Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seeds Sown

I'm at an age where many of my peers, and myself, have begun the process of looking for a significant other.

Whether to marry, or co-habit with, we all seem to be looking for someone to provide us comfort and love as we age. Engagements have caught on, like a spark to dry tinder,  in the Facebook realm. It seems that every week there's a new, deliriously happy, couple staring up at me from my mini feed. And that's awesome.

But, for every engaged couple, there are many more single folks who're continually looking for that "spark." For some, it can become downright discouraging.

I've seen more than a few posts which can be filed under the 'Dear Mr./Mrs. Right, where are you?' category. Because everyone wants to feel like they're enough. Everyone wants to know that they're loved, right? It's been a subject I've thought a lot about in the past couple years.

Anyway, the most recent one went a little something like this...

"What ever happened to the guys who appreciate a lady with class, and priorities?"

Something along those lines.

Well...I have an answer. And please forgive me, because this post will be a bit of a soapbox, so if you aren't a fan of those kind of posts,  I suggest you stop right here.

What ever happened to the good guys, who like good girls?
What ever happened to gentleman? What ever happened to classy ladies?

Seriously?

The answer is simple. Look around. Look at your society, and look at your families.
The answer to my friend's question lies within the things we choose to champion, and the values we've been raised with as a culture.

Values are the litmus test, and what follows after is a simple 'cause and effect' scenario.

My generation was told that we're simply animals. That sex was recreational, and that we should indulge every urge because it's the "natural" thing to do.

We were told that intimate relationships are foundationally about feelings, not morals.

We were told that drugs and partying are the ultimate highs.

We were taught that it wasn't ok to be good at something, if someone else wasn't. It may make them feel inadequate.

We were taught that life is all about esteeming ourselves first, and others second.

We were taught that life is about making ourselves as comfortable as possible before we die, after all...it only happens once, right? Live it up.

We were led to believe that all authority is bad, and repressive.

These values, which have been imprinted upon my generation's soul, have consequences. Very real consequences.

When we were told that sex was not sacred but, rather, a commodity, it bred a generation of kids who are more sexually active. It also taught us that there was nothing special about sex within a relationship.

When we began to believe that relationships are about feelings, rather morals and character, we saw relationships crumble and divorces skyrocket. Because, when the feelings change (as feelings often do), there was nothing left to cling to.

When we bought the lie that drugs and partying were the ultimate high in life, we ended up with a generation of hollow addicts. We're left with a generation that has more than any generation in history, yet is more medicated and depressed than any generation in history.

When we were shamed for excelling, in the interest of catering to those who weren't as good at the same things, we bred a generation that accepts mediocrity. There's no need to work hard, to thrive, and to be a great citizen when the ones who are elevated are those of inferior talent.

When we accepted that it was our self that needed to be esteemed first, we created a generation of narcissistic, egocentric youth, indifferent to the suffering of the world.

When we were taught that life was about making ourselves comfortable, we created a generation which worships the religion of consumerism.

When we lost traditional authority, we gained a new one. Authority based not on wisdom, and experience, but whimsical thinking. When parents abdicated their responsibility to provide authority, and when we turned on religion, we became exactly what we were naturally bound to become without those structures...

So, you ask where the guys are that appreciate classy ladies?
You ask where the gentlemen are?
You ask what happened to commitment?
You ask what happened to genuine relationships?

When I was a part of a competitive music program, there was one thing which was drilled into my head from my freshman year all the way to graduation.

'Practice like you perform.'

Perhaps a more conventional version of this statement is, 'You reap what you sow.'

I submit to you that we haven't sown the seeds of gentlemen, commitment, classy ladies, or genuine relationships. In fact, we're reaping exactly what we have sown.

There are still those in the world that do offer the things, these status' on Facebook ask about. But they're becoming fewer each day, and will continue to do so until we plant a new kind of seed in our society.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Just for the Record...

I'm not gay.

Ok, time to rewind, right?

I think it's only fair that I provide you with the context for this wonderful post, which I am about to write.

It was a dark and stormy night... No. That's not the right one. Hang on a sec...

Ah, yes, so last night a couple friends came over and we hung out for a bit. One of my friends (a relatively new addition to my 'friends' category, yet still just as lovely) texted me after they left, and asked a deeply personal question to me.

"What team do you play for?"

Naturally, I thought she was speaking of Harry Potter, and thus responded; 'Why, Gryffindor, of course!'

Apparently, this wasn't what she was trying to figure out. So I tried to think of what she might have meant...

"What team do I play for?"

Wait...what? Did she just...

Yep, she did. She's totally asking if I'm gay! Gahhhhhhhhh.

I proceeded to tell her that I'm about as straight as an arrow, and inquired as to her confusion on the subject. Her reasoning was simply because my apartment was ridiculously organized for a guy my age...

Oh damn. it. all!

Now, mind you, this isn't the first time this has happened to me. I've had several people, who don't know me better, ask me that same question. Sometimes, they don't even ask, I can just tell by their interactions with me that they have a certain impression in their head about me. So this is, by no means, me talking down on this friend of mine. Not in the least.

