Monday, February 28, 2011

Deus Ex Machina

Anyone with delicate sensibilities regarding the topic of religion, you may want to leave now (*sigh* there goes my bounce rate). I'm about to delve into it, head first, no tiptoeing around anyone's feelings--so if you have any inkling that you can't handle some honest evaluation of this topic, again, it may be best if you return to Insistent and Persistent on another day when there's a different topic posted. No kidding, exercise your self-control if you think you may find yourself offended by any of the following. I will not apologize. And I will not publish any excessively nasty comments, should you feel the need to voice your opinion in a particularly vulgar way.
    Still here? Don't say I didn't warn you.
It occurred to me today that perhaps religion is merely an attitude and not a belief or system of beliefs--at least for some people. What I mean is: some people have the attitude: Jesus--Yay! or God--Boo! This attitude or expression of feeling is different from the system of beliefs which can be outlined as something like: "I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth..." and so on (quoted from the Nicene Creed according to Catholicism-text found through Wikipedia). While an attitude is changeable and dependent, a belief system is inflexible and independent of opinion. You can't say, I believe in God and Jesus, but I don't believe in the Holy Spirit, when you claim to subscribe to a particular belief system. It's all or nothing. An attitude, however, such as feeling positive about God and Jesus, and negative about the Holy Spirit seems perfectly acceptable. (Note: As you've probably remarked, this discussion will revolve exclusively around Christianity, as I believe it is most relevant to a discussion of religion in the US today, and also because I have more experience with it than with other religious paths.)
    The problem I would like to address here is that there are way too many people holding religion as an attitude rather than as a belief system, but still claiming to hold it as an end-all belief. Every system is flawed (systems in general, I mean), and religion is no different. There's always going to be something that you're not one hundred percent comfortable with. But an attitude can change, even from one day to the next. Find twenty bucks on the sidewalk--Yay God! Lose your job--Boo God. Attitudes are fleeting. Holding religion as an attitude is as arbitrary as liking a flavor of ice cream. Monday I like vanilla ice cream. Tuesday I had an upset stomach from the vanilla, so on Tuesday I like chocolate. Many people seem to believe in God, and whatever bits and pieces of the religious system they prefer over others that involve God, as it suits them. They can quote scripture. They can reprimand you for whatever hot topic is the order of the day. They can claim that they know more about the loving arms of Jesus than sinners like you ever will. But so many of them would drop that God-loving attitude like a hot potato if the shit really hit the fan.
    The issue here is not that people shouldn't be religious. The issue is hypocrisy. Religion is a commitment that too many people take too lightly. Kind of like marriage. (But that's another discussion for another day, dear readers.) I have no problem with people who are religious. In fact, I find many of them fascinating (although I find many more of them misguided). I have a certain soft spot for religion, no matter how increasingly implausible it may become for me. So, this isn't an anti-religious finger-pointing session I'm running--rather, I want to examine those people who use religion as an excuse for their actions, as a bolster for their intolerance, and as a simple means of argument for the sake of argument.
    Those kinds of people have no business maintaining religiosity. God is not a pawn in your argument against abortion. Jesus is not a reason to be for or against the death penalty. And neither of them can be used in a discussion of gun control, primarily because guns didn't exist 2000 years ago. We've veered into politics now--dangerous waters, I fear. But, it seems that the two are inextricably tied because people refuse to separate them. Politicians use religion to support their ends, and private citizens use religion to support their politics. In any case, it's wrong because doesn't make their arguments stronger. It weakens them. Your religious life may in fact play a role in which issues you support or reject, but you cannot use religion as the explanation for supporting or rejecting those issues. Using religion to explain your non-religious beliefs is like trying to explain trigonometry with Shakespeare. The two are completely unrelated. As a result, it seems that people who do employ this tactic may either be ignorant of aspects of their religion, or may be one of those people who hold their religion as an attitude, dependent only on its helpfulness at that particular moment.
    I believe I've gone far enough now to provide my conclusion: (1) Be religious if you must, but don't half-ass it--we can't all be saints, but we can't purposely be sinners and claim that we're still saints because we say we're "sorry" for it; (2) Be political if you are so inclined, but keep your religion out of it--certainly there are other nonreligious arguments that can support your opinion that you agree with: use them. I won't say I'm right about all this. But I hope those of you who made it this far will at the very least consider religion and people who claim to be religious and examine these concepts a little more closely for yourselves.
Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Yay God.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Paper or Plastic?

