I Don’t Think That I Can Handle This Right Now

- By

Bo Burnham released a new special on Netflix last Friday.  Make Happy.  I know that his brand of comedy is polarizing, but if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend stopping what you are doing and taking an hour to watch it.  It is, simply put, incredible art.

Bo is undeniably honest and genuine throughout his entire performance.  That may seem odd, considering how scripted the show is, but there is not a single moment that I felt that he was not being true to himself.  His jokes were an extension of him, the material an example of his perspective on the world.

The structure of his jokes and the show as a whole felt like a look into his mind, allowing us to see how his thought process works, drawing parallels between things that most wouldn’t consider.

The final segment of the show is where Bo becomes extremely personal with the crowd, having an honest discussion with them, explaining why he does what he does and what he tries to be.  These last 15 minutes resonated with me more than I could have imagined.

Putting It Out There

This post has been a long time coming.  Not because I’ve been waiting for Make Happy., but Make Happy. has inspired me.  It’s weird to think that an hour-long comedy show is what got me to this point, but in my mind, I don’t think anything else could have done it.

No, this post has been a lifetime in the making.  That isn’t me being dramatic or abstract.  My entire life has made me who I am at this very moment, sitting at my computer, carefully organizing my thoughts so that I can express them in the most effective way, because I don’t know that I can afford to screw this up.

I’ve told a few people this over the last few years.  Some family, some friends.  The reception, honestly, could have been better.  I get it: people don’t know how to talk about this.  It’s uncomfortable.  We don’t know how to respond.

For the past 3 years and change, I have been suicidal.

Boom.  It’s out there.

Quite frankly, I hate that it’s almost taboo to talk about.  I think it’s silly.

But don’t take me making a joke after revealing that as this isn’t a serious matter.  It’s beyond terrifying to have to deal with, but I am, fortunately, in a good state of mind right now, and we all deal with things differently.  I, personally, love to make light of dark situations, especially my own.

Quick example: my dad was bitten by a tick recently.  He went to the doctor, gave some blood to get tested and told us “They’re going to check to see if the tick was carrying.”  Instinctively, I responded with “Like… guns?”

And scene.

Now, back to the dark stuff.

How To Talk About It

I think this is probably the most important thing I can cover right now.  I’ll get to explaining how I got to where I am in a bit, but if there is anything I want people to take away from this, it’s having at least a starting point for how to talk about suicide.

From here on out, I’m going to be speaking generally about people who are suicidal.  Obviously, everyone has their own story, their own problems and their own ways of approaching them, so behaviors and preferences will vary.  But from what I’ve come to learn through my experience and personal researching is what I’m going to share.

It takes courage to admit to anyone that you are suicidal.  If someone is admitting this to you, you better believe that they have spent countless hours trying to work it out in their head, trying to figure out how to deal with it without having to be a “burden” to anyone else.  Yes, we are afraid that we will be a burden to the people we tell.  We don’t want to add to the list of things everyone else is already worrying about in their day-to-day life.  We know everyone has problems, and we don’t want to be one of them.

Here are some tips for how to talk about suicide:

  • If someone tells you they are suicidal, please, DO NOT dismiss what they are saying.  Do not respond with “You’re having a stroke of bad luck” or “I have days where I just want everything to stop, too.”  Dismissing what they are saying will make them instantly regret opening up to you and may make them doubt reaching out to anyone when they need help in the future.
  • DO NOT assume you know what they are thinking or feeling.  Unless you have battled with being suicidal (in which case, you probably don’t need this advice), you don’t know what is going through their head.  Ask non-leading questions, encourage them to expand on their answers, be patient and allow them to say what they need to.  Please, do not interrupt them.
  • No, you will not “fix” them.  There is nothing wrong with them that needs “fixing.”
  • Ask them what they need.  DO NOT assume you know what they need.  Again, they probably have spent an unbelievable amount of time processing it and trying to find solutions for how to deal with it.  For you to jump in with “the perfect solution” — even with the best of intentions — is insulting and belittling, and it won’t help.
  • DO NOT make it about you.  DO NOT guilt them into thinking about how devastated you would be if they did something to themselves.  This moment is about them, not you.  Suicide, contrary to popular belief, is not (always) selfish.  Not in the eyes of the person committing it.  Yes, some people are looking to escape the suffering they are dealing with.  But there are also plenty of people who feel that they are causing the people around them to suffer, that they are a burden.

Follow Through

Following through is one of the most important things you can do for someone who is suicidal.  It’s almost cliche for people to say “If you ever need anything, I’m always here for you” or “If you feel like you’re going to do something, please call me.”

Those things are great to be told.  You feel like “Ok.  I’m getting somewhere.  Someone cares about me.”

If you are going to make that offer to someone, know that they are taking it very seriously.  They may be hesitant to call you or talk to you again in the future, but if they do, you need to be there.

And I get it, people have lives.  Sometimes you’re just not by the phone or there’s some reason you can’t pick up.  But you need to remind yourself that if you see their name on your phone, that they might really need you.  And while that might scare you at times, make you fear that this might be the call, remember that your fear of picking up is nothing compared to the fear they are calling you with.

Additionally, following through involves checking in.  No one wants to open up about what they are dealing with, only to have no one check in about it and make them feel like no one actually cares.  Calling and checking in helps the person dealing with being suicidal feel more open about their struggle, which helps alleviate the pain of dealing with it on their own.

Getting Here

I’ve dealt with anxiety my entire life.  For me, it came with being introverted.  I never did anything unless I was sure I could do it right.  I’ve always been quiet because of this.  I used to, and still do, run entire conversations in my head, thinking about every possible response to each thing I would say so I was fully prepared for a conversation, all before I even said a word.

So it’s always been hard making friends.  It’s hard to live in the moment when you’re trying to plan out the next one.

Laughter is always directed at me.  If someone laughs, unless I make a joke, I am the cause of laughter.  So I reevaluate everything that just happened, try to figure out what I did wrong, and establish a list of things not to let happen again.

Yeah, I know this doesn’t make sense.  It’s a frustrating and, quite honestly, exhausting way to live.  But that’s how my brain works.  It’s how a lot of introverts work.

About 3 and a half years ago, something big happened in my personal life.  I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus, because I still care about them very deeply and we’ve reconciled.

But at the time, this happened and I was alone.  I didn’t have anyone.  I felt like I had pushed my friends away, I was at a college where, even in my junior year, I didn’t know too many people, and I didn’t know where to turn.

I spent a lot of time in my dorm room.  No roommate.  No friends in my townhouse.  Just me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about where I was in life and how I got there.  The anxiety forced me to think about every single intersection in life and the turns that got me there.  So I quickly became depressed.  And once I became depressed, with no friends and so desperately wanting human connection, I became suicidal.

I never thought I’d get out of the rut I was in.  Yes, I was suffering, but that wasn’t what I was trying to escape.  In my mind, I was poison to everyone I ever came in contact with.  People left my life because I wasn’t someone worth keeping in theirs.  There was no reason for me to keep going if every person that came into my life would come to the same conclusion and leave because I wasn’t good for them.

3 years ago, I told someone that I had only known for a few weeks that I was suicidal.  That was the first time I admitted it.  The next time was not until a year and a half ago, to my parents.

I’ve told a number of friends and family members since, and the responses have been all over the spectrum.  And this is why I know what advice I can offer to people who need to know how to talk about it.

I’ve admitted being suicidal in the heat of an argument, only to have it brushed aside and never acknowledged again.

I’ve admitted it during a deep heart-to-heart on several occasions, only to have those people never talk to me about it again.  Never ask me how I’m doing.  Never be there when I need them.  Nothing.

And I don’t blame them.  I can’t.  It’s not who I am.  I know that they have their own lives, their own problems they are dealing with.  I won’t hold it against them, because I don’t want to be a burden.  I’m not their responsibility.

If I’m going to be honest, part of it is also me not trusting some people.  That’s not to say that they aren’t trustworthy.  But when I get to the point where I need to call someone, sometimes I don’t because I’m afraid of what will happen if they don’t pick up.

I’ve had friends I’ve tried to get one-on-one time with so I can open up to them about this, but never get the chance.  For months, I’ve so wanted to see certain people in my life to tell them all of this in person, but I haven’t been able to.

I’ve had friends who have been through this that I’ve called when I’ve needed help, but they don’t pick up.  Or check in later to see what was up.  These are people that used to call me when they were cutting themselves, or drinking with the intent of poisoning themselves.  I was there for these people when they needed me, and they always said they wish they could return the favor.

So the anxiety and depression kick into overdrive and make everything worse, because if these people that I spent so much time helping and supporting can’t be there when I need it, am I really that significant in ANYONE’S life?

Words Are Hard, Even For Me

I’ve tried talking about it before.  I’ve tried writing about it before.  Writing’s easier for an introvert like me.  Before I hit “Publish” on this post, I’ve reread it ten times, deleted large chunks, rewritten others, and I still won’t be happy once it’s out there.

But I’ve tried putting these thoughts out there.  I was once told that I was completely wrong with how I was thinking about suicide.  Imagine that: feeling suicidal and then being told that you don’t know what it’s like being suicidal.  If that doesn’t screw with your head, I don’t know what will.

But I want it out there.  Being suicidal, suffering from depression and anxiety, they’re all part of me.  None of it is going away.  They are my cancer.  They will always be in me.  I just need to learn to deal with them.  I need to learn how to cope and not let them control me.  But I will own them.

If You Are Suicidal

Please, reach out.  Tell the people closest to you.  Print out my advice if you think it will help and have them read it before you say a word.  It will brace them for the subject and hopefully keep them from making any mistakes.

There are numbers to call or text if you need help.