The thing is, mostly these assumptions are bred from superficial, and stereotypical sorts of images that people carry about the dividing line between "gay" and "straight."

Things like, enjoying shopping (I do, I like to buy new shit ok?), being conversational and friendly (God forbid), types of music I have on my iPod, not being afraid to go dancing and then actually dancing when you go, a neat/ organized apartment...that kind of stuff.

The thing is...the text got me thinking really how sad the caricature of a "straight guy" has become.

Seriously.

I'm not sports obsessed. I don't rattle off statistics to impress women (who generally aren't impressed by sports knowledge anyway).

I don't 'hit the gym' like it's a religion.

I don't sit around on the couch scratching my balls all day.

I don't believe that all women are good for are sandwiches and sex.

I don't speak in unintelligible grunts either.

You get the idea.

You'd think that, by talking to many women, that those are the only type of straight guys there are in the world. No wonder they'd want a 'gay best friend.' They smell better, clean up after themselves, and go out and have fun in a relational way. Well, shit, who wouldn't take a friend like that over the straight guy caricature.

The fact of the matter is, that there are straight guys who aren't pigs. Ladies, did you hear that? There are guys out there who value the things that really matter.

There are guys who value the idea of family, commitment and marriage.
There are guys who value women for more than what they can "get out of them."
There are guys who hold their faith and values in high esteem.
There are guys who get off their butts and go to work, so that you don't have spend you're entire youth taking care of them.

And there are guys who are capable of using more words than: Ass, rack, and lame.

I promise. They aren't fictional. :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Post Apocalypse Regrets...

So... The world did not, in fact, end today as the Mayan calendar predicted. Or, rather, as we assumed the Mayan calendar predicted. This really threw a kink in my plans, if I can be perfectly honest with you.

I've compiled a list of post apocalypse regrets here for your enjoyment...

1) I now have an abundance of granola and Campbell's chunky soup. By abundance, I mean enough to feed a small African colony.

2) Most of my clothes are packed up. Great, now I've got to UNpack them!

3) It was probably a tad premature to tell my boss exactly what I thought of him...

4) That "one day notice" I submitted at work?? I kid, I kid!

5) Probably shouldn't have poured so much money into a state of the art bunker in the middle of Mississippi. The location is terrible to sell, even in a bull market.

6) Those classes I took on the art of semaphore seem a bit silly now.

8) Because I can't tell you number 7.

9) I have more candles now than a Yankee Candle store.

10) I've been filtering water like crazy lately, honestly, I've grown far too snobby for tap.

11) All my luxury possessions that you won in an eBay auction? Yeah, I'm gunna need those back.

12) Crap, I still have to pay rent...

And finally...

13) That tattoo I got, bearing the crest of the New World Militia which would rise from the ashes of Armageddon and begin to forge a new society, will be a bit difficult to explain at upcoming family gatherings...

Happy post Apocalypse day my friends!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rise

I've been trying, for the past week or so, to process the events which unfolded in Connecticut.

I want to pay a tribute to the memory of those who lost their lives and, while any words I could offer are nothing short of inadequate I feel I need to write something...


Any time a tragedy, such as Sandy Hook, occurs, we (as members of the human race) are brought face to face with the reality of evil. Real, tangible, unavoidable evil. Evil that has haunted humanity since its earliest days. Evil that refuses to rest, and refuses to relent.


We see it on a daily basis, yet Sandy Hook took horror to new levels, as some of the most precious, innocent members of our society were the victims. Caught in the cross hairs of man's curse. As I write this now, I think of my family, my loved ones. I think of my siblings, cousins, and my darling baby niece.


I feel anger, and rage. I feel the need to hold back tears, and I'm left with one question...How?


How could someone be that monstrous???

But the how doesn't heal the hearts which are bleeding in this moment.

How, doesn't fill the empty space at the dinner table, or the absence of laughter in now shattered homes.

I want the victims' families to know that we are all with you. Standing in solidarity, and mourning alongside you. We cannot fully fathom your pain, but we stand with you nonetheless. We're praying that the hands that formed this world hold you tightly, and bring you peace in this time of trial...

As I tried to process this tragedy this past week, my mind wandered to the second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the Two Towers, King Theoden of Rohan, previously under a spell of inaction, has been reawakened to find his kingdom on the verge of ruin.


As he looks around at all falling apart around him. The ruins of the glory that once existed in his kingdom, which is now being overrun with the hordes of evil.


And I remember feeling, what Theoden must have been feeling in that moment. Numb. Paralyzed. Despairing.


When all that is good, and bright in the world has been extinguished it's hard to feel anything else.


In that moment, he laments all that is lost saying this;


"So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?" 

Anytime we hear stories of tragedy, I'm sure we've all experienced this moment.

When all the pieces are shattered, and we look around at the chaos, and ask what we can do with the remnants of the life we knew...

In response to the king's lament, Aaragorn Son of Aarathorn responds:


"Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them!"

This makes me think of the phoenix. 


