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Unintended Cliffhanger

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Yeah, so my column in the newspaper got cut off at the end. It’s most likely my fault, since page 5 was mine to design. But anyway, here’s the story in full (excuse typos…I can’t type to save my life, and my caps lock key is in a weird place):

Living in the present leads down the path to fulfillment

Expectation is humanity’s greatest affliction. We, as humans, read so much into things. We want to think that there’s meaning behind the mundane phenomena of everyday life, that those small actions we perform are working towards some greater good, or some final actualization of our being. We want to think that we have purpose in this life, and that the rewards we will reap from the fulfillment of our destinies are worth every trial and hardship we must endure, every burden we must bear, in order to reach that final peace. 

We push ourselves, push ourselves to succeed, to get ahead, to make our voices heard, to achieve that purpose we so long for. But for what end? At some point we realize–perhaps too late–that, in pushing ourselves into overdrive, we have not, even for a moment, actually lived. We have spent all our time scratching and clawing our way up the ladder, only to find nothing but a patch of empty air at the top. 

Why is satisfaction so elusive?

In striving to be the best, we have brought such great disappointment upon ourselves.

Sadly, the true nature of the issue goes unrecognized. Irrationally, we take the burden of our discontent and rest it on the shoulders of the next generation. Our flawed rationale tells us that, by encouraging our sons and daughters to be the best, to wipe out the competition and reach the top of that ladder, we can compensate for our shortcomings. In doing so, however, we have only doomed them to the same fate we ourselves have suffered: a life tainted by bitter disappointment.

And so our lives, the most precious gifts we will ever receive, are wasted. The years take away from us more than we have gained by living them, a sad truth revealed by the lines on our foreheads, the shadows under our eyes, the heaviness on our hearts, and the undefinable emptiness within.

The weight of this truth is undoubtedly heavy. But how it affects our lives will be determined by how we choose to shoulder it. The reality is that we don’t have time to wallow in defeatism and self-pity; we have to accept our brief existence for what it is, and carry on. Life, though it may not necessarily have any meaning beyond that which we as humans give it, is not something to be thrown away or lived in misery. Now and the future–they’re all we have.

The future, then, should be considered something to look forward to, not a preoccupation. Living in the future brings no satisfaction; living in a dream of grand things to come will only serve to detract from the richness of being.

But living in the present–ah, that is a thing most beautiful!

We must savor these moments as they pass through us, enjoy them before they slip into the past. Then as we lay dying, we can look back upon those moments as ones lived to the fullest, instead of dwelling on the unfulfilled dreams of the futures we never lived. Living in the moment is the one path to true inner peace. That is how life, that priceless gift of existence, made all the more precious by its brevity, should be enjoyed. Don’t fret that you may end up only as a number in a census report, rather than a footnote in a history book. Instead, spend the time that is given to you discovering the true joy of breathing in the fresh, crisp air of a cool winter morning…

The comforting sound of a train weaving its way through the twilight to some faraway destination…

The play of light on the waves in a pool, and your reflection in the glassy surface as you look up from the bottom…

The feel of coins slipping through your fingers like so many glistening fish scales…

The cool touch of rain as it traces silvery webs across your face…

The glow of a tree in autumn, set afire by hundreds of golden, dying leaves…

The musty smell of an old, yellowed book, and the crisp, inky smell of its newer counterpart…

The gentle throbbing ache that creeps into your muscles as you tackle a hill on your bike, the small bit of pain that reminds you that you are indeed alive.

Categories: Ideas and Opinions

Or so they say…

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Just a little something.

***

They say, “Keep working harder.” But for what end?

When you fall, they say, “Keep holding on.” Holding on to what? A life that ends in nothingness? A life that will most likely be forgotten? You are a number, nothing more. When you die, you become a statistic.

And this life is all we get.

They say, “Life is a gift.” But what if it’s more a curse?

Categories: Ideas and Opinions

“The spin stops here.” Yeah, right.

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Before you read, visit this site:  http://conservapedia.com/Main_Page

My first reaction was to laugh. All I could think was, Are you serious? People really lap up this kind of garbage? Then it hit me. They really do. It’s just so hard to believe.

