I don’t have much knowledge about religion. I have studied some major religions, but I don’t have an extensive understanding. Nonetheless, my background in one and encounters with others tends to define how I reflect on my boundaries. Some are more anecdote than dogma, and some others are more humorous than anecdote.

One example of an anecdote is having attended a relatives’s Presbyterian-Catholic wedding. Having attended Catholic churches, I have always been accustomed to wooden pews. This wedding was held in a Presbyterian church, and the pews were cushioned along with some vinyl-like sleeve. This was, in the larger picture of things, a minor detail, yet, I began to think that certain religious beliefs could be tied to this choice of furnishing. The cushions were more comfortable, but I immediately thought, “will I have to pay for this later?” “Is there a catch?” The only thing uncomfortable about it was that I had to labor over these thoughts. But in some ways, the cushions were more uncomfortable only because I thought acutely in terms of a gradation from and to the wooden pew. I never found wooden pews uncomfortable, yet this new found awareness led me to think that religion could be like a debt- enjoy a comfort now, and pay for it later. There is no reason to think all things free must be paid back, but it remains an interesting way of looking at things.

Religions have never been about living in the moment, but if religions had made great schisms before on such minor details, I wouldn’t be surprised if these details were found in larger contrasting themes. Perhaps a comfort is a type of karma that can be shaped into debt and credit. Maybe some ideologies are based on  spatial interactions and others based on time. Debt depends on time, whereas cash depends on single transactions in a small or virtual space.

Growing up, I was never a focused Catholic- I even kept-an open skepticism towards certain ideas- some all too repeated by other popular voices. I also grew to become skeptical of other skeptical viewpoints, becoming more subjective than objective.

 

Creative Juices: Transcendent Synthesis

Writing is an unpredictable process for me. I prefer it this way, in fact. I write when I think it is meaningful, and I write when I am feeling on to something, even when I don’t know where it will lead to. The latter applies here, but not just because the former applies. When both apply, it is much more special. What stimulates the creative juices is important, but also the stratification/estrangement from it. I’ve read that cities/urban spaces affect the artist towards their interest/intent, and this is no exception. It is, however, an analogy. What begins as a pun or tragedy could end as a farce. The pun began upon watching a rom-com. A thought rushed to my head, much like an artist overcoming writer’s block: “I’ll date any of my exes again- except the bat-shit crazy ones.” And I thought that because, pun-intended, bats are hard to come by- they live in caves up a sinuous creek north along the Hudson rail lines. If one wanted to court Batman/woman, they’d have to tolerate/survive his octogenerian chauffeur’s pre-GPS memory of Yonkers’s rural county roads. And that, is grounds for a DMV road test/vitality failure. The initial joke- making fun of batshit exes-like me (omitted previously), is in essence, becomes a raison d’etre for writing unpredictably. I enjoy writing most when creative juices sound most coherent, and thus, perhaps now I can transition into a second, related paragraph.

Remembering a comedy club compilation of chosen comics in NYC- The Pit Comedy Club, in particular, among some of the few sampled gem venues for open mic’ers, I recall a sketch about a Brooklynite father feeding pizza to an infant under 12 months, referencing insular “landlubber” logic as the prevailing flaw of contemporary diet- pizza-rich in fat and carbs, is too starchy for an infant requiring Wiz formulas, the reasoning follows, and proceeded to sketch about an East Coaster who was more backwoods than cosmopolitan.

Facilitating towards the next paragraph, is a movie I skimmed on HBO today- “The Heart of the Sea”- a Moby Dick-esque remake of some 19th century myth/true story, that elicited a creative juice- another pun -that of journalistic/public safety emergency terminologies- “fluid situation” and “evolving situation” used in early breaking news stories during major national tragedies (shooting sprees, acts of terrorism, or both). If the joke is on fluid situations, risky commercial fishermen take the cake- or so it seems. All trades have their own perils- aquatic-based ones have literal phenomena that run crass against journalistic sayings that have nearly lost all etymology. This awareness is a creative stimulant in itself, yet could be applied towards other introspective issues in society, and, is the focus of this blog post.

