The Emptiness of the Avalanche of Modern Entertainment

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON ICEINTHEHEAD.COM. IT IS COAUTHORED WITH DR. NEIL BROWNE.


In 1985 Neil Postman referred to Brave New World  as the intellectual godfather of his Amusing Ourselves to Death. If you haven’t read Postman’s work and its revision 2 decades hence, we certainly hope you will. And as you think about the book, ask what it says about us that 25,000 people on any given night in a major city decide that the most rewarding thing they can imagine doing is attending the moral and mental circus produced by that knowing ringmaster Donald Trump.

The effects of video games, television, social media, and the Internet on our level of illiteracy says something highly important about human proclivities. Large numbers of us will use whatever pleasure pill, additive, consciousness-altering liquid or fun diversion promises to excite our senses and divert our attention from lives that leave us otherwise frustrated and empty. Seduced by these temptresses, our attention span and cognitive abilities wither.

We must quickly say that there is nothing essentially wrong with television, social media, video games or liquid refreshment.  In fact, used for developmental purposes and in moderation, they are remarkably fertile complements to our more “stodgy inspirations”—meaningful discussions, reading nuanced, complex books and essays, poetry with emotional kick, and documentary films.

But Postman understood what happens when market forces and the human yearning for pleasure are permitted to shape the direction in which information flows are shaped.

His focus in 1985 was on television, but one can graft his arguments onto all of our more modern pleasure sources.

He graphically points out the difference in modern democratic election jousts and those in pre-television eras.

“The first of the seven famous debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas took place on August 21, 1858, in Ottawa, Illinois. Their arrangement provided that Douglas would speak first, for one hour; Lincoln would take an hour and a half to reply; Douglas, a half hour to rebut Lincoln’s reply. This debate was considerably shorter than those to which the two men were accustomed. In fact, they had tangled several times before, and all of their encounters had been much lengthier and more exhausting. For example, on October 16, 1854, in Peoria, Illinois, Douglas delivered a three-hour address to which Lincoln, by agreement was to respond. When Lincoln’s turn came, he would probably require as much time as Douglas and that Douglas was still scheduled for a rebuttal. He proposed, therefore, that the audience go home, have dinner, and return refreshed for four more hours of talk. The audience amiably agreed, and matters proceeded as Lincoln had outlined.” (Postman, 44).

That quote  is an excerpt from Amusing Ourselves to Death, highlighting what public discourse looked like in America over 150 years ago. What does this seemingly foreign form of discourse reveal about the candidates? About the voters?

Obviously without knowing specifically what information was exchanged throughout the 7 hour debate, it’s not possible to comment on the intelligence levels of the candidates making the arguments nor the audience tuning in. However,  it is fair to say that the attention span of both cohorts is absolutely exceptional by today’s standards. Can anyone imagine a 2016 presidential debate between say, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that was scheduled for 7 hours? Can anyone imagine Donald Trump speaking for 3 hours? What would he say? And how many times would he say it? One can say “winning”, “amazing”, “elegant”, and “huge” as the substance of your sentences only so long.

But let’s give Donald the benefit of the doubt. He prepares a 3-hour speech and its brilliant. He outlines an ingenious sure-fire strategy for persuading the Mexican government to pay for the wall that they will build to keep them out of the U.S. and expounds in great detail upon each of the 14 tenets of that strategy. He presents an economic analysis diagnosing how America got to a slumbering economic recovery, and walks us through not one, not two, but five different solutions for how we can abate the problem. And finally, he pulls out a Quran and reads to us 11 separate passages that he believes contribute to the case that Islam is a religion of violence, and not of peace, to which he uses to make his bigger point: we have to tighten our national security policies.

How many members of the audience make it through the full speech awake? How many make it through without checking twitter? How many get bored and leave? How many actually listen to and reflect on each of Trump’s policy proposals and then form thoughtful assessments of the probable effects?

From our perspective, Postman is onto something timeless in importance when he argues that political discourse is a reflection of the dominant form of media at the time. In 1860, that primary medium was typography. The purpose of type is to record, exchange ideas, and ultimately to persuade others of the accuracy or merit of those ideas. Typography then, amplifies all of the characteristics of mature, meaningful discourse: “a sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively, and sequentially; a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorrence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response” (Postman, 63).

