Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gone with the wind...

I suppose if you still read this (and my site meter tells me some people actually do check in from time to time) then I should let you know that I have moved. I'm still writing, but now it's at Dancing Through Life. Check it out. This place feels old. Time to start something a little more fresh.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I'm in New Hampshire right now. My friends and I, you see, decided to trek up north to visit some friends we met through our study abroad experiences who go to UNH. They came and visited us in Springfield, so we thought we'd return the favor. Thus, on Monday we hopped in the car and schlepped 25 straight hours to spend a week in the great Northeast (particularly Boston and New Hampshire).

We've got a lot of wonderful things on the agenda. We visited UNH's campus, we spent some time in Portsmouth and saw a Celtics game, and so much more. Yesterday we bought SRO tickets to Fenway Park to watch the Royals play the Sox. Though I couldn't overtly root for Kansas City for fear of getting my ass handed to me by a mob of angry Bostoners, I cheered in my heart and much to my surprise the Royals won! We even found ourselves sitting about sixteen rows up behind home plate by the fifth inning. It was a great evening.

Tonight we'll be in Boston again to watch the Boston Ballet perform some of my favorite choreography of all time. It's a show called Black and White, a showcase of Jiri Killian - a prominent choreography from the Netherlands Dans Theatre - choreography. I fully expect an incredible show and a moving evening.

We've seen great nature, wonderful cities, and inredible events (who'd have thought the Royals could EVER beat the Sox?), the best part has been the comradery. I have incredible friends. They bring life to the situations we find ourselves in. They care about myself and each other. It's some wonderful complimentarity.

Last night Dave, my best friend who got me going to church again, and I had a great conversation on the drive home from Boston about liberalism vs. conservativism, our growth as people throughout our four years of college, and what life might look like in the years to come. He talked and I listened. And then I talked and he listened. And I felt like we both really listened, which is such a rarity I cannot even begin to express how wonderful it is to experience it.

I love being with people. I love even more being with people who respect each other and are committed to aiding each other in growth and development. It's such a beautiful thing.

I've got other issues I'd like to blog about soon as I've had some deep thoughts percolating in my head during this trip that I'd like to get out, but that will have to wait for the next day or two. To my family who happens to read this, I love you and I'll see you all soon!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Am I a Writer?

After my last post, I started to realize how much relief I feel when I post something. There is something cathartic about creation, about expression through some media, that I'm attracted to. I've always written songs, played music, danced, or written when times got tough. Suddenly, for whatever reason, I think I've convinced myself that I'm too busy to do those things anymore. Big mistake.

So now I find myself writing, and further, I find myself asking myself if I am "a writer," whatever that means. Not that I'll ever attempt to do anything with it, but the fact that writing is an incredible form of relief is a convincing enough argument for me to stick with it, at least casually. And as the next few weeks will be stressful indeed - papers upon papers, graduation anxiety, etc - you can bet I'll make a few more posts before the semester is out to help get away.

The recent stress in my life has led me to some new conclusions that I feel like I should try and talk about on here. I think I'll just make a list of things I've been thinking a lot about recently. I haven't had time to systematize it anyway, so it's all in there kinda haphazardly.

1) Some things in life are worth forgetting about. While there are lots of things that are worthy of dwelling over and systematically working through, I've discovered that sometimes it really is okay to just forget about some things. Some things are just too small and minor in the grander scheme of things to really stress about.

2) There are a whole plethora of things we simply can't know. God, Jesus, the afterlife, what other people are really thinking or motivated by, the future, etc. There are just so many things that fall outside of our human minds. Often times this means these things fall into the category of stuff worthy of forgetting about (or at least not dwelling over) and other times it means we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, it doesn't help to be pompous about everything and pretend like we're the epoch of wisdom. We're not.