Peace in.

 

 

The West’s forgotten, taken-for-granted wealth of nations and human rights

If an average person were to embark on a serious pursuit of international relations, they might realize they were too late. It takes years to become a political scientist, or a provincial mayor. In either case, one becomes qualified via book smarts or street smarts. All too often, however, popular sentiment lends itself to the latter. Nonetheless, if one wanted to embark on a serious endeavor of understanding cultures different from one’s own, where would one begin? A developed, industrialized nation like Luxembourg, or a country with activities labeled by the West as having human rights deficiencies?

Economic development appears to be closely tied to the permissiveness of civil rights, however, in some countries (Saudia Arabia) the populace can be both wealthy and unfree. In others, economic development is inhibited by other cultural/political issues , yet appear in other countries without discrimination due to race or origin. An article by Amanda Taub in the NYT examines the Philippines War on Drugs, an overnight blitz on due process, enabling thousands of private citizens as well as police forces to “expedite” criminal investigations with extra-judicial killings and divisive scapegoating. What divides a country most is not an illicit substance that devastates society as much its persecutors claim, but a drive for power and to project an image of progress defined by oversimplified “cleaning up this town mentality” Running a country, while not always entirely different than a port city, requires and understanding that human rights do not end for some people just because a campaign slogan necessitates a villain.

The problem with 3rd world”strongman” popularity surges is that applicable developing countries, whether lightly industrialized or heavily industrialized, are essentially renewing their 2nd/3rd world status. One would use a development index such as one by the IMF or the UN to measure a country’s human development. But I have another idea. Media coverage of developed nations tend to get more coverage in the West, but also more positive coverage. While we may hear about war-torn nations like Syria, it is almost always negative news. If one were to count how often positive news were rated, Asian countries, with the exception of Japan, might get scant positive media coverage. Western bias, in my own biased opinion, appears to rate developing countries bad or good depending on their ability to develop, rather than their history in development. I think countries like Thailand and Myanmar still have development hurdles that the West does not consider high enough, yet their media coverage, on a day to day basis, is more positive than that of China and the Philippines, according to liberal news sites.

The reasoning is that Western journalists may rate a country positively based on its level of unification or commitment to democracy, rather than its development index. If a country/region is poor and democratic (Myanmar), it might not get as much positive attention as a wealthy democratic country (Japan), but it might get more positive attention than a rich, undemocratic country or region (i.e Saudia Arabia). Americans in the United States may overstate some of their differences, but most Americans remain committed to presidential term limits not exceeding two terms. It’s very likely some cultural differences overseas may contribute to the perception that other nations have coup d’etats when election results are in and suggest vote tampering or abuse of power, even when autocratic governments leave office after their term limits are over. However, some ways of governing appear to permanently affect a populace’s economy and and societal progress, leading to decades of regression and turmoil. It doesn’t take an entire presidential term to have the concern that a president will not leave his office based on the speed one is willing to request emergency powers. 

One doesn’t have to be an Asian Tiger to be considered highly developed and readily assimilated into the Western sphere’s of influence, but it remains a high standard that Western institutions tend to view favorably in terms of mutual trade. The origins of the Four Asian tigers, however, and still to a small extent in the present day, depended on a level of authoritarianism and undemocratic capital intervention. Unusually, the success story of the Four Asian Tigers is not covered much in the Western media, with the exception of PBS, and and its merits will continue to serve a valuable lesson for decades to come. One natural limit, however, is that of the environment and climate change, and thus traditional industries will face new challenges in a world of competition of dwindling natural resources garnering new assessment values.

For all the flaws the West has in its prison system, racial and economic inequalities, it remains a desirable place to work compared to fiercely competitive and poorer countries where better opportunities are seldom overlooked. Even if there aren’t a majority of unhappy citizens, there are many more new generations and immigrants willing to make the best out of a (relatively less bad, if at all) situation.

