On Being Thankful for Dungeons at Halloween

When I was a younger person, I had more time for inane conversations about favorite movies, great restaurants, and other personal preferences. I’d stay up on the phone, talking to a girl whose interest in me was already fading, trying to convince her that I was unassailably cool because I was a night owl. In my estimation at the time, that kind of preference was what could accurately predict personal compatibility.

To be sure, those likes and dislikes can tip the scales when one’s mind is torn. They’re not nearly so important as I once thought, though. I say all this because my daughters are both in that age range now. Technology has provided me with previously unimagined insight into their conversations, as their texts, tweets, and messages bounce around the cloud at home. Checking those communiques are part of my parenting regimen.

Just like when I was young, their conversations are sodden with feelings they’re ill-equipped to articulate. Instead of being able to express genuine interest in another person, a complicated dance routine emerges in which superficial flirting or silly non sequiturs become required steps in an elaborate pairing ritual. Wearing the right clothes and knowing the right lingo isn’t enough. One has to be fluent in an array of discourses to navigate the shallow, muddy waters of teenage relationships.

In that same effort, I had developed a series of monologues that staked the limits of my particular personality. One of my favorites was a conversation about one’s favorite time of day. Like anything created by a human, the monologue was graceless and awkward in its early stages. Periodic refinement and adjustment led to sentences that were loaded with more pathos and innuendo. You probably think I’m crazy, but you’re probably guilty of the same thing. Continue reading

Requiem for a Friend

Each of us inhabit our own small world and all of our worlds are constantly overlapping. It’s as much a miracle of metaphysics to walk amongst each other’s worlds as it is to lose oneself, at the exclusion of all others, in the solipsistic solitude of one’s horizons. I’ve written about how individuals interact with others more than once and I’m equally guilty of navel gazing reflections doubling as posts. This week’s post lies somewhere in between, overlapping common experiences while undoubtedly floating on a stream of contemplation.

It’s been a long week, overloaded with pressing responsibilities and unnecessary burdens. I’m glad it’s over. Everyone has these sorts of weeks, where a person is always just a step behind or a few paces off the beaten trail. It’s comforting, in a way, to know that this week’s feelings of sturm und drang aren’t unique to me. Someone else will undeservedly inherit the burden that I hope I’ve successfully cast off.

When in this sort of funk, some people reassure themselves with joyful thoughts of a better tomorrow. Others share saccharine-sweet pictures of otters, koalas, pugs, or other adorable critters. Some settle into the sofa and watch comedies to lighten the mood. In any case, it’s the sense of well-being that follows such activities that allows a person to feel better.

At other times, wallowing in the funk isn’t as bad as it sounds. When a fog of melancholy descends, erasing perspective and social instinct, lingering in the haze can be beautiful. Aimlessly driving at night, which used to be a favorite activity of mine, became less of a means of transporting myself from point A to B and more of a means of transporting myself from one confused state of mind to another, less worried one. Continue reading

It’s Time to Say Bon Voyage to Columbus Day

In the year 2013, the United States of America will celebrate ten federal holidays. Most of these holidays commemorate an important value or idea, such as paying respect to veterans and fallen soldiers, our nation’s independence, or the contributions laborers have made in building our society. You can read my thoughts on Labor Day here. I’m not intentionally trying to establish a series of blog posts motivated by a holiday induced reflection, but an internet meme encountered earlier this week gave me pause to think about the holiday we observe today.

The Oatmeal is a humor site that has given the hoi polloi such memorable articles like How to Use a Semicolon , My Dog, the Paradox, and my personal favorite, 10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling. Earlier this week, the individuals behind those posts also shared a comical tirade against Christopher Columbus. Feel free to read it if you like, but anyone with more than a passing interest in history probably knows most of what the post contains.

Columbus is presented as a bumbling, greed-fueled, genocidal madman. There’s some historical basis for such a claim and the post’s point about rejecting Columbus’s achievement is insightful, if not a bit too tongue-in-cheek for such a heavy topic. Ultimately, the idea is offered that we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day if it’s to honor the dead mariner.

Growing up, the need for such a holiday was tied to the presentation of Columbus as a courageous hero of human exploration. Even if it’s true that intelligent people thought the world was round or that Columbus wasn’t the first European to land in the Americas, the boldness of such a gambit evokes thoughts of humanity’s propensity to abandon fear in search of answers from the unknown.

Every semester when teaching a certain essay unit, I ask students to describe what exploration means. Some point to Mars and our efforts there as a reasonable definition, while others point to psychonauts exploring the innerspace of human consciousness, where they arrive at new truths and thus see the world anew. Exploration motivates people to seek out new medicine to fight diseases, while also motivating others to break social barriers and unjust laws. Columbus Day could celebrate all of those human characteristics, but it seems like a stretch to say that. Continue reading

Admitting You Have a Problem Is the First Step

They say it takes all sorts to make a world and surely the vast gamut of human personalities testifies to this. In any given day, you’re likely to encounter a dizzying array of different people. Whether its the shy, introverted bookworm in the office next door, the high-spirited pixie who never seems to miss a beat, or the lumbering, moody, malcontented neckbeard in front of you in line, the parade of personalities keeps life varied and interesting. Over time, we come to appreciate the strange mosaic of odd people surrounding us at all times because of the infinite diversity they represent.

With infinite diversity also comes the potential for encounters with personality types that are a bit harder to handle than others. This article, in a semi-serious way, highlights a study that partially explains why certain test subjects expressed dislike for environmentalists and feminists. To be fair, I think the takeaway from that article isn’t that environmentalists and feminists are unlikable. The article’s primary claim is that people shy away from the politically passionate, regardless of their particular stripe or creed. Most people are simply uncomfortable with aggressive activists for change because of our herd mentality.

There’s one personality type we run into far too often that can ruin our day faster than any politically aggressive, overbearing activist: The asshole. Continue reading