Tag Archives: philosophy

Momentary Meditations

momentarymeditations
There are blessed moments I encounter–moments of living neither in the past or future, but in the massive and yet ephemeral present. Being aware of each second clicking by, the cool freshness of the air being drawn into my nose. Taking time to truly feel the grass blades tickling my flip-flop-clad feet, and to smell the light sweet scent of azaleas and wildflowers in the front yard. Sensing the mobile curvature of my spine as I hunch above a keyboard or stretch back against the computer chair. Knowing how the smooth plastic computer keys will give way just enough under my fingers to produce a letter on the screen.

It’s an odd, electric kind of feeling, as if a shade has been drawn up from over my eyes and I’m finally seeing life as it is. In these few seconds, thought and intellect give way to feeling and instinct, just for a little while. I can appreciate the visual beauty and symmetry of tree branches and buildings around me, pause to hear random harmonies of birdsong and traffic, weaving together like the woodwind and brass sections of a giant unseen orchestra. Touch and smell become many times more important; suddenly, I am aware of how soft and lovely the shirt I’m wearing feels against my skin, and realize that the breeze is blowing a faint wonderful scent of food cooking from a restaurant down the street.

These moments of sensory feeling and glimpses of present peace are usually rare for me. Too often I live in a world of past guilt and anticipation of the future, and I’m insensitive to all this wonder going on around me. (I think we all have days like that!) Sometimes I feel like nothing more than a shell of myself, “living” without really feeling it, while my brain is somewhere else entirely, worrying, fretting or just going around and around without solving anything. Often it seems like I’m actually forcing myself to relax, and yet my brain is resisting every second of it.

Momentary meditations on the world around me, actually sensing the environment around me, actually hearing and seeing things outside my own head, manage to snap me out of the foggy dreariness I usually shuffle through, make me feel more alive. It’s often not an instinctive thing, either; I have to shift my mindset, and hush my inner monologue. (Amazing how much more life can filter into your brain when you actually let yourself experience it rather than letting your brain talk over it!)

If you’ve never had one of these random moments of clarity, it can start as simply as looking around you and really seeing everything. I hope this post can be one of those moments for you–then, you might find that a shade has lifted from your own life.

Rediscovering The Library

rediscoveringlibrary
In this age of frugal living/careful spending, I’m surprised when I hear some of my friends talk about “buying” the new book everyone’s talking about. I’m surprised–not because I’m surprised at people reading, but because I buy almost no books anymore. Instead, I’m a regular customer at the library. Want to know why I made that change? Read on to find out!

My Background in Reading: Extensive

For most of my life, I’ve been a voracious reader, tackling numerous books in a week sometimes (if boredom was striking hard). It didn’t hurt that I grew up being taken to the library a few times a week, too, always marveling at their large book collections. It was a wonderful place to explore, and I enjoyed checking out the mountains of books I inevitably wanted to read every week.

High School: A Gradual Moving Away from Reading

Somewhere in high school, however, I lost the will to read for pleasure. I credit it to my AP and honors literature classes and general college prep, which demanded so much reading outside of school hours that after I was done with homework, the last thing I wanted to see was a printed word. I, who had loved books from childhood, virtually quit reading for pleasure until the summer before my sophomore year in college.

I instead found myself playing more video games and being on the computer more often, needing more pictorial and interactive ways to relax instead of having to stay focused on more words. It was so unlike me, in retrospect, but at the time, I didn’t think anything of it.

College: The Change Back (Mostly for the Better)

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college changed things drastically, however. Due to an ex-boyfriend’s casual dismissal of me, I ended up very sad and lonely most of that summer, languishing, feeling like I had no purpose.

But soon enough, I got tired of sitting at home crying, and finally I got up the courage to venture out and buy a few books to read at a nearby bookstore. Suddenly, it all came back–why I had loved reading. It had helped me to escape a world I had had enough of! So I began collecting more and more books, reading them and putting them aside, sometimes to reread them, sometimes not, for the next 8 years.

