Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Posturing

I've had back and neck problems my entire life and until a week ago, I always had just attributed it to the fact that I was constantly stressed out. My girlfriend has told me that I look like a raptor which I just laughed about but then I started to notice it in photos. Trying to help me alleviate the pain, she found some information related to "Upper Cross syndrome" on the internet that suggested a few things, one of which was to "keep your head up so your neck muscles aren't constantly trying to hold it up as it leans forward." It made sense so I started being conscious of where I kept my head.

At first it was difficult but slowly got easier and then one day it clicked - Keeping my head up is uncomfortable to me mentally. I have this posture because it's a reflection of how I feel on the inside. I am slightly above average in height and until recently I didn't have a shred of confidence. I didn't want to look the world in the eye because I was nothing so I hung my head forward. Now that I feel like I can visualize the mental me, I totally see a connection. As I've been "holding my head up", I've felt less stress and way less affected by stuff around me. Today I was put in a job I'm not fond of and someone was a dick to me (wether they meant to be or not) in front of a bunch of people but it didn't really bother me like it would have in the past. Every time I was tempted to get stressed out I could feel my body start to mirror the emotions and so I fought it by visualizing how I should look and then following suit physically.

I know this probably sounds like a bunch of new age hippie horse shit, but I really believe that our bodies are a direct reflection of our minds. That isn't to say you aren't born with a certain set of genetic handicaps but the most beautiful people are the ones who radiate it from the inside. They are attractive because they possess a confidence that can only be had when you accept yourself. Posturing is usually used as a pejorative, however, I think it has a positive side. Science has shown that if you change your posture and do what they call "power poses", it not only affects how other people perceive you, but also how you see yourself.

What does your mental person look like? Can you even picture that? Most of us don't want to really see ourselves because we don't like what we'd see. The thing is that what you see is transformable. Starting might be as simple as picking your head up or just dropping the baggage you've been holding on to in your head.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flags on the Play

Earlier today I saw a post displaying the confederate flag with the caption "if this flag offends you, you need a history lesson." Not wanting to jump the gun, I inquired as to what the history lesson was. This link was shared which explains how "the civil war wasn't about slavery", how "the confederate flag wasn't flown on slave ships" etc. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the information but regardless, when I finished reading over the statements on the page I thought "and this proves?"

See regardless of what the flag may have represented to some in the past and what it still may represent to some now, to most of the world, it is a symbol of something negative and repressive. Many people are going to cry "I'm not racist and you're trying to take away part of my heritage". I have a question - is your need to identify with a culture more important than your concern for the social problems America is embroiled in? This isn't arguing over something like who has the best tap water - a bloody war was fought and that flag, regardless of what your interpretations of the events is, the majority of people find it hateful.

Pride makes us want to brag about the group we feel most connected to but pride at it's root is a superiority complex derived from feeling inferior. This kind of mentality causes division and sparks the same kind of need for an identity from the people you are putting down compounding the issue. No one wants to feel less than others so what do a lot of people do when they are insecure? Overcompensate. Does where I grew up make a difference on who I am? Definitely, however, I'm no better than anyone else and I feel it would be arrogant to go around bragging "American by birth, (state I grew up in) by the grace of god." What kind of message does that send except "I'm better than everyone who isn't like me". Nowhere is perfect but one of the first steps to becoming more evolved as a society is to quit separating ourselves through holding on to pride.

When I was first trying to figure out who I was as a 20 something, many people called me "Irish" because of my hair and last name. The truth is for a while I encouraged it because everyone thinks the Irish are badass and great drinkers. Mostly though, I wanted a new identity as I tried to figure out life 3000 miles away from what I had grown up with. As I've started to appreciate who I am as an individual, I've started just going by my name (which is another story in itself). I'm only a quarter Irish at best with a good bit of Italian and Polish thrown in the mix as well so bragging on Irish heritage is kind of absurd. I hate the term "citizen of the world" because it just sounds smarmy to me but I like the idea behind it. Like those who serve the faceless god, I am just a man and it does not matter where I have come from unless I choose to make it matter.

Do you really need to belong to something so desperately that it trumps how it makes a large portion of your country feel? I'm grateful that I have many freedoms and luxuries being born in America but to be prideful about something I had no control over is ignorant at best. A lot of us need to drop a flag of some kind and just be people if we want to heal.