 

The mainstream media has a monopoly on confidence tricks

We may think we don’t need confidence tricks, yet confidence is a part of a wider social trust, and exists at some of the largest organizational levels. A confidence trick is used to exploit a normal part of human interaction- trust, compassion, vanity, greed, and naivete, as some examples. If a media is corporate, and serves its own interests in terms of running articles that are profitable rather than meaningful to a diverse demographics, then when a season of pop culture or political election runs around, I wonder why the coverage seems so skewed towards profit, yet it becomes apparent that media coverage doesn’t always seems to cover the most balanced variety of news, only domestic and local. While that may seem a given, what it also means is that a wider coverage would be less profitable and and less influential, since the relinquishing of control over media consolidation in favor of more international news would weaken the businesses of media conglomerates. Yet, for much news, only the most urgent/emergency news is best delivered by a domestic or local station. But for everything else that’s not urgent, the mainstream news’ outlook on international news is many times too insular, introspective, and over-representative of developed countries and under-representative of developing and even nearly developed countries. If the new cycle were, US, US, US, UK, US, US, US, France, US, US, US, US, US, then one might question why one doesn’t hear from Chile, or Singapore. Developed countries have everything they need to understand things from abroad, yet prefer to have the insular summary of stories from away. Confidence is at the center of this competition, even if it is for self-survival rather than serving partisan interests- confidence allows the media to make its readers aware of “common” stories and viewpoints- not so much manufactured consent as so much as manufactured un-obscurity. If a tree falls in a forest and someone records the sound of it falling, will anyone hear it? The answer is yes, but if the mainstream media is covering a county fair down the road, then the person covering the story isn’t going to be ostracized via simple obscurity and seeming irrelvance unless the media needs to cover advertisements and sponsorships for the fair, and many times, that happens. So a person reporting a brilliant story about an interesting ecological phenomena- a tree sprouting a seed after falling down, woudn’t be covered in the media because the tree has no sponsors. Yet, the tree is incapable of confidence tricks, and, being guided by a natural curiosity, the tree story is not-for-profit, and thus equally capable of trust and confidence. Thus much news that is not self-serving a corporation must often acquire independent funding. A public corporation is one such method. A direct-representative media, as well as peer-reviewed media is another.

Confidence tricks are as simple as influencing a water-cooler discussion. An office employee may have to watch the same television programs as a co-worker so their water cooler talk is not extremely awkward. The extent that a society shares its values depends on its ability and willingness to separate private and professional lives when radically different. While we may get better at it, we may not be better off. If society doesn’t get better at avoiding its differences, it must learn to deal with encountering its differences.

Italians are like Roosters, Americans are like Cats

Italians like to be woken up in the morning. And know the time of day.

Americans have a cat bite on their tongue.

Italians like to have a reason to be garrulous.

Americans like to have a reason to be taciturn.

Roosters make a great pet.

Cats are admirable, but get an honorable mention.

There are many lifestyles. Italians and roosters is a very popular one.

Being an American with a cat is also very popular.

It’s okay if you want to go with the cat.

But, again, the rooster has its pros.

Just sayin.’

 

When you’re 31, I’ll be 36. When you’re my age today maybe you’ll feel the same loneliness I feel sometimes, maybe not.

When I’m 41, you’ll be 36. I don’t know know how I’ll feel when I’m 36, so I can’t say how you’ll feel then.

When you’re my age, I think sometimes that you should know what I’m going through, but then again, maybe you haven’t.

I also probably don’t understand everything you’ve gone through, and I need to trust you more. Someone I knew, who would never talk to me again, once said something that remains extremely valuable to me. We choose how we live our lives. If I want to add spin or snark, then I should know that it affects how people perceive me- in that I’m not easily able to place much trust in others, because I’ve been unhappy with rejection in the past. I still feel people take advantage of this lack of ability to understand- if they can’t understand in five minutes, they feel they’re not up to the task, and reason there’s probably someone else out there better for that person. Is that person speaking from experience? Does that person do the same in their own relationship, if they are even in one? Would someone go so far as to really try to understand their partner if they wanted to be sure they are really in love with the right person?

