Our wood boxes we call “home”

When your mind is clear you see that houses are just protective boxes of wood that we hang stuff in that we feel resonates with some element of ourselves or because we feel like we have to.

These wood boxes represent something fundamental to the human experience. That is, our attachment of ideas to materials, which corresponds to a propensity to overcomplicate out of a desire for there to be meaning in life.

We’ve been creating meaning out of nothing since we developed the ability to communicate.

So, when the world feels complex and overwhelming, remember, it’s all just imagined.

Life is, truly, what you make it.

Professionals, family relationships, and the challenge of a successful career

I know multiple people whose lives are strained by their professional desires. They and their partners:

  1. Live in different states because that’s where their careers took them;
  2. Have divorced because one was too focused on their career and neglected their family life; or
  3. Are forced to compromise because one person got offered their dream job.

Institutionalized professionalism is an outgrowth of capitalism that undermines the well-being of families and personal livelihood.

“If it were easy everyone would do it.”

If it were easy, graduate students wouldn’t have higher rates of mental illness. If it were easy, they could see their families, friends, and loved ones more often. If it were easy, we’d have more of a skilled workforce because people wouldn’t drop out of school because it was too much pressure or never enroll because they thought they couldn’t cut it.

In some careers, it gets easier after school. In many, it doesn’t. It can become consuming. You might work 60 or more hours a week or take on the profession as a lifestyle – allowing it to define you.

Scouting ants and the artist’s role

To survive, ant colonies require some members to act as scouts. These are the rare few who venture beyond the paths that have proven to lead to a food source. Many of these ants never return. They risk their own lives for the benefit of the colony.

The artist is a scout. They seek to venture beyond accepted wisdom and norms of the culture and discover new paths. It is in these paths that genius is born. Instead of death, however, their risk is isolation and misunderstanding. No one ever succeeded in a remarkable fashion that was unwilling to risk breaching conformity.

 

Instagram, pop culture, and hedonistic tendencies

I recently got an Instagram. I think it’s a fun way to promote ideas, people, and stuff I care about like libraries and comic books. But since joining I’ve noticed something interesting. Namely, it reveals things about people I didn’t realize.

It shows me that people I know like pictures of scantily-clad women. It’s surprising, but perhaps shouldn’t be. I mean it’s normal, I guess, right? And I suppose it could be much worse.

About two months ago, I watched this movie on Netflix called The American Meme. It showed how there is a subculture in America (presumably youth culture) that loves to watch people just act like idiots.

It’s like total Epicureanism – the worship of mental pleasure; ultimate indulgence in absurdist vice, hedonism.

I’m not sure if society has always been plagued by such debauchery or craving to witness irrational, thoughtless activities. Surely, we’ve been racist, sexist, greedy, and selfish for a long time.

However, I think today it’s evolved into something much more extreme, which has been perpetuated by media.

There are so many movies that glorify sex or objectivism, alcoholism, and drug abuse. What’s more, the celebrities in these films have become staples of cultural paradigms thanks to a rise in magazines like People and J-14. I don’t know the answers to these issues, nor do I have them widely explored.

I’m bringing them up because I think it’s important to have an open dialogue about where we’re moving as a society. This conversation at this point might be trite. Think about how many people were up in arms about the rise of rock n’ roll, MTV, hip hop, and Eminem’s mainstream success. The list could go for hours. Though it’s continually necessary to think about whether we’re creating fertile ground for the healthy, thriving development of our children.

These thoughts have led me to start thinking about cultural theorists such as Karl Popper and Theodor Adorno, as well as concepts related to post-consumerism and post-materialism. Hopefully, I’ll get time to read these in the next 3 to 5 years. Meanwhile, I am just striving to get my daily actions in order by reading books like Good to Great and The War of Art.

You can’t change the world until your own motivations are right.

More on being yourself by Ralph Waldo Emerson from Self-Reliance

E.E. Cummings said, “To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any humanRalph Waldo Emerson being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

This is a common theme throughout history; the greatest thinkers have praised originality.

This is a concept worth continuing a discussion about because the dangers of conformity are as alive as ever.

Perhaps one of the greatest manifestos on individualism is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Indeed, in perfect union with Cummings’s philosophy is Emerson’s quote that:

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Here are a few other remarkable statements from that essay:

  • To believe our own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…
  • Insist on yourself; never imitate.
  • Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare?  Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton?  Every great man is a unique.

For more quotes and their meanings, see this link

 

The criminal justice system in America

You should know about it. Too many people don’t realize just how damaging it is to so many lives. For example, mandatory minimum sentencing is cited by many to be untenable, private prison systems incentivize incarceration, and minorities have been arguably unfairly targeted.

To start your journey, check out this article about how more than 90 percent of state and federal criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas, often by people who say they didn’t commit a crime.

Also, watch 13th by Ava DuVernay on Netflix. It’s my first in-depth exploration of these issues. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary and won multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, Best Documentary at the BAFTA Film Awards, and many others.

