Another Life

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I started reading The Great Gatsby a few days ago. A day before I started F. Scott FItzgerald’s opus, I finished reading The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Out of pure coincidence, both novels are about life stories and lifestyles that are far different from my own. Both stories are great at delivering incite into microcosms of modern society that seem unbelievable. Gatsby digs into the workings of upper-class American society, and The Other Wes Moore informs the reader of the struggle of Americans in poverty.

You can’t really run away from the past. And much like a snowglobe, you can shake it up but you can’t jump into it and relive it. What’s done is done, you have let go and move on. Yet, as easy as those words are to write, they are definitely not easy to follow.

For one, the working world has a great way of reminding you of your checkered past. Forgiveness is in short supply when it comes to shady resumes. Furthermore, there is an inverse relationship between the people who see your shadow and the people who are able to forget it. Such is the brutality of our human brains and selfish hearts.

Both books also happen to show the dark side of the question, “If you had a chance would you take it?” Victory is sweet, but the sugar doesn’t last forever. Sometimes it won’t even taste like sugar. Perhaps it’s best, especially when looking back at our pasts with rose-colored glasses, to deny ourselves the reward and accept that with every little shake the snow globe becomes less alluring.

Life, after all, only goes one way.

On Dreaming

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Every shining star is a dream that’s out of reach. Perhaps that’s why they’re so numerous. Then again, that line isn’t literal. Ha.

Shoot for the stars cause you might hit the moon. You hear that expression, and its variants all the time. No, this isn’t going to turn into a cynical George Carlin routine about the American Dream. But really, what do you do when your plans go awry?

As far as dreamers go, others often combat the dreamers by telling them to be realistic. Great. What if realism doesn’t pay the rent? Then were your ambitions any better or worse than settling?

Such is the dilemma of adulthood. On one hand, you, me, and everyone else on the planet would love to do something fulfilling. We all want a career we love, so to speak, and we all put a high cost on that career. “I don’t have that kind of money, education, talent, etc. to take the risk,” we say. Funny enough, someone is saying that same thing about the job you do have.

Somehow, adulthood culminates to being grateful for what you got, but also constantly aspiring for more. Maybe we all share the same hope that, through some miracle, those two worlds will unite and give us something special.

Hope moves us forward, and grace picks us up when we fall. Each and every time. Gotta try to keep both of those tanks full.

Communication Breakdown

 

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Communicating with one another, as with other aspects of life, has a great way of being more difficult than it needs to be. Part of that can be chalked up to our mental, and biological wiring. The devices we use to communicate also contribute to the confusion. People whom you must communicate with and the reasons why you must communicate with them are the biggest contributors to our confusion.

For around twenty-six years of my life, I believed that people who were in their twenties, thirties, and so on,  who didn’t feel like talking to their parents, brothers, or other relatives were immature. Is that a damning, and judgemental thought? Yeah, definitely. Is it correct? Rarely.

A handful of my acquaintances in their late twenties are having issues communicating with their parents. Some have always had these issues. For others, it’s a relatively new occurrence. One of my friends, who has the largest issue among my other friends, has tried everything. Hell, his parents and his brother have tried everything too. Thus far nothing has worked.

Having known the family for so long, it’s incredibly easy for me to see every side of the issue. His problems, along with my own, have led me to believe that sometimes nothing can be done.

Despite having raised you, it sometimes work out that parents and son/daughter end up being strangers to one another. Could be that, if your parents are divorced, biology and psychology are getting in the way. After all, you will have both parents’ genetics in your body. Rarely is it an even 50/50 split. So what can you do?

If constantly having a conversation doesn’t work, you will eventually stop. If two people must change in order to have a healthy relationship, and only one person changes, then why should they keep on changing? We all hate quitting, but sometimes it’s the only thing we can do. Defeat is not always acceptance and acceptance is not always defeat.

 

The Cult of Smart

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Years ago, someone, somewhere in my life, asked an interesting question. “Would you rather date someone smart, or someone kind.” Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking question by any means, and it is most likely one that most people have been asked before. The first half of the question, and more precisely, the word “smart” has been on my mind. What does it truly mean to be “smart.”

Intelligence in the modern world is often boiled down to IQ. Yet, each individual’s IQ is subject to many degrees of variance. For example, your score could be radically altered by how well you slept prior to taking the test. Additionally, it is easy to make an argument that IQ is a valueless metric when trying to ascertain where someone will end up in the game of life.

Complicating the concept further is every individual’s unique perception of what makes someone smart. Being from a predominantly blue state, “smart” is often characterized by someone who is a Democrat, reads the New York Times, and is cultured to some degree. As much as the above description is a caricature that you might see on television, it is also how plenty of people in this part of the U.S.A. operate. Yes, people are generally becoming more intelligent as time moves forward, but we can’t all be rocket scientists, right?

Certainly, there are plenty of people who fit the caricature of an intelligent person, and are actually intelligent, but what about the ones who are just pretending? Do the truly intelligent people know that they are actually intelligent, or are we stuck in a vicious reoccurring cycle of the Dunning-Kruger effect? And if we are in a world full of people who believe themselves to be smarter than they actually are, how can the truly intelligent, change anything?

What is “smart” when it can be turned into such a grand illusion? Anyone can fake intelligence. With our current knowledge of psychology and neuroscience, it’s been proven that intelligence can be faked without insidious intent, or without even trying at all.

Kindness is difficult to fake, and unless you are a con-artist, it has few incentives attached. Maybe the perception of intelligence is appealing to many, and they get trapped into the idea of dating the illusory “smart” person. Kindness, to me, seems like the far better option.