Talk to a professional.  I was totally against it for the longest time, but having that positive consistency in your life is a good thing.  Don’t feel obligated to stay with the first one.  Keep trying until you find the right one for you.  My first one was beyond terrible.  But you’ll find one that you connect with and it will be worth the search.

I Want To Help

If you need help, ever; if you need someone to talk to, regardless of what time of day or night, I want to help.  If you are a friend, you have my number.  If you are a stranger on the internet, message the Facebook page for this blog, and I will do what I can.

No one is alone.  No matter how much you think so.

So, the only question left is: what the hell does this have to do with Bo Burnham?

Being Genuine

I live my life to be the best person I can be.  Plain and simple.  Call me jaded if you’d like, I’ll take that as a concession.

I had someone once very close to me say, “You’re so full of yourself.  You act so genuine.  People like you don’t exist.”

I have my morals and I live my life based on my beliefs.  I went vegan because I want the best life for myself, for the world around me and for future generations.  Veganism was the way for me to do that.  I didn’t do it because I wanted to have something to hold over everyone else.  I don’t think I’m better than anyone who isn’t vegan.  I don’t put myself up on a pedestal.  Being vegan has been an incredible test of self-control and determination.  But I wanted to stop causing suffering and destroying my body and the environment.  I want to live my life as consistently and contradiction-free as I can.

It’s a shame that person said that, because that person used to inspire me to be genuine.  But like being suicidal, I am going to own being genuine.

At the end of Make Happy., Bo talks about how his biggest problem in life is his audience.  He says “Part of me loves you.  Part of me hates you.  Part of me needs you.  Part of me fears you.”  He wants to please his audience, make them laugh and give them what they came for.  But he wants to be true to himself, talk about things that are important to him.  And he struggles with finding that balance.

Bo Burnham has resonated with me since I first came across him.  He doesn’t shy away from involving serious topics in his shows.  Being funny is who he is, but so is caring about people and society.  His performances are genuine.  They are him.  He is living his life as himself.

And that is who I want to be.  I want to be someone who lives life as himself.  I want to talk about the issues of the world and not care that people will think I’m conceded or self-righteous, because I know that I am being genuine.  I want to work towards my dreams of making a difference in the world and people be inspired instead of asking when I’m going to get a job or tell me I’m not aiming realistically.

I know who I am.

I am someone who wants to create art that will inspire the people around me to create further change.

I am someone who does not believe in God, but I believe in people.  And as much as I love people for the beauty they create and the passion with which they live life, I hate people for how senseless and selfish they can be when destroying everything around them, especially each other.

I am someone who wants to help every single person that I can, regardless if I’ve known them my entire life or for just a moment.

I am someone who is struggling with the world around him just as much as he is with himself.  I am terrified of everyone else and what they are capable of just as much as I am of myself.

But I am also someone who is inspired by the love I have seen people radiate and that I know I have been able to give.  I am inspired because I know what it is like to live each day for myself and for someone else, and I want to experience that immeasurable level of joy again.

This has been a long time coming, but I know who I am, and I am alive.

Midterm Elections Are Tomorrow

- By

Consider this scenario.

You have a son in his sophomore year in high school.  He’s in his rebellious phase, as most teens are, but no more so than everyone else.  He isn’t the best student in his class, averaging C’s in almost every class, but again, things could be worse.  All-in-all, you are thankful that he goes to school, is passing and does not get into an unordinary amount of trouble.

One day, you find out that he has an addiction problem.  While he has said that he has been going to the mall or playing football with his friends, he has actually been getting high at a friend’s house or getting drunk at parties, which often led to getting into fights and running from the cops.  Your first reaction is shock and denial, but when you confront him about it, he admits it angrily and storms out of the house.  You are left alone, blaming yourself for not being involved enough in his life.

You ask him about the next day, begging him to stop what he is doing, desperately trying to show him how dangerous and destructive it is.  He refuses to change his ways and ends the conversation saying that he has been stealing your money to pay for his lifestyle and that he will find a way to continue it no matter what.

This continues for another week.  You plea.  He argues.  You cry.  He yells.  Finally, you are able to reach a compromise: he will cut one of his addictions out of his life, but you must support the other by willingly giving him the money he needs.

Considering the week you have just had, you accept the compromise, afraid of what the alternative would mean.  You choose to give him the money he needs to buy alcohol every week.  You are never happy about it, but you comfort yourself slightly knowing that he has given up the more reckless lifestyle.


This is insane, right?  No one would look at this situation and say “I don’t mind that he’s getting into fights and running from the police, but at least he isn’t killing himself with drugs.”  The converse is also true.

If any of us were presented with this situation, most of us would work as hard as we could to steer our son in a positive direction.  We would seek help, additional solutions, but we would never give in and support one very harmful act because “at least it’s not two.”

And yet, midterm elections are tomorrow, and everywhere I look, this is exactly what I am asked to do.  I am asked to choose between the lesser of two evils, often with the justification that voting is not a right, but instead a “civic duty.”  Really?

Australia is one of 11 countries that has compulsory voting.  Individuals over the age of 18 must vote, else they are fined $26.  If voting was a civic duty, there would be fines associated with not meeting it, as there is with skipping jury duty or not completing the census.  But that is not the case, so are we really obligated to any extent to vote?

Let’s forget about whether or not we are obliged.  Let’s look now about why so many people do not want to vote.

The expected turnout rate for midterm elections tomorrow, nation-wide, is 15%.  Again, that is nation-wide.

There are plenty of people who voted for Obama in 2012 and said, “It’s not that I want him to be President.  But I don’t want Romney to win.”  The converse is also true.

I’ve used that line before.  Where was that…?  Oh!  My hypothetical situation.

We wouldn’t be ok with a compromise like that in our personal lives, but when it comes to politics, we are made to think that voting is crucial.  No, necessary.  But that is not true.

If I didn’t like Al Gore in the 2000 election, I would have had to vote against him to ensure he did not win.  (Notice that I said I would vote against him.  I would not have voted  for Bush, but against Gore.)  I would then be partly responsible for the fact that there was a president who invaded Iraq because he “was sure” there were WMDs there.  (SPOILER: There wasn’t.)

This is the mentality the majority of Americans share: we know that politics are corrupt, but we continue to vote to protect ourselves from the lesser of the potential outcomes.  One guy could really screw us all over, so I’m going to vote the other guy in because I don’t feel it’ll be as bad.

So what am I accomplishing by not voting tomorrow?  I am fulfilling my duty as part of this democracy.

But Dave!  You just said that we aren’t obligated to vote.  What duty are you fulfilling?

I am fulfilling my duty of making my voice heard.  The mistake people make is thinking that voting is how you make your opinion heard.  That is absolutely not true.

If even one person shares this post, I have made my voice heard and started a conversation.  I have expressed my thoughts and introduced the idea to every reader.

But aside from this blog, I am making a statement to politicians, regardless of if they realize it yet or not.

Currently, politicians work to appeal to those who vote.  But as fewer and fewer people make the trip to the polls, who are they going to appeal to?  They can only do so much to gain the favor of those who do not vote for a particular party.  Soon, they will have to take a good hard look at the status quo and realize that they need to appeal to the non-voters and meet their demands if they hope to win.

I will not be voting in the midterm elections tomorrow.  I am not happy with the way politicians operate and take my vote for granted.  So if they want to get more people to get out and cast their voice in the form of a vote, they will make that change.  If not, they will not win, and ultimately, that is all they want.  But until then, I will not be voting.  I will not pick the lesser evil.

There is another option.

Let’s Stop Being Hypocrites

- By

I like to tell people that I love writing, that I want to be an author or a writer for video games one day.  And yet, here I am, almost a year since my last blog post on this site, something I used to be very passionate about.  Project Selfless was meant to be an outlet for me, a forum to express my thoughts on the world, my perspective on society and the issues we face in our culture.  I am still passionate about all of that — probably more than ever — but as I became more and more depressed, more and more defeated by the obstacles thrown my way, I could not bring myself to write anymore.  I still meet people and tell them I am aspiring author and writer, and my first thought is that I cannot even sit down and write about what I am most devoted to on a semi-regular basis.

I like to think that I am a good friend, an active listener and effective supporter.  I love listening to people, learning their stories and seeing how and why they are in their current situation.  I have grown very close to a good number of people, loved so many.  But I have let it all slip away.  Why?  Because I am an idiot.  I let people go.  Not that they leave, but because time and space naturally grows between us and I let it happen.  And I think about it every day. I need to text this person as soon as I’m done driving.  I really miss them, I should call them and plan to hang out.  But somehow, the thought passes and I don’t make the effort.  (To any of you reading this, you know who you are.  Please know I am sorry, and I will reach out soon.  Please hold me to that.)

I know that I am a hypocrite.  I know that we all are.  I know exactly how hard it is to admit that we are.  I know what it is like to sit across from someone you love and be accused of it, and the strength and courage it takes to say you are wrong.

We Are All Hypocrites

You say you are against animal cruelty, but what animals are you talking about?  Cats?  Dogs?  Oh, just the ones you don’t eat?  Got it.  You weren’t referring to cows, pigs, chickens, fish, lobsters, or the the other tasty ones.

You say you are for fair treatment of women in society, but someone complaining is still “whining like a little girl,” right?  What about the derogatory language you use for girls who enjoy having sex and have every right to without being criticized?  I don’t hear any complaints about your male friends “getting laid” all the time.

The poor are just a bunch of moochers, amirite?  We should totally keep idolizing the rich.  They so don’t milk the middle class for every penny we have.

Oh, I’m a “fag”?  I didn’t know you had a problem with gays.  What’s that?  You don’t?  Interesting.

World peace, that’s the dream, right?  Everyone living in perfect harmony, no fighting, no war.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Oh, you want to bomb ISIS out of existence.  You’re right, that does seem productive!

Dear God, thank You for blessing me with good fortune at the cost of others’ detriment.  I am grateful that me succeeding and others struggling was part of Your plan.  They just need to believe in You more.

