Monday, December 8, 2008

Face Value

I have decided, from here on and forever forth, that I am only going to take people at face value.  I've come to the conclusion that I spend a large amount of personal time trying to determine a person's ulterior motives and personal feelings; is this person angry with me, is this person annoyed with me, does he hate me, or does he think I am untalented or not worthwhile?  And I say this with a certain amount of foresight into what is an essentially impossible undertaking.  I will second guess; I will try to ascertain a person's true emotions no matter how hard I try.  It is simply human nature.  But these are my reasons for trying to live so.
I have come to realize that my gut judgements are typically accurate.  There is a wealth of research into gut reactions, if you're interested read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.  And I have to admit that I am usually accurate in my guessing.  
But that being said, when I think something negative about a person, I certainly don't want them to know how I feel, and I should respect the same want in my compatriots.  You have the right to dislike me despite my knowledge.  
There is a new show on TV called "Lie to Me".  It's about a man notorious for his ability to spot a lie, and his help is solicited by all sorts of police agencies and other people who need to come to the truth.  The point is that this man is able to tell what people are thinking, or more importantly, feeling, based upon micro-expressions and body language.  "If the emotion doesn't match the words, it's a lie."
But there is an obvious coercion that the man chooses to exert with his talent, he chooses to believe people's faces, instead of people's words.  But he allows himself the privilege of lying to his coworkers and friends.  He holds himself to lesser standards than others.  What's more, he is not happy for it, but somehow the quest for "truth" is more important.
And I have a certain obsession with truth myself.  The inner workings of the mind, how people really feel.  What part of inhibition is keeping them at bay, what is their secret analysis of their surroundings.  More importantly, what do they think of ME?  Think of the load off that would entail a constant knowledge of your standing in your friend's lives.  You'd KNOW if you were the friend everybody hates, or if people just plain out couldn't stand you.  
But it would have to be a two way street.  A single person with such an advantage is destroying the system and would take advantage of people to no ends.  And more than that, it's simply not fair.
And that's why I want to take people at their words.  Why I'd rather believe a lie than second guess.  They have the right to mislead me, like I have to them.  
But I would much rather you just tell me the truth; as much as you think that'll hurt me, it hurts less than never knowing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Grudge

I have grown accustomed to people bickering; people growing angry and the eventual fallout.  And as much as I'd like to claim that there is some universal solution for once friends turning into now enemies, I don't really believe that is the case.  We, as human beings, realize that our own personalities are unique and that any amount of analysis will never yield complete results.  We are each of billions of separate energy beings that are unique, defined in minute but important ways.  Certain personalities simply don't fit together in this great puzzle of human interaction, certain personalities can degrade specific others unknowingly, and the eventual and natural reaction is to act out and break the ties that bind.
I believe the greater evil in this particular dilemma is not people eventually parting ways or having quarrel.  No one should force a relationship they feel disheveled and belittled within among friends or loved ones, and especially after attempts have been made to remedy.  But we hold the people we hate so close to our hearts.  We hold those little attributes up like wicked idols, letting them rampage the heart and mind.  We become possessed by our feelings of hate, and eventually can't move on.  
There is an Buddhist proverb that goes something like this:
Two monks on there travels spot a young women standing before a river.  She had two servants with her, and she showed a look of obvious dissatisfaction.  She was wearing fine clothes, and she didn't seem to know how to deal with the dilemma of crossing without her linens getting soaked and dirtied.  She seemed very crossed with her entourage even though they couldn't solve her troubles because of her enormous baggage.  The elder of the monks, seeing her distress, calmly took her on his back and crossed the river.  Upon the crossing the woman gave no sign of thanks, but walked away with all arrogance.  
When the two monks rejoin there travels, the younger monk spent his hours dwelling on this moment and the unthankful woman.  Finally, when he could bear to hold it no more, he said to the elder, "Why did you help that woman cross the river?  She was so mean and arrogant, how could you stand it?"
In his wisdom, the elder replied, "I laid her down hours ago, why do you still carry her?"
Why do we still carry the little grudge in our head?  We have the option to set her down and take the weight off the mind.  We have the option at every second, at every little moment of misery.
Not to say that it is easy.  It is hard to articulate, but we all seem to find a strange pleasure in our misery.  With a grudge it can be even worse, because hatred is a fire within us.  Hate makes us feel powerful, and self-pity, a common partner to hate in our personal grudges, makes us feel self-important; superior to the little ones around us.  I have dwelt in my own head long enough to know how good it feels to make myself a martyr.  But it stigmatizes yourself from the people around you.
And in truth, the greatest revenge is a life well lived.  
I would rather wake up free from all negative attachment every morning, and greet the love that I can choose to store in myself, and I'm working on it.  I want to surround myself with people I love, and cast the ones that cause me woe out of my subconscious to where they will not bother me.  Then I can be me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Speak like a Child

