we search

Thursday 31 May 2007

In the mindset I was in when I wrote yesterday about being @ the crossroads, it was appropriate for me to read the following words in a devotional by Frederick Buechner I have been following for the past 6 months:

“time… starts at whatever moment it is at which the unthinking and timeless innocence of childhood ends… one way or another the journey through time starts for us all… a journey in search… We search for a self to be. We search for other selves to love. We search for work to do.”

I don’t know when I left my childhood behind, but I think it happened recently. Others used words like naivety to describe it, but it was really just that childhood innocence that we all hold on to as long as we can. I certainly didn’t want to give it up, but it went nonetheless, and now I’m in search.

What I need now is just to let God lead me to those things I seek and to a return to being once again “a mature, responsible, 6-year-old.” I still think I have more of my innocence left than some, but I want it all back.  It’ll just take some searching in the mean time.

@ the crossroads

Wednesday 30 May 2007

One definition for a crossroads I found was “a crisis situation or point in time when a critical decision must be made.” In a big way that’s where I seem to find myself these days. And some days, yes, it does feel like a crisis situation.

One thing that I’ve learned about myself over the past 10 months is how important being in control is in my life. It comes out in my desire in such things as planning out my day, scheduling the weeks and even months ahead of me, staying sober, and making sure I have enough money for anything that could possibly happen or go wrong.

For the longest time I’ve had a vision for the year or two in front of me, and even when that vision has changed, I’ve never really been in the situation where I am now, where I have nothing solid lined up after 10 August (though hopefully that date will soon change to 20 November…). But even then, things are still very much up in the air after that. Can I handle that? Well, I’m doing OK, but I could be doing better — it’s not easy (for me).

A few weeks ago I was asked whether anything had really ever come easy, in terms of making decisions about life, and I think the interesting thing is that, in many ways, it has been pretty easy until now. I could probably have a pretty secure road if I just decided to stay in teaching for the next 30-35 years, but I’m just not sure that’s where I’m being led. What scares me (and it does scare me) is that the other things I have in mind to do are somewhat risky and far from being a sure thing. I never doubted that I could make a career being a math teacher, but is that any more what I want? Or what aspects of it do I like that I’d want to retain in the future?

As I embark on the decision making process that will take me on my next step in this journey we call life (a big cliche, but whatever), I know that the next few years, and even the rest of my life, may not be the “sure thing” or provide the security that my personality desires. That will definitely be a challenge, but I think it is also something I need to do is live without regrets, which is something very important to me, as well.

When I thought about writing this, I thought it would deal with how I really don’t feel grounded or secure in much of anything @ this point in my life — location, job, relationship, schooling — and how different and difficult that is for me. It’s hard to have nothing to hold on to that you know for sure. I guess it’s more that, when I was growing up and approaching my current age, I just assumed that a 25-year-old would have at least something to be grounded with. But I don’t — I guess that just means I have to alter my expectations about what life is and when things happen, letting the freedom excite rather than frighten me.

friends gone by

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Do you have friends that you miss? I don’t mean the friends you talk to but don’t get to see often because you live in different places. I’m talking about the people you were once friends with but with whom now, for whatever reason, you’re not. I know you have them. We all do.

Some of them are people you’ve just lost track of. They were probably amazing friends at a certain time in your life but you went on different paths and never stayed in touch. With the current generations high mobility rate, I’m sure this happens a lot today, especially with friends from all ages of schooling. A lot of people I called friends in college I don’t stay in touch with any more, though the Internet can be helpful sometimes in locating people (though I don’t fool myself into thinking we’re really “friends” any more).

I’ve moved around a lot, but there are still a good number of friends that I’ve been able to hold on to even though the distance makes it increasing harder as the years go by. I suppose it’s just the reality of it all that it’s easier to be friends when you’re geographically close. It takes effort to keep up a friendship divided when separated by states (and sometimes even oceans), but I treasure them enough to make sure I don’t lose contact.

But there are a couple people (they may even know who they are, though they’d probably never read this) who, even though I might love to still be their friends, I’m not. It’s not about distance or proximity but more about what exactly make us friends in the first place. And it’s hard for me to let go of those friends, even though I probably need to move on. There are moments or situations that make me recall their memory, and I miss them. I wonder what they’re up to at this point in their lives, where they might be living and what they might be doing. Maybe I’m nostalgic for friendships that could no longer exist.

In any case, there are some people I just wish I could once again label as friends. But for now, I guess I’ll just have to try and make the memories not hurt so badly.

our human disease(s)

Tuesday 22 May 2007

Two things I heard this weekend got me thinking:
First, there was the question of whether we (humans) would first (a) blow ourselves up, or (b) make our planet uninhabitable. (The consensus was for the bombs.)
Second were the words of my pastor Sunday morning (don’t worry, I won’t get all religious on you): “Some of us will never be well because we’ve become too accustomed to our disease.”

