Posts tagged Thought Provokers
Posts tagged Thought Provokers
It always starts with an idea, some strand of thought that gets stuck in my head, circling around, gaining momentum until… a blog post is born. At least in my mind. Not all of them make it on to my blog, it’s a sad reality that most of the blog post stimulating thoughts that occur to me don’t make it this far. Instead, they sit in my mind until, after a while, I find I can’t write about them anymore. My desktops and notebooks (both virtual and physical) are filled with the accumulation of unrealized thoughts over the years.
But a few of them do make it, there are 88 posts on this blog to prove it. Some I made myself write, some I wanted to make a point with, several more are here simply because the words sounded right, a few mark a turning points in my life, many were written while riding waves of emotion - anger, confusion, nostalgia, wistfulness, excitement.
Yet, no matter where I start, what triggers the thoughts, or what my hidden motivations may be for starting to string together pieces of English in a little box on a screen, by the time I’m done, I always have an answer of sorts. A calming of emotions, a semi-cohesive path of thought and, many times, a conclusion that I never intended to come to. It’s what makes those stale thoughts of mine impossible to write, because all those scribbled thoughts are only the beginning, only the questions, and to find the answers I have to utilize every part of my current state of mind to reason out a way to the end - a state of mind that’s constantly in motion.
I’m sure I could start with a thought that occurred to me years ago and tease out some string of reasoning from point A to point B, but it would be a completely different post, and probably take a different path… and my mind is my no means a conservative field, in fact it’s the exactly opposite - the path just might be the only thing that matters.
The act of writing appalls many people, much the same way that to others engineering problems as attractive as similar polarities, there’s just so much effort involved in getting from point A to point B. Who wants to fill pages and pages with laborious work only to arrive at a puny little answer that you draw a box around? It’s a feeling I can certainly relate to. But the thing is, in thinking that way I’ve completely missed the point. Maybe if someone had told me to box my path from point A to point B instead of point B itself (which in all likelihood is different from my neighbor’s point B), maybe I would have discovered that the journey is as rewarding as the process of writing bits of my mind onto this blog. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself to get back to doing physics instead of spending hours on this post.
People say they like math because there’s only one right answer, but there are so many ways to discover an answer, there are so many definitions of what an “answer” could be, and… what about all the things you discover while trying to find said “answer”? Math is presented so often as a collection of things you can do with numbers, all directed towards obtaining the correct squiggles to place inside a box but… what if that’s not the point? What was that about engineering not being about the stuff you learn but about the process of learning how to think? What is wrong with all these math teachers?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy points out that the question is a lot more important than the answer, but perhaps the greatest computer of all space time would have given us the Ultimate Question and then explained that it’s not the Question OR the Answer but the path from the question to the answer that holds the real secrets to Life, the Universe and Everything.
(P.S. What do you think this post’s point A was?)
I miss the AIM days, the days when you could set a status solely for the slightly self-centered purpose of letting people know why you were not sitting in front of the computer at the moment. Or maybe it was to amuse somebody, or to share something of interest, or to hold a strange type of conversation. Whatever the reason, the best part was that after a while, the status ceased to exist, there was no incessant need to preserve it for future observers. Sure, it existed in memory - your memory and possibly that one friend’s memory who thought that status was exceedingly witty, but as time passed on and that memory became less relevant to your life, it slowly faded away.
Half the meaning was contained in its timing anyways. If I revisit some of my chat logs (and nobody besides me actually felt the need to keep logs), I can catch a glimpse of an away message or status here or there. They’re still clever, interesting, and sometimes sweet, but they don’t mean nearly the same to me now as they did then. Faded emotions, outdated inside jokes, completely dead trends.
It was a nice world. The statuses served their purpose (uh, as a status), sometimes triggered conversations, and peacefully left everyone’s mind eventually. But now, in this day and age, sense has seemingly abandoned us. An ability to scroll through a person’s long dead history? Through past statuses that don’t make sense, conversations with people they even don’t remember, all the way to a few choice baby pictures… what purpose could that possibly serve? (hint: why would actually take the effort to do that?) Rest assured, if a historian was looking to write up a piece about somebody, they’d prefer to hear said person’s life story from their own lips. It’s much more interesting that way anyways, I can personally attest to that.