 

The Masterplan

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Robert Frost has a popular poem titled The Road Not Taken from which the last stanza is often cited. Self-help gurus, your fourth grade English teacher, Orange Is The New Black, etc. That final stanza states:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
And this is the part that you will hear most of the time, whether out of context, in context, or even taken in a subjective context. No this isn’t going to be an agreement to the interpretation of the poem by the main character of Orange Is The New Black, (I’ve never actually watched the show, except for that scene.)
The interpretation of the poem being about how we actually end up in the same place regardless of what path we take is interesting, but it’s still one person’s interpretation. The question his poem makes me ponder is, is there a master plan? Are we, being human and all, each our own forward-moving wheel built out of our good, bad, and great habits slowly decaying to our timely deaths?
If it were so, then fate would be predetermined. Genetics, to an extent, controls parts of our wheel. How you look, and even parts of your personality are determined by the people who created you, and the people who created them. You may be a good looking wheel that is slowly decaying, or you may be an ugly one, but you rarely ever see an “ugly” person take advantage of their looks.
Crude example? Sure. Point is that parts of the “wheel” are out of our control. You can change your habits, slow down a bit, maybe change your direction, and do a plethora of other things that alter your trajectory. But how much can you really change until changing becomes your habit, and can’t you change so much that you end up becoming the person you originally were? Additionally, you will always have forward momentum. So what is the master plan?
Can we end up exactly where we want, and what are the costs? Every wheel moving toward the end of their time has to change to some extent. No one gets to escape the necessary fate of changing in order to get where you want. Well, maybe some people do, but those people are insanely lucky. For everyone else, luck lies in trying.
The more you try the more likely luck will fall into your lap. Maybe that’s what Noel was singing about. It’s all part of the masterplan.  Hey, I had to stick a reference to the reference of the title somewhere, right?

True Loneliness

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Being alone, at least from this writer’s perspective, is tantamount to bliss. There are probably a shit ton of writers who feel that way. Masochism is always fun when it involves words. Joking.

Though there are some people with a predilection towards enjoying loneliness, I think there is something different about true loneliness. When you’re reading a book in a quiet room, and you know nothing in the world will pull you away from that book, that is heavenly. When you are suddenly unemployed, and it becomes a part of how people perceive you, that is true loneliness.

Sure, people can empathize with those people, and tell them, “Hey bro, I know how you feel.” till they are blue in the face. But if there are any words more hollow than, “Hey, I know how you feel” when you are unemployed, I do not know them. For some reason, when you are the person in the situation that everyone has been in, you get a true feeling of loneliness.

Even just the slightest difference in how we emotionally receive an experience can make us perceive it as wholly different from someone else’s similar experience. And, for some reason that is probably related, empathy is a tricky beast. How can one know they are being empathetic rather than being patronizing? Is giving advice even empathetic at all, or are we not living in a world where millions of after-school specials are simultaneously taking place throughout the globe, except not in television screens, but rather in real life?

Okay, so that last sentence is somewhat sarcastic. Everyone, at some point, experiences true loneliness. The more interesting question, which is the more pertinent one to this rambling, is how many people get to experience true empathy? In this weird game of life, dominated by western civilization, I think the answer may be small. C’est la vie, I suppose.

 

 

The State That We Are In

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Some article from many years ago, with countless sources including numerous other articles and academic studies, said that since the 90’s the voting public in western civilization has been more inclined to vote because of cultural issues rather than economic issues. Ever since this time period, it has been said that young voters tend to lean on cultural issues. Implications from this article and studies suggest that, because of this, a huge amount of voters in this current era are more geared toward listening to culture issues rather than economic issues. Is this a good thing?

I used to be certain of my belief that economy, culture, and technology among other things, gets better as time progresses. Over the last eight years, it seems like an impossibility to completely believe that. Sure, technology is impressive and much better in many respects. Air travel, for example, is much safer and more affordable than it has ever been thanks to technology. Healthcare is keeping us healthy for much longer because of advances in science and technology and so on.

However, we also live in a time where that same airfare and healthcare, despite being more easily available, are more difficult to afford because of stagnation in wages. Culture has not had a hand in any of these things,  yet, today there are plenty of examples of similar paradoxes involved in the value cost of life’s necessities and luxuries. So should we be more educated on economics and try and force an economic perspective on to future prospective voters?

At a time in the mid 20th century, for the United States of America, economic opportunity was the number one concern for voters. Despite the many cultural problems of racism, segregation, and many other issues that dogged the U.S.A, prosperity was much more widespread simply due to the fact that opportunities were more readily available. Education was offered more widely as a service for those who went to war, and less as an opportunity to go into debt. Furthermore, gaining a bachelor’s degree often put ordinary citizens on an even keel with government officials in terms of debate power.

Now, to gain a politician’s understanding of laws and governance requires a huge time investment and years of schooling that most cannot afford. Education is a difficult choice for those without the means to pay for it. And at this point, with us being more culturally sensitive and aware than we’ve ever been before, it seems that the culture issues are reaching a point of diminishing returns. Cynical think pieces, news articles, cultural arguments that are arbitrary, and college courses based entirely on perceived cultural concepts are everywhere and bombarding our brain’s attention receptors.

Somehow, the still-present ramifications of 2008, as well as the insane set of circumstances that caused such a disaster seem long forgotten. So should economic opportunity and health be a more important criterion for the voting public? And if so, how does any one person or entity change a civilization’s outlook while maintaining that they’re not using propaganda to do so?

More answers, most often, lead to more questions.