You’re afraid of an Ebola outbreak?  In the US?  Statistically, in the same period since the first case of Ebola in the US, more people have been killed by cows in this country.  Probably because we say we don’t want to mistreat animals, but still eat them anyway.  I don’t know, I don’t speak cow.

If anything from the short list above makes you angry or uncomfortable, CONGRATS!  You’re a hypocrite!  But fret not, all hope is not lost.  There is still time to make a change.

Say What You Mean

And mean what you say.  If you are going to post pictures on Facebook condemning animal cruelty, be consistent with your actions and don’t support the raising and killing of animals for your consumption.

If you are going to thank God for the good things in your life, realize that you being privileged, by definition, means that someone else is without it.  So you have a few options in front of you.  You either:

  1. Admit that God consciously blessed you while making someone else’s life more difficult.
  2. If you don’t agree with that, then you need to accept that what is making someone else’s life difficult is their environment and the people within it.  If that’s the case, you need to also realize that your good fortune is actually the result of your environment and the people in it.

If you are going to support women’s rights and equal treatment, use language that is in line with that claim.  Additionally, stop staring at girls who show skin in public, girls in tight pants, etc…  That’s objectification and totally unacceptable.

Stop buying into the consistent state of fear the media needs us to live in.  Seriously, we’re fine.  Why are they reporting it?  Fear sells.  You want to be sure you are safe, so you’re going to tune in to stay up to date on this “terrifying outbreak.”  Why are politicians talking about it nonstop?  Start paying attention to politics and realize there’s a midterm election coming up.  Everyone talking about it has something to gain in the situation.  Is it terrible that people are sick and dying?  Obviously.  Should you be afraid?  Why would you be?

(Seriously, though.  The fact that cows kill an average of 22 people every year is terrifying.  How do they kick so high?  That’s what we should be on the lookout for, some freak breed of ninja cows.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “The irony has come full circle!”  Yes, I admit that I used to be guilty of some of these things, and I will gladly admit that there have been plenty of things before that I used to do.

However, when I learn something new, acquire new knowledge or a new perspective, I do my best to consider it and see if my life needs to be adjusted.  I used to eat nothing but fried and barbequed foods if I could help it.  But guess what?  When I learned about the environmental impact of consuming animal products, as well as considered the moral implications, I cut out animal products from my life as best I could.  I used to be religious, but upon serious consideration, found the inconsistencies and contradictions in my actions and the belief I held.

I know it is difficult to admit you are wrong, especially when it is something you have done your entire life.  But we all need to stop being hypocrites.  It will lead to a more productive society, make us more trustworthy as individuals to know we are not living a life of convenient contradictions.  It will take time and plenty of self-evaluation, but lets all try to stop being hypocrites.

Suicide: A Group Effort

- By

I recently watched 21 & Over.  It was a decent comedy, filled with plenty of college humor and cliche jokes, and a few well-placed lines that actually gave me a good laugh.  I’d recommend it if you and your friends are sitting around with nothing to do on a Friday night.  But I recommend it more than just because it made me laugh.  Unexpectedly, it made me think.  (WARNING: If you plan to watch this movie and care deeply about the story, there are spoilers to follow.  If you’d like to watch it, I’ve linked to it above.)

Towards the end of the movie, Casey and Miller are sitting outside of the health ward Jeff Chang is being cared for in.  They have just learned that the reason Jeff Chang had a gun on him and was arrested years before is because he is suicidal.  Casey and Miller talk to each other about how horrible of friends they have become that Jeff Chang, their own best friend, felt that he couldn’t even call one of them to talk to about his stress in school and pressure from his family.  And that is what got me thinking…

Suicide is not an individual effort.  It is not something someone arrives at on their own (except for very rare and unique circumstances).  When someone commits suicide, it is the culmination of the people around them failing to help.

We do not have the right to say that the individual who took his or her own life did so because they were not strong enough.  We are not at liberty to blame tragedies such as sandy Hook on video games, when the person who ended the shooting by taking his own life was, as it would seem, addicted to the most innocent of games imaginable.  We do not get to assign blame to anyone else but to those who have failed the ones who have committed suicide.

Yes, I would still say that suicide is the result of a lack of strength and commitment, but those flaws are found in the friends and family who neglected the signs they saw, or even worse, drove them to commit that fateful act.

We cannot look at those who have committed suicide and try to evaluate their personal lives, asking ourselves “Where did they go wrong?”  We need to look at the people around them and see why no one did anything.

Everyone experiences stress in life.  Everyone has lows that they feel they will never escape.  But most people have support to turn to in their time of need.  These people do not.  At least not enough.  They did not have family they felt they could fall back on, friends they thought they could call.  It is improbable that absolutely no one saw the signs.  That mean someone turned a blind eye, and that is not okay.

So what is the point I am trying to make?  Be friends with people, not “friends.”  Actually support one another.  Talk to the people in your life more than just when you need them.  Don’t dismiss signs simply because you don’t want to face the reality of the situation, or because you are uncomfortable.  What they are going through is much worse than asking a question.

Sigh of Relief

- By

There is a girl I used to know.

I use that word loosely, “know.”  We knew of each other.  We took a class together and socialized while working on a project for it.  That was about the extent of our relationship for a while, until she opened up to me one day.

I’m not entirely sure what the conversation leading up to this point was, but I remember feeling like it came out of nowhere.  I’m sure I didn’t prompt her to say what she said, but maybe she just felt like she needed to tell someone, and I just happen to be there.

She told me about how afraid she was of herself and what she was doing with her life.  She said that her boyfriend broke up with her and that she was struggling to come to terms with it.  As a result, she ended up making friends with people who got her into drugs, which she was now trying to break the addiction to.  She told me, in the most serious tone, that she didn’t think she’d survive college.  Not in the “I’m so stressed, college is going to kill me” attention seeking kind of way.  She was genuinely afraid that the reckless behavior that had become her lifestyle was going to be the end of her.

Now, anyone that knows me in the slightest knows I don’t sit idly by when someone says something like that.  I drop whatever I’m doing and put every ounce of energy into supporting you in the most productive way I can think of.

So that’s what I did.  I started texting her and talking to her whenever I could, because, the way I looked at it, all she needed right then and there was a good friend.  I tried to be that for her, but it didn’t really work.  We ended up fighting once — something I usually reserve for only the closest people in my life — and I realized even more how desperate she was for help.  And I felt horrible that I couldn’t do anything.  I didn’t know how to approach the situation any differently; this wasn’t something I’d been accustomed to helping with.

The year ended and I tried to keep in touch over the summer as best I could, at least so she didn’t think yet another person was willing to drop out of her life.  But we didn’t have classes together in the fall.  I saw her a few times just in passing, and we would stop and say hi, just check in.  Eventually we lost touch all together: either she stopped answering my texts or she got a new number, she deleted her Facebook account, and I didn’t have her email.  I had no way of talking to her, just to see if she was surviving.

That was two years ago.  For the past two years, she’d randomly pop into my head, and I’d just sit and hope that she was ok, that someone else had entered her life when I unfortunately left, that they were able to be the support she needed to turn her life around.  But it was only hope.  It wasn’t going to give me closure, any sort of comfort.

I saw her last week.  I finished my lunch with a friend, gathered my trash and started to head out of the student center when I realized it was her.  I stopped in my tracks and just stared for a moment because I had to be sure.  It was definitely her.  She sat at a table, alone, watching a video on her laptop with her headphones in.  But the most important detail was that she was smiling.  My friend asked why I stopped, to which I made up some excuse, then continued out of the building.

I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t go over.  I told myself I shouldn’t because she wouldn’t recognize me: I was still shaving my head two years ago when she knew me; my hair now hasn’t been cut for almost a full year.  Realistically, that’s a total BS reason.  The truth is that I probably didn’t want to face her, admit that I let her down two years ago, that I should have found a way to reach out to her.  I’m sure she wouldn’t have blamed me, but I’ve been blaming myself, and there’s still a chance that she might, too.  I don’t know that I could handle that.

But now I have that closure.  I know that she is ok.  If someone has a reason to smile, their life isn’t all bad.  It could be a lot worse.  I know she’s alive and that, even if only in that moment, she has a reason to be happy.

So I walked out with a small smile of my own and a sigh of relief.

This Is Why I Hate You

- By

Hate is a strong word, one that we dance around a lot because we’re told that we shouldn’t use it.  And yet, we throw it around every single day about the most mundane things that bother us.  So why did I use it in the title?  Quite frankly, it’s because there are people that I genuinely hate.  This is not geared towards anyone in particular, but if you do happen to find yourself fitting into one of the following descriptions, you now know how I feel about you: I hate you.

Because You’re Always Right

For one, it’s statistically impossible for this to be the case.  If you can use facts and logic to prove me wrong, I have no problem admitting that that is the case.  However, where I draw issue is when you think you are always right simply because you are you.  You come to your conclusions by your own means, and that never includes logic.  You have your impressions and assumptions and take them as truth.  When it comes time to those things being questioned or challenged, you know you cannot support them, but you will try to do your best, never providing an argument for your baseless claims.

So why do I hate you?  Because you are ignorant.  To knowledge.  To truth and reality.  It is that sort of mentality that perpetuates racism, sexism, poor educational settings, useless politics and so many more settings.  It is not even that you are not helping make progress; you are simply counterproductive.

Because Galileo Was Wrong

And the universe really does revolve around you.  I’m sorry that I didn’t realize that literally everyone should drop everything and accommodate your issues.

There is but a single person in the world who can say their problems are the worst, and I am willing to bet that he/she is still more concerned about someone else’s at times instead of his/her own.  If I try to talk to you about something truly pressing about my life and you steer the conversation so that you end up trying to make me feel like I have it easy and your life is so much more difficult, I hate you.  Sure, throwing a hypothetical situation my way is an effective mean of making me feel better and realizing it could be much worse.  But trying to get me to sympathize that your life is worse than mine is not going to work, and I will get up and walk away.

