Sunday, March 30, 2008

The enjoyment inherent

It's a goal of mine to be able to twirl my elec. guitar over my shoulder, back across my hip and into my hands, jumping right back into the midst of some complex solo in a metal song on stage. But I find it a bit hard to focus or look forward to practicing...........perhaps because I keep wishing I could skip it.

After I bought my guitar years ago, I've gone through two teachers. The first was some guy I met in Guitar Center while perusing for my own axe. I started to taking lessons from him, but he stopped picking up my calls when he realized I wasn't practicing at home (due to being overwhelmed with schoolwork). It was ok though, I was going to stop calling anyway. His breath and teeth were horrendous from the daily consumption of black coffee, which I assume he did without brushing his teeth just as much. The second was some guy I knew from Junior High School who taught lessons at the same price. Everything was ok for a little while, but that also went downhill for the same reasons. The schoolwork I mean, not his breath setting my nostrils on blue fire.

A book the second teacher told me to buy, a Mel Bay text called "Mastering the Guitar", had exercises, notes, chords, scales, musical concepts and two play-along C.D.s. It seemed pretty self-explanatory, which lead me to just teaching myself to play and saving the 30$ a week for something else.

Practice took time: the book would give me a bunch of notes to play at a certain beat measure, and I'd have to set the metronome (little machine that ticks rhythmically) at a slow pace and play it couple of times. While doing this, I started to imagine an Incubus or a Finch song and wish I could play it right now. Thus, the comparison between what I want to play and what I could play would come, and I'd lose the patience it took to actually build those skills. Every morning, I'd be frustrated that I couldn't play "Pardon Me" or "What It Is (To Burn)", and eventually I'd stop practicing.

But something has occurred to me (although I must admit it's a bit silly). Back when I attended a Korean Christian church every Friday and Sunday and was attending Community College on the weekdays, there was a video arcade near both locations that I would go to, in addition to playing Playstation at home. I attended these things in a piece of every chunk of free time I had, for I was a very devoted Street Fighter player.

I mean, when I was younger, my mother gave me money to take the bus to summer camp, which was across town. I'd leave the house, walk to camp instead, go into a pizza shop and trade my bus fare for money (it was worth $2 but they only gave me $1.50), and use it to play the Street Fighter arcade they had in the back of the store. Everyday.

I played the game for years, although nowhere near as much today (I do look forward to Street Fighter 4, though). And although getting better was a goal in the back of my head, I didn't play the game for that. I played the game because I enjoyed it, and overtime skills began to develop by themselves.

So, although playing Street Fighter and the guitar are two different things, I think the principle can still apply to both. Perhaps I would gain the patience to practice if I just enjoyed practicing instead of dreaming about being Santana all the time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Death in the Individual's Life

A December issue of New York Times Magazine printed an article about former Governor of Washington State Booth Gardner running a campaign to legalize doctor-assisted suicides in the United States. The article basically paints him as a bit of a selfish man: having almost completely missed out on his son’s, Doug Gardner, early life as well as time with his daughter and wife to be in the public eye of politics. His basic principle behind the topic, one which just fell in his lap while he looked for something to promote to put himself back in the public eye, is “My Life, My Death, My Control”. His son, a Born-Again Christian with whom Booth is trying to reconcile before he passes (he is 71 with Parkinson’s disease), is propelled against his father’s campaign by a belief in “sanctity of life”; that the taking of his own life is not a judgment for Gardner to make. These viewpoints are the most popular ones on the topic.

There are other things to consider, like the repercussions of introducing such a law into the U.S. society. How the training of the procedure will affect doctors who must put introducing the option to patients into practice, subconsciously suggesting it to some people because it may seem the easier choice based on the situation. How it will play into the minds of the patients, who may take the option because the cost of medicine, surgery, treatment, etc. would be too much financial strain on them and their family. Or perhaps other patients who ask for the option as a quick fix for their fit of depression and anxiety. There was also an opinion expressed in the article by a feminist who believed that deeply embedded traditional gender roles may compel a sick woman to ask for euthanasia because she feels meaningless from not being able to take care of the house and family (to cook and clean).

