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

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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.

Antibiotics: They’re (not so) Magically Delicious!

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The beautiful thing about life is how adaptable it is. Life seems to always find a way to exist in one form or another. When life already exists, it does its damndest to try and stay alive.

I admire you, life. You’re one tough S.O.B.

I was watching a documentary over the weekend called Resistance. It focused on the overuse of antibiotics in the US and, man oh man, am I glad I decided to go vegan.

I knew the US has a love affair with antibiotics, but the degree to which we use them is insane, especially in farms. I mean, sure, we’re over-prescribed them also, but 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are used for the farm industry.

Eighty. Percent.

Good Jeebus, that’s pretty freaking high, though it’s not completely surprising given the fact that many animals in farms live in close quarters surrounded by their own feces.

Yum.

I know the answer! Give them antibiotics! That way is surely better than not having disgusting living conditions for eventual food. Yup, that’s the ticket. The only problem is bacteria will develop resistance to antibiotics over time. That’s a fact. Scientists have even found ground turkey that has a strain of salmonella that’s resistant to all antibiotics. All of them.

Yum.

So by pumping antibiotics into everything, we kill off most bacteria and leave behind the resistant ones. Life, once again, found a way to survive. I’m sure we’ll find a way to survive too, but we need to correct this bad behavior. In order to accomplish this, we need to put pressure on the farm industry. They’re providing food you put in your and your family’s bodies. That’s a big deal, right?

As for me, I’m going to be even more vigilant about the food products I buy (it’s easier now that I’m going vegan). I know not everyone has the means to do so, but those of us that do may want to bypass convenience for a way that’s better for our future health. We all have to adapt sometime.

Mistaking Climate Change for a Fairy Tale… Sigh

Photo Credit: Christopher Michel
Photo Credit: Christopher Michel

Over the weekend, I helped a friend of a friend for a freelance project. For all intents and purposes, he was a really nice guy albeit a bit overly chatty.

As he yapped my ear off, our conversation veered into a really interesting direction.

Client: So where are you from?

Andre: New Jersey.

Client: Oh man, I feel sorry for you guys. How you holding up with the snow there?

Andre: It’s actually not so bad right n-

Client: You see, this is what I don’t understand. I hear all this talk about global warming, but I think it’s nonsense. How could we get so much snow if global warming is real? Those guys are bulls**t.

Andre:

I wasn’t about to get into this topic because I would school this guy. However, he’s not alone in his thinking. For some reason, there are a number of Americans that debate this as well.

I’m living in Crazy Town.

I can’t blame them though – not totally anyway – because some of our own leaders deny climate change like a bastard child.

No offense to all the bastard children out there.

I LITERALLY heard a politician once say, “I disagree with scientists.” Think about that for a second; the guy who sits in an office all day discussing man-made politics disagrees with people who research things like climate change for a living.

LOL.

That’s no different than Bible thumpers who still think evolution is some theory bred from the bowels of Satan himself. But instead of god being the motivating factor, money is running the show here. Oil companies lobby to keep this machine moving and their friends in high places shovel BS down the public’s throat as a result.

Symbiosis FTW, amirite?

Later that night, I watched an episode of Vice (if you aren’t watching, you totally should) that focused on rising ocean waters and, good Jeebus, is this more of a dire situation than I first thought. Call it willful ignorance on my part, but I had no clue Antarctica was melting at such a rapid rate. I had no clue very flat countries like Bangladesh are already feeling the effects with receding coasts. I had no clue we are facing an inevitable crisis.

Inevitable.

I know, I’m quite the little ray of sunshine today, right?

It seems humanity is in quite the pickle, one that we’re not prepared to eat. But maybe this is something on which we should focus because our future generations will have to carry this weight. I mean, at least I don’t have kids nor do I plan on having them.

But what about all the parents out there? Are they actually cool with this? I really, really hope not because this is the future we’re facing. One day we’ll be gone and someone else will have to bear the weight. If we’re on a runaway train, let’s at least plan on how to brace for its eventual crash.

Or, you know, we can just keep pretending this isn’t a thing.

I Want to Become a Superhero (I Think)

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I’m conflicted, y’all. I’ve been conflicted for about a year now actually and it all has to do with my own knowledge of how this whole funky system is working.

