Gives Me Hope

Recently, it seems surfing websites like FML and Texts From Last Night has become a common hobby for teenagers and twentysomethings everywhere. These user-submitted microblogs are flourishing: the former receiving about 1.7 million views a day and the latter about 4 million. Heck, I'd be happy if this blog reached 1.7 thousand in my entire lifetime. FML has already published a book and TFLN is on the way to doing so.

While hilarious, many of the jokes on these websites are crude and catered to a specific age group. Recently, though, I came across a very different kind of microblog, one that almost anyone can read: Gives Me Hope. It's a sort of online suicide hotline, packed full of inspiring and uplifting stories, including hundreds of testimonials that the website prevented a suicide attempt. The website brags that it is "Like FML, but for optimists!"It's become one of my favorite blogs and it's one of the first feeds I check out each day. Hopefully, with enough support, a GMH book will be published soon. Here's a few of my favorite posts on the website:

Feel free to post your favorites as swell.

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Unlimited Potential

Just when I feel as if I'm beginning to understand what exactly humans are capable of, people like those in the video come along and show that the limits of the human potential have not yet been discovered. And these limits are not necessarily physical either. With constant new developments such as the Large Hadron Collider, smaller and smarter phones, and intelligent clothes, it seems that humans will never stop inventing. Is there a limit, though? Will we ever level off?

People argue that there is no "better" homo species, simply one better adapted to a particular environment. It is clear, though, that our brains have been developing throughout evolution, regardless of changes in environment. If the environment was to stay relatively constant, would humans continue to develop? It is impossible to know when, or if, evolution will ever cease to affect us. It may be primitive or haughty to propose that we have reached the pinnacle of evolution, and, in fact, I don't think we have. But it's possible we have.

This makes me wonder, then, what humans are capable of. How far will we go? How much better will we develop? We have not even determined the limits of Homo sapiens yet. There are tons of stories of mothers lifting cars to save their children. In these times of extreme stress, we reach newer and higher levels of capability. Where, then, is the limit? Is there a highest level of achievement a human can gain? Honestly, I don't think it is possible to determine what the limits of potential are. In order to do so, we would have to make the human genetically and physically superior to all other humans. Additionally, they would have to be raised perfectly. I do think, though, that you can set upper bounds. For instance, I personally believe a human could never fly without assistance. The challenge, then, is to find the lowest upper bound, the very highest thing a human can accomplish.

Feel free to suggest what YOU think humans are capable of.

My Dad's Name? Superman

I remember exactly when it happened. I was sitting in my summer dorm room doing my reading for class that night when my cell phone rang. My nonchalant method of picking it up proved how incredibly unprepared I was for the news that would change my life forever.

My textbook lay unread on my bed alongside my unfinished homework for the next morning. I was too absorbed with the words I had just heard to focus on anything else. My mother’s soft and hesitant voice echoed in my head: Dad needs cardiac surgery.

Two days earlier, my mother had explained that they were going to be going to Mayo for their annual check-up, but I doubted that a check-up would reveal anything major. I brushed off my father’s recent reoccurring dizziness as mere symptoms of aging. The results of the check-up were shocking. His condition was so serious that a heart attack could have occurred at virtually any moment. 

Perhaps the news stunned me so because my whole life I had na├»vely considered my father invincible. He could scare away monsters from underneath my bed and battle through difficulties as if they were never there. He could cure cancer and work twelve-hour shifts without signs of weariness. Even at the age of sixteen, I felt my dad would be there forever. 

And then the truth rushed at me like an unstoppable avalanche. Thanks to some amazing doctors, my dad, though requiring a definite change in lifestyle, turned out fine. The experience, though, made me think quite a bit about heroes. As long as I could remember, I had strived to be my father in each and every way. His life was a true rags-to-riches story, from the slums of a third-world country to a successful physician. This, it seems, may have been why I viewed my father as invincible. When we look up to someone enough to want to be that someone, we completely ignore their flaws; we refuse to believe our Superman has a kryptonite. After all, why would we want to be someone with flaws?