Anything new that’s introduced into society has its effects. This is just how dynamics work. Although some doctors may persuade depressed or poor patients unjustly into killing themselves, I highly doubt there will be some landslide of this when the law is introduced. Furthermore, this isn’t the 1920s. A much higher percentage of women are more independent, therefore being able to decide the meaning of their lives for themselves.

For me, the basic principle behind the issue is basically how Booth states it above: My life, my death, my control.

To me, it seems like the people who promote the “sanctity of life” belief define the word “life” as just being able to breathe, and that this is the gift of God. The patient’s pain can be downright intolerable, as well as irreversible and incurable, only to get worse and worse until the patient dies of a raging shock of misery. But as long as they are physically alive, they should breath until the last breath. So basically, these people want ill patients to suffer for as long as they possibly can. This is the “sanctity” they speak of.

Life is entirely too complex for it to be narrowly defined as “alive”. It’s a crucial piece of life, but not life in itself. Once again, as I see it, life is basically the ability to be. To be mentally, physically, spiritually, musically, politically, religiously, myspacially…..however. As long as you have the ability to be; to affirm yourself. It is at this point which only the patient can possibly know if they have it left in them to be; if God is calling them back. No one else can possibly know this but the patient.

I speak of this, envisioning those who come down with a strong illness that will eat away at them gradually and cannot possibly be cured. But then again, we’re back to making the mistake of trying to quantify something that can’t be measured. A doctor who diagnosis’ Lou Gehrig’s disease can proceed to explain that the patient will acquire muscle atrophy, in his arms, legs, then the rest of his body due to motor neuron damage, struggle to eat because of increased chance of choking to death, and other symptoms until they eventually die of pneumonia or something else. But they cannot describe the misery and pain of having to live with all of this. Since this is the case, most people also see the patient’s depression as a symptom of the disease, rather than the rationalized outlook of someone who experiences these conditions, to the point in their lives where they’re just a conscious soul trapped in a vegetable of a body, and then onward until it consumes them whole. Attempting to narrow down a list of illness for which euthanasia should be applicable is a bit of a problem as well.

As I’ve said before, to be or not to be is the decision of each individual patient, and the reason to live infinitely varies as well. One may choose to live for their families, one may choose to fight the illness until they can’t anymore, and another may endure for their own reason. Of course, the patient must take other people’s opinion into critical consideration, but other people shouldn’t be allowed to make that decision for them (unless it’s obvious that the patient is making a suicidal decision in delusion). You may consider this frame of thinking selfish, but what would you call the “loving” family member(s) or friends that expect the patient stay in constant searing hurt everyday just to be around them?

Life may very well be God’s gift, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Death is an absolute bad thing. I wouldn’t think Christians, who put so much emphasis on the afterlife, would look so harshly on the topic. Just as well, I think the belief that suicide is cowardly is stupid and irrational. Illness is not some $100,000 challenge on Survivor. Instead of looking at it as being strong versus being cowardly, the decision should be viewing as choosing to rest in peace instead of dying painfully.

A Critic Must Criticize Their Own Criticism

There’s a co-worker of mine, Fred, that’s also a friend. Me, him and Paul form the intellectual elite at my job, often getting together at the furniture desk and talking about geography, animal species and American History.

One day, we were having a talk about the range of foods I eat/cook, which basically comprises of cheeseburgers, pizza and other things that go on to make a small list of nothing but popular American stuff. Him, being taught early on in life by his mother how to cook a plethora of dishes with French names that require bobbing your head and a deep voice to say, asked if I wanted to come over so that he can cook for me and broaden my horizons. I said fine.

