Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why Music Matters

I was never blessed with the ability to produce any sort of music , be it with instruments or my own voice; at least in no form that would make people do anything but cringe in discomfort. However my love for music has been present for almost as long as I can remember. I recall my very first cassette: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. What a way to start, with a timeless classic. Like most people my musical tastes were molded in no small thanks to my parents. I have fond memories of hearing R.E.M. and The Beatles on road trips and hearing my dad sing along to Steven Tyler with an uncanny likeness. I attribute my toleration and occasional fancy of artists like Shania Twain, Celine Dion and Sheryl Crow to my beautiful mother.

I was not extremely precocious in my musical interests. I remember I did not buy my first cassette (Montel Jordan) until maybe 6th grade. My first CD ever purchased however had a strong influence on what would become a special relationship with artists and their music. I bought Beastie Boys License to Ill. I soon decided I needed every song ever made by them. This led me to feel the need to acquire every piece of extant hip-hop I could get my hands on, no matter how daunting the task. My compact disc collection grew as did my love for music and its fascinating and intimate lyrics.

A few years passed by and something glorious came along: CD Burners. Suddenly my collection grew at an alarming rate. Friendships were formed on the basis of CD collections, and the potential for borrowing. Other relationships hung in the balance as CD’s were held onto for acrimoniously long periods of time.
My pre-teens and early forming years were mostly spent in Phoenix, in a rather urban culture. As you might expect, I listened to little else besides rap and whatever my Dad had subconsciously poured into my DNA. Things changed for me when I moved to rural Utah.

Almost no one in my new cultural milieu listened to rap, at least not with the same intensity that I was used to. But soon I was introduced to a whole other world of music. I blame that introduction on a band that I still listen to 12 years later, Brand New.

At this point my musical tastes are less pretentious. They are open to anything and everything that sounds good. It may be German music, it may be the occasional bluegrass B-side or it may just be a terrible Pop song you cannot get out of your head.

What some years of life experience and geographical changes have taught me is that music transcends barriers; it destroys stereotypes and opens up gates to previously secret gardens. Music can speak to us in a way that nothing else can. There is something mysterious and majestic about the way it can coincide with every emotion we could possibly be feeling. When a girl makes it a point to destroy my universe, I know what songs I want to listen to. When I am getting ready to play in an important basketball game, I am equally fastidious in my song selection. Sometimes I am just feeling solitary and pensive. But no matter how alone I want to be, I want my iPod to be present.

Life is a constant and seemingly never ending series of hiccups, problems, triumphs, losses and pitfalls; and music seems to help us through all of it. When we hear certain lyrics, it almost seems as if they were written entirely for us and our own personal crucibles. It is encouraging to know someone out there is feeling or has felt like we do. Music is another reminder that we are not alone. And as we listen to the dichotomous nature of most CD’s or playlists, we are reminded that it does get better. Certain verses and refrains remind us that hope is around the corner and that the tunnel of darkness has a secret door.

I view music much in the same way I view literature. I believe that the more we read the more we are motivated and inspired. With that same token, a life bereft of music is an uninspired life, a life without dancing and without whimsy. Another reason music is so powerful is because it acts like plutonium. It is the only thing that really allows us to time travel. How many times have you heard a song and immediately been brought back to that very moment. I have heard songs that literally elicit old aromas and erstwhile feelings; songs that bring back moments of joy you had forgotten, melodically falling upon you like warm water.

Music is power. It is love, and it is anything else you want it to be. But like anything else, it is only what we make of it. Let us use music to lift us up out of depression, not sink us further into the quicksand of sadness. Let us share good music with those that need a cheerful reminder. If you can sing, sing. If you can play, play. If you can dance, dance. But no matter the situation, let there be music.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

More Than Turkey

On this beautiful and unseasonably warm day I am caught up into cliché thoughts of thanks like the rest of the good nation. I cannot list or enumerate everything I am thankful for, but I want to make an attempt at a truncated list; mostly for myself and possibly my future progeny (assuming I can escape this cold grip of singledom).

I am of course thankful for Squanto. If it was not for his savvy eel hunting ways, Thanksgiving may have never been. With that same token I am thankful for those plucky Puritans that arrived in the good ole land of the free and home of the brave. I am grateful for humor in its many forms. In 1987 President Reagan was the first President to pardon a turkey, exculpating it from its sundry turkey crimes and setting it free to a farm. This became a tradition; and now every year the commander and chief lets a turkey off scot-free in the name of Thanksgiving.

I am also thankful for Jelly Beans, they have so many flavors and they are a major staple of my Dad’s diet. I am thankful for basketball, for it brings me a sort of joy I cannot find elsewhere. I am thankful for great friends. A life without friends is like a life without bread, pretty vapid and depressing. I am thankful for great literature. Books are a way of escaping into a parallel universe that is new yet cries of familiar nostalgia. I am grateful for the juiciness of sarcasm; for without it I do not think I could survive this dry bane of existence. I am thankful for social media, for it brings the nations of the world together and approximates those who are estranged from us. I am thankful for pizza because it is delicious and never gets old. I am thankful for good and splendid films. They have a gorgeous way of whisking us away into a world we are not always clever enough to contrive ourselves, at least not with an accompanying soundtrack. I am thankful for music, without it I would surely go mad and punch more doors.

The list could go on and on. The bottom line is I have been blessed. No matter how downtrodden or chopfallen I am, I know my struggle is temporary and that many have it worse. I have a family that makes every evil and misfortune seem to evanesce effortlessly. I am thankful for grandparents. They always spoil you and say outdated phrases that dare you not to chuckle. I am thankful for babies because let’s face it, they are the cutest things in the world and the closest things to heaven.

I am thankful for freedom. I have never really felt oppression or been in the throes of tyranny, but for that I am thankful. Sometimes it is a blessing to not have the ability to empathize with people.  I am thankful for my religion; it may not be yours, but at the end of the day it is the most important thing to me. And I am thankful for the peace and endless hope that it brings me. I am thankful for all things beautiful. What an amazing and dichotomous planet we have. Sometimes it is necessary to pause from the tedium of life and notice the simple yet majestic aesthetics of this earth.

I am thankful for women. As much as they frustrate and confuse me to no end, they are the better species; for it is not good that the man be alone. We need that pesky helpmeet. And I cannot wait to meet mine.

I am not especially thankful for beets or yams, but I am thankful for any excuse to get loved ones together. If nothing else, what an opportunity to stop and think about the things that this life has given us; for it has truly blessed us richly. I fear not redundancy: I am thankful for my family, and I consider close friends to be family. And collectively these people are my sine quo non. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

5 Ways to be More Productive and More Awesome

Amidst the hubbub of everyday life I often find myself wondering how I could use my time more wisely. It seems I would do much better if my days had 40 hours and everyone else’s only had 24. I could sleep as much as I wanted, then be uber productive and still have time to watch Netflix incessantly and look up sundry topics on Wikipedia for hours. Alas, my days will likely remain on the 24-hour clock system until scientists, astronomers, navigators and horologists discover a glitch in the universe.

