What do you strive for? What do you dream about?

I think one of the major difficulties in achieving happiness and fulfillment in this world is just that-we try to achieve our goals in the world, or rather through the worlds view. We let society dictate how we go about achieving our dreams, in fact we hand over our very dreams willingly to satisfy what others have claimed to be right. We dream of big houses and flashy cars, we imagine respect and envy from our peers. Society tells us how and what to strive for and we eagerly march along. What’s wrong with this? Well, nothing, if that’s what you really desire. But I would be cautious of these dreams especially if you’ve put little thought into your life and your future. As much as I envy physics students I pity the business ones. How unlucky can you be but to find yourself in a field that teaches nothing but wealth accumulation? The mass hoarding of private property may be the most successful illusion of the 21st century. You see once you get this thing you need that thing and once you get that thing you need the new one and once you get that you are upset when your friend gets next years model ahead of time. This is the reason there are companies that do nothing but sell space. They sell space and call them storage rooms for people who have so much they cant use it all, so they pay to put their property away, for whatever reason. Imagine an African child who has one soccer ball and a set of shoes. What value do you think the child places on these two possessions? If no where else, in the case of private property less is more. Happiness is fleeting and the gratification of achievement is temporary. It is one of the more difficult parts of human life to sustain an elevated level of happiness. This feat becomes ever more challenging amidst cultural pressures constantly pushing and pulling us towards what is collectively deemed appropriate. My advice, (from a Jay-Z song) drive by the fork in the road and go straight. Make your own footprints wherever you might find yourself. There has never been another you and there never will be. Find a passion, dream of a life you’ve never imagined. Then go get it.

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The Ever-Changing Self

Sometimes in order to understand yourself it is necessary to talk to your self, or better yet type to yourself, in order to figure out what is going on inside. Just like writing a paper or novel it can be advantageous to jot down your thoughts, feelings, goals, hopes and dreams in order to better connect with your true self. I am 21 years old and after stripping off all the labels that have been put on me, for instance, student, son, brother, PA resident, wheelchair user, former hockey player, avid writer, etc., I am not sure at all who I am. All of these descriptions are just that, they describe me, they describe the person who I am. Interestingly, many of those labels do not describe who I was or who I will be. Either way you see it, we are not just labels stuck to a person for a certain amount of time. We are much more deeper then that, but that deepness and complexity of who we are makes it that much harder to know ourselves. How different do you act when you are interacting with different people? For example your spouse, your brother, your mother, you mother-in-law, your waitress or even your state representative. Now each separate person calls for a different circumstance, is it that hard to imagine that each situation calls for a different you? You may say that this is the common practice of “switching hats” if you will and maybe you are right. I am not expert in consciousness, psychology or sociology but I have 21 years of experience under my belt and I think that counts for something. I also think that the analogy of different hats does not express the reality of the always changing you. I have heard of the seven years fact, that you replace all of your bodies cells within seven years and I don’t think it is that huge of a problem and I am fairly certain it is untrue. Nevertheless, seven years is such a long time to wait for a “real new” you to emerge, just look at how fast people, not to mention children change from year to year. We are not our past and we are not our future. I will be someone different tomorrow albeit only very slightly different. The fact is that your brain changes everyday, with each new lesson and each new experience changing ourselves into someone different. Who will you be tomorrow and the next day and the next day…?

