Reflecting on 2018

(GIF above is from my trip at the end of 2018 to Joshua Tree National Park)

The older I get, the more I appreciate time’s guiding markers. I agree, maybe it is a bit arbitrary. To celebrate a revolution around the sun doesn’t actually mean it’s a new starting point for anyone’s life. We don’t go in to a new year somehow different people. We don’t magically restart, it is work. For me though, it is a cognitive reset which puts me in a better position to be smarter about how I work, and how I focus it.

The chance to do that-either with friends or on your own- is a wonderful experience, especially after tough times. In recent annal resets (heh) I’ve spent it as I’ve wanted to, either; on my own drinking champagne, reading philosophy and comics, and listening to Arrowsmith; driving through Joshua Tree blasting U2 unabashedly; or with my closest friends high up in the mountains and dancing around in the blissful darkness with our ridiculous amounts of glowsticks and nights infinite points of light high above our heads. Life is hard and ridiculous. That we can have these preciously good moments, that I can do it however I want, is a gift/blessing/such dumb luck.

The older I get, the more I’m more honest about the type of person I am. I value resiliency and resourcefulness, and am happy that I have that. Because I valued that though so much, I’d only want people to see that strength. I never wanted people to see me struggle or show a softer side of myself. I wasn’t always successful by the way, especially when I first fell in love, which was heartbreaking. Boyyyy, was that an experience in humility and a struggle. But what my experiences, especially the experience of heartbreak, taught me was that I am very human and with that are flaws, but being softer and vulnerable-in appropriate moments- is not a weakness.

I used to mistake a softness of being with weakness. If people don’t see the strengths I do have, I just can’t care so much any more. If they make assumptions about who I am when they see my softer sides, I don’t care. Too tired. That’s another beautiful facet of getting older-you’re just too exhausted to care about inconsequential things.

Strength just is being honest about who you are, especially in the face of expectations; being able to be vulnerable when you have been hurt before, being resilient in the face of failures and hardships, loving in spite of heartbreak, etc.. Being human fully is a strength and a privilege.

Moreover, maybe that I am celebrating these moments is an indication that every year, I become healthier. The more I go through life, the more OK I am that life will never fully be OK. I don’t mean this is a sad way. I just do do not see despair through the experience of harsh hardships anymore.

What I mean is I grew up in a chaotic environment. I got through by reassuring myself that if I get to “this” point in my life, things will be more safe and it will be ok. Just get up and keep going. It’s a good attitude to have, but it’s also important to be able to enjoy life at any point if you can because the reality is, “shit happens”. Always. Doesn’t matter how well you’re doing, horrible things happen and if you’re not in a mindset to focus and deal with it, you’ll always be running in fear.

Or at least I was. This is destructive in at least a couple of ways; you reinforce the actions that cause the fear in the first place and you forget to enjoy the good things, which lacks reinforcing behaviors that lead to those good things. If you don’t value the good you do have, you can’t build on it.

In my case, I was always trying to get to the next point. The good is-I hope this doesn’t sounds indulgent as I have a lot of flaws- I did build up resiliency. I certainly have moments of crisis, but I always pick myself back up and reassess and adjust, which is something I value and am grateful for. The bad is, I was never in a mindset to really absorb the information of things that interested me and to enjoy the good in my life. As a child, I couldn’t really control the chaos, but as an adult I gained more of that control. It took me a long time after I started to gain control to get to the point that I didn’t feel that every negative event/attitude was a sign that I was less than or that my fundamental safety wasn’t at risk.

In recent years, I’ve built a nice life for myself. There have been some low lows, but the positives have been so incredible. If I kept running, I would never be able to enjoy these wonderful moments. I’ve learned to embrace the negatives so that I could appreciate the positives. I always valued adventure and experience. With that comes hardships. Indeed, every year is hard in some way, but every year gets better for me overall. Those hardships have gone from sources of fear and reactivity into lessons. Not that I am perfect about this always, but it is moving continually in that direction. I certainly hope that my life will be less tough this year than in previous years. However, if that means I can’t progress, I’ll stick to resiliency.