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Things have power because we give it to them - money would be a great example. Much of our reality, if not all, is a placebo effect. Regardless of what good things something like a confederate flag may mean to you, it means hate to most people that see it. Those ideas are what they have seen perpetrated in conjunction with it. 

When you argue over something like this you are more or less saying "this idea I hold onto is more important than your hurt". Do you really care more about a flag than someone who is genuinely hurt coming from generations of abuse? Telling someone who has been abused "I'm sorry but you just need an education" doesn't work. If every person in a police uniform treated you poorly, you would distrust the uniform because it is a symbol of something bad. Why do we make a lot of bad guys in movies nazis or communists? Because those symbols carry with them an ideal that is widely known and reviled. You don't have to explain anything about them. 

Most symbols are not original but derived from something else that was previously innocuous. Someone could be pointing out that the swastika used to mean something about puppies before Hitler took it over. Definitions of words change transitioning over time. The slang word Nimrod comes from Buggs Bunny always calling Elmer Fudd a "nimrod". People took this to mean "idiot, dumbass etc" because that's what Elmer is. Nimrod however, was the name of a "mighty hunter" in the bible. Buggs is just using the word sarcastically but because no one knew the context, the word derived a new meaning which is unlikely to change for a while if ever. 

If we don't start putting acknowledging and treating our countries problems over our own personal desires, then it very well may be an American flag in movies of the future - a symbol of a people who cared more about being right (because it wouldn't admit when it was wrong) that it collapsed under the sheer weight of its own selfish appetite. What a bunch of Nimrods.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dreaming of Your Life


Much to my disappointment, I'm about to leave Berline in a few hours. We will board a train to the airport, ride a tiny plane to Iceland and then spend several more hours on the exact same plane to DC only to have to drive 11 more hours to get back home. Thinking about leaving and the uncomfortable travel ahead bummed me out. As we walked along the Berlin Wall yesterday, this statement caught my eye putting things in perspective: "Right now, Someone is dreaming of living your life." I thought it especially poignant considering where this quote was displayed - a wall where people could see into others lives but not experience. I'm sure there were at least a few West Berliners back before the wall fell who, at least temporarily, lost sight of how good they had it in comparison to their Eastern counterparts. We think our lives are tough because we have to experience some discomfort or pain when most of the time it's not really that bad. I don't mean to down play anyone's heart aches or trials but it could almost always be way worse. 

Social media has exacerbated this flaw of discontentment in human nature where, as my new friend Will succinctly stated, "we compare everyone's highlight reel to our behind the scenes." Instead of sowing seeds of jealousy and discontentment by comparing our lives to others, we should be inspired by what we see in others (no matter how skewed of a perspective it may be) while remaining grateful as we focus on what we do have. 

We've had an amazing trip which has expanded my understanding of the world a little further and I am incredibly grateful to have been afforded this opportunity. I may need a few aspirin for my aching muscles when I lay down in my own bed later tonight but it's nothing in comparison to what I have gained. 

America - The Asshole

I know everyone is talking about the shooter in Charlelston so I won't beat a dead horse too much but I have a couple things to say. The news of the tragedy reached me while on vacation in Berlin and made me incredibly sad and also very embarrassed to be an American. We all aren't like that asshole (actually too nice of a word for such a fiend) but at the same time I feel a level of culpability regardless. As a nation we have perpetrated centuries of injustice against people who have done nothing to deserve it and it makes me furious. Being in Germany I have seen how it's have been humbled by their past regardless of whether or not they were connected to the atrocities perpetrated by their countrymen in the past. It is almost illegal to be proud to be German like we are "proud to be an American" because of what that conveys. They do not want to repeat their past and simply are just people trying to live together. 

Be mad at me, but I'm not proud to be an American, especially when we have shitheads do things like shoot innocent people just because they have a different skin color. I'm not proud of the fact that we have bombed other countries to hell under the pretense of freedom when in reality it is for the monetary gain of some elites. I'm not proud of how much we consume at the expense of poor workers in countries like China. I could go on, the list is long. I'm really not proud to be an American.

