Turning 30

I am facing 30. It’s coming right at me. I don’t honestly know how to feel about it either. I can’t help but feel like I haven’t accomplished much. By the time my dad was 30 my sister was 10 and I was eight. We were practically people. I will never forget for his 30th birthday we bought a simple wooden box and painted it gold. Inside the box we put a rose that we spray-painted black. He may as well have been 100. I couldn’t comprehend how old he was. A black rose to signify the end of any meaningful life he had left on this Earth. Yes, we were little shits.

And now it’s my turn and I feel like I exist in a different universe than the one he lived in. By 30 he had been married, and divorced, and married again. He had fathered two children. We had moved halfway around the world and back. He owned his own business and made a living that supported his family. We weren’t wealthy but we always had enough. As I approach this milestone I haven’t accomplished any of what he did. I was in a very long relationship, and came close to getting married once. I don’t have children, I cannot comprehend having kids. I’m way too selfish to have kids. I work for the business that he created. I still feel very much like a child a lot of the time. I lived on my own for nine years but recently moved into my grandmother’s basement.

No doubt my bad habits stunted my development as a person. A lot of the time I couldn’t get out of my own way. I failed out of college and embarked on a long road of just getting by. Possibly looking for material to make myself feel worse about the situation I googled “turning 30” and stumbled across this article, which lists 15 things I should have accomplished by the time I turn 30. Now, the list was clearly written by a careerist goon, as several of the office-centric categories do not apply in my life; however, many of the ones that do apply I cannot check off my list.

I know that I’m not alone in this situation. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe it’s the culture that we’re living in, but many of my friends are still living at home, still attempting to get an education – for the second or third time. Leaving the nest definitely seems to be something that is trending toward a little later in life. In my case I flew off early but had to return when my life imploded under the weight of my bad choices.

With a renewed purpose in life, and a mind and body clean of the poisons that kept me static through my twenties, I do not embark upon 30 fearfully. I have to embrace where I currently am to move forward into the next decade. The things I did made me the person that I am, and I am lucky to be here at all. So while my life may not be where I imagined it would be, I’m alive and clean and God affords me the opportunity to do better tomorrow.

 

http://www.newstoliveby.net/2013/07/18/15-career-milestones/

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A New Perspective

One of the lasting impressions that I will take away from this past semester of English is something I never would have expected. It is not that I have become proficient at dissecting sentence structure, or that I can tell you definitively what is a dangling participle, or that I may have finally decoded how to properly employ a colon. Through the varied cultures represented in our class and the engaging discussions we had, I am taking away a much deeper understanding of how our cultures differ, and in one way specifically, arranged marriages.

I am a first generation American. I was born here and afforded all the norms and standards of American culture. To me, love, and specifically my choice in a mate is a tremendously personal endeavor. Growing up I would never even have thought to consult with my father about a partner, and I could never have conceived of a less desirable circumstance than to allow him to choose for me, and to go along with his decision. After all, although he was not born here, he too grew up in American culture and was free to choose each one of his three wives. Three wives! What on Earth could he possibly know about choosing the right person?

The mental image I have always had of arranged marriage is a shotgun wedding. One or possibly two unwilling participants being forced into a union by their families. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is simply a cultural difference. There were at least two and possibly three classmates this semester whose culture and customs dictate that they be part of an arranged marriage. They don’t fear or resent this process though. They trust in a custom that is deeply rooted in their culture. They believe their family and the family of their future spouse has their best interest in mind and will choose a suitable partner that is willing and able to be a provider and to further and strengthen their family.

The more we talked about what arranged marriage actually means, the more I thought about the way marriage tends to work in American culture. Generally speaking American relationships start from one thing – sexual attraction. They burn red hot and passionately for the first few years. A lot of the time marriage takes place within those first few years. Studies have concluded, however, that relationships hit a wall at seven years. The strong will survive and those that aren’t come to an end. That really got me thinking – once that lust wears off and you’re left with another person, what remains? Is there love? Is there a strong partnership? Is there a person you admire or one you resent?

One of the biggest differences, it seems to me, is that an arranged marriage goes in the reverse order. It starts as a partnership. Over time a working relationship is forged and out of that working relationship it is possible for love to grow.

