Everybody Matters

April 15, 2008

It’s easy to disregard people, especially those people who do not share the same values or emotional perspective as us.  In any case, they matter too.  Everybody matters.  Knowing this and acting out of this knowledge makes it much easier and much more fun to live.


It is what it is

March 9, 2008

This is how it goes friend.

Everything is what it is.  Nothing else.
Freedom is freedom.
Happiness is happiness.
Love is love.
Good is good.

Substitution and definition make the strongest suffer because they search for something that has no space. 

Freedom isn’t happiness.
Happiness isn’t love.
Love isn’t good.
But everything is what it is.

But what is it?  What are they?  If I am only me.  And you are only you.  Then freedom can only be freedom in the same way.  And happiness can only be happiness in the very same way again.

So everything is what it is.  So pain is pain.  If I am hurt, I am hurt.  Love is love.  If I love you, I love you. 

What I say is what I say.  And what I do it what I do.  What we feel is what we feel.  It cannot be denied because it exists regardless of what false name we give it.  There is no definition of anything, but the truth of what it is.  Then life must be lived as life is and I must understand things and things are.  That makes understanding you a little bit easier.


Possibility

March 9, 2008

Let’s list bad things.

Those wars, those people, those fights, those words.

The moments when the butterflies in your stomach take hold and you forget how to speak.  When what you say is important and you can’t find the words to say it, you can’t find the courage to say it.

All those memories that are supposed to be blocked out, but stay and you relive your worse days.

These bad things.  These things we can list.  These things optimistic people choose to ignore.  Those bad things are important.  Why list them?  Why care that they exist?

Let’s not list these bad things.  Let’s not list this pain.  Not for the sake of optimism or the sake of sounding proper.  For the sake of guarantee.  It’s already guaranteed that one day we will feel it: this pain I speak of.  Why list it and when we will live it.  Most likely at the words or the hands of others. 

Then after I feel it and suffer it, I look at my neighbor, my fellow human being and I do not trust him because I am afraid of what he will do.  Because I am afraid of how he will effect me.  I surely have forgotten the heart of my fellow man.  The heart of my fellow woman.  We share them: the intentions, the fear, the insecurity, the love.  All true things.  It takes a person willing to be hurt in order to make a friend worth keeping.  The fire spit is only a way to keep the pain out anyway.

Although I may get hurt, I cannot forget that it is more fun to take your hand and give you my heart to break.  So take my heart and use your will to hold it as you like.  Because when I look at you, when I listen to your words, read what you have written and see what you have done, I must remember that wherever there is a human being, there lies the possibility for kindness.  This I cannot forget.


The Greatest Task: Power

February 13, 2008

Power is often thought of as an object to be obtained and held.  Some people hold power and others are powerless within their situations.  We for instance are perceived as powerless at the hands of the media.  They report based on their research and we accept.  In the teacher-student relationship, the student is powerless to the teacher who controls his grade.  These are the common ideas of power.  I believe them to be wrong.

Every individual has an equal amount of power, so long as he at one time existed.  But it is up to the individual to give power any kinetic strength.  Every person whether conscious or unconscious of his power, is exerting it at this moment, but conscious exertion produces more self interested results. 

Power is not an object to be passed or to be held by only one or a few ideologies or people.  Power is present in everything that exists and it exists only because it is a part of human consciousness.  Power is only as real and tangible as love and hate, as it cannot be labeled by the senses, but that its presence is felt enough to be given a name.  It is in nature, in animals and in human beings.  And through these vehicles is able to be used.  Without a vehicle for expression, power is useless or nonexistent.  In human relationships, those who are “in charge” appear to have more power than the subordinate people, but this is not the case.  Both or all of the people in this relationship have equal amounts of power, but the higher authority has either developed hers through education and experience or shares the popular ideology of the employers who give her the position to exercise her power. 

Even in this case, it may still seem that the subordinate person in the relationship is powerless.  He will have to obey his boss or suffer consequences.  The problem with this statement is that he does not have to do anything.  Just as a trained animal can at any moment chose to bite its owner, the subordinate person can choose to exercise his power and protest.  However, certain ideologies that he adheres to which he may have obtained in education, family, social pressures or the ideology of his own self-interest, may prevent him from protesting.  He may be disciplined, fired, treated poorly or suffer other consequences that he does not wish to face.  This means that he still has the power to act, but that power from other people or groups of people in the form of ideologies influences his choice.   By ideologies, I mean any reality of a human being or what we hold to be true.  There are political ideologies, personal and family ideologies and any process of thinking about the world is an ideology.