Does that mean I hate America? No, but I am ashamed at what we are, at what we continue to be. Shut the fuck up with your pride and try on a dose of humility. We don't have a lot of things right in the U.S. and the actions of this one man and all the police brutality that has come to light recently prove that. As a nation we need to get off our high horse and onto our knees to beg forgiveness from all those we have wronged. We need to realize that like Jon Snow, "we know nothing".  You think that owning a gun makes you free? Fuck off. Owning your own brain makes you free and at present, most people's brains are controlled by the media and their lack of experience with other cultures and ideas.

For all those who have suffered at the hands of America and his prideful ideology - I am completely and utterly sorry. It breaks my heart to see what we have done and continue to do. I call America "him" instead of the traditional "her" because I don't think that a lady would act this way. Only an arrogant man treats others with such disregard and inhumanity. 

For what little it's worth, I'm ashamed for all of us. 

I'm sorry. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Prague

We decided to cram a little side stop to Prague into our trip and had the good fortune of being accompanied by our friends from Berlin. They have a car so we were able to drive the 4 hours instead of taking the bus which was fortunate. I fell asleep for most of the drive because I wasn't feeling the greatest and missed much of the countryside but did get to experience the thrills of flying down the Audubon at around 180 KPH. After finally figuring out how to get into the apartment we had rented, we set out to walk around the city for a bit without a plan in mind. My first impressions were "holy crap there are a lot of wires over head for street cars" and "this city is really clean".

There are workers going around with little brooms and dust pans cleaning the sidewalks constantly keeping the city looking quite fresh. We walked along the river for a bit stopping to get a spicy sausage from a street vendor and continued to the Charles bridge across the river from Prague 2 to Prague 1 / 6. I don't know the names of most of what we saw because we didn't plan it out, we just walked and let the wind take us where it would. 

The bridge was jam packed with tourists and lots of people selling trinkets which isn't exactly my scene but there were two guys playing classical music on a couple accordions - an incongruity from what I expect out of an accordion but very beautiful. On the other side of the bridge we saw the spires of Prague Castle in the distance and decided to try and find it. It's claimed to be the biggest castle in the world however, it's not a traditional castle in the medieval sense but more of a compound. To get up to where the castle is, you have to climb a ton of stairs but you are rewarded with an amazing view of the city so it's totally worth it. 


While we were resting at the top, my girlfriend struck up a conversation with a brother and sister who had stopped as well overhearing them talk about an art installation of giant babies with barcodes for faces. They were from America and have been traveling all around Europe for the past few weeks. Since we were all going to check out the castle, we ended up walking together and hanging out for the rest of the day which was a nice surprise. 

Inside the "castle" is a massive church that is quite beautiful though I have little use for what goes on inside it. Note: don't wear a hat inside or some douche will tell you indignantly "this is a church" while a security guard rushes over to you insisting you take it off. 








Our new friends told us about a brewery up the hill a little ways that has a beer that is, or at least the original recipe was, brewed by monks. After hiking up all the stairs, beer sounded amazing to everyone so we sallied forth to find it. Also hungry, we stopped before getting to the brewery (unsure if they sold food as well) and ate dinner at Velká Klášterní Restaurace where I had the best pizza of my life. After dinner we found Klasterni Pivovar (the brewery) around the corner and had several beers, talking till the place closed. Another note: They do actually sell food as well and I ordered bread sticks off the menu thinking it would be like Olive Garden. Instead the waiter brought a sealed package of little dried sticks similar to what they give kids in school but this was lacking the little spot of nasty cheese. I asked if we could just get a basket of bread instead which was much more to my liking. 

It was about an hour walk back down the hill to our respective temporary homes and it was getting dark so we hurried that direction. Back at the bottom of the hill across the street from the bridge are numerous shops so we grabbed a popular Czech desert which consists of a tube of fried dough about 2.5" in diameter with chocolate smeared on the inside. It's a bit bizarre but tastes pretty good! As we walked a little further we ran into 4 young people sitting on the street playing popular American music on 3 guitars and one tambourine. When we reached the intersection to go our separate ways, someone said "well do you want to grab one more beer?" We all laughed and said "what the hell, why not!" That's something I love some much about this world, you can meet complete strangers and quickly become friends if you allow yourself to. 