I love being lazy. I also love reading and watching documentaries. The reading and documentary watching, however, is effing up my desire to be lazy. Case in point: the food industry.

As I wrote on here previously, I’m a vegetarian. I dabbled in it in the past, but it was more so for health reasons. After seeing the ugliness of how animals are treated – how they live, what they’re fed, and so on – I gave up on chowing down on animals.

Even you, bacon. I still love you though.

Don’t tell my future wife.

Now I’m on the way to becoming vegan because I became aware of what happens to animals after they can’t produce milk, eggs, etc.

VEGAN.

I used to make fun of vegans. If we were in high school, I’d probably be tempted to steal a vegan’s lunch money, buy a burger, and seductively eat it as a single vegan tear trickles down their vegan cheek.

NOW I’M BECOMING ONE OF THEM.

Well, I watched a documentary called Food Chains that covers how the food industry thrives based on the poverty of farm workers. Not farmers, mind you; those barely exist anymore. I sort of knew these shenanigans were going on, but to hear the details… Good Jeebus….

So now I want to grow my own food too. Problem solved, right?

Nope. Not at all actually.

I watched a documentary called Blackfish that details the straight up grimy nature of Sea World. You know, how they mistreat orcas, how they lied about the death of trainers, and the ILLEGAL way they captured whales.

I read about the lack of integrity in mass journalism. I read about politicians who get away with crimes that affect citizens while low level criminals get prison time like nothing. I read about the outright lies of capitalism and the roots of poverty. I read about how misinterpretations of something as simple as the bible cause the discrimination of, say, homosexuals.

I read too effing much.

Now, I could turn a blind eye to all this and just say I’m going to do me. I’m going to separate from all of this and live the best life I can without contributing to the negativity. It sounded like a perfect plan.

Almost.

I think a lot of people do this. But if everyone does this, the BS continues. Can I sit on this knowledge and try to play the “I’m just one person” card? That just feels like a cop out to me.

Listen, I want nothing more than a quiet life away from everything with the love of my life, but it’s tough for me to just ignore this nonsense. I can do it for a while, but I always come back to this same place. Can I just ignore this and keep living? Am I okay with knowing others suffer to make this machine move?

That’s a lot to ignore. The proverbial elephant in the room, I suppose.

This isn’t a call to action. Everyone is free to do what they want, even if I don’t agree. But I think it’s time for Clark Kent…

Er… Bruce Wayne. Clark Kent is a dork.

…I think it’s time for Bruce Wayne to let the world know he’s not standing for it.

It’s put up or shut up time.

Peace out, party people.

Daily Opinion: Making a Case for Bronies

Brony rainbow wig

A friend of mine told me about this show called King of the Nerds, a stupid competition reality show where “nerds” play different games to earn the title of King of Nerds. It’s hosted by two stars from Revenge of the Nerds.

This is America, folks.

And being a good American, I watched an episode of the show fully knowing I’d be a shade stupider going forward. But I’m a good American so I fulfill my duty. I’m basically a patriot/hero.

A patrero?

*cough*

Boy, was I in for a treat. I can’t say all of these people were nerds. I classify nerds as smart and not all of them fit that criterion. The show should have been called King of the Nerds, Dorks, Geeks, and Socially Inept. There was one guy in particular that had my attention. He classified himself as a Brony.

KotN_Brony

Holy s**t, they caught one out in the wild.

If you don’t know what Bronies are, they’re guys who are way (too?) into the cartoon, My Little Pony.

Brony

Way (TOO?!?!?) into it.

Anytime I have even the mildest of momentary interest in something, I fully indulge. First I checked Wikipedia. Then I randomly checked different Brony sites I found. Then I watched a documentary about Bronies called (duh) Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. I was simply captivated by this, mostly because I grew up in the 80’s where kids would question your sexuality in a not so nice way if you even hinted at liking something that wasn’t explicitly for guys. These guys love My Little Pony and they don’t give a G-rated holy heck what you think about it.

So okay, everything gets popular for a reason. Instead of writing off the show, I watched an episode to see what it was all about.