So, what do we do? Do we acknowledge our hero’s flaws? Should we analyze our heroes to determine what makes them fall? To this, I say absolutely not. We NEED mentors to be successful. It is incredibly reassuring to know that someone has accomplished what we aim to accomplish. Knowing something is possible gives us hope, reassurance. Flaws, once acknowledged, are hard to ignore. After we realize someone is flawed, the flaw seems amplified: it’s all we can think about. If we refuse to acknowledge our heroes’ flaws, we gain perseverance. We gain hope. Ever seen how determined a child is to be Spiderman or Batman? It’s because they see no flaws, only success. I felt the same with my father. I neglected his slightly opinionated nature and his obsession with his work simply because that is not the type of person I wanted to be when I grew up.

So, while we know deep down that everyone is mortal, the misconceived perceptions of invincibility and perfection help us succeed. Submit to your childish misconceptions every once in a while; they may be just what you need.

Watch out, Clark Kent, my dad’s got you beat. And so do seemingly invincible heroes everywhere.

Does reason always prevail?

(*Warning*: this post may trigger the allergic reactions some have towards science... Those with a liking for philosophy may be quite intrigued though. However, Wikiphiliac warns you: Read at your own risk.)

At least in theory, I would say yes. Our understanding of the universe is entirely dependent on the assumption that a certain logic holds true throughout everything, everywhere, and through all time. In fact, it is the foundation of the scientific method is -- a systematic method, grounded in reason, of uncovering knowledge about our universe. So what if that's not the case? What if the reason, or logic, that is so rooted in the human brain, that just seems to make so much sense, is not precisely how the universe works? What if, in fact, our reason is deeply flawed? What if reason is not so... reasonable?

Well, that's a hella deep existential question, but let it suffice to say for now that there's a load of circumstantial evidence that speaks otherwise. Reason, in its incarnation as the scientific method, is a self-correcting method. It seems very highly unlikely that this reason, and which has been verified by test after test, time after time, is anything but true.

But in real life, can we always trust reason to get us through tough decisions or confusing situations? I've always said with confidence, YES. I've always been one of those people to make decisions through systematic reason, not by following my gut. But lately, I've begun to question that. My unwavering faith in reason has begun to falter, just a bit.

Looking back at the past year, I've noticed that I've found myself many times in confusing situations, torn between conflicting paths and motivations. My paradigm of approaching these challenges has always been "Write down the options, and weigh the pros and cons. Reason it out." I've always been warying of submitting to my gut feeling, because, as we all know, our gut is not always "reasonable."

But now that I have the experience and time to reflect, I am beginning to see the pitfalls of reason. Often in real life (unlike when, say, solving a physics problem), there is so much uncertainty and grayness, that there is no one, correct way to reason out a situation. Instead, there could be a million ways to reason out the same situation. So trying to reason it out may at best, just be inneffective, and at worst, drive you crazy.

This is why as of late, I have begun to respect my gut a lot more. We all know our gut instinct is invaluable in certain situations -- like when sensing how people feel, or whether a situation is dangerous. But, now I have begun to see it's worth much more. Many times, when faced with a tough, or difficult situation, at work, or in academics, or elsewhere, our gut can tell us what's really good for us, and what to stay away from. On the other hand, reason, while in theory perfect, in practice, can fail miserably and confuse us.

So what do you think? When faced with a tough decision, what do you trust -- reason or your gut? And why? I feel those of us who are strict believers in reason and those who faithfully follow their gut ought to learn a little from each other.

At the end of the day, here are my two cents: Sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut.

Worst I Ever Heard

Know you got a roommate, call me when it's no one there
Put the key under the mat, and you know I'll be over there
I'll be over there, shawty, I'll be over there
I'll be hitting all the spots that you ain't even know was there

Ha and you all ain't even have to ask twice
You can have my heart or we can share it like the last slice
Always felt like you was so accustomed to the fast life
Have a nigga thinking that he met you in a past life

Ah, the eloquent, charming lyrics of today's popular music. What's so cool about using different words to rhyme when you can just use the same word at the end of every line? Heck, that's originality at its best! Plus, the word "there" is so complex and forceful! And who ever knew that sharing a slice of pizza could be oh so romantic? And the last line, it seems to fit so well. Very sentimental and not completely or utterly random at all. And don't even get me started on the chorus.

