The Parables of the Internet


I love clickbait, by which I mean all those stories designed to tug at a heartstring, either to make you cry at the dark parts of life or to rejoice in the bright parts.

“Snopes it, it’s all fake,” say the cynics.

To which I say, “So what?”

We see true stories all day, every day in our 24-hour news cycle. We watch the bombs exploding and the riots developing and the pollutants billowing into our environment. In fact we see these so much, and on such a broad scale, that we become desensitized.

“It’s just another destroyed village.”

“It’s just another oil spill.”

“It’s just another shooting.”

It’s horrifying, is what it is.

In a world where we see hardly anything worthwhile or inspiring, where the “upbeat topic” for the day is a parrot that can waterski, we need that clickbait. It gives us hope. It keeps us compassionate. It keeps us human.

We become numb to the plights of humanity at large, so clickbait gives us the plight of one, it personifies it, it gives it a face and a name and a story we can care about. And as any good story does, it makes us feel. We need to remember how to feel.

The story of the cancer patient who placed a sign on her window and had strangers bringing her pizza and singing to her. The story of the dog that not only saved his owner’s life, but the lives of countless others on 9/11. The story of the Syrian girl who fought through a terrorist regime and an immigration nightmare only to be denied access to freedom from fear. The teenager that invented a device so that someone with a disability can feel able again. These stories are important, whether they’re true or not.

Think of them as parables. Think of them as motivation. Think of them as goals. Because if we can be more like the good, kind, hardworking, caring people in these stories, then the world can fully become the beautiful, harmonious place that we see through them.

Read clickbait. Feel something. Stay human.

 

 

America Is Not Free.


I am a patriot. I love living under the Red, White, and Blue. I love patriotic marches and songs. I tear up at the great things America has been and done. I am grateful to the soldiers that sacrifice so much. I’m proud of the ideals and the opportunities and the liberties that we have represented to the world for so long.

That’s why it’s hurting so bad to be an American right now.

We loudly proclaim to be the land of freedom and opportunity, equality and diversity. Then what do we do? We call for illogical limitations or deregulations that end up hurting more than helping. We demand closed borders  and the deportation of “foreigners” and refuse to fund programs that aid and better our society. We want to unite as Elitist Patriarchical Vanilla Believers who don’t want to help anyone who can’t/won’t help themselves or don’t fit into the mold we’ve created. We claim this to be the vision of our founding fathers but we’ve twisted and corrupted it seemingly beyond repair.

We have liberties we can take advantage of. But we are not free.

Freedom would be a government and society that allowed everyone the complete control of our own bodies, free from criminalization or judgement of how it’s used or packaged. Freedom would be understanding, compassion, and respect for all human life, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexuality, education, or economic status. Freedom would be a system of green, sustainable practices which helped rather than harmed the planet. Freedom would be complete affordable access to education, healthcare, housing, and food and water for everyone. Freedom would be equal rights and opportunities and pay across all spectrums. Freedom would be the combination of empathy and knowledge in coming up with solutions rather than governing with greed and personal bias and reintroducing or creating more problems. Freedom is living completely without fear of discrimination, starvation, bankruptcy, homelessness, disease, violence, incarceration, or limitation.

True and complete freedom is Utopia, Eden before the Fall, the Marxist doctrine on paper, a post-apocolyptic society that has actually learned from the past, perfection that can never truly be reached.

But we could at least try. We could attempt to do what is right not from a religious or economic standpoint, but from a humanistic one. We could take care of people rather than criminilizing, marginalizing, or dehumanizing them. We could put our money toward better education, better health care, a better food industry, more renewable resources, and redistribute the wealth. Do we really need to spend billions of dollars on weapons and debates that lead nowhere, or worse, backwards? Is it really wise and equitable in the grand scheme of things to have resources and power controlled by such a small group as they are right now?

Call me a liberal, a dreamer, a hippie, delusional, blasphemous, whatever. But I think we can do better– at this point, that shouldn’t be surprising.

So tell me. What’s stopping us from being the America we were originally supposed to be? Why are we stopping ourselves from truly being the land of the free?

Thoughts While Resting Through A Summer Cold


I am sick. While in the midst of my summer adventures. And 75 miles from home. Yay me! What have I chosen to do all day?

