Yo Dre, Why Are You Always Talking about Changing the World?

earth

I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of friends recently and it’s been cool to catch up with all of them. As I’ve shared with them the many changes I’ve gone through over the past year and a half or so, there has been a trend I’ve noticed: people asking me why I care so much about changing the world.

Wait… wanting the world to be a better place is a weird thing? LOL.

Okay, okay, I’ll explain it like this because after a call I had with my fiancé, I feel like I finally found the words to properly convey my mindset.

*deep breath*

Much like everyone else, most of my life was spent just trying to make my way through this world. I tried to play fair within the boundaries of the rules everyone told me to follow. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part I was just the nice guy who had to earn his confidence over time rather than having it all my life.

Actually, I started off as a super confident kid, but adolescence isn’t for the weak of heart. A brother’s confidence caught a beat down, y’all.

There was also a nagging thought I had had ever since I was a kid: I’m alive right now and one day I won’t be. I kept that to myself for YEARS because I figured I’d be looked at like a weirdo if I started posing such esoteric concepts as a ten-year-old. Still, why was I alive? Am I supposed to just live and die and that’s it?

Was I a sinner for making a joke about Jesus? I mean, it’s Jesus, for… uh… Christ’s sake. He should know I’m kidding, right?

Am I supposed to spend my entire life working and hope that I stay alive long enough to enjoy retirement? That sounds like a bum deal.

I kid you not when I say I had these thoughts and questions for the majority of my life. I felt like an effing alien because no one else I knew seemed concerned about any of this.

Andre: King of the Weirdos.

During college and afterward, I met a handful of awesome, open-minded people. Folks who are fine with conversing about this stuff. Coupled with that, I soon found out that everything for which I had ambition (a high salary, lots of stuff, a misguided definition of love) brought me temporary happiness at best and straight up unhappiness at their worst. I mean, by and large I was a happy person, but every once in a while the disappointment of not being able to swallow society’s expectations of me and the goals I was taught to have manifested itself in not so pretty ways. In short, I was lost.

If only I knew I wasn’t alone, but people who are lost rarely see the big picture.

I took it upon myself to figure this thing out. I’d love to get into the details of how I did it, but not everyone in my personal life would be accepting of the choices I’ve made even if they’ve helped me for the better. I personally don’t care about the opinion of others, but I’m not about to stir the pot unnecessarily either. That being said, I figured myself out. I figured out that I was much more and much less than what I thought I was. To be specific, I’m not special. Not as an individual at least. But I’m also much more than just a man; I’m a part of everything. Just in the same way that a blood cell is both the individual cell and the blood. I am this reality in which I exist, the individual and the collective.

It may sound crazy to people who won’t get what I mean, but stick with me on this because it all ties back together.

I found my happiness and it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I spent some time patting myself on the back for having the wherewithal to discover my own answers while still being open to the beliefs of others. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered not everyone reciprocated this feeling. On top of that, I was all too aware that I didn’t actually care about the fancy job, having a bunch of stuff, or many of the other things I was taught to want. What was the point? My happiness and sense of peace was far more important and I learned I could have that independent of any external factors.

So why was I still here?

This next part may sound concerning if you don’t know me at all, but I’m not about to apologize for thoughts that crossed my mind. I seriously questioned why I should keep playing this unfair game of life. You know, the one where we’re expected to follow rules that not everyone is actually following. Where people hate, murder, cheat, steal, and whatever other vile acts humanity is capable of. Why do I want to continue working at a thankless job where I didn’t agree with many principles? I already found my happiness. What was the point of continuing? None of this would help me maintain my sense of inner peace. For all intents and purposes, I would have welcomed being done with life. Not in a negative way, but more like there was nothing I felt this world could offer me and I certainly didn’t want anything from this world either. I was happy being benign, but family, friends, and the rest of society had invested too much in me already. I wouldn’t be let off the hook that easily.

Sigh…

Then a funny thing happened: I met my soul mate aka my fiancé. The story of how we met is nothing short of fate. I say that because, seriously, how it happened is ridiculously improbable (I’ll save that for another day). The point is, I found my reason for enduring a life in which I had no stakes. Soon afterward I was laid off from my job, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite it being an initial burden. I had the opportunity to create a life that I wanted, not one shaped by what I was taught to want. I wasn’t about to sacrifice my own happiness again.

