A LETTER FROM MY FORMER SELF

I received a letter from myself the other day. My high school biology teacher had my entire class write a letter to ourselves for our last assignment as seniors back then, which she then mailed out during these last few weeks of college (Yay! I’m graduating). Reading (or I guess technically rereading) that letter left me with a lot of mixed feelings. At the time I wrote it, I didn’t really know where life was taking me. I knew I was going to Cal Poly Pomona, though it was not my first choice of schools, and I knew I was in love with my (now ex) girlfriend. That was about it. I didn’t know I was going to be interested in writing. I didn’t know I would be working two jobs. I didn’t know that the grass really is greener from a distance than it is up close.

But all that aside, here we are today. I once again have no idea where I am going, or what I am doing. In some ways I have even less of a grasp on reality than I did then. Yet I know a lot more today than I did four years ago. I find it curious that, for all this reminiscing, the problems of my life are completely different. In that letter, I wrote about my love interest, my issues with my relationships, and my certainty of my own greatness. Today, I would write about the monotony of daily activities, the debilitating incapability that my generation faces, and the omnipresent desire (and impossibility) of being an individual in an ever-growing social world.

I recently watched an interview with Morgan Freeman, where he was asked if race plays a role in succeeding in one’s dreams in the present. He said no, which I found interesting, because in a way he is correct. It is true that, if you really try hard enough, eventually something is going to work. But at the same time, I’ve been at this blogging thing for a year, and I have only found minor success. Of course, I am a straight, white male. But to say race has no role in success is a bit unfair, don’t you agree? I mean, he said “we are proof” that race is not a major role player, which to me seems a little short sighted. There are only so many roles in Hollywood available, much like how there are only so many spaces available on a basketball team. To say someone can be a part of that miniscule percent of successful black actors “if they try hard enough” seems like a bit of a load to me. We can’t have 3 billion fulltime actors. It simply wouldn’t be sustainable. We would starve to death.

But success does seem like it is within all of our grasps if we can redefine success for ourselves. Perhaps success isn’t being famous, or accruing a fortune, but instead perhaps it is simply being happy with life. And while for many of us, that seems like it isn’t somewhere we are at currently, it is somewhere that we can strive to get to. Ok. Hopefully this somewhat sappy story has helped you in some way (I’m sure it has been a nice form of therapy for me somehow). Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you enjoy this discussion? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There’s also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

QUALITY ON THE ROAD

OK, so today I’m going to talk about Quality a bit. If you didn’t hear, Robert M. Pirsig, the author of one of my favorite books, died yesterday. His book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, has been one of the most inspiring books for me as a human being, and I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already read it.

But to honor Pirsig’s classic book-and really his struggle in general, I wanted to talk about Quality for my discussion today. Since readers my not have read his book, I’ll do a quick overview of the concept. Quality is something we all know, but also have trouble defining. When someone says “that’s a real quality piece of artwork” we know what they mean, but if we try to go much further than that, things get fuzzy. Sure, it might be the colors, it might be the style, or it might be the references within the artwork itself that make it quality work. Or maybe it’s the story the picture tells; or maybe it’s all of these things put together. But if you go searching, there’s no doubt that someone out there will find the painting disagreeable. Thus, quality is entirely up to opinion, and so defining it becomes something nearly impossible. Simply saying that “quality is quality” isn’t nearly satisfying for our human minds, but that’s pretty much what it is.

Pirsig gets into talking about how quality could be seen as goodness, and the level of how “good” something is (good as in well done, rather than good as in positive). But sometimes something is a quality piece of work because it is not “good.” Think of something by Jackson Polluck, or Picasso. Definitely not necessarily “good” work by the “quality standards” that had been set prior to them, but still clearly quality artwork was produced by them. They revolutionized aspects of art entirely. Lets go even further, and look at children’s paintings. Are they quality pieces of work? Why and/or why not? Because they don’t make it to the hallways of an art exhibit?

These are the kinds of questions that Pirsig asked in his books, on a much more massive scale. He went against the grain in a time where going against the grain could and often did lead to electro-shock “therapy,” and in doing so, he revolutionized an entire generation of thought. Which is wonderful! What do you think? Have you even heard of him? Is quality so obscure? Let me know your thoughts!

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you enjoy this discussion? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

I recently started an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

SCIENCE OR ART?

Hello everyone,

 

What’s more important to humanity: Science or Art? This is the type of question that polarizes peoples’ thinking. Science provides us avenues to a better life (or rather, a more efficient life, since it’s unclear that our species as a whole is happier now than it was before the industrial revolution). Art, on the other hand, gives us avenues to a more substantive life. Today I’m going to give you an argument for both, since there are many ways in which the two categories today do not overlap (and, of course, some where they do).