Which leads me to my next point…

Because You Are Petty

Your problems are insignificant.  You are immature and desperate for attention.  Quite frankly, I don’t care if you didn’t get your coffee this morning and you are dreading the rest of the day.  If people do say they care, they are either lying or have just as ridiculous a list of priorities as you do.  Don’t post about it on Facebook or Twitter trying to get someone to sympathize for you.  (If you didn’t read that sentence and think “Wow, that’s pathetic,” you are beyond help.)  Honestly, it’s a poor excuse for human connection and only makes it all worse.

People face serious problems every single day, and the fact that you are reading this right now on either a computer or your phone immediately proves that your life is monumentally better than theirs.  Not being able to go out to a party and get drunk does not warrant having a breakdown, nor does it permit you to get away with saying “I want to die.”  Grow up.

Because You Want to “Fix” People Who Are Different

This might seem ironic in a post like this, but there is an important distinction between hating people for being different and hating them because of what makes them different.  I embrace differences that are natural and against one’s control, as well as varying viewpoints and opinions.  However, I do not support ignorance and blind hate that leads to racism, sexism, and hate towards those who are gay (I will not use homophobic because you are not afraid of them, you are downright hateful).

There is no “fixing” people who are different.  Being gay is not a deficiency in any aspect of life.  There is no corrective therapy, there is no praying away the gay.  The fact that I have literally heard someone tell me that they do that is disgusting.  It is you who needs fixing because you are encouraging discrimination and hate, which, ironically, is something you will probably preach and pray for this Sunday.

Because You Laugh While Saying “That’s So Wrong”

I am a firm believer that when it comes to jokes, there is nothing off limits.  Instead, it matters the intention behind the joke and how it is told.  I get a lot of flack for this, but I will always stand by it.

Rape is obviously a very serious matter and something that needs to be handled delicately.  That being said, jokes can be made about that subject.

Dane Cook tells a fantastic joke that is not, in any way, in poor taste.  He is bringing awareness to a serious issue by making people laugh at how stupid they are for using the word rape.  Because of that, he has caused his audience to respect the delicacy of the subject and avoid treating it like a casual occurrence.

That being said, if you sit and watch Daniel Tosh and laugh at his rape jokes or when he says “Go kill yourself,” I hate you.  His jokes are never meant to bring awareness, they are to laugh at the situation and nothing more.  If you laugh at them, you are condoning the act, plain and simple.  Muttering “that’s so wrong” as you lose your breath does not make up for what you laughter actually represents: you are supporting horrible acts.

Because You Objectify Other Human Beings

This one is known for being primarily men who do it, but women do, too.  In neither case is it acceptable.  We are all human beings, and to devalue someone else’s worth does nothing but show your own.

Guys: women are not sex objects.  I hate that I walked across campus a week ago and passed two guys talking about a party they were going to when one said to the other, “You can point to any girl and literally have sex with her by the end of the night.”  I turned back to them as they passed and just said, “Really?”  They both turned to look at me, one of them flipped me off, and then they continued walking away.  I have not one ounce of respect for anyone that looks at women like that, no matter how “praiseworthy” the rest of your life might be.

Girls: admiring Ryan Gosling or Johnny Depp or the likes might be an innocent crush, but there are plenty of you who “love” them simply because they are attractive.  It is just as shallow as the guys I just addressed.  You are simplifying people who have an entire life, personality and set of emotions to a single dimension: they are nice to look at.  And for some of you, you also fall into the category I placed the guys.

Because You Are Two-Faced (At Least)

You sit with your friends and vent to them.  Everyone does it; you should have friends that you can express your frustration to, people who can justify your feelings or tell you that you’re wrong, make you see things in a different light.  But what you’re doing is different.  You complain about people that, when you see them next, you’ll act like everything is fine.  You are so afraid of confrontation that you force yourself to go back to those same people and act like nothing ever changes.  Do you know why that is?  Because you don’t say anything.  If you come to me complaining about someone else you are friends with, and I see you back to normal with them soon after, I can only assume that you complain about me in the same way, that you put on a different face depending on who you are around.

Because You Give Me Reason To

At the end of the day, I don’t look for people to hate.  Hate is too time consuming.  I think I do a pretty fine job of surrounding myself with friends and family who keep me wanting to be a better person.  They are people who are willing to challenge me and are well aware that I will challenge them back.  I will question their motives and their logic and they will either support their thinking in a way I can accept, or will admit that they were wrong.  They have a respectable set of priorities in life and goals that I find honorable.  I have nothing but love for these people.  But if you give me reason to, I will tell you “I hate you” and I will undoubtedly mean it.

3 Things We Need To Talk About More

- By

There are 3 things that I’ve been told no one really likes to talk about, and, therefore, I should not bring up in conversation.  Why?  Because most people get uncomfortable around these subjects.  Is it because they are too personal?  I don’t think so, because these issues are hardly that.  Money, sex and religion.  These are the 3 things I’m told I should not talk to others about.  Coincidentally, they are also the 3 things we need to talk about more.

Money

Sure, we don’t all have the same amount of it, but that should not keep us from discussing it.  Money is something I have stated as only having the value we assign to it.  Therefore, if we are uncomfortable with talking about, it is only because we are giving it unnecessary value and importance.  If money falls lower on your list of priorities, then you need not worry about having more or less than others.  Odds are that the items higher on the list are what truly make you happy, anyway.  If money is at the top of your list, then you need to reorganize your priorities before you even worry about being comfortable talking about it.

Sex

Honestly, we wouldn’t be here without it.  It’s a natural act that virtually every single one of us goes through countless times throughout our life.  It’s not at all a secret that we do it, so what is the fear in talking about it?  Are we afraid that being more comfortable talking about it will lead us to having it more promiscuously?  Oh, that’s right, I forgot that teaching abstinence works so greatly in religious schools, we should continue thinking that we can realistically lower the rate that teenagers have sex.  Is it because we’ll be jealous that some are having great sex or more often than we are?  Quite frankly, get over it.  As with any other aspect of your life that might not be going exactly as you hoped, figure out how to change it and accommodate.

The reason we are so against discussing sex is because of the undeniable role religion continues to play in our society.  Religion, specifically Christianity in this case, holds sex to be a sacred act (and a sin) and tries to cast it in a bad light to deter us from doing what is in our nature.  Take religion away and we have just another part of life that just is; you grow up, get hair in different parts of your body, have to work out to stay in shape, you have sex.

Religion

There are 2 main reasons why religion needs to get out of its isolated box of unacceptable topics for discussion, the first of which I already mentioned: it has an incredible impact on our every day lives.  We cannot allow such a prevalent force to remain untouchable while it continues to define the laws we live by and the social norms we must abide to.  With anything else that has such a large affect on our society and world as a whole, we discuss the merits of it so we can handle it properly.  Religion should not be an exception.

The second reason is one of integrity.  I see beliefs as if you have them, you ought to be willing to defend them.  You should not see it as acceptable to hide behind the excuse of “I’m entitled to my beliefs and you need to respect that.”   It’s a poor reason and accomplishes nothing.  Religion plays a crucial role in the world as a whole, but also on a personal level.  Many people claim that their religion is what gives them their moral code.  If we are hoping to make this world a better place, we need to discuss where everyone is coming from, what they hope to achieve, and those things are often based on an individual’s morals, and therefore, their religion.

Let’s Talk About These Things More

In the end, there is really no reason that we need to dance around these subjects.  They are a part of life and should not be treated so delicately.  We spend too much time and effort avoiding them when we should make an effort to make it natural to talk about them.  There are productive conversations that need to be had regarding each of these, and they will not happen until we become comfortable talking about them.

Notable Mention: Politics

I’ve discussed the idea that there are 3 things people are uncomfortable talking about with some friends, and all of them mentioned that politics should be on that list.  I disagreed.  Ask someone about their political opinion, and more often than not, they will defend it.  They will cite examples to help defend their point and will elaborate when asked.  This differs greatly from religion.  Sure, not every aims to vocalize their opinion on politics, and some people turn a blind eye to it entirely (which is absolutely not ok), but in general, people are willing to talk about politics.  Therefore, I did not include it on my list.

My Problem With Charities

- By

Throughout my college career, I have become very involved with community service and advocating for social justice.  I’ve worked in urban schools, mentored in prisons, and helped develop technologies that would help the community in need.  It is because of my time and experience with these efforts that I have discovered that I have a serious problem with charities.

The problem with charities is that they promote a sense of laziness and distance.  Charities only ask for money or some sort of donation, but always a material object (food, clothes, toys, etc…).  Because of this, our society feels that they are doing good in the world by sacrificing some amount of money or possession, as if that is sufficient.  Let me just say firsthand, that is not nearly enough, and it is a poor excuse.

I know that these things do little to combat the issues that charities try to address.  If you donate $5, only a tiny fraction may end up paying the wage of the worker who is doing the hands on work.  Thus, you would need hundreds of donors just to support an hour of work.  Does that sound efficient?

What Is Actually Needed

To properly attack the social issues that exist across the country, we need to donate time, not money.  Donating one hour a month goes much further than pulling a bill out of your wallet.  I’ve worked with children who struggle in school, and I know from their faces that being there that being present has a huge impact on them before you actually help them with homework.  I’ve worked with inmates who want to get their GED so they can get their life back on track when they are released.  By simply showing up and showing an interest, their entire attitude changes and behavior outside of class improves.

It is presence that is needed.  Time goes much further than a few dollars.  We need to be involved, learn about the issues firsthand so that we may contribute not only our hand, but also our mind.  Donating money causes the same system to continue perpetually.  But when you are involved in the work and conversation, you get to provide feedback and new thoughts.  Your efforts are your own, not what someone else has determined to be what is necessary.

