Friday, June 23, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Dream Catcher

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Dream Catcher

Hold on to your dreams, for if dreams go,
Life is a barren field covered in snow.

Hold on to your dreams, for if dreams die,
Life is the moon above us fallen from the sky.

Hold on, hold on; never let go.
If you lose your grip now you'll have nothing to show.

Hold on to your future and learn from your past,
Trust that you're headed down the right path.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Mantra: The Lucky Ones

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: "There is no wrong, there is no right, the circle only has one side." - Side by Travis
Christo Makatita
Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen The Leftovers, or are in the middle of it and haven't seen the final episode, let me warn you- I'm about to spoil the ending so stop reading this now. If you don't care and/or have no plans to watch it (which is a shame, it's amazing) proceed...

Recently, I stumbled upon The Leftovers, a short three season fictional show that starts with 2% of the world's population vanishing into thin air- poof. Over the course of the series, a lot of crazy and fascinating things happen. There is a man, Holy Wayne, who says he can take away people's sadness through hugs. There is a cult group, the Guilty Remnant, that serves as a living reminder of the suddenly departed (the term they use for all those who vanished), who haunts the townspeople with cruel antics. There is the town sheriff, Kevin Garvey, who is trying to hold his family together while dealing with his own special set of sleepwalking circumstances.

There are normal people and crazy people and desperate people, but there are mostly devastated, sad, uncertain people who are trying to find meaning where it does not exist. This is what the show focuses on; what grief does to people and how they handle it. What it's like to live with no answers and a constant worry that you could lose someone you love, again.

It's absolutely one of the best things I've ever seen in my life.

It makes you feel. It makes you crazy. It makes you angry and frustrated and devastated, right along with everyone else. It makes you understand grief and loss in ways you might not have considered. 

You learn right away that no one knows what happened in the Sudden Departure. No one can tell you how or why 140 million people all over the world vanished into thin air. You learn that most people lost one or two family members. You learn that in one town, and one town only, no one vanished at all.

While watching the series, I toyed around with ideas of where everyone went: Maybe they all somehow became invisible and were still on earth, but no one else could see or hear them. Maybe they were actually in heaven and earth was hell and judgement day had come and gone. Maybe it was an alien abduction. So many possibilities!

In the very last episode of the show, seven years after the sudden departure, you get an answer as to where everyone went. It's a remarkably well done final episode, I must say. You are perplexed and astounded and given the closure you need, while at the same time your breath is stolen in the answer you receive.

Nora, a wife and mother of two, had her entire family vanish; her husband and two children. She's struggled to adjust, but no matter how hard she tries, she can't. Eventually, she is approached by scientists who have created a machine that can transport her to wherever everyone else went. They still don't know where this place actually is or if anyone survives once they go there, they just know how to get her there. She pays them the fee, steps into the machine, and she's gone.

What she discovered was an identical world. An exact carbon copy. She finds herself in the same place, at the same time, in the same year that she just came from, just without a single person around. She walks and walks until she comes to a house, where she meets a man and woman who explain everything to her. Seven years ago 98% of the world vanished into thin air.

You see, in the world Nora was left in, she was one of the lucky ones. This is what she realizes.

This is the part in the show where my jaw did the whole dropping open thing. I hadn't considered this idea. That both parties, the 2% and the 98%, had experienced the exact same thing, just in their own separate ways. 

If you only lost 2% of the world, as the show focuses on, you still have all of your resources. You can still go to the doctor, fly on a plane, proceed as normally as you possibly can. Yet those people in this show, the leftovers, with all of their resources that still remain, have a hard time (understandably) moving on. They have the luxury of being able to struggle with their loss, and that's what you don't realize at first. 

Wasting time is not a luxury for the people on the carbon copy planet who lost 98% of the population. While they still have the technology of today, they have lost skilled laborers. As Nora explains, there are planes but there are very few pilots, so it takes a very, very, very long time to get anywhere. It takes a very, very, very long time to do a lot of things. On the twin planet, where only 2% of the population remains, resources are scarce. 

They were the lucky ones - Nora and Kevin and Holy Wayne and the Guilty Remnant. They were so consumed by what they lost that instead of banding together and making everything better, collectively supporting and comforting one another, they kept destroying themselves instead. 

It makes me think about how we do that to each other now. How we don't always see the blessings that come our way, the luck of a situation. How we, instead, focus on the negative. How we make things even worse. How we judge and separate and divide. How we fail to recognize we're all in this together.

I hope one day we realize we're the lucky ones. 

