Monthly Archives: September 2013

Love is…Chapter 1

Preface

Love is… This is one of the most challenging open ended confusing sentences to complete, probably in the history of the world. I have decided to start an open ended love themed blog post to be added to in the future when I have more revelations to this mythical beast of an emotion. It is also because I recently was thinking about love, and my hands just started typing, there was little I could do. The purposes of this monolog on love are twofold. First, this is so I and others can look back in the future and laugh about how silly my attempts to describe love actually were. Second, it is so I can get these thoughts out of my head. I also should say that once I experience more of you know, life, my opinions and view points and thoughts are likely to change drastically and may swing to the polar opposite of what they are now. I have no clue. Now, keeping in mind that I have absolutely no clue what I am talking about, and there’s a very real possibility that all this is rampant speculation, I’ll go ahead and dive right in.

Chapter 1

I am currently in a humanities class in school entitled ‘HU 143, Introduction to Rhetoric.’ The class is actually incredibly interesting, and I’m learning a lot about the subtle art of persuasion. The class involves the reading of articles that can be found in places like the Washington Post opinion section, or the New York Times op-ed section. As it turns out this thing rhetoric is actually surrounding us in virtually everything that we do. Advertisements, politics, relationships, family, school, church, work, walking down the street, at the post office, wherever you are right now, and many many other places. It deals with a lot of emotional appeals in arguments, and this is (I know you were wondering) exactly how love came in to the picture.

The other day in class this kid brought up that he thought love was a selfish emotion. Love as a selfish emotion. I almost see his point. This whole idea came in to view because of an article that we were reading in class. The article was “The Dying of the Light”, and it was written by a doctor who worked with patients who were commonly near the end of their lives. He sees every day the kind of nightmare that we all dread will be our last days. Medical technology has advanced so far that we mortal humans now have the ability to actually play God in a way. We can artificially prolong the lives of the ones that we hold dear to our hearts. Which defaults most people’s minds to a ‘this is good’ reaction. And to some extent I’m sure that it is. The advancement of medical technology is a good thing. Except when it results in the prolonged suffering. Which brings in to question what is the definition of being alive versus living. Which I am only qualified to answer for myself, and isn’t the thing that really stuck with me in the first place.

The thing that really stuck with me was this kids comment, that love is a selfish emotion. Love is the reason that our brain defaults to wanting to keep our relatives alive and around as long as possible. Which, is something that is easy to understand. Anything to the contrary at first seems ridiculous and hurtful. Why would you want someone to no longer be present in this world? The part of us that is convinced that we love the person who is suffering will want them to stay. While this evidence might logically make sense, I could not wrap my head around the idea. I was actually pretty mad about it. In my mind love is nothing but good, and the idea that love could cause pain was idiotic and stupid. The emotion that causes that pain isn’t really love, it’s actually something else. We just THINK it’s love. I kept telling myself the part of us that actually loves them will want them to go. The thing is that it IS love that does this. It IS love that is selfish and give us a need and want to hold on to the people that we hold dear. See what I didn’t realize until this afternoon was, the kid was right. Well, sort of.

My friend and I were arguing about this, and my friend who is way more qualified to be talking about love said that yes, love is selfish. When it is felt that way. When it is wanting people to be around even though doing so causes them pain. It is a selfish thing to do. But my original dissonance with the comment was that love is supposed to be selfless. Love is not supposed to be a selfish emotion. Love is supposed to be knowing that the loved one is in pain and letting them go to a place that is much less painful. But that’s just it, all these sentences are starting out with supposed to be. If you look back through history we, humans, are absolutely terrible at doing what we are supposed to do. I mean virtually right from the get go, Adam and Eve, we did not do what we were supposed to do. So what’s to say that we use love as we are supposed to use love. Love is not a selfish emotion. We are selfish people who feel love, and simply can not separate the two.

Ultimately I reached the conclusion after thinking about this for several hours and discussing it with my buddy, that the little dweeby kid in my class wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either, not entirely. While, yes, in the case that sparked this whole thing love is selfish, and causes selfish actions to be taken and selfish decisions to be made, there is also another aspect of love in the exact same scenario that is incredibly selfless. It is an incomplete diagnosis of the situation to address one without addressing the other. It’s only telling half the story, and after all a half finished story is a half finished love affair. This love that we feel, it’s a complicated thing. In all aspects, and it is in fact both the cause of the decisions to keep loved ones in pain and suffering but a live, and it is the very same emotion that allows us to finally let them go. And I don’t understand that one bit.

I don’t know why love is such a complicated animal. I don’t know a lot of things about love, as you can plainly see by reading this blog. Love seems to be all things. The Bible says it best (as often is the case) in I Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4-8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” The best thing that I can come up with then to explain the affects that love has as described in this post is; love never fails. ¬†We fail love, because we’re human. Love is not supposed to be selfish. We just make it that way. And it’s still one of the greatest emotions that there is.

Come back next week for part 1 of a 4 part short story about many things, including love, life, and trains. Thanks for reading, see you then!