The Problem With Charities Is Not Charity Itself…

… it is the mentality it instills.  It promotes not being involved.  Charities know that presence is what is needed, and that is what they need to push for.  Money can come in when people find it convenient, but when you become involved, it is very difficult to walk away once you know how much work there is to be done.  That is when progress and change will happen.

48 Hour News Cycle: Our Short Attention Span

- By

If you watch the news, odds are that you’ve heard this before: nothing lasts forever in a 48 hour news cycle.  It’s said because it is true.  The news caters to the public, believe it or not.  We have a desire to know what’s going on in the world around us, but not to the point where we feel overly emotional about what we are being told.

We Hate Being Saddened

Look at any murder that is reported.  You’ll hear about it the first day for obvious reasons, and the second to catch people up.  Come the third day, unless there are new developments in the story, you won’t hear a thing.  At that point, people don’t want to be depressed by hearing the same bad news over and over.  So a new story gets reported, instead.  It will probably be something of a much lesser degree, maybe an accident, a mugging, or even a house fire,   But it will be something new to get your mind off of the last story.

You can try to justify to yourself that there is some other reason, but ask yourself this: why do we not talk about the real problems around the world?

We Sacrifice Morals for Convenience

Syrian Rebels React to Boston BombingThe above picture became very popular after the Boston bombing that occurred earlier this year.  It brings up a fact that we know is true but would rather not think about.  Bombings happen all around the world every single day.  Many of them are in the same area as each other and are much more devastating.  But it happens in our country and everyone stops what they are doing.  Why do we not hear about these daily bombings in the Middle East?

It’s because it’s more convenient this way.  We give up our humanity simply because we do not want to constantly be saddened by such horrible news.  Imagine if we heard the same news every single day, that a bomb went off in a market and over a dozen civilians were killed.  You wouldn’t want to hear that, right?  But does that mean you shouldn’t?

To go on a small tangent, this mentality devalues the lives of those who were lost in such attacks.  To say that the Boston bombing needed to be reported but the daily attacks do not is to say that those who were killed in Boston deserved our attention and condolences more so than those of the Middle East.  If you can accept that, you are admitting that you believe some people’s lives to be more precious than others.

Results of The 48 Hour News Cycle

Thanks to the 48 hour news cycle, we have become desensitized to the world around us.  Subconsciously, we feel justified in not caring about issues once we stop hearing about them.  Well, the news isn’t reporting it, so it must not be important anymore, right?

But that is not the case.  There are ongoing issues every single day that need to be addressed.  Children are being kidnapped and raised to be soldiers, women are being traded in an underground market to be sex slaves.  There are countless issues that we morally object to, but ignore simply because of the fact that the news does not talk about it.

And this is a case of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  We can’t be sure whether the news caused us to be desensitized first and we were unwilling to change, or if we demanded the news not be so depressing and news agencies complied.  Either way, we perpetuate each other, and that is not ok.  We need to talk about things, care about them even when we don’t see them on a screen.  There are real people with real problems all around the world, all of whom I’m sure would gladly trade places and have depressing news be their most pressing concern.

America Is Not The Greatest Country In The World

- By

If you haven’t seen The Newsroom, do yourself a favor and find a way of watching it.  The opening scene has become widely popular, linked from everywhere, named “the most honest 3 1/2 minutes ever.”  When faced with a question and pushed to answer it, the main character, Will McAvoy, answers very simply: America is not the greatest country in the world.

But he doesn’t leave it at that.  He provides more than a few reasons to justify what many would consider an outlandish claim.

Freedom Is Not Unique To Us

In America, we have this mentality that we are such a spectacular country because of the fact that we have freedom.  In reality, the far majority of other countries in the world have freedom.  Yes, they are all to varying extents, but there is freedom outside of this country.  We like to think we are the only ones, put ourselves up on a pedestal and convince ourselves we are the best because of it.  We’ve been saying we have freedom since the Revolutionary War, but the difference is that it bore significance back then.  Now we just brainwash ourselves into thinking there is nothing wrong.

If you think our freedoms are so entirely perfect, you have not turned on the news in the last few years.  No matter what perspective you look at it from — whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent — our freedoms, which many other countries practice without worry, are being threatened.  Our First Amendment guarantees our freedom of speech, and yet, we are always hearing of how we must refrain from certain things and be “politically correct” so that we do not offend anyone.  Our Second Amendment allows us the right to bear arms, but ask most Republicans, and they will tell you without a doubt that that freedom is under threat of being taken away.  And as for separation of Church and State?  Forget about that freedom.  We have more than our fair share of laws being passed every year with a religious foundation, despite the promise we received to be free from such things.

Defense Spending

Our “defense spending” is an outrageous number, and it only grows each year.  But what for?  If you look at the list of other countries that make the Top 15 list, we are not currently belligerent with any of them.  But it takes the next 11 countries’ combined spending to match ours.  Why?

Because it is not really defense spending.  Sure, defense is the end product, but most of the methods are hardly defensive.  We have military bases worldwide so we can have a global presence.  But how many countries have a military base on US soil?  Zero.  That is hardly defensive.  It’s bullying at the largest scale.  It’s showing off that we have the most firepower and no one can do anything about it.  Does it protect our country?  Sure.  Is it defensive?  Not in the slightest.

The CIA and various other programs have thousands of employees searching through a seemingly infinite amount of intelligence to find potential threats, in which we then carry out military operations or drone strikes to prevent such attacks.  But again, is that defensive?  Dictionary.com defines “defense” as “resistance against attack; protection.”  To me, an attack does not exist until an action has been made.  I cannot simply be considered an author for thinking of writing a book, right?  You couldn’t buy my book then.  So why can we act upon someone thinking or planning an attack before they even do anything?  Yes, it is one thing to be given the information from another source, but to actively seek this information is a whole different thing in and of itself.  How much money do we spend on analysts not finding threats?  How efficient are they really?

Education

It’s no surprise that the education system in our country is failing us.  We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for 4 years of schooling that gets us a job that takes a decade to pay back the student loans.  Only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major.  We have 3 month breaks during each summer where we lose a good deal of knowledge we gained during the school year.  Teachers are unmotivated by students and students are unmotivated by teachers.  Parents are disconnected from their children’s education and cause a lack of interest in doing well.  This all culminates in truly astonishing poverty and incarceration levels.

And There Is So Much More…

America is not the greatest country in the world, but none of this should dissuade us from going back to being the greatest country in the world.  We have the potential to, but we need to take it upon ourselves to do so.  Our society has a horrible tendency to point out problems, but no one wants to step up and provide a solution, let alone do the work involved in accomplishing it.  If we are going to say that we are the greatest country in the world, let’s at least make sure it’s true.

Elysium: More Than Just Sci-Fi Action

- By

I saw Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore film, Elysium, last Friday.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  The story was interesting and thought-provoking while the action was well choreographed and filmed.  Elysium is a great experience for everyone, from those who want to see heads explode to those who want to walk out of the theater with lingering questions about life.

First and foremost, Elysium is a sci-fi film with its fair share of action.  But Neill Blomkamp, as he did with District 9, did not aim to create simply an entertaining movie.  He has his fair share to say about the world, and his films are the perfect forum for him to do so.

Elysium

Elysium Is Not Just A Place

The movie centers around a massive structure in space called Elysium, a utopia where Earth’s wealthiest have fled to distance themselves from the poor.  Either as a result of that, or perhaps what actually led to such a creation, poverty has spread across Earth like the Plague.  Living and health conditions are as nonexistent as possible, crime is rampant and jobs serve no purpose but to support the continuation of the elite’s way of life on Elysium.

So the question must be asked: is this truly a farfetched idea?

In my opinion, it unfortunately is not.  The wealth gap in the United States alone bears a striking resemblance.  Sure, Elysium takes place almost a century and a half from now, but that only justifies the possibility further.  Our rich continue to distance themselves from the rest of the population economically.  Fewer and fewer people gain possession of more and more of the world’s wealth each and every year.

But could things ever get that bad?

It is not just exotic cars and giant mansions that wealth gives one access to.  Healthcare has become overpriced to a ridiculous level.  Without insurance, the decision often comes down to keeping everything you have ever worked for, or pay your medical bill.  Individual people have more control over corporations, which means fewer people have more control of the public as a whole.  That, in turn, means there are fewer people that have an impact on politics, as those in office are highly influenced by lobbying groups and other special interests.

The likelihood of this scenario becoming reality is haunting, as we are already heading in that direction.  We need to reevaluate how the systems our society abides by operates.  We are failing those in need and dehumanizing ourselves in the process.  Our jobs exist for no other reason than to perpetuate the cycle where the elite are in control and we are at their mercy.  Even if you want to argue that this is an extreme situation, sometimes the fear of extremes is what we need to put us back on the right path.  Elysium is that fear.

Music Monday: Between Angels & Insects

- By

I recently had a great conversation with my girlfriend about why it is that I can’t stand virtually any “popular” music anymore, and why we love the bands we do: bands like Linkin Park, Disturbed, Rise Against, etc… all talk about real issues that we face in life.  We both agreed that we’re sick of turning on the radio and hearing one of three types of songs: relationship songs (either love or breakup), partying, or how the artist(s) started with nothing and worked their way to the top.  All of those are overdone and, quite frankly, useless and meaningless.  Neither of us party and we don’t need to hear another grand success story.  Sure, for us, the occasional love song is nice, but not even close to the rate that they’re produced.

But the bands we love are ones that have more meaning to their songs and much less redundancy.  Music, as I think all art ought to aim to accomplish, should cause listeners to view the world in a different light.  Obviously, it’s impossible for everyone to have not seen the world from that perspective, but at that point, music should inspire.