Around the corner, a small bar called the Red Room where beers are dirt cheap - like $4 for 6 pints, called our names. There was live music (of course American songs) and we had a couple more beers and then went to bed. One of the guys who got up to play a song said "I can play a Bon Jovi song, or I can play something cool" which cracked me up. A table full of Swedes went nuts at the mention of Bon Jovi so we all got to listen to Wanted Dead or Alive but I didn't mind because as anyone who knows me can attest, I like shitty music. Despite leaving America to see Europe it was fun to have a bit of home wherever we went since western music is rather ubiquitous. 

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Today we mostly wandered around again visiting the main square which was crowded with tourists with their infernal selfie sticks but the buildings and statues were cool.





Later we stopped by a big library that my girlfriend was dying to see and then went out on the river in a paddle boat for about an hour ending the night playing cards and drinking beer back in our apt. 


Prague is definitely a beautiful city that is full of history but it's also filled with tourists and all the crap that comes with that. There are entire streets with only souvenir shops all selling nearly identical shit and some of the employees are really freaking annoying. This one chick followed me around telling me how much stuff I was looking at was despite the fact that it all had price tags. I would never want to live here but it's definitely a place to check out if you are traveling through Europe especially if you love old buildings and history. 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Berlin Birthday

Due to purchasing our flights to flights from the US to pretty much everywhere else being rather expensive, we booked our tickets 4 months in advance through an airline called Wow Air based in Iceland. We didn't intend to be in Berlin on my birthday but the only tickets that worked with our schedule and were still available just so happened to land in that space of time but I'm so glad that it worked out this way. Yesterday was spent on a little driving tour of Berlin courtesy of our friends that live here as they gave us a slightly touristy experience. We stopped by Check Point Charlie, climbed the Victory Column, saw the capital building and a few other sites of note. Mostly, we just drove and then stopped by the new Berlin Mall to pick up a hoodie because I had neglected to bring anything other than short sleeve shirts expecting the weather to be warmer than it has been. 

Check Point Charlie was neat but of course was crowded with tourists and rather American with one of the few McDonalds in Berlin directly on the eastern side. A couple actors dressed in military garb will take pictures with you for 2 and you can get your passport stamped for an assortment of prices depending on how many stamps you want. I wasn't about to pay 6€ for a stamp that doesn't mean anything except to fill up a book that I would rather reserve for actual trips but I did get a picture with the "guards" which was kind of cool. We stopped by the gift shop and browsed a few books about that period of history. It's amazing how much things have changed since the wall fell down. The photographs of the ingenious ways East Berliners snuck across to the West are a testament to the strength of hope. People are always going to want to be free no matter what happens in the world.

The capitol building is quite impressive and beautiful but we only stopped long enough to take a photo and kept moving. 


Victory Column is not something I would recommend for people with a heart condition or who just don't like climbing stairs. It really isn't that bad but I could see a lot of people complaining about the lack of an elevator. The tower is 67 meters total with probably about 60 meters worth of tight spiral staircase to get to the top. At the base level there is a small museum of sorts with little models of famous buildings from around the world along with historical information on placards (though most of them were only in German). 

A very narrow observation deck sits just under the statue that adorns the top of the column providing a 360 degree view of the city. Unfortunately I only had a cellphone to take a photo with so it's not the greatest quality but I was able to get a panoramic photo looking towards the east.


Berlin Mall is very posh and commercial with loads of clothing stores and other such crap. I kind of felt bad even going in there when I learned that they hired a bunch of Romanians as cheap labor to build it and never paid them. I guess greed is the same no matter what country you are in. 

After retiring back to our apartment (BTW I paced if off this morning and it's 380 square feet) we headed out for the evening. While waiting for our friends to meet up with us, my girlfriend took a photo of me at a section of the wall that is still standing. I wasn't allowed to watch TV as a child but I think I was at my grandparents when the wall was breached in '89 because I have a vivid memory of seeing people being blasted with water cannons as they assaulted the barrier with sledge hammers. It was cool to make the connection between that memory and the real thing.