He asked me about a time when I could come over, and we didn’t actually settle on a final date until a week or two later (it ended up being last night). I further inquired about how the dinner would go……. and I don’t know why I thought that he meant he would have some of his friends over and cook for all of us. But he didn’t, he just meant he wanted to cook for me.

Superficially, I felt a bit awkward about this. It didn’t help that he’s gay (which I have no problem with). Furthermore, the problem wasn’t with him being gay, but rather that I just felt awkward going to any guy’s house so he could cook for me.

I asked him if he planned on having anyone else come over, and he said “No, not really, but if you want me to ask one of my friends over or you want to invite someone, feel free.” I told him I hope he wasn’t offended by me asking that, and although he assured me he wasn’t, it didn’t assuage the guilt.

Shamefully, (emphasis on the shame), I was worried about people thinking I was gay when I explained that I went to his house so we could have dinner. It sounded like there was some romance implied in the equation.

I’m not saying that I’d go around announcing it through a megaphone, but if for some reason the subject of his cooking, or his house or Manhattan apartments or whatever came up in conversation, I will say that I’ve been to his house for dinner. It’s silly to hide stuff like that, but I can’t help but be annoyed or angered when talking to idiots who think homosexuality is some sort of disease that you get if you associate with someone who is gay. And although their criticism is based on solidified ignorance, they can be pretty bothersome.

At any rate, those thoughts conflicted with the fact that he is my friend, and concern for what others think is what I always reproach other people for having, regarding anything in life. I was just going to his house to eat and be company. If someone else came up to me and said that they didn’t want to go his house for the reason I just said, I’d start viciously criticizing them instantly.

I asked some other people if they wanted to come and for various reasons they couldn’t, but conclusively, I brought my friend Audra over with me. Had she not have been able to go with me, I would’ve went anyway because not going sort of appeared to me like I was ostracizing him, and that’s the last thing I’d want to do anyone.

We had scalloped potatoes with shitaki mushrooms, pork loin and some other kind of seasoned, thin-cut vegetables with sliced oranges and wine. The potatoes, pork loin and wine was pretty good. He then gave us some sort of desert, the name of which I forget how to pronounce and would not know how to spell if I remembered. It was tarts that, instead of being filled with vanilla pudding, were filled with vanilla ice cream, and then topped with whipped cream and strawberries. I’m not a fan of sweet stuff (although I liked the bite I had), so that was Audra’s meal.

Fun night.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"The two hemispheres in my brain.....are competing?"

This is an old post I put up on MySpace a while back. I like it, so I've decided to repost it here:

Reading "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick, I came across this passage. The main protagonist, Bob Arctor, is sitting in his living room with a book, and a sort of arbitrary enlightenment or reflection hits him:

“ ‘Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and very often, in fact almost perpetually, he deliberately deceives himself about that little precious fragment as well. A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all.’”

Quite the despairing mentality. According to this insight, there really isn't anything we can "grip"; that we can call undoubtedly real (of course, I believe the realm of ideas and things of a spiritual nature can be this). Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and we can't even perceive that tiny portion with any genuine clarity.

This kind of thought brings into question the nature of our historical record, our daily interaction with people you meet, the more intimate relationships we have......everything actually. A here-and-now person would probably say that expressing concern over what we really know and don't know is just a waste of time, and that we should enjoy the ride while it lasts. But for others who continually look for something concrete; something they can rely on; a basis on which the world turns and humanity progresses in some grand design, this is quite troubling.

Does it really matter if nothing is real or not? I guess it depends on what you want to do with yourself. I personally think everyone asks themselves this question at some point in their life. No one can live in a world where everything, including things in the personal life, is constantly changing. You'd never have anything to look forward to. No hope.

In one kind of situation: you can continue to sleep every night in bed with your husband or wife peacefully, with the feeling that you've found that someone with whom the path of the rest of your life has been carved, until you find someone else that arouses a new passionate emotion in you and you conclude that your old relationship was just based on years-long lust or staying together just because it's traditionally the honorable thing to do. Based on nothing real.