But, wait, how could we forget
Baby are you down, down, down, down, down
Dooooown, Doooooown

(This continues for half an hour)
Down like her temperature, ’cause to me she zero degree,

She cold, overfreeze
Honestly, how "down" can you be? I think I understood the purpose after the first "down;" the 256th one was unnecessary. And can someone PLEASE explain what the heck the last two lines mean? So, if I understand correctly, a girl can be hot, which is good. But apparently, if she's got some kind of a viral cold, (and not just a cold, but an overfreeze) she's really got it going on. Glad that's clear.

The point I'm trying to make is that lyrics, it seems, are becoming less and less important in determining popularity of a song. Now I agree, there are songs, like Numa Numa, that I have no idea what in the world the musician's saying yet I still find entertaining. Even these two songs above are pretty catchy. As a whole, though, the current generation is looking only at superficial components of music, ignoring the deeper meaning and feelings evoked by music. Immerse yourself in the lyrics of Journey and you'll instantly notice the difference.

Maybe different people are looking for different things in music. I, however, definitely value meaningful lyrics. As generations pass, it seems lyrics seem to play a smaller and smaller role. So take a minute to analyze the lyrics of the music you listen to and maybe, just maybe, we can bring expressive music back.

Four Dead in Ohio

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming …

Four dead in Ohio. Today’s college students—and even some of their parents—had not been born when Neil Young’s lyrics became an anthem of a generation. But for those who do remember the tragedy at Kent State, there’s a nagging fear that college students and armed law enforcement officers are still a deadly mix.

In my hometown—where hot topics usually range from the annual carnival to changing traffic patterns on State Street—this atypical issue has recently reared its head. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, as college administrators nationwide ask themselves one question—“Could this happen here?”—they are also looking at solutions to make sure the response is “No.”

Locally, the current debate has focused on whether campus police officers should be allowed to carry guns. This headline issue has caused widespread discord throughout town. The classrooms, hallways, and lunch tables at my high school were not immune from the arguments.

Some, who speak out against the arming of campus guards, have cited Kent State as a warning to heed. They note that college students and campus security guards often hail from disparate socioeconomic and educational backgrounds or hold opposing values and goals. Students, they insist, can be passionate to the point of insolence; they can be impetuous and thoughtless. Security staff who resent student privilege or arrogance may overreact with force.

Those in favor of weapons for campus guards maintain that the death toll in Virginia would have been reduced with faster armed intervention. Some even suggest that the perpetrator might have been derailed from his murderous plans if campus guards were visibly equipped with weapons.

The guys who gathered at my lunch table back in high school were surprised to find me in that latter camp. Those who know me well have often heard me spout off on the Second Amendment. They've endured my diatribes on why this amendment is obsolete. In my opinion, it was first formed in order to help develop a "well-regulated militia." In a time when war depends on weapons other than handguns and where drafts are rare, the Second Amendment is unnecessary and statistics on accidental shootings in private homes are ominous, as are violent crimes resulting from the “heat of passion.” However, I would support a loose interpretation of the Second Amendment where the “right to bear arms” would include self-defense weapons such as stun guns, but not lethal ones.

So, how is it possible that someone with such strong opposition to the Second Amendment favors the arming of campus guards? One of the main reasons lies in the level of training. Campus police have far more in-depth training and are better able to handle guns than the average citizen. Also, campus officers go into dangerous situations fairly frequently, where students rarely face that level of danger. Thus, those responsible for campus security need firearms as their primary line of defense. Even the strongest TASER would lose a fight against a handgun. Also, people tend to feel more secure around police officers. Their visible, armed presence serves as a kind of passive first line of defense.

This issue continues to unfold across the state as politicians and university faculty voice their opinions. As the debate rages on, I will continue to voice my stand: Armed guards, not harmed students.

