Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Perceived Anonymity

This blog is dangerous. If you ask my mom, really dangerous. We were talking about one of my more personal entries and she asked, "What if decision makers read this blog?" Who are these decision makers, mom? If you are out there please respond so I know to censor myself. What bad things could happen? It seems a bit silly ... at first.

Talking to my good friend Simon, he mentioned that it was what he most admired about my blog, my openness and honesty. I was really opening others up to my innermost feelings, questions, and challenges. One person even remarked that they learned more about me from my blog posts than from talking to me directly. And I think that is quite accurate. Would I really publicly talk about fireflies and why they represent my ability to appreciate the meaningful things around me? Would I really open up that perhaps we are not designed to be happy but to be continuously driven by an unrelenting desire to strive for more? Maybe.

This blog for me is my diary in many ways. I have this perceived anonymity as I type these words. They are just words on a computer. They exist on a white background, nothing else. I am not going to document every twist and turn in life, I wouldn’t find that interesting, and I am also unable to fully suspend my disbelief. But my innermost thoughts and feelings are in here, and thus they are subject to the rollercoaster of my life. And it isn't all pretty.

And so mom was right. This blog can be dangerous, if I write in the wrong state of mind or am not thoughtful about what I say or accurately represent myself. Not everything you read is a perfect reflection of me. These are all snapshots in time and state.

Right now, I feel cautious as I write on…

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blind Faith Leading the Blind

I almost hate to pick on the Pope because it so easy. The robe. The funny hat. The ridiculous car. That stuff is easy, and so is picking on his idealogy. The Pope this week demonstrated yet again why blind faith can be so dangerous.

In a decision to overturn the 1960's reform into the modern era of the Catholic Church, the Pope reinstated the old rules. The old, old rules. Without getting into too much detail, he called all other orthodox churches "defective" and Christian churches not "true churches." Defective? That's just mean. And intolerant. And ignorant. And this is where fanatical religions and their figure heads become farsical.

Where is the "love thy neighbor" in continuous, unscrupulous condemnation? Where is the good samaritan figure giving shelter and food to the helpless? Actually, the Catholic church did just pay $660 Million to the helpless - the sexually abused little boys in California that they molested. Who among you is asking how the Catholic Church had a half of a BILLION dollars to spare? For just California? For one lawsuit ...

My older sister sent me a prayer a couple months back. And part of it was a recital of the fact that my love is petty and meaningless without God. At a certain point, you have to say "how dare you?" I have had meaningful love. And while I am struggling to find meaning in life, I don't force strict rules on others in their paths. Except when they become intolerant. What if I called you defective or meaningless or petty?

My friend Kristen. Religious. Tolerant. Wonderful. The Pope? Not so much. With leaders like this, is it any wonder that we continue to experience the polarization of beliefs? That religious wars and fanatics rage on? That there are genocides. What are the Muslims supposed to think about the Pope's request for "honest and open dialogue" when he condems people that for a large part believe the same things he does, like Jesus being the son of God?

Is this dialogue really making our world better? Aren't the fanatics from the Taliban to the Evangelicals the ones perverting their own faiths? Aren't they the ones that are being defective?

Kristen has faith. She sees everyone else around her, their beliefs, and is respectful. She makes the world a better place. The Pope is letting his blind faith blind others and it pains me to watch.

I think it is time we all see the light.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fireflies, Tourists and Poverty

Yesterday I was walking through Tompkins Square Park and I saw my first firefly of the season. It made me smile and think of childish days, of chasing after fireflies in the night with my sister. It was vivid. And then I noticed the trees and all the leaves, the wet smell of the dirt, the flowers that had bloomed but were sagging under the absorbed water weight. And then I saw a man sleeping on a wet park bench. I am not sure I would have seen, I mean really seen, any of these things without the firefly.

I really love to travel. To see new things. New cultures. New adventures. Perhaps that is why my Mom thinks I am insane. I am going scuba diving in Antartica. Pretty crazy, but there are fireflies under that ice and I want to capture them in my mental jar. And tourism is wonderful because you look at everything with new eyes. Like a child. Everything is slightly different, strange, and strangely insightful. Your brain recognizes new patterns, has more to process, and it can be captivating. The trick is to get more than a cursory view, but to actually emerse yourself enough to see what really is going on.

As I walked through the park last night, I had long ago stopped seeing New York City with tourist eyes. I had long ago taken for granted Tompkins Square Park and the homeless people around me. And all at once, the firefly ignited a great sense of urgency, of fear even, that I am missing it. That I am walking past life, not through it. And so I am going to take a more active look around and explore. It is too easy to take things for granted and forget about the serious things, the things that bring meaning to our lives. Sometimes you need a tiny light in the dark to wake you up.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Love: Because I Got to Have Faith, Faith, Faith

Love is a funny thing. What an understatement! I have spent a lot of time thinking about love recently with the recent turbulent state of my love life. I have always dated wonderful girls. The last couple girlfriends have been an A-list fashion stylist, a woman who runs cancer research trials internationally, the NY Times Teacher of the Year, and a leading HIV researcher and published author. One might conclude I have been doing well. In some ways I have.

But as I look back, almost definitively there was a point where I decided that they weren’t the one. I had lost faith in the viability of the relationship. For one, it was a ridiculous public display when she misheard me. For another it was long distance. For another, it was a hormone induced fit that I hoped was atypical, but lasted far too long. For another, it was an insatiable insecurity.