We spent the next few hours having a few drinks and hanging out with friends of our friends. At present I don't know much German so for the most part I just sat there and did my best to pick out words feeling proud of myself when I could get the gist of the conversations. Despite being out of my element, I really had a good time. In a way I almost feel more comfortable around the Germans than Americans because we have something in common - we aren't like regular Americans. They haven't experienced a lot of the pop / normal US culture that I missed out on as a child so I don't feel out of place. A few minutes before the clock struck 00:00, we purchased a few beers from a kiosk and rang in my birthday.

I've only been to a club when we are shooting in them for a film or TV show and when our friends hear this, they decided that I had to experience clubbing in Berlin for my birthday. The truth is I was a little nervous because I didn't know what to expect but I had a blast. We got past the bouncer around 02:30 and stayed till it started getting light out around 04:30. I knocked out two things in one night: going to a club and partying till the sun came up. I was far from drunk the entire night but it was a blast and definitely the most fun birthday I've had to date.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Berlin - 2

We've been in Berlin since Tuesday and I've only written once partially because jet lag and traveling had kicked our asses but also because I didn't have a lot to report yet. I'm not a very good tourist. Monuments and museums aren't really my thing though I don't mind checking them out. Tourist traps generally reek of insincerity. People want to show up somewhere and have a nicely packaged experience that they can take pictures of to show their friends feeling cosmopolitan. I'm not trying to be a hipster here, but tourism just feels smarmy not to mention that all the "hot spots" are normally crowded with lots of slow moving, annoying people. Usually when I go somewhere new, I like to wander around and try to get a feel for where I am, hopefully blending into the surroundings. That's probably because I have stuck out my entire life having red hair so I hope to just be another guy the locals pass on the streets.

For several days now we have half heartedly said we were going to take a boat tour of Berlin. Yesterday was supposed to be the day but we ended up not going partially because I got us lost and we ran out of time (the street names change from one side of the intersections to the other which I'm not used to yet) but mostly because we got caught up in something way more interesting - a Turkish outdoor market. The bicycle ride alone to the market was fun passing a length of the Berlin wall, stopping several times to make sure we were still on course (I can't remember the German names of the streets for shit). It still amazes me how many people ride bicycles here. You'll even see men in suits and women in dresses riding!


My girlfriend leading the way : )

I didn't take any pictures of the market because there didn't seem to be other non-locals there and I didn't want to ruin the experience by standing out. Most of the stalls are selling produce, meats or cheeses with a couple selling some fabric and one random guy hawking small medical implements like dental mirrors and surgical scissors. Almost every stand selling raw food ingredients has a redundancy down the road a little so you are never without choices.

I love cherries. Cherry anything will grab my attention so I when we walked by the first stand with boxes upon boxes of fresh cherries, I had to have some. I looked at my girlfriend and said "I want some cherries" to which she replied "well then go get some." Always practical that one. Mustering the courage, I walked over to the stand. "1/2 kilo" I said handing the man the appropriate coins  and then nodded in thanks as he handed them to me. It's stupid but I felt excited to have bought something in another country in a system of measuring that was also foreign to me. Later we stopped by a spice booth and an Indian man let us try "the purest, sweetest cinnamon you'll ever taste", and it was. He talked to us for a few minutes about different spices and gave us a white strawberry from the carton he had bought for his parrot back at home. We bought a tiny bit of saffron and continued on to look for some prepared food since all we had had to eat that day was the left over pizza we grabbed a 1am the night before.

A stall with vibrant fabrics grabbed our attention with it's similarly brightly colored food that looked delicious. A man and woman from Africa (there wasn't a flag anywhere so I don't know what country they were from) were selling rice, chicken wings, potato wedges and a couple other things so we decided to give it a shot. It was fantastic and the shop keepers were very friendly making sure we knew about the chili sauce and bread that was available for free on the side.



After eating our food and purchasing a few simple things like a wallet with a built in coin purse, we headed home. Side note: if you come to Europe, you will want to have some way to hold all your cash - coins and paper so you don't have to constantly dig everything out of your pocket. I haven't had a wallet for years in America because I use a debit card everywhere but that is not popular not to mention the fact that it wouldn't work anyway.