Let’s start with science, because I think in the modern era of iPhones, the Internet, mass food production, and other forms of scientific technologies, that’s the obvious “more important” choice. Let’s look at what science has given us. Well, math, so currency, exchange of goods, basic foresight into planning our needs. Science also gives us physics, biology, medicine, engineering, and a whole slew of different abilities. Some aspects of architecture require scientific precision. Pick up any object around you, and ask yourself if it would have been doable without some form of scientific knowledge. Seriously. Can you find one? Some of you may have picked up your children, but even your children probably required some sort of hospital care. Or their cloths required special fabrics to prevent rashes, or their diapers are made in a way that prevents leaking…the list goes on.

There’s even science to art. Go look at any classical artwork. Try Googling “Enlightenment Artwork.” It’s precise, and much less “imaginative” as, say, something by Jackson Pollock. Which isn’t to say it’s bad artwork, but it certainly makes art…different. Let’s look at literary artwork and “science.” Take Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets—any one of them. They are constrained to the form of iambic pentameter, with 14 lines that alternate end rhymes every four lines, with the last two lines rhyming with each other (if you’re adept in rhyme schemes, that ABABCDCDEFEFGG). It’s kind of a scientific way of creating a poem, right? Science gives life structure. It takes the chaos of the world, and makes it into something understandable, which, in many ways, is beautiful in and of itself.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you probably have also seen a lot of flaws in science that are undone by artwork. Take spirituality. Science sort of defeats spirituality, doesn’t it? I mean, science is in many ways a secular idea (not all, I know), which is why the church has often fought tooth and nail for its ideas against scientific progress. In that way, science is grounding. To contrast, art elevates thinking in many ways. Art is a form of flight in a world of grounded people. Isn’t that why we love books so much? They let us escape the doldrums of our world. I mean, people literally swear their lives on a book, and practice their lives around what the words in it say.

I spoke about how science encapsulated art, but art also encapsulates science. Let’s use engineering as an example. Engineering is what builds industry, yet the driving force behind it is imagination. It’s an artistic rendering of an idea. Think of Disneyland, and all the engineering that had to be done to make it work. Yet we don’t see Disneyland as some hulking behemoth of industry. Instead, we see it as a magical image of wonder made into real objects. The truth is, simply being efficient does not captivate a human audience. Rather, we have a need to be thrilled, which is why fireworks are made more and more beautiful ever year, rather than simply bigger and louder.

But of course, they both have value. I mean, it’s not like the world functions very well without one or the other. Which do you think is more valuable? Let me know in the comments!

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you enjoy this discussion? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

I recently started an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

SPOILED BRAT

Good morning my dear!

I…I said good morning!

Can she even hear

What I am saying?

I asked my husband
You know, I think not.

It looks like she’s got

No time for her parents;

Just time for our presents.

What a spoiled brat.
No mom. I’m just asleep.

I was up all night.

And I’m only up, dad,

Because you don’t let me

Go out during the day.

A spoiled brat, indeed.

HOW TO FIND INSPIRATION

Hello everyone,

 

I decided to take a break from writing creative stuff today to talk a little bit about inspiration today. If you are a regular WordPress blogger, you probably have had moments where you struggle for inspiration. I didn’t know this, but there’s a cool blog where people respond to one word in a whole blog post, or other ideas. That’s a pretty smart concept. It gets people to interact with their blog and it promote writing. If you need inspiration and are either desperate or lazy, I would suggest trying this out. It’s really good for a one-time fix, especially if you are in a pinch.

However, not everything about this kind of blog is good for you, the writer, or by extension the people who are struggling with ideas in the rest of their lives. Think about it. If you, along with a quadrillion billion million (like my number choice?) other people are all responding to the same prompt, how original can you be? I mean, certainly, your writing may be completely different and exceptional, and that’s wonderful. Yet you are not being truly original. The best a person in this situation can do is defamiliarize something. To defamiliarize means to make a familiar concept different. For example, instead of a plain old rock, the object is a coarse, rough, solid stone that is jagged on one side and opaque on the other. See the difference? Ok, good. This isn’t to say that defamiliarization is a bad thing—I mean, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is made up almost exclusively of stories that he had changed slightly, or told from a different perspective, and it’s one of the biggest pieces of literature ever. Seriously. You can be very successful doing this. But if you’re looking for inspiration, that’s probably because you want to make something that feels original, right?

