Respect, Disrespect, & Unity

489I will not respect your opinion if it shows disrespect to other people.

Yes, we’re all free to have our opinion. Even this post, is simply my opinion. I believe the message of this post is true. You may agree with it, and you may not. Either way, I don’t want to force you into believing it because I do.

I am not going to honor opinions that are disrespectful. But, I am also not going to argue about how I think you’re wrong, because that only adds to the problem.

What are these ‘disrespectful opinions’?

These opinions breed division. They blame. They scapegoat. They belittle. They mock. They condemn. They refuse to listen or understand.

Disrespectful opinions separate people into dangerous categories: Good and bad. Innocent and guilty. Right and wrong. Solvers and problems. Holy and sinful. Perfect and abomination. Chosen and mistake.

As I withhold respect of these opinions, I need to watch myself from slipping into the same thing. I need to make sure that in rejecting fundamentalism I am not entering into more fundamentalism just with different beliefs. I need to remember to attack the disrespectful opinions, not the people who hold them. I must not return hate with hate and must not assume that I am right. Continue reading

Possibilities & Reality

img_20161008_132703158When I first started writing this post, I expected by the time I would publish it I would have heard back from all of the graduate school programs to which I applied. I even decided to publish it towards the end of the day instead at the beginning of the day in hope that I would hear back from the one remaining program. But that’s not the way it went. I’m still waiting for a response from the last program.

Over the past few weeks I have experienced the dwindling of possible futures. Although graduate school is only one part of my life, it will significantly shape the outcome of my life. It will shape what I learn, how I think, what I know, what I do, and many other things.

As I’ve received rejection letters from programs to which I’ve applied, I have been disheartened. Yet, present is a tinge of hope. Because with each denied admission I am closer to life that will be. The reality I will live, that will be mine. Last fall as I applied I began to imagine my life. There were many possible outcomes, each with their perks and annoyances. And while neither of the two remaining possibilities are my top choice, I know more now than I did two months ago when I felt like my future was on hold. So that’s something to celebrate: I know more than I did before. I have been given back the ability to plan. Continue reading

What Are We Even Doing?

016-2In case you’ve been living under a rock, things haven’t been going so well for the ol’ people of Earth.

Divisions are widening. Tensions are increasing. Truth seems hard to pin down.

Oh, and people are dying.

And it seems like all I can do is watch. In disbelief. In shock. In anger. In tears. In concern for the future.

The non-stop cycle of news is overwhelming. There always seems to be another terrible event.

I want to ignore these things, but I also can’t bear to tune them out because they are so gripping. Because they are real events that affect real people. I cannot unsee or unhear so many things 45 (aka D***** T****, whose name I refuse to have on this blog) has said and done. I cannot unsee the pictures of dead children in Aleppo.  I cannot unsee the desperation of the water protectors at Standing Rock to be heard and respected. I cannot unread the stories of families separated and people banned from entering the United States.

Unfortunately, the tragedy in Aleppo the others mentioned above are just a few of the many horrific things to take place in recent months. The list of heartbreaking injustices is always longer than it should be, but it seems especially long these days. Continue reading

Waiting as a Gift

img_20161007_181058877-2Every so often we experience times when our circumstances feel out of our control, when uncertainty is the only thing of which we can be certain.

I am presently in one of those times. In the past when I have had to wait for things, usually I have known what I was waiting for. This allowed me to plan ahead. But right now I find myself unable to plan, because it will be about two months until I hear the answers that will determine where I will be living for at least the next three years of my life. In addition, the answers will significantly alter the course of my life from here on out. My applications have been sent in. All I can do is wait.

In my situation there are four potential outcomes: one involves graduate school in a new town in my home state, two involve graduate school in the same area I went to college, and the final one involves moving back to that area but not attending graduate school. I’m not sure which one will become reality. I can hope, but there are pros and cons to every option, and no amount of hope will change the outcome. Another difficulty is that it is nearly impossible to know which of these options is most likely to come true.

Right now I am living in this weird state where I can’t plan my future. As a planner, this is incredibly frustrating. Not knowing what a large part of my life will be like for the next three years is irritating. The next few months of my calendar are eerily blank. In a way this situation feels like the season finale of a television show. I’m waiting in suspense for the big reveal. Yet this is not a season finale. This is not just some story I can watch and walk away from. It is a story that I will have to accept and then live. Continue reading

Dayenu & Contentment

032-2About a year ago I was introduced to the concept of Dayenu. I learned that in Hebrew the word means “it would have been enough”. I read that Dayenu is a song Jews sing during the Passover holiday to express their gratitude to God for the wonderful things God has done for them. The song names specific historic events, stating how it would have been enough if God had only done one of those things.