Sometimes I even wish this blog didn’t have nine whole pages of history to confuse curious people. Reading through pages of thought history just doesn’t have nearly the same impact as being there for the posts in their proper time period. And yet, those pages still exist.
This idea of communication through our past keystrokes, yet declaring for the world to hear how much only our present self defines us is strange. Why is there a need for everything to be recorded? I can’t remember the last time I used a completely temporary status message, AIM or other, to report on my life (but that’s the point, isn’t it?).
It’s okay if you’ve done something enjoyable and there’s no pictures of the event, it’s okay if you had an amazing experience and all your friends aren’t subjected to constant gushing. And next time Duke beats UNC, it’s okay if you run outside and just forget about Facebook. I’m working on it too, and I’ve realized: the more I live it, the more I believe it’s true.
While sanitizing my computer today, I made the mistake of clicking on a file with an interesting title, glancing at the “file preview”, and getting sucked into my own writing, which finally culminated in me almost making myself cry. My younger self would have been proud.
All through today (and really, any time I decide to go through parts of my life) I find the oddest snippets of thoughts floating around. No explanation as to why or how they exist, none was needed at the time, and so they simply exist as a strangely resonant capture of a mood long past. Plaintext files (I love Notepad) with captivating phrases that happened to be running through my mind on a given day and an OpenOffice file with bits of an intriguing plot idea for a novel, complete with awesome sounding quotes and mysteriously clever conversations between characters.
I never write about thoughts here that don’t “come from me”, it’s why every post has a very personal edge, much as I wish they wouldn’t. Because it’s about the thoughts as much as the experience, that’s what imbues these rambles with “leeviness”, that’s what makes them effective. And yet as effective as I’m told some of these are to whomever stumbles upon them, it’s many times more effective when I happen to “stumble upon them”.
If some other person happened to be digging through my files for some reason, I suspect that none of those random strings of words would have had nearly the same effect on them as it had on me (well… maybe that one that even had me questioning why it existed). Whenever I chance upon my past work, I tend to come away with the impression that my younger self was much more intelligent than I ever gave her credit for. And whenever I have occasion to go through the collection of thoughts on here, I’m drawn in; phrases that clicked with my brain then, surprisingly enough, still fit in perfectly well with my mindset now. My words are far more powerful, more… dangerous? to me than to anybody else.
That’s an interesting way to put it.
Yet if we stop to actually consider all of what has been typed above, it’s really common sense, on some level we all know this. It’s why we connect so much better with people that think like us… similar waves amplify each other, the more alike they are, the larger the amplification. But sometimes I think we forget that the person most like us is ourselves; we try so hard to “find ourselves” that we’ve forgotten to see that one of the best ways to do so is simply to go meet our younger selves. People run away from who they were in the past but sometimes, just sometimes, looking back doesn’t hurt.
Divisions are a part of life, they help us categorize and make snap decisions, I’ve even heard it argued that divides, some are given names like “racism”, are evolutionarily adaptive. So I understand the need and the prevalence of divides - at times - divisions both weaken and strengthen a structure. It’s just that I didn’t see this one coming.
I didn’t realize that selecting an undergraduate school on a college application was akin to deciding, oh you know, something important like Team Jacob or Team Edward. Team Trinitard or Team Pratt Brat, as we affectionately call each other (minus the team part… for now). One for the lifeless job-oriented, number crunching, variable assigning nerds with no social life and one for the jobless, lazy gits with ridiculously easy schedules who only have to deal with a few things called “papers”.
Oh yeah, what happened to mutual admiration anyways? It seems that’s the difference between Trinity and Pratt people and Team Trinitard vs. Team Pratt Brat. Stick the label “Team” in front of anything and anybody who isn’t you is not a person any more, they’re nerds, gits, ‘tards, brats. Mutual respect becomes a foreign concept. We’re not there yet, but if we keep treading this path, maybe we’ll get there eventually. Pratt kids? Oh let them write a few theses and see how they fare. Trinity? Ha, stick them in a math class and watch them flail.