Haughty Humans

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store to buy some things. As I was waiting in line, I got a call from a friend I hadn't seen in a while. We got to talking and it was my turn to check out my groceries. After scanning all my groceries, the cashier just stared at me for a minute or two. I ended my call and asked her what was wrong. She replied that she simply wanted to ask "cash or credit?" but didn't want to interrupt my phone call. I was shocked. No, not because I had encountered a polite cashier for the first time in my life. It was because I had suddenly realized that my whole life, though I had considered myself a strong proponent of equal treatment no matter what race, ethnicity, gender, or social class (as most people consider themselves), I had been dehumanizing cashiers. And don't lie, I'm sure you've done it as well. Ever walked through a check-out line without ever looking the cashier in the eye? Would you do this to any of your friends or elders? Surely not. It seems to me that there are several potential reasons why people are so impolite to cashiers:

1) People have had bad experiences with cashiers and the common stereotype is that cashiers are rude. You are much more likely to remember a discourteous cashier than a courteous one. Thus, people associate cashiers with impoliteness and are therefore impolite to them as soon as they walk up to the register.

2) People view cashiers as lower than themselves since they are working a service or retail job. Therefore, they look and talk down on them.

3) People are having a bad day and know that they won't encounter the cashier for long so they take it out on the cashier.

Whatever the reason, it is imperative that people recognize that they
are being inconsiderate to cashiers. I, myself, did not even notice until just recently. What I have decided, though, is that I will now be more proactive and conscious-minded about being nice to cashiers. I request you to do the same.

Thanks to that grocery store cashier, who in two minutes, has made me a better person (It took my mom something along the line of 10 years to teach me to be polite so extra kudos).

Feel free to post any cashier stories or reasons people are impolite to cashiers you have.

Recyling is Garbage

I don’t recycle. Yes, that’s right, you heard me. And you shouldn’t either. Now before all you environmentally friendly, Earth-saving people stab me with your pitchforks made of recycled plastic and throw me into your fires started with recycled newspaper, hear me out. Since we were children, all those around us have emphasized how recycling makes you green and “eco-friendly.” We’ve been rewarded for recycling effectively and have implemented large-scale recycling projects in parks and cities around the nation. In a commercial building, virtually every room with a trash bin has a recycling bin right alongside it. However, before recycling that piece of plastic and suddenly smiling and rewarding yourself intrinsically for saving the world, have you ever stopped to consider why you recycle? Typical responses include retorts like, “Well, mom told me so.” While that may possibly work on your three-year-old brother, chances are any educated person would not be heavily swayed by this slightly unintelligent argument.

First of all, recycling is expensive. There are many collection, transportation, processing, equipment, and labor costs related to recycling. Collecting waste for a landfill costs about $60 a ton. Conversely, separating and collecting recycled materials can cost up to $150 a ton. Virgin plastic resin costs forty percent less than slutty recycled plastic resin. This is due to the low price of petroleum. I know exactly what you're thinking. “Low price of petroleum? Psh. Yeah right. My gas cost me forty bucks yesterday.” But when you compare these costs to that of paying for labor, collection, handling, transporting, and various other expenses of recycling, the price of petroleum seems pretty dang low.

And for you tree-huggers, have no fear, a lack of recycling will not destroy all of our forests. Each year, we grow 22 million acres of new forest, but only harvest 15 million. The number of trees in society currently is increasing, not decreasing

Believe it or not, recycling can bring about pollution. As David Letterman once said, “Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.” Clearly, pollution is an ever-increasing problem in American society, much more so than that of decreasing land-fill space. Take New York City for example. Each year, New York's capacity grows at a higher rate than its disposal. Guess how much extra they have? Not 20, not 50, but almost 100 million unused tons of permitted space for landfills. Apparently, New Yorkers overestimated how trashy they are–I mean how much trash they produce. And this is New York alone. If Americans keep generating garbage at current rates for 1,000 years, and if all their garbage is put in a landfill 100 yards deep, by the year 3000 this garbage heap will fill a square piece of land of a whopping 35 miles on each side. This is just .1 percent of land that we Americans have devoted as grazing land. Certainly there is no immediate crisis for landfill space. On the other hand, let's consider the current problems with pollution. New York is constantly under the risk of run-off from urban sources damaging the water supply. But wait, doesn't recycling help pollution? Not so fast, my naive friend. Recycling collection calls for collection trucks. This means that trucks will be running longer and more often, thus creating more fumes. Also, recycling is an industrial process and, just like every other industrial process, it uses resources and produces pollution.