3) It's okay to be different. Being a 22 year old male ballet dancer, a philosophy major, a liberal amidst a family of (mostly) intense conservatives, intensely questioning religion in a town - and family - of seriously serious Christian folk, and the like are OKAY! It's fine to be who I want to be as long as I've reflected upon that and know why I'm doing it. It's also important to maintain integrity and morality amidst these things, but a lot of things are just noise. And when other people try to question my life, I've gotten much more okay with writing them off.

4) People are just about the only things that matter to me. Friends and family. That's it. Screw religious dogma. Screw making money. If God truly is dead in the Nietzschian sense, then the only thing that CAN matter is other people. We make the darkness bearable. We bring light and joy to each other. We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. Everything else just exists to either enable relationships between people or get in the way.

That's all the random ponderings I've got for now. Hope everyone is doing well and I look forward to writing and reading more on the blogosphere soon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A time to be born, and a time to die...

I'm not sure why I'm writing this. I can't pretend to say that I'm going to commit to anything, that I want to grow as a writer, or any of that. What I can say for sure is that I need so very badly to express myself in words. There are some emotions, some states of mind, that are only fully realized when they're shared. I learned that in my Rhetorical Criticism class.

I had one of those moments the other day; one of those moments where only words can bring into existence the true emotion, the gravity, the reality of a situation. I grew up with a friend named Keith. He and his brother Scott were two of my very best friends in high school. They went to youth group with me, I went to their house nearly every day for video games and snacks, and we'd laugh as we watched stupid movies together for years and years. I went to college and Keith and I remained close. I'd still come home and spend time with him and his family - though that time became less and less frequent after I moved away from the Lake - and we were still a big part of each others' lives.

Keith and I still keep close. He comes to my ballet performances when he can. I make it to Fulton to visit him and his girlfriend when I can. I love his soul, and he nurturs mine. Scott, his little brother, lived in Springfield for the past year. We talked from time to time, but never really spent much time together. I didn't know him well after I left high school except what I heard through his brother.

But still, when I heard on the phone Tuesday afternoon that Scott had taken his own life, I was demolished. I got a text letting me know, a phone call to confirm, and then I do what I do whenever anything major happens in my life: I called my dad. And it wasn't until I spoke to my father that Scott's death, the reality of Scott's death, really came to me. All I said was, "Dad, Scott shot himself this morning. He's dead," and I was awash in grief. I was driving, so I had to pull my car over. And I wept.

He was twenty. And a good looking guy too.

I've wept a lot for Scott and for his family over the past few days. I've wept alone and I've wept with those who loved him like I did. He was a great kid with a heart of gold. He let us all know via facebook the morning he took his own life that he cared about us. He wrote:

"Scott knows that no words can express how much I care about all of you, so I hope you will settle for these. I love all of you for every minute of my life you were in it. You all made my life better in your own ways, and for that I can't say enough. Now I'm going somewhere that I can't be followed, and it saddens me to say it, but I must now say goodbye. Goodbye."

I weep even now as I read his loving words again. I wish there was more I could give him now besides words and tears.

Scott's words are a testament to his compassion. He was always trying to give me things. I have a collection of Scott memorabelia in my room this very moment that he gave to me. We shared our love of music, our devotion to those we care about, and we shared precious time together. We talked about girls and guitars. About high school and our futures. He gave me so much.

And that's where Scott has to continue to live for me and for all of those amazing people whom his life touched: In his willingness to give. Who knows why he lost hope or why he felt that he had no way out; one cannot make sense out of a senseless act. But now it is our job to press on, to love for Scott, not to stockpile our time and compassion but to hold our hands open for all to take freely. The only way we can find our way out of this, to make the darkness bearable, is together. It is by loving the way Scott loved. Freely. With abandon. Until the end.

I'm going to miss you, my dear beloved friend. We all will. I hope you have found the peace you were looking for.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Forays into Feminism...

I've considered myself a feminist for years. After taking several classes and reading various books that introduced me to the subject, I've been thoroughly inculcated to believe that women deserve reality on their own terms and we all need to be working to rid our lives of patriarchy in whatever way it manifests itself in our lives. As a man, I know that I have a particular perspective on this matter that may or may not always be perfectly in line with some of the more radical readings of feminist thought, but I also believe that doesn't matter. If feminism is about equality and finding solutions to the issues of patriarchy, then we have to see each other as individuals in a society facing an oppressive system which effects ALL of us, not just women.