  1. Worry about how much I need to go to the gym, do dishes, and clean up my now roommate-less room
  2. Briefly glance at job openings for when Cedar Point comes to a close
  3. Attempt and fail at registering for classes at Cuyahoga Community College
  4. Go to the doctor, to no avail because Flonase allergy medication has not helped my supposedly non-infection sinus issues
  5. Take pictures of the fly I’ve come to think of as a pet because it spent a whole episode (I think the second of four so far) of Criminal Minds on the corner of my laptop. If I sleep on the couch tonight, it will also try to curl up with me. It’s buzzing is more annoying than dogs barking, so it will be swatted away.
  6. Listen to the singular cricket stuck in the heating vent in the living room and thought about the melancholy chirping of a single cricket with no chance of escape, since I have no way to get it out or even see it in the vent, and it has no friends trapped with it. This would be day two of imprisonment. Also, I think the chirping has stopped. Which makes me sad and grateful all at the same time. Hopefully, because it died of natural causes, it will not be bad luck for me.
  7. Eat a bunch of stove-top and prepackaged food because I have no desire or energy to find something healthier, which is why #1 happens a lot.
  8. Brought in supplies for a miniature gardening project, except half the plants I bought might be dead because I waited so long, so the supplies might sit in my room for a while now that they’ve sat in my car for about two weeks.
  9. Coughed, sneezed, and blown my nose so many times that I might already be close to filling the trash can with a box of used tissues.
  10. Contemplated religion, humanity, the lessons of Harry Potter and how much I want to be J.K. Rowling, the sadness of my financial situation, fear of the future specific to myself and general to all of humanity

So I’d say it’s been a fairly productive day for being sick and not wanting to pass germs on to people at work. At least my brain has been working hard. Or as someone so politely put it, I’m going stir crazy. I did shower, dress, and brush my teeth, so life can’t be too bad, right?

Paraphrasing Robert Frost


Forest_Trail_by_sun_stockI’ve always enjoyed getting lost in the woods. From fishing with my father when I was little to sneaking off with a date as I got older to taking a break from life and work and school when the responsibilities became too much, a walk through the local park has always been a part of me. However, the term ‘walk’ is misleading in the context of, well, me.

I cannot stand those wide paved paths that most people use in parks. They’re so… Prescriptive, and frankly, quite boring. I usually find myself seeking out a small opening in the trees with something that looks like a trail. Sometimes it’s man-made. Other times, I’ve stumbled upon a deer path. Whichever type it happens to be, it’s almost guaranteed to be thin, made of dirt, hiding rocks and tree roots, and grown over in places with high grasses or thorn bushes. Oh, and it’s not flat by any stretch of the imagination. In other words, it’s a challenge, and it offers more chance to break a sweat, think creatively, and feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins than asphalt next to a road.

What I’ve realized about life lately is that, for quite some time now, I’ve been walking on that paved path, the one that everyone walks down, that has only fleeting glimpses of the gorgeous waterfall hidden behind a copse and barely increases my heart rate. Why would I allow myself to do this, knowing full well that’s not who I am? And suddenly, I know why I’ve been feeling so down. I’m bored. I’m tired of looking at that stupid white or green dotted line down the middle of dark gray asphalt, endlessly repeating for miles and miles and miles. Country singers need back roads, Billy Joel needs the Hudson River. I need that tiny little dirt path that no one else really dares to follow.

Bring it on.

Life…


I am not living. I am existing. And it’s not enough.

Living is feeling, feeling everything and feeling deeply. Living is having the breath stolen from your lips by the beauty of a sentence, by the intensity of a color, by the sonority and harmony of a chord. Living is not thinking, just doing, just feeling, just going with it and having a fantastic time. Living is putting your soul into everything, experiencing as much as possible, engaging deeply with the people and things around you. In this sense, I have not been living.

I go day to day just checking things off, simply wanting to get it done. And when I tell people this isn’t enough, they tell me I have to do it in order to get to the living part. Like living is only an adult thing that happens after you get an expensive degree and a career to pay the bills and maybe a life partner and start a family. Never mind the people my age and younger even who lived more deeply in their thirty or forty years than some people will in eighty. Never mind the great works of art, the masterful novels and poems, the entire social movements created by young people who wanted to really live, not just exist.

Maybe my discontent is a mortality thing. It’s hard to believe that there will always be a tomorrow like everyone tells me when breaking news constantly says otherwise. It’s hard to wait when everything keeps changing, often for the worse, and making my dreams harder and harder to believe in. It’s hard to know that getting older means more options and perhaps more stability, but in that less flexibility and more chance of waiting for the right moment turning into never getting there.

Maybe I’m scared to just live because everything I’ve ever heard and learned from society has conditioned me to believe in the checklist, the rules, the system, even though everything I’ve enjoyed reading, that’s really spoken to my thoughts and my emotions, has gone completely against all of it. It’s hard to throw off existence for living, and maybe I’m just not strong enough.

I’ve been told by some very important people to think outside the box, follow my dreams, live for myself and no one else because we can never make everyone happy. But I can’t figure out how to do that. I don’t want to fail, though I know failure is the only way to get better. I’m not sure if I can pick myself back up. I’ve never had the chance to try. I’ve also been told by other important people that the first people were wrong. I’m conflicted.

Life the way I imagined it has not happened. I understand plans change, that we can’t predict the future or anything. But things have gone the way someone else wanted them to, and I am uncomfortable, unhappy, and unsure. I am still the visceral, creative, adventurous, curious, confident person I’ve always been, but that part of me is hiding because it doesn’t fit with the world I’m stuck in right now. I need a change, because I’m failing in a not so constructive way, and I know I won’t be able to come back if I hit the bottom.