But then I looked at the the rest of world and couldn’t help being put off by all the ills around me. Remember, I saw myself as both the blood cell and the blood. I’m both the being and the reality. Therefore, how could I just sit idly by and be unconcerned with inequality, war, discrimination, greed, etc? That’s quite the impossible task given the way I think nowadays.

We’re all sharing the same house. If I was living with someone who treated me unfairly and was trashing our home, I would probably move out or ask them to leave. I don’t have that option. I have to figure out how to coexist in this house. But I don’t want to live in a sh*tty place either.

This time there are no questions. I have to do what I can to fix this house. Not just for me, but for all the people out there who are walking the path I once walked. We’re all just trying to figure our way through this life and we’re the victims or beneficiaries of people who came before us. That doesn’t excuse crappy behavior, but I understand why we aren’t living in utopia right now; there are a lot of lost people out there just trying to fit in where they can.

And this is why I want to bring positivity to this tiny, insignificant rock we call Earth. If I have to be here I’m going to do my damndest to only make an impact that helps rather than hurts. It’s why I’m going vegan. It’s why I want to exclusively use reusable energy. It’s why I’ll always be against our current form of capitalism. It’s why I’m writing this now. Believe me when I say I love you all and I only want to see you happy too. ALL OF YOU.

But I’ll always love my fiancé more. After all, I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for her, heh.

Peace out, party people.

Randomness: Peace through Pennies

peace penny

It’s 2015 and America still uses pennies. That’s pretty ridiculous considering the prices of things in our society nullify their usefulness. Also, no one likes them. Don’t believe me? Go to a store and pay for something using more than four cents worth of pennies. That cashier hates you and your stupid pennies.

F**k you, pennies.

Aw, I didn’t mean that. You know what I’m going to do? Every time I come across a penny, I’m going to draw a peace sign on it. The monetary value is still as worthless, but maybe now it may be a positive message for someone.

I’d pay a penny for a little peace.

Daily Opinion: Why So Serious?

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You know what I love? Sitting at home with my fiancé and watching movies while partaking in Cheez-Its and wine.

Classy, right?

You know what I don’t love? Hopping onto the internet and reading about a guy in Copenhagen who was murdered at a free speech seminar.

I never used to read the news. EVER. I was blissfully ignorant of all the silly nonsense going on in the world. I didn’t know anything about global conflicts, politics, or world economics. I didn’t care. But now I’m older and I know how awesome it is to be at peace. I know how awesome it is to just chill back with some Cheez-Its and wine

Awesome and delicious.

Then I asked myself, “If life could be so awesome, why can’t everyone else figure it out?” I started watch the news and documentaries. I started reading. I observed. And you know what I discovered?

People are f**king crazy. Of the bat s**t variety, no less.

Who cares if someone makes fun of the precious Prophet Muhammad? Who cares if a guy wants to stick his penis up another man’s butt? Who cares about the level of melanin in a person’s skin? Who cares if a person wants to smoke marijuana to relax instead of tobacco that’s laced with chemicals? Who cares if a woman wants to sleep with as many people as she wants? Why does anyone care about any of this stuff enough to hate, argue, murder, and discriminate?

Everyone just chill the f**k out and have some Cheez-Its and wine.

The end.

Previously: Science Will/May Always Be Incomplete

Essay: We’re All Just Dumb Monkeys

metal monkey statue NY

Human beings are stupid.

Shock and awe, amirite?

Let’s take a few steps back. The other day, I was watching the season premiere of Brain Games (an awesome show you should definitely check out). One thing that stood out to me was an experiment that was conducted on two monkeys. The first monkey was given a task: a researcher hands the monkey a rock, the monkey hands it back, and gets a piece of a cucumber as a reward. There’s another monkey in the cage next to him who’s given the same task, but instead is given a grape as a reward. Everything was good in the hood until that first monkey noticed something was afoot.

Oh you’re just going to give him grapes while I’m just given these wack ass cucumbers?