Because not everyone is prepared for a breakup, and it tends to linger like a tame horse. People aren’t all lazy or or evil when it comes to relationships, but experience is a Catch-22 and people who really want love badly should try to learn as much as they can whenever they can and as often as they can, and not just one of the three. There is a difference between forced efforts and committed. Committed relationships require dedication. Forced relationships involve unequal or one-sided interest. The second type should be avoided as much as possible and as early as possible. For whatever reason , this second type seems to linger when people try to gracefully and gradually wean someone off. Grace is fine, but gradual weaning can actually be worse than shorter, but more frequent symbolic farewells. I resist to believe this is my current case, but we can’t choose who we meet after we get to know them a little more until we determine whether or not we like them anymore. At that point, we are still stuck with the things we used to like, and we have to decide if there is the potential to like again. I have to evaluate whether anything imagined could actually become true, at least something resembling that, because reality has never been such a one-sided entity. Reality is shared to the extent it is enjoyed, and obviously, some people are less able to meet obligations and semi-regular contact than others. The problem, however is also the self-opinion contrasted with the significant other’s opinions. While there’s nothing wrong with having a high impression of oneself, the disparity in status or obliviousness to other people’s feelings can eclipse the solipsistic entitlement, compromising the weak bonds of tolerance and trust. It’s really too bad when great, like-minded individuals can’t recognize how compatible they are if only they weren’t self centered. If this were really true, this would happen somewhat often (unless great people are few and far between) and great people would recognize their problems and correct themselves, and be together. Or, they might live alone, wandering in the same solar system, millions of miles away.

The Great Beauty

A life that one doesn’t identify with.

A past that means less with estrangement.

A guiltless trip due to an unknown culpability

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty

This 2014 movie seems to capture the mixed feelings of modern day hedonism, but it seems portrayed as more optimistic than as a warning. Even though many people I know are capable of partying this frequently, no one I know in recent times lives like this in middle and senior age. It’s not to say this is a false picture of Italians- surely there are high-life socialites the world over, but it’s a thoughtful reminder to plebians that, unless they’re suffering miserably, and maybe I am, that this lifestyle of partying in Rome is more a celebration of life than a rejection of past mistakes. I haven’t seen this movie, but I think some people are not cut out for a life of tradition. It’s not to say they would avoid it at all costs, but in late age, a chance encounter with a past love or grave news does compel a lost soul to seek redemption for an unfulfilled life.

I feel like there is an imbalance between family-centric members and society-centric individuals. Being a loving father/mother, husband/wife, or brother/sister is a respected and priceless role in the life of a son/daughter/husband/wife, whereas being a plaything of a clique of bachelors and bachelorettes seems like a fleeting pleasure, renewed only with constant repetition. It’s not to suggest that deep down, Roman high society lives a joyless life, but overthinking this pursuit leads me to that belief. It’s reasonable to explore a way of living that has been practiced for thousands of years, albeit by a very few, but it’s more reasonable to say that one way of living hasn’t worked for everyone.

Fortunately, there isn’t always a pressure to conform, and this world allows ourselves to seek options. What I don’t identify with much is being overly family-centric nor a socialite of hedonism. Yet I am privately into both. I feel like living close to family and friends doesn’t make me more aware of myself. The only way I can really get to know myself is to spend lots of time alone. I am still a social creature, dependent on conversation, but I feel like I am shaped by my past failures in crossing bridges too wide from soured friendships and relationships. If only I was born on the same planet, would communication flow naturally. Often it does, except when it doesn’t.

What’s missing in this world is simply a good day for everyone. It would be nice if everyone had a good day, everyday. The gap between happiness and inadequacy is a gulf so wide at times that we spend our lives crossing it, often with peril. I’m skeptical to believe that a middle class is growing if intellectually, it is declining. Perhaps the rise of sub-standard populism is due to the fact that society’s best and brightest are actually progressing at living by example and eschewing regressive conventions which is leading to a more visible denial by everyone else than generations prior. Perhaps things are getting worse before they get better. I can only hope and observe without agitating unreasonably.

When things are “the best of times, the worst of times,” all it means is that the times are separated by class. A society or world separated by geography is relatively immune to change except when travel and commerce accelerates.