It is the same for me in class.  Though I have always wanted to shake things up by saying something crazy and running out of the room or by speaking in a ridiculous accent in class, I will probably never do either, despite the fact that the rigidness of the classroom makes me squirm.  The ideologies of reputation, grades, family and personal responsibility stop me from acting.  But at any time I can choose to ignore all of that and go for it.  That is when I become the most free and when I use my power to the best of my ability. 

Our presidents, our corporate leaders and all other authority figures are not completely free and have no absolute power.  They are tied to ideologies and in addition, at any given moment, any person who passes within their sphere of influence is exerting power over them.  A worker in a factory exerts power over his boss so long as he was ever associated with the company.  When he works, he is making products.  When he takes off or quits, he causes his boss to have to find a replacement.  At every moment, we are the worker to some person, group, institution or ideology.  The only task that we have is developing that power and using it.  But the trick is to gain knowledge from many ideologies regardless of their importance to use, because the education system, our social relationships and the other normalizing aspects of our lives are not enough to know everything about our power.

So power is not an object possessed by a lucky few, nor is it something to be passed around.  It does not operate alone; it is a tool of operation.  It is a tool that we all possess so long as we exist, and we must be conscious of its presence within our own bodies.  We are not ever powerless, and despite the great devices of power exercised against us in certain instances, we are irresponsible to think ourselves victims, though those illegitimate and exploitative ideologies often seen in poor neighborhoods and the workplace are morally reprehensible, to say the least.  Nevertheless, we must take our internal tool of power and build it with knowledge and confidence and in some cases other people.  This is the great task of the human being: to recognize and mold his power.


The Last Step

February 11, 2008

It occurred to me today that life is too personal. 
In order to really get into a deep relationship with anyone (except in the case of really exceptional people), you have to be eternally patient.  It takes most people a long time to get personal.  After thinking about it for a while, I came up with the three (or four) steps I usually see in most of my relationships.
    1. The feeling out phase when people just meet and listen to each other without voicing to much opinion.
    2. The opinion phase is the time for sharing opinions on not too sensitive topics.  Humour usually comes out in this phase.
    3. The obnoxious phase where one or both people in the relationship loses inhibition and shows their true colors.  This
         phase is often marked by embarrassment in public, random singing, fights and various other loud activities.
    4. This optional phase is marked by the sharing of deeply personal thoughts or experiences.  It develops with trust and
         the realization that your friend will love regardless of anything you did in step 3.

Of course, friendships don’t really follow a definite pattern.  People are too complicated to be textbook, but when you’re in a relationship you can usually tell where the relationship is and is headed.  You can tell where “the line” is, how much physical contact is okay and how much you are willing to tell, but in the case for “willing to tell,” it often depends on the confidence of the person in his or her identity and past.  It shouldn’t have to though.  I think maybe the reason people have to wait so long to get personal is because human beings tend to be insensitive.  We treasure the deepest friendships we have because we have finally found people who are willing to listen and act with what we tell them in our best interest.  Most of us are raised to not trust anybody because apparently a lot of people out there will hurt us or only find utility in us.  But even those people, may them most of all, need someone to reach step 4 with. 

That should probably be the task of human beings.  That should be our measurement of progress.  How many of us are willing to bear ourselves all the way to the last step?   School shootings, murders, theft and suicide are very dependent on the fact that people who committed these crimes against others and themselves were at the last step all by themselves.  How many of the people in our lives, regardless of what they appear to be on the surface, would like someone to take the time to reach underneath and pay all attention to the man behind the mask.

Life is too personal.  We make it that way.   I make it that way.  It takes throwing away pride and becoming comfortable with my reality to make it more available to other people.  To let other people know the complete truth and to let them share their own life with mine.  That’s a very tough conclusion to come to.


Activism at College

February 11, 2008

I am not a social activist.  I would like to be and probably will be one day, but today I am not.  Maybe next week.

The baby boomers always talk about the 60s.  How many protests, sit ins and all round activism was present in the world and on their college campuses.  It’s not like any more.  I’m sure everybody knows that. 

At my university, there are a few movements on campus every year, usually by the same group of people.  But the vast majority of students are hostile towards the activists on campus.  The common argument for the hostility is that any protest or movement for change is a waste of time and these people with their Monday night meeting and sign parties are wasting their energy.  Now don’t think that these people are the deadbeats that are going to work on Wal-Street or become corrupt politicians.  Some of them may follow these roads, but a great majority of them will deal with the problems that the protesters advocate against within the system that needs the change.  Many of the college students I know do not join human rights groups on campus or participate in sit ins, but they have a bigger plan.  They plan to use their education to get a job in whatever industry they believe needs fixing and do it themselves.  To them, protests on campus are silly displays by free spirits who are wasting their time. 