So, what's the alternative? First and foremost, a greater emphasis should be placed on the other two R's in the three R plan: reducing and reusing. So, now that you've heard me speak, you are free to stab me with your pitchforks. But, please, make them out of virgin, not recycled, plastic.

Career Disservices

My recommendation for a new item to add to the FAIL blog? Career Services programs. Terrrrrible. That goes for high school as well as college programs. Modern career services programs are unsuccessful at letting students know about their options for potential jobs. The reasoning of the high schools is "Well, they'll probably pick what they want to do in college." The reasoning of the colleges is "They probably already know what they want to do or will figure it out on their own." Yeah, not so much. You don't need a multi-billion dollar endowment to tell you that most of your students are entering undeclared, undecided, and unconfident. In fact, when students apply to most colleges, they apply to a specialized school, such as a "School of Arts and Sciences," "School of Engineering," "School of Business," "School of Agriculture," etc. Thus, doors are already closing before kids even get a chance to glimpse at what's on the other side. I mean come on, who really has a decent chance to learn about all the potential engineering careers before they hit their freshman year of college? Additionally, there are SO many careers that are incredibly interdisciplinary that students never get a chance to learn about. When reading Michael Crichton's Prey, I was amazed by the interdisciplinary nature of Jack Forman's previous career: computer programming aimed at imitating natural animal behavior in order to solve real world problems. For instance, he would program evolution-like tedencies into some of his designs so that they could change and better themselves without human interference. By being promoted into a management position, he simultaneously got to deal with computer science, biology, and business, among other disciplines. How many high schoolers know that this is a potential career choice? The only cool career I learned about in high school general biology is being a scientist for the FBI (isn't it a little suspicious that all the cool careers we learn about in school are government ones? Hmm...someone's got a slight influence on education...) Ok, slight exaggeration. Regardless, even once students decide on potential careers, high schools and colleges in general do a poor job of letting them know potential major choices and getting them in contact with other alumni in the related fields. Granted, by the time students are in college, they should be taking their own initiative to learn about their careers, especially if they are passionate about them. However, I think it could really make a difference if high school and college career services programs took a more proactive role in helping kids find their ideal career.

(As you can see, I'm still a little iffy on what I want to do with my life and I'm looking for someone to blame =P. Feel free to comment on career suggestions. I'm sure you'd do a better job than career services.)

Actions Speak Louder than Words?

"I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts." - John Locke
"Well done is better than well said." - Benjamin Franklin
"Talk doesn't cook rice." - Chinese Proverb

Throughout our lives, we've learned that what matters most is what we do, not what we say. To some extent, this is correct, especially in regards to promises. Those who accomplish quite a bit are more highly regarded than those who promise to accomplish quite a bit but don't. However, when it comes to conveying feelings, perhaps words are of greater value than actions. Sure, a necklace to say "I'm sorry" or a box of chocolates to show you care may do the trick, but are you really accomplishing your goal? Does the gift truly convey to another how you feel? A friend of mine recently ditched me to go to a movie with another and later brought me my favorite ice cream to apologize. Without even a hint of expressing regret (besides the bringing of the ice cream), we were instantly back to how we were before. This got me thinking. It seems that a gift is simply a way to "skip" doing something difficult. Saying sorry is much harder than it seems, especially if one must admit fault. Simply disregarding this process creates only a temporary solution, prompting the problem to show up even more intensely in the future. Additionally, solving the problem by using words can actually strengthen a relationship because it creates understanding, whether it be with a friend or with a significant other. Sure, a ring is a wonderful signifier of an amazing wedding, but perhaps the vows are the greatest indications.