No, it's not Green Week on Insistent and Persistent. Today's topic is finance. 
    I have always been cautious, perhaps excessively so, about my personal finances. I'm old school to the core. I have an instinct that tells me not to trust banks or credit. Part of this has been my fear of getting caught up in buying things on credit and accumulating massive amounts of debt. On the one hand, I've always been extremely responsible with my money. I saved up my money for my first "big kid" bike and bought it myself. I saved my money up for a year to buy a particularly expensive Beanie Baby (this was about ten years ago when Beanie Babies were still something of a trend). I managed to save up to pay for some of my school expenses and my own living expenses (for the first time ever!) this year. But I refuse to get a credit card; I'm terrified of having a checkbook; and I can't even bring myself to take the proverbial cash out from under the mattress.
    As much as I'd like to agree with pretty much everyone I know who says I'm being paranoid and over-protective, something still nags at me. Can we really trust the banks? Of course, due to the society we live in, we kind of have to to some extent. Some places don't even accept cash anymore. *Gasp!* Moreover, can we trust ourselves with that kind of freedom? I, for one, do not. Yet another reason I do not have a credit card. I would be buying almost everything those infomercials try to sell me. I would be a total sucker. If there's a free gift for making so many purchases from infomercials, I would probably get it if I were given a credit card to order off the television with. Despite how responsible and careful I've been my whole life, I am not sure I could resist the temptation that comes with purchasing things on credit. I'd be cautious and pragmatic at first, much like I am now, but eventually, that "gotta have it" bug would creep up and I'd be charging clothes, shoes, purses, infomercial junk, and every electronic item you could shake a stick at--I'm still way behind on the technology, but with a credit card, it'd be a flat screen TV, Blu-ray player, I-Pad, MP3 and probably an overly complicated stereo system that I would never learn how to work.
    Credit can be just as dangerous as it can be life-saving. And for me, I think it would end up being dangerous. With all the credit card debt and irresponsible usage of credit these days, it seems just as possible that I could become one of them. Again, maybe I'm being overly cautious and critical about credit and the financial and economic system of this country in general, but when we look at the state of the economy, and some of the reasons it's taken such a long time to begin recovery, it does seem slightly more rational (or perhaps, more accurately, less irrational).
    As a disclaimer, I have absolutely no financial or economic expertise to lay claim to, excepting my own experiences, which, as I'm sure you've concluded, are quite limited. That being the case, I'll just leave you with this: If the good life were meant to be had through credit, credit would not be causing the kind of havoc it causes to so many people in this country every day.
Cash is still king in my book.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"But I'm Not Wrong"

