On Burdens

I was thinking about burdens the other day and had an interesting realization.

Burdens by definition are things that are “exacting, oppressive or difficult to bear.” But I was curious as to why we allowed these things to be this way. Why do we let things in our life build with so much anxiety and woe that they become such a heavy weight?

I realized that much of the stress we feel when reflecting on things we perceive as burdens comes from a possible or expected outcome. A job is a burden if we are pushing for a raise or concerned that we’re stuck there. A friendship or relationship becomes a burden if we’re constantly focused on what the future might bring, or hoping for some change in the other person’s life. Things in life like pets, kids, hobbies, goals, etc. are a burden when placed against the context of longevity, the fact that you will need to direct your attention to them consistently for years.

So what happens when we choose to look at these things through a different filter, addressing them instead on terms of the here and now? Much of that anxiety removes. A job becomes just a job. A friendship becomes about enjoying your time together. We nurture our children. We play with our pets. We create something. We thrive.

Things in our lives become burdens when we choose to focus directly on negative outcomes or possibilities. I personally believe this is our brain trying to utilize a basic function like fight or flight against a complex stimuli. We want to be prepared for the worst, but short of just having a plan and letting it ride, our body stays on edge, keeping our extreme emotions just on the cusp. I think we subconsciously believe that this will make reacting to negative outcome easier. The result instead is an ever present cloud of stress looming in our minds, preventing us from working at the highest level of efficiency or fully enjoying the world around us.

It’s entirely subconscious, which makes it so treacherous, and so we have to be mindful and work toward growth. We have to take whatever steps work best for us to constantly remind ourselves that we are not in the soon to be or the what if, we are in the now. We are only capable of directly affecting what we can immediately see, what we can touch and experience. So we need to become better at planning and leaving it. Store the plans away in our mental filing cabinets for the day that we possibly need them, but stop grasping to them and reviewing them over and over. Know what you would do in the case of a negative outcome, and then move on. Be positive, optimistic, and just generally enjoy the life you have now.

Shake off the shackles of worry and enjoy the sunshine of the present.

~C

 

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End of summer? More like… uh… end of bummer? (crap, terrible title…)

I love the end of the year. August begins easily my favorite 6-8 months of the entire year.

Birthdays a plenty.

Awesome holidays.

Time with family and friends.

Food everywhere.

Also, things just seem to cool down, literally and figuratively. I feel less anxious as the year winds down. Longer nights mean that the end of the day feels more ambiguous. I feel more awake, more clear. More capable of approaching each day and every challenge with a confident smile.

Yep, this is a good period for Chris, one that typically hangs on until early April or May. Honestly, it’s kind of a weird phenomena.

When I first noticed the trend, it seemed counter-intuitive. We go to school for roughly 13+ years of our lives (17+ if we go to college), so it would make sense for our minds to fall into the seasonal habits that this provides. One would think we would naturally feel better in the summer and mid-winter. This would correspond with breaks from school, where we would go push hoops in the streets or play some rousing games of stickball. But I personally am not great during summer. I’m lazy, consistently sweaty and generally avoiding the sun like a Fox news correspondent avoids facts. Not that I’m not a summer person. I love going to the beach or pool, grilling out, going for hikes. But on the general day to day, summer is a bit of a drag.

I am more positive and eager in the fall, which would correspond with being IN school, not out. I think this is still my body being locked in the habits I developed over 17+ years. See, I place a lot of my happiness in my ability to be productive. With the cooler weather also comes a typical increase in my production abilities. I write more, create more, travel more. So, I guess my mind is still latched into the idea that the two “semesters” are productive times: periods of work and learning and mental stimulation. This for me translates directly into me accomplishing more of the things I love and thus results in a happier Chris.

The short message here: Stay in school kiddies.

Happy end of summer everyone.

~C

We Have Nothing To Fear, Yet Fear Ourselves

I have a serious question for anyone who reads this. I honestly and truthfully want to know opinions or thoughts on this question because it really just bothers the hell out of me. My question is as follows:

When did life become more about living for society and less about living for yourself?

Or, more importantly, when did we decide to sacrifice the things that make us truthfully happy for the things that our neighbors or coworkers enjoy? Why do so many people change how they live because of the way people they’ve never met live? Why do they exercise just because movie stars always look good? Why do they read books just to have something to talk to coworkers about? Why do they alter the way their relationship works just so it will match the family in Happy Days, or whatever programs the kids today watch?