Well, that first monkey was none to pleased. While he was fine with them initially, he soon began refusing the cucumbers for doing the task. And I mean refused. Homeboy threw it back at the researcher, banged the rock against cage, and even tried reaching for the grapes through the cage.

Anger? Violence? Attempted theft? All just because something is unfair? If you’re good at connecting the dots, you can easily see how this is reflected in our society today.

Here’s another fun fact: We trust those that are genetically closest to us faster than those who are not. This is tied to survival for primates (other creatures too, but let’s stay on topic) and is tribalism at its very essence. This is why family members are (usually) seen as those closest to a person, especially the nuclear family. It’s likely the reason why if someone loses trust in a family member at an early age for whatever reason, they have a very difficult time trusting others overall. Most importantly, though potentially least valid because this is just my opinion, I think this is the basis for discrimination and mistrust at any level. Not the cultural kind we experience today, mind you. I’m talking about the mere existence of them.

It’s a leap, but not an unwarranted one.

Did you know that hunger increases the likelihood of a “fight” reaction during fight or flight responses?

Did you know stress hinders short term memory

Did you know people mirror the behaviors of others for reasons like wanting to be accepted or general kinship?

Did you know our brains constantly creates false leaders for all type of activities so it can be a follower? Even simple ones like walking at a certain speed or standing in a line.

I think most human beings don’t have a fundamental understanding of themselves and why they are the way they are. This hits us at a personal level, as well as society at large. I’m purposely emphasizing the word “understanding.” You can know all the facts you want, but understanding is another story entirely.

Do you understand why we have religion?

Do you understand  why we separate ourselves into races?

Do you understand why human beings have conflict?

Of course there are individual reasons as to why these things happen, but that’s not what I’m asking. Do you understand why these things exist? Do you understand why your brain and body act the way they do? Have you connected the dots? No? Well, congratulations; you’re officially a dumb monkey.

A dumb monkey with potential, at least.

Don’t feel bad; I’m a dumb monkey too. Ooh ooh, aah aah, and all that good stuff.

The only thing that changed with me is I can openly admit I don’t know anything. However, I’m understanding more about life each day. I look at humanity and I’m starting to grasp how we got to this point and why we have the problems we have. We’re too busy being dumb monkeys who think they know more than they actually do. I mean, sure, we invented a slew of cool things like the internet, space shuttles, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

Except that 2014 movie. Much like 9/11, we’ll never forget.

*cough*

Awkward.

…but we can’t seem to move beyond our biological makeup. Realistically, humans have never actually figured out peace no matter how many wars we have. We can’t stop being violent. We still hate. We still discriminate. Not all of us, mind you, and certainly not all to the same degree. But it’s out there.

On the flip side, we have absolutely beautiful things that are bred from the same DNA that willed racism into the world. We have love, happiness, creativity, and more. These are all awesome things, but much like our more unseemly qualities, these are also not constants and everyone experiences these to different degrees. This is all part of being human.  What makes us dumb monkeys is that most of us don’t realize we don’t have to be dumb monkeys.

Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?

The real thing that makes humans special is we have a choice to either follow our DNA or follow that thing in us that makes us more than dumb monkeys – a soul, a conscience, or whatever inadequate word you want to use for the thing that regulates our animalistic urges. People aren’t wantonly discriminating against people who aren’t genetically closest to them. There isn’t true survival of the fittest anymore. We aren’t all getting riled up just because “the man” feeds us cucumbers instead of grapes. However – and this is just my opinion – these things still exist in our DNA. But because our circumstances are different now than they were when we first evolved into homo sapiens, they manifest themselves differently.

Grapes become money.

Genetic proximity becomes racism and nationalism.

Ooh ooh, aah aah?

We apply the modern world to archaic hardware (our DNA) and this is what happens: humans self-throttle their advancement and we play the game of being dumb monkeys. Our software (our minds) have all the potential in the world, but our hardware (DNA) sucks. Imagine running Windows 8 on a computer from 1999. If that was even possible, you’d have to at least turn the display settings down and limit the number of concurrently running programs. It’d be a straight up nightmare.

Imagine all the low definition porn everyone would be watching!

