Fear(s)

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Fear is a concept many of us struggle with. Some believe the absence of fear is the key to strength. Others believe that everyone has fears, but the true test is whether or not one faces them. Unfortunately plenty of humans among us tend to ignore fear until it becomes all-consuming. What is the correct answer?

Not too long ago my personal belief was in the necessity to eliminate fear from oneself. Currently, what seems like the correct thing to do is to face your fears as you encounter them. It’s not the most Bruce Lee-esque solution, but it seems like the most realistic.

Absence of fear doesn’t seem plausible only because anyone who eliminates their fears will gain new ones. That’s part of the growing process after all. Whatever you lose, whether that be strengths, weaknesses, or fears, can only manifest into something new. Even as loved ones die, long forgotten memories reawaken.

Once, in a video interview, Chris Evans stated something along the lines of “…that’s why I took Captain America. Because it scared me. Maybe the best thing to do is to do what ever your most afraid of.” Of course that quote is quite butchered, but you get the point. It’s  a great concept. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, it’ s a concept that comes up often in Stoicism.

Maybe what you fear is actually what you love and you don’t know it yet. And fear, much like love isn’t some force you can conquer so naively. It can certainly be controlled, and that should be enough for anyone. Perhaps it’s time to climb Mount Everest, or you know, get over your fear of dogs. Tiny steps in the right direction ARE still steps after all.

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Blame Game

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Whenever one of these world catastrophe’s seems to happen, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the mourning stops, and the finger pointing begins. Then, like clockwork, the patronization and defensiveness soon follows. Thankfully Facebook, despite having a shit ton of subscribers, only has a small amount of vocal subscribers. Realistically, the vocal outrage ,and the attempts to express love through vocal outrage via internet mediums only serves to show a minuscule slice of humanity. Funnily enough, no arguments ever seem to begin through these mediums.

Well, that’s my observation anyway. People love preaching to their own choirs. Being from a blue state, and living in a red state for many months has given my Facebook feed a nice partisan flourish. Admittedly, this seemed like it might be a cool thing to see about a year ago. Now it just serves to show which friends are addicted to sensationalism.

Politics and news journalism are strange webs to get tangled up in, to say the least. Despite both being inherently deceitful, even if the gains can seem noble at times, no one really wants to believe their brands are deceitful. Coke sucks if you love Pepsi, and vice versa. Everyone sticks to their own fiercely and sticks their heads in the sand.

If you have Facebook, take a look at your vocally political friends. There’s almost never any opposition to what they’re saying. Whether it’s through some sneaky tech stuff, or just human nature, it seems our social circles are often a projection of our  own beliefs. Perhaps this is why so many great thinkers wrote books; they just happened to be THAT lonely.

Rule The World

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Do the intelligent rule the world? Do the brave? Is the world ruled by an evil conglomerate? Maybe it’s a little bit of everything, or none of them at all.

After reading most of the book, Quiet, by Susan Cain and watching the film Dear White People, many concepts of power have dawned on me. Both works establish a bias, or a perceived disadvantage in some way. Susan Cain talks about how introverts are constantly overlooked, and more importantly how introverts can use their natural tendencies to their advantage. Dear White People is partially about the power struggle between white and black students on an Ivy League University campus. But does anyone really rule the world anymore?

Sure politicians have their power, as do businessmen, and investors, but singular rule seems not only like a myth but an interestingly perpetuated one at that. If ever you were considered a highly intelligent person in high school, you were often made to believe that you will go on and the world will be easy for you. As Quiet demonstrates, this is not always the case as introverts tend to do well in high school, but then go on and have a difficult time in the real world. In Dear White People, this is also not the case as most of the character’s do not have that much power, as much as they have perceived power. Adding to that point, is that an earned sense of self-belief completes every character’s story arc.