So I was trying to think, “What is, as a human ‘society,’ our ‘disease?’” When you think about it, we have so many, don’t we? Where do you start?

An easy one in this country is racism. Of course, not all people are afflicted with this disease. According to what I’ve been learning/discovering this year, all whites are inherently racist and all people of color are not, because they can’t be. This isn’t the kind of racism people talk about when they usually mean “bigotry,” but this is the racism our society has been built on and continues to perpetuate. It really is a disease, and I want to commend all those who are standing up and taking action to reverse this disease that has been hundreds of years in the making. I know I’m not doing all I can, and I challenge you as I challenge myself to stand up and start.

Greed is another “disease” of this world. I could expand on this, but I’m not sure if it really even needs expansion. I watched a movie/documentary this weekend called The Yes Men (link) which opened my eyes to some of the things the WTO, World Trade Organization, does to help international corporations exploit workers in third world countries. The movie The Corporation is a great example about how we have created greed machines in this world.

Violence. I’m not stupid enough to point to guns as the problem here. But the creation of a culture where a 4-year-old girl can be killed in a drive by shooting (something that happened last week here in Milwaukee) where the reaction is, yes, one of horror but also one where we know it’s more a fact of life than something that can be changed has a disease. Go and reread my pastor’s quote and you’ll see the problem with that.

Xenophobia. Fundamentalism. This is only the start of what could be a very, very long list. I invite you to add others through comments or other avenues.

But I think the real issue, the real “disease,” isn’t specifically any of these. I think the real disease is complacency. The real disease is the belief that this is the way the world is there really isn’t much I can do to change that. The real disease isn’t any of the actual “diseases” that we can point to as problems – it’s our unwillingness to do anything about them.

If a doctor diagnosed me with a life-threatening disease and I decided to let it run its course and see if I could survive instead of seeking treatment, you’d probably say I was pretty stupid. So why do we allow ourselves to live in that exact same mindset when it comes to thinking about our world and the people in it?

All the things I listed and many more are killing us, if not physically – though some of them surely do – then they’re killing our souls, which, really, is 100 times worse. I’m not saying I’m any better than you or most at doing something about the problem. It’s hard not to be complacent. But until we get off our asses and demand change, we can expect the disease of complacency and all that flourishes because of it to lead each and every one of to a slow and agonizing death.

it’s latin to me

Thursday 17 May 2007

I’m not sure why I started thinking about this yesterday, but I got really curious what exactly “e.g.” stands for. So after a few quick searches through my dictionary, which I actually use more than you could probably guess, here are a few words/abbreviations that you may have wondered about before, too.

e. g. — Latin; exempli gratia; literally “for example”

i. e. — Latin; id est; literally “that is,” but I usually think of it as “such as” or “as in”

et al — Latin; shortened form of et alli (masc), et aliae (fem), and et alia (neut); literally “and others,” you see it a lot in lists of authors when they don’t want to list them all

m. o. — Latin; modus operandi; literally “mode of operation” or mode of working

sic — actually an English word (I had no idea), though from the Latin meaning “so” or “thus,” usually seen in parentheses when something is written/quoted as it was originally written, most often used because there was some kind of mistake the first time and it the current writer wants you to know it was the way the earlier writer wrote it

gas (i.e. petrol)

Wednesday 16 May 2007

So it’s confirmed: people are still not buying less gas, even with prices @ a record high.
And New York City drivers don’t want to pay up to $8 to travel in and around the city. Can you blame them?

We’re a society of convenience, and it seems that maybe even the ultimate incentive, money, may not be able to change that. Or maybe it will just take a little more incentive than the current situation.

I’ve been around, as they say, growing up ultra-rural (1200 people in “my little town”), living, working, and learning in the suburbs of Chicago for 6 years after high school, and now living in the metropolis they call Milwaukee. Hopefully that gives me a little perspective on the issue of when driving is and isn’t necessary.

Scenario 1–Hicksville: For those people who live in the “boonies” who live miles away from where they work and who have no access to any sort of public transportation, there is really no option by the gas-guzzling automobile. However, there are some things to consider, like moving closer to where you work, which may be more of a sacrifice than one is willing to make, or carpooling, which is usually possible in most cases. Since there are no buses or trains, on usually requires a car to travel to locations such as movie theaters, shopping malls, and grocery stores. Since there is less of a “choice” to buy gas, it is good that gas tends to me more inexpensive in rural areas. (On a side note, there was a town an hour from where I grew actually called Hicksville.)

