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  • x7 billion

    I was talking to a friend the other day about perspective, and how most of us lack it most of the time. I constantly teeter on the edge of 'does it actually matter' when considering something, because I am continually reminded of the fact there is somewhere around 7 billion people on the planet (and also because I often wax existential). Each of us have so much going on all the time, and all of that matters very much to us, concerns us and others...but times that by 7 billion. It's like zooming in and out on a camera or microscope or telescope. We matter times *this much*, but so does everyone else.

    I really like the photo I included in this blog because it's a visual representation of what I'm trying to say here. You pick up a handful of sand. They pretty much all look the same. You zoom in on a few of those grains of sand. You can see they are a little different, in color, in shape, etc. You zoom in even further. Now you can see how colorful and unique and different every grain is, and wonder how you could have ever thought them to look the same. Zoom back out...and there is just a handful of sand again. Obviously it's a little different with humans, since we are fluid creatures and what we do effects other people and ourselves, mentally and physically. That doesn't really happen with sand, though sand has the advantage of staying itself and not dying. But you get my point.

    Now think about how much is going on in one single second of time. We don't often do that. Think about exactly what is happening other places in the world, or even 10 feet away. So MUCH is going on that it's just baffling to consider. The biggest part of it is that we can't SEE what is going on. It is almost all invisible. Someone's thoughts, whether about groceries or suicide or that guy from the coffee shop, etc., are the gears that are turning time itself (which could lead me into talking about how time isn't linear, but we'll save that for another day). Pretty crazy, right?

    [photo credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/incredibly-colorful-magnified-sand]



    Selfishness is a tough subject. We each have our own personal views of what it entails, but if you sit back for a moment and think about it, there are really two types (ish) of selfishness. You, obviously, have to have concern for yourself to continue living. To be able to survive in a world where, no matter who you're with or where you are, you still are responsible for yourself; your breathing, sleeping, eating, etc. are all things that more or less demand attention from you. Even though this is the case for everyone, yourself is still at the forefront of your mind.

    Now, this isn't a bad thing. This is how life naturally, biologically works. We just don't consciously admit it to ourselves, because being 'selfish' is considered negative. There is also a marked difference in the life of the single person and the life of the coupled/parental person. Your concern for your offspring and the well-being of your mate hit right up there with your concern for yourself. A large part of that is because they affect you and your lifestyle directly.

    I think the transition from single to, well, not, is pretty rough for most people. You can be with the group that depends solely on themselves for everything, most likely born from a long time alone; life forces you to maintain a certain level of selfishness, or you can be with the group that is dependent in one place, to dependent in another place. The levels here are obviously going to be quite different. Within the group of people that are forced to be the leaders of their own life, we've got those that are trying to reconcile themselves to life with another person. When you've had a mindset for so long, it has got to be tough to flip around and change that. Personally, I believe that's what people consider to be 'commitment issues'. I could be wrong, but that seems to fit pretty well to me. You have trouble moving to a different pattern of thinking. Some have less trouble, some have more trouble, but it happens just the same. Or, it doesn't happen at all, and those are the folks that will more likely stay single their entire lives.

    Being single is absolutely not a bad thing, however. Time alone gives you opportunity, almost forces you to think through the major questions that batter everyone. Life, purpose, religion, love, careers, etc. Once you're tied to a group of people through close, mutual concern, it becomes more difficult to find those opportunities. You just end up not thinking about it; you don't have time, you don't have energy. Those questions are very important to some people, and for others, it rarely, if ever, crosses their minds. That could be another major difference that eventually separates us into independents and dependents. So, essentially, we've covered the type of personal selfishness that is required to basically live your life.

    The other kind of selfishness (though there are likely many layers in-between) is the trait that is most commonly considered 'selfishness'. And that IS negative. Compassion and empathy are two major things that shape us as a person. If we are only concerned for our personal well-being, nothing else has value. There is most certainly a line that we do or don't cross in regard to selfishness. One side is the natural self-concern (which really is basically selfishness, just in a more positive light), and the other is self-concern to a higher degree, one that can and will potentially hurt those around you. We could be stuck anywhere on the entire (very large) spectrum.

