The holidays are here! (part 1)

Today was the first time this year I could think of bringing a jacket. We were as far into the Fall as Florida would allow. Now with this time of year comes a few big events, or Holidays some may call them. No, not Thanksgiving- not Christmas, but the month or so in between these two holidays. When our national past-time really flourishes. We shop. Regardless of the amount of unemployed, or the protests against big business, we further ourselves in debt with plastic and its deceptive fees and false promises.

I haven’t saying anything that hasn’t been said by the preponderance of college kids, or collegiate in nature. There is something about being light in wallet but heavy in pursuit of knowledge that brings such questions to mind. Could it be the effect of the first- that the lack of money allows for a change in perception, or the second in that knowledge of the deleterious consumerism halts such foolhardy spending. As usual my focused path has become split, and my topic has shifted. What I can offer is my perspective on the manipulated holiday season.

I was wrong initially when I said that this month will be the holiday season. That season, this year started about a month ago- if you were as (unfortunately) intimately involved with the mall you would know that decorations went up weeks ago, orange and black decorations ripped down quickly so that red and white ones may take their place as early as possible. Time has apparently been manipulated and one month of available holiday shopping has (contrary to the laws of physics) turned into two. The fervor that these days brings is unmatched from the start. Lets kick the body of this post off with the obvious: black Friday.

$2 waffle makers bring a group of possibly docile humans into a blood craze. Men have heart attacks, only to be stepped over for the best deals. All while our country is in a recession- or some might say on the verge of a depression. While there are record numbers of homeless, unemployed, and wages have stagnated we(it is impossible to exclude yourself, for reasons explained later) keep spending. Spending more. Black Friday sales were up 16% this year compared to last- spending $52 billion in a day. Anecdotally I know some retailers were up much more. It cannot be logically reasoned why we keep spending when we have less. When reason is excluded from a scenario, I can only think that we are unreasonable. Unreasonable isn’t too harsh sounding when applied to a single consciousness- it could mean untempered, unfaltering. When we apply it to a society of 300 million it becomes much more handicapping. We thwart sane thought, as a society we are insane.

Now, has this been a gradual fall into a darkened mind? A quick drop after millennia? Or is my perspective the one out of line with the majority- and I become the insane in the vastness of the human condition. I have now (nearly) finished the Way of Kings and can remember a passage about sanity (I would give you the quote directly if you can dog ear pages on a nook but technology has ruined my reading experience!)  where a character discussed sanity with a creature only he could see. Looking externally you would see a man talking to himself. In their discussion it as mentioned that sanity was more or less voted on by a community. It was never a black pebble for no, white for yes method as the greek democracy used but an unspoken consensus. Has the great majority- voting with their purchases made me the outlier? I have hoped to be proven wrong, but ever subsequent day in retail I find that I am further away from the normal.

I hope I am wrong, and these shopping examples are all just anecdotal- and not indicative of most everyone. Perhaps this time of year isn’t about shopping but it is about family, togetherness and the birth of the Christian Lord. Combined I think of the stereotypical Christmas season, snow flaking delicately down while my childhood self watches out of a frosted window. I draw simple figures in the pane in front of me, breathing humid air to relive a past drawing reverently smiling at my creation. These times are imprinted deep into my mind, but they aren’t because of the holidays but only the time a week without school gave me. The holidays (church especially) were a detraction from my evidentially human musings. Presents then meant everything to me, and my curiosity (and cunning, or my parents inability to hide) found the gifts early the surprise was never the motivation. I can remember opening gifts as any child does, but the memories formed with them are much more vivid. I have already rambled on longer than my last college paper so these experiences and their specifics will have to wait.  All I have meant to say is that I hope this reckless consumerism is an attempt to find an ability to form lasting memories.

I’ll pause here and promise you a part two. As retail has extended their holiday season, I shall extend this post.

A lawyer, his probability of death, and the eager beginner.

My first test was out mercifully quickly. It gave me a full hour until my next, and instead of try and cram a few more forgettable facts into my already beleaguered brain I set out for another cup of my favorite addiction with a book in hand. I sat down in a comfy chair well away from the bustle of the coffe house, and I read for a few minutes. The pages flowed quickly as I became enraptured in blissful silence: even the standard pop-hipster music faded to a whisper. Then, remarkably I was stirred from my left to right eye movements when a pair sat across from me. They had already began a conversation which I found intriguing. Book still in hand I began to listen, my focus irrevocably shifted.