I’m using this movie as a crutch to extrapolate the worldview of the West. There are many different cultures, sensitive to this and that, yet increasingly, it’s our lifestyles that determine how we can live life best. It’s understood that some people need more space than others, whereas others live simply. An interesting contrast is that even some of the most conservative third world strongmen rail against greed, whereas the right wing in the industrialized nations make no mention of greed as a concern. Before the world can begin to better integrate its trade and tourism, it must first agree on the definition of greed. Unconditionally, it would merge an economic policy of capitalism and communism, but only where it is most needed. Economics isn’t the solution to every malady, as some foreign policy think tanks like to set forth, but it is one of the most effective movers and shakers, along with poetry and art.

A normal individual doesn’t have to explain why they want to change their life, at any time. An extrovert who decides that one day, after 60 years, they want to be introverted may be uncommon, but is a normal event for a curious person. Sudden introversion could be marked by other life events. Not everyone is the same- has the same plans, experiences, success and failures. There is a discomfort with disagreements on the definition of illness. Extroverts may mistaken some introverts as ill, whereas the awareness of one’s “knowability” is imbalanced. Introverts don’t all think they are lacking in some social regularity-speaking as one, I am more interested in getting my point across when I am unable to. A person who is mute shouldn’t have to explain everything about their mutedness. It seems there is an gap in social dependency amongst extroverts. The ease at which conversations flow in two directions has more to do with how valued the content of the conversation is weighed. A person who disagrees ideologically with much conversation is not going to see much interest in a dialogue. Yet, analyzing anything enough, one can reach the conclusion as to who is unreasonable- the individual who likes to explore ideas, and the one who likes to reiterate “reality.”

It’s no surprise that writers are driven to the typewriter, when the rhythm of a keyboard is more pleasant than the cadence in an awkward conversation. Call it inhuman, cold, and severe- a typewriter is the defibrillator of the marginalized bystander. I occasionally lose awareness of my stature in the world- have I been, for the past 10 years, an average bachelor, with small but steady improvements in my life situation? Or, have I been declining in some other way, physically, intellectually, consistently, towards some new low? If I were to compare myself, I could easily find someone more and less successful in certain ways. If I did not compare myself, I could easily improve or decline without knowing it, albeit at greater risk.

The definition of insanity is not knowing one’s limits. Perhaps one can test their limits, slowly, and relatively cautiously. People who want to develop themselves know they must take chances, yet the resources to do so can feel much more limited than are often encouraged. This is one of the few areas where I respectfully disagree in approach. Others suggest sometimes I should be more bold, when I am certain of its dangers, whereas my strengths lie in traits where I am most sure of myself, yet can appear most frightening to the unaware. I should be allowed to say, once in a while at the very least, “I know what I’m doing!” “Now it’s my turn, You!” “Are you going to deny me this now when I was letting you be in control most of the time?”

Those who are most surprised by other’s sudden or latent metamorphoses should be forgiven for not paying close enough attention. Everyone wants to progress in their life. Life is not just a series of intentional bluffs. People who do not react to honest and clear communication of a change of life plans are simply not paying enough attention to their family, friends, or acquaintances.  Perhaps there is mixed communication- some people joke and others are always serious- thus there can be misinterpretation understandably. But when someone opens their eyes and sees someone else successfully changing their life, not because they just need to but because they want to, reasonable relatives usually come to accept that. This blog subject is not in response to any thing recent, but across many years of trying to develop smoother relations. I am confident things will improve, but I also must accept myself that family and friends will both be there and not be there all the time. I can’t always choose though. Gratefulness is a act of practicality, not of endless exploration. Exploration is my way of comparing myself. Without exploring the world and its ideas, I would never be so sure of myself. Who are those who doubt professionally, and has anyone ever admitted to such a profession? It would be understandable if some people were unaware or inadequate in their sophistication, but I think the older one gets, the better they get at choosing what they want to deny others. Thus, with age, it is more correct to be more honest with oneself and others, except when it is unreasonable or dangerous, but at the same time with plans to one day do so.