    We forget sometimes that we ARE animals. Intelligent, of course (for the most part), but animals nonetheless. Looking at groups of primates has personally always helped me put things into perspective. Imagine a group of monkeys/apes/etc. Their (as our) main goals in life are to find sustenance, to reproduce, and to generally not die. But even through this, feelings play a large part. What do you do with the food you find, the time you have, the protection you can provide? Do you keep it all for yourself, or do you share favors with others to become part of a collective whole of well-being and contentment? Most primates (and other animals, of course) have very distinct personalities, just like you and me. If you sit and observe long enough, you'll see that some will share food, will share care for offspring, will protect the group itself, and then you'll also see those that, because they're selfish, do next to nothing but cause others trouble through their disregard for the others. Why does the group put up with them? Sometimes they don't, but other times it's that pesky compassion thing getting in the way.

    Obviously, there are many other things that factor into this, especially for humans; life situation, mental health, value systems; the list goes on and on, but at its most basic roots there are two kinds of selfishness: the one that helps and the one that hurts.

    [photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiegenlied/2360825022/]


    I haven't been able to blog much lately (though I have been writing down subjects I want to address), I thought I'd share an excerpt from an essay I just finished on racial inequality. This only broaches how I feel about the subject to a tiny degree, but I thought I would share.

    Soon, finals will be OVER, and perhaps this summer I can catch up on blogs; or hey, who knows? Maybe I'll ACTUALLY work on my novel. Hmm...

    "Present day America truly is a melting pot of culture, which could and should make it one of the most amazing places to experience on Earth, but old prejudices die hard. We are a country of many proud and selfish individuals, which makes any changes harder to come by, even if we think things have changed. Because of pride and vanity, most people aren’t truly aware of what the world is like around them, or even how they themselves are. Judgment and self-image cloud and mask a lot of the bad (and good) things going on. Unfortunately oppression has branched out to a lot of different areas; social class, religion, race, gender, etc. It is going to be difficult to change, especially when we’re as socially hard of hearing as folks were decades ago. We think, “how could people be so blind, how could they not see blacks as people?!” but stepping back and looking at the big picture shows that not a lot has changed; some aspects have become more subtle, but markedly worse.

    In regard to my role in the present and persistent battle of inequality, racial or not, it seems that the only thing I can do is change myself, which will hopefully inspire others to change themselves. First one has to learn the value of a person, and then realize everyone, be it African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Chinese, Indian, Jew, Christian, Muslim, male, female, fat, skinny, mentally disabled, physically incapacitated, or so many more, everyone IS a person and therefore they have value. Just as much as you or anyone you know. It takes a long time to learn that, but when we do, we are only better for it.

    Personally something I would like to do is use my Anthropology, Creative Writing and Religious Studies training to really dig into research for many different cultures, and I'd like to portray them through some sort of creative fiction or non-fiction. Reading from the perspective of someone in a very different culture can honestly be mind-blowing, especially if the reader hasn't thought much about it before. If I write well enough, or it catches just the right amount of attention to leave a dent in inequality's armor, I'll feel like I've succeeded.

    Culture itself is only misunderstood. We, as part of human nature, eschew the things we know little about; we run away from or ignore or make fun of things we don't feel we comprehend. That insecurity makes it extraordinarily difficult to change our behaviors and attitudes. That's why reading is an effective tool. It's not a confrontation, no one is watching or expecting anything from you, since it's just a bunch a words on a page (they don't bite...well, physically, anyway); someone can take as much time as they need to understand something."

