The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Sirens

In a city we’re surrounded by noise. This noise comes from construction, neighbors, and advertisements, but mostly from the roads. One of the most distinguishable and recognizable sounds in the city is the sound of a police siren.

Police sirens tell us something upon blaring throughout the streets—somewhere, something’s gone wrong. We get used to the noise, and figure that with a city so large, it only makes sense that bad things happen on a fairly regular basis.

But the sirens also mean something else. When something goes wrong, a solution doesn’t usually present itself. Instead we have developed a system that tells us not only that something’s gone wrong, but that someone is going to take care of it. Since we know that this meaning is also attached, we tolerate the obnoxious sound the siren makes, and we even pull our vehicles over to the side of the road, paying homage to the system.

The question I pose is this: for what occasion do you make noise? Are you more inclined to speak up when something’s gone wrong, or when you want to be part of the solution?

Filed under: communication, helping, hurting, noise, signals, silence

Absolutely

When I was younger, I lived on Guam. My family would regularly go to the beach, and I thus developed somewhat of an understanding of the ocean—in a practical sense. I spent many hours playing in the waves, digging in the sand, racing hermit crabs and the like.

One day I went along with some friends who were going to a swimming hole with a diving tower. When we got there I saw the platform and thought to myself, “that doesn’t look so high.” Well, needless to say, when I found myself looking down from the hard concrete slab suspended above the ocean floor, the water in between didn’t seem as forgiving as it had from below. And so I debated. I worked up courage, and then lost it. My friends showed me how fun it was, but it still didn’t appeal to me, I told myself reasons, but I just couldn’t remember them when I peered over the edge.

While I spent time working up the courage to take the plunge, something else was happening, of which I hadn’t the slightest. On Guam there are 2 kinds of weather: rainy (really rainy) and sunny. This day was the latter. Now, I’m 1/4 Norwegian, and in Norway during the winter there is only one type of weather: dark.

While I was debating and mustering the courage to jump, the sun did a number on my white-as-chalk skin.

My point to this little anecdote is not that you should always wear sunscreen (although it’s not a bad idea), nor that you should seize the day and take the metaphorical jump. My point is that some things are just absolute. I could have debated that jump forever. There are a million reasons both to and not to jump (not the least of which was my gripping fear). What happened to me has happened to many people—it’s called “analysis paralysis.” I spent so much time debating that not only did I miss out on life, I suffered the consequences of removing myself from normalcy.

I’ve found that courage is one thing that is absolute. Either you have it, or you don’t. Don’t waste your time trying to talk yourself into things. Do them, or don’t.

Spend some time thinking about what things are absolutes in your life. When you find them, recognize them, even write them down if you must, but know that the recognition of these absolutes means you’ll no longer be prone to analysis paralysis. Your life will begin to rid itself of worry and wasted time.

Filed under: coping, debate, decisions, fear, growth, irony, jump, leap of faith, paralysis, ready, stalling, strength, sunburn

Change

I think I’ve figured it out. What’s it, you ask? Change. People fear it, create it, adapt to it, and ironically enough, need it. Take for example a slow day. When nothing’s happening, we come down with this awfully dreadful condition we call boredom. Really, this is just our way of saying “change something” to the world around us. Or how about fearing change? We’ve just established that it’s something we need, so why do we often fear it so much? Well, studies will tell you that humans (like most other creatures) are creatures of habit—meaning that an astronomical percentage of what we do is done simply because we’ve done it before. This experienced feeling we have from repeating actions which have worked well for us in the past gives a sense of belonging. Belonging gives humans purpose. As I’m beginning to understand, the ability to change one’s self is the most amazing way in which humans use change. We adapt. I just learned today that Eskimos who eat raw fish almost always end up developing parasitic stomach worms. Like me, you might grimace at that and say “fix that,” but just wait. Studies have been done showing that, while simply cooking the fish (as if it’s really simple that far north) would keep the worms from showing up, it would also remove certain nutrients from the Eskimo diet that helps their immune systems handle the worms. These people have adapted to their environment, and without even trying. The next level of this type of change is seen when it becomes voluntary. By taking control of one’s life, he/she can become increasingly stable in increasingly unstable conditions. In certain religions, people who meditate for extended periods of time have learned through conscious practice how to lower their heart rate and need for oxygen to a point where they can be buried alive for several hours, be dug up, and remain in perfectly good health. If these people can discipline themselves into a state that defies even death, who’s to say that much of anything is beyond reach?
For the last several months I’ve been reading up on what makes a person wise. The best answer I’ve come up with for attempting to summarize this virtue is “the ability to understand and adapt to change.” There, now practice changing.