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Franklin Institute Archives

Curatorial Archives
Ascending upwards towards the fourth and final floor of the institute I felt a sense of excitation for the experience that was to come. Upon rolling off of the ancient elevator, which could have been an artifact itself, I looked up to see a gated door complete with a heavy lock and a sign that read “Do Not Enter Violators Will Be Prosecuted”. I waited for Susan, the curatorial coordinator to unlock the door so we could begin our adventure through the history of the inventions and innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries. The room was large but densely populated by rows upon rows of artifacts and antiques. The air was warm, humid and stagnant and the lights were dimmed so that we could only see about 4 or 5 rows back. It was as if we were some of the only people to see this incredible room in years and Susan tells us this isn’t far from the truth which only excites us more. As we enter through the gate, Susan flicks a light switch on, telling us that the light is not good for the artifacts, preservation wise. The first thing we notice are huge busts of Ben Franklin laid sideways on the first row towards the bottom. As we walk through, the narrowness of the walking space and sheer size of the collection becomes immediately apparent. The room now presents not like a glorified storage closet but more like a library, complete with tiny aisles my wheelchair hardly fits through. Each invention or piece is numbered, dated and tagged with a description. The dates are almost unreal, 1920’s 1900’s, 1880’s, 1860’s.. The collection seems never ending, everywhere you turn a new object draws your attention. It is as if being in the room amongst all these artifacts makes history come alive. Imagining what people lived like during the times of some of these inventions is equally awe-inspiring and difficult. There are pieces from every facet of life. Primitive first drafts of technology we take for granted today. This is where modern technology came from, this is where it started. There were inventions of every kind, printing press’s, book binders, paper making machines, telescopes, microscopes, phonographs, microphones, calculators, navigation equipment, sound recorders, type writers, light bulbs, electrical equipment, etc. Of course none of these inventions looked much like the inventions of modern day but they were the building blocks of the inventions we use today. It was surreal to watch my whole world come crumbling down in this room, all the technology I use effortlessly was suddenly broken down and put in it’s rightful place. Being in the room somehow made modern life more real, more understandable. I realized then that almost all inventions are not individual, they are not independent. Rather they are innovations piggy-backed on their predecessors from whom they’ve learned so much. Scientists and inventors alike stand on the shoulders of the giants who’ve came before them. Training, learning, building and eventually improving upon their previous generations work. So, most of these pieces were not isolated inventions, rather the collection of historical innovation is a continuum and betterment of the past. In order to appreciate the age of some of these inventions we must understand the people and places where they were created. The museum has documents and artifacts from Orville Wright, who came to the Franklin Institute to build a wind tunnel. Orville and Wilbur, as you probably know built the first airplane in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The institute also has pieces from both Thomas Edison (1857-1931) and Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). For some more perspective, the president at the time of many of the oldest pieces in the room (circa 1830’s) was none other than Andrew Jackson who served from 1829-1837. Keep in mind he was only our 7th president (Lincoln was our 16th). It is truly impossible to know what life was like back then and not much easier to imagine. Susan tells us that life expectancy 100 years ago was not what it is today so many of the inventions we see were created by teenagers, after spending 5 or 6 years as an apprentice. Back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s The Franklin Museum was not a museum at all, it was a research institution which also contained a library. Susan tells us that in order to achieve a patent inventors had to build small replicas of their invention, about the size of something you can fit into a microwave. Many of these inventions I can understand but there are still many more i can not. It is amazing to see the ingenious ideas some of these inventors came up with. The mechanical and electrical engineers who crafted many of these pieces were truly skilled scientists. After Susan took us through the rows and showed us some of the oldest artifacts from circa 1820’s and 1830’s i realized something incredible. Every single one of the pieces in the room were completely useless. Not one of them could be used practically or seriously in todays world. A mere 50 years ago almost everything that generation was using has been updated and improved. Indeed, Susan tells us that they recieve many of their pieces from old men and women who had actually created the very inventions they are donating. Could there be a more powerful example of changing time and exponential scientific creation? I started to reflect on my own life, thinking about the first computer I ever used, and my first flip phone. I wondered how long it would be until some of the things I used as a young boy would end up in a room like this (not to mention my parents!). What a powerful experience to have in such a short 90 minutes.

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Easter Island

The "hats" that were placed on top weighed several tons themselves

The “hats” that were placed on top weighed several tons themselves

Easter Island

 