And you start the new relationship with the next person..........and the proverbial wick burns out on that candle as well. This is when the question hits you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Bourne Interest

So, I finally got around to seeing "The Bourne Ultimatum", being a big fan of the series and not being able to see it in theaters since the one person who I use to go to the movies with often has moved on to....bigger and better things. I thought, like the film critics who were probably paid off to say this and have it printed on the back of the DVD box, that it was one of the best action films I've ever seen. One of the best action franchises I've seen, actually.

I thought Matt Damon did a great job as Bourne, David Strathairn did a great job as a destructive, pompous asshole, Joan Allen was a convincing voice of reason, and the story and plot twists were intriguing and thrilling. It was a great blend of action, drama and intelligence (I feel compelled to mention the last one since action movies next-to-never come with this).

I was so captivated by the story that I've decided to start reading the Ludlum books as well. I don't usually do big names like Ludlum, Clancy, Tom Bell or Stephen King because......well.....they suck. I'm also not sure about reading the Eric Van Lustbader books, which start after the third Bourne story, because they've received negative criticism. But I guess I'll just see how things go.

Anyway, when I put the DVD into the XBox 360 and played it, one of the coming attractions was a trailer for "The Bourne Conspiracy", an upcoming title for the XBox 360 and Playstation 3. Usually, games based off of films and T.V. shows are about as fun as brain surgery. But this one looked to have sharp graphics and good gameplay. Of course, I could just be intrigued by the graphics, and upon buying and playing the game, will find out that I would've rather spent my $60 on 7 lbs. of salmon, but it almost seems like the developers actually cared about gamers' interest. Analyze for yourself.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blasted books.

Bollocks, mate.

Yesterday was spent with a couple of friends downtown, eating at a bar semi-filled with a bunch of over-enthusiastic College Basketball fans who were probably on their lunch break from work, given the time of day. We originally planned on going to the movies (choosing between "10,000 B.C." and the Tyler Perry thing) but decided not to because we were all entirely too sluggish and tired after eating burgers and drinking Skyy Vodka and Blue Moons in some dark corner. So we meandered into Barnes & Noble.

It's never easy for me to just browse when going into a location of this chain. Immediately after coming across the first shelf of New Fiction (not bestsellers, those shelves are usually full of codswallop like James Patterson and Stephen King), I always see about 6 books I want to buy.

My favorite genre is mystery, so I always look for those first. After my friends went their own ways, I came across some book yesterday about a woman who has sex with an "intriguing stranger" or something of the sort one night, then wakes up the next morning and finds herself in the national news media as a top terrorist suspect. The author was some new guy whose name I forget, but I was interested in how this woman went from being nobody to an international criminal overnight, so I took the book and held it as I continued to walk around.

For the main part of shopping, I tried focusing on the Non-Fiction aisles, since I hardly ever read that, but after eliminating everything that didn't really cover any subjects I was interested or cost too much at the time, it came down to 2 books.

One was "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", the classic novel by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche about the famed man who journeyed up a mountain and founded the religion of Zoroastrianism. It only costs 8$, and while it wasn't anything that generally stuck out that much in my mind, I've always been interested in it.

The other was a book called "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. That was a bargain book for 6$ and had a nice, embossed, colorful cover that made it look uber-contemporary. I breezed through the summary and upon seen the mentioning of Vlad the Impaler, thought the whole story focused on him and his history. I was definitely going to buy that, but when I actually read the summary and ascertained that it was just about some character who has connections to him, second thoughts arose.

In the end, I bought nothing because I already have a billion books at home to get to and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is taking entirely too long to finish. So far, I have to conclude that this is J.K. Rowling's worst.

Ah well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A serving of hope, please?

Just a sprawling post about how it hasn't really been a hopeful approach to a New Year.

It is March and we are attacked daily by T.V. and printed news reports of how bad economy is. The stock market is the worst it's been in years. People buying and financing houses can't even afford to pay off their mortgages, which means banks are losing loaned money.

