Tag Archives: freedom

Why I Feel Everyone Should Read

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I truly and wholeheartedly believe the world would be a better place if everyone considered reading as essential as other daily tasks. I realize that not everyone likes to read; some, in fact, claim to hate it and refuse to voluntarily skim through even a few books a year after they have completed high school.

The result has been, over the last few decades, a disintegration of our civilization on multiple — alarming — levels. As a society, our refusal to read has had detrimental effects: many people’s comprehension, vocabulary, communication, and logical thinking has suffered; they lack basic spelling, usage, and grammar skills; and they have trouble interacting appropriately with others because they are unable to empathize or connect emotionally. Additionally, while people turn away from books and embrace television and Netflix, for example, they are abdicating any responsibility for deep critical thinking or personal growth, as is it common knowledge that binge-watching American Dad cannot replicate the benefits of a focused long-term plot or the in-depth character study offered in books. Furthermore, by wasting time so contentedly on social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, people are allowing others to dictate their ethics, self-worth, and interests. “Likes” are very important these days, and young people, in particular, will do or say just about anything to earn approval from strangers online.

Being an optimist, I refuse to believe this change to our culture is permanent. I know that reading offers too many benefits to allow it to “go gentle into that good night.” I will continue to promote reading and encourage my students to engage in it regularly. Below are a few reasons why.

Reading serves many purposes. Historically, story-telling was a way to preserve a culture’s beliefs and to pass on its values to younger generations. (In my opinion, it can definitely do the same today.) Problematically, modern-day reading is mainly seen as simply a leisure activity, done with the intention of providing entertainment, and therefore viewed as a “huge waste of time.” A lot of people would just rather “watch the movie.”

Many times, though, people do not realize exactly how much they can take away from reading, in general. We can study a character’s true motivations and analyze the factors that drive their behaviors. We can pick up on clues that a character may be “unreliable” (and, therefore, untrustworthy) through subtle hints and indirect characterization. We can assess the results of a character’s decisions and actions, examining how it impacts his or her life over a long span of time. We can gain insight by familiarizing ourselves with characters from all walks of life, with varying interests, abilities, and personality traits. This can train us for daily interactions with those around us and help us to better know ourselves.

For example, reading a novel which includes characters who are greedy or selfish can subtly demonstrate the danger of such behaviors in our own lives. Similarly, lovable characters can cause readers to forget their own loneliness for a short time, or lead readers to recognize desirable traits that they can adopt for themselves. Sympathetic characters can ease a reader’s feelings of self-pity by opening his or her eyes to other forms of pain and suffering in the world. Heroes fighting against villains — whether successful in their endeavors or not — can teach readers the importance of standing up for what they believe is right.

There are many genres from which to choose, so with enough searching just about everyone can find a novel that suits their interests. Some prefer true-crime documentaries while others enjoy romance novels. Mystery novels are fun because they enable people to piece together information and attempt to make accurate predictions — they keep people engaged. Science-fiction, fantasy, and mythology can expand people’s imaginations while, often, encouraging personal moral decision-making or ethical soul-searching. Nonfiction selections in the self-improvement, history, or autobiography categories are meant to provide useful information and can help people understand themselves and the  world around them more clearly. A few relate best to poetry, as they find that it succinctly expresses their own feelings in unique or unexpected ways, which can be quite comforting. Someone might prefer to read classics, from which they can deduce that, while the world itself has changed greatly over time, human nature and emotions have not.

Reading, most importantly, opens our minds. I have smiled when my favorite characters succeed. I have cried when innocent or helpless characters are killed. I have raged over the injustices characters suffer at the hands of their society. I have been uplifted when characters are able to turn their lives around and make a positive change. I have gained wisdom, courage, and strength from reading about the struggles in other people’s lives. I have educated myself on concepts, ideas, and philosophies about which I had no other way of learning. Reading lets me see the world from many perspectives and experience things I never would otherwise. It allows me to be part of other cultures and travel through time. It helps me to not only visit other worlds, but to live in this one more fully.

Peace and love.11215807_10205957227265590_2406978983197072906_n.jpg

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Ways We Can Improve Our Society: Part One

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As election time rolls around and debates separate the wheat from the chaff and political ads slander opponents mercilessly, it becomes apparent (particularly on social media) that everyone in America knows what is best for the country and if you disagree you are a worthless pile of fool. To add to the “excitement” of another 11 months of campaigns, here is the first stage of “making America great again,” and if you disagree, you are a worthless pile of fool.