There exist a million ways to save time and have a more efficacious life. This in no way is an exhaustive list of things to do. Truth be told, different things work for different people, and some things are just plain obvious. For example: Don’t watch entire series of shows in less than a week. Do not sleep over 12 hours at a time. Do not disregard all of your responsibilities with the wonderful hope that they will somehow cosmically disappear. And do not habitually make grandiose goals without devising some means to achieve them.

Some advice is implicit, and some is simply replete with tired platitudes, and maybe this will be no different, but here are a few things that have helped me be more efficient and productive in my most quotidian tasks and endeavors.

1.    Talk On The Phone in The Car

Okay, at first this sounds like reckless advice. Let me continue. Most of us are prone to texting or using our phones while we drive anyway, so let us use the lesser of two iniquities. Also, with speaker phone, head phones and blue tooth telephoning is a much safer option than texting. I always find that there are people I want to converse with on the phone, but my claim is always that I am too busy. So, I send them a courtesy text or more likely, I forget about them. They fall victim to technology. Because it is so easy to send a text, calls are neglected. Hearing the voice of a loved one becomes something unimportant. My solution is to take the time you have in your vehicle and utilize it. Do not just blast music in an attempt to drown out the noise of your tedious life. Call someone you care about, someone you have been meaning to get back in touch with. When we are at home, we can and will find a million reasons to not do it. In the car however, no one will knock on your door (except the occasional derelict at a red light), and no one will be eavesdropping in the next room. Most of us dread driving more than 15 minutes somewhere, especially by ourselves. Well, take the opportunity to quit raging about people’s poor driving etiquette and call an old chum you have lost touch with. Call a cousin and congratulate them on their nuptials. Call an old coach or teacher and say thanks. Granted you can call people anywhere and anytime you want. But if your excuse is that you are too busy, or you constantly complain about your commute somewhere and the accompanying traffic, pick up your phone and quit grumbling.

2.    Make To-Do Lists

There are so many things I want to do in a typical day, and sometimes all I end up doing is eating at Wendy’s, reading a chapter of a book and hanging out for 8 hours. When I make to-do lists however, my production seems to increase at an alarming rate. I believe that to-do lists should contain two important elements. First you should not include things that you do every day without fail. Putting ‘Take a shower’ on your list will only be a waste of ink or graphite and will not make you feel more accomplished once it is crossed off. My second rule of thumb is to not be discouraged if you do not finish every task. Some tasks will be more important than others, and there are myriad variables that will undoubtedly arise throughout our day limiting our ability to accomplish everything all the time. My anecdote for this problem is to carry over the unchecked boxes of a particular day to the next day. My goal is simply that I get things done. It is nice to have every miniature box aggressively scribbled in, but it is not paramount.

3.    Take Time to Read

I find that when I am frequently reading I am frequently inspired. People claim they do not have time to read between their studies, their work and their incalculably important social lives. But I beg to differ. You do not have to read 2 hours a day. Read when you are making bowel movements. Read while you are waiting for your friend to take ‘a quick shower’ that we all know will last at least 20 minutes. Read for a few minutes when you wake up to clear your foggy brain of its dusty cobwebs. Read at night to help you slip into slumber. There is time for literature and though many view it as a waste of time, it will undoubtedly make you smarter, more cultured, more understanding, more inspired, and more motivated. Just reading quotes on Pinterest or reading articles online does not suffice. Open a book. They fit compactly in most purses and every backpack I have ever seen. If nothing else, make a goal to read 30 minutes a day from a book of your choice. See if your speech is not more eloquent, if your motivation is not higher and if your production of ideas is not increased.

4.    Write in a Journal

I can hear the excuses already. You hate writing, it hurts your hand and you have nothing interesting to write concerning your boring lives. Balderdash. We all have interesting lives, they just often seem unimportant because they are ours and we have had them our whole lives. Your life is beautiful, unique and prodigious in more ways than you understand. That is why you should write about it. If nothing else writing about your day will help you realize the good. As the pen hits the paper you will see salient points of positivity. You will see that life is not so bad, or so hard. For me it is a cathartic process. I sit down at the end of the day and let the pen describe in sloppy prose what transpired in my life since the last time I wrote. In doing this I subconsciously become accountable to my journal in my daily actions. I do not want to do something untoward or embarrassing, because regardless of the level of stupidity it will be documented. Just like reading, writing inspires and motivates. It may be viewed as another activity that is a waste of time, but I find that when I am writing I am inspired and imbued with energy. And being encouraged and filled with inspiration is never a waste of time.

5.    Don’t Waste Time With The Wrong People

What we fail to realize sometimes is that if we are not progressing in life we are regressing. Bad habits insidiously become ways of life and before we realize it we are often going in reverse.  How do we avoid this course of regression? Eliminate things that are retarding our progression. It has been said that we kind of become the sum total of the 5 people we spend the most time with. So what if one of those people is a vessel for constant negativity? What if one of those five makes you feel terribly about yourself? Eventually it will wear on you, and likely stop you from moving forward. Yet we seem to stick around. We humans are obstinate and obtuse creatures. We hang around people that are not edifying us, and we remain in unhealthy relationships hoping they will improve. Then we bellyache because our lives are stagnant. If we want to progress, we must release ourselves from anything or anyone that is holding us back from our potential. For surely the potential of each one of us is high.  Some people we hob nob with remind us of that fact, others obscure that notion making us feel woefully mediocre and undeserving of good things. So let us have the courage to estrange ourselves from the wrong people, in search of the right people. 

"People are strange. They are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice."

~Charles Bukowski

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Dangers of Stereotyping

I often choose to write on subjects that have been loitering in my brain for an extended period of time. They are not always intrinsically important, but if they continue to linger in my psyche I like to let them out to stretch; get them typed out. If nothing else it is a cathartic release, and perhaps my porous thoughts will make sense to someone. And if they somehow influence a down trodden individual or ameliorate the day of a victim of Murphy’s Law, then a victor has immerged.

This topic is sticky. It is something we all do or have done at varying levels. I am therefor not here to castigate or judge those who practice it, for I too am culpable of participation. But rather, I want to speak about the dangers of it, to perhaps pry open our eyes that too often remain somnolent and closed. I want to change attitudes and paradigms that have become jaded and caustic. As always, my hopes are ambitious if not grandiose.