That being said, yesterday was International Women's Day and when I walked into the building which houses my first class, I was greeted by a cornucopia of signs which were trying to point out male privilege. As a man (and a white one at that), I understand that I benefit from patriarchy in certain ways, so these signs were not necessarily a surprise to me. What really bothered me about these signs was that there perspective was intentionally antagonistic and as a man I felt essentialised, totalized, and moral degraded by them.

In a situation where equality is the goal, totalizing the other and making blanket statements about who they are and what they're like is terribly counter-productive. This is evidenced by the fact that many of the signs, by the end of the day, had graffiti scribbled on them by men claiming ownership over their privilege. You simply cannot expect men to recognize the ways in which patriarchy effects them by antagonizing them about it. It's demoralizing and it creates more injustice.

Further, I was personally offended by the ways in which these signs failed to realize that men are also effected negatively by patriarchy. In a hegemonic system of patriarchy, the only men who truly benefit are those who fit most perfectly into our ideals of patriarchy. Homosexuals, unathletic men, those deeply in touch with their emotions and feelings, and those who display what we might consider feminine characteristics regularly lose in this system. And the men who "win," I believe must do so by sacrificing much of what makes them who they are (i.e. their emotions, their capacity for care, their time spent at the gym maintaining that perfect Greek physique). What we're left with is a system which upon first glance benefits men and oppresses women, but upon further inspection truly demoralizes everyone involved by failing to realize them as individuals and forcing them into pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a man and a women. I would argue that nobody truly fits into these roles as they are conceived of as ideals in our society.

So I was offended yesterday on several levels. I was upset with the organization who put up these signs for 1) attacking me as a "man" and failing to realize my individuality or the complexity that the title "man" involves and 2) doing feminism in general a disservice. Antagonistic rhetoric never serves to build bridges between oppressors and the oppressed. The demonstration yesterday, I believe, only served to push people further into their corners.

Rest assured, I'm teaming up with a fellow feminist (a girl) and we're writing a respectful critique of yesterday's display (which, as it turns out, was perpetrated entirely by female faculty members) and sending it out to those involved and to our local student newspaper. I hope that this will raise awareness of the issues of gender inequality while at the same time build positive relations between men and women in a way that we might be able to work together to curtail oppressive systems at work in our lives.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buddhism at Work...

Now I don't consider myself a serious Buddhist anymore (don't worry, Walter family), but that doesn't mean that I can't learn a lot from the Buddha and the simple truths he outlines in the Noble Eightfold Path. Let me share with you a bit of my life. This is going to include me sharing some stuff about myself which my family doesn't know, so if you're one of my family members you can either:
1) Stop reading now. Wouldn't want to tarnish your perfect idea of who I am!
2) Read this ALL THE WAY THROUGH before you start to make judgments about my character based off of it. Thanks!

So anyway, about a month or so after moving to Greece, I started smoking. In my defense, hanging out with Greeks regularly and not smoking is a bit like hanging out with your average American and not eating fast food. Possible? Yes. Likely? Not very. When I came back, I quit. I was smoke free all through the summer, but when I came back to Springfield I started smoking again. At first it was just pipes on the front porch every now and then. Then it was my pipe on my front porch every night. Before long, it was back to cigarettes regularly. I was smoking regularly (that is to say 3-5 cigarettes a day) from about September until last month with the exception of a few weeks here and there where I tried to quit unsuccessfully.

Quitting smoking is tough, people. I only smoked 3-5 cigarettes a day and it was HARD. I can only imagine those 3-5 packs a day people and how insanely difficult it must be for them. I STILL want to smoke every day and it's been somewhere around six weeks since I smoked. At this point, it's not about feeling normal again but about learning that this state of constant craving - sometimes more and sometimes less, though it's increasingly less and less - is my new state of normalcy and I've got to learn to deal with that.