Everyone always thinks they've got it together more than someone else they know. "That friend of mine is always getting lost"; "Man, I am such a better driver than she is"; "I think I'd go nuts if I was as disorganized as that woman is"; "I could write a better headline than that in my sleep", and so on. Are we just being condescending and self-important? Maybe sometimes. But most of the time: we're not wrong. We do have a good sense of direction, we are organized to the point of being nicknamed OCD, we do have a better sense of what sounds good and what doesn't. It doesn't mean we're great at everything and better than everyone else. We're just right about this. [Note: Headline taken from Bill Maher's stand-up show. We must give credit where credit is due, and sometimes when it's not.]
    Should we tolerate others' faults or should we try to correct them? That's a tricky question. Some people are so set in their ways that it would take a meteor through the middle of their house to get them to change anything. Others might respond to a little gentle constructive criticism. Trying to correct people is something that often comes into play either in a relationship or between teacher and student (and I mean the latter to be in a very broad sense--parent and child, mentor and mentee, elder and younger, etc). While this isn't always a good tactic, often resulting in hurt feelings and insecurities, if it's a serious issue, like fire hazard or risk of life kind of serious, of course it should be addressed. In all other cases, you pick your battles, I suppose.
    Consider: Why do we get so upset when other people aren't as good at something as we are? For me, it's usually because they're interfering with my ability to fulfill my obligations and responsibilities. For example, X's disorganization is causing me problems because she procrastinates, so I can't do what I'm supposed to do until X does her part first. It's frustrating, certainly. We hate being put on hold, getting there on time when everyone else is running late, being ready to do step 5 when everyone else is still working on step 3, or feeling like we have to fix other people's mistakes because we can do it better. It's exhausting feeling like the person who's always on the ball when everyone else seems to be sleepwalking or slacking off.
    While I'd like to say, in the spirit of being neighborly, that we should be a little more forgiving of these people. Sometimes, WE'RE the ones who are running late, or falling behind in our work, or making a mistake that someone else has to fix. But we have excuses, and because we find them more valid than those that others give to us, it's easy to forgive ourselves doing for something wrong.
Is that hypocritical? Probably.
    Still, if we are on the ball 90 percent of the time, compared to other people having it together only 20 percent of the time, it's fair to feel better about yourself for not being like them, those underachievers. Just because we slip up from time to time doesn't make it wrong for us to accuse them of the same thing, because unlike us, they do it all the time.
Nothing enlightening today. Just a little outburst. Even though we do the same thing sometimes, it doesn't make us wrong to point out that the underachiever does it all the time. It's OK to let your ego swell a little bit in cases like this. A boost in ego may prevent you from voicing your frustrations in a less than subtle way. Just don't let Ego take over.
You think I'm harsh? Fine. But I'm not wrong.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

[Kuhn-flikt]ing [Kon-flikt]s

Conflict has several meanings. One is when two things disagree, like two people having an argument about something. Another is for them not only to disagree, but to struggle or clash with one another. Often, we use it as an adjective--"to be conflicted about" something.
    Conflict, like anger, grief, or love, is not an easy feeling to experience. Anger, grief and love are directed toward others, but conflict is something that happens within ourselves. Conflict, similarly, is related to ambivalence. As you have a choice of which side of the conflict you want to give in to, you also have a choice between two things you are uncertain about when you are ambivalent. Ambivalence does not mean indifference--but rather, both actions are holding their own and you are uncertain about which is the better course to take. Conflict can lead to the uncertainty of ambivalence, or vice versa.
    Unfortunately, things don't resolve themselves. Sooner or later, we have to pick a side, choose a lane, to move on with our lives. It's never an easy decision, but it always comes to that. Sometimes the conflict fades, and we are left with only the stronger of the options. But more often, or perhaps it only seems that way because it is these instances that stand out more in memory, the conflict builds until it reaches a crescendo or climax, at which point it is impossible to maintain the status quo. When that climax appears, you have to take a step in one direction or the other, or else the whole mess blows up in your face.
    We can be conflicted about tons of things. Should we get a bigger apartment/house? Do I need a new job? Should we have another kid? Should I try tap dance lessons or sculpture classes? What kind of car should I get? Caesar or house salad? Steak or chicken? Some conflicts are smaller, but some are life-altering.

The point, dear readers, is this: 
You can't go through life always wondering which side of the field is greener. 
You have to, at some point, pick a side.
Going back and forth is exhausting, and you can't be in two places at once.

No one wants to live in conflict, and yet, we still don't want to choose one side for fear that it's the wrong one. We like to leave our options open. We like being able  to pick from fifteen brands of jeans and twenty kinds of spaghetti sauce. Options are nice to have. But when they come into conflict, leaving you only two courses of action, options can be more of a burden than a blessing.
The grass may be greener on this side of the field, but that side has the beer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Multi-tasking Overload

When you feel like you don't have time to sit down, it may be time to slow down. However, multi-tasking can be addictive once you've started. It used to be: "how great it is that I have time to read this book or watch this movie, spend time with my family, cook a real meal for dinner". Now it's constantly telling everyone you don't even have time to eat lunch or go to the grocery store; you can't get to class on time; you can't finish your homework on time; one thing after the other. It's not only that you really do have that many things to do, it's also that you want that many things to do.

What????