Yellow Jacket For Life, Buckeye Forever


Today is the College Football National Championship game, with the Oregon Ducks going up against my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes. While it isn’t THE Big Game for Buckeye Nation, it is a really big game, and I really can’t wait to watch it. I’m just hoping my professor at Baldwin Wallace University lets us out early this first night of class so I can see the whole thing.

But with the first day of classes, the National Championship, and the Buckeyes competing in the National Championship, it brings up a lot of emotions for me. I sit here in the library, a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, wishing I’d followed my upbringing to Columbus. I was born a Buckeye, and will forever be one in my heart, but alas, I am actually a Yellow Jacket.

Baldwin Wallace isn’t a bad school at all. I’ve enjoyed my time in Berea and met a lot of great people and learned from some fantastic professors. But college hasn’t been what I expected, or what I planned for, and I feel like I’ve let myself and so many others down. I was prepared for a huge campus, a stadium packed on Saturdays, the game broadcast on national television, being in one of the most famous marching bands in the world, and being able to find my school colors and name plastered almost anywhere. I was ready to be a few hours away from home, exploring a very new city, attending classes with a few hundred people while mingling with thousands more outside class, and trying new things or continuing my former hobbies. What I actual got was a lot more small scale.

I’ve had people tell me I wouldn’t be happy at OSU. They think it’s too big for me. But I feel like BWU is too small. And it’s too close to home. I love my family and friends dearly, but college was supposed to be a time to break away from all of that, to get out and explore the world and learn more about myself. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished that at all. I’ve learned some pretty cool things and taken some great classes, but I still feel like the same old me– actually, more like I’ve regressed. I feel shy and unsure of myself, and as many of my teachers from grade school can tell you, that wasn’t me at all. I gave up on marching band– and music in general. I haven’t been on stage since senior year at Bedford High. And I haven’t been as dedicated to my school work or my other ambitions as I would like to be. I’ve mostly just been working to pay for school and make it through. They say college is what you make it. I guess I made it something else to check off the list. My heart just wasn’t in it. And that bothers me.

Tonight I’m going to watch as much of the football game as possible– I didn’t watch any of BW’s this season or last. I’m going to shout at the people on TV that the refs made an awful call and that I want to see The Best Damn Band in the Land instead of a bunch of washed up players over-analyzing the plays we all watched and analyzed. I’m going to wish I could be in that stadium to feel the excitement and the tension shift with every play. And I’m going to celebrate or mourn– but hopefully the former– as if I were going to be a real Buckeye with a degree from The Ohio State University come graduation. Script Ohio

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way


I’m in the midst of my second to last finals week of college. Unfortunately, my papers and tests are the farthest thing from my mind. As I foolishly check Facebook, or turn on the news, or read the newspaper, or even listen to the radio, I can’t help but think what I’m doing is esoteric and pointless. There seem to be so many better things I could be doing with my time that make me feel far less empty than working for a piece of paper that isn’t guaranteed to be a means to security and happiness.

Like everyone else, I’ve been hearing tale after tale of violence and injustice against various marginalized groups. I’ve been bludgeoned with tales of sickness and rape and homelessness and poverty for longer than I care to think about. They make my heart hurt and my head angry. But the reactions people have to all these things hurt and anger me more than the fact that these things happen. The reactions are ignorant, pessimistic, destructive, close-minded, negative, and heavily biased.

Racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, religious discrimination, gender and sexual orientation discrimination, discrimination based on socioeconomic status, sickness, homelessness, and everything else we come into contact with on a daily basis certainly aren’t new. They’ve been around for at least the whole of human history– most likely even since human prehistory. I don’t find it surprising that these things still exist. But I do find it infuriating.

I suppose you could call me a romantic, or an optimist, or an idealist. I want the world to be the inclusive, beautiful, caring place I know it could be. And there are plenty of people right there with me. What keeps this idyllic, semi-utopian vision from happening isn’t all the crappy stuff. It’s the number of people who think that the world is defined by the crappy stuff. The people who simply accept the dark parts of life as the whole of reality are really the barrier to fixing the world. Those negative reactions block constructive discussion, which does nothing to break the infinite loop of more crappy things happening. It keeps my fairy tale just fairy tale instead of making it a reachable reality.

I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The world will never be perfect– I’m not so naive to believe that can happen. But the world can be better. We can make more good things happen, and we can lessen the bad things that happen. I’m not a saint by any stretch of the imagination. I have some of the same gut reactions that even the most cynical, jaded, biased a**hole does when I watch the news. But I try to move beyond my (often learned) negative emotional responses to get to the more balanced intellectual and useful response, which isn’t, “They deserved it, f*** them, that’s just the way it is, get over it,” or any variation of it, but instead is, “That’s awful, what can I do to help, what do we need to do to address this issue and fix it once and for all?”

Maybe we could stop focusing on and even promoting everything that’s really shitty in the world and start thinking and talking about ways to make it better.