There are sundry ways to define stereotyping. Some call it generalizing, some refer to it in its more specific forms i.e. racism, chauvinism, ageism, etc. and some do not even realize their ubiquitous use of it. No matter what you call it or how you view it, stereotyping people is a thought or belief about a person or group of persons that does not necessarily reflect the reality. It has been existent ever since there were groups of people on this earth. Although I doubt Adam ever mocked Eve’s driving skills or said, “It’s just typical of a girl to be beguiled by a serpent, classic Eve.”

So, why is it so dangerous to stereotype people? Before we dive into that thought, let’s ask ourselves some fundamental questions: Who do we love the most? Who do we make fun of the least, and stand up for the most? The answer is likely the people we know the very best; our family, friends that have been in our lives for years, and people that somehow make us feel special and relevant. These people are not anomalous beings that are without iniquity or weakness. They are assuredly stereotyped somewhere by some group of people. But why do we look past these putative titles or preconceived notions? Because we care about them, we love them. We do not care about their physical appearance. We do not care where they are from. We do not make libelous claims about their lives. We understand and even accept their downfalls and idiosyncratic annoyances.

So why do we do this with people we do not know? We make a debauchery of things they hold sacred, we assume the worst and we often judge a piece of literature by its flowery exterior rather than starting the first chapter. I am convinced we do this simply because we do not know the truth, and are unwilling to procure veracity. I am equally convinced that if we make a resurged effort to get to know people, our preconceived notions will dissipate. That does not mean cultural nuances will cease to exist. It just means they will not matter.

We can argue statistics, claiming that a certain group of people are clearly and inexcusably accusable of certain things. But do we know the whole story? Are we in possession of all salient facts? And if so, does that incriminate an entire nation?
As we grow older (sage 26-year old tone) we will find that stereotypes are hokum. They mean nothing, and we should not pay attention to them. What we should pay attention to are people, the individual. Getting to know people on a personal level is the best way to eradicate the poison of stereotypes.

In closing, let us not forget the litany of abuse and misfortune that has befallen the people of this planet due to stereotypes. Perhaps our prejudice and our generalization of people will not spark a heinous genocide, but what good will it bring? How will we benefit from stereotyping individuals? Maybe we think we are accepting of all people, and we radiate love 24/7. Maybe that is true, but odds are when we are at a party or social gathering we target certain pockets of people and assume things about them. Usually these assumptions prevent us from meeting them, or prevent us from taking someone seriously.

So next time you see a guy in a particularly ostentatious cravat, look past it. Next time you see a girl in clothes that are bound to rupture blood vessels due to their tightness, look past. It is rude to stare and unfair to assume you now have a clear and untainted understanding of the kind of person they are. Next time you see a foreigner, don’t assume you understand their plight, let alone their history. As difficult as it is, let’s try to reject the outer appearance and search indefatigably for the sweet jelly in the middle. Let’s forget what we have heard or thought our whole lives and give people the benefit of the dubious thought. I think in doing so we will be surprised at the increase of our own felicity and the quality of relationships formed.

"Attempting to get at truth means rejecting stereotypes and cliches." - Harold Evans

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The iOS 7 Life Update

I have been inexcusably absent from the blogging world the past few months. The reasons for said sabbatical are multifarious, and probably deserve an entire blog post themselves. So, in the mean time I will give you the truncated version. I have been working on two writing projects that I hope will both eventually turn into published books. And my computer also had a string of hiccups that needed to be cured. With that being said, I am back and in the future will try not to let the chaos of my life stop me from writing. Thank you.

Caveat to today’s post: This post will make reference to the iOS 7 update that was made available to all iPhone users a little over a month ago. It is simply the newest version of software available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod devices. This is not a required update, simply a new option. The crux of this article in no way will be about the pros and cons of this new update, but rather a parallelism to our own lives and the updates that we sometimes badly need.

An interesting thought crept into my head after I updated my iPhone a month ago. I realized that the tedious task of updating my cellular device was allegorical. Does my life not need the occasional update? Do I not have to rid my life of certain things to make space for those of greater import? The answer is an obvious yes. We all know that it is important to improve, innovate and progress, alas we are so comfortable with the old version.

I have overheard people in conversation, expostulating about the new update. They would state that the old one was absolutely copacetic, and simply not worth the headache to download the newer version. Some have posited that the only benefit of the update is a more chic look. Others opine that it may be better, but why learn a new system. Does this not reek of the same apathetic attitude we often have towards life? We complain that we want to be more fit, but it is not worth giving up that delicious soda habit. We want things in life, palpable things. But no matter the status quo, we are generally used to what we have. We are comfortable. Why go through the hassle of a personal update? It will not really make that much of a difference.

This is where the fallacy lies. We think that the occasional upgrade is so small and inconsequential that it is not worth our time. But we forget that the iPhone has several updates per year. Some are very small, only removing minor bugs are adding Cambodian to the keyboard, but some are big and enhance your camera at high levels and introduce newer and better ways to communicate. No matter the size we seem to fight change. We want change, but we fight it like obstinate children. We want better lives, but we are woefully lazy.

Let us come to a realization. Our lives, like iPhones, and computers need constant updates. You cannot just expect to have a huge update when it is convenient. You must clean out the bugs where you can, and ameliorate your system piece by piece. We all know that Rome was not built in one day. I mean they did not even have nail guns back then, think about it.
But where do we start when we have so many bugs, so many things to build upon, to accentuate? We start with what we are struggling with the most. A cocaine addict should not first work on his finger nail biting habit. Work on the big things, and work to have a micro-update every day. If there are residual bugs from yesterday, give yourself a soft reset. Go take a shower, get a milkshake, take a deep breath and start again.Don't be ashamed of being a little chopfallen. Screwing up is ok. Being in shambles is nothing to be ashamed of. Depression is not a disease that has been thrust upon those worthless and castigated souls. It is a part of life. Even the prophet Daniel said that he had been in sorrow for 3 weeks. Do not get so overwhelmed that you give up. Look to update yourself, and if you cannot find space to do so, take a step back and reset. There is nothing wrong with starting over. Starting over is not going backwards, it is simply an alternate route. And sometimes we need that route to learn some of life’s most precious and tragic lessons.

Also, check out my new Photography and Art company I have started with my dad

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Phone is Dead

Some years ago before the popularization of text messaging and internet on cell phones, Jerry Seinfield said something prophetic. In discussing our obsession with answering our mobile phones and listening to our voice mails, Jerry mused, “Boy have we gone crazy with the phones.” Well, some 15 to 20 years after that, we have surpassed crazy and slid head first into the dusty plate of insanity and slavery. We have truly become cell-phone maniacs and literal slaves to said devices. The purpose of this post is not devised to demonize telecommunication or eradicate our addictions to technology. The purpose is to perhaps open our eyes a little bit. Is our happiness based on a little machine we hold in our pockets and hand bags; a device that has not been in existence for the vast majority of the planet’s history? I hope not. But let’s see.

