This is Not the End

I told a friend a couple days ago: “There will be somedays you walk out of AP Lang hating the world, the society we live in, and everything to do with it. [You will want to cry – curl up in bed and hope that the next day dawns a more kind, just world.] Other days you will walk out of AP Lang and the world is suddenly so beautiful all you will be able to do is say, “Look at those clouds!!! And that tree!!! I mean, just look at it!!!” All that is good, and necessary,” I told my friend.

I am serious. I walked out of AP Lang a few times crying (and by a few I mean possibly once a week), unable to do anything but quite literally gnash my teeth and head to Physics. Most of the other days, I walk out happier than I walked in. The clouds look new, like God placed them in the sky, right out of her palm. Surely, poetry is the most logical answer. Surely, with literature in my right hand and compassion in my left, I can conquer all the hate.

Alas, literature doesn’t always solve the problem. And compassion is a long, long road to healing.

But literature does succeed in closing the gaps between male and female, Caucasian and African, new and old, big and small, me and you, us and them. Literature builds bridges. It connects us in ways that we never imagined; it makes our brains compatible. Suddenly, once and for all, you are speaking my language – words, sentences, and paragraphs. A salve for the wound, our brains, and dare I say souls, have met in the indents of your paragraphs and the stanzas of your poems. All your thoughts are now made plain to me – how beautiful, I might say, or how convicting. Thank you.

That said, AP Lang has challenged me in countless ways. It has opened my eyes to the hurt around me through reading and writing that I had never found before. It has taught me to write – at least a little better, I hope – to make a difference. It has taught me that sometimes, it has to be more than the thought that counts, my words count too. AP Lang has taught me that there are other successful forms of writing besides the fragments of mine I call poems.

Most of all, AP Lang has taught me that writing is indispensable and important because it intentionally and unintentionally changes lives. Keeping that in mind and heart, we must be careful with our words. We never know where they might lead.

 

I Just Want to Cry a Little

In Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, he proposes that all media is a form of entertainment. The sole purpose of television shows is to amuse you and seduce you to come back for more. All news becomes merely interesting, inconsequential with no context, and not worthy of “weeping.”

I have a problem with this ‘not weeping’ thing we have convinced ourselves of. You see, I am fond of crying. I cry a lot; it might excessive sometimes (or most of the time) but crying is just part of me. I think crying is a worthy past time though. I am able to feel the pain going on around me. I cry over it and sometimes I see a little clearer.

There is plenty worth crying over. People die everyday because they do not have water or food. People die in suicide bombings because they think that is how to fix “it.” People die on the other side of guns “to create peace.” Trees die everyday because we have made the air unhealthy for them. Animals die because we cut down trees. These are reasons to cry.

They are not reasons to lose hope; they are certainly reasons to weep and hope to see a little clearer.

Making amusement our form of communication has desensitized us to the pain and the problems that exist for us to change. That is where I think it is, to some extent, ruining society. Our news shows inform us of the tragedy then we move on to…the sports! We are prone, or rather forced, to forget about the tragedy, or tragedies, in the wake of the more fascinating, comfortable creations of a privileged society.

If entertainment becomes our one-and-only, we can liken ourselves to adults who never grew out of their spoon-fed-infant selves: dependent on the powers that be, we have no control over what feeds our mind and soul.

Complicated Restrooms

In North Carolina, bathrooms have gotten a bit…complicated, we might say. A law has recently been passed requiring all restrooms have a gender-specific label (NPR) and also “requires people to use the restroom matching the gender designation on their birth certificate” (Huffington Post). I read a few articles and I am going to summarize the for and against and see if I can get somewhere.

Those arguing for gender-specific bathrooms are convinced of their position mainly by fear – which is regrettable and true. One of the common arguments is that sexual-assault numbers will rise because men and women will be in the same bathrooms at the same time. One such article says,

“As a simple example, ask yourself, if a female student passes out at 3 a.m. in a bathroom stall, would you prefer another female find her, or have it be a coin flip whether the next person coming through that door is a male or female? Personally, I would prefer another female student find her, as opposed to a potentially intoxicated male.” (SoCawlege) (Disclaimer: This is a sketchy website but the example they provide represents much of the fear people feel.)