Because Pratt kids obviously can’t write well, nobody knows how they got into college anyways, it can’t have been the essays that distinguished them from the 2400 kids, and speaking of the SAT, Trinity kids obviously can’t do math, I mean their median SAT Math scores are probably around 40 points lower than Pratt’s, that’s maybe two whole questions worth of points given the math curve.
Where did we the people finally decide where to draw the line between different species anyways? Something like writing style and 40 points on the SAT, was it?
Divides are useful, divides organize. In some system, somewhere, we are clearly separated, what’s printed on the front of all our DukeCards is proof of that, and that probably makes somebody’s life, somewhere, easier. But don’t forget just how little difference that ink actually denotes, if any. It’s not the difference between ‘tards and brats, instead it’s simply people who made a decision to do engineering and people who made the decision to do anything but.
Anything else, motivations, social life (how do you judge a person’s social life anyways, by what ends up on facebook, yeah?), what they think about you (you think they look down on you? hm, I’m thinking of something called projection…), their thought processes (what goes through my mind as I leave an elementary school, folding up a name tag? Numbers? Poetry? Blankness?), this is what you shouldn’t judge by what’s printed on an ID, or sewn on your arm, this is where divides become harmful.
Would you read this differently if I told you what side of that divide I’m on? Or do you already know? Did you really feel it necessarily to bring that particular piece of knowledge into your interpretation of my meaning? Why?
A lifetime ago we read a story in english class about a guy who screwed up everything in his life but managed to die at the right time and so was forever remembered as an artistic visionary. And there was a corollary in that story, something about about others who had pulled off life brilliantly but fluffed up their death and so went unremembered.
It’s scarily right in a way, you could have never hung out with a classmate ever but as long as it seemed like your friendship was blossoming on the last day of high school, that’s what carries on through the march of time as your impression in their minds. You could have been the best of friends but if you leave on awkward terms that’s built into their image and left there to grow.
Hanging out with some person could have been a terribly awkward experience, but as long as you didn’t mess up the ending there’s positivity coming from it along with a belief that next time will be awesome. Or conversely it could have been wonderful except for, you know, the part where you just walked off without saying goodbye.
As humans, we judge experiences by how they feel to us when we look back at them, I realize. Listen to your internal monologues sometimes. Maybe that offhand comment came out worse than I thought it would, maybe they were hiding something important behind their laugh, why couldn’t I have thought of this witty remark at the time? Oh but it doesn’t matter, she smiled at me before she left, I must have come out of it okay after all.
It almost makes sense when you think about it, but what if you have a penchant for getting everything right except the ending? Well then, better start working on it, if you’re going to get anywhere in this world.
Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter what I say in these blog posts, as long as I don’t mess up the ending.
I tend to use the word “people” on this blog to preface a broad generalization about the actions of humans… mostly negative. But today… today I want to talk about people from the view of someone trying to undemonize these… people. Today’s quest is seeking understanding.
When I look at people I perceive them differently from what others perceive. I pick and choose who I trust and respect with very little regard to general social perceptions and so have acquired quite the strange friend group. I’m glad I do. It puts me in a position to understand that you can’t understand people, through certain means. Confused yet? Here we go.
Last year in AP Bio, following a mass exodus of classmates from aforementioned class, I ended up sitting by one of those people that I’d come to like in my special way. She was cheerful, always smiling, nice to everybody… she was the only person who I could compare my test grades to with ease, because hers matched mine most of the time. She was a sister, she watched as her brother premiered his first acting spot in a play, she was generous, …she bought me cookies at said play. Heard enough? Take that image of her in your head and align it with this one. She was also pregnant.
Let’s just think about it, pregnant teenage girl in high school, that description along makes an image form in your head, doesn’t it? And image with the hint of “likely” characteristics? The girl who sat directly across from me in AP bio, every day until she had her child, was one of the very last people you’d expect to be grouped in that category. But she was.
Let’s look at another.
8th grade I was assigned two girls to tutor. They had been failing their TAKS tests and such and needed help. One stayed for a while, halfheartedly did some stuff when asked, didn’t do much else. The other, after some bantering persuasion of course, took the practice TAKS test I handed her, and put forth quite the significant amount of effort. We worked on problems, went over concepts, and even arranged to meet afterschool to work on things. The teachers gave me a calculator for my “dedication”, she passed her TAKS test. We even became something like friends, she gave me a couple “roses” with chocolate inside the “flower” for Valentine’s day. I never have found the heart to open up the “flowers” to get at the chocolate.