I guess really, I don’t even think of the New Year as a time for a new me. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am at. Even if it a modest location in life, it is mine. I’ve worked very hard to be who I am now. Why would I want to throw that away? I’ve a lot of flaws, but I am in a position to work on it. A celebration of a new year is a chance for me to compare where I was previously and reevaluate strategies…and it’s a chance to imbibe and be silly 🙂

Life is very hard for many of us in this world. I can’t believe how lucky I am to experience such amazing things with the bad things. I do have days when I have no idea how I’ll get through, but I am more aware of just how lucky I am and I hope because of that I will have the privilege to continue to build on that.

l hope to continue to build this life I’ve slowly been creating for myself and to eventually be in a position to help others to do the same.

Mt. Wilson Observatory

I’d like to offer a summer recommendation if you’re in the Los Angeles area.

On May 19th I went to Mt. Wilson Observatory for the first of what will be a series of lectures throughout the rest of the summer. Our lecturer was Dr. Carrie Nugent, who who studies asteroids. She gave a lively talk about asteroids, and discussed how they are a preventable natural disaster. It was educational, entertaining, and she was extremely engaging. She also has a podcast, which I will link below.

https://www.listentospacepod.com

Afterwards they offered bbq burgers and drinks for purchase, followed by the option to view through one of their telescopes. On that night we got to look through the 100-inch telescope.

It was the first time so the numbering system for viewing through the telescope in the evening was a bit disorganized, especially for those who were given a latter number. I’m sure that’ll be fixed for the future though and all of the attendees were wonderful and naturally curious people.

Some people even brought personal telescopes, so it turned into a bit of a star party. Many people there were keen to share their knowledge of the night sky. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend going, especially with friends. As there is some time between the end of lecture and telescope viewing, I’d bring food and beverage of your own. There were plenty of picnic tables. Also definitely make sure to bring warm clothing. It was honestly some of the best fun I’ve had in a while.

 

https://www.mtwilson.edu/lectures/

Language and the Arts

Last night I attended a lecture that is part of a series called Recovered Voices. It’s an initiative aimed at highlighting composers whom were suppressed by the Nazis. This week’s lecture was particularly interesting for me, as it took on a philosophical slant. The following stood out to me: from a practical standpoint, how do we-if at all-encourage people to attend concerts that highlight these voices (this will be an interesting usage of the term, as will be evident in a minute) without it seeming to exploit music that may have originated under horrible circumstances? If music director’s opt to highlight these pieces, do they have a responsibility to highlight the circumstances and context under which the music was composed when presenting the pieces to a wider audience? This will largely depend on how we philosophically understand music, or the meaning of it (if it has meaning at all). The following is an excerpt from the supplemental reading of the lecture (which I recommend reading as it will be much more succinct with expertly observations):

“Of course the battle for and about musical meaning has been going on for centuries.  For some, music is nothing more or less than the relationship between tones in “musical space,” gloriously abstract and preferably untainted by too much contact with other aspects of reality.  Others insist on a general connection between human states of mind and behavior and musical gestures, while still others wish to forge closer connections, arguing, as did Mendelssohn, that music is actually the most precise commentary on human existence.  Finally, in Terezín artists and musicians also used music as a means for sending messages that exposed the propaganda lie of the camp.”

http://orelfoundation.org/journal/journalArticle/what_kind_of_historical_documen

I’ve often wondered how we view the meaning of art. It’s communicative but is there a meaning to these pieces? Additionally it seems like (at least from personal reflections on my own experiences, which is a weak measure) different arts will lead to different reflections (perhaps differently depending on the person).

I remember some years ago, I went to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA) for guided tour that coupled the paintings of an era/location with foods that may have been served during that era and location. My food motivation runs deep.

As we walked through the exhibit the guide explained the context of the paintings and what made them so remarkable (the food if you were wondering, was not remarkable. Though I met a German who was a professional sommelier of water…yes, water).