Last evening we hung out with our friends at a bar around the corner from their apartment meeting some of their friends who were delightful. One of the guys we met thought I said my name was "Magnum" when we first shook hands. After I repeated my name a few times he said "well you only get one shot at a first impression so you are Magnum like PI. Is that okay?" I laughed and said I didn't care and so I was Magnum for the night which I found hilarious. Everyone takes a lot of English in school here but I'm sure it's rather taxing mentally to keep up a constant stream of English, especially if you have been drinking, so the conversation bounced back and forth between the two languages. I relished the experience of sitting there just listening and trying to sort out what was being said when the English dropped off at times. How else are you going to learn right? Part way through the evening I got hungry and had been told about curry wurst so my buddy and I walked a block to get some. Now I've had some hot food but this stuff takes the prize.

There were 10 levels to choose from and when I said I would try 10 (I think it said 12 million scoville), I quickly changed my mind after the look of shock and disbelief on both the guys face behind the counter and my friends. "Uh never mind, I'll try 8" I corrected. The man shook his head and got the bottle for 8 off the shelf sticking a little plastic fork in some so I could taste it. For about .5 seconds, it tasted good but then I choked and my eyes started crying despite my brain telling them to knock it off. Everyone around me got a good laugh and when I finally got control of my body I laughed at myself too.


Finally I decided not to be a complete idiot (or my body decided that for me) and I settled on option 5 - 450,000 Scoville. It was still hot but quite good although my stomach sounds like it's been trying to cary on a conversation with itself as I've been typing this. 

Doing these pedestrian things may seem like a waste of a trip to some people but it's exactly how I wanted to spend my vacation. I think that experiencing the genuine side of the city has given me a much greater appreciation for it than taking a tour of an art museum or church. I'm not sure what we will do today but I'm sure it will be equally as organic and authentic.

Magnum - "and that, as they say, is the hell of it"

Friday, June 12, 2015

Berlin


My girlfriend and I have been in Berlin the last few days after a somewhat stressful and arduous trip (11 hours driving to the airport, 3 hour delay in the first plane sitting on the runway - no sleep for 38 hours, and a 45 min delay on the second). It is an amazing city that to me, feels like NYC but without the pretentious douchebags everywhere.
A few things I've noticed / discovered:
You can walk down the street drinking a beer which is perfectly legal.
Almost everyone smokes cigarettes.
Hoards of people rides bikes and not even nice bikes - most of them are just old single speed bicycles with baskets on the front.
Many of the 2 lane roads don't have a dividing line in the middle and on top of that, the street our friends live on has a set of street car tracks going each direction down the road shared by cars (mind blown).
Very few people are obese despite eating loads of bread and ice cream because first of all they walk or cycle a lot but also because Berliners don't seem to be all that stressed out about life.
Almost no one smiles unless they are in a conversation with a friend and no one greets passers by on the street. (I bring this up because of my last post. More on that later.)
It's fairly peaceful despite the loads of people.

Now I'm not trying to say that Berlin is Nirvana or something like that but it has a lot going for it. Much of the way things are now is probably due to the struggle that they have come through in the last 100 years. Before Berlin was unified after the wall came down, no one trusted anyone else - not even family, because anyone might report you to the police. This has lead to their massive affinity for privacy and also the seeming lack of friendliness on the streets. Now just to be clear, Berliners are fantastic people and a lot of fun, they just aren't likely to ask you how you are doing in a simple interaction like we do in America. It's nice to have the bullshit cut away although I'll be honest, I feel bad ignoring people. If you read my last post, I like to try and show people that I care about them as a person by greeting them with at least a smile regardless of their station in life.

Maybe it's just a cultural guilt. Maybe that's what has caused a lot of the problems in America and has made us susceptible to the whims of the assholes that have controlled the country for a long time. We get manipulated into feeling bad for some other country and send our military over to "help out the little guy' when in all reality, we are probably only over there for some kind of monetary reason that benefits the 1%. Seeing the difference in the two cultures calls out the glaring problems at home. I can pretty much guarantee that if we had a road in the US with no lines and two train tracks...well we wouldn't because someone would get in an accident because they are stupid and would sue. Even the dogs are better behaved than most American dogs. We saw a woman walking down the street with 5 little dogs and they all stayed close to her without leashes. In fact very few dogs are on leashes because they listen to their owners.