Uh-Oh…Now the Mountain of Books is in My House…

But you can guess what happened. These days, I’m virtually swimming in a sea of purchased books. My bedroom is stuffed with them, there are boxes upon boxes in the hallways, and still there are books in the floor. It’s a picture of my brain and my life. I love information, I love reading, and I still find myself looking at the bookstore and wanting to buy a lot of the books I see. But, with the new problem of storage, I just didn’t want to have to deal with picking them up off the floor and trying to find places to put newly acquired books for the rest of my life.

Suddenly, a Solution–The Library!

Then, a brainstorm. As I sat at the library using their wireless Internet one afternoon a couple of years ago, I looked around and it struck me–why am I not using this library card I have in my purse? Why don’t I just check out the books I want to read, and then bring them back in 2 or 3 weeks? DUH! Knowing how fast I read, I knew I’d be done with at least one book by week’s end, maybe more.

So I rose from my chair and pecked around in the fiction section a bit until I found a couple of books that interested me. I have been enjoying the library’s privileges since, reading 3-4 books every 6 weeks or so (depending on how hectic my schedule is). Once I’m finished with them, I can return them and let someone else enjoy them, and they aren’t lying around cluttering up my house any further. Plus, I’m not spending tons of money on books I might not even read again. I have rediscovered the library–rediscovered one reason why it is so wonderful.

Don’t Let Your Library Go to Waste!

But libraries are vanishing fast–even our local library may not be around much longer, and that saddens me. As a money-saver, as a time investment, and as a place for free Internet that isn’t a loud coffee shop, it’s perfect for me and many other local folks. Yet libraries all over the country (and possibly, all over the world) are still having to deal with budgets shrinking, less visitors, almost no income, and lack of new books to put up. I think it’s awful.

Many people have commented on this issue, with some folks saying libraries as we know them won’t be around much longer anyway. Others are saying libraries are struggling and failing to meet a new technological need rather than an informational one. And some say that libraries must update technologically to offer the same kinds of community help that they used to.

I believe that yes, libraries as mere storehouses of books are not the informational resource they once were–the Internet has taken that place. But the library is still a free/almost free source of Internet and printing facilities, as well as a safe place for families and communities to come together. (Not to mention that they are generally QUIET…yay!) I think the world definitely still needs libraries–their ageless serenity is a refuge from the outside world, a home away from home.

Whether libraries will ultimately come to house technology as well as books/in place of books, or whether they become cultural centers or something else entirely, I believe that communities still need them to serve, and will need them as long as there are social humans. Libraries were not only my refuge in childhood, but have become a newfound haven in my adulthood. And I think it can be that way for others, too. I just hope more people rediscover their libraries soon, so that this experience I’ve had doesn’t just become part of history!

Leveling Up in Life

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These days, experience-based games like World of Warcraft are very popular. Players of these games generally play through many quests, defeating enemies, dedicating many hours to “leveling up” their character, getting ever closer to the top level, where they no longer have to gain experience, and they are fully powered-up and epic in battle.

Does this sound familiar to people in the modern workforce? To me, it reminds me a lot of the “rat race”–the constant striving for promotions, raises, better hours, more vacation time, more leadership, etc. People play games like WoW to escape work, or so I thought, but instead they seem to be duplicating the same conditions in play as in work.

Life Today = Meeting Goals Rather Than Having Experiences

We generally live our lives, these days, like it’s a goal-oriented game rather than an experience. Stopping and smelling the roses went out of our heads a long time ago, replaced by a drive to get “the most” and “the best”, all in “the fastest” time. Students who take AP classes to get college credits while still in high school are hailed as “go-getters;” collegiates who manage to get through a four-year degree in three years or less by taking classes during the summers (and even winters) are praised for their “academic drive.” And people in the modern workforce who advance rapidly through their chosen field or company are looked on with favor.

This drive even extends down to our children, sad as that sounds. No longer can kids just go outside and play at random games; now, they’ve got to be learning all the time with “educational” games. They’ve practically got to know how to read and write before they hit kindergarten, otherwise they’ll be considered “behind.” (Not knocking educational games, but surely there’s time enough for them to just be children, too?)