Filed under: belonging, change, comfort, conditioning, coping, creativity, decisions, eskimo, fear, fish, growth, independence, learning, strength, trauma, Uncategorized, worms

Mind-stripping

It is my latest epiphany that the only thing worth living for is giving. Allow me to exemplify this with a little tale.

One night I awoke from my slumber to a voice in the next room. I quickly remembered that my grandfather was sleeping in the next room for a few nights while recovering from medical difficulties. At first it was hard to make out what he was saying, but I soon realized that he was talking to no one but himself, even in his dreams. He became more audible as he continued, mumbling phrases like “music was my life… I used to be so great at it. And now I can’t even play my instruments.” He continued on, his mind dealing with other things he’s lost with his age. “I used to play tennis every day, and now I can barely hold a racket.” I was aghast with the thought that someday I too will be in his position.

What will I say in my sleep? What things will my subconscious take upon itself to unload from my mind as I waste away in my sleep?

Then it hit me. The only things that my subconscious will never have to handle in such a way are those things which I’ve given away. What things in life are so important that we really need to attend to more than giving? After all, we’ll all grow old, and all our joys will be stripped from us… save for one—observing the fruits of our efforts in generosity.

Filed under: change, comfort, decisions, dream, friendship, generosity, helping, importance, interaction, loneliness, losing, loss, priorities, sleep, Uncategorized

Sleep to Dream

Life is too short to ever decide that you don’t have enough energy to do that which is at hand. If you live by this, it will be quite rare that you find a person who is not willing to let you sleep. In this is discovered the secret to rest: If one lives in such a way as to invoke a good night’s sleep, his/her mind will also be rested—even throughout the storm that is his/her waking hours. We were not made to sleep in order to live but rather the opposite—living to sleep. And to sleep deeply after living accordingly is more satisfying than even the most revered of pleasures in this life.

The sleeper by whom life is fully lived can only be rewarded by the greatest of impossibilities. For in the same way that one should live to sleep, one should also sleep to dream. And for one who fully appreciates the idea of living to sleep, the prospect of continued life in the form of wondrous dreams becomes appealing.

In light of this, the purpose of dreams becomes clear. To dream the impossible is to continue living when the bounds of reality have halted one’s experiences. In this way one can grow to appreciate the impossible, because it is an opportunity to continue living when little or no other venues exist to do so.

Filed under: adventure, dream, impossible, living, opportunity, rest, sleep, Uncategorized

Rise

The other day I was thinking about hardships. Everyone knows they happen. Sometimes they’re nasty, sometimes deadly, and sometimes they’re just downright inconvenient. But what makes the difference? Well… right now I could go into the whole “severity of discomfort” spiel, but I won’t. Discomfort, while sometimes physical, is many times just a mental construct. When something wretched comes along, what makes it so wretched? Most of the time it’s just our own brains worrying. If the president of the United States were shot tomorrow, would there really be a good reason for me to panic? Would there really even be a good reason to stop doing what I was doing at the time?

Humans seem to think that getting angry, frustrated, or worried are good and natural responses to misfortune. They’re only partly right. Getting angry, frustrated, and worried are natural responses, but they are not good. Take a look at some of the wisest figures to ever grace our history books. Ghandi is considered one of the wisest people who ever walked the sphere. What was his response to misfortune? What about Mother Theresa? Same story.