Who is to say which way is right. I know today as I approach 30 and with a trail of failed relationships in my past, that my picker doesn’t work that well. I believe that if our culture dictated for me to be willing to listen to my family in this matter, that they surely would have picked better matches for me than I picked for myself. They have only ever had my best interest in mind, whereas I can only see what is directly in front of me and have been blinded by good looks on more than one occasion.

At some point during this past semester I got the phone number of one of the very cute girls in class who happens to be in an arranged marriage, with questionable motives, I admit. But in getting to know her I’ve gotten to see how happy and excited she is to meet her future husband who is arriving in town in a matter of days. We’ve agreed to continue on with our friendship and I’ll get to continue to learn more about this process through her experiences.

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/08/arranged_marriage_in_america_my_parents_moved_here_from_india_raised_me.2.html

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Politics and Climate Change

Global Warming. I swear to God this issue terrifies me, and this article makes me want to beat my head against the nearest sharp corner I can find. Perhaps massive brain trauma will spare me from the endless back and forth in which our government exists.

One of the main things I can never seem to wrap my mind around is why this is a political issue in the first place? This is overwhelmingly a human issue. The science is undeniable – in the 250 years since the industrial revolution humans have altered the climate more than nature could have done in more than 10,000 years. It doesn’t take a meteorologist to recognize that the change in the climate is causing an increasing number of catastrophic weather events around the world. There are entire cities that exist in a constant cloud of smog. In 2005 the sea tried to reclaim New Orleans. Just a few weeks ago a mud slide engulfed an entire town. I can’t turn on the news in the morning, and often I don’t anymore, without being force fed the horrors of one or more natural disasters. At the end of April there was a news report on how strange it was that there hadn’t been any devastating tornados in the middle of the country. Two days later dozens of people had died at the hands of monstrous cyclones.

I become very afraid when any issue becomes a “hot button” topic for the government to argue over. The article quotes several republican law makers whose opinions range from “there’s nothing we can do,” to global warming being a “total fraud” designed by “liberals who want to create global government.” Another Republican Representative referenced the Bible and the great flood when asked about climate change. So much for the separation of church and state.

My great fear about this issue is that the bickering and in-fighting that has become the norm for our Government will continue to allow this real problem to persist as we continue to do serious and irreparable damage to our planet. I wonder what it will take to galvanize both sides behind moving forward in a solution. The stick-your0head-in-the-sand approach is not going to fix anything.

I was having a conversation about this issue with my Grandmother a while back and a truly horrible sentiment came to me – I don’t believe anything will be done about this issue until some catastrophic event wipes out half the world’s population. Maybe nuclear holocaust, or a pandemic, or a cloud of smog that strangles out sunlight and oxygen, or the rising sea swallowing huge masses of earth will be the only things to motivate the world into action.

We need new renewable options and the continued development of existing technologies to wean us from our dependence on consumption of our natural resources. We need to stop polluting. We likely need to become more of an agrarian society, focusing more on living off the land then paving it over. I hate the thought that it is going to take a catastrophic event to spur change, but I fear that is the reality of this situation.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-column-climate-change-republicans-20140511-column.html

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The Bastardization of my Favorite Book

Recently the powers that be, better known as studio executives, saw fit to make a movie rendition of my all time favorite book, “Ender’s Game”. The movie was announced years before it came to theaters, so there was a great deal of time to build up an unquenchable excitement. By the time the movie was released, I don’t think it would have been possible for it to meet the lofty expectations I had set upon it. This was the first time in my life that I had to endure a Hollywood adaptation of something so near and dear to my heart. I had only heard stories of people’s inevitable and bitter disappointments at the cinematic attempt to tell one of their favorite stories.

When the cast was announced, I allowed the cynic inside myself to be quiet. The all-star lineup of young actors surely could do justice to Orson Scott Card’s army of child heroes. All that was left to do was film a faithful re-telling of one of the most beloved science fiction stories ever written. What was delivered was an unrelenting, unwavering, unbelievable, unwatchable, steaming pile of shit.

In the spirit of truthfulness, I feel I have to admit that I likely would not have been satisfied with anything short of a scene by scene recreation of the original story. I’ve owned three copies of “Ender’s Game”. I’ve read it a dozen times. I’ve read the sequels. I’ve read the “Shadow” series, stories told from the point of view of Ender’s confidents during a simultaneous timeline but following (beyond the first installment) a divergent storyline. I feel a connection to the story and the universe that makes it very hard to be an objective observer. For instance, I took my dad to see the movie on opening night, I wanted to share with him something that is so important to me, and he loved the movie. As a person going to watch a science fiction movie, he thought it was entertaining.