This Used to Be My Life, Too

I lived like this, trying to “level up in life,” for a long time. I was one of the “bright” kids in my school, a girl who was going to get out there and be somebody before she was 30. I picked up on things very quickly, was fast, accurate and (usually) neat in my preparations; I got good grades and participated in all sorts of activities, and so I got honors and won awards. I took that same drive into college, obtaining my BA in English with Magna Cum Laude and a slew of other academic honors. I even advanced into my ill-fated teaching career with that same attitude, pushing to get my Masters in Middle-Grades Education in 2 years so I could go out into the world and make money doing what I supposedly loved.

But where did all that drive and ambition get me? I ended up crash-landing back at home, recovering from severe depression and suicidal feelings. All that pushing and stressing and struggling, and it had gotten me no honors this time, no rewards. I couldn’t teach anymore; I just simply wasn’t made for the job, even though I had worked so very hard to achieve it. So I began to question this “most/best/fastest” way of life. What had all my striving been for, in the end? What had I been doing with my life all those years I was working to become something? There are quite literally years of my life I barely remember except for vague memories of working my butt off writing papers or completing tests, all to get “somewhere better”–a better college, a better job, etc. I thought I was doing it right, living a correct life.

My New Life: All About Experiences

In the wake of my capsized teaching career, in which I had faced death at my own hands, “leveling up” in life didn’t seem as important anymore. I began to focus instead on rebuilding my charred inner world, trying to salvage what I could of my life and my interests. And, in fact, I rediscovered myself among the ashes, and began to write my novel as a way to pull myself forward. I began to live life as I had never experienced it before–weeks of just BEING rather than DOING, just writing rather than publishing, just playing the piano rather than performing, just being with friends rather than being constantly “busy.”

Some people might look down on me for this, maybe thinking I’ve become complacent, lazy, and unmotivated. Nobody’s said anything to that effect, of course, but since I spent such a large part of my life driving ahead at 80 mph, it feels very strange to be going suddenly 30. Or maybe I’m still a bit paranoid about what “other people” think of my life, worrying that people will think I’m not as smart as I once was, or that I just don’t care anymore.

But this new speed of life is far from “not caring.” Actually, in a way it feels like I’ve dropped an addiction: an addiction to perfection, to needing to be the absolute best, fastest, and most. Some days I’d like to care about that stuff again, because it felt somehow normal to be addicted to that lifestyle. But I know that if I start caring about it, it’ll be as virulent as any addiction, taking over my life again before I know it. I don’t have to chase after every success if the chase is going to dehumanize me and strip me of joy; I have to chase after the successes that are important to me. And right now, just living is enough of a success, considering I was contemplating suicide not too long ago.

Am I Enjoying This? YES!

Now that I’m not so worried about “leveling up” in life, I find myself able to enjoy my life. Sure, days aren’t as action-packed as they used to be; sure, I’m not doing a whole lot these days beyond writing, singing, blogging, designing, and gaming. But…I’m okay with it. I don’t have to get to the next level of my life soon–I think I’ll just roam around in this game and explore a bit, enjoy the level I’m on right now.

Competitive or Casual?

competitiveorcasual
This is one of the most salient questions in all kinds of gaming, not just the nerdy kind with dice, but even video games and sports: do you play competitively or casually?

The question may seem to be a no-brainer for some people–of course you play competitively. What other reason would there be to play, except to win and learn how to win more? Once you remove the competition aspect from a game, a lot of the fun of it leaches out, and it becomes a mere distraction instead of something you can rationalize spending time on.

But, for others, the competitive angle actually eats away at the heart of what made the game popular in the first place: it’s fun. You know, fun? What we used to have playing this game before it became a nail-biting, tooth-grinding, money-gobbling event? For that matter, when a game is not played casually anymore, is it even a game anymore?