But now typography has been superseded by a new medium: the television. The purpose of television whose content is guided by profit goals is not to appeal to your reason, or to force you to think about abstract ideas.  The purpose of television is to entertain. Consequently, its content is fragmented, decontextualized, full of catchy music and flashy images, so that its audience is never perplexed, never made to think, and always amused. In other words, a debate even slightly resembling that between Douglas and Lincoln could never occur in today’s society; TV would forbid it, in part, because we wouldn’t watch it.

And therein lies a significant problem if we are to have a strong, flourishing democracy.  If the primary purpose of our media is to entertain, then thoughtful public discourse is unlikely to occur.

In The Rhetoric of Reaction, Albert Hirschman argues that a long run condition for stability and legitimacy of a democratic regime is thoughtful public discussions. “Thoughtful” here implies a process of opinion forming, by both candidates and audience, based on the influx of new information presented by the orators within the context of the debate. More specifically, “… a democratic regime receives legitimacy to the extent that its decisions result from full and open deliberation among its principle groups, bodies, and representatives. Deliberation is here conceived as an opinion-forming process: the participants should not have fully or definitively formed opinions at the outset; they are expected to engage in meaningful discussion, which means that they should be ready to modify initially held opinions in the light of arguments of other participants and also as a result of new information which becomes available in the course of the debate.”

When our political debates are tailored to appeal to a television audience trained to believe that pleasure is the stuff of life, there is little room for thoughtful deliberation among the crowd. We cannot tolerate answers that run more than a minute, or at most 2.  “Secretary Clinton, you may have a minute and a half to explain why inconsistencies in missives that you wrote in the midst of (1) a firefight and (2) conflicting information inputs should not be used as a measure of your character.” Senator Sanders, you will have 30 seconds to respond.

Terribly sad, don’t you think?

The Workout

This post originally appeared on MaxximusFitness.com on February 28th, 2017. I was responsible for all edits pertaining to diction, grammar, organization and structure. Maxx Holdrieth was responsible for the concept and the content. 


Greetings, Fitness Warriors,

I hope you all found last month’s newsletter, “The Warm Up” beneficial.  This week, I bring to you Part Two of my Three Part series on “Designing A Workout.”  Something tells me you’ll be more excited about this month’s topic: “The Workout.”

A quick disclaimer before we get into the good stuff: This isn’t your typical bodybuilding.com, “Back & Bicep Blaster.”

Rather, the information that follows will serve as an educational tool for you, the dedicated gym goer, to begin designing your own effective programs that, above all, create a well balanced, well moving and well functioning body.  My hope is that as a result, you will not just LOOK better; you will FEEL and MOVE better.

Now, let’s get to it.

Designing your own kickass workout should not be complicated, and in most cases (yes, even you Mr. Meathead), it does not have to be. Instead of breaking your workouts down bodybuilding style—by isolating individual body parts—consider designing them as full body routines. Personally, I hit both my upper and lower body every session, without exception (you’re welcome for that bump in testosterone). In fact, I said goodbye to chest/tricep and back/bicep days a long time ago. And so have my clients. Our workouts are always full-body/multi-joint movement days.

“Wait, Maxx, you just said designing my own workout should not be complicated, but that last sentence was pretty damn confusing!”

                             

Trust me, things are about to get very simple. Generally speaking, there are just 7 basic human movements that need to be addressed on a weekly basis:

  1. Squat

  2. Lunge

  3. Hinge (think bending)

  4. Push

  5. Pull

  6. Rotate (think twist)

  7. Locomote (think moving forward; walking/jogging)

By incorporating these 7 human movements into your weekly routines you inevitably hit all major muscle groups and teach your body to move better.  Throughout a day, our bodies rarely move in isolation (think biceps curl).  Rather, our movements often depend on full body, multi-joint movements (think deadlift). Thus, when your workouts are ‘full-body/multi-joint movement days’, as opposed to ‘individual muscle group days’, you teach your body to move how it is intended to move.