From Wikipedia:

DuVernay contends that slavery has been perpetuated in practices since the end of the American Civil War through such actions as criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings and Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weigh more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. She examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, demonstrating how much money is being made by corporations from such incarcerations.

13th has garnered acclaim from film critics. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards, and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.

CityLab’s visual exploration of how public libraries came to be

CityLab is a website dedicated to the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those who want to live there. Through sharp analysis, original reporting, and visual storytelling, their coverage focuses on the biggest ideas and most pressing issues facing the world’s metro areas and neighborhoods.

Recently, they did a remarkable piece that illustrates the history of public libraries. I have included a few examples of the work here. You can check out the entire piece by following this link. 

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A lyric: 2

A young black activist
Tragically massacred
Majority white
Captured in hazardous prejudice
We’re all savages
Angered by different establishments
Our might
Trampled by lovers of avarice
We’re all brothers and sisters and mothers and uncles and cousins
But suffering is something that don’t get no loving
So tell me, my friend, who do we our trust in
Media telling us winning at every expense is an action of substance
It’s actually rubbish
The pageantry mastery is selfish and ugly
Money is something that always feels wanting
It’s puzzling we’re running and bustling to get some more coverage
Infirmities swarming
Motives maliciously lurking
The furnace is churning the logs of injustice
We wonder
How we can stand to let these things be
Together we grow our communities
We’re parts of a tree, the veins of a leaf
We must stand up for peace
…Not rest easy in silence

Note: This opens with a discussion of race that suggests that I am referring to an idea that a majority of people who are white are prejudice. This is not my intention. It’s meant to provoke a consideration of race in America in a broad sense. It’s a commentary on the division in America we’re all experiencing and how that division is often carried to the extreme.

We’re all fighting each other on ideologies and sometimes feel compelled to win at all costs. Meanwhile, there are many greedy people who are profiting at the expense of many people’s well-being. My hopes are evolving and compel me to more definitely ask for a reflection on the need for empathy and consideration of other points of view. Anger, fear, and ignorance are frequently the cause of much dysfunction and hurt. I would like to promote ideas that call forth unity and a vision of more whole communities.

A lyric

Serial materialism
Extinguishing the real for the vain
Distinguishing identities
Vying for the recognition of name
Nations plundered for greed
Families soiled for seeds
Wealth which grows exponential
Lost potential in families who can’t afford a rental
While people lease cars they can’t afford
Or go to stores to forge the world’s acceptance
Heaven is a mess if it’s a reflection of our efforts, our treasures, our measures of self-worth
We’re cursed to be murderers, partake in self-slaughter, abandon our neighbor’s daughter, mock the Right’s martyr, stomp our forefathers, so we can rock Madison Square Garden
Fighters are few and far
Starvers are worth it for a fast car
Or a quick buck
Or a woman with no grounding in a sense of morality
Western culture’s capital vultures and partisans like Ann Coulter will sour our homes and provide premonitions for high mortality

Intentionality

Will is a force that can be used to construct if one is not guided by blind desire.

Thoughts lead to words. Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character. These are powerful statements from Margaret Thatcher, which are further carried by James Allen in As a Man Thinketh.

Men and women, he writes, are makers of themselves – “by virtue of the thoughts which they choose and encourage; that mind is the master-weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance, and that, as they may have hitherto woven in ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightenment and happiness.”

Figuring out how to be and behaving as a good person is hard. You can try to follow the dictates of your conscience, to make the decisions you wish to, and to be confident about them. But it’s still a struggle.

You can try to treat strangers with friendliness; verbally thank those who conduct thankless jobs; be honest with yourself and others; convey empathy and thoughtfulness about another’s perspective or feelings; cultivate mutual respect and understanding; recycle when you can; count your blessings; and take time for people who you care about, the few folks who really care about you, the rare to find, genuine carers.

Notably, it’s difficult in part to be good because these are the rare ones. A community establishes cultural norms, and if there were more it would set a new standard. They shouldn’t be rare. It is an injustice.

One morally useful religious quote is Ecclesiastes 1:18: For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. 

There are so many major problems facing the world, and people mostly seem to be concerned with themselves, how they compare or how well-liked they are; or sports; or some movie or show; or their own small problems.

There needs to be so much more urgency. Its lacking might be caused by the spirit of capitalism, poor education, a lack of community, or something else – people seem so content with vanity and insincerity. The world needs to offer greater acknowledgment of the struggle billions face. People say this a lot, but it still isn’t said enough. It must be stated daily. Goodness must be championed.

Over a billion human beings don’t have clean drinking water. People are living on cents a day. Minorities in America face intense discrimination. Rich people are hoarding their money and strive for it greedily to maintain their power and status. Women and people in poverty are directly and indirectly denied educations. We are experiencing a massive extinction of species. People are refusing to try to listen to different perspectives.

There are no teams. There is only us, getting together to try to figure things out, and we’re doing a really bad job at it.

Yes, it’s hard to be a good person. It’s uncomfortable to place expectations on yourself and to admit when you might need to change your actions or your ideas. The proverb, it is stated in Plato’s Republic, “holds that hard is the good.”

You must try. We are failing the next generation.