Where I’m Coming From

I’m mainly coming from a background of collectible card gaming and miniatures gaming with this article, but you can see elements of these same two schools of thought clashing in the worlds of sports, races, card games like poker, etc. In any type of game, it seems, you are always going to have the people who absolutely have to be the best at every game they play, and the people who play it to have fun with friends and socialize rather than win.

But sadly, the competitive type tends to quash out the casual type when they are brought together, like hunters shooting bald eagles–the casual players are already endangered due to everything in life having to be a competition in this day and age. Once the competitive players start sucking the life and fun out of a game by making it all serious, the casual players eventually stop trying to play. It’s no fun sitting across the table or standing across the court or field from someone who acts like every missed roll or every missed play is a nail in their coffin.

Yes, You Can Be TOO Competitive

I personally am competitive in my heart, but I hate the way that competitiveness transforms me when I play a game. Suddenly, I have to win, I have to be the best, because I’m such a perfectionist I can’t stand to lose. It really drains the fun out of the game for me, and it’s not fun for my opponent to watch me disintegrate into wordless anger every time the dice don’t roll my way. Thus, I’ve largely gone toward casual gaming, to take some of the intense pressure off and to try to train myself to have fun again.

One thing I’ve noticed, however, in my odyssey away from competitive gaming, is how much competitive gamers look down on casual gamers. To them, we are an inferior breed, weaker players, not really even worth “real” players’ time, because we don’t take the game as seriously. Having been very competitive before, I understand why they get like this–sometimes, it feels like the whole world is staked on your next card, your next shot at the basket. But when a game becomes that important to you, hasn’t it become less of a hobby and more of an addiction?

When Games Are No Longer Fun…Re-Examine Yourself

I don’t intend to solve this quandary in one blog post, but I did want to bring this to people’s attention. Whether you play games just to have fun or you play them to win, if you’re happy doing it, then you’re doing something right. The only time I worry is when it seems that games are no longer fun and they are instead things that you have to win at to be happy. Then, I believe, competition has crossed the line into obsession.

Virginity in the Modern World

virginity
Being a virgin in an increasingly sexual world is kind of weird, to say the least. Most American women my age (late 20s) have already either married and had kids, or they’ve at least experienced sex even if they’re not married. Not to mention that Westernized media (TV, music, movies, Internet) tends to hyper-focus on anything sexual. Anything on TV or in the movies seems like it has to have some kind of sex scene or nudity, ostensibly in order to keep viewers’ attention; in music and online, the more sexual innuendo (or blatant references, more like), the more hits and downloads you get.

With all of this swirling about in our culture, sometimes it makes me wonder–does virginity really have a place anymore in society? Is it even something important anymore?

Going Off My Own Perspective and Experience (or Lack of It, in This Case)

The reason I wonder this is because virginity is still important to me. Now, I’m certainly no prude when it comes to sex–I know mentally how it all works, and I’m not without desire and attraction. Knowing that all this hyper-focus exists about a subject I don’t have any practical experience with does makes me feel a bit out of the loop, though. I’m not used to not knowing…but I’m personally okay with that right now, because it’s part of my personal beliefs to be a virgin until I’m married.

And yet, I consider myself a feminist, too, believing in equal treatment of the sexes; I do not consider my beliefs on virginity to be a contradiction of feminism, because I believe male virginity can be just as important for a man’s sense of self (more on that later). I am aware that the whole custom of the “virgin bride” arose out of a paternity concern on the part of the husband throughout history; the men wanted to be sure their heirs were truly theirs. But now that the era of hereditary dynasties and such has largely gone by, Western societies don’t socially fixate on a woman’s sexual status quite so much, and for the most part, we as women are more in control of if, when, with whom, and how often we have sex. (It’s not completely there yet, as Steve Harvey’s overtly sexist commentary on “women’s precious jewels” clearly depicts, but it’s progressing.)

Growing up in the American Southeast as I have, however, I have seen the morals of the “Bible belt” firmly in place throughout my childhood and early adulthood. It’s still generally understood around here that if you’re a “good girl,” you’ll remain a virgin until after you’re married–old traditions die hard, I suppose. There’s not nearly so much societal judgment that falls on a girl’s head for “disobeying” this social more as there used to be, but there can still be whispers and ugly rumors. This is likely one unconscious reason that I have chosen to keep the V-card (to use the modern parlance), though there are plenty of temptations out there for even the most stolid of women.

