate example. Say you have a pile of different materials: logs, bricks, gold, steel, plywood, even cloth. A community has access to all of these materials. Instead of separating each one into a safe location, the townspeople take a large blanket and throw it over the top to protect the materials from the rain. Even though the villagers can't see the pile, they know it is a pile of materials and refer to it as such. Unfortunately, in their society, the word "material" is almost synonomous with the word "log" because logs are the most commonly used material (oh the difference jargon can make!). Pretty soon the people only believe that there are logs underneath the blanket (afterall, it is dark down there and when its dark, everything starts looking the same). So over the years, the people ignore the pile or reach in and always come out with logs. The result is that the town is only building cabins because when they think of materials, they only think of logs. They are living below their opportunities. They could build mansions of brick or gold. They could have airplanes and great steel ships. But at least the blanket is comforting.

Blanket statements and generalizations are dangerous. Attributes that make a person remarkable like honesty, integrity, compassion, humor, and creativity are lumped together as "good things." Suddenly you are a great person if you halfway exhibit these traits of even if you believe that you do. Pretty soon "good" becomes "good enough" and you are content with yourself if you refrain from some bad things. You can't improve without specific goals if all of your ideas about life are blanketed under adjectives like "good", "bad", "cool", and "boring". Get to the deeper aspects. Walk outside in the cold for a bit. Thats the only way you can find hidden treasure. That wet blanket may seem warm now, but eventually it will give you pnemonia.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dictionary or Hair Products?

Can we just compare the exact and careful definitions found in a dictionary and how defined your curls are?

Definition. What defines a person? I would think somewhere along the lines of what a person believes, how she sees the world around her, what brings her happiness, and the kind of relationships she has (warning: this is not a complete list). Sometimes people define themselves by where they are from, what they are majoring in, and who their friends are. I have observed more and more that people define themselves by their particular tastes. People ask you what music you like so that the can define you by a genre (just be very vague when you answer this question). People define themselves by what they wear and the look that they are going for (combine this with a music genre and you have found yourself!). Aren't there better ways to define yourself than by what food you like, what you think of the 14 year-old celebrity, or what brand of shampoo you use?

Do you think I am exaggerating? Maybe I am, but go to the about me section of your friends profiles on facebook and then get back to me. You know the type. Soccer is my life! Music is my life! What a boring life. I can only hope that these are masks and that there is something more definable under that charming style.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Land of Liberty

I must be honest. I have never really been the type to wave the American flag and sing the patriotic songs with a tear in my eye. I am not going to tell you that the USA is the best place to live on the planet, in fact, I would love to move away for a number of years (not that I have a grudge against my home country, but because I want new experiences). However, I will celebrate today some of the things that America stands for. I value America because it is a land of opportunity and a land of liberty. It is amazing that if you dream something and work hard, there is a good possibility that you can make it happen here (do not get all cynical on me). I am free to act and to create, to be myself and try to influence others. I am free to choose to act or to be acted upon. It is incredible how close to limitless I am.

This makes me think of civilizations in which leaders do not trust their citizens to make correct decisions for themselves. It is also like a parent that does not trust her son and so she puts excessive limits on him (which makes him want to rebel more). The leaders and parents want good things for those whom they are responsible for, but take away something so precious because of this consuming desire. I am grateful to live in a country and have parents that have allowed me (more or less) to have to choice to be whatever I want to be. To be a strong individual instead of a puppet.

There is a bigger lesson to be learned here. Imagine a leader and parent of us all. Someone with a huge responsibility and in interest in our outcomes. A parent to us all would want us all to do what is best for us (let us assume that he knows, I know, it was hard for you to think that your mom really did know better than you when you wanted to stand on the very edge when you were five years old, clumsy, and thought you were invincible). It would be hard to let us choose for ourselves. However, always forcing someone to do good does not make a good person, it makes a good robot. Can you perhaps consider that this situation is very real indeed? We were given that beautiful gift to be free agents unto ourselves and to be able to become whatever we want to become! We mess up all the time, and its scary. Think how scary it is for the parent or leader. But it is the only way we can become something magnificent: to reach our true potential. That isn't to say that we don't have help and some boundaries to help keep us safe (a parent might enforce a curfew and a leader might enforce speeding laws), but we ultimately get to choose how to respond to everything (including the help we might be offered).

Basically, today I am grateful that I am free to act for myself. To have this gift from God, from my family, and from my country.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Like a Drunk, But Not

Drunken, and not with wine.

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.
-Alexander Pope

Like a drunk, but not.
-Regina Spektor

Why do we allow, or rather, desire our minds and souls to get fuzzy, blanketed over, and disintegrated? Not physically with alcohol (though it is very similar), but by the way we live and think everyday. We don't want to care about anything truly important because that would mean we would have to feel responsible. We would have to expect more out of ourselves and then we couldn't be content and pleased with our own mediocrity. And so we drain the metaphorical cup. We make ourselves mentally drunk to forget, to let loose our baser desires, and to be happy with ourselves.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Half or Whole?

I have heard the comment "he/she is my other half" many times. It seems as if girls grow up to be a half, waiting and living to be completed by her "other half." She is not complete without her man. I have seen girls with no other goals than to get married and have kids. I am not saying that these are wrong goals (in fact, these are possibly the best goals). However, if one thinks this way, she will not try to ever be more than a half. The other half is underdeveloped or decayed. Why should I then be surprised at unhealthy relationships and divorces when girls (and guys) are just so desperate to complete themselves via someone else. Wouldn't a better alternative be to develop yourself as a whole; have your own goals and ambitions, your own talents and opinions and then find another whole person with these things too? At least it would be much more interesting. Yes, it may be hard to find a whole person with all of these halfs wandering around, but wouldn't it be worth it? Each of us have a choice: be a half and live to be completed by another half (what if the half don't fit?) or to become a whole person and join with another whole person to love and respect forever (may I go as far as to say that you must love and respect yourself first?).

Isn't two better than one?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Country of the Blind

"In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king."

But what if all of the one-eyed man's friends and family expected him to be blind too?

And what if a man with one eye (or even two good working eyes) grows up with the blind ways of life? What if it would be more comfortable for him to be like everyone else? What if no one believes that he can see? What if they don't even know what sight is? Would the man lead the people? Helping and improving their way of life? Would he become their king?

Or would he, perhaps, just decide to close his eyes?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Lesson of the Guitar

When I was 13 years old I asked for a guitar for christmas. My plan was to teach myself how to play (its been done, why cant I?) The only problem was that I expected to learn how to really play just from randomly plucking the strings. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I thought "surely I will become good at it if I put in enough time with my guitar." I didn't understand that when someone teaches themself, they at least look up different chords and how to play. They have a book, or look on the internet or something. It takes more than just time and a guitar, it takes knowledge and actual effort.

I find myself relating a lot of things in life to this experience with the guitar. Just because you spend a lot of time with a person hanging out, it doesn't mean you automatically have a strong tie to them. Just because you have been working in a certain industry for a long time, you aren't necessarily better at it than someone else. Time is very subjective. This all sounds obvious, but society generally views situations more like I did with the guitar when I was 13. People respect your friendship more if you tell people you have known each other from childhood. Teachers get paid more the longer they work for a school. But I could be better friends with a person that I met last week than someone I've known my whole life. Sometimes a nineteen year old girl would make a better teacher than Mrs. Johnson who has been teaching for fifty years. And sometimes its better to sell a guitar at a garage sale for ten dollars after five years of never being able to play.