I hope we start acting like it and helping those who may not have had quite as much luck. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Secrets

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Secrets are not secrets
When the keeper is not keeping,
When the door of truth is opening
Releasing all your demons.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Mantra: All The Good In The World

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: All the good in this life, wish for yourself  - Garbage
Jordan Blackstone
I've been seeing a lot of really cool and wonderful things happening all over the world, and it got me thinking; What if we collectively took all these great ideas and implemented them everywhere?

Imagine a world that thought this way. Much like the Paris Summit (which we're failing, America...shame on us) it would be a council of all countries collectively taking the best ideas and making them happen everywhere, all over the world. The impact that would have is unimaginable. We'd flourish in ways never before seen.

Here are just some of the awesome things I've recently learned about. 
  • A Seattle based nursing home that doubles as a daycare, which has changed the lives of both the kids and the adults. In our culture, the elderly are often forgotten. They're pushed aside and not given the time and attention they need. The kids also need that same time and attention, and there's nobody better than grandparents for that task. In this awesome setup, both parties gain joy and have their spirits lifted by being there for each other.
France does a lot of really great things, for instance:
  • Their food experiment that ran back in 2014 when they introduced "ugly" produce to a grocery store. Most people don't realize this, but insane amounts of perfectly good food are thrown in the trash because they're not pretty enough to sell to the public. (Side note: I was so fascinated with this, I did a final project on it for my business degree. I created an entire plan around how we could bring that here to the US, implement it, and use the produce in Food Deserts as well with specially designed food truck drop offs. It wouldn't be that hard, we just need the right people to support it. It's asinine how much food we waste, especially when you consider how many people are starving.)
  • They've just recently put strict rules around how thin models can be, sending a message that health is more important than how you look. If you break this law, the penalties are steep. On top of that, if a photo has been retouched to make a model look thinner, a note on the photo must state that. 
  • They also just became the first country to ban plastic utensils to help improve and protect the environment. 
France, you're so badass. I've always been a big fan, but these things make me love you even more.
  • In many other countries - such as Germany, Iceland, and Norway - college tuition is free or far less costly for students. It's seen as a gift the country collectively can provide so that the students can get the education they need to better support the economy when they become working citizens. The burden and stress of repaying the massive college loans is removed from their shoulders, helping them focus strictly on their education. 
  • Canada is killing it in the climate change department. They have a lot of beautiful land to protect and they take that very seriously. They've come up with ideas and solutions that touch basically everything you can think of when it comes to environmental issues. It's impressive.
  • Most countries have well thought out maternity and paternity plans that provide new parents up to a year off. This is thought to help them establish strong and healthy family bonds, so that the little people they raise grow up to be good, productive, responsible adults that can contribute to society. 
  • Let's not forget universal healthcare. Did you know in 2016, Italy was ranked one of the top ten countries to provide the best quality of healthcare? They believe it's a human right that everyone should have access to healthcare, not that it's only for those with the means to afford it.
I'm sure there are a lot of other wonderful things happening in other places around the world that I'm unaware of, so I apologize if I missed anything. I hope one day all of our leaders can come together to create a unified world where we learn from each other, grow with each other, and work together to create the best possible planet earth.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: You

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Somewhere you exist.
Beyond my knowledge and contradictions,
You breathe.

I need that very breath to move from your lips to mine.
To fill me with hope,

You exist.

You exist.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday Mantra: A Remarkable Life

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: I strive to lead a remarkable life
You know how people talk about leaving a legacy? I always find it interesting how they view what "a legacy" is. Some people think it's in the work they do, some in the family they leave behind. I'm sure it's different for everyone, depending on what they view as having value.

Personally, I don't like the term "legacy." For some reason, it sounds somewhat egotistical to me. I do, however, understand the desire to do something great. To leave the world knowing you've done something that made a difference.

When I think of life in those terms, I think of this: Leading a remarkable life.

To me, that doesn't mean being the most beautiful, the wisest, the best dressed. The greatest at any one thing. It doesn't mean opening a chain of stores or becoming famous, wealthy, recognized.

A remarkable life, in my mind, means giving of yourself in a way that cannot be repaid. It means being brave. Taking risks in the name of something much greater than yourself. It means doing something for another being that you may never get any recognition for in the slightest, but doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do.

Maybe that's what it means when you really break it down to it's simplest form: Doing the right thing. Not for recognition, not when someone sees you or can acknowledge this act. Doing the right thing in all moments. When you're alone, when you're not, when it's scary.

I strive to lead a remarkable life, in whatever way I am able.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: When Will The World Be Okay?

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
When Will the World be Okay?