The truth is, getting angry only makes you more angry, and worrying is just silly. Morgan Freeman—playing God—delivered it very well in Evan Almighty (which surpassed my expectations…):

”When someone prays for patience, do you think God makes them patient or does He give them an opportunity to learn patience? When someone asks for courage, does God simply make them courageous or does he give them an opportunity to be brave? When someone prays for their family to be closer, does God just do it or does he give them an opportunity to spend time together?“

When something bad happens, isn’t it just a chance to rise above the challenge where others would break down? If we can break our minds from the mold of anger, just look at the doors we open.

Filed under: anger, change, conditioning, decisions, fear, growth, independence, learning, living, loss, misfortune, opportunity, priorities, strength, trauma

Numbers

Just recently I was talking with a friend, and he mentioned how gold seemed to be the only currency in which you can put faith that currency is just paper with user-attached value. I found his point to be very true, and was reminded of just how poor I really am. We attach so much value to that number we carry around on our little plastic cards and in our little folding wallets. Then it hit me that not even gold is worth anything unless you can use it for something. I don’t know about you, but I don’t personally smelt my own solid gold jewelry on a regular basis—and even if I did, I’d need someone who would buy it with something that’s useful to me, not just someone who’d give me cash. Try living a happy life with the things you have… not counting that number.

Our Lady Peace put it well in one of their album titles, “happiness is not a fish that you can catch.” Ever noticed that when you’re busy and constructive you’re happier? The best times in our lives aren’t found in day-to-day living. I don’t look back on, say, a school year, and say to myself “man… I’m so glad I got to sleep at a decent hour each night!” or “I’m really glad my meals each day were sufficient.” Instead, I remember times when I was tested and passed, times when I discovered parts of my personality I didn’t know existed, times that I’ll never have again. In the same respect, Brad Pitt delivered a great line written by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), ”hitting bottom is not a weekend retreat.“

Filed under: belonging, change, interaction, money, priorities, value

Batteries

Batteries are interesting things. We put them in brand new, and then we forget about them until they die. Really they only get attention at the beginnings of their lives and at the ends. What about all the batteries that outlast us? Has it ever crossed your mind that when you put a battery in an appliance it may very well live after you’re dead? All those clocks ticking, cell phones ringing, and lights glowing will still tick, ring, and glow without you. It’s astounding what changes you can make in the world around you with such little effort. They’re changes that may seem small now, but maybe later they’ll be big to someone else—perhaps even after you’re gone. So, what sorts of things do you put batteries into?

Filed under: batteries, change, creativity, growth, helping, hurting, hypothetical, interaction, living, making a difference, metaphor, opportunity, priorities

Sacrament

It’s been said that if man was meant to fly then we’d have wings. Why can’t we have wings? Are we not trusted enough? I often feel like people hold back my wings from me. So many rules, so much red tape. I feel like I can’t make a difference in the world unless i BS my way into the system and then slip my way craftily into my elders’ minds. Why can’t people listen to the innocence of youth? There’s something amazing that a child has before being dumbed down by people—a 100% human fresh view on things. They see and feel what really goes on even before anyone asks for their money or time. maybe if someday people listen to children instead of stealing their innocence, we’d keep the wings we all had from the start.

Filed under: Uncategorized

déjà vu

this morning i woke up in my room—in my room at home. i’m still waiting to actually wake up. this can’t be real. i’ve dreamt this too many times to not wake up to a cold dusty room in italy. sooner or later it’ll either hit me that i’m actually home or that this is the most elaborate dream i’ve ever had.
i never knew it was possible for someone to idolize an event like this. when i think of someone worshiping an idol, i think of someone going crazy over kurt cobain, or even buying the nicest newest subs for their car and thinking they’re the deal. never this. i’ve been thinking about being home for so long that not waking up from the dream seems more unreal than dreaming.
now that i’m home, i’m appreciating everything i see. i take different routes driving home—just because i can. i guess the one last thing that i’ve learned from the experience of italy is carpe diem. while i want to be anywhere but italy right now, i know some day i’ll miss some of the things i experienced there. i might even wish i wasn’t spending my time longing for home. ah well. the grass is always greener…

Filed under: Uncategorized

Kevin N. Coleman on Twitter

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.