The phoenix, in mythology, was a bird of the sun which cyclically regenerated itself. The way it was born into new life was from the ashes of its predecessor...


There are two choices we face when we begin to deal with tragedies. We have the choice to become ashes, a shadow of what was. Or we have the choice to rise anew from those ashes. We have the choice to let evil have the power, but there is also the choice to allow the sun to rise upon the evil, and burn away the oppressive night it casts upon the world.


We owe it to those who were lost in this horrific tragedy to live, and strive to create a better world for generations to come. We owe it to their memory to rise, and to use each breath to make the world a brighter, lighter place.


I encourage you friends, grieve, mourn, and pay respects. This is necessary, but what is also necessary is to come forth from the darkness, when the time is right.


We must rise from this.




Monday, December 10, 2012

The Pursuit of Mediocrity

It isn't really a secret that my generation is self important to a fault. The millennials are really quite self absorbed, and narcissistic. It saddens me to say this, but more often than not I find this to be the gospel truth. A generation with no regard for history, for authority, for altruism. A generation that is dead at its core. Rotting from inside out.

It's because we have been taught by our parents, our society, and our entertainment, that mediocrity is ok.

One example of this, is how millennials refer to their job titles. For instance, as a janitor, I was told that my job was a "Custodial Service Technician." As a bank teller, I was told that I was actually a "Customer Service Representative I." As if anyone who banked there really cared.

I see this all the time on Facebook. Friends will enter, under the 'employment' section, some fancy title that really refers to a very basic, entry level, skill-less job.

Therein lies our downfall.

I've noticed, over the years, that the people who have greatness in them spend much less time worrying about tailoring a glamorous job title to fit a less than glamorous job. They call their job what it is and, instead, spend more time investing in their dreams. But, in a society where the ideal that "everyone needs to feel special" is predominant, there has been a nasty, unintended consequence. Youth remain stagnant, rather than advancing. Because, when you're already something special, why strive for anything better?

I've been raised with a mindset that, to get where I want to be, I have to get my hands dirty. I have to work hard, and at jobs that don't hand out accolades all the time. I've been taught that this world owes me nothing and that, while I'll always be loved by those closest to me, there is no guarantee my life will be remotely remarkable. It's that simple fact that drives me. It spurs me on to try greater things. Because everyone wants to be something special. Everyone wants to believe they have greatness within them.

Greatness isn't an accident. It is to be striven for. It continually improves upon itself. And, most importantly, it doesn't try to create a facade of grandeur, where grandeur is absent.

You too can be great. God doesn't make mistakes. But greatness is determined by our awareness of self.

Look in the mirror. Take a good, hard look. Be honest. Do you like what you see? Have you arrived? Or is there potential to yet be released?

Then ask yourself if you're ready to act. Without action, there's no movement. Without movement there's only mediocrity.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Seizing the Moment

Can I just say something? Ok. I will.

If you Google "leap of faith", apparently you'll turn up more than a few funny images of people jumping off cliffs. I couldn't help but laugh.

True, with leaping out in faith you never know what to expect...but I think that someone jumping off a sheer cliff, probably isn't the best illustration of the expression. Not the best marketing campaign for religious people, or those thriving on the Carpe' Diem fervor of youth.

So...

Ah yes! Seizing the moment.

So, basically, I've come to some very valuable conclusions in the last year or so. Or, at least, I hope they're valuable.

One of these conclusions boils down to this: Don't hold back.

That's it.

Don't hold back. I've lived much of my early life in fear. Fear of inadequacy. Fear of failure. Fear of mediocrity. I taught myself, from an early age, that if I never put myself out there I wouldn't have to fail. And it's true, you don't fail...technically.

Do you believe it's possible to not fail, but still be a loser? I do. And I was. I lost out on so much when I held myself back. I wouldn't apply myself in the weight room when I played football, because I was afraid I couldn't ever lift as much as my friends. I held back from trying out for wide receiver  quarterback, or running back, because those positions garner much attention. I didn't want to lose in front of people.

I held back in school, because I was afraid I wouldn't be smart enough, and the thought of being mediocre after putting in all I had in me was too much to bear.

I held back in relationships. I never stood up for myself, because I was always afraid my girlfriend would leave.

To this day, as I pursue photography, and am surrounded by people who are (in my eyes) masterful at their trade, I feel like a shadow of a person. I feel quite small. Dwarfed by fear that the work I'm quite proud of, will continually fall short.

But you know what?

While this used to scare the shit out of me, it doesn't anymore. Learning to be open to criticism has never been easy for me. Being open to admitting I don't know everything about something isn't easy for me. Asking for help isn't easy. But all these things make us better. Stronger. They make us into the people we want to be.

But you'll never know this, unless you have the guts to seize the moment.

I may end up being either a superb, or sub-par photographer, but I will never know unless I throw myself into it.

You'll never know your full potential, unless you give something your full effort. Be open to criticism. Be willing to cut unhealthy ties. Be ready to be frustrated, and prepared to persevere.

The road is never easy. But the "safe" road will never build you into the person you desire to be, it will only turn you into the person who desires to be like the person you wish you were.