    That's right. While you may feel that you have this many obligations, you can't get out of this thing for that reason, it's your fault. It's easy to forget that we made the decision to take all this on. Even though, at the time, it probably seemed manageable. For instance: I can do full-time coursework at grad school; I can work twenty hours a week; I can go to the rec center to exercise 3 or 4 nights a week; I can write my blog 3 or 4 times a week; I can do all my homework on time; I can keep my relationship going; and visit my family, and run errands, and maintain a social life, and stay in touch with old friends, and find time to eat, sleep and keep up some level of personal hygiene. It's exhausting, the things we do in our lives. But once you're busy, it's really hard to not be busy. One thing ends, you take on another.
    Being busy isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's productive. It's the American way. Productivity, efficiency, hard work--these lead to the good life.
    But, I don't see that. These lead to stress. Sometimes overwhelming, even crippling, stress. While I'm not quite that far along yet into the realm of the overwhelmed, every time I miss a deadline, cram something in last minute that's totally sub-par work, or cut short a social engagement or visit because I have to go to class or work or whatever, I feel not only overwhelmed with how full and heavy my plate is at the moment, but I also feel guilty. Guilt may be an unfortunate side effect of my upbringing, too much religiosity, but maybe not. I signed up for the class, shouldn't I do my best to submit my best work, show up on time, do the homework, study the notes for quizzes and tests? I made the decision to take the class, so doesn't that obligate me to follow through on those things? I think it does. And while I want to stay and talk to my friend that I haven't seen or talked to face to face in months, I can't because I have to get to class. Fifteen minutes for lunch is insufficient when it's in a cafeteria style dorm with lines and crowds everywhere you look. Wolfing down food because you have so little time to eat is not healthy.
    Minimizing sleep to get more work, errands, or obligations done is not healthy either, but we do it. We sacrifice sleep for many things. Somehow, this task or that piece of homework is more important than sleep.
    I'm not pointing fingers. I do these too. I cut social visits short. I turn in crappy homework done in ten minutes because I didn't have the time to do it properly. While I can do my best to evenly distribute my time, it never seems to work out quite as well as I planned. So, when you have a choice to eliminate one of your obligations or duties from that growing list of things to maintain and do on a regular basis, maybe you should actually consider eliminating it--and not immediately replacing it with another task or obligation right out of the gate. We need time for ourselves. If we can't find time for ourselves the way our lives are arranged now, we have to make time. If that means dropping an obligation or giving up one of our responsibilities so that we can find more balance and peace in our lives, it may be worth it. Exhaustion, overwork, and poor quality of work as a result of too many things on our to-do list are not good for anyone.
Confucius say: Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cupid : MIA

Valentine's Day has fallen out of favor. It seems like we were slapped in the face with holidays like Valentine's Day, Easter, St Patrick's Day, and the 4th of July, among the obvious others, since we were five years old. And then, once you get out of high school, they seem to pass under the radar. (Except St. Patty's Day, which is now the American drinking holiday, and no longer has anything to do with Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland.)
    No more paper hearts or streamers hung up everywhere. We don't have to deliver little valentines to our classmates. Even the hype for diamonds, candy, and Hallmark cards seems to be lower now than it used to be.
    Am I in a bubble and this is actually not true? Is Valentine's Day prospering and making more money than ever without my knowledge? It's entirely possible. In my bubble, holidays come and go because I'm not forced to notice them, and don't have time to enjoy them. Even Christmas wasn't as fun this year. While it's nice to take time out and celebrate a holiday, even if it's a corny, made-up one like Valentine's Day, it seems like holidays have become more of a marketing tool than actual times to remember things and celebrate them. Celebrate here means to appreciate them and maybe be thankful for them. Celebrating holidays does not mean getting really drunk, contrary to popular belief. (Except again for St. Patty's day--because we don't live in Ireland, so we're not worried about the snake infestation.)
    My goal here is not to bash the holiday. I don't want to put down Valentine's Day, or Christmas, just because they're overly commercialized. I suppose I'd just like to bring attention to the fact that the diamond and candy industries make enough money as it is.
    So, not to be hypocritical, I'm going to cook for Valentine's Day--dinner. No over-priced cards or chocolate. No out-to-dinner at a fancy place where you need reservations. I think I prefer dinner at home actually, because it's not about getting new earrings or getting that cheesy, sentimental card dipped in glitter with the velvet border. It's about spending itme with someone you love. So, while drinking may be in order, drunkenness is not necessary. Not on this holiday, anyway. Maybe I can even convince him to watch a chick flick with me, but it'll have to be before Hawaii Five-O comes on. Because that show is just as fun as any movie I would pick for Valentine's day.
    I suppose I'll leave everyone with the thought that while spending money is very American, and at this point, probably good for the economy, maybe you should rethink saying it with diamonds. Or Hallmark. Get a blank card and write your own message. Those are almost always a better way to show you care.
When in doubt, quote. Someone else probably said it better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Typing Versus Writing

