Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Random Reflections on 'Reality'

What if when people go brain-dead their mind wakes up in a parallel universe. What if as they lay there in a vegetative state, seemingly devoid of any thought, they are living it up somewhere else. Somewhen else. Stephen Hawking is a pretty smart guy, and he suggests that our universe (or dimension) may be one of many. What if people could make the jump. It kind of reminds me of that TV show Life On Mars, where the guy gets hit by a car and wakes up in the 1970's. What if his body is lying there, in present time, completely vacant, while his soul takes on a new form to fight crime in the 'past'. I know we like to simplify life and creation, but who knows for real, right?

The other day while I was delivering food to dying businesses (thats an economy joke), I thought up a cure for cancer. In my mind I deciphered what was similar between all cancer cells and then I developed a specific protein compound that destroyed those cancer cells. It was obvious I'd been watching too much CSI, because I don't even know what a compound of protein looks like, or what it does exactly. When reading about famous scientists, though, I find that many of them weren't even that gifted. They were just creative and ingenious and were at the right place at the right time. I think most people, if given the right circumstances, can be very creative and ingenious. You just have to spend some time thinking.

What if time governs our entire reality. If you think about it, we are bound to it. We have a beginning and an end, as does everything in our universe. It's hard to imagine something that truly transcends time because from our point of view everything is born and everything dies. Everything. But what if there is this eternal realm outside of time. We can't see it because we are bound to time. Say heaven is eternal, not bound by time. What if when you die and you get to heaven its just as if everyone got there at the same time. Grandma, she just showed up, same time as you. Since there is no time, she wasn't waiting, even though she passed forty years back. She's probably confused as to why you died right when she did, but I think she'll figure it out soon enough and be happy you're there. And then there's St. Peter, he just got there too. He's been gone two thousand years from earth but thats nothing in heaven because there is no time. What if the Rapture is a metaphor for death, and we'll all be caught up in the sky at the 'same time' when we die. Me, Grandma, and St. Pete getting called home... separate from the timeline of Earth. I mean this is all speculation, but you never know, right?

They say the speed of light governs time. Thats the definition of a light-year: The distance that light travels in one year. That star you see twinkling at night, that actually twinkled fifty thousand light years ago, or more, and its just now caught your eye. The light from that twinkle took fifty thousand years to get to you, but there it is, showing you what happened in the past. Back before humans were around. They say if you could travel at the speed of light, you could go through time, forward or backwards, and you wouldn't even need a souped-up delorean.

Personally, I think our universe is just one big cosmic example of how small we are compared to God. I think He created it to show us that we will never fully comprehend it all. We are separated by billions of light years, just lingering in space so big we could never begin to comprehend it. If we were cartoons, we wouldn't have any light bulbs above our heads. Only question marks. Maybe God put a thousand billion trillion giant spheres of gas and minerals between us and Him, mindless but bound by gravity, as if to say, "See? You don't know jack, I control all of this." But at the same time, its just us who can witness the majesty of the universe, so its like God's saying, "See? This is my Glory for you to witness, because you are important." A supergiant (massive sun) can't see anything. However magnificent it is, its just mindless chemicals and gasses. It isn't aware. But we get to see it and study it and wonder how it got there. So as far as cognizance goes, in a way the universe does revolve around us.

If you want to get a big headache, look into molecular science. It's even crazier than space. Its all magic. None of the laws of physics apply. Apparently, we're all made up of trillions of atoms, tiny particles bound together to form very distinct and unique human beings, or animals, or carpet fiber. About a sugar cube of air at sea level contains 45 billion billion molecules. And they're in every single cubic centimeter around you. Talk about mind blowing. If you wanted to see an atom in a drop of water, you'd have to make the drop of water fifteen miles across. Thats how small it is, and it has a bunch of little buggers around its nucleus, all making sense to each other.