The people who read those articles want to be fed information that will fuel their radical views, without the danger of encountering anything that would refute them. And, of course, that’s what makes the great monstrosity “liberal media” so terrible: they offer the other side of the story, clear proof of their efforts to brainwash the public with socialist propaganda.

I’m not a shrink, but I’m pretty sure I know the term for this kind of behavior: projection.

Projection (noun):

Psychology.

a. the tendency to ascribe to another person feelings, thoughts, or attitudes present in oneself, or to regard external reality as embodying such feelings, thoughts, etc., in some way.

You tell your readers that President Obama is trying to brainwash our children, that global warming is a myth created by power-hungry liberals seeking control over the energy market, that homosexuality breeds domestic violence, and then you turn around and give yourself the title “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia.” Is that not bias? Is that not propaganda?

On a more personal note:

Scrolling down the page, I found a box with links to the most popular Conservapedia articles. “Atheism,” I noticed, was second on the list, right after “Evolution.” I clicked on it. I read the article–or as much of it as I could stomach. Atheism, apparently, leads to mass murder. Atheists are, apparently, immoral, and less likely to donate to charity. Atheism, apparently, is bad for your mental health, and is a leading cause of suicide.

Wow. Just wow.

It’s amusing to me to think that anyone would make such absurd connections. But, as an atheist myself, I also find it insulting. The absence of religion does not indicate the absence of morality, or of sanity, for that matter. I, for one, would like to think that I have pretty damn good morals, and I assure you my mental health is in good shape. Does my prose sound like the ravings of a madman to you?

Do you know what the leading cause of suicide is? Untreated depression. A psychological disorder, not a philosophical one.

I have nothing against conservatives. But seriously, guys, give it a rest. No one wants to have your views shoved down their throat.

Categories: Ideas and Opinions Tags: ,

“We are the nobodies, we wanna be somebodies…”

October 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Expectation is humanity’s greatest affliction. We, as humans, read so much into things. We want to think that there’s meaning behind the mundane phenomena of every day life, that those small actions we perform are working towards some greater good, or some final actualization of our being. We want to think that we have a purpose in this life, and that the awards we will reap from the fulfillment of our destinies are worth every trial and hardship we must endure in order to reach that final peace.

We push ourselves. Push ourselves to succeed, to get ahead, to make a difference, to make our voices heard, to achieve that sense of purpose we’ve always longed for. But for what end? At some point in our lives, we realize that, in pushing ourselves into overdrive, we have not, even for a minute, actually lived. We have spent all our time scratching and clawing our way up the ladder, only to find nothing but a patch of empty air at the top.

Why can we never be satisfied?

We have brought such great disappointment upon ourselves.

Categories: Ideas and Opinions

The Great ‘Divorce’ of American Society: Part 2

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Dad’s cold reply, though not exactly out of character, took us both by surprise. Sitting across the table from my mother, I saw a look of pain pass briefly over her face, then vanish, leaving behind an unreadable mask set with two vacant, staring eyes. I could feel the tension in the air, like a string stretched taut between them. And there I was again, a tightrope walker, trembling on that string, weighed down by the awkward silence that ensued. Yet one couldn’t really call it silence. I could hear the unspoken words, sense the emotions that lay barely concealed behind their cold expressions. A fight just waiting to happen.

It did happen, later that night. It began in low, agitated whispers, then rose to a crescendo as those pent up feelings were finally released into the air. Lying in my bed, I couldn’t quite distinguish their words, but I could hear the outrage behind them, the hurt, the hopelessness, even the fear.

Weeks later, when my parents announced to me, in strangely calm voices, that they were separating, all I could think was, How can this be happening to me?

***

Another day in another year at another school. Another first day. I’m nervous, perhaps more than ought to be. It seems like everyone is sitting there gawking at me as I shuffle through the cafeteria, tray in hand; can just feel their stares pricking me like little needles. But I tell myself that I’m just being paranoid.