Between Angels And Insects

(Lyrics)

This song discusses what I consider to be an ever-important concept that only seems to be worsening with time: our priorities as a society are far from what they should be.  We emphasize values that are nothing short of detrimental to our way of living.  Money is seen as the key to happiness as opposed to just a necessity to survive.  We’ve convinced ourselves that material needs bring more meaning to life than genuine moments that define our time alive.

We’ve become so obsessed with making money and acquiring meaningless pieces of plastic and metal for ourselves and loved ones that we forget to spend life living.  Objects fade with time.  Memories only grow in value.

We don’t need all the possessions we seem to think we do.  We are the ones who assign values and meanings to things.  That little piece of cloth with Ben Franklin’s portrait on it means nothing if we all decide it does.

Search the web for any article on the regrets of people on their deathbeds.  Almost every single list will include wishing they had spend less time worrying about money and that they spent more of it with their family and friends.  We all learn, at one point or another, that there are certain things we put so much emphasis on that are ultimately unimportant.  Why not accept it now and live a meaningful life that you look back on happily when you are old, one that allows you to say “I have no regrets”?

Wrap Up

In the end, Papa Roach’s debut album is filled with fantastic music and challenging lyrics I wish the band had stuck with.  They use several tracks as forums to bring awareness to a number of important life issues, one of my favorites being Broken Home (Lyrics).  I wish that music like this wasn’t such a rarity nowadays.  Relationship songs sell because there’s a market for them: virtually everyone goes through love and heartbreak.  But sometimes people need help with more than just that aspect of their life, even if they don’t know it.

We Have An Odd Relationship With Heroes

- By

We have a strange habit in our society, one where we love to lift people up onto pedestals, then do our best to tear them down.  There’s nothing quite like an underdog story, hearing that someone started with next to nothing and had the perseverance and determination to push through and acquire their current fame and fortune.  We’re suckers for those sorts of tales.  I mean, listen to virtually any rap album.  It’s almost a requirement that there’s at least one song revolving around that idea.

Our culture idolizes these people at the top, turns them into heroes.  It makes sense: aspire for their success and encourage working hard to achieve it.  But where our relationship with these heroes becomes unhealthy for everyone is when we start to dissect them in desperate search for flaws in who they are.  As great as we are seeking out individuals who are deserving of spotlight and attention, our admiration quickly turns extreme jealousy.  We don’t seem to be able to handle other people being better off than we are, not just financially, but happier with their life, doing the things we wish we were able to do.

24 hour news networks update us through both TVs and the Internet, never without breaking news about someone we hold in such high regard.  Add Twitter and Facebook to the mix and it’s virtually impossible to escape someone being torn down.  Celebrity gossip does nothing but diminish their images, news networks bashing politicians for single opinions (despite any previous history) is nothing short of unproductive.

In 2009, a picture surfaced of Michael Phelps using a water pipe to smoke marijuana.  He admitted it was authentic and publicly apologized.  However, he had lost his Kellogg sponsorship, and there was an uproar demanding more sponsors abandon him.  For what?  He was a national icon, breaking world records left and right, showing that hard work could pay off if people truly had the determination to pursue it.  This was an innocent crime, with a harmless drug.  Educated parents could easily explain the situation and children could continue looking up to Phelps.  Instead, news network persisted with the story and wanted as many opinions as they could manage, beating this story to death.  Fortunately, it had effectively no impact on his career, as he still came back, broke more records and continues to be an idol for many people.

Earlier this year, Ariel Castro was arrested for kidnapping three women and imprisoning them in his house for 10 years.  The police showing up to the house and rescuing the women was thanks to Charles Ramsey helping fellow neighbor Angel Cordero, who had heard a woman screaming, but could not speak English and, therefore, could not communicate.  Thanks to Cordero and Ramsey, Amanda Berry was able to escape the house and call 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s house.

Ramsey was immediately thrown into the spotlight as being the reason the women were saved.  He was honored nationwide on virtually every news outlet, but it wasn’t long until the bad news came in.  When it did, the media jumped and fell in love with the fact that Ramsey has a criminal record that includes domestic abuse charges.  For the time being, it was almost as if his criminal history was more important than the fact that he led to the rescue of three women.  His personally history has no influence what-so-ever on his good deed that had just taken place, and therefore, is none of the public’s business.  The only reason it was brought up is because we love to know that someone isn’t perfect.

Now, these are just two simple examples.  Look at any sort of celebrity news on TV or online and you will find countless cases of the same thing.  Follow the career of a politician, either an up-and-coming one or research one who is already in office.  I am sure that everything will be great in the beginning, but news will quickly be brought to light about every single thing that can either be considered or twisted into a flaw.

How about we all take the good things we can from others and learn to emulate those same good actions?  Forget the bad ones; let those be the personal issues.  If you were to go to an interview and not get the job because of past actions, you would complain to your friends and family that the past is not keeping you from doing a proper job now.  The same goes for if you were fired for your behavior outside of work: you would say it has no influence on the work you do.  Be consistent and hold your heroes and idols to the same standard.  Value the good things they do.  Let them handle the bad things on their own.  It’s none of our business.

In the end, we choose who we idolize, who we put up on pedestals.  If you do hear about something you don’t like, it’s your choice to look up to them or not.

Why Do We Label Ourselves?

- By

I made a point in my last post that I thought deserved being expanded on.  I had said,

“When you say things like “I’m proud to be American,” you differentiate yourself from every other country in the world, implying there is something wrong with belonging to that country, that you are better.”

I still stand by that thought, but it got me thinking about labels in general.  What purpose do they serve?  Sure, they differentiate us from one another, but do the benefits outweigh the problems they cause.  Whether it is part of our nature or if we should attribute it to our culture, I am not sure, but we are so close minded when it comes to hearing labels.  We have one image that we associate with each label and assume things about people who identify with that label that may not necessarily be true in their case.

Let’s look at Catholicism for our first example.  The Catholic Church is opposed to an sort of artificial contraception and premarital sex.  The only form of contraception accepted is abstinence.  Now, remember, this is the Catholic Church, with well over one billion followers worldwide.  Should we assume that if we meet a stranger on the street and they consider themselves Catholic that they, too, believe the only proper contraception is abstinence and that they live such a life?  At least in the United States, that would be an ignorant assumption to make, as over 80% of Catholics in the U.S. say that birth control is morally acceptable.

If I consider myself to be a Republican, is it safe for you to assume that, based on that label, I am pro-life?  Or vice versa, that if I am a Democrat, am I automatically pro-choice, in love with the work Obama has done, an avid hater of Fox News?  Perhaps only slightly more than half of my ideals line up with one party over the other.  Why should you think I share all of the beliefs of what I identify with?

Well, that’s the purpose of labels, right?  We create them to identify ourselves.  But if they do not accurately represent us, why do we use them?  As I said in my last post, they cause us to think that certain ones are better than others, which degrades the worth of some people and increases others’.  We are all human beings.  We all share the same worth.  If you try to diminish the value of someone else, you only destroy your own.

By and large, labels are more harmful than they are productive.  We attribute certain traits to those who use certain labels that we have no reason to believe are true.  We think we know things about someone we do not know simply because he or she uses a word to describe themselves.  As with our nature, we assume that things that are different, things we do not understand, are inferior.  Labels only work to identify those differences.

Patriotism Is An Odd Trait To Possess

- By

Last Thursday was the Fourth of July, the United States of America’s Independence Day.  If you interacted with anyone, or even just turned on the TV, odds are that you heard the phrase “Proud to be an American” at least once at some point during the day.  I can understand celebrating the birth of our nation — at least as much as I can understand the significance of celebrating birthdays in general — but the pride in being American seems unwarranted and misplaced.

Having pride to belonging to the country you were born in is as justifiable as being proud of the color of your eyes: you shouldn’t.  Pride is something you have in things you have control over, things like getting an A on an exam, a promotion at work, raising good kids.  It is nothing more than chance that you were born to the country you were.  You did nothing to earn it, no work to walk into the life you started with.

Sure, you can say that immigrants should be proud, then, that they made the choice to come here and become American.  However, I would argue that they should not.  They can be proud of the decision to come here for a different life and proud of the steps they took and work they did to come here, but that is different from having pride in being American.

Being grateful for what living in the United States has to offer you is not the same as being patriotic.  It’s odd to me to be patriotic, to think that your country is indefinitely superior to all others.  No one knows the world well enough to know for sure which country is the greatest.  It’s hypocritical to pretend you do.

So who deserves to say they are proud to be American?  Well, the original patriots, the brave individuals who fought for our country’s independence, actually worked to be American, gave their lives for this country and way of life.  They have earned that pride.  Wars nowadays are not fought for the same reasons, so I don’t know if I can say that soldiers and veterans can call themselves patriotic.  They are not fighting for our way of life, because the wars are for far different reasons.

When you say things like “I’m proud to be American,” you differentiate yourself from every other country in the world, implying there is something wrong with belonging to that country, that you are better.  How about being proud to be who you actually are?  Take away the things that disappear when you leave home.  If you meet some stranger that seems interested in you, you won’t brag about the things you’ve had no control over.  You’ll brag about the great things you’ve done in life.

Being American isn’t one of them.

Book Club: Plato’s Republic – Book 2

- By

The Origin & Nature of Justice?

Book 2 starts off with Glaucon making an attempt to continue the conversation Thrasymachus began and had since abandoned.  He claims to Socrates that Thrasymachus and the like would argue that justice’s origin and nature is the mean between “[doing] injustice and not be punished… [and] to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation.”