There's a bunch of talk from me and my friends alike about definitely getting better paying jobs, but these seem less and less likely to exist. I've been applying to other jobs, and although it could be the resume or cover letter, it doesn't seem like a lot of companies can afford what new applicants are looking to get paid. I suppose, at the jobs some people are already at, the bosses use this fact to bully the employees and force them to work as much as possible because "plenty of other people could fill this position". But, to avoid this oppression, I keep hope and continue to apply to other jobs anyway.

Bush has proposed/passed some stimulus package that will purportedly create more jobs and provide bigger tax refunds and bonuses to lower class families. If I remember correctly, the focus of this program is the building of the middle-class, so the budget for lower-class programs like Welfare are receiving cuts to help finance this. But beyond this, the other day, he appeared on T.V. with the pair of wide floppy ears he shares with Obama, and said our basic economic structure is good. If the country was a complete dirt-covered, smog-filled wasteland and everyone stood around burning barrels to keep warm, he'd probably still be saying this. Well actually, by the time this imagery becomes real-life, global warming would've probably done it's disastrous works, so we wouldn't need the burning barrels. The real question is whether Obama's across the board tax cuts or Hillary's specific budgeting decisions will do the trick.


One morning, while erasing and editing my blogs on MySpace in the opening process of this one, I decided to take a peek at some of the currently most popular MySpace blogs. A list of them came up and I clicked on the top one.

It was some girl who was on MySpace music. I skimmed through the spelling and grammatical errors of her blog post, catching things like "I left abuse" and something else about heartbreak: nothing actually worth reading. Back on to her main page, I listened to one of her songs and immediately knew that I'd rather spend an hour watching tar dry on the pavement than to listen to a whole album of that audio apocalypse she called pop.

I got on the train to work, and across the car someone unfolded that day's newspaper, giving me a plain view of the front page. A picture of the MySpace music girl was on the front page, who turned out to be the prostitute in the Governor Spitzer scandal.

So, on top of our country having a trillion-dollar deficit, the little bit of tax money that is supposed to go to repairing New York is being spent on an average-looking woman with the voice of an incinerated bagpipe. Of course, in the process of newspapers and broadcasts repeatedly talking about this event (and her specifically), the aspiring singer and high-priced escort made $200,000 from her single and is in talks to do a spread for Playboy. Talent has long since been separated from rising stardom.

The New Governor, David Paterson, the first African-American and blind Governor of New York, came into office after Spitzer resigned and immediately publicly confesses that he and his wife have had affairs on each other.

-Was he trying to show that he's honest?

-To show he cheats with his own money?

-Are having extra-marital affairs what make you a true governor?

I wrote (below) that reading has gone down in the last couple of decades. Reading (not skimming) opens and cultures the mind with understanding. I still feel like a strong intellectual stimulus and exchange of logical and creative ideas is what would really help everything else. But this, like a job with better pay, seems less and less likely to happen......

Back To Being Cavemen

So, reading has gone down significantly. Studies have documented a loss of 20 million potential readers from 1982 to 2002. Most blame the Internet, and all the attention that has gone to it (the age bracket that has been hit the hardest was 18-25, the age that mostly uses the Internet). Some say it's the way books are introduced to the youth in school and their following perception of it. Perhaps it is being pushed too hard on the children and they reject it. Maybe reading is not being pushed hard enough. An economic class view has the perception that most middle class and upper class kids see reading as an enjoyable recreation while poorer kids view it solely as a tool to further their attainment of good wages (although there are plenty of children who see it as both or something else altogether). Statistics about today's reading go into all kinds of divides from liberal and conservative, to racial, and even which kinds of genres are most popular in which social groups.