Rapa Nui or as it more commonly known Easter Island has long been a mysterious and fascinating island to many, including myself. Perhaps the biggest mystery of the Rapa Nui people is how they went extinct. A tiny island, a popular belief holds that the population eventually ran out of trees and had no more fruit or wood to build boats, shelter, etc. Although the cause of the Rapa Nui’s demise is incredibly interesting another mystery captivates me on an entirely different level. That is, how did these people settle this tiny island? How did they even find it? Looking at even a detailed map of the vast Pacific ocean it is quite easy to miss the speck of land that is Easter Island. Surely these people were not looking for Easter Island when they stumbled upon it. How many days and nights did they bob along in the enormity of the largest ocean on Earth. For perspective the Pacific holds more than half the worlds water and covers an area of 59 million square miles. In comparison, Easter Island is a mere 63 square miles. The finding of this island makes finding a needle in a hay stick look like a breeze. The closest continental mass is Chile, an incredible 2,100 miles away. Another mystery is how they brought the amount of people they did, enough people to start a colony. It is believed at the height of Easter Island population there were 15,000 people living there. How did they transport enough people to an entire society? The people that they left behind surely thought they had died, there is little hope that someone made the journey to Easter Island a round trip. (Upon finishing the documentary and researching a bit further it turns out they very well could have traveled to and from the island using only the stars to navigate). Settled by the Chilean Polynesians in the first millennium, the Rapa Nui people developed a rich culture completely isolated from the rest of the world. Without a doubt the most impressive artistic expression on the island are the iconic Moai, the giant stone heads, thought to have been carved between 1250 and 1500. 887 in total, the tallest of the Moai still standing is a staggering 33 feet tall. The heaviest weighs an estimated 86 tons. One unfinished statue would have stood almost seven stories high at 69 feet. This behemoth of a statue would have weighed an incredible 270 tons. The statues apparently resembled deified ancestors or actual Gods of the Rapa Nui people. Lots of the Moai states face outward toward the ocean, a frightening and never ending place. The statues were probably set up as warnings to foreign people, as if to say don’t mess with us, look what we can do. Many of the Moai statues had been toppled by the time European settlers had arrived in 1722, leading to the conclusion of multiple competing tribes on the island that would knock down and destroy enemy statues. At the time of European settlement on the island the population had dropped to around 2,500. By 1877, due to European diseases and Peruvian enslavement the population stood at a meager 111. By the way, the peculiar English name for the island was chosen because they had landed on the island Easter day 1722. I am not an expert on the Rapa Nui or Easter Island, I have only watched a documentary and done a little research, I hope I have not made too many errors. I only wish to inspire a sense of intrigue and curiousness.

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Understanding Our True Selves and Our Ever Changing Selves

Sometimes in order to understand yourself it is necessary to talk to your self, or better yet type to yourself, in order to figure out what is going on inside. Just like writing a paper or novel it can be advantageous to jot down your thoughts, feelings, goals, hopes and dreams in order to better connect with your true self. I am 21 years old and after stripping off all the labels that have been put on me, for instance, student, son, brother, PA resident, wheelchair user, former hockey player, avid writer, etc., I am not sure at all who I am. All of these descriptions are just that, they describe me, they describe the person who I am. Interestingly, many of those labels do not describe who I was or who I will be. Either way you see it, we are not just labels stuck to a person for a certain amount of time. We are much more deeper then that, but that deepness and complexity of who we are makes it that much harder to know ourselves. How different do you act when you are interacting with different people? For example your spouse, your brother, your mother, you mother-in-law, your waitress or even your state representative. Now each separate person calls for a different circumstance, is it that hard to imagine that each situation calls for a different you? You may say that this is the common practice of “switching hats” if you will and maybe you are right. I am not expert in consciousness, psychology or sociology but I have 21 years of experience under my belt and I think that counts for something. I also think that the analogy of different hats does not express the reality of the always changing you. I have heard of the seven years fact, that you replace all of your bodies cells within seven years and I don’t think it is that huge of a problem and I am fairly certain it is untrue. Nevertheless, seven years is such a long time to wait for a “real new” you to emerge, just look at how fast people, not to mention children change from year to year. We are not our past and we are not our future. I will be someone different tomorrow albeit only very slightly different. The fact is that your brain changes everyday, with each new lesson and each new experience changing ourselves into someone different. Who will you be tomorrow and the next day and the next day…?

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I am racist, and so are you.

ben stear:

Great article I agree that racism is sometimes very subtle. It can manifest itself into every part of society if we let it. Have you ever read anything about the studies of unconscious racism? They are very interesting.

 

If you’d like check out a short post I wrote about how the words we use can perpetuate inequality 

http://benstear.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/how-words-can-influence-and-perpetuate-inequality-feminism-and-african-americans/

Originally posted on Being Shadoan:

And the sooner we both acknowledge this, the sooner we can begin to address the problem. So let’s talk.