So why don't we fall apart? We're held together like magnets, with positive and negative charges. The reason I don't fall through this chair is because the make up of the chair is such that the molecules are charged to resist the molecules in my clothes and my body. Technically, I'm hovering above the chair at the width of one ten millionth of a millimeter (the width of one atom), the molecules like two positively charged magnets pushing apart. Crazy stuff. We've been around a long time, and we still don't know jack. The more we find out, the more we realize we don't know jack. Ironic, eh? Kind of like trying to get to know God.

Just as the scientists wont stop searching for purpose in their labs, neither should we stop searching for meaning in our lives. Everyone is searching for God in some way, through some avenue, to some extent. You'll never really know, at least not in this lifetime, right? Thats where faith comes in. Whether you believe that this is some big cosmic accident, or you believe its all artfully designed, you have to have significant faith.

When I'm in doubt, I look up. It restores my faith.

Monday, March 16, 2009


You know the feeling when people are telling you something, but it's like they're trying to get you to say the opposite? They're fishing for complements by putting themselves down, or saying something polarizing just to see if someone will speak up and argue their point. You know the feeling. It's in all of us. Its called insecurity, and when people start acting it out, that feeling starts to creep in. It starts to marinate in your soul. It starts to grow. Their insecurity starts feeding your own.

How sad is it that sometimes you'll stoop to saying how pathetic you are in order to get a 'pity compliment.' What a cheap, undeserving consolation for a tired old tactic. On the other hand, how sad is it that you need to affirm yourself by making offensive blanket statements in order to prove a point, being argumentative in an attempt to leave some 'burning impression.' Or how about the constant need to draw attention to yourself in conversation by bragging or telling stories that nobody wants to hear. What a cheap legacy. It is said that you can judge a man by his enemies. Acting like this wont make you an enemy of bad people. Unleashing your tongue for shock value doesn't make enemies at all. It just makes people dislike you. You just lose respect.

It is said that you can see a person's true character not only by how well they take criticism, but by how well they accept compliments. I think I am instinctively terrible at both. I don't like compliments, in fact, I prefer never to be told that I'm good at anything. At least not to my face. Secretly, I want people to compliment me behind my back. I want to overhear people telling their friends, just in earshot, that I am great. I want to overhear that they respect me...  but I want it indirectly, so I don't have to accept it. So I'm not exposed. Sometimes I field a compliment with class and humility, but intrinsically, if I don't make a concerted effort, it will make me feel awkward and I'll want to change the subject. 

It's the same with criticism. I hate it. How dare you? That's my natural attitude. It feels like a violation. Like an attack on who I am. Only when it's spoken in the most respectful tone by a dear friend will I ever calmly listen to it, otherwise I get nervous. Something stirs in me and I feel the need to defend myself, to retaliate against it. But secretly, as much as I abhor it, as much as I make out like I'm ignoring it, criticism can control me. Phrases of criticism can play constantly in my mind, and they can have a powerful impact on my actions. Criticism, even from years ago, can randomly pop into my head when I make decisions, and it can influence me to go one way over another.

The fact is, most criticism comes from insecurity. And usually, when its delivered from a place of insecurity in one individual, it can awaken insecurities in the individual receiving it. The insecurity in one breeds insecurity in the other.

You may have heard this. Musicians by nature can be some of the most insecure people in the world. We are defined by the sounds that we make, and thus we are very protective of them. Sometimes it's easy to write your own music off so the criticism doesn't hurt as bad. It's easier to mock your own art than to defend it. But I think thats a front, nobody wants their heart and soul to be picked apart. It's a terrifying process, writing, recording and releasing a record. There are insecurities on the macro level, and on the micro. On the micro level, for example with band dynamics, insecurities are like atoms waiting to be split. They are like tiny little molecules which if treated a certain way can amass major destruction.

If a band member feels discredited, disrespected or overlooked in any way, the lid can blow off, and everyones insecurities can take over. 