I know many people that the instant their cell phone dies, so does their mood. Some are the type of people that make an aggravated announcement, “Frick guys, my phone is dead.” Others sulk in solitude until a friend so kindly asks what is wrong. Of course the congenial response is, “Nothing, just…my phone is dead.” Some enlightened individuals always carry their phone chargers so that such a tragic thing as a dead phone will not occur. But why are we so soured when we have to go a few hours without textual interaction? The reason is we have become so accustomed to instant gratification. If we want to talk to someone, we need not prepare a beautiful missive, we simply text them. If we want to take a photograph we do not whip out a bulky camera from a back pack, we simply press a button on our phones. If we want to know when movie times are we do not procure a local newspaper, we look it up on our phones. If we want to do something fun, we do it, but first we imagine the best possible scenario and timing for a photo, so all can know the quantity of our fun, and the aesthetic appeal of our hair that day.

This is all fine. This is the way the world has progressed (or regressed) and it only makes sense to conform and take advantage of such advances. But under what circumstances are we justified in getting all fussy just because our battery ran out? Are we incapable of using other resources? Are we not already around others with phones in case of emergency, i.e. need to take a selfie with the sunset in the background, need to send out some feeler texts so you are not left without plans later in the night, or the necessity to Shazam a song you here at a local pub. These things are important.

Why not look at a dead phone as an opportunity? It is not magically going to turn back on. Why waste energy on complaining or fixating on getting back to a location conducive to cellular charging? It is an opportunity to see things around you that you usually miss. It is a chance to remember things that the constant attention of a screen distracts from. It is the fortuity we have to engage in human contact.

Sometimes we are alone in our homes where we still crave a debilitating connection with the rest of the world. What if we miss a clever FB status, or fail to like a picture of the opposite sex that we have been pining for? My advice is that at times we must disconnect. We must walk through the world with more in mind than our phones. We must read a book without simultaneously having a text conversation. We must meditate without e-mail notifications. William Safire, a columnist for The Times wrote on how we could accomplish this peace without cellphonic interruption. He said:

“We turn off the surround-sound, unplug the coaxial cable, stuff the iPod under the seat cushion, and shut down the laptop. We unthumb the personal digital assistant, wipe the screen of the home theater, dispense with cellphonic communication, cut off conversational interruption, and then—alone at last—crack open a bound copy of printed pages and read. By thus employing the technique of uni-tasking, we harness the power of intra-cranial concentration and absorb personally selected data at warp speed.”
What a cathartic experience. And it does not have to be to read a book. It can be to contemplate serious life decisions, to take an uninterrupted nap, or to cook a fabulous meal without wondering if you already put in a tablespoon of paprika. I must say I am often just as culpable as the next person in terms of cell-phone addiction syndrome. I wrote this entire post while texting, listening to iTunes and checking FB periodically. But we all have space to improve. If nothing else, maybe we can refrain from such unpleasant irritability if by chance that battery percentage of our phone reaches that sinister and mocking 1%. For we know we will not see the zero. And we know that zero equates to a moribund phone and potentially a horrible attitude. We know this. So let us be preemptive and decide to be cheerful and felicitous if our phone for some dreadful reason is no longer in function.

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Change People

The other day I heard a few words that have reverberated in my brain ever since. An older man said with eloquent sagacity, “If you want to change someone, change yourself.” He said it in a very matter of fact tone, and quickly moved on to other salient topics. But I kind of let this phrase linger in my conscious thoughts, to see if anything grandiose would materialize, for I knew that it potentially carried great weight. This post will be the nugget of wisdom that was created from the refinery process within my mind. Hopefully it is shiny and of some minor monetary value.

In life it is incredibly easy to be constantly annoyed by people. We are surrounded by terrible drivers. And we are of course all perfectly courteous road weavers ourselves. We have to deal with cranky people receiving minimum wage on a daily basis. And we would all clearly be sparkly personalities of overflowing joy if we worked for a tedious job we loathed. And then we have to deal with those closest to us. People tend to have poor personal hygiene, atrocious manners and the most perturbing idiosyncrasies. Some people talk way too much without any sort of tact. Some people text you incessantly until you return their message. Is there some sort of cosmic panacea for people that drive us crazy? Yes, but it is unlikely as easy as you would anticipate.

I think the best way to change someone and their god-awful habits and blood-curling eccentricities is to first look at ourselves. We should first ask ourselves why we are so easily off put by a specific course of action, or why we are so quick to lash out at someone for their putative wrong doings. The answer often lies in our own irritability. For one reason or another we are enveloped in stress and chaos, and the certain actions of a few seem to be the cement around our feet, causing us to drown. But it is after all a choice to become upset, to become annoyed. Look at the happiest people around; are they somehow avoiding all annoying people? Are they somehow exempt from confrontation and tragedy? No. they simply choose to not be irritated by the little things. They choose to view negativity as an insidious poison.

The truth is we have little power to change someone of their most primitive ways. We cannot alter peoples DNA or make decisions for them. We can however be good examples. We can mirror the type of people we wish to surround ourselves with. How unreasonable is it to want to hang around people slow to anger, if we are quick to anger? How incongruous to the laws of karma is it to expect endless politeness when we are often rude and caustic with people?

Sometimes people truly do need to change. Maybe they are in the doldrums of depression. Maybe they are entangled in the thick briars of addiction. How can we change these people? While an intervention or forced therapy is sometimes the answer, it is usually not. Usually we need to go back and look at ourselves. Do we love this person as much as we should? Are we judging them as little as possible? Are we availing ourselves to them if they need our help? If not, why are we wasting so much energy on simply hoping they change, or bemoaning the fact that they are not?

In summation, I think we have to follow the wise words of Michael Jackson, and start with the man in the mirror. Far too often we are of the opinion that our varied weaknesses and shortcomings are far less sinful or relevant than that of those around us. That is not the case. And we do not know the plight others have taken. So let us change others by changing ourselves.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How to be a Good Finisher

I first must apologize. About 4 days ago I promised to blog within 24 hours. As usual I became distracted with reading about the intricacies of the Nazi regime on Wikipedia and overindulging in sleep at inappropriate hours. Procrastination is exhausting. With that being said, this post is very overdue. And I sincerely hope that mid-post I will not lose interest and start reading Schindler’s List, or start streaming movies online. But you never know.

How to be a Good Finisher

Perhaps the title of this post is a bit ambitious considering I am often overcome by procrastination, discouragement and distraction. One could argue that I am a poor finisher at times. But writing on a topic does not instantly make you an expert or a paragon of that specific principle or philosophy. Thus is the case here. But what I profess to be good practice I fervently try to apply in my life. So here we go.