The Paradise Maneuver

There are certain things who’s names are so awesome that you just sit there and hope beyond hope that the thing itself lives up to the incredible awesomeness of it’s awesome name. A quick google search (google is awesome) of “things with awesome names” and a visit to an XKCD comic returned some awesome items to add to this list, such as tittle, crepuscular rays, the Brannock Device, semantic satiation (which is ironically what I’m doing right now with the word ‘awesome’), Kessler Syndrome, nuclear football, and the Armstrong Line. The last one actually didn’t come from either of the places mentioned earlier, but it is named after an awesome dude*, so it’s an awesome name. These things all range in the awesomeness of their name versus the awesomeness of the thing it actually is. For example, the Brannock Device is nothing more than that evil looking foot measuring device that shoe salesmen size you up with. The Armstrong Line is the line above which a human, or any animal really, can not survive without the aid of a pressure suit. The details of that type of passing I will omit, though it’s actually kinda cool if you google it. I have a bit of a soft spot for these things with awesome names. Awesome names can be a name for something totally bogus, like the dots on i’s and j’s and yet it an get a cool groovy name, and no one bats an eye. A cool awesome name can make something that’s not sexy sexy, or something fantastically boring seem exciting. I like things with awesome names, so I was decidedly way to excited when I thought of this one.

I was driving to a dive site with my buddy the other day and we were discussing things about diving, like how to keep people from venturing too far into a cave from which the grim reaper sign (another example of something with an awesome name) had been removed for unknown reasons, and this name just sort of hit me in the face like a wet towel. There is a story about this name that has to do with a certain dive location located in north central Florida. It’s actually an incredibly cool dive site, but it’s also dark and scary and if you let your mind get away from you, a place where monsters go to wait for you to happy-go-luckily skip into their lair singing ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ or ‘Ring Around the Rosy’. And then suddenly WHAM, you don’t know what hit you. Whenever the dive club goes to this particular location, it is a common occurrence for some of the more experienced divers to meander over to the dark side (mwahaha) and make sure that none of the less experienced divers unknowingly stumbles to close to the monsters that live there. It’s something that, while the experienced divers would probably rather go explore on their own, helps give the less experienced divers a more enjoyable dive, even if they don’t know it.

This past weekend we were not driving to the site referenced to in the previous paragraph but another one completely. However they share a common theme of having places people can get into and find themselves in over their head. Pun only half intended. As I said earlier, the sign that is supposed to stop people who are not certified to cave dive out of the cave was missing, and my buddies and I actually found the cinder block it was attached to at the very bottom of the cavern, so there would have been no external reference for the people who had never been there to know where to stop. We were discussing this phenomenon, and rapidly agreed that the best solution was to post someone at the location where the sign was, as sort of a sentinel of the deep dark scary place. And I immediately thought of the other dive site, which is named Paradise Spring. My brain then instantaneously decided that this maneuver needed a name, and ‘the paradise maneuver’ stuck pretty well. In fact I’ve been thinking about it since Saturday.

This thing, for which I have come up with a name, it’s…it’s an appealing character in my opinion. To be the one, the paradise maneuverer, it’s something that you don’t have to scuba into underwater holes in the ground to be. It’s being protective, without being overbearing. Being there when needed and silently keeping watch in the background when not needed. When you watch over your children playing outside, or mentor someone, or receive mentoring from someone, it’s all part of this idea. In these scenarios the deep dark monsters of paradise springs are things like twigs, monkey bars, the little meticulous details of filling out grad school applications, or wording in your cover letter or memo that will mean the difference between having a job and not. It’s not always life and death, sometimes it’s livelihood and being unemployed. Other times it’s being a happy little kid or having a scrape on your knee, which, in little kid terms, is basically practically death.

The paradise maneuver is all around us, and probably has been ever since we were born. It is a very idealistic idea, I am realizing as I sit here actually describing it in words. Of course this is because it actually IS very idealistic. Sort of like Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, it’s everything that you would want to be. Knowing just the right amount of information to be there when needed, and being a mysterious background presence when you’re not. Exactly the character we all want to be in these situations. In fact, also like Kipling’s piece, it’s idealistic almost to a point of being unattainable. It’s so noble and strong that it’s not something that we can really achieve. I mean yes we’ll watch our kids on the monkey bars and mentor people and be mentored and block open water divers from going in to caves, but the idea is more than that when it is all played out, all said and done. At the end of the day this idea is about the person who is watching our for us always, seeing everything that we are missing and throwing out nets for us to fall into so we don’t go careening down into the great depths of…whatever is down there.

At the end of the day, the ultimate paradise maneuver, is the One who put us all here in the first place. It’s God. Always there, all seeing all knowing, there exactly in the moment when you need Him. Although, I admit, this realization did not come until I read what I wrote to describe this thing, I do not think it is any less true. In the ultimate paradise maneuver, He is there watching over us before we get to the ultimate paradise, which is definitely not a spring filled with water and definitely possibly the Loch Ness monster. On second thought I have absolutely no clue, it could actually be that. But I really don’t think so. I guess the point of all this is, the next time you are watching over someone and pulling a little paradise maneuver of your own, or being watched over by someone, or whenever it hit’s you that you’re always being watched over by God, you can smile and remember this goofy little blog somewhere on the internet that gave it an awesome name, and smile for a moment, and go about your day.