I like to break my workouts down into circuits. When creating a circuit, I usually group 2-3 exercises together, depending on my goals. When grouping these exercises together, think of your body as an X.  You have two arms, two legs, and a core (hopefully I haven’t lost you yet).  Within each circuit, aim to pair an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, supplemented by a core exercise.  A sample circuit may look like this:

  1. Goblet Squat (Squat- lower body push)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIXeZHQGSGA

  2. TRX Row (Upper body pull)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGBp7THiCVM

  3. Ab-Wheel (locomotion- core):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S951fa0O-XM

Once you have constructed the first circuit, ask yourself: “What movements have I yet to cover?” Reverting back to our sample circuit, we have already covered lower body push (squat), upper body pull and a core movement (locomotion).  Working backwards, this now leaves us needing lower body pull (usually a hinge), upper body push and another core movement.  It may look something like this:

  1. Kettlebell Deadlift (Hinge- lower body pull)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l8yXPBKgec&feature=youtu.be

  2. Push Ups (Upper body push)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sG9vxWTxB_w&feature=youtu.be

  3. Med ball Low-High Chops (rotation – core)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHD89sos5Fw

These 6 exercises cover 6 of the 7 fundamental movement patterns of humans (lunges being the only movement not hit).  The selection of exercises used to address these movements can be adjusted to any fitness level from first time gym goer to the seasoned fitness vet. For example, your upper body push could be made more challenging by doing bench press instead of push ups, while your lower body pull could be made easier by doing hamstring curls instead of kettlebell deadlifts.

The point I am trying to make is this: pick which exercises best suit you.  Once your exercises are selected, the only things left to fill in are the sets, reps & rest.  These factors, including your exercise selection, will all be predicated on individual needs, wants, and personalized goals.  Generally speaking, however, you can’t go wrong with 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps. Rest for a sip of water in between sets and get back after it. Depending upon pace, aim to complete 2-3 circuits composed of 3 exercises, per workout session.  Once completed, be sure to save a few minutes for what I like to call “The Finisher,” which I will cover in next week’s newsletter: “Part Three Of Designing A Workout: The Finisher.”

Thank you so much for reading. If you have any feedback, questions, or topics you would like me to cover in future newsletters, please email me at maxx.holdrieth@lajollasportsclub.com

I leave you with this quote to ponder regarding your exercise programing:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…it takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein

In Health and Happiness,

Maxximus Fitness

The Unfortunate Role of Farm Subsidies as a Stimulus for Inequality and Obesity

Below you will find a .pdf of my first law review publication. The article appeared in the Asia Pacific Journal of Health Law and Ethics in December of 2016. It is co-authored with Dr. Neil Browne, Facundo Bouzat, and Justin Rex.

The Unfortunate Role of Farm Subsidies as a Stimulus for

10 Habits of a Successful Student

A good friend, who at the time was getting ready to start his second semester of college, asked me for some tips on how to be a better student. So I came up with this list of ten “habits” that I think a successful student might embody. My creating this list by no means warrants me a “successful” student, nor is this list intended to be exhaustive. I can only aspire to one day actualize many of these habits, but its nice to have this list as a reminder.

  1. THINK OF LEARNING LIKE INVESTING MONEY. Lets say you put $10,000 into a mutual fund on Jan. 1 of this year, and I put in only $1,000. Each month after that we both put in $1,000. By the time the year ends, you are not just going to have $9,000 more dollars than me. You are going to have exponentially more money than me because of compounding interest. Think of learning in a similar fashion. The more time you put in up front when it comes to learning a subject, the more knowledge that you will accumulate over time. OR, think of learning as a snowball effect. We are both on the top of a mountain. You have a snowball a foot-wide, I have one 3 inches-wide. We both push them down the snow-covered mountain. By the time they reach the bottom, yours wont just be 9 inches bigger; it will be massive in comparison to mine.
  2. SPEND AS MUCH TIME WITH THE CONTENT UP FRONT AS POSSIBLE. Meticulously read the table of contents of all assigned readings, and the first page of every single chapter before reading any specifics. Think about meta-concepts, such as how the book is organized, why its organized that way, and what the purpose of each chapter is. ALSO, spend a significant amount of time with the syllabus (assuming your teachers use a syllabus). Get in the teacher’s head, think about why he or she structures the class the way they do and what the main take-aways of the course are.
  3. SIT IN THE FRONT ROW OF EVERY CLASS. This will force you to pay more attention than if you were to sit in the back of the class.
  4. ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TEACHER; VISIT THEM AFTER CLASS. The teacher is the teacher for a reason: she/he knows more than you. The more time you spend in their presence, asking questions, the more you will learn.
  5. TAKE NOTES. This sounds obvious, but let’s be real, humans are fallible creatures. We think our memory is precise, and always accurate. It’s not. We forget. A lot. Taking notes acts as the best counter I know to our forgetful tendencies.
  6. KNOWLEDGE IS WEIGHTLESS. There is no limit to how much you can carry. Don’t be afraid to feel hungry when it comes to learning.
  7. When you are assigned written assignments, DON’T BE AFRAID TO KILL YOUR BABIES. This is just a metaphorical way to say, edit, edit, edit. Your first draft of anything will never be your best. Send your writing to trusted friends, peers or the professor herself to revise, critique, and cut what is unnecessary.
  8. FIND A STUDY BUDDY OR STUDY GROUP. The writings of Epictetus, the father of Stoicism, are incredibly repetitive. Why? Because he believed repetition is essential to learning anything. Having a peer with whom you can discuss what you are studying in the classroom acts as positive reinforcement for your learning.
  9. ACTUALLY READ ALL ASSIGNED READINGS. This is just reinforcement for what you already know to be true. Do not assume that you can skate by without reading what your teacher assigns. Assume that there is a method to his/her madness (because if they are a good teacher, then there probably is a method!)
  10. HUMBLE YOURSELF. Anytime you start a new class, or a new concept, condition your mind to believe that you know absolutely nothing at all in regards to the subject at hand. Think: “I am a novice. I am an infant. All that I know is that I have a burning curiosity to know more.” This might be the most important of all habits.