That being said, this isn’t really “original” ideas. It’s original work, but it’s not something that is going to make you stand out. Think about how many famous authors there are throughout history. Pretty short list, ain’t it? At least, compared to the total number of people that have ever existed in the course of human history. Here’s the difference between Chaucer and an average blogger using this kind of blog as daily inspiration—the blogger is part of a mass, Chaucer was not. No matter how good your writing is, if you write the same thing as 100 other people, you have to beat out 99 other people. Which I’m not saying is impossible, but the higher that number is, the more people you have to beat. I mean, to make this relatable, I have to actively try to beat out other bloggers every day I post. I have to do something that makes me stand out. I have no illusion that I fail regularly on that, even if I check all the marks off and write something perfect. Hence why I wrote In the Dirt. However, most of my work is closer to original, even if it pulls from and alludes to other works, because it is unique. I try to start my work with an idea. A book I’ve referenced before, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, explains this idea really well, and I highly recommend you check it out. I’ll try my best to explain it quickly.

The best way to find inspiration is to look at an idea in a way that nobody has looked at it before. Zone in on one concept, or even a concrete object, so closely that you can have an original idea. Look at whatever is in front of you. Let’s say it’s a wall. Ok, well look at the top left corner of that wall. What’s there? A brick? Ok. Describe the wall, starting from that brick, and go across, one by one. Because that’s how you find inspiration. Brick by brick.

BURNING THE CANVAS

“Make your mind a blank slate,” the monk told us. We were sitting in the wooden temple, performing our daily meditation cycle. It was around 6:30 in the morning, though the bells had yet to chime. I focused on my heartbeat, calming myself. The goal of enlightenment was a difficult process. I had been told to make my mind a blank slate, in a few moments, the monk would instruct us further.

“Now, make your mind empty,” said the monk with a quiet yet firm tone. It was at this point that most disciples struggled. How, in fact, does one create nothing? I was sitting with my legs crossed in the lotus position. My hands were at my knees, palms facedown so that my fingers slumped down, fully relaxed. Every disciple was given the choice of meditative positions, right down to the direction they faced, to further calm their mind. The idea was to become one with the world. In history, but one monk had become fully at peace in this way, but he became unable to speak after his awakening, and in truth he departed from most human communication in general.

I focused my mind. I could picture the blank slate before me—an empty canvas, endless, with no sides or edges. I could feel my heartbeat slow from a normal speed. Thump. Pause. Thump. And so on. Then, I attempted to remove the canvas from my mind, until nothing was left. At first, I tried to condense the canvas, to put it inside a box equally infinite, and make the box disappear. But how could I possibly erase something that was infinite? After that, I tried to eat away at the canvas from the middle, like a fire as it burned from the center of a paper to all edges. In my mind, I could almost feel the heat, as the sparks became a flame, and the flame became a wall of fire, and finally the wall of fire erupted from all ends of my mind. I held my breath, to snuff the oxygen out and force the flame to go out. I could feel my heart rate quicken, straining against the lack of sustenance. But the fire had spread to far. How could I compete with a flame the burns infinitely?

I recreated the canvas in my mind again, each time attempting to remove it in new ways. Each time, failing. By the time the bells struck 7:30, I had become drenched in sweat, despite remaining motionless the whole time. My mind had become a battleground against the forces of itself. By the time the clock struck 8:00, I was grateful our meditation session was at an end. I exhaled deeply, and opened my eyes. When they had closed, the sun was still below the horizon, yet now it had brightened the whole day. The monk crossed the floor of the temple to me, and put a hand on my shoulder.

“You are making good process, Seigfried.”

“I don’t feel like I am making progress,” I lamented. It was exhasperating.

“Why do you struggle?” The monk’s question seemed rhetorical, but I knew he expected an answer.

“I struggle because when my mind is a blank slate, it, like my imagination, is infinite.” The monk made a small smile, revealing no teeth, but clearly happy with my answer.

“If your mind is infinite, perhaps you should seek not to remove infinity, but to alter it.”

“I have altered it!” I gasped, “I burned the canvas away and then tried to snuff out the fire, but how does one snuff out infinity?” I turned away from the monk angry. The monk nodded to me, but I could sense his smile had disappeared. He walked away to leave me alone in my own thoughts.

HARNESSED LIGHTNING

     The lights flooded the room, blinding him momentarily. He put on his goggles, tinted black so as to fight back against the waves of brightness in the room. When he reopened his eyes, he made for his gloves on the table—a thick, well-worn leather pair, grown dusty from his hiatus from his work. He knocked them twice on the table, then slid them over his hands. He clenched his fingers into a fist, then released them, and smiled to himself that they still fit. He coughed.