We've caused all of our problems in America ourselves. It's not the immigrants or the, minorities, or the 1%, it's everyone. A salesman won't stick around long if there are no customers and we are buying into the bullshit hook, line and sinker that is being hawked through the media and advertising. I love NYC but the lust for recognition and power are palpable in areas like Manhattan and it's off putting. Berlin has been a refreshing experience. Seeing people just going about life seemingly without a care for what other people think of them is amazing. We need a good dose of that in the states if we want pull out of the nose dive our society has dropped into.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Smiles

Cranking away on the pedals, I whisked my way to the gym one last time before going on vacation. Any Way You Want It is jamming on my headset as I pass the decrepit convenience store down the road a bit from my house. Out front are about 20 assorted aged folks hanging out front. Seems like they're having fun. I'd love to stop if I wasn't getting up so early.....I wonder if they would feel uncomfortable though if I stopped. If you haven't figured it out yet, they were all black and I am about as white as you can get not to mention having a road flare as hair. Now before anyone blows a gasket, I'm not saying black folks are hateful people. It's kind of like your brother-in-law not wanting to party with you strictly because you are married to his sister who's a prude. The group I passed might not have a problem with me but I'm unfortunately linked to the bad guy by appearance. 

What if perchance they hated me just because of my skin? That's what many minorities have felt like...I let that sink in, what that would feel like, to be on the other side of the fence. What if I was chased down and beaten to death? Fear hit and I didn't brush it aside. Instead I let it sit there and grow till I could feel what that terror would be like. 

My heart felt way heavier as I passed the next mile thinking about how sad humanity is. A lot of people want things to change but it's like trying to get a boulder rolling: it takes an exhausting length of time to get any momentum. As I turned down a side street to avoid a stop light, American Pie came on and I saw some people walking up ahead. If I am not going too fast I'll usually say "hi" or at least nod and smile to people I pass. This time two adorable little girls beat me to the punch. They both waved while flashing grins only a kid without a care in the world can pull off. "Hi sir" they chimed. I replied with a big smile of my own and greeted them as I passed by. 

The fact that both children had much darker skin than mine was irrelevant to the smile the interaction had left on my face as continued on. But then again it wasn't, considering the thoughts I had a few minutes back, and the smiles and hellos spoke volumes. They said "I value you as a fellow human being and am happy to see you". We don't do that enough in general but particularly to those who look different than us. 

Droves of people will claim "I'm the least racist person ever" but and if you are one of them - do you greet people who look different than you? If you do what are you conveying? Politeness and obligation? Discomfort? Or happiness to encounter another human? Most people as at least somewhat misanthropic so I understand - you might just be an asshole, but those who actually care, think about if you convey that care throughout the day to those you meet. 

One of the easiest ways to start healing humanity might be by giving genuine smiles. People can tell when you are bullshitting them so don't try to fake it just so you can feel like you aren't a dick. 

A couple kids taught me a valuable lesson with nothing more than a smile and a couple words. It's never so much the actions, but what's behind them that matters. They weren't even my kids and I was damn proud of them. I thanked them in my head and thought I was getting emotional but realized it was probably just the wind whipping past my eyes making them water. 

"Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?...."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Listening

A couple days ago I posted about how most of us don't take the time to listen to other people tell us who they are. Today I got the chance to practice what I preached. Through the magic of Facebook, I conversed with a guy that I had worked with and talked to a few times outside of work but mostly we were just acquaintances. As we talked, I tried my best to listen and gain a picture of this individual with no preconceived notions. He shared some of his writing with me which was honest, well thought out and powerful. Seeing life through someone else's eyes gave me a further appreciation for humanity. It's why I love The Moth where people tell true stories live in front of an audience. We all need to be brave and share our stories in a place that is safe to do so. When you take the time to step out of your own mind and walk down the path of another human, you start to realize that we really aren't all that different. I suppose I should clarify that, those who are brave enough to share their stories, we are all the same. Tired enough of the bullshit facades thrown up largely through materialism and phony smiles, that we put ourselves out there through artistic expression hoping to make sense of it all and find others like us. 