Now you might think that I ended the relationship there. But I never was that smart or that ready to part. I thought I was “giving it a chance”. Instead, I was slowly pulling away, even joking near the end of the “Trevor soft landing approach”. (Full disclosure: the last one was crash and burn). Because I had lost faith in the person and in the proverbial “us,” I had started looking for faults. And we all have them. God knows I am difficult to deal with. But each fault became a way to reinforce the conclusion that I had already come to. And even worse, as I pull away, they typically turn it on. The adage is very true: “We run away from that which chases us, and chase that which runs away from us.” The more they would chase, the more I would pull away. The more guilty I would feel as they got more caught up and I got less. The less I enjoyed their company. The more I would pull away. The more they would chase ...

They say that relationships take work, constant care and feeding. Perhaps if I had more faith in the possibility of a positive end state (how romantic are those sterile words?) I would have made greater efforts. Perhaps if I had a better outlook, I would have overlooked the trivial things that really didn’t matter. And perhaps, I would have stayed or fallen in love.

Faith in its own way becomes a foregone conclusion. It is well documented the way people distort facts to support pre-existing beliefs. Is finding the “one” about admitting that I could settle down and live the rest of my life with someone? Is it about admitting that I could care enough about someone whom I couldn’t spend the rest of my life without? That’s my brother’s definition of love. I would like to say I truly believe in it. I am witnessing it this weekend as I perform a wedding for two of my friends. But maybe my biggest obstacle is my perceived fierce independence and invulnerability, which manifests itself not surprisingly as invulnerability through fierce independence. I create that barrier.

One of these girls recently mentioned to me that the only obstacles in a relationship are the ones we make. It’s the ones we choose to believe in. Faith can be a choice. Sometimes a blind choice. But those choices may close, or just as easily, open you up to love.

Now if faith only came that easy …

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fourth Beautiful, Fourth Spacious Skies ...

Another distraction from my introspection on faith. But it is a goodie. Last night we threw a 4th of July party. If you weren't in the Hamptons, partying in the heart of "Merica," you probably were there. We had DJs, powered amps and speakers, a 60 square foot kiddie pool, and beautiful fireworks. The scene was, well picturesque. So picturesque in fact, that a photo of our party is on the front page of today's New York Times Metro Section. Simply awesome! Next year, the cover of Newsweek!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I Shit You Not

I know I am supposed to be waxing poetic about faith this week, but I was in the elevator at work watching the Captivate network and nearly pissed myself when I read the following story:

"5 Die in Virginia Dairy Farm from Methane Emissions in Manure Pit."

Last words? "Holy Shit?" Ahh, those wacky Mennonites ...

Here is the story and the link:

Five dead in Virginia farming accident
HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) - Tragedy on a Virginia dairy farm, as four members of a Mennonite family died trying to rescue a farmhand and each other from a manure pit.
Rockingham County authorities say five people in all were killed by methane gas emanating from the pit.
The sheriff says emergency workers speculate that each of the victims climbed into the pit in a frantic attempt to rescue the others.
The victims included a couple and 2 of their daughters, ages nine and eleven.
Methane gas is a byproduct of liquefied manure.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Secret - Faith for Faith's Sake

There has been a lot of buzz about The Secret. A book, a movie, a movement. The essence of The Secret is that if you want to control the outcome of a situation you visualize it, actually feel that success emotionally, and that creates an energetic vibration with the universe that makes it happen. So if I am looking for a parking spot near my apartment, I should visualize it; feel the success of parking right in front of my building, getting out of the car and giving myself a high five; and auto-magically the parking space would appear. Perception becomes reality.

As a science geek, I found the scientific explanation to be lacking, though there are some interesting, though shallow discussions about energy and vibration. But what about the theory itself. I decided to give it a whirl. About a month back I decided to start using The Secret (sorry it begs to be underlined). I actively used it at a club, actually saying to myself “Use the Secret”. I focused on winning the Grey Goose bottle service raffle, believed in my heart that I had already won, and voila, I won! Since then I have gotten mixed results. Some eyebrow-raisers. I can’t say there have been uncanny coincidences. But I haven’t been hit by a truck either.

Cynics would argue that I am not really suspending my disbelief and hence not truly harnessing the power of The Secret. That’s probably a bit true. But that is also why it is such a questionable technique. It’s simple and dangerous: If you have faith in the outcome it will happen. If it didn’t it was because you didn’t have faith. How can your argue logically with that?

What a brilliant idea. All you need to do is imagine and it will happen. What an easy concept to sell to people who want more for themselves. It feels so much like a scam, but the problem is that it has a lot of basis in truth.

There have been several interesting studies done where teachers were told the smart kids were the slower kids and the slower kids were the smart ones. The result was that the "slower kids" started doing better on the tests than the "smart kids." Just by treating someone a certain way, or believing they are a certain way, makes them become that way. This makes the classification of the kids as slow or smart not something intrinsic but transient, and questionably accurate at all.

Visualization techniques are common in sports. In one case, a weightlifter who had maxed out at about 400 lbs was asked to do some visualization techniques. Less than an hour later, he lifted 500lbs for the first time. All he needed was faith in the ability to do it.

So in the first example, it was a mistake. Believing the wrong thing, made slower kids smarter. In the second, faith and visualization was used intentionally to achieve a specific goal. What if you did both? What if you intentionally believed in something you knew was wrong, but it was what you wanted? Could you manifest the seemingly impossible? Is the reason that you are where you are because of what you believe, whether right or wrong?

Could you make your life better by believing in the right wrong things? Maybe. Try it …