The conversation was pathos versus logos.  They pair were discussing the prospect of one of their significant others enlisting. The man who I later learned he was a lawyer was logically refuting the claims of the human toll of war. That toll is of course death. He argued with some poor math, that the expected death rate of an average soldier was .5 percent. He took into account only the total figure of troops, and the deaths. He didn’t account for anything else, all other variables were superfluous. He then related it to the amount of deaths per year due to negligent drivers. He used simple math to prove that war was no more deadly than driving a car down the freeway late on a Friday night.

I am a terribly logical person. A precious issue with my employer had come up, where a higher up hung up on me rather than continue the discourse. They later apologized, and stated that “You are too damn logical to argue with”. This is remarkably true for the great plurality of my thoughts and actions. I do everything with reasoned purpose. I can be seen as emotionally detached because of my propensity towards facts over heart. But this lawyers slick convictions which boiled down human life to no more than a statistic perturbed me.

If I were to reason(yes I see the irony) why I veer away from logic when it comes to life, it deals with my definition of humanity. Like my last post (Jesus’ coffee) talked about humanity, I liken my humanity to spirituality. So to think that this lawyer would try and put the toll of human existence into a percentile of probability of unfortunate murder is bothersome. Especially when he himself admitted in this conversation he would not participate in armed conflict for a multitude of reasons. From an external perspective this lawyer seems like the stereotypical scumbag lawyer that has been portrayed a thousand times over- but there he was in flesh and blood.

Humanity, especially when dealing with life is beyond logic, and beyond emotion. It is a full combination of every sense and understanding. We are the culmination of an evolution that has left us with the capacity to both reason and feel, and to do so simultaneously. Probability of death shouldn’t be the determining factor when we search for cosmic understanding of our existence.

 

 

A new ramble while I have this window open:

Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

I would think that this concept is familiar to you. It is pervasive, in eastern philosophy as well as more anecdotally in western. Having a “child-like curiosity” is the western equivalent of Shoshin. Recently Neil Degrasse Tyson did an Ask me Anything and this concept came up in his words and paraphrased in others’ comments. From my perspective it looks like children are almost immediately pushed into structured learning. Until recently I had no idea was VPK(voluntary pre-kindergarten if I remember the acronym correctly) and that it had a curriculum defined at the state level. This sort of structure so quickly closes minds so quickly, they are never even given the opportunity to fully open up.

I have adopted this concept recently (in that respect it relates to my story of the lawyer) and I find my world have been fully exposed. Every crease in my paper, worn book, interaction with professor and customer are all new, all unique and open to discorse. It could be seen as naivety- walking through a bad neighborhood to see a piece of graffiti that beckons with meaning is a recent example but it is all well worth the experienced risk.

I’ll leave you with a quote NDgT wrote on his AMA:

     “Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. The beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults.”

Jesus’ Coffee

I have been sitting in a coffee shop that I found off 54 after I managed to get out of school early today. They have decent coffee, and poor internet(when their router can be accessed by admin/admin I just had to play around). It was a calm atmosphere, with quite a few people talking in respectably quiet tones with smiles on their faces, yet something seemed…off.

I hadn’t even seen the name of the place when I pulled up. I had been on a search for Big Apple Bagels that I knew existed somewhere on 54 but it completely evaded me after two passes. The obvious sign that had been pervasive a dozen times before somehow was missed completely. This sign had a big “Organic” and a “coffee” so in my desperation I pulled in. I ordered with a polite girl who knew her coffees (comparing their current Ethiopian to their Columbian pretty well) and sat down. Coffee was brought to my table placed gently next to my already open laptop. It was good, and I had a blissful half an hour reading the latest science news and blogs, and as I was on the internet there were memes and lolcats somehow interspersed in the mix.

I had seen the art that was around me but until my epiphany it seemed innocuous. There was a small painting involving the word jesus and a cross, and an advertisement for a local large-scaled church on the class front facing out. Then I notice some of the conversations that are happening around me, those smiling faces are talking about their jobs, but those jobs for the large part involves some sort of ministry. I flip on geolocation and find the name: Organic Life Coffeehouse & Bakery. To quote their about page: “Organic Life Coffee House & Bakery is a ministry/company, that evolved from a vision our Lord Jesus Christ placed in the hearts of the owners.” I had entered the Lions Den.

While I am not anti- religion I find it quite anecdotal that these two concepts have been combined. Coffee has the most addicts of any known substance, I relive that addiction nearly daily when I get my Venti whatever and often openly question “why the hell do I spend five bucks on this?”. Religion is in itself not a bad thing, or at least my interpretation of spirituality. Then, I hear the conversations that continue in this establishment. What I hear the majority of these patrons are ministers of churches, and their conversations follow a message I have heard repeated a hundred times over. They are talking of handing out flyers, or spreading their message, and putting stock in their faith to tangibly bring them additional customers (both to the coffee shop, and to their churches). They spread their message in ways more akin to marketing firms than as accepting Christians. They have combined the addicting nature of artisanal coffee with their I think warped view of faith, and the spread of their message.