So is there any validity in wanting to rule the world? Better yet, is there any validity in certain positions having power, or is the power really based on the perception of other people? My belief is that power has much more to do with perception than anything in most cases. Especially in the western world where democracy reigns supreme. Not to mention that many of the men and women who really built a name, and  a powerful reputation for themselves, tended to bend the rules. Perhaps true power is in self-belief and the willingness to stick your neck out for what you believe is the right thing to do.Whether or not the “right thing”, is actually right? Well that depends on perception as well.

The Secrets To Success?

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We all seem to want the advantage, or at least some insider knowledge when it comes to achieving what we want. Naturally, this hunger for secrets creates a huge amount of people selling the secrets. Are they right, are they wrong? Who doesn’t want the answer to that question?

Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Not everyone in western society is born with, or raised into having incredible self-esteem. Also a reoccurring theme in western society is that a can-do attitude, and high self-esteem is more important than talent. That idea is disputable, but it’s inarguable that we place a high value on the self-esteem, and optimism. Two easily definable traits of many extroverts.

Maybe this is why cocaine is so popular. Kidding aside, are there any valid secrets that these self-help gurus, religious texts, and many others espouse? Is every modern success story just a long story of someone who started from wealth, or whose family was already well connected?

No, that isn’t true of every story. Though, when the economy is not doing well the reality is that the people who achieve success more easily will always be the people who were raised by successful, wealthy, people. The only relatable factor in every story, and every self-help book, and so on, is perseverance.

Perseverance to get what you want may be the only thing that is ever relevant. Sure, you need the talent, sure you need the connections, and many other things. No human is going to be great at everything one needs to be a huge, major success. This is why middlemen exist in every facet, of ever day life. Some people are simply better at certain things than other people, and some people will persevere while others give up. Work smart, work hard, whatever your motto is, at the very least you must at least try.

Rules

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Despite our supposedly terrible scores in Math, many people in the U.S. seem to like formulas. People outside of the U.S. like formulas as well. It’s just that they tend to be much more talented mathematically. Is this esoteric enough yet? Great. Then it’s time to explain.

Recently it’s dawned on me that we adhere to many rules and formulas for situations that inherently have none. Dating is one such situation. Surely, if you were to start dating someone in the U.S., you might encounter very specific rules like how men must pay for the date. Another oddly specific rule from the female perspective, is that you aren’t supposed to give out at least until the third date.

The above two rules are just a taste of many rules that combine and become an alleged formula for starting a perfect relationship/dating life, as written by “experts”. Ironically, many of these “experts” are unhappily married, divorced, or somewhat shitty at maintaining relationships. Guess they can’t take their own advice?

This got me thinking about my dating life and of how many rules got broken in it. Those relationship experts would not be happy with me, to say the least. Kidding aside, with hundreds of millions of people dating out there, how can a handful of formulas work? Especially considering the reality that many of us are taught how unique, and special we are. Realistically, no one can be that unique, but there’s just so many of us from different places, and different backgrounds that the formulaic approach to anything based foremost on emotion seems ludicrous.

Thankfully, at some point, it seems that people realize this and that when another person is worth keeping around, the truly insignificant rules become just that. Shit, what if both people genuinely fall in love on the first date? Is the classic, and ridiculous rule of waiting a couple days until contacting them again worth it? Probably not. Then again, in defense of the “experts” overwhelming one another with excitement is not always smart.

Whatever happens, there will never be a formula. Some of what the guru’s say may be right when it comes to reading people, but relying on some magic love-formula, or set of rules seems futile. Love always seems to find it’s way to everyone, whether they know it or not.

Relationships And Stuff

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Western society teaches those who grow up in it, that love is about finding “The One” or however you would like to phrase it. This mentality does exist in many other societies, but it is a strong reoccurring theme in western culture. Everything from books, to movies, to music is full of examples of this kind of love. Our notion of “The One”, is very romantic, and surprisingly practical. At some point, it becomes difficult to manage so many relationships, romantic or otherwise.