     Wiping the spit from his lip, he walked himself across the room to the spiral staircase that divided his laboratory and his testing space. As he ascended the staircase, he felt his fingers tremble with anticipation, and his heart was racing. Eventually, he reached the breaking point between the rooms. To enter a much shorter room, with a ceiling 10 feet from the floor he now stood on. The rainfall from outside had turned from a light pitter-patter to a deafening assault on the building. He moved to the lever on the right of the room, and put his hand on it as if to pull it. Then paused. He’d forgotten something. Oh yes! He moved to the table in the center of the room, which was the only furniture to speak of in the room. On the table there was another glove-like object, though not nearly as well fitting as the leather pair he had dawned earlier. It’s clean, sleek look contrasted the dust and cobwebs of the room.

     It was, indeed, a device, with a hole for him to insert his right arm into, much like a glove. So much so he had named it “the power glove,” (a rather rudimentary name in my opinion, but it got the job done). He put his arm into the glove, which went nearly up to his elbow. It was quite cold on the inside. So cold, in fact, that it sent goosebumps up his spine. Unlike a glove, however, there were no finger holes in this device, rather, a small steel bar at the center to hold onto. The device was not light in weight, but in no way exhausting to hold. It’s weight almost felt natural.

     In his left hand, he held a small remote, with 3 buttons on it. Two of the buttons were a dark green, one was labeled “on,” the other labeled “off,” and a third button was a bright red, labeled “release.” He walked back over to the lever on the wall, and with his left elbow he pushed the level down. There was a loud rumbling, like the tremor of thunder above, as the sky roof cracked open to reveal the storm outside. Rain came down in large loud droplets, cleaning the dusty table in the center in moments.

     The man walked over to the table, reared back, and kicked it out of the way, then looked up into the sky above him. His goggles were assaulted with raindrops, but the flashes of lightning were clearly visible. He pressed the “on” button, and the device on his arm began to make a low whirring sound. A wry smile crept across the scientists face for a moment, before he coughed again. He cleared his throat and looked up, the device by his side growing ever louder. It had began to light up, with a dull yellow light. The man held his arms up to the sky, with the device centered on the storm above him. It felt like an eternity there, with the device hissing in his ears, until suddenly there was a flash of light and a loud CRACK that nearly knocked the man off balance. He regained his footing, and looked in his hand—or rather, the device in his hand. Trailing from the end of it was a bolt of lightning, trailing all the way back up into the clouds far above him. His eyes widened with glee, and he swung his arm back and forth. He had harnessed the power of the gods!

     The device was now full of bright lights, thought the whirring had returned to a dull hum. He adjusted his grip inside, and lifted the device so that it once again faced skyward. His hand with the remote was trembling. He pressed “release,” and before his eyes the bolt retracted back up into the sky. The machine began to whir again, and a tiny sphere appeared where his palm would have been in the device. It crackled, then began to grow. It was shifting as if it were alive, and little sparks popped off the sides and into the air for a moment before fizzling out. When the sphere was about the size of his head, he once again pointed the ball skyward, and pressed “release.” There was another loud CRACK and the ball imploded, before sending bolts of electricity skyward, piercing into the clouds above. The man smiled.

     He had finally harnessed lightning.

WRITING GOOD PROSE

Hello everyone,
Monday has arrived and my mind is percolating with things to talk about. Mostly because in class we are jumping around the book The Basic Kafka, which are works by a man named Kafka, many published after his death. I am intrigued because Kafka writes pretty short stories to get across important messages. And by pretty short, I don’t just mean 10 page stories, he’ll write a quick 300 word tale about a guy and his interaction with a police officer, and you can find so much meaning in it.

So today I wanted to talk about writing, because I realize most people on here have blogs of their own that they write for creatively. Now, I’m not the greatest at executing prose myself, but I am very good at identifying the trends of good writing. I’ve talked a bit about writing poetry, now let’s talk about writing good prose. For those lost a little bit because I don’t talk about this stuff much, prose is what you find in a regular book. Think “A Game of Thrones.” Which, in fact, is a great starting point.

A Game of Thrones is a simple story made great by complex characters. What does this tell us? Well, that characters are important. Archetypes do not exist clearly, everything is “real.” This means, good characters have flaws in addition to accomplishments, not all of which are character flaws. Some can be physical attributes. Good stories have several of these characters, because it makes things unpredictable, but not in a way that makes the reader feel like they were played.