I bring this up because it is an interesting concept to think that justice is the average of two or more ideas.  Perhaps, in a philosophical sense, there is indeed a definitive idea that justice represents.  However, in the modern world, “justice” is exactly that.  There is no universally accepted notion of justice, else we would not need governments to decide what laws were necessary and which were not.  In the United States, we have a government run by two major parties that spend their days (albeit, very few) debating the merits of proposed bills.  As the process continues on, there is usually some sort of compromise made so that both sides will be happy.  Because of that, our sense of justice is really the average of what those in power believe justice to be.  So the question at hand is, “is our government just?”

Ungodly Stories of God

Socrates and Glaucon discuss the need to rid their republic of stories that paint the Gods in a negative light, those in which they fight with each other or show any sort of weakness.  Being Gods, they are perfect, and must be depicted as such.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective.  Instead of trying to form the perfect republic, let us imagine that we are trying to form the perfect religion.  If we were given that task, surely we would still want to avoid any tales that diminish the image of our god(s).  After time, the only image of our god is the one we have created with our stories.

Is this an impossible concept?  Absolutely not.  It’s more common than you might think.  We can look at the best-selling book in history as a prime example.  The Bible is highly controversial, even amongst Christians.  There are ongoing conversations regarding which version is most accurate.  The fact that, historically, there were debates about what books to be included in the Bible proves that there were different images of God that people wanted to portray.  For example, the Catholic Bible includes the Book of Judith, a book that the Vatican has deemed to be “non-historical.”  Though it is considered to be a work of fiction, it is included in the Catholic Bible.  However, Protestants use the Authorized King James Version, which does not include the Book of Judith.  Both Catholics and Protestants worship the same god, but they have different impressions of who He is.  And this is simply different sects of the same religion.  Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same god, and yet, they all have very different perceptions of who He is.  We may all claim to know who He is, but that is nothing more than illusion.  We can’t know who he is simply because of the stories we are told.

God is Good

Socrates and Glaucon agree that they want to tell stories to paint the gods in a light that does them justice.  Socrates says that God is good, and therefore, everything he does is good; he is unable to do evil, anything that causes harm.

I think it is safe to assume that we hold the same standards for the Christian God.  That is, He does nothing but good.  Well, surely God is not above His own rules, right?  But what of the story of Noah’s ark?  God wiped out all life on Earth, minus Noah’s family and a pair of every animal species, because He was disappointed with mankind and the path we had taken.  If everything God does is good, is genocide condoned by God?  It would seem so, as long as we deem those killed as evil.  But good and evil are just a matter of perspective, right?  Hitler thought all Jews were evil and the scum of the earth.  Would the same logic then justify the Holocaust?  Surely you would say that nothing can justify such a horrible act, but the logic follows.

So then God must have made a mistake, right?  But then He wouldn’t be entirely good.  Can He still be considered a god if He is not all good?  If He is wrong about that decision, who is to say He isn’t wrong at other times?  Who is to say that the ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, that we get from His word are not entirely wrong?

Being Gay is Natural

- By

In case you didn’t hear, DOMA was repealed this Wednesday, along with Proposition 8 in California.  This is a huge step forward for the gay community in ensuring they receive the same natural rights as every other citizen of this country.

However, there has been plenty of backlash and harsh words spoken since the decisions were made.  Claims of being gay is a “sin” continue being made by religious folk, while even more people ostracize an already segregated community for “making the choice to be gay.”  My issue is with the latter.  (I am not religious, but the first point is something I want to write about at a later time in a different context.)

In order for someone to be able to choose to be gay, he or she must first not naturally be gay.  Thus, it turns into a nature versus nurture debate: are people born with their sexual preferences, or is it based on influences throughout their lives?  For opponents of gay marriage, many will say it is nurture.  Hence, there have been conversion therapists to “get rid of the gay.”

Let’s make the comparison to something most people feel unanimous about: serial killers.  When studying a serial killer, there is a careful investigation into their past to determine what exactly happened to trigger such extreme behavior.  From there, different options are explored on how to handle and best correct said behavior.  The same goes for any bad acts; you search for the root cause of it and figure out how to repair how the person responds.  So, that is to say that you can look at any gay person’s life and should be able to determine either a single event or a collection of them that ultimately led to him or her becoming gay.

But that now begs the question, what happened in everyone else’s lives to make them straight?  Could we, theoretically, using the same technique, find the cause and make every straight person gay?

If you ask the opponents of gay marriage that question, I’m sure you will either shut them up or put them into a fury of ridiculous logic.  Surely, they would not think that, in their own lives, they could ever have been “turned” gay.  But that’s the logic.

However, some may still say that these individuals are making the conscious decision to be gay.  Perhaps they will yield to your logic and say “Yes, I am sure that something could have led me to be gay, but it did not.  Just as I could have become a drug dealer or a rapist, all things which I had been exposed to, I could have been gay.  But I am not.”  Well then, by that logic, they made conscious decisions to not be a drug dealer or rapist.  So then, when did they make the conscious decision to not be gay?

It sounds ridiculous because it is.  No one chooses what gender(s) they are attracted to.  It is beyond their control.  Look back on your life and I am sure you will not find yourself to have made the decision to have your sexual orientation one way or the other.  If you do, you are suppressing your true nature and should reconsider a few things.  Sexual orientation is a natural characteristic, as determined by genes as the color of your eyes.

Can We Even Have Free Will?

- By

As human beings, one of our greatest prides is our ability to make our own choices, our free will.  We like to believe that our decisions are our own, that our victories are a result of our actions.  Granted, we love to shift blame to someone else’s free will when there are negative consequences, but we also love to neglect that fact.

But here’s the important question: is it even possible to have free will?  For thousands of years, we have discussed whether or not we have free will, arguing that the Judeo-Christian god made it clear that he entrusted us with the responsibility of free will.  Others will say that there is a god that decides everything and we are just along for the ride.  This is not a post to decide which one is right; this is to think about whether or not it is even possible.

If There Is A Judeo-Christian God

From my experience, when confronted with questions about why bad things happen to good people and vice versa, the answer is almost always “God has a plan for everyone.”  People would prefer to think the god they believe in has some ultimate plan than think that their god simply allows bad things to happen to undeserving people.  But we’ll make that assumption and see where that logic leads us.

Imagine you are playing a game of chess with your significant other.  About half way through, you accidentally knock over one of the pieces you have won and both you and your significant other reach to the floor to pick it up.  You return it to the table and continue the game until you eventually win.  As far as you know, you won due to free will, as both you and your significant other made every decision that lead up to that conclusion.  But, unbeknownst to either of you, while you were bending down to recover the fallen piece, a friend scurried by and moved a single piece on the board.  When you returned, nothing stood out as different, so you continued.  Can you still say that the result is wholly due to your combined free will?

The same logic can be applied to “God having a plan.”  In order for Him to have a plan, someone’s free will must be sacrificed.  Wide receivers thanking God after they score a touchdown are effectively saying, “I didn’t do this. You did.” and giving up their free will that they dodged the tackle and crossed into the end zone.  Politicians saying “God has other plans for me” after losing an election are declaring that it was not the public’s free will that decided he or she would not take office, but God’s will.  He decided to make everyone vote as they did.

Thus, by saying that God has a plan, one way or another, you are saying that someone is without free will at a particular point in time.  But if God has a plan, surely it involves everyone — seeing as he does not have favorites — and spans all of time.  So can we ever actually have free will?

From A Scientific Perspective

One might think that science encourages the belief of free will, considering most discussions on science boil down to cause and effect.  But what if, when it came down to it, science did not have any encouraging words on this topic?

Stephen Hawking brings up a very interesting point (which is the reason why I thought to write this post).  In a recent book, he writes:

“…our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets. Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our actions, and not some agency that exists outside those laws.”

— Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, p. 32

Everything in the universe obeys the complete collection of laws of physics, everything from the largest scale to the smallest of particles.  Being as that is the case, theoretically, one could predict the future, as there are not necessarily “variables.”  Based on the initial conditions of the universe and the laws everything must obey, there is really only ever a single outcome to any situation.  This universe is destined to a single ending and there is just one way to get there.

Initial Thoughts

Granted, this is a basic analysis of very few perspectives on free will, but I am not going to pretend to know things I do not.  I could very well research plenty of other religions around the world and learn what they believe, and I do plan to do that.  But for now, I want to at least put my thoughts out there.

From both a religious and scientific perspective, it seems that we have created the illusion of free will.  As humans, we like to think that our victories are our own.  And free will forces a sense of responsibility, an admirable and necessary trait needed for society to function efficiently.

Why Does It Even Matter?

Free will can lead to a slippery slope of consequences.  We can’t know for sure what the reaction would be, but we can have a pretty good guess as to what would happen if the world was told free will was an illusion.  For the most part, people would deny it and simply move on with their lives.  However, you can expect the line “It wasn’t up to me” to be heard much more often in court rooms.  Finding out that life is destined, scripted to a single definitive outcome, may very well cause a drastic increase in suicide rates.

But knowledge is meant to be sought, knowledge is meant to be discovered.  Do the negative consequences outweigh the positives of bearing such knowledge?  If everything is truly already scripted, is there really even a choice?

Book Club: Plato’s Republic – Book 1

- By

Being one who loves to question the world around me in an effort to learn about its workings, Plato’s Republic seemed like the perfect book to start the book club with.  For now, I’ll just be giving my thoughts on some of the topics of discussion from Book 1.  I may very well be expanding on them in follow-up posts.

Why We Should Ask Questions

In one of the first exchanges of the book, Socrates explains to Cephalus why it is that he is asking questions, saying “I regard [aged men] as travelers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom I ought to inquire whether the way is smooth and easy or rugged and difficult.”  By saying that, he effectively describes why it is that he asks anyone questions: everyone goes through life and experiences it differently, so Socrates wants to learn what they know because they are sure to have knowledge he may never again have the opportunity to acquire.