The following paintings stood out to me (keep in mind this was some years ago):

 

John Singer Sargent, "Portrait of Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son, Livingston Davis," 1890

 

https://unframed.lacma.org/2016/10/31/haunted-lacma-wanderings-john-singer-sargent-portrait

http://brownboygenius.com/2015/02/black-man-sued-right-vote-1780-youve-probably-never-heard/

The portrait on the left is of Maria and Livingston Davis, a mother and son from a prominent family. Though visually it is striking, it’s significance comes from context. Looking at it from today’s perspective it may seem like any other nice depiction of a mother and son, however this type of posture and the tenderness depicted in the painting is in context extremely unusual, especially of a family of prominent class. Paintings like this were typically very postured, perhaps even rigid, to signify class. Here there is a warmth and casualness that is extremely unusual.

The other is a commissioned portrait (possibly) of Captain Paul Cuffee, a freed slave who became a prominent and wealthy business man. Though the painting is not a technically remarkable portrait, the significance of the painting comes from the ability of Paul Cuffee to commission such a portrait. It is extremely meaningful in context.

Perhaps we may say that that context doesn’t give the painting itself meaning, but only our understanding of it. Is that so? (Spoken language relies on understanding meaning from context quite a bit)

Now with this lecture that touched on the meaning of music and it’s ethical applications, especially when we consider music composed under horrible circumstances, I wonder how far we take context to understanding the meaning of music (if it has meaning at all).

Thinking about this now, I think there are two concepts to flesh out: enjoyment and meaning. It SEEMS from my own perspective (which is a horrible metric) like context is less important for the enjoyment of music than it is with artwork, which I wonder if it may get confused with meaning. For example, I truly enjoyed learning about the context of the paintings, it made it more meaningful to me. But with music I’m not sure that understanding the context affects my enjoyment of music. This may be a bit too centric to my own experience, but I think it may be a valid point with respect to the arts. Does something become more meaningful if it becomes more enjoyable? What do we mean by ‘meaningful’ when we talk about the arts?

More things for me to think about.

Time

At this very moment, I’m on a quick trip with one of my closest friends. This point in time for me consists of navigating through odd and complicated life crossroads, but I’ve never been so sure of myself. I’ve never been this happy, content, and surrounded by support.

Additionally, these are the last few hours of being 28. Time is an odd beast, and the older I get the more I realize it.

In university, I developed an interest in the nature of time. From a philosophy of language standpoint, indexicals in particular grabbed my attention. I’m really fascinated by how-probably mostly metaphysically- ‘I am here now’ is meaningful.

My very specific interest in philosophy of language found it’s home in philosophy of time, when I had one lonely but incredible course on the philosophy of space and time. It challenged some deeply engrained assumptions I had about how I understand the world around me. Is time real? What would that mean for it to be real (or not)? In what way does it exist? If it doesn’t, how do we make sense of our experience?

I also acknowledge that though it’s fun to play around with ideas, I want to understand the implications of those philosophical conclusions in various real world contexts. It seems fine fun to challenge the reality of time when we think about comfortable scenarios. But what about the uncomfortable ones? Not that those situations should mould our understand of what is, try to force something. However, I tend to think when we only consider the mundane examples, it does just that. It let’s you play with fun abstract ideas, but doesn’t help you get to what the reality is (whatever that may mean).

Currently, I’m beginning to piece together what some physicists have to say about our understanding of time. In essence, they don’t. At least not very well.

Something so seemingly absolutely fundamental to our understanding of our place in the universe-our existence- is so unknown. A mundane thought takes time to experience.

It’s bewildering and exhilarating. To the adventurer in me, it’s a unknown frontier that I want to explore.

So the older I get, the less I understand but in a strange way it’s had the effect that I value my time-whatever that may mean-more than ever, and spending it with the people whom I care for and care for me.

So-here’s to a 29! May it be filled with hygge, exploration, and a lot of love (reciprocated with the people who earn it 😉 ).

I am here now.