I used to write everything by hand. Almost every story I wrote prior to 2007 was written with pen and paper first, and typed up later. Even some of my essays and school homework were written by hand and then typed. I love writing with a pen and paper. But it's not the smell of the ink, or the satisfying (although it is) stack of pages that grows taller every time I fill up a sheet of paper. It's the texture of the page, running my fingers across the written words on the page, and feeling the bumps and indentations of the letters scrawled across the lines. It's always entertaining to read my margin notes too, which frequently contain quotes or vocabulary from whatever movie I've been watching or music I've been listening to while I wrote that particular page. Amazingly enough, I can still usually figure out what that background media was when I look back at those pages, even though most of them are now 5 or more years old.
    But back to the feel of the page: it feels like creation. It feels like production. Look, Ma, I did it! You can't get that kind of satisfaction from a computer. Ooh, word count! Not the same. No matter how many times I change the font or the text color or add italics or spacing or whatever to dress it up, it doesn't have that same wow factor that a stack of pages does. Sure, you can print them out. Those stacks of pages are pretty impressive actually, with the title page on top and all those perfectly even margins and uniform text and font and page numbers. But even then, that stack of pages doesn't feel the same as the stack of lined paper, wrinkled with water stains, and scribbled on in that fervent, untidy, chicken scratch handwriting that happens when the words just couldn't be written fast enough.
    This is the kind of writing that's worth the effort. Whether it's just for you or whether you want the whole world to read it, that feeling of awe at yourself for having created something is necessary for it to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, I can only seem to get that feeling from handwritten work, and yet I persist in writing all my stories and ideas on a computer now that I have my own. It's faster, more convenient, I can type upwards of 60 words per minute, and I can do my research and all my other online tasks at the same time. There are plenty of reasons why I do write on the computer, but not one good reason why I should write on the computer rather than on paper. Again, it's a lot easier to get ideas down because my typing speed is much faster than my handwriting speed. But is it worthwhile when I don't get that elation I experience when I write "The End" on that last page and add it to the stack?
    Maybe I should reevaluate my writing goals this year. My primary goal has been to keep posting regularly to this blog. So far, so good. But maybe I ought to consider setting a goal that involves writing by hand. And finishing. Don't get me started on finishing things (if that makes sense). [Aside: I think the ratio of stories finished to stories begun has decreased exponentially so that hardly any of them are finished anymore.]
    However, for not finishing things, I think I have to blame the Muse. Little minx has been a bit stubborn the last few, well, years. But I have faith that she will return. On that day, my pen will run dry trying to keep filling up blank sheets of paper, instead of the blank screen of the word processing program.
Success is a once blank page covered with words. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