While I could analyze the shaky assumptions happening here, I can also recognize the possibility of the above situation and the fear that it inspires. Sexual harassment and assault are not things we like – for good reason.

Arguments for gender-neutral washrooms center mostly around the belief that those who don’t feel comfortable using the restroom that matches their birth certificate should still be able to use a restroom. Should an individual feel androgynous or female with male genitalia or vice versa, must they rebuke their gender identity in order to use the washroom?

While both sides can defend their argument amazingly well, we begin to move away from the logistics after a bit. What really begins to matter is one question: is our fear more significant than others’ self-identification?

I would venture to say no, but that is what we are facing. So, sorry – no solutions, only a question. Good luck.

 

Assigning the Blame

I read Othello for AP Language and these are just a few observations:

  1. I am of the camp – because there are such literary camps that all your English teachers will deny being a part of, while averting their eyes – that feels pity for ‘the bad guy.’ I am that kid who raises one hand slowly as the other hand half covers her eyes to fend off the scowls when she slowly says, “I bet [the evil villainous person] had a rough childhood – surely no one loved him – how else could he be so mean?”
  2. It is possible to feel pity for such a villain, while also wanting – just a little itty bit – to inflict massive damage on him/her.
  3. It is also possible, combined with 1 & 2, to blame someone else besides the aforementioned villain for the impending doom and the overall destruction of the ending.

Therefore, keeping in mind the previous observations, it is with much trepidation that I assign blame. However, in Othello, it is inevitable. Iago, a villain from the get-go, weaves a spidery web — like a well-connected politician, he rises in the ranks of ‘Trusted’ very quickly. He sets his traps carefully, hidden in the dark so the poor creatures below step unknowingly into them. With his advice, they close the trap on themselves – surprised, when the cuffs rattle at their feet. That’s how, in the end, Othello has killed his own wife; Roderigo has been quite literally stabbed in the back; and Emilia has been punished for being kind.

Our instinct is to blame Iago. We must, however, consider the other possibility.

Not to get too up-close-and-personal, we will always, as human beings residing on Earth, face foes. These foes are out there to get you. They go by different names – greed, pride, jealousy. Their one job is to ensnare you. Therefore, when Greed comes knocking on your unlocked door, you must tell him, “No, I do not need that – I do not need you.” When Pride shoves you into a corner and says, “You are better, smarter, cooler, bigger than them,” you must stare back at Pride with humility in your eyes, only to disagree. And as it is applicable in Othello, Jealousy will sneak up to you, kick you to your knees, and say, “O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” When Jealousy does this, you should not say, “Oh yes, jealousy; I will fix this jealousy by killing people!” No, you calmly look Jealousy in the eye and say, “I will go fix this problem by discovering the truth.”

All personification aside, I do believe that the unhappily-ever-after of Othello is largely on the shoulders of Othello. He falls victim to a falseness that is in his power to fix. However evil the foe is, truth will win out – if you find the truth before you kill someone, that is.

The Day and Age of Chronic Fallacies

In case you live under a rock, you will have noticed that there is some hefty debating going on in the United States. While I am glad I am not on the continent, the news and rumors of Trump, Clinton, Cruz, and others is slightly unsettling. I do not hear much good of it – I only hear the bad news: “They had this argument and Trump insulted some female for having a menstrual cycle. If he keeps this up, we may as well have a third World War.” Consequently, I freak out and bam, the apocalypse. All that to say, we live in an age of political debates gone array and logical fallacies galore (like the ones above). In order to fuel my thoughts, I watched a couple recent debates and I will attempt to communicate my exasperation. Enjoy.

Marco Rubio was asked, “You have said that you do not do personal attacks. However, in past debates, you mocked Trump for…” (a lot of things that aren’t worth typing) “So, what happened?”

His answer was this: “Let me say something, this campaign for the past year, Trump has mocked everybody with personal attacks…” (a list of people Trump has insulted) “so if anyone has ever deserved it, it is Donald Trump, for the way he’s treated people. That said, I would much prefer to have a policy debate.”

Now, it may just be me, but did he answer the question? No. What he really did was retaliate with more criticism. Using the “you too” strategy is appealing, especially in such cases as these. In order to move the blame from yourself, you shift it to another guilty person. In this case, to avoid owning up to his bashing, Rubio instead talks about how Trump has done it and how he deserves it. While initially this works, it doesn’t sound very convincing. If you wanted to sound responsible, you might want to admit your faults or the faults in you argument.

