Saturday, July 13, 2013

Unrealized Potential

So much of the daily potential of people is wasted. We waste it through our lack of commitment and passion, through our perceived suffering and pain, through displeasure with others and criticism of ourselves. I envision a world where great achievement is celebrated; not cynically picked apart for the benefit of others' ego. A world were seeing greatness aspires us to strive for that same level of success. Where failure is seen as the natural ally, and precursor to, great achievement.

I see a world overflowing with the opportunity for intellectual discourse and physical adventure; a world not ruled by fear of the "other" but ruled on the idea that their is no "other" only us. Where passion reigns and mediocrity is eliminated through realizing that the outcome is less important than the striving to achieve it.

The world spins on, ignorant of our individual struggles for enlightenment, for success or glory, but it is not unaffected by it. The choices we make today change the course of the human experience. Will we choose love and plenty over fear and scarcity? What we can do is live for today with the knowledge that we build for tomorrow. Not live in past that is already beyond shaping, but live for a future bright with opportunity. Sometimes the answer is as simple as the reminder that things change, the world grows and we have a part to play.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Question of Entitlement

People are entitled. What is entitlement? It is the idea that we are owed something-money, job, dinner ready on the table-because of the work we do, or who we are. Their are many times when we are truly entitled to something, mainly life, liberty and happiness (this is entitlement in it's most basic form). The genius it took to see this was nothing short of remarkable and it is the foundation of some of the worlds most profound thoughts and ideas. However, entitlement has taken a darker turn recently. Many ask why shouldn't I have a new phone, car or great paying job-I have vast potential and great worth! Take a moment to observe the people around you, finding this attitude is very easy these days. The major issue with entitlement is that it has so viciously inserted itself into our everyday lives. With the advent of mass marketing, social media and new digital frontiers we have pushed everyday people into a realm of artificial materialism through access to circles outside of their means. We push and push people to think that they won't be happy without material possessions and when they achieve those things and find the reward lacking, we push them to the next new item that will make them happy. All this is done without consideration. I supposed this commentary could turn more to the idea of consideration. In all the rush to achieve and acquire have we stopped to ask ourselves fundamental questions about our own happiness? Furthermore have we asked ourselves the difficult question of why we deserve the things that we thing we deserve? Why should I have a great job, what have I done to deserve that? Have we paused a moment to consider the other people in the world and what they have achieved? The answer is to rely on creating. Creating new experiences for ourselves, creating opportunity to slow down and enjoy the things we have in our lives right now. Why not try to make the best cup of coffee in the world-instead of going to a drive through coffee shop and having someone make it for you. Why not try to create for yourself the things that you want from others? Entitlement has brought us to a place where skill sets of the individual have been marginalized to such a degree that people don't where food comes from or how engines work. Entitlement has caused the death of common sense; if something breaks someone will fix it, if it is beyond repair we will buy a new one, someone else will fix and solve. This problem is not on a household scale, look at our manufacturing capabilities from the end of World War 2 to the current day. It was not the infrastructure in itself that allowed us to create all the items we needed to win a war, but a state of mind that has been lost. We ship jobs overseas when people are out of work-due in part to many people's unwillingness to work in a job "beneath them". We have a population of college educated people and an outdated expectation left over from the 70's that if you go to college and earn a degree you are entitled to a high paying job with benefits. If we could take a moment and be honest with ourselves, look deep and fully understand that we have to work for what we want, we can't have it all (nor should we want it all) and at the end of the day if you have a quiet moment to sit and enjoy what you do have; that's all we are ever really entitled to.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Adult Rite of Passage

What no one every really explains to you as you grow up is that during the course of your life you will have to learn to let a lot of things go. Life is really the process of letting go; letting go of childhood dreams, friends, family and ultimately ourselves. But letting go is just about the hardest thing to do due in part to the vast majority of our experiences  parents put our name in everything as children and tell us not to lose belongings, we are told to go off to college and take in every opportunity and we are told to get a job and keep it. We are rarely receiving the message to let go of things that we hold dear. We are taught that by acquiring things we will be happy weather it is wealth, a family or a new product-it is in the acquisition and keeping of things that we are happy. If that is the case why are so many of us unhappy? Why is the world always seeming to jump from one crisis to the next, always one step from total oblivion  Because the answer lies in letting go; of desires and negativity, of anger and hate. But how can we do these things, how can we give up what we have worked so hard to gain? I think that it is more of a state of mind than a constant action. We can achieve understanding through the "Adult Rite of Passage". It is the moment that we all realize that we will not be astronauts or star athletes, pop singers or doctors. For some of us these things will come true and we will live dreams, but for most of us the dream will change with the passing of time. We understand that although we won't win the World Series we might become fathers or mothers, we may find joy in teaching or building homes. We almost get all the way there, but we sometimes live out our childhood fantasies by watching TV shows of doctors or paying to see professional sporting events. It is OK to live in these fantasies from time to time as long as we acknowledge them as such. But it is through this distinct experience that we all share that we can learn to let things go. How many of us never learn to let things go and end up being upset by the world around us, failing to see that we are only upset with ourselves and our inability to change our perception of how we interact with the world. Letting go allows us to move on and to find other things that will help us feel joy, happiness and even other sorrows. Letting go of each of these emotions in turn will let us prepare for the next emotion and live that fully and without ghost of the past interfering. My challenge to you is to let go of fear, let go of pain and yes, let go of joy as well. Live those moments, experience those feelings and then move on, find the will to allow the next set of emotions into your experience. At times they will be sad, at times they will be exhilarating but new ones are always on the horizon and past experiences are always in the distance, they will always be there to visit if you want, but it should be on your terms. Live in the moment and then - let go.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Short Speech to the Graduating Class of 2013

Prometheus lives.