4th of July Patriotism as Illustration of Perverse Exxageration

This post originally appeared on celebratequestions.com on July 6, 2014. It is co-authored with Dr. Neil Browne. 


1.     What would it even mean to say we have the greatest country on the planet?

2.     When a person has the freedom to read, but has nothing to read and no ability to read, what is the value of that freedom?

3.    Can we not be willing to praise our country for its self-evident achievements without forgetting its marked deficiencies?

Independence Day is rarely celebrated in a reasonable fashion. It is not a day of reflection amidst pledges of improvement. Rather our collective egos seem to require us to forget the low quality of our health care, our fears, our seeming need to arm ourselves far out of proportion to either the probable risk or the levels of other countries, our urge to imprison, the increasingly poor quality of our public schools, and our ailing infrastructure. We instead use the 4th of July to announce to everyone within earshot our primary place in the world as a beacon of “freedom.”

The conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and the dependably right wing Wall Street Journal publish a rank ordering of nations based on what they call “economic freedom.” Apparently, this is the form of freedom that comes to their mind when they hear “freedom.”

The freedom that seemingly most excites them is the one that   “provides an absolute right of property ownership, fully realized freedoms of movement for labor, capital, and goods, and an absolute absence of coercion or constraint of economic liberty beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty itself.” They blithely look at freedom from the perspective of the businessperson/property owner. Why? I guess they presume that when one has something he or she deserves that something. But the role of luck in our lives is so extensive that making such an assumption begs at minimum for a solid explicit defense.

We are using the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal  as representative voices of American viewpoints because to us even the Democratic Party’s market-oriented rhetoric sounds suspiciously similar to the understanding of freedom described above. See, for example, the Obama administration’s self-conscious rejection of “inequality” memes in their talking points.

Continuing to parse the freedom defined above, we note that property ownership and the rights attendant to ownership are not just present; they are absolute. A nod to labor and its need for freedom takes the form of freedom of movement. Neither the right to bargain collectively, to require that non-members pay dues so that the collective unit can exist, nor the right to a living wage taints the clarity of their identification with the dominant. Surely, we suppose, they would claim that benefiting such people pari passu benefits everyone else.

And among the fascinating aspects of their rank ordering of free countries is that Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, and Norway are in the same “mostly free” category as is the United States. Yet these countries are often lampooned by the Heritage Foundation and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal as Socialist and freedom-denying. So the list you create finds that these countries are just as free as the USA, but that fact does not give you pause when you derogate them as “nanny states.”  Very strange.

The source of the contempt for these Scandinavian countries seems to be that they spend approximately 30% of their GDP on social expenditures, while the U.S. government spends 20%.  Social expenditures are primarily for the housing, health, and training needs of the vulnerable, i.e., those who are not victorious in the financial arena of modern markets.  Scandinavian social expenditures are clearly redistributional; they transfer income from the comfortable to the young, the sick, the old, the unemployed and the poor.  To us they seem to be taking the mandates of religions and ethical systems of thought to heart when they do so. They are expressing a shared sense of human community.  For governmental actions to be redistributional means that citizens in those countries are unwilling to bow in obeisance toward whatever income distribution the market at any time provides.