Heres how it works: I'll be happily and humbly moving along, confident in myself but also willing to give credit to others, and then suddenly something happens. Someone, out of insecurity, will say something self-righteous. Someone will get offended by something miniscule, and react by reciting their own accomplishments, the things they're good at, why they are more important. Obviously, this is because they feel offended or criticized, and out of an instinct of self- defense, they react by giving a vocal account of their value. As soon as this happens, from deep within me, something starts to cry out. What you've done? It says, What about what I've done? How good you are? What about how good I am? And so on. And if I don't squash it, it can suddenly sweep over me. I can be completely enslaved by my own insecurities.

And so it goes. Somebody criticizes someone, not out of love but out of insecurity. That person reacts with boasting, out of insecurity, and then causes their neighbors to well up with self-righteousness. Insecurity has now swept the room, like some hyper-speed version of the bubonic plague, clouding everyones judgement, infecting everyones motivations, or worse, killing the vibe. All this out of the vocalized insecurity of one person, callously addressing something in an attempt to validate themselves.

Insecurity breeds insecurity.

All anyone wants is to be understood and respected, but in order to receive respect you have to earn it. You have to give it. The selfish nature of our culture tells us that we can have what we want, when we want it, without work. You can get what you need at the touch of a button. That is a lie. Blessings come to those who work for them. It is work to be humble. It is work to give a compliment when all you want is to hear one. It is work to let people speak who may have selfish motivations. It is work to put others first. It is work to keep your own insecurities secure when others are running rampant. It is work to have patience. But if you work on those things, people will respect you. You'll find that you can rise above your own insecurities, because your conscience will be clean. And when it comes to the dropping of these "insecurity bombs," you will be known as a diffuser rather than an igniter. You'll be known as a peacemaker. People will like you. 

Isn't that what we all want? To rise above? To remain calm and collected? To not be dragged around by the insecurities of others? Isn't that the meaning of cool? Sadly our society glorifies hot heads. Turn on Fox News if you don't believe me. You'll see people making blanket statements, 'convinced' they have the answers, attacking their neighbors' principles in order to justify their own beliefs. It's commonplace to take action out of insecurity. What's even more absurd, is that it's masked as strength. You are encouraged to rant, boast, and criticize in order to prove your point. You are encouraged to put your neighbor beneath you. It makes for great TV, but unfortunately it does not get them what they want: Respect. Talking heads are a joke. Does anyone respect them?

The answer is always humility. It is always a quiet, confident patience. The answer is self control. The type Ghandi and Mother Theresa had. The type Jesus had. These things come from a place of wisdom. These are not new thoughts. If you open a Bible to Proverbs, you'll find exactly how to gain respect. The words were written almost three thousand years ago during a time when the nation of Israel was very wealthy, and they couldn't be any more true right now in our postmodern society.

There are leaders and followers. Indians and chiefs. Those who read the news, and those who make the news. Those who are the wind, and those who are tossed by it. I have to constantly remind myself which I am aspiring to be. I have to make sure that insecurity stays secured.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Things Change

I remember being so angry with my parents in high school. They would rarely buy me new clothes, and when they did they were the kind from the JC Penny sale rack. I hated showing up to school with all my friends in their fresh pressed duds and me in my crappy hand-me-downs. I'd get made fun of for wearing a shirt too much, but I only wore it because it was my only cool shirt. I would have never admitted it at the time, but being popular seemed like the pinnacle of success. It really seemed like those guys had the life. All you needed was tan skin, a white smile and some fresh new clothes, and suddenly you were in. Well, I never really got 'in' and I cursed my parents for it. Today, I can't stop singing their praises. Why? Because things change...

I was the guy on the fringe. I didn't have what it took to be cool. My skin didn't tan very well, and my clothes were unoriginal. As for my teeth, the braces during junior year didn't help my status, and by the time they came off I'd taught myself how to smile without showing them at all. I had friends, lots of them, but I wasn't the nucleus. Their plans didn't revolve around mine. Sometimes I think of how my life might have turned out if I had been the nucleus. I imagine I would have stayed around town after graduation much longer, trying to milk the fame I poured myself into during those four years of high school. I probably would have gone to parties and reminisced about those days of yore, back when I had it made. I probably would have got a job nearby, say as a landscaper, so I could keep all the same friends who still recognized my hard earned status. I probably would have slowly and grudgingly started to hate my life, because for those unfortunate enough to be the nucleus, it is often the case that high school
is the pinnacle. And after that, things change... 