In a world full of materialism, consumerism, individualism, and self-centeredness, I think Dayenu has much to teach us about contentment.

Put briefly, I think Dayenu shows that contentment is about rest.

It is not saying that everything must be as we think it should be in order to be content. No, Dayenu is about stepping back and saying that we have enough. It is about reflecting on where we’ve come and celebrating the progress we’ve made. It is renouncing the idea that we are entitled to more. It is about not placing value in things. It is a conscious decision that however unfair and messy things are at the moment, somehow we have enough. Continue reading

Thoughts In Transiton

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I am graduating from college in one week. It is an important milestone, but it is merely the setting for my current outlook on life. The graduation ceremony will only last about two hours; it is a moment fixed in time that will pass and maybe one day be forgotten. However, what the ceremony represents has introduced thoughts that are likely to stay swirling in my mind for some time.

I think of the many lasts. This is a sad thought, but somehow good, I think. No matter how strange it may be that this part of life is about to end, I don’t want things to stay the way they are forever. I really enjoy life right now, but I am also excited to move on to different things. When things end there is a danger to romanticize the past. The familiarity of the people, places, and things we’re about to leave can mask the negative qualities they hold. It’s important to remember those things so our memories are not mistaken. Continue reading

What Happened, Not What’s Wrong

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What’s wrong with you? What happened to you?

These two questions seem to get at the same thing. They both are inquisitive in nature, yet there is a noticeable difference in the tone of the questions.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ is usually asked with a bite, spoken with anger.

This question really isn’t looking for an answer. It’s a sharp reflexive punch used to shock an adversary.

However, other times it is asked with the right intentions, but this question fails to effectively display one’s genuine concern.

‘What happened to you?’ takes a quieter, empathetic posture.

It is kinder, and actually invites an answer. A long answer, even.

Asking what happened comes off as less of a personal attack; it shows that they are interested in getting to know us. They aren’t judging us, they want to hear more information from us. Continue reading

The Whys Matter, Sometimes

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We don’t always need to know the whys.

I am a big fan of context. That’s part of why I tell terrible stories. Throughout my “stories”, I frequently introduce new information and then describe some entire other event because I think it holds critical and relevant information (it usually doesn’t). What should be a simple two-minute story typically turns into a 10-minute jumbled mess.

While the importance of knowing whether it was a Tuesday or Wednesday when I experienced something several years ago is debatable, understanding the context in many other situations is of great importance.

The whys aren’t necessary. As a tasty example, I don’t need to know how ice cream is made in order to enjoy it. I don’t need to have a working knowledge of why the body recognizes ice cream as pleasurable. Knowing the history of ice cream and the process by which it is made could very likely increase my appreciation of it. Yet, this information is not needed to live and make decisions.

Reflecting on the context and effects of past events has many benefits. One of the purposes of studying history is to apply it to present day, so we don’t repeat our mistakes. While there are not always direct connections from events in history to current issues, there are more similarities than we expect. Continue reading

Chasing Certainty & Welcoming Uncertainty

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Absolute faith in what we are doing with no doubts on the horizon; it sounds remarkable.

Yet as good as it sounds, I am starting to believe that it is unattainable. Especially for some people.

I count myself as someone who strongly desire certainty.

I frequently wonder:

Am I doing the right thing?

How can I tell?

What do I want?

How do I know for sure?

How will I look back on this decision?

Soon I can find myself constantly checking to see if I am sure. I try to look for a sign that will make sense of everything and erase all my doubts. Usually, once I think I have made it to that point, a thought or question pops up and I am unsure once again.

Making little progress in chasing after certainty, I have resolved to develop a better relationship with uncertainty. Continue reading

To Be Known

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This whole blogging thing is weird at times. It is weird to think that other people are reading the words I have written. Whether they are family members, friends, or strangers, people throughout the world are stumbling on to this blog and reading what I have to say. The fact that people are reading a blog is not stunning; that’s usually what happens to blogs. What is most perplexing is that this blog is connected to a person, to me.

Part of the reason this blog’s official name is Wonders in the Wind: Towards the Alignment of Thoughts and Actions, is to give it a specific purpose. The name suggests what this blog about. Another reason is because it personally helps to have a name to hide behind. Since this blog is not my name, I can separate myself a bit from the blog.