The relevance to “freedom” talk is that Scandinavian countries are providing more positive freedom or capabilities to that component of its citizens who need assistance in the fundamental areas of modern living. Voters in the USA turn a relatively frigid shoulder to that cohort of Americans who lack the capabilities required to flourish.

We celebrate “freedom,” In the process, we exaggerate freedom’s identifiable merits by treating it as if it is some universal meaning and application. Peter Levine suggests 6 distinct types of freedom, and I have seen coherent definitions of several additional forms of freedom. Yet, we on the 4th of July sing hymns of praise to an abstraction as if all of the singers are on the same page and yearn for the same form and quantity of liberty.

Our political proclivities implicitly hinder large number of Americans from having the time, knowledge, and inclination to participate actively in relational meaning or civic engagement. Tired, depressed, ill, quasi-literate, and unemployed citizens are not in a position to appreciate and benefit from many of the negative freedoms provided by out Bill of Rights for example.  We vote for those who insure that corporations will be largely unregulated in areas that are heavily regulated in Scandinavian and other European countries.  Regulation comes in many forms and can be as harmful to the vulnerable as helpful. But consumer protection, health, and safety regulation, while potentially helping all citizens are especially helpful to the vulnerable because of their inability to help themselves. Those expenditures are feverishly opposed or simply ignored by dominant interests in the U.S.

The point here is that freedom is complex; liberty takes many forms. In many instances freedoms are divisible.  Expanding yours can infringe on mine. The distinction between freedom from and freedom to accomplish activates a struggle over which version of freedom will prevail and which group of citizens will most be assisted by laws and norms that defend and spread that form of freedom.

1. What ethical model, religious or secular, would justify a celebration of freedoms that are most beneficial to the most comfortable members of our society?

2. Does the type of freedom we  most need to expand depend on the context a particular nation finds itself in at the moment?

3. Is patriotic boasting anything more than an extension of our affection for our own ego? 

 

Warm Memories

Walking to dinner from the Rec the other night, I pulled out my phone to check the temperature: -3 degrees. Wearing no gloves, no hat, you could say this city boy had slightly underestimated the power of winter in this abnormally flat town of Bowling Green. Therefore, I decided to take an alternative route in hopes of reducing the amount of time spent under the blanket of freezing air that had engrossed the campus. Wind blowing in my face as if we were the subject of an arctic wind tunnel experiment, I turned to the side for a brief escape of the invisible knife jutting into my face. There, to my left, I saw the grounds in which the campus ROTC would train and work out once the weather was not unbearably cold.

Stopping for a minute to observe my unknown surroundings, I noticed a simple set of monkey bars a few feet to my left. I walked over to them, my face buried in my jacket, yet somehow still exposed to the bitter bite of the wind. Pulling my hand out of my jacket, I reached up and touched the first metal bar. The difference in temperature between my hand and the bar was so significant I felt as if the metal might melt if I could bear to hold on any longer. Just before I placed my hand back into my coat pocket, I paused for a minute as a faded memory protruded into my head. I slowly moved my hand back toward to the metal bar and grasped it. Immediately the sting of the freezing, unforgiving metal disappeared, as the flame of a memory grew warmer and warmer.

As was usual after my grandma passed away, my grandpa was over at my house every Sunday for Sunday dinner. He would sit in the kitchen, usually facing the television, watching golf with my dad, or more often than not, sleeping while my dad watched golf. I do not know why, but the fondest memories I have are of the Sundays during spring, when the double doors next to the kitchen were open, letting the warm breeze in from the screened-in porch. The sun would be shining, and the grass green; the smell of seasoned steak slowly traveling from the grill on the porch into the house, becoming more distinct every second.

As if he could smell when the steak was done, my grandpa would wake up, his head popping up like a jack-in-the-box, right before dinner was served- a skill that must mature with age. He was always so excited to eat a meal made by my Mom, probably for good reason, as the food she cooked could not compare to the “gourmet” meals provided at his Assisted Living Facility. Trust me, as a regular at Mom’s Kitchen, no cafeteria food on the planet could scratch the surface of her grilled steak, diced potatoes and steamed vegetables. At times, it almost appeared the meal was the only thing on my grandpa’s mind; but deep down I knew the company of my family was what he truly came for. In fact, the difference may well be similar to the difference of Mom’s food and the food at the Assisted Living Facility.