I was happy to bring on the change. I stuck around a year after graduation to do some manual labor and "soul-searching" *cough* partying *cough* and then decided I needed to get the heck out of Dodge. I realized in that year that I wasn't the type to milk a situation that wasn't the best to begin with, and that I was young and there was life to be discovered. So I moved to Seattle.
The change that happened then was drastic.

Over the course of the last eight years, and through many different experiences, I believe I've become a changed person. Call it getting older, but I've settled in to who I am. I like myself. Once a year I'll head back home for the holidays, and I'll see some old friends. Some seem satisfied with life, and others, generally the ones who had it pretty good in high school, seem to have changed in a different way. They seem worse off. It's sad, because I can tell that they don't like who they've become. It's like they stuck around, trying to relive the vigor and momentousness they felt in high school. Where life felt finite and important. Where they belonged. Where they were respected. But life dragged on, and it's like they've been beating this dead horse for years, not wanting to let go, to start over a nobody, to have to struggle to gain respect. Their tan skin starting to look rough, their nice clothes exchanged for coveralls, their white smiles hidden behind their lips. I'm almost shocked by their demeanor. Embarrassed by their humility.

They look at me, and I'm just a poor nobody with nothing to hang my hat on, and they say, 
"You made it, man."
Made it? Somebody should tell my over-drafted bank account. 
"You got out, you are doing something different, everyone here is proud of you."
Everyone is proud of me? That's a funny thought.
"Yeah man you're famous."
No, I'm not. People just assume that.

But really, people talk about me? The kid with pale skin and stupid clothes and braces. The MacDonald kid. The kid who's rebellious. The kid who thinks he's fat. The kid who thinks he's ugly. The kid who resents his parents... Things change.

And then I'm reminded of how microscopic my world view was in high school. It's like I've lived ten lifetimes since. I wanted to so badly to be known and respected, at any expense. I can still recall the pang, the inconsolable longing for popularity however temporary. However shallow the requirements.

I think about my parents and how they didn't buy into the system I subscribed to. I thought I had a dire responsibility to fit in or be cast aside, and for whatever reason they didn't comply. I was angry, but now I'm glad because things changed. 

So to you on the fringes, I say rejoice! The nucleus will eventually implode on itself, and you'll be set free one day to travel as far as your dreams will take you. Always remember, no matter how finite, wretched, overlooked or desperate your life might seem: Things change!

Friday, March 6, 2009

What Communism Feels Like

I get a weird feeling in my gut when people around me start placing their rules and principles ahead of their humanity.

In the professional word there is so little wiggle room with what you can get away with. Maybe this is why I don't function properly working for a business with an HR department. Because everything I say might come under scrutiny, it has to be filtered through a long list of rules. You have to ask, "Could this be considered sexist? Prejudice? Racist? Inappropriate for the 'work environment'?" Call me a rebel if you like, I just get this weird feeling when people adhere to the type of mentality that disallows them to act naturally.

Don't get me wrong. I agree that racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice are terrible things and should be punished when it is found that someone is maliciously and publicly displaying these ignorant patterns of thought. There is no excuse and no place for it. Idiots should be treated as idiots. If acting naturally means demeaning women, then you shouldn't be allowed to act naturally. But how many good people with good intentions have been sued, fired, transferred, mistaken... their names dragged through the mud?