I pass by row after row of tables, searching, perhaps in vain, for some place to sit. There’s a sort of code among high school students, a set of unspoken rules that all must follow if they want to avoid conflict. That code applies especially to the cafeteria. Each group claims a territory, defends it fiercely, and anyone who invades their space places themselves in a very precarious situation. In this particular school, as I discovered on my first day, there is one cluster of students who always sit at the round table in the far corner, whispering to each other. And they don’t like company.

I guess I missed the memo.

***

She was my best friend, my sister, my most trusted confidant, all rolled into one. And then she changed, almost overnight it seemed. We used to laugh, gossip, poke fun at each other. Now, when she picks me up after school, we barely speak to one another. Sometimes we can’t even make it past “Hello.” There’s a wall between us. A Great Wall of China. And I can’t seem to find a way around it.

“How was school?” she asked me today as I slid into the passenger seat and closed the door with a loud thunk.

“Fine.” Yeah, sure it was fine. Until I got that test back. I’ve tried so hard to do well. But you don’t see that, do you? You think I’m lazy, incompetent. Don’t you?

“Homework?”

“Yeah.” Enough to keep me in my room for the rest of the evening. Away from you.

“Hey, when you finish, do you want to, you know, get out of the house and do something?”

“Big project.” A project I already finished. I just don’t want to get into another argument. Like the one we had last week when we went to see that movie. I’m tired of fighting. It hurts me. More than you’ll ever know.

“Oh.”

And that was the end of our conversation.

***

Disharmony is pervasive. Even if you’re not a political junkie, even if you’re not up-to-date on current events, if you can identify with one of the above situations…this philosophy of separation, of alienation, has become America’s new creed. It is a mindset so deeply engrained in the nation’s conscience that, instead of generating concern, it disappears into the noise in the background of everyday life. Our generation has grown up in a world in which healthy relationships are a rare commodity, in which hostility is the one unifying element of our society. We have grown up thinking, whether consciously or subconsciously, that nothing good will last, that peace is more transient than human life. Even the way we define peace has changed. What was once considered to be a full-blown fight between disagreeing parents is now merely an argument by today’s standards.

We are divided at work, at school, almost everywhere we go, between gender, race, religion, wealth. It’s not because we are compelled to do so by any act of government or law enforcement agency, but because such divisiveness has become the norm. And that is why it has gone unnoticed–it is now the accepted standard of our society. It seems ironic– paradoxical, almost–that a species so social by nature, so dependent on community, would choose to divide itself. Even our forefathers recognized unity as the most important ingredient of a successful nation. Our state motto, “United we stand, divided we fall,” was adopted in…more perfect union…

I suppose you might dismiss what I have written here as the product of an overly cynical teenage mind. And while I’ll admit my prose often leans toward the melodramatic, it is not my goal here to rant and rave about the world’s misery, but rather to make a point about the standards of today’s society. And my point is this: the attitudes we have embraced are not acceptable.

This is my philosophical crusade. If I can make one of my readers think twice, I will consider it a crusade won. I’m not trying to take on the world. That would be an impossible feat for one so young and with so little influence in this world as myself. But perhaps, by making this appeal to you, my fellow students, I can start a chain reaction of sorts. It may not go far (I am not so naïve as to expect it to), but perhaps it will create a little pocket of harmony, whether it be throughout the school, or even just among a little cluster of students, that will restore some small amount of civility to our lives.

Categories: Ideas and Opinions

Tolerance is a Must

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

For all who may care…

I know my views on religion are controversial, at least in the eyes of some. But I want to make just a few things clear:

-I am not at all against religion. Religion provides for many a sense of community, and  much else besides. I have many friends of faith, and I love them dearly.

-I am not a radical. I am not one to burn bibles or protest against having the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t want conflict. Just tolerance and understanding.

-Just because I’m an atheist does not mean I don’t have morals. Quite the contrary. Though I believe that “right” and “wrong” are purely human notions, not set in place by a higher power, I do have my own convictions about what is moral and immoral, just as everyone else does. My views may differ from yours, but that does not necessarily make them wrong. We all see the world through different eyes.