Similar to most elderly people, grandpa loved to share memories, perhaps because they were the only intangible thing he had to hold onto. Understandably, feelings of the future only become more irrelevant as the end draws near. Yet even though my grandpa was in his late 80’s, his memory seemed to strengthen with age. Perhaps his strongest memories were rooted in his participation in World War II. He was drafted as a young man, only a few years older than me, when my grandma was pregnant with my aunt. He always used to tell us stories about his escapades, what it was like fighting in the biggest war the world has ever seen.

I could always picture my grandpa in his navy gear, standing at the edge of a massive ship overlooking the loneliness of the ocean, holding his rifle, the metal fresh with condensation from the sweat of a nervous pair of hands. My grandpa was a tough man, but for some reason he seemed most vulnerable when my brothers and I would ask him about his gun. He never had to shoot at anyone. But I think the thought of being forced to fire at someone, as a matter of life or death, as a matter of necessity, made him uneasy.

Just then, the bitter cold rushed into my paralyzed hand, biting my skin and causing me to quickly withdraw my hand back into the safety of my pocket. Suddenly aware of my surroundings, I casually glanced around to see if anybody had took notice of the strange man hanging out by the deserted monkey bars in the cold of the night. Luckily, I was still in solitude, and decided to take a seat on a block of wood adjacent to the monkey bars. I looked around, further taking in my unknown surroundings. It was so dark though I could barely see anything, and my focus again shifted back to the metal bars directly to the right of me.

I stood up and placed my hand back on the first metal bar. Ice cold. What a surprise. Again, my thoughts immediately shifted back to my grandpa.

Being in the Navy, my grandpa traveled to many different countries on ship. His fleet had just departed North Africa. Not being able to sleep in his close quarter bunk, he walked up to the top of the ship to clear his mind. He stared into the black of the ocean, gripping the railing at the edge of the ship, only aware he was even on water by the faint clash of the waves against the bottom of the ship. Suddenly, he heard an explosion and was tossed across the ship like a ragdoll. He didn’t remember much after that. He woke up with a broken leg and a Purple Heart. He didn’t mind the pain though. The soldiers still asleep in his bunker didn’t make it out alive. Whatever it was weighing on his mind that caused him to leave his bed, leave his friends, leave the sense of protection, saved his life that night. And for that reason, he could endure the pain, because he knew he was alive.

One time he brought over his Purple Heart. He let my brothers and I hold it. It was strange that such a small piece of metal should be so significant, should spark so many memories.

My hand again became aware of the ice-cold metal bar I had unknowingly attached a firm grip to. I glanced around in a nonchalant manner for the second time; still no one there. Where the hell is everyone? It’s not like its dangerously cold out. Conversing with myself silently, I became aware of the bitter cold, yet again. I sat back down on the wooden block and crunched my body together as close as possible. As I went to place my right hand in my pocket, I grazed the block of wood I was so kindly protecting from the coughs of Mother Nature.

As my grandpa was living out his final days, he seemed at peace. He was very sick, but the medicine and painkillers put him at ease. My family and I would bring him dinner to the Nursing Home in which he was now staying. We would spread out around him and eat our meal, elbows continuously jarring into one another, but we didn’t mind. It was obvious my grandpa wasn’t too sure what exactly was going on: pain meds will do that to you. However, there would be times he would look around at me, my brothers, my dad, and my mom -oh, how he loved my mom- and would smile. He didn’t need to understand what was going on in the present, to understand what had already happened in the past.

My grandpa passed away a few weeks before Christmas. He died rather peacefully, in his bed, with his son and daughters around him. When it was time for his funeral a few days later, my dad asked if I would be a pallbearer. I said of course, as I had done the same for my grandma at her funeral. The funeral was sad, but there was something spiritually satisfying about it. The service was held at my family’s parish, one that my grandpa had grown to love when he moved to his Assisted Living Facility right down the road. I don’t know what it was that he loved about that church, to me it was just a church, but attending with my family every Sunday, he was happy.

When the service was over, I made my way to the front of the Church, and placed my hand on the soft, warm piece of wood perpetually separating my grandpa from the cold of the world. Staring at the coffin- forgetting everything, while my memory never seemed so vivid- seeing my hand separate the wood from the rest of the world, chills rushed through my body. Saying my final words to my grandpa, I ever so-slowly lowered my hand to the spotless metal handle to assume my position, and clenched-

Cold.