The other notable aspect of good prose is meaning and parallelism to that meaning. To continue my Game of Thrones example, the character Ned Stark begins the story as a heroic authority figure, executing a criminal despite the criminal just doing what he felt was best. This is juxtaposed at the end of the story (spoilers!) when Ned Stark is executed. This creates a “full circle” sort of feeling in the reader, where the fall from grace is completed. This can take non-circular forms, but many good novels have them.

And then there is meaning. Meaning can be done in many words or in few words. Kafka does it in few words typically, where he creates a scenario people can identify with, then intercepts the scenario with a character made to represent something. Like a policeman scoffing at a lost citizen asking for directions. Try something like this in your writing, and you may find more success. Does that sound doable? Let me know what you think!

MOVING AND MONEY

Hello everyone,

 

Let’s talk about our almighty ruler today. The dollar. Today’s writing was inspired by a friend’s post on Facebook. He asked how much more a job would have to pay to justify moving states for work. Which is quite a loaded question, and I gave him a short answer since I have no doubt that a long form answer probably won’t be something that he will read. I also used watered down examples because I think exact numbers might be harder for him to grasp conceptually—I know they would be for me. I’ll also be doing this in examples today. Let’s get into it!

So lets say that at your current job you make $20,000 (moving forward I’ll refer to numbers like this as “20K”), and living expenses in that location cost 15K. The job you would be moving to pays the same, however the living expenses of the area are only 10K. That’s 5K more in your wallet per year. Which is nothing to scoff over. Moving costs, what, maybe 5K? So your first year is a little tight, but as you settle in, things have a significant up tick.

Let’s take another example. Let say your job has a significant increase in pay from your current job. 50K, instead of 20K. Living expenses in that area are 25K. I think you can figure out for yourself that this is significantly better net pay than either of the other jobs. That said, what if this new job also requires more hours out of you? That average American works roughly 45 hours per week, to my understanding. If your old job only made you work 35 hours a week, and this new one requires 50 hours, you suddenly have lost a lot of free time to explore life.

This accounts for one of the more difficult aspects of moving, because it is not easily quantifiable. What if you’re really close to your family, but this move will leave you across the country from them? What if you absolutely hate your family but your dad owns the business that is offering you this new job? What if your partner has a good job at home, and would have to find a new one or leave you? Suddenly it’s not so simple. And I don’t have an answer for you. But I do know that, at the end of the day, while money can’t buy happiness, it can produce more avenues to happiness. If you can live without seeing your family constantly, but want to still have access to them, maybe that new job is good. Enough extra money means you could fly back for a weekend to visit them every once in a while.

Of course, there are so many factors to moving that it’s hard to say for sure. But if it is for a job, factor in more than just an increase in pay, because you could end up with a real problem on your hands if your living expenses are too high when compared to how much you are making. At least, that’s my two cents on the issue. What do you think? Am I totally wrong? Are there factors I missed? Let me know!

MEETING NEW PEOPLE

Hello everyone,

 

I hope everyone is having a good day. Work has me really busy today so I don’t have much time to write, so if this is cut a bit short I apologize. Today I wanted to talk about how we interact with new people. New people are always an interesting subject, and in all honesty, I bet we act differently with new people based on the circumstances of how we met those people.

What exactly does that mean? Well, basically, I mean that how we meet and view people changes on the context. You will probably greet someone that you meet at a business meeting for the first time differently than you greet someone at, say, your little brother’s birthday party. These differences change how we talk, act, and even hold our self-esteem. Imagine being introduced to Bill Gates at a business party. Wouldn’t you be intimidated, perhaps even a little shy? Now think about meeting little Louie’s aunt Agnes. Suddenly not so scared or shy, right?

These situations alter how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others. Let’s take the romantic standpoint. Let’s say you’re a person who likes meeting people whom you wish to date under relaxed, no business like settings. Do you think you could make an acquaintance and foster a relationship with someone you met at your law firm? Probably not, right?

There also is the aspect of our selves. You know who you are, right? But does your coworker? What about the new guy at the restaurant you go to every week on Fridays? When you interact with each of these people, are you indeed the same person? My answer is no, you probably act enough like a different person that you are perceived differently. I made a new friend under circumstances I had never dealt with before, and apparently I came off conceited to the point where she thought I was a Trump supporter. Which, to make very clear, I am not in the slightest.

But that’s interesting, isn’t it? Most people who meet me when I am with friends or family recognize me as a pretty progressive person, though with a level enough head to pause and try to at least understand the perspective of people who are more conservative. What does that say about how we view and judge others? What does that say about the way that we hold ourselves up based on different pre-existing circumstances? What do you think? Am I right? Is it more complicated than that? Let me know!