Not that finding true love isn’t difficult, but it feels to me much more dependent on the person who is looking. Some people are ready for it, others are not. If there is any takeaway from life in your 20’s that should be it. It’s cliche, but to love someone else, one must love themselves first.

With employment, and many other of our obligations, this is not always the easiest thing to do. Especially if you are in a field where everyone is secretly sleeping with one another. That kind of environment is not always so conducive to having a great relationship.

All of that aside, what is also important is knowing what you want. In my observation, and in large part due to society, many women in their twenties struggle with knowing. Not that men don’t either, it’s just my observation that more women have a hard time discerning what they want. Many people knowing what they want, and many not knowing at all what they want, always seems like a recipe for disaster. If only the vetting process didn’t leave us so prone to disappointment.

Good Intentions

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Many moons ago, when my life outside of school or work revolved around video games, there was this video game that subconsciously taught me about life’s gray morality. Why bring up a video game? Well, Final Fantasy Tactics: War Of The Lions (Which is based on the same historical war that ASOIAF is based on) displays this concept wonderfully.

Questions arise from this game such as, “Are good people truly doing wonderful things if evil people are manipulating them for their own ill gain?” On paper, the answer is simple. No, of course those people aren’t really doing a great, or morally good service. Unfortunately, it isn’t always so easy to see ourselves in that objective of a view.

It’s difficult, especially when growing up, to be able to pick and choose what influences you. Political beliefs, religion, career path(s). Many defining characteristics are inadvertently controlled by those who surround you. Given these factors, though people often aren’t evil (most of the time), isn’t most of what you do suspect then?

To have control of oneself is a difficult task. But you are definitely being controlled if you don’t control yourself. Sure there are worse things to be, but all of your intentions, and ideas, and cozy viewpoints for a long portion of life are simply a reflection of where you come from. Some say we are getting the other viewpoints from around the world through media. But by the time the story gets to the reader, isn’t it tertiary? There are so many hands that touches a news article before the reader gets to see it. How can anyone be sure that news stories are the truth and not their own projected expectations?

Maybe we can never be certain, but isn’t it a noble idea, and one which western society thrives on, that trying and listening to what others have to say (To some extent.) is enough? For a culture that thrives on independence, we sure don’t approve of individual thought.

Breaking Biases

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Humans are fallible. (Thanks captain obvious.) What is strange about how humans conduct their businesses, no matter where you are in the world, is that there will always exist irrational biases. In fact, the book/movie which the title is derived from is all about breaking biases.

Moneyball is  an interesting book. At first it seems that if you aren’t into baseball, you may not enjoy the book. Truth be told, the book is easy to relate to if you are a passionate person about anything. Thematically, the book is more about how we tend to overlook what really matters in a person based on our biases. Fascinatingly, until this book came out, Major League Baseball was run mostly by people who were relying on faulty information to recruit baseball players.

Similarly, it is with this biased view with which we look at what people say, or their public persona. Saturday, one of my relatives was talking about how much she hates Kanye West. According to her, his antics, and loud mouth automatically disqualified his music as a worthwhile listen. Realistically, he hasn’t really done anything outlandish.

In fact, considering the number of musicians who have done crazy shit, he’s not even in the top ten. But what is it that makes us put stock into what he says? Is it that we have an inflated sense of value on free speech? Are we going to ignore people who do actually crazy things, like beat their wives, because they have quiet public personas?

It would be interesting to trace the bias that our love of free speech has on and individual’s perception. For one, it’s annoying when someone who, despite our opinions, makes very interestingly produced music is such a controversial figure for not a whole lot. Meanwhile, the truly evil people are just hiding in plain sight. People think the devil will come to you in a nice suit, extending a slick handshake. Realistically, we create the devil in our heads, and refuse to see what we create.

Divide And Label

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Labels are strange, yet absolutely necessary. It’s impossible to love writing and hate labels. What are words if not labels? What’s strange is that perhaps we as a society have grown a little too fond of attaching ourselves to labels.