Unlike computers, however, we can operate past beyond hardware. We don’t have to be slaves to our DNA, but I feel it’s not innate in all of use. Some, maybe many of us require a level of understanding to realize all discrimination is the same. Poverty is not a necessity. Freedom is not a privilege. Everyone in this world is just as (un)important as you. You don’t have to be a dumb monkey. You can choose to embrace parts of your humanity, not all of it.

I believe humanity will reach that potential one day. There are a good number of people that already have; the problem is the glut of folk who are straggling behind. Well, it’s not really a problem, right? Maybe we wouldn’t be human anymore if none of us clung to our DNA. Maybe we’d be something entirely different. I mean, can you even imagine a world without conflict? Can you imagine a world without hate? What would love be? What would peace be? Would those words exist?

Perhaps that’s the sacrifice of being human. Maybe negativity is the trade-off for all the positivity we experience. Maybe, the people who show the worst of humanity also involuntarily shine a light on the best of humanity. Maybe there will always be this battle of our physical (dumb monkey) and, for lack of a better word, non-physical (human) selves. Maybe all of our conflicts are a product of an evolution that is no longer taking place at a purely physical level. Maybe we’re done evolving as individuals and we’re now evolving as a collective. Maybe, just maybe, there’s nothing wrong with humanity and we’re all just doing what we’re meant to do, consequences be damned.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just a dumb monkey.

Previously: The Day I Admitted My Feelings for God

The Ramblings Podcast: Episode 39 – My Girlfriend Is a Coconut

The Ramblings Podcast: Episode 39 - My Girlfriend Is a Coconut

After taking some time off from podcasting and blogging, I’m back with another episode of The Ramblings Podcast! My Girlfriend joins me as we discuss the book she’s writing, global racism, adoption, and class issues. You know, after all these serious topics, I think Thursday’s episode will be a lot more lighthearted. For now, enjoy as we drop some knowledge!

Run time: 41:07

Download Here | iTunes | RSS Feed

Previously: Episode 38 – Leaf Is Still Cranky

How to Change the World for the Better: Demolishing Pseudo-Kingdoms

iron throne

I love Game of Thrones. If you don’t, I forgive you for your awful taste in television.

Actually, it’s not television. It’s HBO.

Ugh, I can’t believe I just did that.

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine living in the world of Game of Thrones. I mean, forget about the dragons and white walkers; people seem to be the biggest threat on that show. They wantonly kill in the pursuit of money and power.

Segue!

If you look at history with a set of objective eyes, humanity has been dealing with “kings/queens” at various levels. Sure, it’s not everyone, but the idea of a ruler is one that even happens within families. My dad has his own Iron Throne.

Or leather sofa.

Whatever.

Here’s the thing: while much of the world has moved away from monarchies, do most people really have their fair share of power or are most of us still grasping for scraps. And don’t get me wrong, some people have access to better scraps than others. Hell, some of us may be able to sneak some goodies from the cupboard. Unfortunately, much of that is just a result of a dice roll. You were lucky enough to be born to one family versus another.

Still, can’t you see this structure at numerous levels? Many countries, states, corporations, and so on have this similar structure of power and wealth of a few and the remains trickle down. Some structures are steeper than others, but the fact is very few are level (or at least very close to being level). This means there will ALWAYS be some level of discourse in our world if these structures remain. This fact cannot be debated. Sure, we can argue all day about what’s fair and what isn’t, but an imbalance of power and wealth (let’s throw freedom in there as well) will always bring conflict. I cannot overstate this enough.

Fixing this is a tougher issue, but I feel we simply need one country or institution to be the example. Preferably one with a large voice or reach. Why? Because we will only assume one path works if another isn’t shown as equally or more successful (we also need to define the parameters of success). Humans are extremely fixated on evidence, even when said evidence is based on opinion or limited facts. As such, we need to show the world how this can be accomplished.

In the next few posts, I’m going to do just that by covering examples of COOPERATION in our world that work toward a common goal without an extreme imbalance of power at play. Until next week, let me know what you think! Do you think humanity needs conflict? Is equality impossible? Am I just a stupid idealist? Whatever the opinion, let it be known! We won’t get anywhere without having the conversation.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Uniting of Strong Voices for Common Goals