The Beginning of 2018

A while back, I got a paddle board and for my first trip with it I went out into the ocean. When I got out, it was beautiful. Calm serenity, looking out into the horizon and floating out, just touching the unknown. When I tried to get back to shore though, it was the first time in a very long time I felt fear. I should say, a specific type of fear; emotional fear I’ve felt. This fear was a twilight of primal/survival fear. I was out in the middle of an open ocean, not in prime physical shape, never had been out in the water with my board, trying to fight currents and waves to get back in. I was realizing I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was and for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of saving myself. I was never in true danger as there were plenty of surfers around me. Pride wouldn’t let me ask for help though, so I pushed and paddled through as though no one was around. It took me a  long time to get back on shore and I was a bit away from where my friend was waiting for me. I was completely drained and the following day my entire back was in pain from pulling all of those muscles that I had never used before.

It was exhilarating.

I was afraid, but I was pushed (in a small way of course) out of my comfort zone. We get complacent sometimes, but I think in those places of the unknown when you get to test your own boundaries you learn so much. That’s what I want from life. I want to learn, grow, bring some joy to others, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to contribute in a positive way to the world.

It’s been an odd time in my life. I have been trying to get into graduate school for two years now. During that time I have had a job that-though not ideal (which job is?)-it provided some security for me during this interim. I’ve had amazing coworkers, it provided a supportive environment for the pursuit of personal goals, and for some time I even learned a bit about business and the people within it, so I waited for things to come together; I kept staying. But life doesn’t work in the way we plan, so even though I wasn’t being used to my full capacity it was easy for me to become complacent with where I was.

But I wasn’t happy. Perhaps it’s an irrational part of me, as how often do you really get a job that’s as relaxed as mine was and has coworkers who are as smart, funny, supportive, and talented as they are? But somewhere in me I want to feel that fear; I want to be pushed ahead of my limits. I want to use and extend my potential.

And so, perhaps against good judgement, I decided to leave my good job at the end of this month. Perhaps I’ll wind up in a worse situation, but hopefully that will propel me even further. I’m not truly sure what’s in store for me; I’ve nothing waiting for me. But I’m done waiting for nothing.

And so, here I go to make some more mistakes.

3 a.m.

image1I enjoy being alone. I love the virtues of being able to enjoy this remarkable existence as an individual.

Loneliness on the other hand is a deep and painful vortex that smothers the life out of an otherwise happy person.

I’m not scared to die alone, I’m scared I’ll live my life lonely.

I like being alone with my thoughts. I don’t like being with my own thoughts for very long.

I enjoy going to the movies alone. I don’t enjoy always going to the movies alone.

I enjoy relishing in a new restaurant alone. I don’t enjoy always eating alone.

I love that I now love, I don’t love that I love those who don’t love me back.

I enjoy traveling on my own. I don’t enjoy always experiencing a new place on my own.

I enjoy coming to a quiet home and being able to listen to silence. I don’t enjoy an empty house.

I enjoy curling up in bed. I don’t enjoy the pain I feel when I wake up and realize no one is there, no one ever has been there, and no one will probably be there.

I enjoy the night when the rest of the world seems to be asleep and I’m up to good trouble. I don’t enjoy waking up at 3am and feeling the crushing anxious realization that no one is here.

I enjoy waking up from a dream and being able to stretch out and enjoy the memory of it. I don’t enjoy waking up from a nightmare and having no one around to tell me it’ll be alright.

I enjoy looking at the night sky and wondering about how incredibly complex life is and how remarkably little I understand about the universe- feeling as though my place here right now is remarkable. I don’t enjoy feeling as though I don’t ever really belong anywhere or with anyone. Given the former, the latter feels all the more painful.

I love celebrating this remarkably unlikely life on my own. I don’t enjoy that I don’t have someone to celebrate life with me; sometimes it does seem like a chore.

I enjoy sharing my life through the internet, I don’t enjoy waiting to see if anyone else (if I’m being honest, waiting to see if particular someones) likes it.

I love being alone. I hate being lonely.

Life is really good, except in moments like this when it’s not.

i promise I’m fine, I just want to be honest about living life.