This is something that seems to becoming less and less common in society.  More and more people are passive and accepting of the way things are, either unwilling or just negligent of the fact that there is an over abundance of questions to be asked and things to be questioned.  We respect opinions simply because someone has them, too afraid or just too careless to ask about them, learn more about what they are and why.

But in my opinion, things need to be questioned.  You achieve nothing by accepting things for what they are.  To question them is to seek knowledge and truth, and to passively accept them is to disregard their value and importance.  We live in a world plagued with political corruption, regardless of where you live.  There are always things that deserved to be questioned further, things that have an important impact on your life.

The Woes of Being Old

Cephalus discusses how he often finds aged men to complain about what it is to be old, that “life is no longer life.”  Socrates asks if Cephalus believes this to be at all attributed that he, Cephalus, is rich.  Cephalus says that that is an understandable question, but the answer is most definitely “no.”  In order for that to be the case, every man that has aged and is in possession of riches must be happy, to which Cephalus explains is most definitely not his findings.  Instead, he believes that most of the “evils” men complain about in their old age are results of having never lived properly in the first place.

I see this in my own personal life.  My parents are at an age where they are looking back on their lives, wondering if they have lived a fulfilling one so far.  They look at what they have accomplished and aren’t sure if it is what they wanted when they planned their life.  I can only hope that, as they grow older and reflect on their lives, they see the bigger picture and are happy with what they have done.

Reflecting on Life Near Death

Cephalus cites a famous response of Sophocles’ to explain what becoming an aged man is actually like.  When asked if he is still the same man he once was, Sophocles answers, “I feel as if I had escaped from a mad and furious master.”

As young men, we are foolish and naive, angry at the world, sure that we are always right.  But as we grow older, hit those iconic milestones in life like our “mid-life crisis”, we begin to see how wrong we were about everything.  We were close minded and self-centered, and as we approach death, we look back on our lives and are filled with regrets, desperately wishing we could have lived differently, a more fulfilled life.

But those are the ones who are unhappy at the conclusion of their life.  Those who lived with an open mind, were happy with the world and were not filled with complaints of everything that surrounded them, those are the ones who die happily without regrets.

Unlike my parents, my grandparents are at a point where they are ready to die.  That’s not to say that they are looking forward to it, but they are more than happy with the lives they have lived.  They raised their kids, laughed plenty and have wonderful memories of happiness.  I’m sure this is not the case with every older person, but it is nice to see that it is not an impossibility.

Additionally, it is not just older people who must face death.  Death is far from uncommon in this world, with causes ranging from sickness and disease to accidents and murder.  People of all ages die for various reasons.  You never know when your time will come to an end, so it is important to live every day with the expectation that you will die tomorrow, so that you can be sure you are living a fulfilling life and are truly happy.

Justice is Virtually Useless

As the conversation regarding justice begins, Socrates follows a logical progression to get Polemarchus to agree that “justice is useful when money is useless.”  Furthermore, Socrates makes the observation that rarely is justice actually useful, then.

He breaks it down into simple examples such as: if you want to buy a boat, you will want to share the transaction with a shipwright.  Why?  Because in selling a boat to you, your money has influence and power over them.

When you have an interest and desire something, you want to get the most out of someone else while giving the least you can.  This is easier when you are not dealing with someone who is just, someone who is always thinking of things as fair and in balance.  But when you want to protect something that is yours altogether, there is no one better to trust than that person who is just.

The problem with this idea is that, nowadays, everyone is out for themselves.  Everyone has an agenda and has something they try to gain, completely willing to use those around them to acquire it.

In America, especially, the far majority of people want to be at the top.  They want to be rich and live a “worry-free” life.  However, not everyone can be at the top.  It’s simple logic: if everyone is at the top, it’s no longer the top; the average just moves higher, and everyone is back at the middle.  In order for people to be at the top, there must be people at the bottom, usually far outnumbering those at the top.  So it has become our way of life, here in America, to look out for ourselves and not hesitate to step on whoever we need to in order to rise in the social hierarchy.  Justice is a rare commodity in this country.

Friends Do Good, Enemies Do Evil

During their discussion, in an attempt to define friends and enemies to ease their efforts in discovering what justice is, Socrates mentions the idea that friends do what is good for someone and enemies do bad.  However, he immediately follows up with a question that beckons further clarification: what is considered the good thing to do if a friend is not in the right state of mind?  What if doing what a friend asks of you while they are in a poor state of mind leads to consequences that would be considered “evil” while they are in the right state of mind?  Are you considered a friend or an enemy if you go through with the favor?

This is a concept very much applicable to the modern world.  If you go out to a party, and your friends condone your reckless behavior when you’re drunk, does that make them your friends?  Can you consider them to be if they are indulging in behavior that is detrimental to you?

Going back to an earlier thought: everyone has their own agenda.  Many people you consider to be your “friends” are people that probably have something they can get out of you, something that will benefit them.  Likewise, you probably have some that you use as well.  But where do the true friends lie?  I think you need to first find the overlap: you need to find people who you have benefits of have a relationship with, and those who benefit from having a relationship with you.  Now, that is just the starting point.  The true friends are the ones who you are not in a relationship for that primary reason of getting something out of them.  You are friends with these people because you trust them and they trust you, because they are just and consider you to be, too.

Asking Questions Without Knowing the Answers

As the exchange with Polemarchus comes to a close, Thrasymachus lets loose his built up anger and frustration, demanding that if Socrates has questions, he ought to have the answers to them as well instead of basking in the glory of being able to stump others.

However, Socrates explains that he is not asking questions to prove others wrong, to make fools of them, but both he and Polemarchus had the best of intentions to come to an appropriate definition for justice.

This is something that personally resonates with me.  I, too, attempt to ask questions with the hope of learning the way people think and justify their conclusions.  My follow-up questions are always for further clarification, but are almost always as taken as hostility and attacks.  It’s been my experience that people simply do not have their beliefs and judgement questioned, but that is what I think is necessary to grow as individuals.  Hence, I make this blog a public display of my thoughts on various topics.

Justice Is Good For The Power

Thrasymachus argues that “justice…is the interest of the stronger.”  Socrates argues back and forth to further that definition, eventually concluding that the definition cannot be used because of the fact that the stronger are not the same populations, and their interests are not necessarily always the same.

I bring this up because Socrates eventually concludes that Thrasymachus is wrong, that justice is not what is in the interest of the stronger.  However, that seems to be the case with modern day politics; the laws that go into effect are very often made in the best interest of those with “power.”  Politicians support laws that either lobbyists pay them to or are necessary to win a future election.  Laws rarely seem to be written on the grounds of justice anymore.

So while I do definitely agree with Socrates and his logic, I find it interesting that we can not only come to the logical conclusion that justice is not the interest of the stronger, but we can also prove that, in the world we live in, “justice” is exactly that.

Why Do Good Men Take Office?

One of the last things Socrates and Thrasymachus discuss is why different people take political office.  Unjust men will seek office because they see that there is personal gain to be had.  However, just men would not want to seek office for that reason, as it would no longer make them just.  So why do they do it?

Socrates hypothesizes that they do it because they are compelled to.  How are they compelled?  They feel it is necessary for them to take office because there is work to be done and they cannot trust anyone else to do it properly.  In effect, they do it because they are afraid of a lesser man doing it incorrectly.

In a perfect world, this is the way politics would operate.  Politicians would only exist to solve the problems we face and never seek personal gain.  When the problems are rid of, as Socrates says, politicians would leave office, as the work they set out to do originally has been completed.  But unfortunately, this is not the way the world operates.  Because of that, because there are those who will put their interests not only before, but also over, the interests of the greater population, many of the problems we face — poverty, hunger, social inequality — are consistently perpetuated, and make it that much more difficult to make the world the perfection we know it can be.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was very much engrossed in Book 1.  Being as this is my first time reading Plato’s Republic, the twists and turns in the conversations are wonderful to me.  I can follow the logic easily, but Socrates brings up seemingly unrelated points and manages to tie them all together to address his original questions, which is something amazing in my eyes.

The topics of conversation stay relatively consistent, but the strong points made in the book are not always what Socrates and his companions are discussing.  The important thing to walk away with is that this is a philosophical work: there is no right or wrong answer.  There is truth in everything everyone says.  You just need to ask the right questions to find it.

What is this?!

- By

Introductions are almost always awkward, so I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet, because usually when I try to explain something I’m very passionate about, I tend to begin ranting and losing everyone’s attention with my run on sentences that become impossible to follow, and I don’t think either of us would really enjoy that, am I right?

What’s that?  You say I’m doing it already?

Oh…

“So what is Project Selfless?” you might be asking.  Well, when I first came up with the idea for this site, I wanted it to effect change on such a large scale, try to change the way people think.  But as time went on, I realized that there was a problem with that idea: there’s no point in trying to change the world around me if I wasn’t the best person I could be.  But what if I could knock out two birds with one stone?

Well that would be animal cruelty, wouldn’t it?

And then it hit me.  I would turn this into a personal development blog!  And this is where I’ll stop with the jokes and be serious (but just for a moment, I swear).

The best way, in my opinion, to learn and grow as an individual is to be open to being wrong, to question yourself and entertain your curiosity.  So that’s what this blog will be all about.  We live in a world where the majority of people think only about themselves, and that is not going to help make the world a better place.  I am going to use this medium to publicize my ramblings on whatever is going on in my life, whether it be about current events, or maybe a book I’m reading that spurred a train of thought, or even something someone said to me in passing.  I will more than likely be arguing with myself, but in the end, I hope that I’ll have learned something worthwhile.

So kick back, grab a bag of popcorn or your favorite late night snack (mine is frozen grapes, wash them and throw them in for an hour; you’re welcome), and be prepared to throw said food at your screen in a fit of rage as you yell at my ramblings.  But don’t do it now.  I’m going to bed now, and it’d be weird for you to be sitting here alone…