Friday, July 18, 2014

Inside My Brain

A few weeks ago I did something that sparked some deep thoughts. I stopped at a red light.

Prepare yourself: You're about to take a journey inside my head.

I slowed down as I approached the red light and joined a group of cars waiting there. No traffic was coming the other way but we still had a red light. Annoying. There were no police officers around at all, and no possibility at this intersection that one could be hiding nearby. But still, we all just wait.

My thoughts drift to all the popular dystopian novels I've read and all the end-of-the-world movies I've seen. They're mostly based around the theme that without strictly enforced order humans descend into madness. Is that true? Could this simple red light be a symbol of how easily controllable the human race is? If we lost just this one restraint, would we be unable cope?

Loki claims in The Avengers that the natural state of humans is to kneel. That we're better off that way, and that true freedom is not having to think for ourselves. To quote him exactly, "Is this not your natural state? It's the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel."

But perhaps this stop light proves the exact opposite. This could be what Thomas Hobbes refers to in his Theory of Social Contract. Do all these cars sitting here at this red light have an unspoken agreement to honor a pledge we never really made to sit here at this red light until it turns green, even if no harm would come from going now? I half expect a car to run the light and destroy my train of thought. But it doesn't happen.

So which is it? And why? The implications to that answer are massive. Our government is based in part on Hobbes' theory. Our societal structure revolves around that idea. But if that's the case, than doesn't that mean we really are sheeple so easily controlled by a class of overlords parading as elected officials? No, now I've gone too Libertarian. The proper balance here is ....

I jerk to my senses as a horn behind me blares. I pull through the intersection thinking, "And this relates directly to the gun control debate ..."

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Purpose of Entertainment

I consider myself an artist. An entertainer of sorts. Or at least, that's what I hope to be someday. So naturally, whether it's music, film, books, or any other form of entertainment, I have very definite feelings about whether or not I think something is "good" - which says something, because I'm typically not that opinionated of a person. I guess I just can help it with this.

Barney Fife and his famous bullet.
One of the things I've been thinking about a lot recently is the purpose of entertainment. I saw a picture of Don Knotts' grave the other day. The inscription reads, "He saw the poignancy in people's pride and pain and turned it into something hilarious and endearing."

To many people, Don Knotts is Barney Fife. But if that quote is accurate, which I imagine it is, than Knotts was much more than a bumbling character in a T.V. show. He was a genius.

Rothko with one his paintings.
You see, the purpose of art is extremely important. Knotts saw a world of pain and sought to make it a little more beautiful - mission accomplished. Latvian-American painter Mark Rothko, on the other hand, looked at the same world and bitterly painted artwork for the Four Seasons restaurant of which he said, "I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every [expletive] who ever eats in that room." Charles Dickens tried to change Victorian England, skewering corrupt politicians, the elite upper class, hypocrites, and pretty much everybody else who crossed him until he made his point and saw change accomplished.

Something all three of those men had in common, no matter what their perspective or purpose, was that they each dealt with the world as they saw it. That used to be the purpose of art. But somewhere along the way, we lost that. Entertainment is no longer about looking at the world around us and figuring out how to understand it.

Now, it seems entertainment is either about forgetting there's a reality around us (pick a sitcom), or wallowing in our misery (pick a modern dystopian novel).

Have we completely lost our will to face reality? Am I totally off base here? I don't know. But these are the things I think about as I analyze what I see. One thing I do know: entertainment shouldn't just let us escape from the world for a little bit; it should send us back to that world better people than it found us.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Life is Funny

Growing up, I was so clueless about video games I thought the Sega Genesis was a Bible story based gaming system. Now, I'm married to a woman who prides herself on the fact she's a level 70-something blood elf in World of Warcraft.
Places like this actually exist!
Growing up, I thought places such as the one pictured on the left only existed in late 90's movies starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a young rocket nerd. Now, I'm married to a woman who grew up there.