Fast forward some years. She finds me in high school, visits me sometimes at lunch, gives me her number multiple times (every time it changes), at one point in time we attempt to find time to just… hanging out. She’s develops awesome relationships with all her teachers, she loves all her friends, she’s another one of those people that it’s impossible not to like. She works a job on the side and spends most of her free time there, at the cleaners.
February 14th, she walks into a bank and hands the teller a note that says she has a bomb and a gun. Balance those images in your head. I dare you. What do you think of when you hear the words ”bank robber”? What sort of assumptions do you start to make?
These are people I have faith in and I know this: That whatever situation led my friend to walk into that bank, I have full faith that her decision fit her circumstances. Because I had met her first as simply another human being, the term “bank robber” doesn’t add anything more to my knowledge of her. There were no assumptions attached to that phrase any more, and so I’ve learned. I can’t make “those assumptions” when I hear “bank robber”, I can’t make “those assumptions” when I here “pregnant teenager”. I’m GLAD I can’t, I’m glad life has thrown these things into my face. Nobody should be able to. You can’t understand people through groups they’re categorized with. Because everyone in that group has a singularly unique reason for being there.
If you wish to understand them, get the story as they can tell it. That’s it.
When I look at people, what I see is… different from what others see. I get caught off guard whenever people start expounding on things like… what a given person was wearing. Because, as people who spend a lot of time around me can avow, I generally… don’t “see” what people are wearing. Of course I SEE their clothes and all that normal stuff but it doesn’t register in my brain as anything of much importance or something worth storing in my brain for longer than a few seconds. And yet, apparently other people do.
When I look at a person I see intentions. It’s the thought that means everything, their intentions, how “real” they are. The thing that catches me off guard just as much as people talking about outside appearances is the blindness they have towards what I easily see in others. People walk away from another person seeing and analyzing and really knowing ten times the amount I do, in terms of a person’s… social characteristics. Judging so quickly, judging so surely, that it scares me. And yet I walk away from the same person taking with me almost nothing of that, but instead… knowing how that person thought, why they’ve done what they’ve done, what they want to accomplish, how they view the world.
Because to me, that matters so much more, as well it should, shouldn’t it? It leads to this thing called understanding. But it’s actually kind of a circular conundrum as this way of viewing people leads me to know much more exactly what someone is going through, feeling, or thinking, yet also leads me to know much less what I’m actually supposed to do in said situations. Understanding’s down pat, socially dealing with that isn’t.
And along that vein of thought… my people preferences often befuddle everyone, often the people I like are far from any expectations anyone could put on me. There’s an extremely wide variety of surface characteristics in the people I hold in high esteem, but they all share something deeper, something I’ve been referring to in my head as “realness”. That’s what it really is to me, a spirit, a mindset that has consciously or unconsciously made a choice to be real, or sometimes just never had the choice occur to them. It’s the people who plan their actions with simple reasoning they’ll admit, it’s the people who will consult themselves for solutions, it’s the people who will try and not have to show or hide that they’re trying.
Yet the crux of that is, at this point in time I’m not sure if I’m one of those people myself. I’m either the epitome of great intentions or the biggest concealer and unmotive-admitting person there is. Maybe I respect those that are “real” because they’re doing something I’m not. Maybe I like them because they’re the closest people to myself I can find. It’s like… I’m definitely not someone in the middle but instead I’m both extremes at one time. If that makes any sense.
Everyone sees at something different when they look… but what does my sight, mean about myself?
Have you ever been so tired, every action slows down to a crawl, everything gets darker, your eyelids are heavy and it takes extreme force of will to convince yourself to do ANYTHING. And I mean anything?
…yeah that how tired I am now so in lieu of a long thoughtful post I’ll share another one of those introspective games I stumbled upon quite some time ago for your contemplation, aptly titled “every day the same dream”. Enjoy :)
Because it affects how you enjoy it. Think about this, when you have music playing in your ears, your mp3-music-ipod-ZUNE-whatever set on shuffle or playing through an album, that’s one kind of joy. And maybe it’ll shuffle to your “jam” and maybe this is an album you shed tears of joy about every time you think of it, and yet, well, that’s one kind of joy.