    [photo credit: http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/inequality-a-collection-of-images/]

    monotony of routine

    I loathe routine. It's something I've always consciously and unconsciously strayed away from. I have a difficult time doing the same thing over and over again, which is why I've had trouble staying interested in some of the jobs I've had in the past. A set routine sometimes seems like a prison sentence to me - I value freedom. Individual freedom. I'm very lucky, living in the country I do, and having the opportunities I do. I'm spoiled. However, it's because I live with the freedoms I do that I chafe at anything that restricts me from doing something I mentally/physically/spiritually should be able to. I like having the choice to do or do not, and I think it's a large part of why I've always wanted to be a writer, at least when I wasn't wanting to be a dolphin trainer or actor at the age of, like, 7. Writing allows so much freedom, possibly more than anything else ever could or will. Maybe virtual reality will catch up someday, but that's likely a long time off. So, writing and reading will continue to be an escape and a solace for me.

    There are things we must do to continuously to stay alive and/or function in 'society'. Eat, sleep, drink, bathe, relieve ourselves of waste, etc. I see the value and the necessity. Then I look around and see people that do nearly the exact same thing every single day. They wake at exactly 'this' moment, eat at exactly 'this' time, work for exactly 'this' amount of time to 'this' amount of time, watch this TV show at 'this' exact time, and retire to bed at 'this' exact time. I respect that it makes days easier for some people, and pleases them to know what is going on when and being in control, but when you're stuck in a routine, how much control do you really have? You've given your life a structure, sure, but is it a cold, corporate building, or a magnificent rain forest? I'd say the former is likely. And, to be honest, pretty boring. Without variety in my life, I'd be miserable.

    I'm sure many of you are quite similar, at least to some degree. Many of you probably also write, as well, so you understand the glorious and extraordinarily vast freedom you have when writing. But, it's a dangerous freedom as well, since reality loses a lot of its luster when one possesses an active imagination, most especially in times of war, poverty, violence, and prejudice. Routine can anchor us to reality, and that may be a large factor in my aversion to it. That's probably not healthy, but when you're trying to write, it's certainly a big, giant plus. So, my main point of this blog post is basically to declare to the world (or mostly just myself) that I completely abhor routine and will likely stay as far away from it as possible. Maybe I'm lazy (probably), maybe I just value spontaneity. Whatever the case, this is and will continue to be true.

    [photo credit: http://www.slipperybrick.com/2008/11/cycle-life-watch-knows-your-routine-well/]

    charity: water

    I've always felt that those who have privilege should make a concentrated effort to share what they have with those that go without. This desire made itself even more apparent after the earthquake in Haiti. Because forensic anthropologists play a large part in disaster relief and aftermath, my forensic anthropology professor felt it apt to show us before and after pictures of the conditions there, to emphasize the havoc that was wreaked. But what struck me the most was the before photos, of children drinking out of muddy puddles in the road. We easily have the means to help get others the clean water that we more than take for granted, so I want to be a part of the effort to make that happen. I hope you do, as well. This site is one of the best organizations I have found, and I want to actively be a part of it. So if you'd like to help, here's a link to the campaign I've started. The goal is $5,000, which is enough to fund a project that will give 250 clean water for the rest of their lives. The campaign ends in August, so if you're able to contribute, please do. If you aren't, which at the moment I realize many of us don't have the money to spare, please just share the campaign with others. I've made it for the whole of Salt Lake, but anyone is welcome to join in.

    [photo credit: http://www.charitywater.org/media/banners/300x250_baby_bottle.jpg]

    money vs happiness: who will win?

    It's been a while since I have written anything on here, though I've been stockpiling topics that I want to write about. I just never seem to get around to it...

    Money. It's what makes the world go round and is often the difference between life and death. I hate money. Not just because I am terrible with it (I'm an impulsive buyer) but because of all the problems and rifts it creates in everyone's lives. I almost wish we could go back to a bartering system, although if that were the case I would likely starve. This leads me to the fact one of the hardest concepts for me to grasp is employment. Now, now, hear me out. I understand that people have and hone specific skills, and in turn use those skills to provide for themselves and their families. This is not the part of the concept I have a rough time with. The part I can't get past is that the VAST majority of people in general aren't happy with their jobs. This comes down to:

    Trading HOURS of your LIFE for MONEY.