More an more, I want to be a child.  Don't misunderstand me, I have often been equated to be more akin to a middle-aged man, and I understand the connection made there as well.  I certainly don't act like most nineteen year-old boys, and it's something I'm not necessarily proud of, but aware of and certainly not bashful about. 
But I try to be like a child in that I want to look at the world every day as if it is completely new. I want to enter every experience as though it had the energy of a first meeting, and I want to learn like a child grasping at strings, trying to understand the universe through incessant questioning and unapologetic curiosity.
"This is what I am passionate about... it is this inextinguishable, undaunted appetite for learning an experience no matter how risible, no matter how esoteric, no matter how seditious it might seem." -Ben Dunlap
This is a quote from another TED speech.  Ben Dunlap outlines the lives of two great friends with only the common characteristics of a Hungarian heritage and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge even until their 80's.  I hope I am the same in my aged days, I hope my need for new knowledge and experience lasts until my dying days.
But more than that, I want to maintain a childlike curiosity because it is non-judgmental.  It is a thirst for knowledge without expectation, and without the inevitable falls and disappointments that come from living with it.  It is curiosity for the sake of knowledge alone, serving to explain the strange place we live in.  
I think it is disturbing we try to dampen this curiosity in youth.  As we grow older, we stigmatize mistakes in children through a broken education system and remove that which makes a child's mind so captivating.  Mistakes are not to be avoided:
"I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative, but what we do know is if you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original."- Sir Ken Robinson
Phrases like "curiosity killed the cat", while true in a certain way, also teach an untruth; that is that we shouldn't go out and look for ourselves, search for ourselves.  Give in to idle curiosity.  Let yourself make mistakes, but learn in the process.  If we assume that every mistake is a failure, than we have removed any hope for a beautiful tomorrow, because we will make many mistakes before the glorious future.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Synthetic Happiness

I know it's not really everyone's bag, but:

There is one inspiring bit from this video that I'd like to highlight, and that is the ability of the human being to create its
own happiness. I have often wondered how people in the lowest circumstances manage to maintain a sunny
disposition, and it is clearly as Gilbert explains; we as humans change our perceptions to have a preference for what
we have to live with, but when the choice is open, or the possibility for change is open, then it becomes more
difficult to maintain complacency with the current life.
But it suggests something somewhat strange...That happiness is detrimental to progress. It reminds me of a Martha
Graham quote, though it applies more directly to the artist;
""No artist is pleased . . . there is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a strange, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps up marching and makes us more alive than the others." 
When are content, there is no reason to change or progress.  We are happy with who and what we are, so there is no need for improvement.  When I have the option to improve, I cannot be content with my current status as either a musician or human being.
Hopefully though, contentment is not the only happiness we can find on this planet.  Maybe there is happiness in motion; a happiness not built from the where we are, but where we are going.  Maybe I can be happy that I am constantly improving, that my mind is soaking up new things and person improving in all the ways it can.
I guess you could call it a "derivative happiness", in that we can be happy with the slope of our progress.  (oh God.... I just geeked out so hard there.)
Because, now that I think about it, I could never be happy being exactly where I am.  Truthfully, it's not bad, but I could never live in this body and this mind without wanting to improve them.
And yes, decisions may be the antithesis of happiness, but I never had a choice but to thirst for something greater.