Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Things We Deserve

On the one hand, I suppose it would be appropriate to have a blog about Thanksgiving, with it just having happened and all.

On the other hand, I feel like that could be a bit trite.


…oh well. Appropriate, trite, or otherwise, read if you dare.

My mom showed me a meme the other day that said “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

And, quite regardless of one’s thoughts on God (i.e. revolving around the possibility of His/Her/Its/Their/Whatever/??? existence), I think it’s still a very interesting point:

In short: Perhaps we only deserve the things that we are grateful for.


We only deserve the things that we are grateful for.

It’s a very different mindset than we’re used to here in the West. The more typical idea around here is that you either work hard for what you have, or else you just get lucky. And either way, that’s just how it is.

If you just get lucky, then the universe/fate/God/karma/coincidence/??? must have good designs for you, and that’s worth being grateful for, isn’t it?

And if you work hard for what you have, then all the more so; perhaps there is even more room to be grateful: In this case, no, there may not be a specific person or entity that you need to explicitly “thank,” per se, but…I wonder if gratitude is something more than just a simple Thank-you and a smile and a handshake.

Rather, I tend to think that thankfulness is more about acknowledging the journey. People often say things along the lines of “It’s not the destination that matters; it’s the journey.” Most people, I suppose, would say that they agree with this, at least passively. Really though, I think that this idea is all about thankfulness, just as much as it may be about embracing the moment and learning from experience and all the other ideals that people more typically draw out of it.

What I mean is, perhaps we could say: Being thankful is how you make the journey matter more than the destination.

Or else maybe: Being thankful is how you continue to make the journey matter more than the destination, even after you’ve reached the destination.

Maybe this topic is trite to discuss, but I think – at least, I very much hope – that being thankful in our lives will never become cliché.

So then, I have to ask: What if you woke up today with only the things you expressed gratitude for yesterday?

Because maybe those are the only things you deserve.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Paradogs

Emily and I spent this past weekend moving. And you probably know that—as you’re packing & unpacking boxes, lifting light & heavy things, sliding furniture across the floor, driving back and forth from one house to the next—you have a lot of time to think.

At some random point during our move, Emily began to sing the Oscar Meyer song (I suspect either because it appears in an episode of the Simpsons, or else because she was hungry—I’m not sure which). I didn’t pay very close attention to her singing it in the moment, but of course the diddy got stuck in my head.

As I listened to the song playing on loop in my mind, I realized something about the lyrics:

It’s a paradox.

I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener
That is what I’d truly like to be
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer wiener
Everyone would want to be like me

Think about it. Break it down logically:

1) Everyone wants what I want
2) I want X
3) Therefore everyone wants X

Those first three steps are fine so far as they go (aside from the fact that they hint at a rather ego-centric, imaginary-audience issue in the singer), but the song specifically mentions a fourth step that really throws a wrench in the works. The word ‘cause at the beginning of the third line is vital here, and makes the meaning:

4) I only want X because everyone wants X

The question is: If he didn’t want to be an Oscar Meyer wiener, would anyone else want to be one? And, if nobody else wanted to be one, would he want to be one?

It’s a closed loop. A paradox. A chicken-or-egg scenario.

I have to wonder: Did the writer/singer of this song intend to create a paradox, or did he accidentally trip into this cosmic, mind-blowing, paradoxical force simply by having self-esteem issues (ironically coupled with imaginary-audience issues)?

After thinking through the grand paradox that is this song—and realizing that surely I must be one step closer to unlocking the mystery of the universe, all because of a hot dog—Emily kindly informed me that I am remembering the lyrics to the song incorrectly. Rather than the last line being: “Everyone would want to be like me,” rather, I’m told, the line is actually: “Everyone would be in love with me.”

That makes much more sense.

It turns out the writer simply has self-esteem issues.

How disappointing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Polar Bears Are People, Too

Just last week, Emily and I took our son Emerson to the zoo. He’s only ten months old, so I think most of the excitement of the animals was a bit lost on him. I think he couldn’t even see half of the animals, and he certainly didn’t understand the concept of looking around each cage until he found the animal hiding there.