My advice: talk over how you feel, THEN give a gift =)


Which crowd seems happier: that of the Lakers when they score a basket or that of Manchester United when they score a goal? To me (and to anyone who knows anything about soccer), it is definitely the latter. But why? What causes such an uproarious riot when a soccer team scores that seems to make basketball fans seem like they're sleeping turtles? It's not a mystery that the key to soccer fans' happiness is the infrequency of the scoring: basketball teams frequently have scores above 100 whereas soccer teams rarely top 5.

This same principle can be applied to many aspects of life: the rarer something is, the happier it makes us (just ask any man who's pissed off his wife or girlfriend: diamonds and gold always do the trick). For instance, when I went to a relatively poor neighborhood in a third world country last Spring, I gave a child something so simple: a hug. Yet this simple act made the child happier than any hug had ever made me. Happiness, you see, varies depending on the person. One who finds positive events familiar will be less pleased by an extraordinary event than one who rarely encounters such events.

That being said, it also seems to be true that infrequent events can lead to greater anger. For instance, if a girl is use to getting anything she asks her parents for, an unexpected no can lead to considerable animosity. However, if a different girl has become accustomed to rejection, the anger will be much less. Again, this is evidence of the importance of the person on how happy something will make them. The answer (no) is the same, yet the behavioral response to the answer differs depending on how the child was brought up.

The lesson, then, is that we must learn to not take positive events for granted. With each joy, we must express our happiness and recognize that we are lucky people. Think about all the things that have made your day just a little bit better and hold those things dear, for they may or may not show up again. In particular, if there's a person in your life who makes you incredibly happy, let them know. Take a lesson from those who may not be so habituated to having good people around: when they do come around, act as if they're the greatest thing that's ever happened to you.

Greetings, Good Sir/Madam

Let me introduce myself. You can call me Wikiphiliac (you can also call me Pimp Daddy or Your Majesty, if you'd like). No silly, that's not actually what my parents named me. If all goes as planned, you'll never know what my parents named me.

I, as well as my partner-in-crime, Sir Aspirant Esq., are operating under pseudonyms not because we think they're witty (though Wikiphiliac is a tad witty, I must admit -- credit to a good friend), but because we think they serve an important purpose. Under their protection, we hope that we can speak freely about our thoughts, musings, broodings, hmm maybe even schemings.

We hope that our no holds-barred writing will spur YOU -- the readers -- into thinking and questioning and will stir those mental juices long made dormant by too many hours of LOST or The O.C. We hope that you will feed off our posts and that we will feed off your comments, triggering a stimulating exchange of ideas that is based on reason and respect for others' views, not prejudices and dogma.

Now a word about my name -- yes, I must admit, that I am, in fact, a "lover" of Wikipedia: it's simple, revolutionary open-source philosophy, and its endless of bounds of knowledge about EVERYTHING the mind can fathom... Okay, okay, I'll even admit to getting a kick out of Wikipedia races (if you don't know what those are yet, you will learn soon enough).

Often, but not always, my posts will be inspired by something funny, eye-opening or shocking I happen to land upon on Wikipedia (or some other site) in the course of my three hours or so surfing the Internets each day. Really, I just hope to have fun with this and learn a bit, and I hope you will too. To keep this blog alive, you need to do more than read. You need to comment! All comments are appreciated: anything from "Wikiphilia, you are so damn insightful, I want to have your babies." to "Wikiphilia, you are an ignorant bigot, who writes like a fourth grader." Okay, maybe the former would be slightly more appreciated than the latter, BUT you get the point -- Whatever you're thinking as you read my posts, click "Comment" and type it, because I want to hear your thoughts, and from them, can blossom a fruitful dialogue, which we all can grow from.

Aiiight folks, that's all for now. Stay tuned.