I have noticed in my life that it is often very difficult to finish. It is tough to complete a long term paper. It is difficult to remain in a relationship. It is hard to have the legs to sink a deep jumper in the fourth quarter. It is not easy to continue to accomplish things when you have accomplished so much. It is difficult to search for innovation when so much has been innovated at your hands. The point is life is difficult, but finishing is an even greater challenge. It is easy to go hard for 90% of the journey, and then let your weariness prevail. That is why we have books half finished, projects barely started and long relationships terminated. It is tough to finish. Like most things in life this is mostly mental. In order to be a good finisher we must change our mindset. And a great way to learn any skill is to learn from the greats, those who dominated their craft. And the art of finishing is certainly a craft one must develop.

For those of you not familiar with Neal A. Maxwell, allow me to explain. He was among other things a prolific writer for the LDS church for many years. He was known for his verbosity and his uncanny ability to touch people with his beautiful orations and written word. One specifically salient aspect of his character to me was his ability to finish. In 1996 he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He remained alive for another eight years. Gordon B. Hinckley said “Maxwell accomplished more in these last eight years than most men do in a lifetime.” That pithy comment speaks volumes to me about the type of man Neal A. Maxwell was. He knew his disease was terminal. He knew no one would judge him for taking it easy. He knew there would be no dire consequences for retiring from his faculties. But alas, he trudged on. He wanted to accomplish more. He wanted to serve and fight until the last day. That is how you finish.

Michael Jordan is an obvious beacon of athleticism. And his work ethic was unparalleled in his sport. But again, his ability to close or finish is what set him apart. If the game was on the line, you knew and he knew that he was going to take the last shot. And most of the time it was going in. If he was sick, you knew he was going to play. And if it was the NBA finals, you knew he was going to win, whether you wanted to admit it or not. One of my favorite quotes from Jordan about himself states: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Thus we see that finishing is not always about an elusive level of perfection, but the ability to continue forward in the face of failure. You cannot finish if you are haunted by your past. You cannot find love unless the demons of erstwhile romances are exorcized.

Finishers that exceed the rest in my mind are the Holocaust survivors. Not only were they starved, dehumanized, beaten and ridiculed in the most horrific manner, they had to witness countless loved ones perish right before their eyes. The psychological toll on them was unbelievable. Many simply quit along the way. Suicide seemed to be the only escape from hell. And some could not bear the culpability of being the only family member alive. But those who endured the war, and the subsequent years of trauma and anguish are the true finishers. One survivor Joseph Sher recounted the last words of a friend before being taken to his death: “Don’t forget, tell the world. You cannot keep it inside.” For this purpose many Jews decided they must endure, they must survive, so their story could remain. They had to finish. They had to.

So often our conundrum is that we are not in a life or death situation. We do not HAVE to finish or Hemmingway novel. We do not have to matriculate from school to get a good job. We do not have to help somebody today, we can help them tomorrow. We do not have to settle down and commit this time around. There is no sense of urgency. But we must have a sense of urgency. If not, I fear we will look back on our lives with sorrow and regret. We will look back at the things we have neglected or left undone. And we will don an eternal frown. It is not easy, but we must learn and strive to be better finishers. And I think we start with the little things. When we start a book, we should finish it. When we accept a task from a colleague, we should finish it post haste. When we set a goal, we should work toward it, and not dismiss it as a silly pipedream. For life cannot be successfully lived ex tempore.We should sojourn on through the difficult times to reach the valley of splendor. And if this is our resolve, we will soon find that we are finishing with the big things. We are graduating college. We are marrying the person of our dreams. We are starting our own business. We are enduring to the end. We are finishing.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

South Dakota & Spontaneity Part 2

For context please read the first segment of this story, found here.

As we arrived in the sleepy town of Green River, Wyoming to gas up we decided to get out of the car, drink some soda and attempt to do kick flips in the parking lot. Getting out of the car and acting like small children at every stop makes for a much more enjoyable road trip. And as we all know, the longer you remain awake the funnier things become. At this point it was about 3:30 in the morning and we still had to drive from one end to the other of the Equality State.

A few hours later I was still awake and the sun was starting to rise. Music continued to play while half the car was in a deep coma and the other half flirted back and forth with jocular conversation. We were now in the vast and open state of Wyoming. Our view was a cornucopia of barren fields, what we assumed were bison in the distance, and the occasional small town. At about 10:00 a.m. I was still awake and the hilarity of every sentence I heard was beginning to reach an all-time high. We decided to stop in a couple hours for a hardy meal, but a few miles later I saw something in the distance I wanted to explore and demanded that we stop the car. It was a decrepit house about one-hundred yards off the highway near the town of Manville. There was a large windmill on the property and no other sign of life for miles. Me and one of my other travel mates ran out there and immediately started to poke around the derelict home of yesteryear. We found nothing particularly inspiring, but it was curious that the house still remained after decades of abandonment. Per usual, we took advantage of the moment and took copious amounts of pictures, perhaps to the bemusement of our less peppy and awake passengers who remained in the car chagrined and fussy.

We trekked on until we arrived in the bustling town of Lusk, Wyoming, population 1,567. We pulled into the only place we could see that would possibly serve food, the Triangle 4 Café & Steak House. We entered, and quickly realized that we were not of the same cultural milieu of these people. We both had tight pants and hats, but theirs were Wranglers and cowboys hats, and ours were skinny jeans and snap-backs. Our food was actually delicious despite the abysmal service and unsolicited stares we received from confused ranchers. Wyoming knows how to make omelets. Before getting back in the car we walked around a minute to more fully take in Lusk. Every city and town has its own story, and just taking an extra 5 minutes to poke around and talk to locals can really help you feel the history of that town without ever having reading a dusty book on the town’s history.
We then got back into our beloved Hyundai and continued eastward, next stop South Dakota.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Dating Anecdotes Vol. 2

The actress Judy Tenuta once posed the morbid question: “Have you ever dated someone because you were too lazy to commit suicide?” Well, hopefully the idea of dating someone is not that gut-wrenchingly terrible, but oft times the whole charade of dating can be depressing and just plain nauseating. In the meantime, or until we find our sparkling counterpoint in life, hopefully we can find some hilarity in our string of lesser paramours.

Here are a few reasons we should consider celibacy or perhaps polygamy:

1. When I was 16 years old, new to dating and enthralled with driving a motor vehicle I found myself in the beginning of a youthful courtship. We went out a few times, and had just experienced our first semi-public kiss together. One special night I was taking her home for the night when tragedy struck. I was driving down a dirt road to her isolated house in the country, so far all was well. We stopped a few feet in front of her porch where conversation ensued and shortly thereafter a kiss that was French in its nature. My pubescent enthusiasm overshadowed my ability to remember one key thing: Put your car in park if you are going to start kissing. Because you will inevitably let your foot off the brake, and not notice the slow rolling of the car. And then you will surely run into the porch with your beautiful 93’ Camry. Well, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, the crash awakened my date’s grandparents who rushed out in their nightwear to see what the problem was. Grandma was distraught and confused, but grandpa was savvy. He took me aside and said, “I’m sure you were just caught in my granddaughter’s eyes.” He wasn’t too far off. Needless to say, my 15 year old sweetheart was mortified and never really recovered from that incident. But it taught me a priceless lesson on brake management.