I have had this conversation about faith a hundred times before to anyone rational to talk with me. I am an easy-going person with personal beliefs but that ends when someone attempts to push their agenda on me, or my fellow bipeds. I have a formed opinion that has been a culmination of my person. As you have as well. I see these marketed tactics as a way to subtly manipulate to their conformity.

Still, I fixed their router issues and politely suggested to them to secure their login at the least. I cannot condone them in a way that would affect my own humanity. My compulsion to help is not guided by an external force that demands obedience. My hope that I am a good person has no part to do with anything beyond the confines of my existence. My humanity is my spirituality. I say that I have had this conversation before, but I cannot completely express myself. There are concepts in this issue that my fingers or vocal chords cannot convey. It is just a feeling, a creep slowly walking up my spine that when noticed shivers my being.

Indescribably Indescribable.

My post a few scant hours ago was lacking and unfocused. It was this way (possibly)purposefully. Language fails me. Now if you can follow me through a few little thoughts as to why, and what sort of scope it fails you and I, and the rest of our supposedly supremely intellectual race.

My first post brought up the spoken word poetry I had experienced in NYC. It was intense, more powerful than anything I had felt in my rememberable history. The cohesion of a body in motion, and a larynx brought me to tears, and forces me to again reflect this experience back to you, again. But I see a problem with even these efficacious performers. The opener of the slam was a man by the name of Ed Mabrey. He was…indescribable. Compared to him I am a toddler only able yell when I need sustenance or need to exit myself of the remnants of previous sustenance.

Reminding myself of his works I thought of something that Ed will always remember. His dog. I can never properly paraphrase his love of his dog, but it was the most influential and important being in his life. It was beautiful, he saw so much pain, love, joy, and the infinity of emotion in the large pools of glassy brown in that dogs’ eyes- he connected vividly. If his best connection to this life comes from a connection with a dog that has never managed to eek out a single human like grunt, or write a word what hope is their for the written word when it comes to genuine connection?

There are resistant barriers between you and I. Those barriers come from the translation of thoughts into words, of words into text and text into your own interpretations. Should we talk in person there is less resistance, but fluid dynamics will tell you that there is again resistance between you and I not matter how close we are. At least when we talk you can look into my eyes, and I yours and see through a pair of portholes to the soul, and your honest opinion. Still, our raw selves are tempered thanks to a cacophony of external factors.

I yearn to break beyond these barriers no matter how inescapable they seem to be. That is why most of my posts will ask for your thoughts, and I get a few back mostly in person(I am not the only one who wants a level of honesty in conversation as I hoped). Still, the only way I could fathom breaking beyond these obstacles is some evolutionary leap forward that would give us the Vulcan mind meld. I will try, and as I try I have reached moments of ecstasy so apexed I had no idea such points existed but there is always more, always a higher level that leaves me hungry for the completion of an interaction that I think won’t happen- but i persist.

Indescribable

On this site I have a knack for describing some of my serene, peaceful, and emotional moments. I spend time trying to describe the feelings I have at that moment, or I relive a situation and try to convey it in a way you could understand it. But there is always a problem, there is always something lacking once the text is posted and I reread it for the first time. Either this English language is a poor conductor of thoughts, or text in itself is unable to convey thoughts and emotions entirely. A third(but less appealing idea, at least to me) is that I simply lack the personal ability to express myself through this electronic and text based output. Let me elaborate below:

I did a small amount of travel to New York and in that time I managed to cram a years worth of new experiences, ideas and emotions into four days inclusive of travel. I wrote a post about the poetry I witnessed and while it was expressive, it was not entirely inclusive. The moment I sat there in awe and shame and depravity and love was indescribable.

I find myself in this situation, with a complete lack of ability to express more and more often. In the moment euphoria is impossible to categorize and I find myself seemingly statuesque rather than able to elaborate with words. Could it be that despite my change of character these past few moments of my life (in relation to the decades I have been here) has not opened me up to expression, only to interpretation? I would hope that not to be the case, if anything this blog may stand tribute to some new level of expression.

Yet it doesn’t seem like enough. How else can one really express. Interpretive dance? Even if I had a lifetime of training I could not show you what I felt. No, the only genuine conversation I can offer is a conversation that involves more than the muscles surrounding the lips. The eyes, hands, nose- all organs working together in tandem with the mouth can most properly express me. But still, I will try and push the English language out of its confines and relay what few thoughts I have worth sharing with you here. Should you care to listen, my happenstances will be here.

Ramble over and out, for now.