But what about virginity is so important? Personally I feel that my virginity is a part of my identity, but not a permanent part; it is a marker of my commitment to my future. My boyfriend of several years views his own virginity similarly; we are all but married, and yet until we are actually married, we are both waiting. (I might be getting a tad impatient right now, LOL, but I’m abiding by his wishes and my own convictions.)

The Modern Meaning and Use of Virginity: More About Self, Less About Reputation

This use of virginity seems to be rather rare; virginity has long been seen as either a commodity (for women to give to men) or as a hindrance (for men). Furthermore, female virginity used to be (and in some places still is) a requirement for marriage, and the loss of it before marriage meant shame and even death. But I find that staying a virgin until marriage nowadays has three mostly-ignored benefits, for both genders:

  1. you largely escape the concerns of STDs
  2. you don’t have to worry about being a single parent of a child you weren’t ready for
  3. you get to experience sex first with the one you really love

With HIV and other STDs running rampant, this is a health concern as much as a cultural and spiritual concern; you can’t be too careful with your health! And certainly being responsible about bringing children into the world is just as important–waiting until you are (more) stable, capable, and ready for a family helps. But waiting so that you and your future husband or wife can learn about intimacy together seems like the most compelling of the three reasons, at least for me. I don’t know for a fact, not having experienced sex yet myself, but I view it as such a vulnerable act that I wouldn’t want to attempt it without knowing and trusting the man I’m with. And I don’t see this as a female-only mindset, as I mentioned before; male emotions and well-being are worth protecting and nurturing, too, despite the fact that male virginity is often discounted as part of being a “loser.”

Why do I place equal value on female and male virginity? Because relationships in general are acts of vulnerability and trust–you are sharing your emotional and mental self just as you share your physical self in sex. I am now as guarded about my emotions and well-being as I am about my physical body, having been hurt before, and I’d dare to say many people have experienced that same kind of heartache and broken trust. Sex, however, often aggravates underlying relationship problems rather than alleviating them, especially if given too casually. Couldn’t virginity for both parties (or at least abstinence from sex too soon in the relationship, if one or both people are not virgins) ensure that we build the strong emotional and mental connection first, so that physical intimacy later is just icing on that cake?

A Few Closing Thoughts

I certainly don’t have all the solutions to the emotional and social problems that have cropped up around sex in our society, but I do believe that for both genders, sex can be frightening if one or both of the people involved feel pushed or rushed. And our culture is really not doing a great job of depicting unhurried, true loving intimacy based on a solid relationship. I’m not saying that everybody’s got to wear a purity ring till you’re married, but staying a virgin could protect you from the emotional pitfalls of a relationship as well as the more obvious physical ones. It has certainly functioned that way for me thus far.

Warmer Temps, Warmer Mood

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multicoloredbushes
pinktreeblossoms

It’s amazing how much the coming of spring affects my mood. Even though I know I’ll hate the hot weather when it arrives (usually in late April for us North Carolinians), I can’t help but enjoy the warmer breezes, sunnier days, and slowly leafing and budding plants. It feels like something in my spirit unfreezes–something unfurls and reaches for that first touch of sunlight that bears real warmth.

Could this be Seasonal Affective Disorder? Maybe. But maybe I’m just a springtime creature, reveling in the earth coming back to vibrant life after a long winter of icy weather and a dull outdoor color palette of browns, whites, and grays. When the woods around our house begin to yawn and stretch with birdsong and warm sun rays every year, I awaken with it, and wear my short-sleeved shirts with abandon (and without a coat). Soon, spring will bring waves of pollen blowing into our faces, and later it will leave us with humidity that won’t let even the least bit of sweat evaporate, but till then I will enjoy little buds of color slowly appearing on every bare branch, and the first brave green sprouts dappling across the front yard.