But that’s okay. We’ll keep taking him there every so often until things start sticking out to him a bit more.

The animal that seemed to stand out to him the most, however, was the polar bear (which is perfect, because the polar bears are my favorite animals at the Albuquerque Bio Park). There was the one polar bear, walking back and forth along the top of the rocks in his pen just like he always seems to be doing when we go to the zoo. Of all the animals, that polar bear was the easiest to see, and Emerson seemed to love watching the big, furry white thing moving back and forth, sticking out its huge tongue, staring at the crowd.

So then.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this reanimating-extinct-animals thing that’s been going on in the science arena. And though I really would be quite interested in seeing a Dodo bird (besides just the cute one on Tiny Toons), I have a few concerns over this entire process…

First of all, let me say up front that I’m not exactly against the entire act in and of itself. I think it would be wonderful if we could start undoing some of the damage we’ve done environmentally. And it certainly would be a breakthrough for science, and could have many great applications for people and for the globe.

And I’m not even too worried about the entire premise of Jurassic Park (though there are certainly legitimate concerns there, and I think that the timing of the re-release of the movie in theatres is quite interesting…)

But I started thinking about something else along these lines:

As for some of these animals that are endangered—or in danger of going extinct—it would be really cool if we could help prevent that from happening. And I thought, “Even if something happens to the rest of the polar bears, we could bring them back, and that would be really cool! We’d never have to worry about them going extinct!”

This sounds great. But then I realized: it’s also exactly where the problem lies.

If we could bring polar bears back from the brink of extinction (or from extinction itself, if it comes to that), why would people bother trying to protect them anymore?

If we can veritably manufacture elephants, what would stop poachers and ivory dealers from killing all of the elephants we have? (With claims of “We’ll just make more!”)

Have we learned nothing from The Island, Never Let Me Go, The House of the Scorpion, or Final Fantasy VII?

If it’s easy to get something, you take it for granted. If you have an abundance of something, it devalues each occurrence of that thing.

Or, put more simply: If we can reverse extinction, I worry that people won’t work so hard to prevent it.

And it seems to me that the animals deserve better.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the Universal Mime

“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”
from Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

When people are in grief or hardship, you often hear them ask things such as, “Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?”

But there is a rule which every culture of every age of the earth has weaved into its ethical framework, which, in practice, we find cannot be otherwise.

In Eastern religions and philosophies, it is called karma.

In Western culture, it can be summed up with a phrase from the Christian Bible; namely: “You reap what you sow.”

What I mean to say is: If you live your life built around clichés, you will get clichés in response.

If you are looking for a “light at the end of the tunnel,” then yes, you will find one. But most probably that is all you will find. You will not find the sun, but rather a flashlight, a flickering fluorescent bulb. There will always be artificial lights amidst—and at the end of—cliché tunnels, but never the sun or moon or stars or every manner of light which nature has provided for you already.

Clichés are not a comfort. They are an imitation of comfort, a distraction from reality. They are a black canvas strewn high over our heads with small holes poked through it: you think you are seeing the stars, but you are only seeing emptiness.

The universe always pays you back in kind.

You must ask—and answer for—yourself: What will be my payout?

If you seek mimicry, the universe will be a mime for you.

But if you seek truth and reality, then the universe will peel back its layers, slowly, one at a time, bit for bit, allowing you to see the clockwork behind it.

In this way, life heaps fewer surprises on us than we would have ourselves believe, and yet, more justice.

No, life does not always seem fair. But sometimes, when faced with adversity or—what seem on the surface to be—unfair situations, it is helpful to remember that how you respond to these times is another link in the infinite causal chain of universal reciprocity.

And it is helpful also to remember that society does not understand this or support this.

But the universe does not reward society with its fits and clichés; rather, it rewards individuals with their personal accomplishments and temperaments.

And, in time, it will reward you precisely as you have rewarded it.

If you want to be treated with kindness, be kind.

If you want to see beauty, make beauty.

If you want to be paid generously, give freely.

“These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs. Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
from Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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