2. A few years ago I got a girls number in the most classy way you could imagine, at Wal-Mart. If this was a warning sign, I certainly ignored it. She was cool, artsy and from the East coast. I asked her out and she accepted with no small amount of pep. She suggested we go to this café on improv night. Not exactly my cup of chamomile but I was happy to go. As we arrived and sat down, I noticed that she knew the people we were sitting next to. This is very common in a college town, so I thought nothing of it. Within a few minutes I looked over and she was holding hands with the bloke to her left. I am no expert on dating etiquette, but this seemed like a major faux pas. So I decided at the first convenience I would suggest we leave. But she beat me to it. After the first intermission she notified me that she would not need a ride home. Goody. Now I could save 8 cents on gas. That was the last time I picked up a girl in the school supplies section.

3. A little over a year ago I got my waitresses’ number at a Chinese restaurant. She was simple and cute, I liked it. A few days later she came over to my apartment to hang out. We just watched a movie and talked for a while. It got to be pretty late, when without any sort of vacillation of thought she asked if she could light a cigarette. The fact that she was a smoker was well disguised by the perfume and copious amounts of gum she chomped on. But her mask of good hygiene and innocence was immediately removed when she demanded a smoking break. I assured her that I would not permit such an invidious practice in my apartment, so she said, “fine I will just go smoke on the porch.” Classy move. Our relationship blossomed and died all on that smoky night.

Now for a few phenomenal excuses for not going on a date

1. One time I had a date with a girl scheduled for 7:00 p.m. I called her at about 6:45 to see where I should pick her up. She answered the phone and said, “Well I’m at the gym.” I am no stickler for punctuality so I said, “ok, wanna just call me when you get home?” She said, “Well I just got here.” Sometimes personal fitness is really all that matters.
2. “I just don’t feel like going out.” I doubt she would have said that to Brad Pitt.
3. I once asked out a girl, was on my way to pick her up when I receive a text that said, “I decided I don’t want to go out tonight.”

Top things you do not say while kissing someone:

1. I have pneumonia
2. I am engaged (I wish these were different girls)
3. Do you even like me?
4. I am going to go brush my teeth

Thursday, July 11, 2013

South Dakota & Spontaneity Part. 1

My friends and I recently decided it was extremely necessary to leave the state of Utah in search of diversion and vacation. We aren’t fond of the drink and we rarely gamble, so our possible destination points were endless. Being that it was the 4th of July weekend we were filled with an inordinate amount of patriotism and jubilee. This joy and whimsy we were imbued with led us to the decision to travel to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. We figured it was only 11 hours away, and you have to see it at some point right? So we made plans to leave around 11:00 p.m. on the 4th after the fireworks and related festivities. The day of, we started telling people of our capricious plan to visit the Black Hills and were met with no small amounts of laughter and sarcastic remarks on the supposedly boring and pointless nature of the journey we were about to undertake. Even many who had visited Mt. Rushmore in all its glory opined that it was cool to see, but not worth the 11 hour drive through Wyoming to look at a mountain for 10 minutes, then leave.

We had 5 best friends together and were not about to let the poor attitude of others deflate our elation. So at around 1:30 a.m. we entered the car and commenced our trip to South Dakota. We got about a mile away and decided we needed to consume food immediately. We headed to Sonic, ate mediocre food and took an Instagram with our delicious drinks to commemorate the genesis of our journey.

The drive through the night and into the morning was long and bereft of any gorgeous vistas or exceptional landmarks, but somehow we managed to have an amazing time. The point of this post is twofold: I wish to document the fun trip I had with my friends, but more importantly I wish to explain how easy it is to enjoy any moment in life. We could have had a very boring trip full of complaints and regret, but we had an epic vacation full of spontaneity and poignant memories. I believe two things. I believe that personnel will always trump geography. And I believe that every experience can be wonderful and enjoyable if we only allow it to be. This post will be replete with obvious clichés; but who does not need the occasional reminder on how to follow the Latin instructions carpe diem?

Our driving immediately commenced with loud music interspersed with colorful dialogue and crafty opportunities for photographs. Our laughter and consumption of caffeine fueled us all the way to Green River, Wyoming, our first stop.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013


Well, ole Johnny boy was a couple days off, but semantics aside, he truly foresaw how America would remember such a prodigious moment in history. To coincide with the awesome fate of a nascent nation, the fourth day of July has had throughout history some fantastic and almost cosmic patriotic parallelisms. Just to name a few: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to later become U.S. Presidents both left this earth on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, perished on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third President in a row who died on this iconic day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only U.S. President to have been born on Independence Day.

The Roman constitutionalist Cicero said over two-thousand years ago that, “Those of us who don’t walk around with a sense of history look at the world like a child.” Well, unfortunately that is how my paradigm of this majestic day used to be. I was looking at the gaudy festivities of the 4th with an ignorant and uneducated oculus. I now appreciate the silly activities associated with this magnificent day.

My faith very much dictates the way I view the past, present and future. I believe many men have been inspired from on high to make political, military and social decisions that have resulted in the nation and world we have today. I believe that George Washington was inspired in his endeavors, as I believe were dozens of men that opted to demur the ways of the Mother Nation (Great Britain) in hopes of a better future. With all this patriotic perfection floating through our brains, I wish to take the reader through one last literary hoop.

I am not an especially political human being. I stay educated on policies and political maneuvering, but have never believed that one party or one politician is the panacea for all of our nation’s problems. The reason I love the 4th of July is because it is all American. American T-shirts (well probably made in Bangladesh), American treats, American parades, American rednecks, American pride. So why not reflect a moment on how we are often acting very un-American when we incessantly complain about bipartisanism, or make ridiculous memes demonizing our President. A citizen whose research and political education is limited to talk-radio cannot impeach a president. Just a reminder. So why not support our President and get involved in local politics if you are that eager for change? If you love America so much that you will spend an entire night sleeping on a curbside in hopes of having the best view of a parade, stop bashing the men and women that are actually involved in government, whether you agree with them or not. I guess this time of year makes me a little politically introspective as the New Year makes me goal-oriented and Christmas makes me more Christ like. So, let us stop casting stones at politicians. Let us cease to make a menace out of a man we do not know. Let us start improving America by improving ourselves, then by ameliorating those around us, and the ripples will equate to a better country and better world. Zig Ziglar said it so profoundly when he stated that, “Building a better you is the first step to building a better America.” And let us not forget what the womanizing Bostonian President JFK said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”God bless America.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Avoiding The Vice of Vanity

I was asked by an ecclesiastical leader to give a lesson on vanity, and where our priorities really lie in life. I don’t think I was especially qualified in this subject matter, but as always I found that the teacher is often the greatest beneficiary. I also found that my lesson plan was full of far more gems and platitudinous statements than I had time to share. Also, my audience was under 25 people. So, I decided to expound a little bit here, for we all have bouts with pride and vanity.