I could give you countless more examples – one of the most common ones I found in this lovely Fox News interview was the skewing of statistics – but just so you know, we may not be getting a very intelligent president this year, but we are getting a president with some sassy teenage boy humor. So.

Being Worthy

In my pursuit(s) of excellence, this is what I try to remember.


we have failed to notice

that we must put effort

into living a life

worthy of our

magnificently mysterious creation.


Let me define my terms here.

“We have failed to notice”

We forget. That is the simple answer. We forget about ourselves. We forget what it means for our life. We go about our lives, not seeing our legs move when we tell them too, not really noticing that our fingers type the letters we want them to type, our eyes adjust depending on the light level, the insanity of breathing – I mean, just for a second, imagine this: breath comes into our body, follows its path, enters our heart (we could talk about the heart too), pushes around in the heart, chemistry inserts the oxygen into our blood stream, it floats through our body, flowing from the top of our skull to the end of our toes (all of them), and then more breath comes in, and you don’t even have to tell your body to do that; from the second you are born, your body knows what to do with air. All this and more, we forget about. Until we stop for a second and feel the air in our nose – in breath, out breath.

“that we must put effort / into living a life”

Once we remember our breath and our fingers and our eyes, we must put effort into using it well. Your fingers were not made to curl into a fist and hurt another soul, no. Your fingers were made to curl into a fist around your mom’s finger when your brain was too little to know what you needed, but your fingers knew on their own so they curled around your mom’s finger, and she sighed. So when we finally remember what it feels like to be alive, we have to put our life to good use. We must live a life:

“worthy of our / magnificently mysterious creation.”

When you can grab a hold of your life, in your clenched fingers, remember your beginnings, because they are what will teach you to be worthy. The creation of humankind is a miracle. The work of a loving god, we were created out the ashes and the dust, with compassion ingrained in our DNA from our maker’s hands. Remember that you were magnificently and mysteriously created, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 13:14) and through that we need to praise and do good work.

To conclude, because of our miraculous creation by a loving God, not pursuing excellence and not doing our best is denying our God due praise and denying ourselves a life of living out our astounding existence.

The Joys of Advertising Yourself

Many of us believe, in our secret hearts, that we are super awesome and cool and caring and, “Geez, why doesn’t everyone want me for a job?” But when it comes to telling people that, it is not so easy to believe. Therefore, after researching a little about resumes, these are few of the tips I believe to be important.

  1. Be Specific. This is kind of a cop-out trick. When writing anything, one must be specific. The writer always, always wants to show the reader what they are talking about, instead of just throwing information in their face. That said, do not throw this clue out when typing resumes. You want to list specifically what you have done, where you have done it, why you have done it, what your feelings were about it, and when you have done it. If you do this, your potential employer doesn’t have to try to figure things out for themselves. You have shown them, not just told them.
  2. Make It Readable. You can make your resume readable by using a simple font (hint: Times New Roman, 12 pt.) and using a simple format (a.k.a. same bullet points throughout, same numbering, same heading). The real trick to readable is uncomplicated.
  3. Be Honest. This may be a controversial opinion, but I think being honest is helpful, in the end. If you have to twist a lot of facts about yourself and your accomplishments to make your resume sound good, you are probably not fit for the job. I know that is a hard truth, but I also know honesty is almost always the best policy. You may not get the job you want if you’re completely honest, but maybe you are also glad you didn’t get it.
  4. Be Concise. Employers receive a multitude of resumes everyday, all day. Therefore, they are most likely not interested in reading a long winded, superfluous resume. Do not feel as though adding unnecessary words makes you more convincing. The shorter, the easier to read, the more likely to be read, the better.

Writing resumes may not be fun, but if you do right, you may not have to write as many.

Mary Oliver’s Metaphors

The past few weeks, I have been getting to know Mary Oliver. I have read her poetry, read other’s thinking on her, listened to her own voice in a podcast, and been awestruck by the beauty Oliver is entrusting to the world. I hope I can introduce you, just a little bit, to Oliver, through some metaphors – some fun, funny, some meaningful.