Okay, so maybe that was more than one question, but the main question remains: When did life become less about being happy and more about being average? Why do so many people live in so much fear of persecution that they toss their own joys to the wind and settle? This is something that has plagued me for years as I’ve watched my peers grow up and slowly shed their golden dream scarves (excellent band name) and adopt lives that their former selves would have scoffed at.

Now, don’t think for a second that I am so naïve that I choose to believe that larger persecutions such as those on Religion or Race are things we can simply dash with a few poignant words. I understand that in any country where there exists majority and minority (excluding portions of Russia where there is a majority of cold and a minority of fun and the two seem to work hand-in-hand), there will be some form of persecution or conflict between the two groups. This will remain true until the day we resemble the androgynous Thermians from Galaxy Quest. Now, I may have made the jump from naïve to cynic, but in no way am I saying we shouldn’t at least try to nurse the wounds caused by such persecution. I merely mean to say that a look at the human condition shows that a group in power will almost always persecute weaker (politically or economically) or more sparse groups in order to maintain that power until the day when the two groups become similar, either in population or literal description. Thus, I want to point out that this post is not about the persecutions that run incredibly deep, such as Race, Sexuality and Religion. That’s a strong topic for another post. This is more an analysis at how the nature of persecution has seeped into the very heart of most men and women, creating a society wherein most people are persecuting themselves in fear of not fitting into the world around them.

As people go through life, we are constantly met by choices. These choices range from life-changing to choosing today’s socks, but they all cross through the same avenues in our brain. A choice usually begins down an avenue of our own preference, then continues to a brief look into the past, an analysis/prediction of the future and finally a look at factors in our present world that might affect our choice. For instance, when I wake up and mosey over to the basket where I keep my plethora of socks my first thought is that I prefer softer, thinner socks. I will then recall which socks I have worn recently and check to make sure I won’t be needing any socks for future engagements (i.e. black socks for a suit and tie day). Having mostly decided on a pair of thin white socks, I will then recall that the weather forecast has stated that it is going to be quite chilly, so I will instead choose a thicker pair of socks. Done. Decision over. Obviously, decisions with more of an impact can take much longer in any particular stage or can even address multiple stages at once. For instance, a decision about a relationship usually spends a large amount of time in the past whereas a decision about a job will spend much of its time in the future. Recently, this process has seen a new addition, a freshly installed bureau of affairs that must process all new arrivals. We now pass through the office of Society. We now judge every decision on how normal or abnormal the result will be. When looking at jobs, we fear not that we won’t get the job, but we fear that the failure will sever us from the average. We fear that being unemployed will make us abnormal. As we get older, we worry about not having a relationship not simply because we feel lonely, but because we are afraid of what our friends, family and strangers will think of us. It even affects our more superficial decisions, from hairstyles to clothing. From pets to apartments. From food to television shows. We are constantly rating our own decisions against those of society. Constantly wanting to fit the mold for average and afraid of taking risks that might result in our failure to conform.

Now, everyone who has been reading this is thinking one of two things. First, your brain is telling you “damn, we really need to watch Galaxy Quest again.” Second, you are screaming out at me with rebellious fervor. You are shouting, “I am not a conformist! I fit no molds! I am a member of generation X and drink Pepsi and love to skateboard and bask in my youth!” I respect you, ye gentle Lords and Ladies of uniqueness, I do. But let’s look at a scenario for a second. Say you buy a new shirt and you think you look absolutely gorgeous in it. You wear it to work/school/social function the next day. How would you feel if a) people blatantly showed disregard/disgust for your new shirt, b) people went out of their way to compliment you on your shirt choice, or c) nobody said a damn thing. If you peaked even slightly on your emotional scale for any of these, then you may not be as free from society’s grasp as you think. And, true, maybe you honestly don’t care what people think about your clothes. Replace the shirt with anything and it still holds true. What about if you were out on the town with your new guy/gal? Or driving your new car around? Or just got your hair cut? Or showing people your new business cards with your fancy new job title on them? If you place a heavy weight in the attention of others, either positive or negative, then you are not the rebellious punk God that you hoped to be. And maybe you honestly just don’t care, and Society has let you slip through its fingers. Well, answer me this: What are your friends like? Who are your role models? What books do you read or TV shows do you watch? More importantly, do all the major influences in your life have ultimately the same outlook on life as you? Nonconformity in groups is still conformity. Just because you and all your friends are too outside of society to vote, it doesn’t make you that rebellious if you all constantly listen to the exact same Gogol Bordello album on repeat.