John Mayer wrote a song, “Waiting on the World to Change” and while I like what he says and I enjoy listening to the song, I often find myself hating the message he gives.  He essentially says that the younger generations are passively waiting for the older generations to die out and that when this happens, the world will change.  But what John Mayer and many of my peers fail to realize is that progress in history didn’t wait.  And while protests for Sudan divestment on campuses around the United States may not always accomplish their main goal, they do accomplish two things: 1. progress is making universities aware of student concerns  2. a message to the world that not everybody accepts what they are told.

The main thing with power is not that it comes in many shades, but simply that it exists.  Freedom is only possible when a person decides to ignore its existence.  Therefore, those students who I envy that ignore the power their classmates have that affects their reputation, the power that the government or university has that tells them to be quiet and their own individual power that tells them that there could be consequences to their action; those are students who are more free that most citizens. 

Activism at college is dying, though there are students who will continue to fight for what they believe in regardless of any power source.  And those students who refuse to become part of these student groups may in fact one day help the government, corporate world or social thought to progress from the inside, but who’s to say these activists won’t do the same one day?  The issue with activism is not whether it is right or wrong, it is whether activism should have a definite form.  Whether activism makes people more free.  Whether it would change the ignorance of college students if it became lost.

So here, we are faced with two roads.  College students and older citizens alike.  To take the road less traveled and ignore the power the our fellow human beings hold over us.  To protest, to join human rights groups, to write letter to editor and to the CEOs and to whatever organization the gives us an uneasy feeling that we tend to ignore.  Or we can relish in the comfort of our safe zones, where we prize ourselves on the contentment we feel.  Where we feel no anger at any current situation and allow ourselves to remain safe amidst the power that the ideologies of our nations and fellow human beings hold over our freedom.

The road less traveled or the road trampled?  Unfortunately, I have not yet made my decision.


Self-Love: The Necessity of Friendship

February 9, 2008

What is the best type of friend?  The better question: what makes a good friend?  The generic answer usually involves traits that affect the other member of the relationship.  Friends are often measured against values of trust, kindness, honesty and communication.   But these qualities are not enough to create and maintain the deepest of friendships.  Of course, these traits are very important in all relationships, but there are not enough to be the best friend a person can be; there is something missing.  The quality most consistently left out is self love.  Without it, our best relationships never realize their full potential.  They are left to function on the surface of human action as opposed to the more personal meaning behind action.   Although many of our deepest friendships are earned by the previously mentioned traits and almost always provide a place for very personal thoughts and feeling to be expressed without judgment, our friendships have still not reached their greatest potential. 

Within the friendship, a friend is someone who acts and thinks in what he believes to be our best interest, who we are able to have conversations with, who shares our sadness and happiness, who enjoys spending time in our company and who recognizes our strengths and weaknesses without exploited either.  The best friend, in addition, feels all of these things for herself.  She wishes the best for herself and her life, she enjoys and respects her thoughts, she feels comfortable with her emotions, she finds great pleasure in her own company and she handles her strengths and weaknesses so they may be kept in the balance in accordance with the decisions to better her life.  In a sense, she has a friendship with her “self” and her friend is just another “self.”

If our friend loves himself so deeply and completely and we live with the same self love, then our friendship is able to turn all of its potential into reality and thrive through the infinite love that remains its base.   Friendships no longer become a place to find a person who fills missing pieces of our self-esteem with compliments and who we can hurt with words of misdirected insecurity.  The friend a part of a friendship based in self love does not ask of his friend because he has the confidence to will and attain the need or want he has, though his friend out of her own self love may unprompted help him achieve his goal.  And when she loses her temper in a moment of weakness, she will recognize this as a moment of weakness and seek to remedy the situation and her feelings. But because she is in this friendship, her will recognize her desire to modify this aspect of her emotion and he will aide (for her best interest) in the goal she seeks to complete.

Therefore, it is not trust or kindness or honesty that are the foundation of a good friendship, it is self love.  Self-love minimizes the need of insecure human beings to belittle their neighbors, it causes individuals to desire a remedy of ignorance of culture, it makes possible to recognize the best pieces of the human being, it allows to experience life as freely as possible through our own self confidence and it provides the foundation for the most valuable friendships in our lifetime.

Love yourself.  Every part.  You’re worth it.


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