Snapping back to reality for the third time, I found myself standing, my fingers unconsciously gripping a bar of metal like the handle of a gun. I shook my head. The temperature was negative degrees, and instead of taking time off my painful walk, I was taking time to squeeze a freezing, grimy bar of metal and feel the texture of a random, rugged block of wood.

I got up and began cutting through the rest of the park so I could finally eat. I was starving. As I walked, face buried in jacket, I didn’t really take the time to notice anything else in the park. I had become too concerned with other matters—the small splinter of wood lodged in my index finger, and the cold sting still lingering in my palm.

Stream of Consciousness

This is a poem I wrote on April 4, 2017. I wrote it in pen, in my journal, and then translated it to this page. I did not make any edits to the original copy; its my version of “free-styling.”

Let me write this in pen
So it cant be erased.

You should read what is about to follow
Every. Single. Day.

You are not important.
You are not special.
And your thoughts and feelings contrary to these two points
Is what leads to delusional living.

You are one in seven billion
In counting.

And you can count on that.
Always, cause' its not changing.

In fact, you are becoming less important
and less special
every single moment.
If there is even any special 
or important left to reduce.

BUT.
[There has to be a but.]

You are one in seven billion,
The only one in seven billion.

Find what makes you the only one
And savor it
Rest in it,
Be IT.

You can either feel bad
about your lack of importance
OR
Free.

What an amazing sensation it is to feel insignificant.
Its not painful, nor pleasurable.
It does not make me joyful, nor sad.
It simply is. Its what is. Its the Truth.

Its not afraid of success
because its not afraid of failure.

How can you not be afraid of success
if you are afraid to fail?

But that feeling of insignificance
That is the remedy to fear.

The rivers of the world have been flowing 
long before you were here.
And they will continue flowing
long after you are gone.

Remember that, and don't forget. 

The distractions will make it easy to forget.

The social media. 
The facebook, the twitter
the instagram, the snapchat.

Your "profile"
Your "followers"

Nobody is following you.
To follow implies to lead.
But who is leading?

Hard to say—
No, its hard to see.

Hard to find a single leader
I'd call mine, 
I'd call my own.

When I get like this,
incisive of our society
I'm in my zone.

The only problem is,
that when I'm in my zone
I feel alone.

I guess that's why they call it my zone.
Cause' if its mine it cant be yours.

My zone.
Find your own.


 

Intersects at Perception: In The Grove and They Saw A Game

In the Grove is a short story revolving around a murder, and the ensuing recounts from the perspective of each person involved.   One man confesses as the murderer, presumably ending any discrepancies in the reader’s interpretation of the mystery.  However, an account from the wife of the murdered man follows, contrasting in many aspects with the account of the alleged murderer.  To obfuscate things further, the spirit of the murdered man then provides his account of what happened—another significant contrast from the previous two accounts.   The author uses these differing recounts to highlight the somewhat ironic truth about reality.

This “truth” about reality is that what we “see” and how we interpret things varies—even if said variation is of the smallest degree—from what everyone else sees or interprets. In other words, what is undeniably true for one person may prove indisputably false for another.  In this regard, In the Grove is very similar with They Saw a Game, a case study also rooted in differing accounts of what technically was the “same” event.  In every single account of the game, no matter how different from the others, the person providing the account did so with an assumed sense of truth.  What each fan saw was what happened, because that is what he or she saw, and there is no one who can (with absolute evidence) dispute said recount.  The same holds true in In the Grove- how can any of the three recounts of the murder be absolutely false?  And yet, how can any of the three recounts be absolutely true?

The author of They Saw a Game states, “We behave according to what we bring to the occasion, and what each of us brings to the occasion is more or less unique.”  Emotions, beliefs, desires, and even the position in which we are observing all alter the way in which we see things.  The spirit of the murdered man in In the Grove is noticeably angry with his wife during his entire account of the murder, and claims he is the one who murdered himself.  Perhaps his “reality” is a result of some prior conflict with his wife, or maybe he believes he killed himself because his stupidity to follow the real murderer led to his death.  The “realities” in They Saw a Game are no different.   Are recounts of the “big game” really going to be identical between fans of say, Ohio State and fans of Michigan?  Probably not, but are the fans giving each account convinced that what they are saying is certainly, definitely, and indisputably correct?  Yep, and the two aforementioned stories highlight this simplicity for humans to think they are seeing things as they really are—a direct reflection of our cognitive bias to think we are often correct, without any reasonable evidence to believe so.