Growing up, the only people I knew of who wore "camo" had service stripes on their sleeves. Now, I'm married to a woman who can watch a hunting show (apparently these are a thing) and tell me not only where and what they're hunting based purely on the camo worn, but as an added bonus can also inform me what the name of that camo is.

Growing up, I never drank coffee. I thought it was gross. Now ... hang on, I've gotta go make another pot ... right, where were we?

Growing up, I was always told that the fact my sisters made me watch movies like Love Comes Softly and Pride and Prejudice would make me a better husband. Now, I'm married to a woman whose favorite movies include The Mummy and Indiana Jones (pick one). And by favorite, I mean she can quote the whole thing.

Growing up, I was something of a legend in the world of two-hand touch street football on my cul-de-sac. Now, I'm married to a woman who ... I'm gonna stop right there before I get in too much trouble.

Growing up, I thought the fact I watched a few episodes of Star Trek with my dad made me a nerd. Now, I'm married to a woman who was pretty sure it was a felony that I had made it to 23 without seeing the original Star Wars films. (For the record, I didn't realize the acting in 4-6 could possibly be worse than 1-3. It is.)

Growing up, I was always fairly certain I would meet my future wife by rescuing her from a giant shark. Or the Taliban. Or a giant shark working for the Taliban. As it is, I met in her a college class - and a writing class, at that.

Growing up, I never imagined I would fall in love with and marry a girl from southern Ohio. But as we celebrate our one year anniversary today, I'm realizing that sometimes, the unexpected is better than anything you could have asked for. Life is funny like that.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Learning to Say Goodbye

 "You've learned all you need to know, Chance. Now all you need to learn is how to say goodbye." - Shadow, Homeward Bound

I have no idea what my last words were to my grandpa, my dad's step-dad. Probably something along the lines of a cheerful "See you later, Gramps!" If that is indeed what they were, it's a promise I was never able to fulfill. He died rather suddenly when I was in high school and that was it. 

Few goodbye's, I've learned, are perfect. Most are yelled as we rush out the door, with maybe a quick hug thrown in for good measure. For longer separations there are more tears, and then a quick sprint through TSA security. Many involve a never fulfilled promise to see each other again. (I'm looking at you, college graduation.) I've said a lot of goodbyes - I'll say a lot more - and the truth is, I'll never know which ones are for forever and which ones truly are "see you laters."

In some ways, it doesn't really matter. Because life is unpredictable, and there's no way of telling what will happen in-between a goodbye and that next planned meeting. We know this intellectually of course, but we suppress it because to live with that constantly at the front of our minds would be a crushing burden emotionally. 

But maybe it's time we started living with that knowledge just a little more in view. Now I'm not suggesting we turn each and every goodbye into a tear jerking moment wherein we mourn our parting and contemplate the temporal nature of life (, but I know that personally I've too often take for granted the time I have with people.

So much is made of how we say goodbye, but I think maybe that focus is misplaced. The quality of the time spent with those we care about is so much more important than a hurried parting.
 I might not get the perfect "goodbye moment" with everyone, but I can have a goodbye without regrets. I haven't learned how to say goodbye, but I have learned that if I value time and people like I should, maybe saying goodbye isn't quite as big a deal as I thought it was. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

View From the Fifty

View From the Fifty.

It's probably not the most descriptive title I could have chosen for a general interest blog, but let me explain. In football, the fifty yard line is the mid point of the field. Whether you're on offense or defense, it's time to up your game, because the next few plays will determine whether or not you score, or alternatively, can keep the other team from scoring.

That's kind of where I feel like I am in life right now. I consider myself a writer, but I don't write much. I love running (weird, right?), but I don't run much. I used to read all the time. Now, I haven't finished a book in months.

Still, I'm not in a bad spot. There's potential to get where I want, but it's going to take focus, drive, and possibly a hail mary.

But for now, I have this blog, because there's one other thing about the fifty. From the stands, it's considered one of the best seats you can have. You can see the entire field, everything that's going on. I'm no Sherlock, but I do my best to observe the world around me. This blog is where you'll find those observations.

And probably a lot of obscure pop culture/sports references.