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Monthly Archives: December 2013

I had managed to delude myself into thinking that perfection was something real, something that was actually attainable. And in doing so I strived for it. The whole reach for the sky and land among the stars thing is crap by the way. A lie of epic proportions, words dressed up to put a positive spin on reality. We try and fail and we try again in a never-ending cycle of falling short of impossible goals. It’s poetically masochistic, we like the failure because we spin it into success and we know we can do better next time. If we reached perfection where would we go? If we did on the first try, where is the sense of accomplishment? That feeling you can only get after a multitude of mistakes. Hard work yields a greater reward, when you finally get as close to perfection as you can and you not only accept, but also embrace it. The problem develops when perfection is the only measure of success. When simply failing better isn’t good enough, when making the fewest mistakes isn’t a signal that you’ve succeeded and is instead proof of continued failure, proof that you’re still a ‘fuck up.’ That was my tripping point. Good and great weren’t enough, excellent was a meaningless compliment, the adjective beautiful was patronizing when it was applied to my work. Any of those assessments applied to other’s work were accurate compliments. ‘Could’ve done better,’ was recurring thought in various permutations for twelve years, a constant in a world of variables and x factors.  

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ImageWe were brilliant in our delusions. Lost in our daydreams, futures beyond our reach, but driving us forwards anyways. Focusing our thoughts, demanding perfection. Rebellion manifested itself in procrastination; a silent, non-violent protest that inevitably ended in a manic attempt to learn everything at once in the 11th hour.

We liked to pretend we were in control. Sometimes we were right and sometimes our lives were one catastrophe after another. Some of us fed off the chaos, growing strong amongst the disorder; others caved under the pressure, drowning in the deluge of books and information. Failure was pushed to the corner, ignored, while the successes were placed on pedestals. Egos were built up and taken down, reinforced and toppled by battering rams. Making monsters out of innocents and mice out of roaring lions. They destroyed us, the created us, and in turn we sometimes destroyed them. Breaking them through sheer stubbornness. We gave as much as we got. That’s what made us strong.

We continued to dream despite the barriers and in spite of our doubters. We fell and we got up again, and again. Success was followed by failure, and failure was followed by success, not necessarily in that order. Sometimes we were arrogant, believed too strongly in ourselves; and sometimes we were uncertain, second guessing thoughts, ideas, and actions. We persevered. We continued to dream impossible dreams, and despite our better judgment would jump to action because we believe, and still do, that we could change the world. 

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Yesterday in one of my classes we ended with a discussion about whether technology is contributing to a decline in human civilizations or is beneficial. The loudest in the class, predictably, had the strongest opinions, coming down on either side of the argument: technology is destroying us and technology is mostly beneficial. I think it’s more about how we use it than if we use it.

There is now denying that technology can be incredibly beneficial. Not only life changing but also life saving, just look at the advancement of medical technology over the last fifty years. It makes our lives easier; GPS, cell phones, smart phones, Google. It makes our lives more entertaining; iPods, iPads, Kindles, TV, Netflix, Wii, etc.  Technology is great. I, personally, love my computer, my car, and the ability to text people in another state.

Let’s take a few examples starting with communication technology. Phones are, frankly, a wonderful invention. Being able to talk to someone across town, across the country, or across the world, what’s not to love? Now people living thousands of miles away from friends and families can keep in regular contact with them. And now there’s texting, not to mention all the other stuff, non-communication related, that you can do with a smart phone; check the weather, check Webster.com, see the latest news, play Angry Birds (or whatever is popular these days, I don’t have a smartphone unfortunately); it’s like something out of StarTrek. So, where’s the problem you might ask? Some would argue that we rely too much on our cell phones, rely too much on texting and that in doing so we are losing the ability to hold a normal conversation with people, or write a full sentence with proper spelling. I would say that they have a point, a very generalized point. There are some people that write school papers in text speak, though, I’m inclined to believe that these people are probably idiots anyways and that has little to do with their overuse of texting. On the conversation aspect of the argument I feel that with time it has only gotten worse. I have, on an increasingly regular basis, observed groups of friends at the mall, at restaurants and coffee houses, at school, and at the zoo, spending more time staring at their phones than talking to the person standing or sitting next to them. Now, I personally don’t believe that there is anything wrong with texting your friends, playing games, or looking something up on your phone, it’s when it comes to the exclusion of the real world that it becomes a problem. This is where the how you use technology comes into play. Or in this case, I guess, how much.