The Greatest Art

One of the things I love most in life is music. It serves so many purposes from fun to just relaxing. One of my friends recently mentioned to me that we are astoundingly good at memorizing lyrics. Hear a song three times, and suddenly you've got the whole thing memorized. Imagine if school was taught in a musical manner. It would be SO much easier to memorize countless facts and statistics. After all, didn't many of us learn the state capitals or the names of the Presidents by memorizing a song? When someone asks me who the third President was, I still chime in my head "Hmm...Washington, Adams, THOMAS JEFFERSON!" to a tune that only a 5-year-old would find amusing. For more on this, check out This is Your Brain on Music by Farhad Manjoo. He also recently came out with The World in Six Songs, which I have yet to read but I'm sure is mind-blowing as well.

Something that bothers me immensely is when people are ignorant enough to make fun of others for their taste in music. Music is, of course, a matter of opinion. After all, you don't make fun of the colors people like, do you?
"Man, red is such a terrible favorite color! Why don't you like blue?"
What the hell do you say to that?
"Every day, I wake up and tell myself red is my favorite color, and then I spend the whole day consciously making it so. I secretly like blue but am trying to hide it from the world."
I mean, come on, let's be real. Each person has a distinct identity and each was brought up in a different way. Whether due to nature, nurture, or both, everyone is unique. Thus, people relate to different kinds of music. If you associate country music with the warmth of home, then you should indubitably get made fun of, right? It only makes sense after all. I admit, I've caught myself doing it as well but over the years, it has become a sort of pet peeve. Sure, you may not agree with another person, but at least try to be understanding.

There is one downside to current music technology, though, despite music's wonder: Digital music players are desocializing and disconnecting the current generation. In the 70s and 80s, one teenager in a group of friends would buy a record. Then, they would all spend time listening to the record together, immersing themselves in the music and evaluating it in unison. Music was a social hobby, promoting friendships in people of all ages. In today’s MP3-crazed phase, however, each person is wrapped in their own pair of headphones. Instead of walking to class with friends, students spend some quality time with their digital music players, reducing potential for interaction with companions. Trivial conversations at bus stops or in long lines are essentially eradicated. A pair of headphones creates the delusion of preoccupation, preventing socialization. Times of discussion as a method of resolution are long gone, replaced by resorting to digital music players, bathing in soft music to reduce tension. Take a minute to pause those iPods and submerge yourself in conversation. Then, we can all truly appreciate music for all that it is worth.


Yesterday, I wrote about focus and how deprivation causes amplification of this focus. I also wrote about how I, myself, am perhaps too focused. Why spend so much time working on one thing? To promote success. This got me thinking. Maybe each of us has our own level of an internal need to strive for success. Notice I say strive, because it is the actions one takes to attempt to achieve success that matter, not the final level of success. Some people, no matter how hard they work or how successful they become, will always feel it is necessary to continue to work hard in order to achieve even greater success. Jordan, for instance, went back for another 3-peat after his retirement. Success: a journey, not a destination (cliche, I know). I remember learning about how people have a certain need for achievement. Those that have a high need will take on moderately difficult tasks in order to challenge themselves but make success likely. Perhaps, though, there are people with such a high need that they must take on the most difficult tasks that they can so that they don't feel insufficient or as if they are slacking (because clearly, it is impossible to get into med school if you take the regular section of Philosophy so you sure as hell better take the honors section).

Then again, there are also people who are perfectly happy with whatever path life takes, no matter the success. They feel no great internal need to test their limits in order to prove to themselves that they are worthy. I don't think, though, that these levels are black and white; rather, this need for success is a continuum, with some people needing a moderate amount.

I confess that I am one of the sadistic people that only feels successful when I am working hard. Only by being in 24.5 organizations while holding 4 jobs (slight exaggeration on the number of jobs, but not the organizations =P) can I feel like I am leading a successful life. Otherwise, I think to myself, "I could have taken the position but I was too much of a chicken to add something else to my plate." What I've realized, then, is that what people need is a moderate need for achievement. Everything in moderation (I know, I know, again with the cliches). This way, they feel a drive to succeed, thereby helping them become better people, but when they achieve success, they can feel happy about their achievements. Easy enough to say, but a lot more difficult to do. I'm still working on it, myself. If this is indeed an internal trait, then it truly is hard to change. Traits can be enduring: difficult, though not impossible, to change. I'll give change a try if you will. With me?