Stephen LaMarche defines vanity as the excessive belief in one’s own abilities or attractiveness to others. I personally am a huge advocate of personal confidence. I think it is important to believe in yourself and to seek to be attractive to the opposite sex. The tricky part is avoiding the excess, being extremely confident without engaging in obsession. Essentially the question is, how can we fastidiously maintain the perfect mustache without thinking that our debonair facial hair is the reason we are awesome, and perhaps better than others? Or adversely, how can someone painstakingly care for their skin with expensive oils and lotions without assuming their soft and luscious skin is the reason for the putative greatness? I think in one form or another we all struggle with this. Clearly humility is the anecdote, but this is does not make it an easy solution, just a simple one. C.S. Lewis so wisely posited that, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” There is nothing wrong with caring about our appearance or how others view us. We just want to be cautious, so that we do not fall into the same trap as Narcissus.

Narcisuss is a figure in Greek mythology, and the origin of the word narcissism- the fixation with oneself. Let us recount the tragic story of the beautiful Narcisuss. He was a hunter well known for his aesthetic appeal and pride. It was even said that he disdained those who loved him. The goddess Nemesis saw that Narcisuss was exceptionally proud and lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was nearly an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his own reflection, poor narcissistic Narcisuss perished. Much can be learned from the absurd vainglory of this individual. Obviously none of us are going to be so enthralled with our own image in a mirror that we fall in love with what we see, and refuse to leave the bathroom. Although what a great opportunity for some selfies. But at times we don’t act all that different from our troubled Narcissus.
With the advent of various social media it is very easy to become obsessed with how good we apparently look. If we wake up, put on a pair of skinny jeans and come to the realization that we look amazing, there are a dozen ways to share your prodigious beauty with others. You can post a picture of yourself on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, then maybe post a small video of yourself on Vine or Youtube, then send out some mass Snapchats and possibly send a slew of selfies to unsuspecting texters. And why do we do this? Because we become obsessed with ourselves and with the opinion of others. We become so wrapped up in people validating how attractive or how successful we are.

I personally love photographs and social media. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with feeling like a boss and flaunting it a little bit from time to time. I just think we need to be careful, so that we do not become slaves to ourselves. There are so many things in this world that just will not matter at the end of days. A girl in the Sunday school class I taught made an excellent point as to what really is important. She reminded us that one day we will stand before God at the judgment seat, and others we came across in this life will stand as witnesses against us for better or for worse. She said, do you really want someone saying, “Well I don’t know how important her family was to her, or how kind she was, but she sure always looked pretty.” What we think is so crucial to our existence truly is often very secondary and trivial in the grand scheme of things. I think looking good, staying fit, and being well liked are moderately important. But what really matters to me is my family, my relationships and my faith, things that well carry on with me into the vast eternities. C.S. Lewis said that, “Christianity, if false, if of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” So let us not waste our days pining over things of moderate importance. Let us obsess with and yearn for things of infinite importance.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Genius of The Lady Bug

I have never been much of an entomologist, but every so often something small triggers the interest section of our tangential brains. I had heard a cute anecdote about lady bugs and their flight patterns, which naturally led me to endless research on Wikipedia about lady bug folk lore and the history behind why these little bugs are so loved all across the world.

A little knowledge before we proceed to the crux of this post: The coccinelid, or what we commonly refer to in the United States as the Lady Bug, gets its name from the famous mother of Jesus. ‘Lady’ refers to the lady in ‘Our Lady’, which always is in reference to Mary, i.e. Our Lady Peace, Our Lady of Conception, Notre Dame (Our Lady), Our Lady of Sorrows, etc. Why on earth would a tiny bug seemingly bereft of utility be named after the mother of the Lord? Well, Mary was often depicted donning a red cloak in early Christian paintings. Also, most European lady bugs have seven spots. Why is 7 a relevant number? Well, a rudimentary understanding of Catholic beliefs shows us that there exists seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary. The seven joys are:

1.     The Annunciation
2.     The Nativity of Jesus
3.     The Adoration of the Magi
4.     The Resurrection of Christ
5.     The Ascension of Christ into Heaven
6.     The Pentecost
7.     The Coronation of the Virgin

The seven sorrows are as follows:

1.     The circumcision of Christ
2.     The Flight into Egypt
3.     The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
4.     Mary Meets Jesus on the way to Calvary
5.     Jesus Dies on the Cross
6.     Mary Receives the Body of Christ in her Arms
7.     The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

So, next time you see a cute little coccinelid you will hopefully think of the plight of poor Mary, or at least the early Christian church’s obsession with numerology and the beatification of Mary.

Now to the crux of the matter; why I think lady bugs are so prodigious. This is not biological fact, but lady bugs have a tendency to land on an object, and before taking off again, they climb to the top of said object. Why does this poke and prod at my curious bone? Because it is as if these little creeping things are smarter than they appear. Why settle for takeoff from one height, when the highest possible point is not much more difficult to reach? Why settle for mediocrity when greatness is but a few steps further? Why settle for a nice view, when a gorgeous view is just a few miles away? Perhaps the modus operandi of this insect is not that complex, but alas I love parallelisms and I think much can be learned by this little beetle of God. Far too often I fall short of greatness because I am just a little too lazy. And far too often I settle for the mediocre, saving greatness for a day that will likely never come. The lesson to be gleaned here is that the difference between good and great is often very subtle and very small. We just have to decide to climb to the top of objects before we fly off. We have to make the conscious decision to dominate life in lieu of just getting through life. I bet that little arthropod had no idea how much it could teach me. Truth is, everything in this vast universe can teach us something if we allow it to. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Broken Windows Theory