Since there's no real, visible source of the problem, no real solution has materialized. The National Endowment for the Arts has met with other groups and library chairmen to discuss the situation. I'm not really sure how a future life on the Internet would work for literary. Digital space and data is infinite and changeable, as well as easy to steal, putting books in the same category as MP3s. Books as digital laptop/desktop files would have a weak economic life. There's a closer public eye being put towards e-books, and things like the Long Tail theory and the Espresso Book Machine have been invented with the focus of bringing today's people more access to a wider range of books, although I don't know how that would substantially help if there's no interest books to begin with.

At some point very soon, I hope a renewed interest in reading starts. Not just because I would like to publish some works in the future, but because with an upcoming recession, global warming approaching, and a watered down education in school (my little brother is 11 years old and does not know how to read an analog clock or write in script [which I can suppose is an outdated skill, but how does it hurt to learn it?]), I don't think there's a better time for the widespread interpretation and sharing of ideas. Yes, the digital world is flourishing, and millions of people are blogging, but blogs are not really a structured basis for information, rather than a national forum that allows Bob in New York to read about Sally in California's day at work. I think being more vividly aware of politics, technology, the environment, transportation, business, the sciences, etc. through the reading of non-fiction and fiction would spark a consciousness and a move towards productivity in all aspects. Of course, there will be conflict, as there always is, but that is better than the future we seem to have now, which is a rapid descent towards general stupidity and environmental disaster.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deconstruct the Stereotype or Perspective is not fact

Racism, it comes in all kinds of forms and from all kinds of people. But my friend fails to understand this.

One time, while walking back to the train station from having some drinks at a bar called Cheap Shots, we overheard an Asian man asking for directions to get to a place from a group of people nearby. When they told the man that they didn't know, my friend then asked him where he wanted to go, and then told him directions to get there. The Asian man departed, and right after he did by a few feet, my friend expressed the assumption that the Asian man didn't trust his directions because they came from a black person and he sought out more directions from a white person.

When disagreeing with him about making that baseless assumption about the Asian man, he responds by saying "In case you didn't realize, racism still exists in the world." And then asks me "What do I think about whites that prevent blacks from getting jobs because they just hire other whites." It was a bit hard for me to immediately respond to the generic nature of this question. I first asked him "What about it?", then asked "What do you plan on doing about it? (since this was such a solid problem for him)." He said that he would be successful in business, make lots of money, and be known in a company by his name and work in particular and not be considered "another lucky black guy". That's nice.......but he didn't answer my question. I still don't understand how this would help anyone but him.

He pigeon-holes other races when they're brought up. He'll say he's joking, but after reading a Myspace post he wrote about the time he accidentally "hit a Mexican" with his car (seriously an accident, he's not a monster or anything) and listening to him describe how Puerto Ricans live when they come into this country, I'm not really sure. If he speaks to a white person sitting next to us somewhere or at a party/gathering, he'll come back saying "I bet they're probably surprised that I'm black and smart.", after saying nothing of any striking intelligence. Furthermore, this would go against his thinking: if all (he keeps saying that he doesn't think this about all whites, but anyone talking to him will clearly see that he does) whites thought lowly of blacks and kept them from getting jobs based on their skin color, their intelligence would matter nil.

The world to him is just whites hating blacks, and even though he says he acknowledges this too (when it really doesn't seem that he does), he does not take into account that there are all kinds of people that are racist against blacks, or that not all whites are racist. Afghanis and others from the Middle East are going through hardships due to the ignorance of many, and Native Americans have come quite close to the brink of extinction from European imperialism. Furthermore, I've tried telling him that this kind of thinking is not progressive. In times before and now, there have been plenty of people who have gone through quite crucial and direct racist suffering, and still don't think the way he does. We should be working towards unity, not trying to put out a fire with a fire.

It appears that, while harboring these ideas about how racist white people are, he has gathered up resentment and became racist himself. Of course, he doesn't realize this because he doesn't hear himself objectively. I recognize this in him because when I was younger, I passionately harbored racist hatred against blacks (which I am), because I was disgusted with the way I seen the community treat itself, but this is for another post.