As I leave my school today,
I leave with a sense of gloom.
The things we decide, the things that we try
Are the flames to our kerosene tombs.

The parents of the children;
The molesters, the abusers, the damned-
I'll never understand why some people are allowed
The warmth of a child's small hand.

Sometimes the innocence is lost on its own
In the youth of the nation today.
The drugs and the lies popularity buys
Is what drives common sense away.

The lovers, the loveless, the lost-
The cheaters that bring the disease.
The trust that is lost, the love that it costs
Is more countless than waves in the sea.

The drink that won't let you stop drinking,
That carries your worries away,
When its grip is released and the drunkenness ceased
You still have to face today.

So tell me, what's left to look forward to?
It all just seems cloudy and gray.
I sit here and ponder. I worry, I wonder-
When will the world be okay?

This is an old poem written by a much younger me who, at that time, was already deeply concerned about the state of our world. Many years have passed since then, but I still have plenty to worry about.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Mantra: An Appetite for Distraction

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: What I desire must not destroy me. What I desire, I must earn.
Marco Melgrati
The first job I ever had taught me the value of my time and effort, which resulted in the benefit of a paycheck. As tired as I was after each long day, the feeling of earning something was undeniably awesome.

Working out, for me, yields those same kind of feelings. I might not love every moment, but knowing I've worked hard (whether it be for a treat or my abs) always leaves me feeling good mentally and physically.

I started pondering this concept last week - the idea of effort, of value, of earning something - when it comes to other areas in life, like playing on a cell phone or watching TV. How this, too, can be seen as something that's more fulfilling when earned instead of when overused. However, we rarely treat technology as something to earn. Because it's limitless, we spend unlimited time using it.

The internet was a completely new concept when I was a teenager. Because of that, I had time on my hands to kill. While I spent plenty of time on normal things like watching what was the WWF and kicking some serious Bowser ass, I also spent a lot of my time reading, writing, taking long walks or drives, and thinking. I spent countless hours thinking. It was my favorite thing to do.

That's the piece I feel like we're missing the most these days. Of course, we think at work and school and most of the time naturally. But we've lost the time when we thought just for fun. When we would sit on a stair step and ponder life. When we could get lost for hours inside our own heads on adventures we would create, instead of getting lost for hours on our phones.

I don't want to villainize technology. It's useful, it's fun- I get it. I use it. I'm using it right now. But many of us have forgotten what it felt like before. Many of us don't even know what it was like BT (before technology). Before we had something that could keep us entertained literally any minute, of any hour, of any day without any effort. Back when we had to entertain ourselves on our own. Back when we had to work a little harder to earn that entertainment.

For example, I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead so I get really excited for that one hour every week when it's on. I look forward to it and, in certain ways, I earn that hour. I get all my activities done during the day, make dinner, clean up, and then sit down to indulge in my hour of apocalyptic entertainment.

I've also done the opposite. I've overindulged in Netflix marathons and found myself wondering what day it was. While it starts out fun, I never feel great after the fact. Because I, like all of us, have these things called responsibilities, when I spend endless hours being lazy watching TV I don't feel fulfilled.

Once that fun and/or entertainment threshold has been met, it's done. No matter how much more TV time you consume, you can't reclaim that feeling you had at first. This is why you end up feeling lethargic, drained, and, for some people, even out of touch with reality. It's similar to the science around sugar; the first few bites are amazing, but then you're just trying to recapture that feeling as you continue to mindlessly consume.

It makes me wonder about today. About all of us that overindulge in technology. About the difference in what it feels like to earn something instead of just taking it because we can, because it's there. What that does to us, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. How that affects our outlook on life. How that affects what we expect from life, other people, experiences. How altered things can be because of something so small and seemingly simple.

It makes me wonder about what the world will look like five years from now, ten. Will we be better? Or worse? Will we become so enthralled with entertaining ourselves in every spare moment that we, instead, end up losing ourselves? Have we already done that? And, if so, are we capable of overcoming what we've done to ourselves? The more telling question of the times: Do we even want to?

As always, the universe must have been listening in on my thoughts because I ran across the excerpt, below, which I stole for your reading pleasure from Jedidiah Jenkins' Instagram page (follow him- he's amazing and brilliant and compassionate. Also, yes- I see the irony in where I found this information based on what this post is about). It's incredibly eye-opening, friends- and true at this very critical moment in life of what's happening in our world, on our phones, on our TV sets and, ultimately, in our brains.

"We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and [George Orwell's] prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

From Neil Postman's 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Written before cable news. Before the internet.