So what are we doing to ourselves? I personally believe that our Super-egos have gotten moderately out of hand. We no longer have three levels of psyche. The id and ego have been drastically crammed together and represent mostly the same thing, with one presenting itself more forcefully at different times a la the Incredible Hulk. On the back of this feeble creature of dual personality rides the fat, pompous super ego, his bulbous belly ripe with the spoils of his recent feast of media, society and, most decadent of all, E! News. Our psyche is now rigidly controlled, whether we decide to conform to the average or conform to the nonconforming. Every move is watched by the elements that fill our brain. We take less risks. We’re less impulsive. We no longer live in the moment, but live more in a place of over-exaggerated past and paranoid future. Constantly, we fear the repercussions that society may enact should we make the wrong decisions. This fear has made us, as a whole, complacent and weak, settled in our position of slaves to a mindless, faceless entity that exists only inside of our own minds.

A few final thoughts:

First, I truly believe that there are plenty of people who are actually capable of living outside of this control. Do I think I am one? Not in the slightest. I recognize that I am a victim of the same circumstance I have just described, but I am trying to break myself of it. Second, you may be wondering what I think has caused this, and honestly I’m not sure. My hunches would be the influence of media and the cult of the celebrity. I personally believe that this slavery to ourselves is a result of the importance that we place in people whose ‘job’ it is to look nice as often as possible. These folks, in many ways are REQUIRED to be presentable whenever possible. Now, I have nothing against celebrities, I simply have a problem with how we try to adopt celebrity culture into everyday life. This results in a society full of people who imagine themselves as characters in their own TV series or stars of their own film. Our existence in the hyperreal is, in my opinion, the largest catalyst at work here. I feel this is exacerbated by Social Media, which allows various third parties direct access to our lives much easier than was ever possible in the past. Finally, I also do believe that this is mainly a problem in Western Society, and more specifically a problem in America. Though there are signs of self persecution in other countries, it usually takes on a different tone or has a much different cultural origin than it does here in the States. I am in no way an America basher, in fact I love the hell out of this country. I just hate seeing what’s happening to it.

So remember: Don’t resist doing things because you want to do them. Obviously, this doesn’t mean break the law because it felt right, but don’t let the opinions or concerns of others dictate your life. Be impulsive from time to time. Go to the gym and juice your pecs because you felt like it, not because your girlfriend keeps talking about Chris Hemsworth. Eat a burger from time to time and then diet because you want to for you. Take a day off from work to focus on your personal mental health. We need to stop fearing society, because we ARE society. We’re only fearing what we’re capable of. We’re afraid of what we can accomplish. Without that fear, the world is yours. Regain your psyche and take back your life.

~C

What do you think is causing this self persecution? Do you feel this problem is getting worse or better? Was I completely off base? Are you all about that bass? Let me know.

Music: The Great Equalizer

I love music. Always have and always will. I was raised on it: My mom used to sing me Beatles tunes when I was a baby, and my parents used to always have the radio going when driving around places. I think this let me develop my tastes and knowledge of music early, leading to a hefty attachment later in life. My parents kept a very open mind to my connection to music, never actively telling me “hey, you can’t listen to this” or “this is garbage, turn it off.”

I love music, but I love even more what music can do for people. Music can bring people out dark times by providing them motivation or simply the proper atmosphere to handle their emotions. Music can attach itself to memories, sparking vivid nostalgia with just a few notes. Music can pull out our emotions and passions in a way where we can actually lose ourselves in its presence, lose ourselves in the moment that it reaches us, as if it belongs to us and we refuse to give it up (Hm, that would make a solid rap song All rights to Eminem and Mars, Inc). All of these qualities show music as this rooted, primal thing in our psyche, as if it triggers all these raw, instinctual synapses in our brain that lie in wait for that one particular Shakira song (don’t lie).

However, I think one of music’s most fascinating and tremendously abused qualities is its ability to bring people together. Music draws from us a passion, and we direct that passion as an outspoken love for the music that we attach ourselves to. Whether you’re writing a thesis on Romantic Era Sonatas, or just simply at CVS during a late night munchies run shouting “this is my JAM,” you’re exhibiting a response to the passion that music has built up inside you. The act of sharing this passion and love is truly one of the best things about music. Some of the quickest friends I’ve made have started from a discussion of music, realizing we both appreciate the same genre/band/artist/style (from here on “G/B/A/S”) , and sharing that passion. Playing music at work and someone recognizes a song and gets excited. Walking around somewhere and notice that multiple people get a little happier when a certain song comes on. I find so much delight in watching just how happy music can make people and how much happier they are when they find someone to share it with. They just light up, as if someone complimented their child or just handed them a signed copy of The Room (signed by Greg Sestero, not Tommy).

