13 February 2015

Learning in today's world.

Why and how do we learn in a world that's so concerned with how others rate us? We teach to the test to gain good standing with our state or institution; we learn to the teacher to get an A; but in the end we fail. We fail ourselves and each other in our expectations - they're literally killing us. Learning doesn't take place through giving a teacher or professor "what he wants" as an answer on a test, but delving into the subjects ourselves and finding what the true meaning is - how it concretely relates to our lives and how we can understand and see such an notion from all points of view. When we look at anything from the single perspective of whoever is above us - whoever gives us our rating - we are killing our minds and we are killing ourselves. We are not thinking, we are mesmerized by memorization. We are not living, we are limiting due to a lie. We are settling for our dreams.

To think is to be alive; to dream is to be alive.

15 April 2014

You are an Overcomer

We're all put into special groups to classify and put us into specific places; sometimes we do this to ourselves, other times society decides where we belong and we listen. Many times, these classifications ultimately divide us and we believe the lies that they tag us with.

A teenage girl believes she isn't skinny or pretty enough to be a model; a young boy who dreams of having the opportunity to play basketball is rejected and believes he isn't good enough to try out for the team the next year; a fresh college graduate receives no calls back from his extensive interviews and begins to question his purpose. Divisions between, "us and them," the privileged and underprivileged, the rich and poor, the skilled and unskilled, the blacks and whites - the list can go on and on. These false divisions hinder equality and limit self-betterment. In extreme circumstances, such false divisions lead to inhumanity and global atrocities such as the Jewish Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide. It is our responsibility to overcome these partitions each and every day.

Jay Smooth, speaker and radio personality, explained the concept of the dental hygiene paradigm in a ted talk (which may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU). The dental hygiene paradigm states that change of thinking and intent doesn't happen in one single sitting; instead, we must keep up daily with brushing our teeth, showering, and more. 

Change - lasting, meaningful change - is the same way. It must be a conscious choice every day. In overcoming the false divisions we may be placed in, we should pursue erasing them every day through conscious action. It may be such simple an act as standing before a mirror and stating, "I'm better than this" - because you are. You are better than what anybody can label you to be. You are an overcomer. 

02 April 2014

A Hero.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. From Batman and Captain America (my personal favorites) to your friendly neighborhood mailman. Superheroes such as the afformentioned are commonly known to be heroes; by the dark of night they rescue helpless damsels in distress and bring justice to an unjust society. Sounds like the life, right? Living as a comfortable, million-dollar bachelor by day and quickly changing into skin-tight spandex and flowing cape by night? Children dream of fulfilling such a destiny and if we are all being honest, don't adults too? We want to make a difference. We want to bring justice. We want to mean something to the world. And most of all, we just want an excuse to wear our underwear on the outside of our spandex.

But what about those friendly neighborhood mailmen? Or that janitor that keeps the place clean so the rest of the workplace can function? What about the teachers that face the frontlines everyday to nurture the kids that dream of being the superheroes of the future? This is where true superheromanship is displayed. In terms of real world heroes, we might look at sports stars that set good examples, musicians that donate 'x' amount of dollars to a charity, or actors and actresses that travel to third-world countries; while these are all respectable and positive examples, heroes are revealed in all ways. In truth, heroes are displayed by actions, but superheroes are exemplified by their heart.

23 March 2014

Who am I?

Our society constantly classifies and labels. You are a boy. You are an adolescent. You have light brown hair. You are a student. You are an athlete. You are a Christian. You are whatever the world may label you as being.

I've just given you some of the subgroups that you might consider me to belong to or label as being a part of my identity. It is so intriguing that we, as humans, are so keen to labeling people and putting them into groups. It is more interesting when those groups collide or conflict.

In high school, I considered myself to be a pretty well-rounded student. I tried to be involved in every event and organization I possibly could. I've tried to continue this into college (with some narrowing) and still find my labels conflicting at times. Whether it be through commitments in tennis taking me away from other commitments with choir, or vice versa; or social norms clashing with my own beliefs and values; or even one service opportunity compared to another; my relationships with others are altered through where I choose to place my time and efforts. At times, it may seem like a balancing act to maintain such an act without toppling over, but it is most important to remember that just because the world may classify us by such labels it does not make us who we are.

It is our responsibility to remain steadfast in our identity - to remain unshaken by the categories into which others may pigeonhole us. We are, in fact, not determined by whatever the world may label us into being as I stated earlier; but we are whatever we may choose so long as we stay true.

28 February 2014

The thing with feathers and Immaculee Ilibagiza.

Hope is a Thing with Feathers – Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

As I read this poem by Emily Dickinson and considered its relation to the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza in her book Left to Tell, I envisioned a vivid picture of her ninety one days spent in Pastor Murinzi’s small bathroom with seven other women. Throughout her story, Immaculee delves into her deep-rooted relationship with God that developed as she prayed unceasingly in the tiny bathroom. The way Dickinson describes hope is exactly how Immaculee kept her faith during her hardships and horrors; the hope that Dickinson refers is the love and promise of God that Immaculee becomes so familiar and dependent on. Only a crumb of faith was asked of her – similar to the passage in Matthew 17:20 in which Jesus tells us that we need only faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains. The little bird, the thing with feathers, gave her visions of freedom, safety, warmth, and hope through the chilly storm. I think that’s a profound thing, is it not?

05 February 2014

A Uniting Art.

Art, whether through the form of music, writing, reading, painting, drawing, shaping, or anything at all, is a beautiful thing to be enjoyed by all. The endless forms allow for expression in any form for any purpose and is unlike any other marvel in the world. One of my favorite forms of art is music because of its beautiful combination of poetry, sound, and unity. Music can tell a story with little to no words just through the moving sounds it produces.

It can be funny to think how the classical stylings of Mozart, Bach, Brahms, and Chopin have translated to works by Falco, Relient K, Xzibit, and Coolio. Producer and rap artist Chris “Drumma Boy” Gholson puts it well when he said, “There is an electric synergy between the two genres of Classical and Crunk, but one has to have a discerning ear to recognize the instinctive connection.” Music has come a long way in a few centuries, but it will forever be rooted close to the heart of its beginnings.

Music has an undeniable uniting force that can bring even the classical junkies together with today's hip hop addicts. It can spread a message across the world - so as in the case of the band System of a Down who's efforts can be understood and seen in the documentary Screamers. Or the message singer/songwriter Steve Moakler delivers with his music and heart (which can be further understood after watching this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJC29MAB0Ws&feature=c4-overview&list=UUQJXQtCCDgzRUrZwGDCg_uQ).

The message that is able to be spread with music is identical to that which is preached through other forms, proving that art surely must be a beautiful uniting factor in the world.