“Wait just a minute here, Rachel. You’re like, the least racist person I know. You’re always sharing stuff about race and racism. You couldn’t possibly be racist.”

Here’s the deal. Racism isn’t just guys in white robes and Paula Deen shouting racial slurs. Racism is subtle, racism is insidious, and our culture is so deeply steeped in it that it’s impossible to grow up in the US and not be racist. It’s a kind of brainwashing: a set of default configuration files that come with the culture. It’s a filter, built up from birth, that alters our perception of the world. (Literally–racial bias makes people see weapons that aren’t there.) Racism isn’t just conscious actions; it’s judgements that happen so fast that we may not even be aware of…

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How words can influence and perpetuate inequality: Feminism and African-Americans

There are many very simple, subtle aspects of life that effect the way we communicate with, view and treat others. One such aspect lies in linguistics. My first few examples are concerned with inequality and how (in the English language at least) words can play a large role. For instance, intolerance towards women may be effected by the very words we use. The word women, when compared to the word man is slightly less simple and almost acts like a separate type of ‘man’. The word man seems to be like the fundamental word for human kind and by adding a wo- onto the front kind of suggests that women are not equal to man, rather they are just a variation or a subtype. The same can be said for the fe- in front of male, for female and male. Words like boy or girl are more neutral and tend to suggest a more equal playing field. Also, Spanish words like nino and nina meaning boy and girl respectively are more equal as well. Now do I think that these words are what started sexism in the first place? Of course not. I’m not even sure how much of an impact they have on behavior, but there may be some effect subconsciously (consciously now). Humans are extremely intelligent but there are countless ways in which very simple and subtle things impact our society and ourselves that we may never have the chance to realize.

Another linguistic inequality comes from some of the words we use to describe different races, nationalities or religions. This becomes evident when we examine some of the actual words we use on a day to day basis without even knowing what we are doing. Take the word American for example. Say we want to describe the nationality of a white woman standing on the side walk. If she was born in the U.S. we call her an American. It doesn’t matter where her ancestors were born because she was born here and that’s all that matters when describing her nationality. Now say we take a Mexican man or a French woman or an Asian child. If they were all born in America most of us would say that they are Americans. But what happens when we make this man, woman or child black? They are no longer an American, they are now African-American. But why? Why do we call everyone who is non-black an American and everyone who is black African-American? I understand that some people use the terms Latin-American or Asian-American from time to time, but African-American is by far the most widespread denomination of the American citizen. It is also interesting that I have never once been called a German-American, nor have I ever heard this term used. Likewise for many of the European-Americans, you rarely here English-American or Dutch-American. It’s like if you are white it doesn’t matter where you came from-your white, so your in the special privileged group. I look at Asian Americans and African-Americans and German/French/English etc.-Americans the same in terms of equality, civil rights and I think the majority of Americans feel the same way so why does our language reflect otherwise? Could it be that most of the words and terms we use come from the past when racism and discrimination dominated society? Maybe, but I think this comes from a deeper more psychological fact rather than just blatant racism. I think it may be as simple as the very appearance of an individual. Let me explain. Back when our country was just founded and there were immigrants coming from Europe there was a group of people who were really looked down upon and I am not talking about black people. It was the Irish who were hated, who were looked down upon as worthless drunks who fought and stole and caused problems for police. Images of ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ signs come to mind. But a after a few decades and then a century or two look what has happened. The Irish, while still known for their drinking, have more or less transcended their own inequality. How many hate-groups can you think of who discriminate against the Irish? It is as if their ‘whiteness’ has allowed them to slip in behind the scenes of the entire white community without being noticed, declaring their seat at the table of equality. A similar thing happened with the Jews. They were disliked very intensely but because they are ‘close enough’ to the average white person they too have slipped into our dinner party. But that leaves one race with no seat. Africans, because of the contrast in skin color must find it much more difficult to sit at our equality table. While times have changed and views towards racism have improved greatly, the people who are by far still the most unequal is our black brothers and sisters. Because of their intrinsic non-whiteness it is much harder to transcend racist tendencies and I cannot imagine how frustrating this must be. Let me end this meditation by saying I am by no means an expert on race or justice or inequalities. I do however find them to be extremely important, practical and interesting. I plan on reading some of the works by Dr. Cornel West and MLK Jr. , maybe then I will have something useful to say. Thank you.