Scenario 2–The ‘Burbs: I actually won’t get into a whole rant and rave about the suburbs at this juncture – maybe somewhere down the line – but the whole idea of the suburbs is quite interesting. Those who choose (there is a choice involved here) to live in the suburbs and work in the city, which is usually the case, often do have some options for their transportation needs, depending on their actual location. Be it by bus or train, many people can either use public transportation for their daily commute or drive a portion of the distance and park and ride, both options freeing the traveler to read or do work while commuting. Getting other places can be a bit of a hassle, though, so one might still want a car to go shopping and get to other locations, depending on your specific public transportation circumstances, but minimizing gas use is still much more possible than in a rural setting.

Scenario 3–City Live: So you’ve chosen to live in the city? Great! Now sell your car and start saving money! Not only do you save money on gas, but you won’t have to pay for car insurance, license plates, oil changes, tune-ups, new tires, and however much you’re paying on your car loan. This, of course, assumes you work in the city too, but if you can get to work using a bus or train, you can probably get anywhere else you “need” to get, too. My experiences living the past two-ish years without a car have definitely shown me that you don’t “need” a car, but it is without question a very nice convenience. Things like getting groceries can be hard, but not impossible, without a car, depending on your distance from the store and how much you’re buying at once. It’s definitely harder to travel out of town, and you can’t get everywhere you’d want or even need to get for certain events, but here’s the kicker: almost everyone else has a car, so if you really need to get somewhere special that the trains and buses can’t reach, you can probably find a ride. Until that aspect of life changes and the number of cars lessen and buses and trains don’t become only “for those who can’t afford a car” (and hopefully that day will come), I’ve found that most people are more than happy to give you a ride when you’re in a bind.

So what does this mean? Well, the U.S. still has it pretty well compared to most 1st World countries, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a more graduated pricing structure based on the 3 scenarios above, where prices are higher where other transportation options are available. Until then, we will have to hope everyone makes conscious efforts to continue saving gas wherever they are able, even if for you that can only mean taking a bus, train, or plane the next time your travel out of town. I hope you’ll continue to think about your choices and the effect they are having on the world and its future.

(As a prelude to some likely future installment on cities and suburbs, check out this website and the sustainability, or likely unsustainablility, of most cities.)

the cycles of life and television

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Tonight is the final episode of Gilmore Girls. It is definitely a sad day for me, but I am approaching it much differently than I did the series finale of my first truly beloved show way back in 1998, Seinfeld.

I have watched Gilmore Girls regularly/obsessively since early 2003, midway through its 3rd season. I was actually introduced to it early in its run, during season 1, but I didn’t really give it a chance back then. Thankfully, though, the “invention” of TV shows on DVD has helped me catch up. But now, finishing its 7th season, I feel like Gilmore Girls has run its course. If we think about life, there are openings and closings, beginnings and endings, and the same is true for television shows. It’s been a very enjoyable show for me, and I know that I’ll be able to continue to experience the beauty of Star’s Hollow for years to come, thanks to the aforementioned DVDs.

Sports Night, a show that existed for only 2 years in the late 90s, is a bit of a different story. Similarly Arrested Development more recently, it was critically acclaimed but didn’t have the ratings to sustain it more than a few years. It was cut down far too early, but it still lives on in DVD form. In fact, I watched all of season 2 of Sports Night during my spring break. If you haven’t seen it and ever get the chance to watch some episodes, I highly recommend it. A great mix of comedy and drama, much like Gilmore Girls, it pushed the likes of Felicity Huffman and Peter Krause into the television spotlight years before Desperate Housewives and Six Feet Under.

When Seinfeld ended, I was devastated. Maybe it was because it came at a time for me when I wasn’t ready for change and didn’t recognize and understand the importance of the cycles of life. It was the first time a show I really loved was taken off the air, and even though I had watched many episodes on syndication and found it relatively late in its run, I still felt cheated. How could they take this part of my life away from me? Now that it has been gone nearly 10 years, I really don’t watch it any more, even though there is an episode or more from its great catalog on somewhere almost every day. Even if I don’t watch it now, it still holds many significant memories of my comedic growth.

Things will always change. In everything there is a start and a finish, be it a job, a relationship, a living situation, a time of education, or anything else. Sometimes the end is death, but most of the time it’s not. As we age, we get more accustomed to things ending. Sometimes the end may come more easily and it may seem like the appropriate time, as it does now for Gilmore Girls, but other times we won’t want it to end and will plead for things to continue.

Eventually, though, we all adjust to the changes life brings us. Maybe there will be some new TV show that “replaces” the Girls this fall or a few years down the line, but maybe not. Similarly, as jobs and relationships and the like draw to a close, we must get past them however we can. Sometimes it will come easily, maybe in a few days of even in a few hours. Sometimes it may take years or never really happen.

But we get by. We deal with the cycles of life much the same way we do the cycles of television: we continue to tune in.

(Also, here is an interesting article related to television and pop culture: Syracuse prof is pop culture ambassador )