    That's what I have a hard time with. Every second you spend on something is a second you can't get back. Why would you spend millions of those priceless seconds on a job you dislike? But someone has to do these jobs, don't they? No. There's no need for a corporate CEO or a burger-flipper at a fast food chain. There's a significant rift between what we need and what we are told to want. What good is all of this doing us? None whatsoever. People survived just fine making their own bread and hoeing their own fields. Sometimes I get so tired of watching this endless set of problems we all create for ourselves, falling into potholes of greed and gluttony and lust. I know that sounds preachy, and I really don't like to judge, but it's true. It's what the pressures of our society have led us to. I makes me want to go all Thoreau.

    So basically, it comes down to this for me - would I be willing to do this job for free? Do I enjoy what I am doing and respect the implications it has on the rest of my fellow man? If this is the case, then one is typically a happy (and usually financially downtrodden) person. If the answer is a 'kinda' or a resounding 'no', there is trouble. I'm so often sad for the society I live in and how selfish (I will talk more about this concept in another, later post) we have become. Now, there are two kinds of selfish - one is just to the degree of being concerned for one's own needs and providing that which is needed. The second is putting oneself before EVERYONE else, no matter the concern. They are very different levels. There is also, obviously, gray area, since there is in nearly every matter, ever.

    I don't want you to think that I'm looking down my nose at anyone. I am also a culprit a good portion of the time. But I am to a point in my life where I may be extremely poor, but I thoroughly enjoy all of my jobs, and all the class I take at the University are only because they interest me completely. I am much more sated by having spent my time on endeavors that I personally enjoy, since it is MY life. Why would I want to give up my precious time to the corporate gods, when it could be used to bring happiness into other people's lives? If that's a byproduct of my job (which it is), I feel like I've made a difference, and that puts my soul at ease. And I enjoy being content. It's a state that many have thought and dreamt about, yet never achieved.

    Hopefully you'll take some time to evaluate your life, and consider creating a happier place for yourself with the time you're given.

    Time is a gift, and we should never waste it on anything we don't want or need to be doing.

    "Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today." -James Dean
    "Do not take life too seriously; you will never get out of it alive." -Elbert Hubbard

    [photo credit: http://donmillereducation.com/journal/2010/12/22/wednesday-notes-money-is-time/time-is-money/]


    I like films. I like them a lot. I like the stories they present, and how a director/actor decides to portray those stories, whether it be through aesthetics, audio, omission, or manipulation, humor or tragedy, stark truth or utter fabrication. The past decade (2000-2009, for those of you slow on the uptake) has been chock full of fantastic films. I was inspired to pick my Top 50, but before you glance through my list, I want you realize several things. First of all, the criteria for my choices. a) I have to have seen the film. I missed several reputedly great films in the past 10 years, and while they are on my ever-growing list of films to see before I die (I swear I really have one, there's a shortcut to it on my desktop), they were not considered for this list for obvious reasons, namely, I haven't seen them. Okay, on to b) emotional reaction. I had to have an emotional reaction to a film for it to be on this list. Whether that reaction was enjoyment, horror, empathy, glee, mind-boggledness, or dysphoria, has no effect on placement. Now, c) art. I consider films to be an obvious form of art, as I mentioned vaguely above. Art can be something as simple as witty banter, a tragic view of a world shot to hell, a convoluted and all too realistic 'love' story, all the way through the use of existential cinematography. Many different factors that all boil down to the creation of an artist(s), an expression of someone's self. So, here's my list, for what it's worth. My Top 50 of all time would likely be entirely different, but I am happy with this list. Finally, d) I couldn't decide how to number these, and so rather than waste MORE time, I am going to say, DISCLAIMER: THE NUMBERING OF THIS LIST IS COMPLETELY RANDOM AND DOES NOT REFLECT THE FACT THAT I LIKE ONE FILM OVER ANOTHER. If you'd REALLY like to know which of a couple/few films I prefer, please ask me. Otherwise, here you go:

    1. Inglorious Basterds
    2. I'm Not There
    3. Up!
    4. Avatar
    5. Once
    6. Children of Men
    7. Finding Neverland
    8. Punch-Drunk Love
    9. Paris, je t'aime
    10. The Ringer
    11. I Heart Huckabees
    12. Across the Universe
    13. (500) Days of Summer
    14. School of Rock
    15. Night at the Museum
    16. Juno
    17. Finding Nemo
    18. Star Trek
    19. The Incredibles
    20. Hairspray
    21. Batman Begins
    22. The Brothers Bloom
    23. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    24. Memento
    25. Public Enemies
    26. The Dark Knight
    27. Sweeney Todd
    28. V for Vendetta
    29. Pirate Radio
    30. Love Actually
    31. The Holiday
    32. Moulin Rouge!
    33. Rent
    34. The Royal Tenebaums
    35. Runaway Jury
    36. The Pianist
    37. High Fidelity
    38. Mirrormask
    39. Donnie Darko
    40. Hot Fuzz
    41. WALL-E
    42. Watchmen
    43. Big Fish
    44. The Count of Monte Cristo
    45. Up in the Air
    46. Evening
    47. The Prestige
    48. The Emperor's New Groove
    49. Elf
    50. LOTR (all three, and yes, it is cheating...sorry about that)

    dream on

    Well....I am terrible at updating this. It's been an...interesting few months. I can see an end to the semester, and I will be very, very glad when it's over, though I am sad to leave my creative writing class. They were great people and it was a very conductive environment for creativity. I have three finals to go. Three finals I have not studied for, at all. So that's what I plan to do this weekend, besides work. Yes, I finally, FINALLY found a job. Two, actually, at the moment. I am helping out with the Christmas overload at Hale, which I am loving. It's such an enjoyable place to work. I love the atmosphere, co-workers, and the patrons. Everyone is so happy. I also am just starting a job at a place called RISE, Inc. as part of an after school program to support kids with disabilities. I am very happy to be a part of this, because a large part of the problem I have staying with a job is due to the fact that it's doing absolutely no lasting good in the world. I have high hopes to help better someone's life, and I know that they'll affect mine as well. So I am excited to embark on that journey. I am also excited for Christmas, though I have absolutely NO idea what I'll be giving people. I literally have $3 in my bank account, and several overdue bills. So, no money. Everyone is either getting something homemade or regifted. They'll have to deal. But I do intend to still choose their gifts carefully and with thought. Not being able to purchase a present makes it SO much harder, though. I am tempted to take my $3 and buy everyone 25 cent packs of gum. I probably won't though. Maybe. I recently started taking a new medication. I swear, it's a miracle pill. I am happy and energetic and cheerful, literally the polar opposite of what I've been for the past several months. The difference was noticeable within 24 hours. Truly a miracle and blessing in my life. One of the side effects is more REM sleep, so I sleep for less time, but more deeply. Which means that I am able to remember my dreams really, really well. That's something I have been wishing for for a LONG time. I was convinced that if I could just remember my dreams, I'd be a bestselling author by now. I used to wake up and say to myself, "that would make a fantastic story!" and then a minute or two later....*poof* go the specifics, and all I am left with is a general feeling. But now that I can remember them more vividly, I usually can recall two or three of them, and let me tell you, they are BIZARRE. Last week I literally had a dream about evil ostrich eggs wearing pink converse lace-up shoes and pink framed sunglasses. We had pickaxes to fight them off, and egg flew everywhere. There was also a strange paranoid schizophrenic man that for some reason had dragonfly wings. Other things happened as well, but those are the most strange from that night. So, what I'm trying to say is, now that I can remember my dreams I am fairly certain most of them won't end up on a shelf. Some, perhaps, but most I will just enjoy. Going to sleep is my favorite part of the day. I even set my alarm an hour early every day so I can revel in my dreams. I love it.


    I can't do it. There are so many things I need to be doing at the moment (first and foremost studying for a midterm, which means catching up on a whole month of school in a couple days), and I am just not there. I don't want to. My brain is saying that it would rather sleep, would rather read (recreationally), would rather play with polymer clay. None of this packing my poor brain with loads of information thing. The fact that I am writing this attests to how difficult I am finding this to be. I have great intentions, but they aren't seeming to come to fruition. I also thought I should probably write here before September is officially over. I no longer have my job at the U of U hospital, which is sad, but acceptable. I've been keeping busy working at Hale, but that's over when October is, so I'll be in dire straights soon enough. This gloomy, rainy day (which, don't get me wrong, I normally LOVE) is really bumming me out. Life can really get you down sometimes, ya know?