First up, budget cuts. I hear about this concept of “budgeting” and apparently it means “planning for a fiscally sound future by not buying so much makeup,” according to my husband’s line of thinking. What it actually means is balancing income and expenses — in other words, allotting an adequate amount of money to each area in order to responsibly pay bills in a timely fashion. The following are some ways I think the local, state, and federal government could increase revenue or cut needless expenditures, or improve our society as a whole.

First, when an individual is caught speeding, he or she should be required to pay a fine of no less than $50 for every excess mile per hour an officer clocked their speed. (Bonus: the main roads will be much safer, as compulsive speed demons will likely stick to back roads — I’m not convinced they can change.) That money can be earmarked for educational funding, including a newly required defensive driving course for all caught recklessly risking their own and others’ lives by cruising along at 75 in a 65 zone.

Second, why do prisons provide cable television? Many hardworking, law-abiding citizens can’t afford such a luxury. My cable bill each month is astronomical (particularly after adding an additional box) and increases semi-annually. Felons don’t need cable, they need to sit and think about what they did wrong. If they get bored with repenting, they can pick up a book and read. Our world would be a better place if everyone in it read a book a month. Rather than setting up convicts with expensive entertainment, force them to watch local channels and, when they tire of that, to educate themselves. I know, the option of schooling already exists in the joint, but I feel more people who are incarcerated would put forth the effort of seeking an education to better their lives on the outside if it was the only option available during their free time (and by free time, I mean the time they don’t spend lifting weights and fashioning shivs out of toothbrushes). Admittedly my knowledge of the inner workings of life in the clink is limited to, ironically, what I have viewed on cable networks. What would the government do with all the funds they freed up by making the pen “hard-copy only”? They would redirect that cash to fuel public education. By funneling more money into our children’s schooling, we could hope there would be fewer ex-cons in the long run — and wouldn’t that make for a brighter future overall?

Third, hire only highly skilled and professional construction companies who will work on one mile of road at a time, from dawn until dusk every single day until the job is complete. The longer that stretch of patch work takes, the more road rage I suffer. The citizens pay taxes to fund quick, sound reconstruction of the roads, not to hire a bunch of sweaty, chain-smoking sign holders. When I drive by at 10:15 in the morning, I know they cannot possibly be legitimately still eating breakfast. So why are they just sitting in their trucks, laughing at my aggravation? Why do they tear up twenty miles of the interstate at a time if they have no intention of fixing it that week? Why must I slow down to twenty-five miles an hour when workers are nowhere to be found? Why doesn’t the foreman insist they remove the “reduce speed ahead” signs before leaving for the afternoon siesta (which is the only logical explanation for why machines are sitting empty in the ditches when I drive home at 4:30 in the afternoon)? Why is my tax money paying for months of unnecessary inconvenience to travelers and a lack of oversight resulting in lazy incompetence from poorly managed road crews? I’m becoming suspicious that maybe they intentionally take so long because they get paid by the day. Government officials, do some reference checking on the companies you pay with my money, or I will vote you out.

Check out part two here.

Peace and love.

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Love Is in the Air

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I love weddings. I should clarify that: I love the idea of weddings.

I love the idea that two people, despite the odds of divorce, which are ever-increasingly stacked against them, believe that their love will last “until death parts them.” I love that two people are willing to commit themselves, fully, completely, voluntarily, to only one other person for the rest of their lives. I love the idea that each person in the marriage is willing to sacrifice their own desires, needs, whims, hopes, dreams, or plans, if it means the other will find fulfillment. I love the idea that they trust that their love is stronger than their independence, stronger than their recklessness, stronger than their irresponsibility, for they are willing to exchange all of those traits for a lifetime of partnership, forgiveness, and accountability. I love that, while they each lose their individual freedom, they gain a comfortable security. I love the idea that they both desire only the best things in life for the one person they adore above all others. I love that both people in the marriage promise, on entering the union, to value, trust, support, care for, and respect his or her partner until the end of their days.

I love that a wedding is the beginning of a marriage.

I love that there is a friendship so strong between two people, one they fear losing so greatly, that they devote every thought and action of every day to keeping that friendship stable and healthy and balanced and, most importantly alive. Relationships take work or, much like the cactus in my kitchen, they die slowly, a little at a time, until, unfortunately, they are unable to be revived.

Marriage, at its core, is a long-term inside joke between two best friends. A culture develops for the two people inside the relationship that others simply do not understand.