But now imagine this. You don’t know when it started, you don’t know WHY, but there’s this song and it’s stuck in your head. And maybe you’ll complain to your friends about this annoying song seemingly stuck on eternal repeat, but really, you’re all right with this soundtrack coexisting with your life, even enjoying it in a way. You won’t admit it but… it’s really catchy and you’re feeling cooler walking in tempo to the beat and if it has lyrics (as all of you people’s songs tend to do), you’re really tempted to burst into song around the most epic parts. Such is the nature of songs stuck in your head. It’s always exactly what you’re in the mood in, even if you don’t think so, your brain knows. It plays what YOU hear in a song, toning down the annoying parts, playing up the super awesome notes, skipping around from one awesome part to another, forgoing all the stuff we usually listen to just to get to the next rockin’ section. You know. In many ways your brain in the best music player you could ever wish for and the joy from this is different, wonderfully different, and uniquely your own.
Tsk. And people seem to place so much value in owning fancy devices and such to accomplish nowhere near the same level of satisfaction.
I know now why one particular aspect of our generation bothers me so, we are on this constant search for satisfaction, pleasure and entertainment from everywhere except ourselves. We’re the most independent generation ever (or so we say) and yet somehow along with that, and technology, and whatever other forces have affected our generation, we’ve forgotten how to look to ourselves for everything we need. It’s just… a worrying trend that find so many people who, upon first encountering a challenge, immediately think “how can I find the answer?”, “who can I go to?”, “arg, help! I can’t do this!” Nothing about “okay, what do I know?” or even just a simple “hm… I’ll mull over this for a while.” What happened?
I never write about thoughts on here that I’ve just… found somewhere else, it doesn’t work that way. I even find that some of my past thoughts are “stale” and I can’t really effectively get to them either, because everything about this, my ability to discover, my ability to write, relies on me knowing intrinsically, in and out, that it’s MY thought, it relies on me blindly typing and trusting that my brain can figure out what it’s rambling on about eventually, it’s not something I looked towards other people to find out about. And as with music, if you’re in the mood for a piece, it sounds hundreds of times more epic and wonderful than if it’s just… there. Even if it’s the same piece being played to the same person.
So maybe we should all appreciate the songs stuck in our heads more, maybe we should all focus on retraining our brain to instinctively ask “what can I figure out?” when confronted with any problem, maybe we should all rediscover the wonders of having a true personal computer (without the strict technology geekiness generally associated with that word) inside our head. There’s a different type of joy to be had in things that come from yourself. Maybe we should all embrace that.
Taking a break from letter writing, it’s harder than it looks and I’ve been neglecting writing about other things. So here you have it, one of those good old thoughtful posts again.
There are two ways to stay warm. One, get it directly from a heat source or two, be insulated and therefore have less of your own heat be lost.
(This is all a metaphor.)
There are those in life that show us love by directly touching our lives, through heartwarming and companionship, laughter and empathy. And indeed, this is love. It’s the love we commonly see… everywhere, it’s wonderful, it’s awesome, it’s amazing.
But perhaps the people who love us the most are the ones that care enough to insulate (protect) us from… cold (things that would diminish our… personal ability to show love?). Not our capacity to love, like our capacity to produce heat, that’s present as long as we live, but things that would deaden the feeling of that love and take away from the warmth of it all. The people who are there to protect us from that facilitate love in a different way; they allow our own love to surround and warm us - they allow us to feel comfortable.
In life, sometimes we forget about the protectors and become fixated on the “direct sources of love” even if it’s the protectors that are the most effective in giving us warmth, personal warmth and thus in proving that they care (even if they themselves don’t even realize it as such). And as we all accumulate “wisdom” and “insight”, “experience” and “maturity”, hopefully this particular realization, or ability, will eventually come to us.
To truly see that the ones that love us most have been there all along… we just hadn’t known it.
(…not saying that those two sources of love are mutually exclusive, of course.)