Animal: Superb Starling. Mary Oliver is colorful, bright. I imagine her as this common, yet startling, bird, soaring over savannas, seeing things from a different perspective.
Plant: Daisy. Oliver’s work and life have a simple beauty to them. Her journey speaks of perseverance, and blooming even when the going is tough. Her life grew out of the dirt, among the weeds, into something beautiful.
Article of Clothing/Outfit: Colorful tunic with galoshes. Oliver adores the outdoors, especially the woods, so she wears galoshes. Oliver is vibrant.
Day of the Week: Tuesday. Oliver makes the ordinary, like Tuesdays and rain and mangoes, beautiful, and special.
Food: Lemonade. Oliver’s poetry is refreshing, but can be intense (possibly bitter in that it calls out unwelcome truth). Her beautiful imagery, a mint sprig, just to top it off.
Color: Green. Mary Oliver goes outside everyday, she writes while walking, she loves the woods. Green is just her color.
Geometric Shape: Circle. Oliver sees many different things in situations and things. She views everything with a well-rounded mind.
Fragrance: Fresh Hay. This scent sounds weird, I know, but it also sounds like a comforting scent. I think it speaks of home, and comfort. In many ways, poetry for Oliver is like coming home. Her early life was rough, and poetry was home.
Type of Building: A Sacred Space. Whether it be Buddhist or Christian, spirituality is at the center of Oliver’s work and life.
Word: Creation. Oliver marvels at creation – it’s pros and cons, uglies and pretties, goods and bads. Her work reflects her love for creation and her perplexity surrounding creation.
Musical Instrument: Flute. Oliver’s truth speaks for its own; it stands out, clearly like the high voice of a flute.
Season of the Year: Winter. Oliver’s truth can be harsh, her poems sometimes bring out the brutality of the world, much like winter can be hard. But Oliver’s poetry, and her life, is still beautiful.
Appliance / Machinery: Milk Frother. Warming your milk in the morning, to put in your coffee, is a simple joy. I have found that reading Oliver’s poetry can be a simple joy. It might not always have a profound, original idea, but it is almost always beautiful, and a joy to read.
Natural Phenomenon: Rainstorm. Frightening, powerful, and beautiful. Able to make change, peaceful.
Literary Character: Dumbledore. Oliver is wise, a little quirky, I suspect she likes knitting patterns, and adores reading and learning.

Hope you learned a bit, and enjoyed reading these metaphors.

The Case for Cats

I have a cat named Mufasa. He is orange, huge, and hilarious; his name means nothing in Kiswahili, unlike Simba, Pumba, Rafiki. He has an infinite number of meows – one for the big hornbills that sit in a tree outside our window; one for the lone cat downstairs; one for 5 am hunger; one for 2am loneliness; one for when nobody is listening to the dramatic saga of his sleepy day. He sits on my keyboard in the morning when I am writing; he sits on me when I’m lying still enough, and I love him.

Others – you know who you are – seem to think that cats are useless, nothing compared to dogs and other useful pets one might have the pleasure of owning. Because, it is true, cats are seemingly haughty creatures, prone to clawing your legs, taking your yarn – if you’re that kind of person – and waking you up in the middle of the night.

However, Mufasa is always a warm creature for me to hug, always willing to purr in my ear. And I think this is significant. Many studies prove that time spent around animals, passive or direct, can decrease stress and improve your physical health.

Studies done by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) state that pet owners have “lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than their non-pet owning counterparts” (Ventura). Isn’t that great? Just having a pet around reduces your blood pressure. Also, another study proved that “cat owners are 30% less likely to have a heart attack” (Ventura). I mean, I am all for that. There is evidence procured in one study that “pet owners [have] greater self-esteem, greater levels of exercise and physical fitness.” They also “[tend] to be less lonely than nonowners” (McConnell 1243). Not only does the attachment with one’s pet decrease stress, decrease fear, and others, “pets complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them” (McConnell 1250). Therefore, having a pet effects positively your relationship with others.

These facts, and many more, prove that having a pet around is beneficial to your social, physiological, and mental health. Therefore, maybe I’ll keep my cat around primarily for the fact that he reduces my risk of heart attack – just kidding, Mufasa, I love you even without your benefits.


 

https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-101-6-1239.pdf

http://www.vchca.org/docs/animal-services/health-benefits-of-pet-ownership.pdf?sfvrsn=0