Obsessions over Injuries

One of the things I value most in life is obsessio--I mean focus. I've always been the type of person that devotes himself fully to current interests. Swimming, biographies, the violin. Granted, there are certain pasttimes that I've retained long term such as running, girls, soccer, girls, and hopefully blogging. Oh, and, uh, girls. Mostly, though, I find something I like and think about NOTHING else for roughly 2-3 months. Then, I discover something new and it is as if my old interest never existed. Thus, one would think that it is relatively easy for me to give up an interest. This is where the obsess--dangit, I mean focus--comes in. You see, the way a normal1 person's mind works is that when one is deprived of a necessity or a strong desire, one finds it incredibly impossible to think of anything else. Try going without food for 24 hours2 and see what the majority of your time is spent thinking about. When one is severely deprived of something, relatively minor deprivations in other necessities or wants abscond from the mind. The 3 hours of sleep you got last night seems relatively unimportant if you haven't eaten in 24 hours. In fact, your captiousness for the desire disappears. After 24 hours without food, I'm pretty sure I'd eat almost anything (don't quote me on that). After my first year at an ivy league university, you'd be surprised at the girls I found cute when I came back to my hometown the following summer. I kid I kid.

Alright, alright, I suppose you want me to get to the point. You see, with me, this inability to think of anything else is amplified ten-fold. It doesn't even have to be a necessity. When I don't run for a day, I feel as if I haven't run in weeks. I imagine myself becoming incalculably fat and slow. No, I don't have a mental problem. At least, I don't think I have a mental problem (but I guess the problem, if it existed, would be in my thinking so this may be flawed). Rather, it is my focus that keeps me restless and anxious. If I was originally one month from giving up swimming, take it away for a week and I'd probably be doing it for at least another six months after. Now I'm not quite sure if this is good or bad. I guess it's both. Or maybe neither. Yes, one should open himself to experiences and try a lot of different things rather than focus on one. But perhaps this relentless focus is what makes me able to run or attend college in the first place. Ever met a marathon runner who wasn't completely engaged in his goal? Me either. This is how I see it: Someone who's good at everything is a likeable person. Someone who's great at one thing is a successful person. Either way, good or bad, what I noticed last year when I got a light pull in my hamstring, rendering me unable to run for the following couple days, is that I then wanted to run more than ever. Just when I felt that I couldn't find the drive to go for a 10-mile long run, my drive was rejuvenated. Though seeming contradictory, maybe my temporary injury could be the best thing that happened for my running in months. Only careful contemplation and experiences (or a great personal record) will tell. Maybe I should go break my leg?

Or maybe I'm just rationalizing so I don't think of myself as insane =)

1. I emphasize "normal person's mind" to acknowledge the existence of the odd, like my sister. :)

2. All liability will be assumed by reader

And so it begins

Why? Why now? What's the point? You see, to me, blogs always seemed like journals with a transparent cover. I remember having one in middle school because I somehow formed the delusion that EVERYBODY wanted to know what was happening in my life. I mean, come on, why wouldn't they? I've now learned that the practice of creative writing is becoming a rare commodity in many professions. For the first time in my life, I feel like my writing is declining in appeal, even in intellectual character. Blogs are one of the greatest ways to put that oomph back in your writing, keeping your fingers and your mind fresh. As I grew older, I started reading more intricate, reflective blogs and I gained so many new perspectives on life. My mind was fresh ground, ready for new ideas of all different types to be planted and ingrained. Sometimes, after careful consideration, ideas would need to be weeded if I felt I simply could not agree. Many times, though, what started as a small root grew into a well-researched, carefully contemplated, and beautiful flower. So, while my collection of flowers is certainly still growing, I'd like to begin sharing my own garden with the world in my own unique way. And thus, here it is: Ravings of an Aspirant and a Wikiphiliac. Wish us luck.