What I mean by 'acting naturally' is being able to talk through things in a natural way. This idea that we have to protect people so thoroughly from things that society deems inappropriate is a huge discredit to the intelligence of humanity. What happened to good-old telling someone they've offended you, having a conversation and working it out, learning from each other? Can't people help provide their own boundaries without some corporate watch-dog breathing down their neck? These principles that put certain topics so completely off limits help to breed prejudice. If nobody can talk, then how can we progress? The rules are teaching that color, sex and sexual orientation are things to look out for, things to focus on so that you don't make a mistake. Isn't that the opposite of the idea of "color-blindness"? Aren't we supposed to see each other as equals? Instead, certain topics are off limits, separating some groups from the mainstream and in turn, marginalizing them... highlighting them. There is no progress, because progress requires conversations, and conversations aren't allowed to happen because that would be 'inappropriate behavior for the work environment.'

The fact is, we are all human. We want to laugh and joke and celebrate our differences. We also want to talk and learn and celebrate the things we have in common. We want barriers to go down, we want people to open up, we want deeper relationships with those around us. The rules keep us from that.

Everybody has a watchful eye in the workplace, looking for those who might not be adhering to the rules. In some weird twist of irony, they choose to call the department that dehumanizes people Human Resources. HR, very inhumanly, follows a book of do's and don'ts. We've all watched the videos, the ones teaching us how to react in certain situations, how to avoid them... how to avoid people. Employees are suddenly all potential threats to the code of law. Potential law suits. Potential liabilities. You're probably best not even to look at a minority, lest they or someone watching might take offense.

This must be on some small scale what communism feels like.

Why do you think people go home and flip on Comedy Central to watch comedians of every race, gender, and ethnic background making fun of each other? They're saying what nobody is allowed to say, and thats attractive. It's also hilarious, culturally bridge building, and educational on a really shallow level. It's sad that we have to bridge the gap with comedians. Perhaps they wouldn't be so funny if it was common place that culturally different people spoke to each other, had each other over for dinner, learned from each other, etc.

In communist Romania everyone was a spy for the government. Students were not allowed to go to church, because church was for old people, apparently. Teachers were forced to attend church for the sole purpose of seeing if any students were there. If they saw a student at church, they had to report it to the government, and that student would be punished. Everyone was to have a watchful eye on their neighbor, jotting down the intricacies of what they said and did. People were forced into policing each other out of fear. They were all following the rules of the Romanian Communist Party. A joke was no longer a joke, a passing comment no longer a comment... everything was a potential threat to the regime. This disrupted any freedom of speech they might have at one point enjoyed.

This legalism, this 'off-limits' type mentality not only impedes on freedoms, it sections people off, dividing them into class and culture, keeping the familiar together so that no one can grow. It creates prejudice, because there is a disconnect between cultures. Suddenly, its 'us' and 'them.'

Have you ever been ridiculed? Ever been made to look like a racist or an animal because of something you've said? Have you been sat down and grilled because of a passing comment or a harmless joke? Have you been punished because you innocently and ignorantly broke the code of conduct?

Then you probably have felt what communism must feel like.

The problem is that the system breeds ignorance. Instead of demonizing ignorance, why don't we erase it. Let everyone talk to each other, let everyone learn from each other. There will be bumps in the road, but let everyone work out the kinks. People are intelligent, they can develop their own social guidelines through conversation and understanding. We don't need a Human Resource Department draining humans of their natural social abilities, their true human resources. If allowed to have open and honest conversation, humans might be able bridge the gap that corporate rules and ignorance have helped create.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Genetics Of Me

For most of your upbringing, if they display typical discretion, your parents will likely only show you only one part of who they are. This, at least for me, caused some confusion. As I was discovering myself I was realizing how different I was from my parents, and how different I wanted to be. I think this is what most teenagers go through, this sort of disconnect where they throw everything their parents teach them into question. For me it led to a feeling of being marginalized and misunderstood, as if they seemed characteristically different and unable to relate to who I was becoming. I often wondered why am I like this? As I was discovering my own shortcomings and gifts, it was hard to see that they came from my mother and father. The older I get the more I learn about my parents, and the more I believe genetics play a huge part in why I am the way I am. 