So here’s the thing…

It’s a cartoon. But it’s one that seems to want to boost the confidence of its audience. There are some really positive messages, but not things like beware of drugs or brush your teeth. They were all about peace and love and being happy with who you are. These are some pretty awesome messages.

You know what else? Watching all this stuff, I’ve never seen an asshole Brony. Maybe this is all Brony propaganda and I’m playing right into their cartoon pony loving hands/hooves, but I like to take people at face value. These guys are harmless.

But would it be so bad if more people in the world were like that? You know… HARMLESS. Harmless means harm is not happening. Get my drift here?

I’m not saying we need more Bronies. I’m saying we could use more harmless people.

Though I personally couldn’t watch the show past this moment of curiosity, I tip my hat to you, Bronies. Rock on. Be who you want to be. Not enough people in this world actually do that.

But some of you still go too far…

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Previously: Life Is Awesome if You Have a Deadline

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

Daily Opinion: Science Will/May Always Be Incomplete

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I already know I may catch some crap for this one, but trust me, I’m using nothing but reasoning here.

I LOVE science. It’s the reason why I loved Nova when I was younger and it’s the reason why I love Brain Games now. I was just watching an episode about the paranormal and it got me thinking .

So what, so what, so what’s the scenario?

In this episode, the focus du jour was the paranormal. In one of the experiments, people were checking out a $1.5 million house that was on sale for about $650,000. Quite the steal, right? Well, eventually the people were told someone was murdered in the bedroom. Without fail, people were like, “Oh hell nah!”

I would be too.

What was more interesting was the scientific explanation  for this response. Per the show, even if you aren’t superstitious, your brain applies the idea of transitive properties to many things. It can start with something as simple as “fire is hot, therefore if I touch it, I will get hot.” Our brains apply this transitive feeling to events, which is what caused most people to freak out.

Oh science, you so smart.

But here’s the thing: are we actually smarter for knowing what the brain is doing, or is there a valid reason the brain acts this way, but we’re just unaware of what it is.

Everything we know of is based on our awareness. EVERYTHING. Even science. Why? Because science isn’t as unbiased as we’d like to think. This is totally science from a human perspective. If you really want me to break it down, science is nothing more than the understanding of the things of which we are aware. From that understanding, we can create advancements and progress as a species, but we will always have a limit, which is our awareness.

When we are unaware of something, but we have an educated idea, we have a theory. People much smarter than me debate, discuss, and maybe even agree. Some theories even get proven right because we figure out ways to use technology to expand our awareness. Suddenly humanity is jerking itself off at how awesome we are at science. But what about the things of which we are aware, but they don’t fit any logical explanation. Is that just phenomena? Where things get tricky are things people become aware of that can’t possibly be confirmed by anyone else.

Now, I’m not going to take that next leap in logic because I want to make sure I stay focused. I notice humanity has an odd association with things that have been staples in the majority of our collective culture. For example, people look at money as being valuable instead of something that just represents value. Language is thought of as the be all, end all of communication (even for your inner “voice”). Math is seen as this concept of numbers instead of a means of translating ideas and concepts. The same thing happens with science.

For ages, people smarter than the rest of humanity have been making sense of this world. They observe, calculate, invent, and do all their sciencey duties in order to create a truth. Science is boundless by nature, but rules are placed. Some ideas are accepted while others are accepted. But for the rest of us, we depend on the people smarter than us. Someone created science so it has to be right… right?

Who created the word twerk? It exists as a word only because many of us acknowledge it. These rules apply to science as well; consensus equals truth. But there is so much we may NEVER be aware of simply because we don’t have the ability. Or there are things only one person can be aware of. One is a product of a lack of ability while the other is a personal experience. But one sounds more credible than the other, doesn’t it?

Hmmmm…

I don’t know… I’m not writing this because I want to prove a point. I just want to present an idea. Math, language and science are awesome tools, but much like religion, we place a lot of faith in them as if what we have right now is infallible. Some things may honestly be pretty rock solid, but humans have been discovering for god knows how long. And we’ve been wrong… a lot. All I’m saying is, let’s not totally write off possibilities. You never know what we may become aware of in the future.

Previously: Are Modular Jobs a Possibility?