I'm not congratulating myself here, just recounting my experience. I listened and made a new friend who while we've had very different lives, we're still the same at the core. We just want to do better, be better for ourselves and everyone else. If you want to be understood, maybe try stepping out of yourself for a minute and listen to someone else. Many times if they aren't completely self absorbed, they will listen to you too because they get it. We can find our brothers and sisters out there, they are calling, we just have to listen to what they are saying. 

LGBT Science

With the sudden explosion of people talking about transgender etc, I thought it would be fitting to put some science out there.
Those of you who went to regular school should remember from biology about X and Y chromosomes however most people don't seem to know much more than that. Every fetus starts out female but there are actually several switches that can be activated independently of each other to make a male. You can have a male that is XX, females who are XY or only X and some other variations as well.
First thing: The bible (and probably other religions state) that "woman was taken out of man". That is backwards. Male and female come out of only female. Strike one against patriarchal gender constructs. - It's their world and we just live in it guys. Chew on that.
Second: Much of what makes you feel like a man or woman comes from the levels of chemicals in your body which you only have a certain amount of control over without pharmaceutical intervention. There have been reported cases of people who switch back and forth between feeling like a man or a woman at random intervals, maybe right in the middle of a conversation. This is not just based on the individual stating "I feel like..." but actually has been tested where they performed like an average male would while in "male" mode and vice versa. Just because your body chemistry doesn't flip flop or go against what is conventionally accepted for how someone with your genitalia should act, doesn't mean that other people don't have a legitimate claim to how they feel.
Third: Men's and women's brains are wired differently but who is to say that someone like Caitlyn Jenner doesn't have a brain that is wired like a "traditional" female? We are a product of our biology and little things can make a huge difference in our lives. There was a man who had two brain surgeries to deal with his epilepsy and after the second surgery, he changed becoming aggressive towards his wife sexually, never satiated. Eventually he was arrested for child pornography but the interesting thing was, the man was able to control himself while at work and only downloaded that shit at home. After getting on some medicine, all the sexual impulses went away but the man was kind of zombie after if I recall. The point is that while this guy could exercise some control, he was overwhelmed with the constant pressure and would give in at home. Here's the thing, someone who is transgender or any other flavor of LGBT isn't out there downloading child pornography. They are just trying to live their lives and find peace and happiness in the context of how they feel they fit into the world. They aren't bad or sick and hell, for all we know, they may be part of the evolutionary process. Why should they have to live in a constant struggle against what they feel inside if it's not hurting anyone or using someone without their consent?
Have you guys ever stopped to consider that any time we see someone trying to "evolve" humanity it's associated with hubris and madness? Did you know cancer cells can apparently live indefinitely outside of a human body? There are jellyfish that reverse age? Lobsters never die unless something kills them? Maybe if we studied nature and tried to adapt instead of fighting to keep the status quo then we would be much better off.
Thanks for reading my morning thoughts.
P.S. It's science Bitch!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fossils

It's a well established fact that people create and follow a god that is in their image. Another way to say that is that our gods make us comfortable with how we view ourselves fitting into the world. Isn't that what we do to everyone though, not just god? When most people look at others they see them through the lenses of their script for life and then cast everyone into a role. I can't tell you how many times I've had people view meeting me as something that will benefit them. They see someone who pays attention, cares about doing a good job and is reasonably intelligent - because it will make them more money or further their dreams. This isn't always the case but very few people let you tell them who you are and even fewer actually listen. 

Even when people change to the point it's undeniable, folks still won't let go of the world that's constructed in their mind through memories and conclusions that are like concrete. Caitlyn Jenner for instance decides to take on that name and embrace being a woman but many are going to have a difficult time not saying "Bruce" or "him, I mean her, you know what I mean". The world changes but we fight because it pushes against the structure of our mind which is rigid not malleable. But why are we rigid? Fear. Fear that when things change we will be left in the dust, irrelevant and wrong. 

Things go extinct because they don't adapt. As humans we've been able to control our environments for so long that we haven't had to face that reality. The world both is and isn't what people construct mentally. It is in the sense that we can slow change down by imposing our thoughts and opinions on it but it also isn't what we think. The universe is something we know very little about and as someone said "there is a lot we don't know that we don't know". We either need to start opening our minds or become extinct in the process squashed by those who have had enough and won't stand for things like fundamentalism or ISIS.