From all the million genres of music, to politics, and beyond, we are fascinated by labels. And in addition we are fascinated in having labels that conflict with one another. Republican, Democrat, Feminist, Men’s Rights etc. Is all of it necessary?

Maybe, maybe not. Truthfully no matter how unique an individual is in thoughts, beliefs, and everything else that makes us human, there will be a handful of labels that define them. There’s nothing wrong with this concept. Where labels get hairy is when people conform themselves to fit an idea, rather than the idea already fitting them.

Anyone can pick any “ism” , or any philosophy out there and bash it. So there won’t be any discussion of one individual entity here. Rather than discussing a specific idea, what is of interest are the rules, and guidelines for every label,  and how the individuals in these groups enforce them. What comes to my  mind is the the short film, The Wave. What happens in The Wave, to my recollection, is that a classroom is divided into a class-system, and the top tier must enforce the crazy rules which the teacher creates. Of course, this creates divisiveness, chaos and a huge power struggle.

If you’re not Republican, or Democratic, or a Feminist, or a Hardcore Gamer, or a plethora of other things, that is an excuse for many people in the aforementioned groups to be condescending. In reality, if we were all to be completely honest with ourselves and one another, each of us would likely be a combination of contradictory viewpoints. All of us may be somewhat capitalistic, with some socialistic views. Or some of us may be a combination of Christian and Muslim viewpoints.

After writing the last few paragraphs, and thinking for a bit, it made me realize that the need to feel wanted may be a big part of grouping. And what also occurred to me, is that those of us whom are labeled with having extreme, or radical viewpoints are often the people who most desire the feeling of love.  There isn’t some obvious answer to our love of groups, and our urges to be desired. After all, those are just human necessities. Ironically, in a country that preaches individualism, we may have forgotten to believe in ourselves, and stand up for our own convictions rather than copy someone else’s. Would we be worse off for admitting that our core belief systems are patchworks, rather than unique standalone ideas?

Love And Marriage

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Go together like a horse and carriage. Just kidding. Cheesy references aside, it seems that the marriage times are upon me. There are about four weddings coming up within the next two years.

Relationships are strange. Especially since, for some reason, we went from allowing our biology to do the talking to following the rules put forth by religions. When you examine it, there aren’t a huge amount of differences between every major religion when it comes to marriage. Sure, Mormons often practice polygamy, and Buddhism is quite an outlier of a religion in most respects. As far as biology versus theology goes, most of us tend to break one common rule.

Fewer of us are saving ourselves for marriage. This is just a fact. Is this a good thing ,or a great thing? Okay, so clearly this blog is quite biased on pre-marital sex. Enough so that calling it pre-marital sex just seems weird.

What’s important here is that we feel some strange need to unify via religion, but often break the rules we are unifying under. What’s important about sex is that it’s, and always has been, an important part of intimacy. There isn’t any escaping that reality.

Is it appropriate, or even healthy for us to let a set of non-law-rules micro-manage our relationships? Especially a set of rules which every practitioner is guilty of bending at some point? You know it’s easy to answer these questions about religion, but this need to uphold some set of standards in our relationships is pervasive as hell. You could be atheist, or barely religious, but be a die-hard fan of a political party. Somehow, and to an extent, that political party’s outlook became embedded as your code.

Both parties, at least in the United States, speak frequently on moral, social , and cultural conduct.This is especially true when pundits, and talking heads speak about sex. Hell, if the radical on either side has anything in common, it’s their ability to freak out over a female’s nipple. Somehow most of the western world has adopted this prudish way of thinking, and sense of entitlement when telling people how to conduct themselves sexually.

On one hand, the real question is, how on earth did religion, and its set of rules on conduct embed itself into our conscience so deeply? Should we continue to allow this sort of thinking control our relationships, and sex drive? For a world where technology advances so quickly, culture sure feels directionless sometimes.