My father recently told me this story: While living on his own in his early-twenties he glanced in the mirror one morning only to be met with a shocking revelation. To his surprise and dismay the realization suddenly came to him that he was "nothing more than the genetic extension of my parents." To some, the idea of that realization isn't very frightful, to him, it might have been terrifying. I however have been blessed enough to embrace the characteristics of my lineage, and I can say with some gratitude that I am not completely ashamed of what I see in the mirror.

The rest of this post might read a bit like a eulogy. Both of my parents are living, so don't mourn them yet. I simply want to point out the characteristics built in each of them, innate and environmental (at least from my perspective, and from what they've shared with me), in an attempt to paint a self portrait. It'd odd to think, but I am truly the sum of these two parts. Every characteristic you read from here on in, every flaw and every strength, is very much a part of me. 

After a certain age your parents stop filtering what they tell you. 

My mom told me once that she ran away from home when she was twelve. She successfully hitchhiked from her home in Virginia to somewhere in Florida. After using a pay phone to call her mother, my granny pinpointed her location and had the police pick her up. I think she ran away again at fourteen, and for one final time at sixteen after she graduated high school. She is still, to some extent, that same person, which might be why to this day her favorite activity is running. She can seem perpetually restless, and can be described as erring on the side of "flighty" at times. She is socially flexible, quick to make friends and able to make a situation work with very little. She can be a chameleon, blending into different groups with ease. She's been known to be extremely resourceful (which may be a required trait for raising eight children), and usually has a larger than life attitude (which may be why she took on the challenge of raising eight children in the first place). 

This larger than life attitude has taken my mother on many conquests and adventures throughout her life. Subsequently, it has caused her to live pretty steadily beyond her means, which is probably why it has been suggested by my father that she prefers to live in "Fantasyland." She rarely heeds warnings or bothers to read caution signs, which might speak to the fact that she has over fifty speeding tickets in her lifetime. Just like the little girl who ran away when she was twelve, she is pretty stubborn when it comes to obedience. She displays a tenacious distrust for authority, and is generally bluntly unapologetic when scrutinized by anyone, which is probably why in her mind the police are still at fault for every one of those speeding tickets. She can be quick to retaliate when feeling threatened, and she's known to lack compliance (back talk) with officers of the law or other figures of authority. To those who she perceives disrespectful, she has a knack for finding their buttons and pushing them repeatedly. 

Her problem with authority probably started with her father, who was an alcoholic and consumed by his work as a bio-chemist. She also couldn't relate to her mother (my granny), whose parenting was rigid and ineffective, so I suppose it was natural that she took such a liking to her grandmother (my great grandmother). Nam, which is what they called her, was something of a renaissance woman. She was educated, modern, talented and easy-going, and my mother looked up to her. She was an exceptional athlete, and even in her later years she would often get the better of her grandchildren at tennis. She wrote children's books, worked with pottery and painted. I think she played a big part in how my mother is turned out, and how she chose to shape her own children. 

Perhaps she raised us how Nam would have, involving us in every sport, recreational club and class available. Whether it was Judo, Ice Skating, or Comic Strip Drawing, I did it as a kid. We were forced into piano lessons and music groups (in one we wore cowboy hats and played xylophones in the mall, I'm still not sure why), and when I showed interest in guitar, she quickly bought an old classical acoustic. To my surprise she could play it pretty well. She taught me some old Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, one of which was "Proud Mary," ironically, because my mothers name is Mary, and it could be said that pride is one of her characteristics. Music came natural to my mother, who could also play piano and sing quite well. She would capitalize on any suggestion we had, paying close attention to our interests and helping to develop them, teaching us when she could and employing the help of others when she couldn't. As kids we often resented mom for making us do so many activities (perhaps it was cheaper than daycare?), but I think now we all look back and are thankful for those experiences. She would read classic novels to three or four of us at time on a nightly basis, and I can remember her voice quivering and her eyes tearing up during Where The Red Fern Grows and other sad stories. She would sing us songs and nursery rhymes from her childhood, some of which I can still remember. 

