Monday, March 9, 2009

Where am I going? Roadmap to everywhere

When you first start, the movement is imperceptible. Every day is an entire adventure, complete with discoveries, achievements, failures and closure. Every night you are tucked in to bed with no worries, no overarching plans, problems or liabilities; content. And yet there is movement.

Slowly but surely we grow; and as we age, we realize we are moving into a giant funnel, impossibly wide at first, but narrowing towards its event horizon somewhere beyond our ability to perceive. As we continue to age, to mature and to grow in our mental faculties, we realize that this cone is narrowing too fast, given how far away the end is. Then we hit high school and the funnel changes, it singular sloped wall surrounding us becomes suddenly much less sloped - almost parallel to our intended trajectory - and angles perfectly towards the apex of the cone. Life is good. Our boundaries are well documented and easily mastered. We are limited, but in our limits we are the lords of our own existence. It is at this time that we realize where the cone; the funnel of our life is leading us. This sieve in which we are inexplicably trapped is a one-way course to college.

The last few months, then weeks, then days of high school slide away and we are jettisoned from our funnel into the college world only to realize that it was not a funnel at all. This was no sieve, dropping us down towards a focal point, nor was it a funnel containing our possibilities until we were deposited in some metaphorical can or cup. No, this model which has dominated our life was a volcano, not guiding but expelling us with a force far beyond our reckoning out of the protective earthen shelter of our youth into the wild airs above and - ultimately - into the depths of space. For, once the dust settles, the roommate agreements are signed, the boxes are unpacked, the schedules are memorized, the books are bought and the last leaves of Autumn give way to the frosts and snows of Winter; it hits us. The funnel of our life is gone, and we are left not at a destination but at a starting point. We are stranded floating in space, capable of moving in any one of a million directions towards even more numerous goals, dreams and aspirations. Yet those goals, dreams and aspirations; those goals are like the stars of the concrete ether that surrounds our own planet: radiant and unwavering, but distant and cold. Uninhibited by the funnel, we are now free to pursue anything, but no matter what we strive for, those stars never seem to get closer. There is never a map or road sign to tell us how close we are, or whether we have made a wrong choice.

We are given the unique choice of creating our own future. This is our blessing and our curse. We must decide who we will become, where we will go and what we will achieve. All of this will be accomplished entirely and unequivocally by ourselves; by who, what and where we are know and whatever scars we pick up along the way.

We must pursue those stars by ourselves, and have the courage to keep on going year after year, even when we never get any closer. That is life. Realizing that we will never actually get there, but that the true accomplishment is the view back of how far you have come; that is living well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Failure is critical to Success

"If at first you don't succeed; try; try again."

"You learn more from a loss than from a win."

" O God, help me to win, but in thy wisdom if thou willest me not to win, then O God, make me a good loser."

"Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit."

Sayings such as the ones above have been around for an incredibly long time. They have existed to make people feel better, to help people bounce back, and to help us "try; try again." They have been holding us back for ever. Failure is critical to success. So why are we hiding from it?

Throughout life we are faced with challenges of every size, shape, type, importance and meaning. Like the stress that comes with them, challenges are interlaced in life and we must face them every day; regardless of how often we succeed or fail, win or lose. So why are we so obsessed with merely winning?

Life is not pass/fail. 100% or nothing might be a great motivator on the playing field, but it is not a plan for living. Doing the right thing, striving for justice and following our conscious is what is important. Whether or not we succeed is so unimportant that it shouldn't even matter. Our actions do not exist in isolation. Others see us, they are affected by us and they are influenced by us. Whether or not we achieve our goal is unimportant because we influence so many others in our attempt that we do achieve, we do succeed, we do "win."

Its not winning or losing. Its not succeeding or failing. Its not even trying. It's STRIVING.

But when we tell people "its ok, you learned more from losing," we hurt them as much as if we were to criticize, to attack or to put down. When you say such things all you say is "you DIDN'T succeed." All you say is "you WILL succeed next time." All you say is "success is the only thing worth striving for."

And when you say that, people start to fear trying.

Aspire to inspire, never to fame.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Martin Luther King, Rest in Peace

This weekend is MLK weekend, the time when everyone is excited to get a day off work or school for some reason that has something to do with some guy that did some stuff in Atlanta and Birmingham some time ago. But I cannot be too critical. There is a reason we do not understand the true importance of MLK weekend; a reason its "MLK weekend" and not Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. People would be a lot more knowledgable, I think, if Reverend King's legacy had been more perminent; if his message had a firmer hold; if his movement and his vision were still being enacted today.

Rev. King was, arguably, the greatest man to ever grace this country, to toil in the land from sea to shining sea, and to struggle with the irony of being in the land of the (almost) free and the home of the brave. He was not beaten down by his surroundings or his detractors, however. He embraced his situation and held beliefs and visions that were above the dithering and petty issues of his time. Mr. King strove for the idea of Civil Liberty for all people. He wanted to:

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Unfortunately, Rev. King's vision has been lost. We no longer strive for a nation united, celebrating in its diversity. We no longer live in a countrty in which a neighbor embraces his fellow man as a brother and an equal. And we no longer live for the ideas of liberty and justice.

We have fallen from that path. We have fallen due to our own fear, our own inaction and our own hopelesness.