-I love having intelligent conversations with people about religion. It’s fascinating, and I think it allows me to better understand why people believe what they do, and why I don’t believe. I find it to be a very enriching experience.

Last, and most certainly not least (in fact, probably most importantly):

-I am fairly firm in my views, just as you may be in yours. I respect those of faith, and try my best to listen to what they have to say with an open heart and mind. But I expect the same in return. Try to understand my side, even if you do not necessarily agree with my position. Do not threaten me  by telling me that I will burn in Hell, and please, please do not try to convert me. How would you feel if I tried to shove my atheism down your throat? Quite bothered, I would imagine.

“Think for yourselves, and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.” -Voltaire

Categories: Ideas and Opinions

The Great ‘Divorce’ of American Society

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

This is the rough draft of what will soon be published in The Purple Gem. I will eventually have a blog on the Purple Gem website that corresponds to my column, currently titled “Points to Ponder.” This is soon to change as well, for that title seems far too frivolous for the kind of subject matter I’ll be dealing with. But for now I’ll post it here, and hopefully get some good feedback.

Oh, yes, and excuse the typos, if there are any. I was in a bit of a rush when I typed this up.

Inspiration often comes to me from unusual places. And while music is recognized by many as a means to stimulate thought, it is more often Mozart that comes to mind as a source of inspiration than it is heavy metal. Yet that is where the idea for this commentary was born–in the rumble of drums and the rise and fall of angry voices. The one song that in particular sparked this idea was “Sad Statue” by System of a Down. There is one line, nestled within the tempest of sound, that really caught my attention: “You and me will all go down in history with a sad Statue of Liberty and a generation that didn’t agree.” And how true. Ours, it seems, is the most divided generation yet to have walked this Earth, and as time slips steadily into the future, the chasms that separate us seem only to widen.

The ideal America, or the dream of it, has been gradually slipping through our fingers as we grasp at ways to undermine the beliefs of those whom we strongly disagree with. Yet so focused are we on our mudslinging and intransigent in our particular ideologies that the severity of the situation is often understated or even completely overlooked. And, all too often, those who see what is happening are either too apathetic to act on it, or feel that their efforts as individuals will make no headway against the sweeping tide of divisiveness. Because of such widespread inaction, it seems to me that the state of affairs in this nation will only continue to deteriorate.

The breeding ground of most of our problems, to put it in the simplest, broadest of terms, is intolerance. Often sparked by fear, and fueled by prejudices and stereotypes, intolerance in its various forms (of which there are many) has become the blight of our society, and flies in the face of the foundation of morals and ideals upon which this nation was built. America was meant to be a place of equality, a country in which people of a wide variety of beliefs and backgrounds could unite under a single creed.  But this wealth of diversity, while it has created a rich culture and promoted the exchange of ideas and opinions, has also led to so much conflict.

Intolerance has infiltrated so many aspects of our lives, from religion, to politics, to big social issues such as abortion and gay rights. Misconceptions and misunderstandings define the relationships between people of different faiths; non-believers are shunned–portrayed as malevolent, sinful dissenters. Both anti-abortion groups and their opponents employ violence to further their causes; gays have become the most persecuted demographic in the nation, and are frequently discriminated against. Liberals and conservatives squabble over petty disagreements; staunch Democrats and their equally steadfast Republican counterparts  refuse to compromise, choosing instead to throw insults at each other while policies remain gridlocked. And to think, our government was founded upon the principles of bargaining and compromise!

But the once flaming spirit of compromise had dwindled to a flickering spark. Americans have begun to gravitate towards the extremes of political ideologies, leaving behind a wasteland that was once a flourishing middle ground. The few who still inhabit the moderate middle are under constant pressure from both the far left and far right, who are unwavering in their efforts  to draw them from their positions on the fence and recruit them to their ranks of followers….

That’s all, folks (at least for now). I think I’m going to make this a two-part series. I’ve dealt with animosity and intolerance in the public arena, and my next goal is to look at the same sort of divisions that exist in people’s private lives (like the growing divorce rate, for example).

Tell me what you think.

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