No Time Left For You

Last year, I had too much time on my hands. Much of which was spent surfing the Internet, looking and applying for jobs, playing online games, reading articles--some with merit, some without--and watching a lot of television. But 2011 is the year for too little time. I don't think I've ever been this busy except during my college prep type courses in high school. Even my undergraduate years in college didn't keep me this busy this often--just once a semester near and during finals week.
    I suppose this proves everything is cyclical, and maybe 2012 will give me a little more time to work with. But in the meantime, coping with exhaustion for about 75% of my week is frustrating, because I can't do much about it. I try to go bed earlier, but consequently, I don't finish what I need to finish.
    It's an uncomfortable situation, trying to decide which is your highest priority: school or work (although in my case, it's both), a social life, or sleep.
In a perfect world, all should be doable simultaneously. 
    A person should have enough time to sustain a social life, get enough rest, and do their school/work related assignments, tasks or projects, while still having a little time for herself to read, watch TV, blog, eat three meals a day, et cetera. When there isn't enough time for these basic human necessities (although TV may not be a necessity, I think you can agree that time to decompress and get your mind off all your other worries is), something has gone horribly wrong. It isn't right that people should have to decide which of these things is more important--or worse, which of these things are expendable. More often than not, sleep gets sacrificed first. Sometimes the social life disappears or wanes, but sleep tends to be the first to go. And yet, sleep, and its relativity to good health, is probably the most important of the three. 
    Normally, I'd be the first to say:
"Well, if you can't do it all, you're just not managing your time very well." 
    But even those people with excellent time management skills can fail to distribute their time fairly to each of these areas of life. If I separate each of them out, I can manage my time quite well, and arrange it so that each one gets its due attention, and I can get everything done that needs to be done, on time, and correctly (in regard to school/work related tasks). However, stacking them all together and sorting three things out together makes it much more difficult. I can make schedules; I can set timers for when I should finish tasks; I can arrive at social engagements on time and leave early; I can even add another 15 or 20 minutes to my sleep time by setting the alarm later. Still, all put together, something always ends up taking longer than expected and it throws the whole deal out of whack. 
    Lack of time is a vicious cycle because the more you try to catch up, the more your time passes faster and slips away from you, like trying to grasp at water--it just slides through the openings between your fingers. While some people would probably say that if I'm that busy, why I am spending this time writing a blog that hardly anyone will read? Because writing is one of those things that I do for myself, and without it, I might indeed have more time, but less sanity. So, I'm going to keep the writing, even if I lose a little time to do more homework or, unfortunately, get more sleep.
Dreams and sleep may not be economically productive, 
but the cultivation of wellness and intellect makes them worth it. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stop Talking. Please.

Honesty is to be valued. But where do we, or where should we, draw the line between honesty and gossip; honesty and disclosure; honesty and judgment? Many people have blurred these lines in an age where everyone can share anything just for the sake of sharing. Some things just should not be shared. Some things are better left in the closets with the skeletons for company. Just because we can share everything, via Facebook, Twitter, picture messages, email, etc, doesn't mean we should.

1. Gossip.
Gossip is "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others" (definition found at dictionary.reference.com). It's not something you should feel compelled to share with others. If you "heard" something about someone, not actually saw that rumor in action, it's probably not a good idea to be spreading it around. Especially if you work with the person or see them regularly enough that it could come back to you. Nobody likes a gossip, and it's worse if you're gossiping about things that just aren't true. Gossip is not honesty. It's talking about something that is most likely none of your business without knowing all the facts of the matter. If you don't have all the facts, you can't really be honest.

2. Disclosure.
Disclosure is quite a different animal from gossip. Disclosure seems to fall more into the category of giving someone information you feel you are legally or ethically bound to give them. Your doctor will tell you that shortness of breath is a side effect of this or that drug. That's disclosure. The building is being exterminated for rats. That, too, is disclosure. But what about a situation like this: Person A says that Person Y was accused of something like drinking on the job. Accused is not the same as convicted; it's not even the same as having a complaint filed. What if you know Y? What if Y has never been anything but helpful and professional to you? When Person A tells you this about Y, it seems not only like unnecessary information--because it seems like you might have noticed that kind of behavior earlier, but it seems like information that may be false or perhaps hyperbolized to the point that it is a misrepresentation of the facts. While it may seem like a person is ethically bound to disclose that kind of information, it's important to do it because one is concerned for another's welfare, and not because the person may have jumped to conclusions, or is telling stories about someone just because the person doesn't like them.

3. Judgment.
This one doesn't seem to be as relevant to honesty as the others did; however, if we examine it a little more closely, it is relevant in certain contexts. When we are being honest with someone--I like your new dress, I don't like that restaurant, I'd rather sit farther away from those noisy kids, etc--we are in fact passing judgment. We like the dress--it looks nice on her. That restaurant is perhaps dirty, crowded, unfriendly, has bad food, whatever. I don't like kids; the kids are noisy because their parents have no idea what they're doing; kids shouldn't be in restaurants because they can't be kept quiet, and so on. Those are all judgments, some stronger than others, but judgments none the less. Every preference you give is a reaction to something else--that reaction, although it may not be strong or visceral--is a judgment in favor of or in disapproval of something else. Judgment is something that can't be helped. But when you're being honest with someone and sharing your judgment about a situation, person, outfit, or whatever it may be, some judgments are better kept to yourself. Example: Saying "I hate that city," to someone from that place is not a very nice or tactful judgment to share with them. So, while sometimes honesty really is the best policy, honesty is not the best policy all the time.