Apropos that you, soon to be alumni of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, are named Titans.  Overt in its symbolism that as Titans you are expected to make titanic advances to the human condition, but subtle in the suggestion that the Titans were humbled by lesser creatures, the Olympians.  It is both of these themes, seemingly at odds, that I wish to help impart a sense of challenge as you go forth to conquer the world in your respective disciplines.

Prometheus lives.

Prometheus, in the Greek tradition, is the god of many related activities.  Generally seen as the father of culture, art and progress through several acts he performed for the betterment of mankind.  He is best known for this theft of fire from Zeus, Chief of the Olympians, and subsequent transfer to humankind; an act that he was ultimately chained to a rock and each day an eagle, symbol of Zeus, would eat out his liver.  Most do not know that Prometheus was a key ally to the Olympians in their war with the Titans, which makes this particular betrayal especially cruel.

Zeus makes claim that if Prometheus had not stolen fire that humanity would not have had to work but a day to fill all its needs for a year.  What person was made better with no challenge in life, what accomplishments were ever achieved by ease and comfort?  I am reminded of the Eagle in flight.  The greatest barrier to the eagle in achieving it’s maximum velocity is wind resistance, the pushing of air against the eagle slows it down.  Yet, the primary principle that allows the eagle flight is resistance, without it the eagle would have nothing to push against to gain flight.  So too humanity struggles to achieve great heights in art, science and physical prowess, without the constant pressure of problems, solutions become meaningless.  Without solutions we cannot measure growth and without growth we have no evolution.  Not evolution in the simply physical sense but the capacity to change to a world that values people over process, community over self, intelligence over ignorance, peace over security and joy over happiness.

Each of you is Prometheus, his spirit lives in you.  As you go forth in life you will see cruelty, greed and ambition ruin the great works of many great people.  Weather it is in your job or your personal life each of you will be presented with opportunities to turn away from problems that are uncomfortable, challenges that seem beyond your capacity to overcome. 

My challenge to you is to steal fire.

As you strive to find equality in the world others will mock you, they will challenge your sense of purpose with barriers to why you cannot, or will not achieve your end goal.  Some may put up these barriers intentionally, seeking to stop you from sharing opportunity and knowledge with others.  This is the view of a modern day Olympian, strive for power-consolidate-oppress-keep the status quo.  These same Olympians, who challenged the Titans, won and then suppressed others to stay on top.  You can see examples of this in our modern day; privatized education, adherence to non-renewable energy, open access to the internet under attacked and the list goes on.  In all of human history it has been a struggle for us to continue to evolve beyond this cycle of gain power-consolidate-oppress.

Steal Fire.

Gift others with the opportunity to walk in the light of education, the beauty of art and the peace of a life free from hate, neglect and oppression. Open access to others with the choices you make, seek to find the lowest common denominator; the iron chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. Ignite the flame of human passion through your thoughts and actions. Stealing fire is a more a state of mind and a force of will than a specific act or set of guidelines to follow. Those that choose to face these challenges may be rewarded as Prometheus was, betrayal from those we thought our allies.  But we that make this sacrifice will be exalted among humanity as those that stole fire from the gods and help lift up a people in the vast dark.

Monday, April 29, 2013

What I Am

What I am

I am Light,
The flame of human ingenuity,
The passion of human imagination
I am abundance

I am a Wellspring of creativity,
A spark of knowledge,
The past,
The future,
I am the Now

I am brushfire across the prairie,
The snow falling in the forest,
The wind passing through the mountains,
I am deep waters

I am fear dispelled,
Hope bequeathed,
I am roots,
I am wings

I am a soul unshackled,
Joy unfettered,
Hope restored,
I am human and I am love.

I am Prometheus Unbound

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Guide to Valuing People

One of the most important things we can do as we attempt to navigate a quickly changing world is ground ourselves in how we find value. In a world increasingly dominated by invasive advertising, swiftly shifting trends and ever changing digital environments determining where we place value will likely be the key to solving world spanning problems and opening new intellectual frontiers. The answer is to place our value in each other, not in the ethereal, lofty ideals of a greater humanity - but in the common person, our coworkers, neighbors and family. Throughout the course of history it has been individuals that have made the difference, not corporations or governmental agencies, but the work of common people, who saw a world with need and strove to fill inadequacies.

The humanist may believe:

That people are more important than processes,
Flexibility is more valuable than rigid plans,
Quality is a habit,
Honesty over pride,
Fairness is subjective not objective,
Life experience is often underrated,
Stewardship is the belief that those who come after us should have the same opportunities for success as we do,
My productivity potentially hinders someone else’s efficiency,
Happiness is not a set of conditions being met; but a state of being,
Hard work and intelligence will get you material reward; but imagination and enthusiasm will find you contentment

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seeking Answers

I have searched for answers from mystics and spiritual seekers but ultimately their universal truths are constructed on their own personal needs for intellectual and spiritual security and do not necessarily reflect my own spiritual and emotional needs.
My Truth is; there is no Truth beyond experiences.
Each experience, weather exhilarating or abysmal, joyful or sorrowful, life-affirming or guilt-ridden, shackling or emancipating is all part of this existence and as such need not be abhorred or denied but embraced and felt.  Pain, Fear and Loss are the arbiters of Joy, Daring and Plenty without whose influence we would surely live in ignorant stasis.  All the thinkers past and present have had some contribution to the experiential truth of humankind – to discount anything as irrelevant or unimportant is to deny an essential part of what makes us whole.  The essence of our lives here is to seek wholeness and experience wholeness that can only come from actively being and taking every opportunity within reason.  We are not human-thinking, human-doing or human-knowing we are human-being.

Fear, Question, Learn, Appreciate, Love, Grow, Evolve.

Witness your own Evolution.