Now we come to computers and the Internet (Facebook in particular), iPads, TV, gaming systems (any of them). It’s great that we have near limitless entertainment and information literally at our fingertips. We have the potential to be more informed than ever before, however, few people are more informed. The Internet is full of crap (sorry but it’s true, weird, slightly disturbing crap. And celebrity gossip), for every good news article there is probably some idiot Tweeting their every move or posting a picture of their lunch. The issue here is how you use the potential information out their, what you type into the search engine and what you chose to look at, and how much time you spend staring at your computer screen in substitute for human interaction and time outside.

We live in a technological world. We are more connected than ever before, through various mediums (TV, movies, facebook, texting, Skype, newspapers (or more likely news websites), Twitter, e-mail, Google). The world, consequently, has become smaller. Distance doesn’t matter as much if all you have to do is hit ‘send’ to say hello or ask a question; not to mention the transportation technology: trains, planes, and automobiles. We can get from point A to point B faster and, theoretically (other than the security lines at airports, or congested highways into cities), easier than during any other era of human history.

All these things are good right? However, there are some definite drawbacks to all of this technology. Pollution from cars, greenhouse gases, smog, noise, and dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels, have become of increasing concern in the last several decades. Then there is the question: are communication technologies making us more or less social? Are people spending too much time texting and not enough time actually talking; and in doing so are we missing something, missing cues, miscommunicating altogether? Have we started to lose social skills and forget polite interaction? Or is this just the next step in societal evolution? Are we too dependent on our computers, TVs, iPhones?

There are times I think we are; that if anything every happened to our cell towers or the Internet ever went down that we would be completely lost, unable to function. There are some people I’ve met that I’m not sure can have a real, intelligent conversation with someone without checking their phone every five minutes, and, God forbid, the battery dies.

I believe that it’s not a matter of whether technology is good or bad, I don’t think that things are that black and white. It’s not about if you use it or if you have it. It’s how you use.

ImageThis post started as a stream of consciousness sort of thing. An idea started to form in my head and I started typing. This is what came out. Warning: I haven’t edited or re-read it, so I’m hoping that it makes some kind of sense. 

We are the dreamers. We want to make the impossible probable and the unknown common knowledge. America was founded on unknown land, on exploration and discovery, on challenges and overcoming obstacles. Or, at least that’s how we paint it, the romanticized version of history written by the victors, because that’s how it always is. We are experts at making heroes out of villains.

History is filled with countries and empires founded on the oppression and hard work of others, the ‘us’ and the ‘them,’ determining who is in power and who is powerless. It is the backbone of civilization, and America is no different. Underneath the great accomplishments are great depravities that shouldn’t be ignored simply because talk of them makes us uncomfortable.

We must face our past to learn from our past. See and acknowledge our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them or perpetuate them. There is no denying that we have come a long way in the last 200 odd years, and there is no denying that the human species as a whole as advance incredibly since the dark ages, but we are not yet perfect. There are still inequalities that need to be addressed. There are large and growing disparities between the rich and the poor, in their quality of life and their access to advancement potential. In some case these inequalities are the product of our past, perpetuated through attitudes and subsequent actions well after the supposed fight for equality has been won. We are not perfect, but maybe we shouldn’t be. We are after all, human beings. We are flawed; all things are flawed in some small way, because perfection is an ideal not a reality. It is something we strive for and never really reach, but that’s okay. It gives us a goal, a reason to keep trying, keep improving.

The danger comes in falling into a trap, in thinking we are perfect, or at the very least, the best and then settling. The trap is stagnation; the trap is complicity. The trap is thinking we’ve reached our pinnacle, that we are the epitome of civilization. It’s the same as rolling over, it’s practically inviting people to walk right over us.

We are the designers of our lives, the makers of our own futures. We need to take initiative as individuals, and we need to work together. Collaboration combined with individual ideas and innovations. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong, it happens to all of us, and fight for what’s right, meaning trust in your self. Working together, not against each other is the only way to change the world.