We no longer look for civil liberty and a union among all Americans. We now settle. We settle to have every individual's heritage, their culture and their faith protected, but hidden. We have created public schools which are open to all but accepting of no one. We have created an environment of individual segregation.

No more are the days of colored seating in the backs of busses, of NINA signs outside east coast businesses and the Chinese Exclusion Act of the late 19th century. Today we are a country of equals, but hardly a nation.

Our people have accepted equality of creed, race and sex and ethnicity, but have failed in the most important party of Reverend King's dream. We have given everyone in this "great" nation of ours unshackled hands in their actions and a free voice in their thoughts, but we have made it impossible for "all of God's Children" to" be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Cradle of Coaches

Why Ohio Makes the Best Coaches.

Ohio football is unique, probably because Ohio is a unique state and one I am proud to be a citizen of. Lately, the Bengals - the ill managed, loss-plagued heir of one of the greatest football legends of all time (Paul Brown) - have been giving their own infamous history a run for its money and have succeeded in taking public respect for big cats to an all time low. With that being the case, football fans throughout the southwest of the "most American" state have been turning in droves to follow the rising star in college football world: Brian Kelley and his University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

The turn from one to the other has been quite astounding. Local sportswear stores are selling U.C. gear in weeks which would have taken years to move if it were orange and black. Many, especially those from outside the Midwest, look at this situation and blame it all on Cincinnati being "a bunch of fair weather fans." They claim the switch is because Cincinnati will take a winner, any winner, but won't stick with a team that's "down on its luck" (and in the Bengals' case, I use that term loosely).

But I prefer to see it differently. When the Bengals burst onto the scene in 2005 with their first AFC north title and a return to the postseason for the first time in 15 years, people were excited. But it was not like this. The Bearcats are popular for the same reason that Ohio produces more amazing coaches of football than any other state. Its because the Bearcats stand for something much more important to Ohioans. A perennial underdog, the Bearcats are the 5th oldest football club in NCAA football (all divisions), but are only 58th in total wins. They have been written off time after time in the school's history, and their return to glory under Minter, Dantonio and Kelley in the past decade has been nothing short of climactic.

With the University's greatest basketball coach now at cross conference WVU and the basketball program shaken to the core, with years of controversy surrounding the academic ability of many athletes at the school and just after stepping into the Big East Conference; the football team delivers a Big East title and BCS berth, and they do it with one of the best GPA's in the Big East and with a coach who stuck with an underdog rather than move for money.

The Bearcats football team is Cincinnati's hero not because Cincinnati will take anyone, so long as they win, but because the Bearcats are exactly the kind of hero Ohioans have been searching for - they are dedicated to teamwork, loyalty, pride, spirit, selflessness and hard work. They are a symbol for the people they play for; not just a "team."

Friday, December 12, 2008


There is something to be said about stillness.

Most things in life are exponential; including life itself. To pause it; briefly; is awe-inspiring when it actually hits you. Taking count of everything pouring in, washing against your senses; of every part of you, that crazy, incredibly complex thing that is an extension of will.

To be aware.

People say things fall away and you see life a little more clearly. That's not true. They don't fall away; disappear. They shrink, because you gain perspective. You get a lot smaller then. But your worries get smaller too. Everything scales down.

The most ironic thing about living our lives fast and heavy is that we think we are in perpetual motion. Our fall is exponential: faster than gravity.

But we live like we have wings.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blinded by you Open Mind

First Impressions

Ball bearings, painted white with blue droplets, encased in glass; they swiveled and slid against their encasements as if suspended in oil. Their lithe fluidity came in stark contrast to the body within which they moved, for as the eyes danced effortlessly, the frame was made of iron: solid, but possessing some hidden, inner tension.
The reporter was calm, even confident. His brow glistened with a reflective sheen, but that was merely the lights for the cameras, certainly. He asked his questions politely and framed them fairly. The president’s answers were informative, concise and relevant. It was pure gold. He was getting the truth. He was getting results. He was an agent of the masses, doing his duty – for what other explanation was there? He had been invited to the official residence of the president, he had been allowed to film an interview and they had shaken hands.
The interview progressed. The president remained fixed in his chair. He sat back, slouched, but not at ease. He was not nervous, not angry, not frustrated, not embarrassed – but not at ease. There was a profoundly disturbing calm about him, the placidity seemed as much a part of him as of the cool sun above or the refreshing sea breeze through the trees. The reporter asked another question.
The president answered.
Again, a question.
And again, an answer.
This continued, unabated. The interview was long, but the president never seemed pressed for time. He even expounded his answers and gave them context – as if to convey more than the facts to the interviewer, to achieve an understanding. The attempt; however, was mere formality. There was no desire. The president had no interest in successfully educating the journalist in a new point of view; a new value system; a new school of thought. He knew he could not succeed.
The interview concluded: a success. The journalist had gotten ten fold the material he expected to. He had material on policy, intrigue and even a possible international scandal. He left Sochi confident and with a feeling of purpose.
He left as blind as he had come. They had talked. Strolled. Shook hands. Sat down. Discussed. But never during the entire trip had they communicated. For, although all the words had been translated into English, the language was always Russian.

Monday, December 1, 2008

How and why?

We ask them all the time, they permeate our existence, they define our misery and they have stumped our greatest minds for many a millenia. These simple questions are so multi-faceted that it is impossible to every come to any satisfactory answer to either of them, but that doesn't make pondering over them any less interesting.