    I made a commitment to myself to blog at least once a month. And I've failed. Oh well, it's not like my blogging is for anyone's benefit but my own. I'm currently at work. Yes, 1am on a Friday night/Saturday morning (either or) and I'm at work. I'm okay working overnight, but I really dislike how I can't stay out with friends till all hours. Crap summer. HOWEVER, I did get called for a 2nd interview for a Pharmacy Tech position at the University of Utah Hospital inpatient pharmacy, so maybe I won't have to be at this hotel much longer! I am really hoping and praying for that job. My interview is next Tuesday, so we'll see how it goes!

    *caffeine break*

    Well, I turned 23 a few weeks ago. It made me feel old, and even worse since I don't have much to show for the years I've been out of High School. I mean, I'm still a Freshman in college, and I'm living with my parents again. Kind of depressing. What can I do but progress? So for my birthday Katie and I threw a weenie roast in her parent's backyard. It was a lovely night, excepting the rain, and about 20-25 people showed and we sat a chatted for about 7 hours. It was fabulously relaxing and I am so grateful to my friends for celebrating with me. I am also very pleased I was able to hit up Lake Powell with some friends a couple weeks back. I had a wonderful time enjoying nature and meeting new people. It was lovely.

    My parents have been planning a cruise for their 25th anniversary for about a year now. The left last Sunday, and are coming back this Sunday. From what I have heard from them, they are having a wonderful time, and they absolutely deserve it. The fact that they are gone also means that I'm left with the caring for my brother and sister the whole week. It's been a really interesting experience, mostly owing to the fact that we haven't fought. AT ALL. This is very unusual. I am beginning to think that our parents are the cause of us fighting. It's kind of strange to think about.

    Lately I've been spending several hours a day doing research for the novel I've been trying to write for the past couple years. I'm basically trying to shove the whole of history into my brain. I'm not sure how well it's working, but it's essential for the background of my book. I'm also trying to get familiar with genetic engineering and where it could be (plausibly) in 50-100 years, as well as brainwashing techniques. This idea hit me out of nowhere, and while the research is seemingly never-ending, I really think learning all this stuff will be a fabulous thing for me. I get more excited every time I think about it, even if it's just research. I'm not in school this summer, so I've dedicated most of my free time to research and getting through the Rosetta Stone Spanish program, since I failed my class last semester. Linguistics has given me a whole new perspective on languages, however, it isn't very practical. I think too objectively, so I understand the rules and the conjugation and all that, and I can read it fairly well, but I just can't seem to speak it coherently. It takes me about 3 steps to get to the word I need. So it's pretty frustrating for me, but I'm going to continue working on it, because learning a language (or several) is a major goal I have for my life. Unfortunately, if I get this job I'm interviewing for, I'll have much less time. I will, however, have the money I need to pay off debts (another major goal). So, we'll see how everything goes.

    Gosh, I could go on for hours, since I actually have a couple left to kill, but I'll just talk a little bit about my book group. It is kind of struggling, but short of watching over the members, hawk-eyed, I can't do much to keep them interested other than nag them a bit and rave about each month's book. It's tough for people our age to actively participate in something like this, since we all have jobs and school and social lives (well, most of us). This month is Life of Pi, next month is Little Brother, and then August is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which (for some reason) I have a feeling will end up with a good turn-out. The group's website is here: http://notyourmommasbookgroup.blogspot.com/ if you know anyone interested in joining up!

    I really do intend to write more, since in typing this I've realized how much I can miss in a couple months. I always have something to say (anyone who knows me can tell you that), it's just a matter of sitting down and typing it, and it takes something like forgetting headphones at work so I can't watch movies to make me. Alas, such is my life. Thanks for reading, if you got this far. Kudos to you.