I cannot, however, get past the bastardization of the story. Not only were key plot elements missed entirely, but many of those that were included were grossly miscommunicated by the director. From the first moment that Ender is shuttled away from Earth there is a plan set in motion to completely isolate him from his peers as well as his teachers. The movie references this in conversations but the psychological hell that Ender is put through is completely fumbled in the movie. In one breath you hear his commander say that Ender has to believe no one will ever come to his rescue, and in the next scene you have concerned teachers running after him sobbing their apologies that they weren’t able to help him in one trial or another. The movie gave him friends and even a romantic interest. By the time Ender graduates from battle school he has the respect of his peers, but he has no friends, no faith in humanity, and he certainly has no romantic interest.

The story of Ender’s siblings, Peter and Valentine, was also completely omitted from the movie. In the book, Peter and Valentine, at ages 12 and 10, begin an anonymous campaign to seize power over their government. Using the “nets”, Card’s prophetic vision of the internet, the two children play a cat and mouse game with the governments of the world. At the conclusion of the International Fleets invasion of the Formics worlds, with war beginning to be waged on Earth, Peter drafts a peace agreement which is voted into law and elevates him to the head of the Hegemony. The power struggle on Earth and the war that breaks out immediately following Ender’s conquest is completely left out of the movie.

In my opinion the book should have been made into two movies. The story could have been divided between Battle School and Command School. That way the story could have been more accurately re-told. By omitting the story line with Ender’s siblings, the movie was forced to completely re-imagine the ending of the book.

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Honesty

In the essay “The Ways We Lie,” (40 Model Essays) by Stephanie Ericsson, the author makes several over-arching generalizations. One of these generalizations is that we all lie, and this is most likely true. Another is that all lies harm someone, and that we should strive to live our lives with total honesty. But what is total honesty? What is total anything? Life does not exist in absolutes. Nothing is black and white, or entirely right or absolutely wrong. There is a middle ground to everything. Existing in the world is a compromise. Progress occurs in the center of things. So what does it mean to achieve total honesty? If I tell a lie, do I become a dishonest person?

We all, in fact, lie; however, there are many varying degrees of lies with a wide spectrum of intent. The scale ranges from innocent, protective, and well intentioned, to deliberate, harmful, and malicious. We are all guilty of white lies told, perhaps, to preserve someone’s feelings, or to protect a loved one from a difficult truth. These lies indicate sensitivity toward the feelings of others. We are almost all guilty of telling deliberate and harmful lies, on occasion, as well. Telling these sorts of lies does not necessarily make a person dishonest.

Being an honest person has much more to do with the virtue by which we live our lives. Telling a lie that protects another displays empathy for another’s well being, an inherently decent trait. We can remain as principled and upstanding members of our society, while simultaneously dabbling into being untruthful. Since we all tell lies, there has to be some other distinction about what makes a person honest.

Our society and culture dictate the line that separates honesty and dishonesty. Virtuous behavior is dictated entirely by the standards and laws of a people. That line begins to be crossed if our lies and the actions and behaviors that accompany them become overwhelmingly malicious, hurtful, or illegal. An honest person tries to live a life of integrity, striving to live well, free from knowingly causing harm against others. A dishonest person tries to “get over” on society by lying, cheating, and stealing for their own betterment with little or no regard to anyone who may be hurt by their actions.

If everybody lies than this cannot be the value by which we measure honesty. The essay asserts that our acceptance of lies is a cultural cancer. There is absolutely no question that we need to seek out truth, question authority, and not believe every double-talking politician selling lies through their teeth. But gentle lies, told in the spirit of love and well being, may very well be a part of what keeps civilized life intact. One of the primary points of the essay is that there is no lie that doesn’t harm somebody. Upon reflection this may very well be true. On some barely noticeable level I may incur a modicum of harm by telling a lie to protect another; however, we all have a level of tolerance inside of us, some amount of pain we are willing to endure, to protect and enrich the lives of our loved ones. Sacrifice of self for the betterment of another is the essence of a virtuous life, the foundation of an honest person.

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