I apologize for being a bit preachy today, and I realize that the disclosure example was a bit extreme with A and Y, but I have a point. We need to be aware of what we're saying, why we're saying it, and how it's affecting the people to whom we say it. This kind of awareness is valuable. It helps keep one's foot out of one's mouth more of the time.
Honesty is not equivalent to tact. Tactfulness helps. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Down with the Internet?

What would we do without the Internet? 
    Seriously. We get our news, check our email, update our Facebook statuses, look at our horoscopes, find recipes, play video games, chat, search for that song we have stuck in our heads, and a gajillion other things every single day.
    We can even get the web on our cell phones now so we don't have to be away from the Internet while we work or attend school or anything. It's a love affair that's grown to the point of obsession for many. I admit, I don't think I would go very long without it. If I didn't have it at home, I'd be at the library or a computer lab on campus to check in with the many sites I feel obligated to visit daily, or at least weekly.
    If anyone saw the news this week (and it was kind of hard to avoid) about the Internet getting completely shut down in Egypt, your heart should have skipped a beat once the terrifying thought occurred of something like that happening here. Of course, the US is a much larger country than Egypt, and we have more Internet companies and ways to connect than they do, it still is a scary thought for many of us.
    Perhaps people would learn to love their televisions again, without the comforts of streaming Netflix or Hulu or today's headlines on CNN. But as there was in Egypt, I think there would be mass chaos, confusion, and uprising. Give us healthcare, that's one thing. Take away our Internet, we're gonna have words. Something like the loss of the Internet would cause a larger panic and full-on riot than any Stanley Cup playoffs, Super Bowl games, or even, I think, financial crisis could cause.
    We, as Americans, have grown used to instant gratification, and the loss of the greatest resource to achieve that end would create unprecedented amounts of upheaval.
    So, here it comes: are we too attached to this thing that didn't even exist 20 or 30 years ago? There was no Internet, nor did the average household even have a computer in it when I was born 23 years ago. We could get into the cell phone thing as well while we're at it, but I think the American population as a whole would be more distraught over the loss of the Internet than over the loss of cell phones. This is for the simple facts that if we lost phones and still had the Net, we could still Skype and IM and email. And, there would still be landlines in this scenario. But, I digress (which I knew was going to happen even though I really didn't want it to).
    I know that I, for one, am way too attached to the Internet. I check my email upwards of 10 times a day (that's 10 times or more PER ACCOUNT each day); I check the sports stats and scores; I look up words and search for people and places; I read article after article, blog after blog; I check my Facebook religiously too, even though there usually isn't much new content on mine.
    Let's examine this word with regard to Internet usage: religious. Is the Internet the new religion for the 21st century, at least in this country? I don't mean religion in the sense of it being a god, so don't jump down my throat yet. I mean religion in the sense of the Internet being something that we look to for guidance, for information, on not only how to lead our lives, but as a way to actually lead our lives. There are people who become their online identities and spend so much time online that they do not exist in the "real world" except to eat, drink, and otherwise keep their bodies alive and functioning. Now, I'm not saying everyone does this, or even that everyone wants to spend all their time online, but with the Internet available to us, 24 hours a day, every day--literally in the palms of our hands--it has attained the kind of status that an icon, relic, or talisman has. It's something we have to have, not just want to, but have to have, all the time, whenever we might need it.
    And there's no escaping it. You use it at work, you use it for school, you use for so many daily tasks that you used to be able to do or look for elsewhere--in books, from neighbors or friends, even on that not-so-distant relative, the television. While it doesn't look like we'll be losing our Internet connection any time soon, it might be a good idea to take a little break. Just to see how long you can go without it. See if you can really get through your day. I'll see if I can get through mine.
    One last thing, dear readers: it's a pretty safe assumption that should you accomplish this, the sky will not fall, the stars will not fade, and life will go on mostly as it has before.
Food for thought.

+Constant Writer

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