I often struggle with the psychological phenomenon known as jamais vu. This is a condition wherein a person will often not recall or recognize something that they have already seen or are already familiar with. It is essentially the opposite of déjà vu. There seems to be a pesky disconnect with all the matter that makes its way into my cranium.  However, every once and a while I will inexplicably connect two seemingly unrelated topics in a beautiful moment of apparent cosmic epiphany. This happened to me during a Sunday School lesson on Sunday. I made a brief note of my impression, and am now expounding on it after further thought.
There exists a very interesting theory within the study of criminology. The theory, known as The Broken Windows Theory suggests that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. In other words, if something small such as a broken window goes unfixed in a neighborhood, further vandalism will probably ensue. Why is this? Because if something in our environment is dirty, unkempt, or broken we have a tendency to not care as much if it gets dirtier or further broken. You would much sooner discard a piece of waste onto the streets of a filthy alley than a squeaky clean street in the Vatican City.
Consequently a vandalized and trash-ridden block becomes a hot bed for criminal activity. It is the butterfly effect in full action. One piece of trash leads to two pieces of garbage, which leads to a broken window, which leads to three broken windows, which leads to a break-in, which leads to a murder. And in this manner crime waves are created. It is an insidious cycle. Studies have shown that a rapid repair of a broken window or a swift removal of graffiti can prevent crime better than an increase in law enforcement. The theory also claims that making more misdemeanor arrests and essentially focusing on the smaller things first will prevent larger and more heinous crimes from being committed. The theory is a highly polemic issue, but studies in specific cities in the United States have shown it to be valid.
Now I will pose an important question, diverging from the criminological and penological thought. How can I apply this theory to my own personal life? I am not a rundown neighborhood replete with broken windows and defaced murals. But, do I not have parts of my soul that are oft times broken or defaced? Of course I do. We all do. We are all subject to break downs in spirit and character leaving us with tattered remains of what was once clean and unvandalized. So how can we stop the ‘crime waves’ that plague our very souls? I believe the solution is the application of the Broken Windows Theory. We must clean up our lives immediately before they become infested with refuse, and a ‘broken window’ seems like a trivial thing to perhaps be repaired later. How many times do we reason within ourselves that we will stop a bad habit before it becomes an addiction? How often do we let the invidious things of this world enter into our lives because we think they can be cleaned up later? Sometimes they can. But sometimes, unbeknownst to us, a messy room turns into disorder which starts out as purely physical, but soon becomes spiritual. And now our spiritual progress is retarded.         So, let us clean the streets of our lives. Let us no longer peer at that broken window with plans to fix it on the morrow.
Let’s ameliorate our lives by attending to the details and small things first. After all, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass (Alma 37:6).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ode to My Mother

I think Abraham Lincoln said it best: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Eloquent in its brevity. I too have been blessed beyond recognition with a mother that could be described as nothing less than an angel. All mothers are truly queens among peasants, but I am going to take literary and sonly license to praise my mother above all others. This is in no way a contest, for most people contend that they have the best mother in the world. Statistically that is impossible. The term best implies that there is only one that stands above the rest. Well assuming there is one such mother, she is probably heavenly and beyond our sphere of comprehension. So all clichés aside I think we can agree that everyone who loves their mother and thinks she is the greatest is correct. She is the world’s greatest mother for you. With that being said I would like publicly declare how special my mother is.

            My family, like most families has been through a lot. We moved around like happy wanderlusts growing up; new houses, new neighborhoods, new wards, new faces, and new schools. Through the pleasant and the untoward my mom has been there with her contagious smile and warm embrace. My childhood was filled with hugs and giggles. My mom has a certain ineffable way about her. She seems to have no ability to become angry, and though we are all subject to human emotions and frustrations, her attitude has always been amazing and exemplary. Her feminacy was always coupled with a healthy dose of competitive nature. Our scrabble games are legendary, and the memories I have of playing games with her are beautiful and priceless, just like her. My mom taught me to enjoy the small things in life. She gets excited when the new Reader’s Digest arrives; she is thrilled when she dominates a cross word puzzle like a true cruciverbalist, and is overcome with joy when an outing to a Mexican restaurant is about to transpire. I will not even get into how felicity streams through her soul when she enters a movie theatre. The point is, she taught me to not wait around for grandiose adventures and miraculous happenings to find happiness, but to enjoy the gorgeous ride that life is.

            My mom is so beautiful, loving, patient, imperturbable and caring. She is truly a beacon of maternity love. Perhaps this is why I am still single (along with a litany of other things), I saw how blessed my father is to have found such a girl; I don’t want to settle for less. As Godfrey Winn in all his sagacity stated, “No man succeeds without a good woman behind him. Wife or mother, if it is both, he is twice blessed indeed.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Subjectivity and Our Unavoidable Biases

Per request of one of my faithful and prolix followers I have decided to write on a complex topic. I am however, unsure that I will be able to successfully encapsulate my thoughts on it. As always I will opine and posit freely with a literary caveat that I am not speaking in absolutes and that the dogma of Taylor is a porous if not spurious one. I would redundantly like to write on the subject of subjectivity.
Our whole lives are a series of tiny events that not only mold us into the types of people we become but the thoughts that enter and remain in our heads. The way we view religion, politics, friendship, love, comedy, athletics, the arts et. al is very much determined by the way we were raised. The thoughts that enter our minds that we consider to be truth are formed by our environment, and by the things that occur and have occurred in our lives. And everyone seems to think they are right about most things. I have met few people that would say they are rarely wrong. The majority of us tend to believe in ourselves and consider our paradigm to be the correct one.
Despite our built in biases and our notions of truth, are we able to see things as they really are? Are we capable of stripping down our brains to their unadulterated and unbiased state? When new and contradictory information is brought to our attention are we open to analyze it and search for veracity, or is our potential to progress intellectually at times retarded by our own subjectivity of things? These are questions that teem through my brain. The answers I will provide are only my opinions: I am of the belief that it is very difficult to rid our thought processes of biases. Most of us look at certain dark chapters of the past with scorn and disapproval. How could people be so calloused and evil to enslave people and mistreat people because of the color of their skin? Yet, we really have no idea what we would have done in their shoes. Everyone likes to think they would have risen above bigotry and hate, but are we not all products of our time? That does not mean we are destined to follow in the ugly and untoward footsteps of our own generations. All I am positing is that people are inherently good, but the biases and culture around them molds them voraciously.
We do have a way out though. We have a way of releasing ourselves from subjectivity and forgetting what we think to be common knowledge. This is not an easy endeavor however. To do so we must have one objective; we must strive to fine truth. We must find that splendid balance between open-mindedness and skepticism. We cannot be so open to things that we believe everything we hear, but we cannot be so skeptical that we believe virtually nothing we hear. We must be able upon hearing new information to reject the immediate warning signs and welcome uncomfortable feelings of uncertainty.
My own personal beliefs in deity trump any philosophical standpoint I can take on ultimate truth or overcoming subjectivity. I am of the belief that inquiring of God, and searching out things on our own will elicit veracity. But even with a firm even zealous belief in the Almighty, it is imperative to eliminate pride if truth is to be found. We cannot seek truth if we are unwilling to let go of certain beliefs that have become barnacles in our weathered brains.
I am not sure if I tackled this topic very well. My thoughts were tangential at best. But I do believe it is possible to overcome our pervasive and ubiquitous biases if we can humble ourselves, and truly search for what is ultimately correct.