As with many things, there is a dark side to this passion. People often use their own personal passions as reasons to despise certain types of music and even hate on the people who like those genres or simply don’t like their own adopted genres. It happens all the time. For example, Jim likes country and hates metal, while Roy loves metal and hates country. Jim is indifferent to Roy’s tastes, but Roy now decides to not associate with Jim simply because they have opposing tastes. Plot twist: those two guys are brothers and they grow old and die never knowing anything about the other’s life all because Roy had to go and be a total dick about it.

Okay, that might be a bit extreme…

But it truly does happen, and I know you’ve either had a friend who felt this way or even possibly felt this way yourself. The type of person that dramatically acts disgusted whenever a certain G/B/A/S comes on the radio or possibly is even brought into conversation. The kind of person that actively considers the contents of someone’s CD/MP3 collection as qualifiers of their date-ability (I’m looking at you, Lorelai Gilmore). The type of person who would totally go to a record shop and actively try to sway the opinions of strangers who happened to express interest in a G/B/A/S they were opposed to. This kind of behavior is bad and just kind of dumb.

And as with a lot of things like this, if you’re thinking “I don’t know anyone like that,” than it is very likely that it’s you. Seek help.

Or you have no friends. In which case, sorry…

Now, I myself honestly and truly like/appreciate all forms of music. I honestly do. I have my go to genres, but I will sit and actively listen to anything of anywhere. I don’t expect everyone to be this way. For most people with more refined tastes and who are not indecisive jerks like yours truly, certain things will just be hard or even impossible to enjoy. Some people will never like pop music, while others may just never truly understand dubstep. It’s all good, dudes. It doesn’t matter if you actually don”t like a certain G/B/A/S, you do you. What matters is how you react and treat people when in proximity to that G/B/A/S, and I think this comes from an acceptance of the one fundamental truth of music: There is no bad music. What I mean is as long as someone’s perception of that music is good, then it is good music. Now, obviously there is music that might not qualify as “good” on a scholarly level, and that’s fine if you want to bring up death metal or pop or whatever else in your class essay on “The Death of Complex Melody: or why I’m such a pretentious douche,” then you go right ahead. But the real purpose of music isn’t melody, it isn’t complexity, it isn’t danceability, it isn’t resonance or cadences or fifths or harmony or lyrical quality or key changes. It is one simple thing: to trigger an emotional response. To make someone happy. To tap into your ennui. To help you rage against some kind of tool containing one or more parts that uses energy to perform some kind of action. To entertain us. To plug into our emotions in whatever way. Even songs considered “bad” on a scholarly level succeed in entertaining at least someone somewhere, and thus there is no bad music. A “bad” song would be something like one sustained, mechanical tone played over the sound of Styrofoam being rubbed together while a man with a goiter recites the script to Face/Off and arrhythmically slaps the growth on his neck with a spoon covered in mayonnaise, but EVEN THEN there would probably be some subculture somewhere that found that awesome. Websites would start popping up, subreddits would be formed. It would still illicit a response.

Bad music is a myth we create in our own minds because we don’t want to accept that someone gets something that we don’t. That someone out there likes a G/B/A/S that we just can’t wrap our heads around. That doesn’t trigger the response we desire. That we can’t feel passionate towards. It’s egotistical and envious. And thus, the concept needs to stop. So I challenge you, if there is a particular G/B/A/S that you are completely opposed, and you happen to find someone who loves it, strike up a convo. Ask them what they like about it. Tell them you just can’t get into it and why. Because I guaranty, in doing so, you’ll find common ground. Some G/B/A/S that you do both like, or even something they appreciate in music that sparks in you a G/B/A/S that you can share with them. And then their knowledge and appreciation of music is a little bigger. And the world is a little brighter.

So what do you guys think? Is this overly pretentious or just underly intelligent? Would you say you have any friends that hate on other people’s music? Are you gonna try this challenge with a G/B/A/S that you aren’t fond of? Let me know!

~C

NOTE: Any Genres I used in examples were simply because they are usually the most common to get referenced in arguments of that nature. The examples don’t reflect my personal opinions. Just clearing that up.