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Political and Theological Lessons of “The Apology”

1.) In Plato’s recant of the trial and eventual suicide of Socrates there are perhaps countless lessons to be learned. I have chosen but two, the ones I think are most easily applied to modern society. It is worth noting (that as far as I know) Socrates never wrote anything down, and because of this it is through Plato that all our knowledge of Socrates comes. Moreover, the fact that Plato could remember the entirety of the trial and aftermath long enough to write it all down (on what though), assuming he did not just make the whole thing up. The first lesson, a political one, concerns a mans commitment to his state, or country. Upon being unjustly convicted, Socrates is urged by his friends and followers to flee Athens, thus saving his life. Socrates, being such a righteous man, refused to leave his country, denying the begging of his family and fellow statesmen. He knew that for a society to run effectively and efficiently its citizens must obey the laws no matter the cost. For this reason he did not run but suffered his fate eventually swallowing the poison hemlock. Socrates shows an awareness of the ‘treaty of man’ idea thousands of years before John Locke. It is interesting to think about Socrates decision in relation to civil disobedience. Socrates knew his ruling was unjust but he obeyed the courts anyway. Had he more fight in him rather than peace he may have disobeyed not unlike that of M.L.K. or Mandela. 2.) The second lesson comes just before Socrates commits suicide when he is discussing the possibility of the Athenian Gods. This is a major theme of The Apology because one of the charges brought against Socrates was questioning the Gods and hence corrupting the youth. Socrates says he has no fear of death because there can be only two possible outcomes. He says, either the Gods do not exist and I will therefore soon cease to exist which will not be painful in the least, or the Gods are real and all of my family and teachers reside in heaven. If it is the latter case he says, then I am excited to reach Heaven and question those who have come before me.

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A Life Worth Living

I have been experiencing a feeling of uneasiness thinking about the present and future. I am seriously worried that I will arrive at an old age and not know where my entire life went. I am worried that I will find myself at age 40 or 50 or 60 and not remember the vast majority of what I did, what I felt, what I loved and what I hated. I can hardly remember what I did two nights ago, let alone all my experiences over the last 20 years. I can remember and look back on what seems like a fraction of one percent of my actual life experiences and it is slightly troubling. If I cant remember almost everything ive ever done then how important is what I do today or tomorrow or next week, or last week? It is as if nothing matters, because who cares if your actions and experiences are not even remembered. This view of life calls for a certain type of boldness, bravery. A feeling of courageous spontaneity comes to mind. Of course, I don’t suggest living with reckless abandon or doing anything that would seriously jeopardize the future. Moreover, how do we live in the moment more often? Being aware of our surroundings, who we’re with or what we’re doing? An interesting point here is that one of the biggest factors of how happy I am is my own awareness of how happy I think I should be in the current situation. For example, going to a party and having a great night with friends might make me feel happy about that night. But is it the actual partying and laughing which makes me happy or is it the fact that just doing those things makes me think I should be happy? Constantly being aware of how little time we have on Earth and constantly striving to live the best life are two great ways to stress yourself out.

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“Decent of you to allow that I may be a real person after all”

Originally posted on Paperhouse:

Catherine Storr’s novel Marianne Dreams is a story about a girl whose drawings have the ability to direct her dreams – and whose dreams in turn have the ability to direct real life, though they do so in obscure and unpredictable ways. She has the problem of all responsible artists: her work doesn’t only represent the world, it alters it too, and though her acts of creation are powerful, she cannot control that power absolutely. (When I was casting around for my blog title, I came up with the name Paperhouse, after the film adaptation of Marianne Dreams, partly because at the time I thought I’d be writing mostly about journalism, partly because that strange relationship between representations and the things represented has always seemed to me the most important thing in the world to write about.)

Sometimes, explains Marianne, as she tries to comprehend the rules of the pencil-drawn…

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