All in all my mother was, and is, a loving and hard working mother. Because of her hard work in making life interesting for us, none of us chose to run away at twelve, although I must admit I had given it some serious thought.

My father is for the most part a logical-minded person and a deep thinker. He enjoys finding profound truth, and then regurgitating it with dramatic pause for those in ear shot. Usually, if you're in ear shot, he's about two inches from your face. To his credit, a phrase spoken from his mouth in the heat of the moment will almost never hold as much meaning if heard again from somebody else's. He is well known for his command of words and flowery rhetoric, and he enjoys delivering stifling blows to intellectual egos that unwittingly cross his path. As a preacher, it was not uncommon for the congregation to be moved to tears, especially when he told the testimony of how he came to faith. 

He is a man of drastic mood swings, and when feeling out of place can tend to overwhelm strangers with waves of excitedly spoken words and outlandish behavior. Other times he can remain solemn and withdrawn, as if deep in thought, aloof and introspective. When I was growing up he could be very impatient and have a short fuse, and then at times speak very calmly and directly. If the case is that we all have a war within us, between what we aspire to be and what we hate about ourselves, it could be said that my fathers war is exceedingly worse than anyone else's I've ever met. To this day I'm not sure which side is winning. 

In social situations his delivery can be so enticing and unrelenting, that one might assume he finds equal if not more pleasure in his own comments than those of others. His words of wisdom and even rarer words of kindness ring powerful and true, but the inverse is also true; He can very cunningly dismantle someone's confidence with words of anger, his talent for articulation used for foul play. 

His own authority is generally the only one he adheres to, which probably speaks to the fact that his own father was unavailable much of his life. I never met my fathers father, because he died in his mid-forties long before I was born, a victim of alcohol abuse. His mother was caring but ineffectual, so in a sense my dad became a self-made man. He was ill-equipped from the start with the tools needed to succeed, especially as a father. It's a surprising credit to him that he did as good a job as he did. 

Looking back, it must have been incredibly awkward for my dad to show fatherly kindness to us. I can remember him taking me out for lunch on Saturdays by myself, showing a specific interest in fathering me, which was a rare thing as I had five other hungry siblings at home to pick from. This is not to say he played favorites with me, because sometimes in an attempt justify his cravings for fast food, he would pick two or three of the older kids to go to McDonald's with him (this was on rare occasions when my mother was gone). I can recall sitting at home after missing that boat a few times. I can also remember him taking us on vacation and teaching me little things, like how to fish. Those little things, in retrospect, must have been such unfamiliar territory for him. For a man of such pride, its worth noticing his attempts at being someone he had no idea how to be. 

Before fatherhood, my dad was a hippy and a vagabond, a man of little obligations other than those he set before him. He travelled back and forth across Canada seven times in the seventies, jumping trains and hitching rides, living life one day at a time. Being born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada, it was of some surprise that he met my mother(who is from Virginia) in Vancouver, British Columbia (the west coast of Canada). They both gave their lives over to Christ at some outreach gospel meetings, got married, and got to work on making babies and providing a stable life for them.  Well, it was probably more complicated than that, but I wasn't there so who cares. 

My father had no formal schooling in any trade, so he took night classes to get his CPA. In the early 80's he started working for the government as an accountant. He grew tired of this quickly, and eventually started a small business producing removable "hard tops" for Suzuki Sidekicks and Chevy Trackers. The company took off, and he was able to provide quite well for the lot of us. Back in 2000, at age fifty, my father decided he wanted to be a stock broker. So he studied and took the exam, passing with the highest scores in the group and beating out much younger minds with fresh bachelor degrees. If my father has taught me anything, its that tenacious self-confidence is the only thing a man needs to succeed, hence why the men in our family, including myself, tend to err on the side of arrogance. But just you try telling us we can't do something... 