So even though I'd tried to quit several times after starting up again, I never could. What was different this time then? Buddhist psychology. Plain and simple. Let me explain.

The idea behind a lot of Buddhist psychology is that we are what we think. When we are constantly thinking about something, some object, some person, some emotion, it begins to consume us. We become our emotions or cravings that we revolve around. Science backs this up. When we think about things or encounter situations regularly, we begin to form neural pathways that in many ways dictate the way we'll react. They create what our mind considers "normal." So, for example, if every day you react to situations with anger, your brain will form neural pathways which make anger your default setting. You get addicted to certain chemicals and certain pathways that those chemicals follow. Naturally, when you try to break habits then, you'll experience some forms of withdrawal. It's just the way we work.

This is a simple truth, neither good nor bad, but it can be used in a myriad of ways. I chose to apply these ideas to my everyday life when I put my foot down to quit smoking finally. Every day I wake up and take a shower first thing. It's a fairly mindless activity, but I turned it into the doorway for change. You see, when I hopped in the shower every day, I would start giving myself positive talks. I'd be lathering the shampoo into my hair saying, "Today is going to be a good day. You can totally do this, and you can totally have a great time doing it." I began every day building myself up. I did this not only to enforce my decision to stop smoking and give myself strength to get through another non-smoking day, but also to try and relieve some of the natural depression that stemmed from nicotine withdrawals. You know what? It worked like a charm.

It's a beautiful thing! And now that I'm calling myself a non-smoker again (it's been long enough that I think that's warranted), I'm using my morning shower time to reach different ends. Lately, I've been working on my self-esteem. I'll be rinsing out my conditioner thinking, "Dammit, man, you're cool. People like you, and why shouldn't they?" Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be some type of egoist or turn myself into a monster. I just think that I deserve to have a feeling of self-worth, and I'm going to give it to myself. I find myself walking around campus happier, smiling and whistling more, looking people in the eyes and smiling, and holding my head a bit higher.

The point is this: Buddhism has some really simple yet profound truths that are directly applicable to our lives. Even just small daily meditations can change your life. You are what you think, and it's pretty much unavoidable.

Sometime I'd like to spend a bit more time talking about some of the more profound notions of this line of thinking. I know this thinking works for emotional pathways, but what about propositions? Can I convince myself of anything but meditating on it long enough? John Wesley, for example, used to say, "Preach it until you believe it." In this light, that thought has some serious implications. That's all for another day, however. I hope this post hasn't messed with too many ideas of who I am!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Being Wild...

I just finished reading "Walden," Henry David Thoreau's masterpiece, for my Senior Seminar. Yesterday we had our final discussion about it, and I realized something strange. There's a little throw-away line about how we all need to do something to keep us "wild," to keep us alive and mindful, to have something to keep us excited about life and not stagnant. We went around talking about what we do to keep ourselves wild, what revs our engines so to speak, and I realized that I've really lost that part of myself somehow over the past few years.

I used to be really passionate about so much in a childlike, simple kind of way. Every day was an adventure which I attacked with vim and vigor. Somehow though, for a myriad of reasons, my life became very calculated. I do most things now because I should do them, or because they're good for me, or because they're safer, but that passion and intensity have somewhat dissipated.

I'm not saying that my life is bland or boring or that I'm not sure about what I'm doing. I have a great life and I know where I'm headed, but there's something not quite there. It's like I'm not really getting out and living, stepping outside of myself and growing. I feel more like I'm in a defensive state these days. Like I'm just preparing for the next bad thing to happen. It's really draining and stressful. I feel very anxious a lot of the time about my life.

So I guess that I'm going to be on a quest to reclaim my wildness, to live boldly and suck the marrow out of life. I don't really have any idea how to go about that yet, but I'm really ready for this cold winter - both literally and metaphorically - to be over in my life. I've spent enough time recoiling. Time to stir some shit up.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears! I just want to be excited, really excited, about something again.