The central argument for myself is whether to argue with him at all: I shouldn't criticize him for his beliefs because that would make me a little like him. But he is clearly close-minded. Bear in mind that he is also not some raging, foaming-at-the-mouth monster like this post may have painted him to be: he's been my best friend for years and is open-minded and understanding in many other aspects of life. Just not this one. But if I've gotten over my selfish perspective, I'm sure in time he will, too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Price of Affirmation

In the cafe with the clatter of conversations in all directions. As I sit at a small, beat-up wooden table with a glass tray of sugar and an empty Perrier bottle, one group of people nearby talk about different regions of the East continents and cultural religions associated with them. Looking at the man behind the counter, I can't help but to think of the lead character from "Grand Theft Auto IV", Niko something or other.

Speaking of video games, the one I'm playing now, "Army of Two", is about the privatization of military outfits; defending the country for a living and not for honor or glory (what kind of glory and the price of it is seriously questioned).

In the game's story, two opposing politicians (not pictured above) are debating over the bill that would privatize all of the military. Defending the country would be a service paid for, like hiring a house-cleaner. Corporations would be fighting over publicity and the people's money. Mercenaries would be out in the field killing other mercenaries. But a mercenary would only make money when there's war (unless he did a part-time gig as an assassin), which would give them the incentive to start them. One being's profit is always a million other people's suffering.

Am I obsessed/captivated by the action hero/protagonist image? The ability to affirm themselves wherever they go and give dire consequences to whoever revolts? Perhaps the Columbine shooters and Jeff Wiese had seen themselves in the same light. Envisioning that they were personas of singular bravery with the power of affirmation. After being outcasted and criticized, they started to think that their flaws stuck out everywhere they went, and that passersby on the street and friends alike secretly or outwardly laughed at them. They became paranoid, and paranoia makes everyone seem like the enemy.

I wonder if this waitress thinks condescendingly of me because I'm biting my nails. The Roots are playing. I had a small slice of pecan pie with coffee and a bottle of water and my bill is $11. Perhaps it's outrageous prices like this that drive people to join private outfits and take out ambassadors in Beijing. Then the corporation can cover the bill.

Inspired by the Prophet Jasmine (A friend)

We are all alone. It is inevitable to escape this. Why are we alone? All of us are estranged and distant from everyone else. No one has the experiences that another has, no matter how many things they have in common. Since no one shares the same exact experience with another, no one truly understands things another person tries to communicate, if they first understand what's being expressed. It doesn't matter whether it is emotions or viewpoints. No one has any real understanding of anyone else which means that the only thing left for people to validate other's expressions is respect: an acknowledgement that another person's expression of emotion or thought is real. One's personal affirmation in such a diverse world can only go so far, if it goes anywhere at all (not that I have a problem with diversity, I love it).

This brings to mind the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis. In it, united citizens of Babylon who all speak one language decide to get together and build a tower high enough to reach "unto heaven" (in their name). God does not like this and strikes the people with different languages so that they wouldn't understand each other and unite. A key sentence God says in talking about them uniting and building the tower is "this they began to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them" [Genesis 11:6]. Did God dislike that they were working to create things for fame or did He fear the power of his own creations banning together? Or both? Is this the beginning of human's individual experience and relationship with God? Did God stop the Babylonians from experiencing not Heaven but something else entirely?

Does God want us in this despair of loneliness? The main character in "Silence", a novel by Shusaku Endo, is a Portugese priest in Japan named Father Rodriguez. He once said that despair is the greatest sin. Perhaps, in this existential state, it is meant to help us reach out to Him. But we are all alone in a huge web of dynamics that humans can never see or transcend. The irony that a conversation with the Prophet Jasmine has led me to (as she has the power to see these things and doesn't even know it) is that, perhaps the division of languages, individual experiences and affirmation are all there to help us realize how infinitely varied in cause-and-affect life can be; to help us to perceive what we cannot possibly see. Perhaps being alone is the starting point to building some kind of understanding amongst each other.