Through practice my father showed us what my mother taught us through her constant nudging; That anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

It's almost laughable reading back on those characteristics. Whether I want to admit it or not, I am every single one of those flaws, and every single one of those strengths. In most cases, the strengths become flaws when used with ill intentions, which is the sad irony of human nature.

This has been an eye opening exercise for me. I've probably made incredible errors on the historical facts, and if my parents read this I'm sure they'll have corrections to make (I would imagine especially in the way of their shortcomings). If you've made it this far, I want to thank you for reading this round about way of writing a self-portrait. I'm not sure if it is a technique used in any academic circles, nor do I know if there are any psychological benefits to writing a self portrait this way. All I can say is that it is time consuming work that requires you to think, and that can't be a bad thing. 

I'll leave you with a few quotes that agree with me:

No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking. ~Voltaire

What luck for rulers, that men do not think. ~Adolph Hitler

Few minds wear out; more rust out. ~Christian N. Bovee

Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience. 

~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning

This post is about nothing specific, so ignore the title. It is not referring to any theme on The Silver Cord, nor does it pertain to anything deep and meaningful in concept. I merely wanted to time-stamp this moment, which is the first month anniversary of this blog. It is my intent with this time-stamp to look back at the ramblings posted in February, and to resolve to make better sense of the ramblings in March, and so on. It looks like we're off to a bad start already, because I'm not entirely sure of how much sense I just made.

I want to thank everyone who have taken the time to read through at least one of the posts on this blog. I especially want to thank those who chose to comment. I've been surprised by how mature and concise some of your responses have been. I'll admit I was expecting comments that looked more like, "Come to Georgia!" and, "How did you guys get signed?"

As it turns out, those of you who follow along seem to be a solid group of thinkers, and I'm humbled and inspired by that. Thank you for challenging me and in turn (I hope) allowing yourself to be challenged. This blog is lucky to be a microscopic blip on the radar of the greater blogosphere, but I love it and I wouldn't mind if it stayed that way.

Excuse me while I work something out for myself. I may go off on a bit of a tangent here...

I am not an Albert Einstien or an Isaac Newton. I may have scored a 137 on an online IQ test once, but I doubt that certifies me as a genius. And even if I was a genius, I've spent most of my life dumbing my brain down, numbing it with whatever comes my way, trying to render it useless. I guess I'm about as inquisitive as the next guy, but I couldnt imagine the Theory of Relativity or Space-time, and I couldn't even read
Principia, let alone imagine it. When I learn about the true mad geniuses and scientists, those who were blessed with the types of minds which can explain the interconnectedness of creation, I am saddened that my life has been as futile as it's been at times. I am saddened by how narrow and unmotivated I've been. By how unimaginative, unappreciative, and selfish I've been. 

Imagine a guy like Newton, who upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head. He was strange, solitary, distracted and otherwise joyless, but he was completely fascinated by creation. Imagine Einstein, with such a noggin that he rarely wrote things down. He essentially thought up the Theory of Relativity without using a notebook. His paper called "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," published in 1905, is incredible because it contains no citations or footnotes, almost no mathematics, and made no mention of any work that had influenced it. He essentially just thought it all up. 

These guys must have lived each day in sheer wonder and amazement of everything around them. We take for granted the air we breathe, the veins and nerves and blood cells and organs that work tirelessly day after day without so much as a thought on our behalf. Isn't that crazy? We don't even need to pay attention to it and our heart pumps blood, sometimes for over a century straight. My heart, the relentless servant of an abusive and thankless master. I guess most of this stuff could be for another post.

I think the point of all of this rambling is that it's taken me 25 years to realize that I'm pretty much a normal guy. I used to think I was different, but the truth is I'm not that different. I'm not too tortured an artist or too deep a thinker to lack the ability to relate or function in society. I'm not going to stick a long leather stitching needle in my eye socket to "see what happens" (as Newton once did). I have questions like everyone else, but like most people I resort to seeking peace of mind through conversation and community. 

I think we've had some great conversations since this thing started, and I hope to have many more with all of you.