Thanks for reading, see you next week!

*Little fun fact: The Armstrong Line is named after Harry George Armstrong who is the father of space medicine, and the first person to notice the affects of that altitude. Don’t feel bad, I used to think it was Neil also.

Taboo

Have you ever sat and thought about how alone you are? I mean yes we’re on a planet with 7 billion people, but we’re also zooming through the universe spinning around like a magical space dreidel that has somehow found a way to not topple over. Plus, compared to the universe 7 billion people is not a lot. In fact, though this figure may not be to scale, experts say 7 billion people spread out throughout the universe would probably be somewhat like living in Montana. This is kind of a downer of a topic but it’s kinda cool to do every once in a while, consider how insignificant and little and fragile we really are, all 7 billion of us. The thing is that even when you aren’t thinking about the universe or space aliens or dreidels, it’s still easy to feel alone. Alone in your thoughts, alone in your own little world, population you. Why is it that way?

I think that it’s amazing the things that we have in our heads. I think that our heads are actually pretty amazing themselves, and we could get into a deadly thought circle of thinking about the processes by which we think, and this would no doubt continue until your head melted due to lack of a sufficient heat sink, so we’ll not do that. But all the little thoughts that flutter and scurry in and out of our brain stage where we view our thoughts are so intricate and seemingly unique, so in our heads, that it seems impossible that some of the things that are in our head could be in someone else’s. There always seems to be this moment though, when you’re in a group of people where a thought enters your head and you suddenly realize that everyone else is silently thinking the same thing, then suddenly everyone realizes that mentally, you’re all on the same page. At this point, someone usually breaks the mental tension with a comment such as, ‘are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ or ‘you saw her adam’s apple too, right?’ which is then followed by comforting laughter and relief that you’re not the only one who was checking out the transvestite. Which brings us to those thoughts that you know are definitely way to weird or private or odd or personal to even think about bringing up in the presence of others.

See those are the thoughts that are alienating. Those are the ones that leave us feeling alone amongst our 7 billion closest friends on this zoomy galactic top. These are the things that we think make us weird or odd or…different. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, a good thing to measure by is the question, is there a stand-up comic routine about the thing you have in mind? If so then it probably is one of those things that I’m describing. It ranges from silly stupid stuff, like when guys secretly watch chick flicks, to serious actually somewhat important to livelihood stuff, like money, to things that are provocative, like sex. The reason the comedian question is a good measure is that they play on these unspoken thoughts and ideas that we all share, and because they are unspoken and we all share them, we usually find them to be funny when said out loud. Obviously in the right tone. But the point is that by speaking that which is unspoken, these stand-up comics achieve their goal of making us laugh, because we identify with it.

There are so many things that this could be, too. On the more serious side, there is money and finances. It is something that is largely unspoken about, which does derive from a need for privacy especially in todays world, but it is something that just isn’t really talked about. Sex is another big one. Probably bigger than money. It’s something that we all deal with and is such a prevalent thing in our society because sex sells and people like to make money, but it’s something that is always hinted at and never really brought out in the open. God, religion, sexual orientation, political allegiances, love. All of these things are things that would probably make the average person uncomfortable were they brought up in a conversation with another random average person. I was at scout camp one summer and on the night we had chapel, the interfaith pastor started his sermon about love. Which is something that teenage boys especially are thrilled to talk about. Yet while we all sat there sweating it out, it was something that we all identified with. Though we didn’t know if anyone else was identifying as well at the time, so this in turn just made us sweat more.

The thing is about these issues though, it is stuff that we all deal with. It’s why we like the comedians so much, or the TV shows that write about and portray these human issues. We’re here with 7 billion of our closest friends and we all deal with the same stuff. But we’re still uncomfortable talking about a lot of it. My experience with this is tailored to my culture and customs and social norms, but everyone in the world has this same thing, just tailored by different cultures and different social norms. And yes some of these things are things that are private and need not be just haphazardly flung about, but maybe…maybe they don’t have to be so alienating.

There’s all these thoughts that fly around in our heads and sometimes whether it’s by accident or on purpose, one of these thoughts manages to make it’s way out into the world and for a second it’s just pure shear terror that this thing which you thought was yours alone is now out there. But then, someone sees it and doesn’t think it’s ridiculous or preposterous or crazy (well ok, maybe sometimes it is crazy) and as it turns out, these issues are more common than we ever thought, because they’re things that we all go through and deal with. We all have our little quirks and worlds and things that make us unique, yes, we are all human that way, but all the overriding things that we deal with, love, faith, friendship, community, the list goes on and on; all these are human too. So next time you have a inexplicable urge to bring up one of these things and throw it out there, go with it. There’s only like a 50% chance you’ll end up looking like an idiot. But then again we’re zooming through deep space on a space ship that looks like a marble, so what have you got to lose? See you next week, where we talk about something else totally random.