As a recovering wallflower, the idea of people seeking out things I do is kind of unfamiliar. I deeply appreciate that people are reading and commenting, but it is a pretty odd experience. Also, it’s sometimes difficult to promote my new blog posts because I don’t want to annoy people or take up a bunch of their time. Nor do I want to this blog to be all about me. Because it is definitely not. It’s about sharing my perspective and interacting with people who have their own unique perspective.

By blogging consistently I have to be a little more open about myself, which is frightening at times because there are many valid concerns about people actually knowing me. They might not like what I have to say, they might disagree or dismiss my opinion, and so on.

It’s great to talk about being known and having the courage to be honest, but actually living that out can be a challenge. If you find yourself in shoes similar to the ones I wear sometimes, it helps to have some practical ways to work on being comfortable with yourself and letting yourself be known. Here are a few ways I have been trying to implement that. Continue reading

Perils of the Anxious Artist

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It’s an intriguing concept to want to create and share yet be terrified of doing just that. But it’s more than an idea, it’s a reality for many bloggers, dancers, actors, writers, painters, sculptors, speakers, musicians, and other artists.

Artists have many ideas spinning in their head, itching to be expressed through their body in some way. So while part of art is the creation by the group or individual, another part is the experience of the viewer. Their reaction in many ways adds depth to the art. In relation to blogging, I can write a post, but no one can respond until I publish it. I will never know how others will experience the post until I release it for the public viewing.

While artists possess a flurry of possibilities, they also have reasons why they should give up and do something else with their lives, which include: Continue reading

Exaggerating Our Lives For What?

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Since moving to Minnesota for college, I have noticed that many Minnesota residents, Minnesotans if you will, tend to aggrandize things about the state.

Coming from Illinois, I am not used to taking a lot of pride in my state. In my experience, the only thing Illinois residents have that comes close to state pride is a collective disappointment over how broke the state is and the small problem of our governors bending the rules so they can partake in some additional public service. In prison.

Initially, hearing the exaggerations from Minnesotans was somewhat comical. Sometimes it still is. Other times, however, it is off-putting and from my perspective, a little vain.

One of the big ones I have heard is this:

“We have the WORST winters ever. It doesn’t even compare to the mild winters in other places.”

Actually, no. I can attest that Minnesota winters are in fact cold. And I agree that they are colder than what I am used to in Illinois, as one would expect. But the winters in many other states such as North Dakota, Maine, Wyoming, and of course Alaska are around the same temperature or colder. Also, Minnesota just makes the top ten of the America’s snowiest states. Please stop the false uniqueness.

Here’s another gem I’ve heard: Continue reading

Words That Capture Me

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As some of you may know, the beginning of this blog was the result of keeping a personal journal every day for one whole year. True, a year is not the longest span of time, but compared to my previous efforts to journal, a year is a major accomplishment. When I have journaled before I was lucky to write entries three days in a row.

I have been journaling daily for a year and a half now, and as I have journaled, little words or phrases have stuck out. These snippets seem to sufficiently capture a specific theme that is important in my life at the time. I come up with some of them, and others I read somewhere or hear from someone around me. These words and phrases hold a lot of meaning to me; each one sticks around for a few months, then a new word of phrase bubbles up.

Since I started journaling, I’ve used the following words and phrases to sum up my perspective on life at different points. Continue reading

Killed By Kindness

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Kill them with kindness.

Cross-stitched on pillows everywhere.

It’s a nice sentiment, and a highly favorable alternative to actually killing someone with hatred or aggression or shame.

But does the fact that kindness is a positive characteristic make up for the desire to kill? To attack? To overwhelm?

I’m sure I am taking the phrase beyond its original intent; when we carry out this action we are not hoping it will end in someone’s death. It’s just an expression; a cliché. Still, I think it is wise to know what we mean when we say things. So what does this phrase mean? Continue reading

A Lot of People, But Not Everyone

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A lot of people have a blog, but not everyone.

A lot of people like to cook, but not everyone.

A lot of people are business owners, but not everyone.

A lot of people can sing, but not everyone.

A lot of people are parents, but not everyone.

A lot of people can act, but not everyone.

A lot of people are students, but not everyone.

A lot of people enjoy writing, but not everyone.

 

We are kidding ourselves if we think that we are totally unique, in the sense that no one can relate to us.

In fact, we are more like those around us than we sometimes care to admit. We are all human beings; breathing, laughing, living. We eat, we sleep. We wake.

There is so much that people have in common, yet in those commonalities reside a host of variations. Continue reading