A wedding, in effect, is a statement that each partner will create a life-long secret world shared only by those two people. No one else is invited in to explore. No one can board a plane and vacation there for a while. Though there are always outside observers staring over the fence, no one else fully gets the couple’s world. No one understands their special language. No one was there for all the memories the pair created. No one has seen all the arguments, the laughs, the slow-dances, the tears.

Nobody else gets the joke. Nobody else needs to. Don’t you just love weddings?

Peace and love.199400_1027251397347_5685_n

Why I Love and Loathe Social Media

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Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Youtube, Instagram, WordPress — odds are good that most people have an account set up on at least one of these websites. I, in fact, have an account on all of them. So, why are we, as a society, so into social media? When did it become so popular as to include people all over the world, of all ages and cultures and interests?

The benefits of using social media are numerous. These sites enable people with common interests or purposes or beliefs to interact. I have had the pleasure of meeting several people online that I would never have been able to meet any other way. I can learn new skills, discuss my ideas, promote myself, and broaden my circle of acquaintances. I can support and encourage my friends, and console or commiserate when it is necessary. I can feel like I am a part of something big.

This is a detriment. Social media is, at least in my life, beginning to replace other interests or hobbies — there is not enough time in my life for everything I love to do. I check my sites several times a day, scrolling and commenting and liking and reading other peoples’ posts. I watch a video online, and it links to another video, and another. Time gets away from me. Playing my instrument, practicing my calligraphy, sketching a picture, reading a book, playing a video game, crocheting an afghan — all my other hobbies take a backseat to updating my status online.

It gets worse. Studies are suggesting that the longer one spends on social media websites, the more unhappy he or she becomes with his or her own life. It seems that people become envious of the lives they see presented to them (not to confuse this with the lives their friends are actually living, which, daily, are likely just as boring and uneventful as their own). In fact, many people are now, whether intentionally or unintentionally, dishonest about what they show on their sites, showing just the positives: they post pictures of their vacations or slim themselves down with photo-altering programs or write about their job promotions or update about how their husbands are the sweetest men in the world because they got roses for their birthdays.

By themselves, none of these things are a terrible misrepresentation of someone’s life, and I delight in the joy of my friends. The problem comes when one only posts about the exceptional things that happen to them, in an effort to make others think their entire lives are exceptional. “Look how skinny I am in my bikini in Aruba! I could afford this because I got a promotion at work, the day after my husband sent 32 long-stemmed roses to the office to celebrate my amazing and enviable existence!” See the problem? Sadly, social media becomes a contest, rather than a celebration.

The concept of social media site is sound: interact with old friends; make new friends; easily, inexpensively, and quickly keep in contact with people you love, even if they live across the globe. Unfortunately, in practice we see that websites dedicated to human interaction, unfortunately, are at the mercy of the humans who interact. They have become a safe haven for bullies and trolls, who enjoy spewing hate with few (if any) consequences. They have fueled a rampant case of widespread narcissism, where one’s self-esteem is now determined by how many followers/friends/likes/comments one has.  They have granted fanatics a sounding board from which to promote their controversial arguments, with little regard for the political, religious, or philosophical beliefs of others. They have enabled people to post pictures of others which are unflattering or embarrassing, without their consent, sometimes even anonymously. They have, ironically, ended friendships.

In effect, social media is a double-edged sword. It is a fine balance between responsibly utilizing it and abusing it. It is an expectation that everyone uses social media, but it sometimes becomes a chore. Even when I am interacting respectfully, I am still constantly assailed by arguments, updates, and images that are snarky or untruthful or outrageous.

I can’t block out the negativity completely, but I can contribute positively by creating or resharing inspiring and encouraging messages. I hope that will be enough. Peace and love.

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Yoga Pants Vs. Montana

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There is, evidently, a Montana lawmaker attempting to pass a law banning tights in public. Wouldn’t it be nice if people would stop legislating leggings and instead let women dress in a way that makes them happy?

First, women wearing yoga pants are modestly covered from hip to ankle, or in the worst case scenario, hip to mid-calf. Men, on the other hand, are not being attacked for wearing pants that are too small to fit them, thus showing far more of their backsides than I ever care to see.

For another thing, it is not overtly sexual for a woman to want to be comfortable, and to imply that a woman should make herself uncomfortable because it’s distracting to men is sexism fit for the 1950’s. How about if men could just stop staring at me in a sexual way? I find it offensive. Is there a way to legislate that?

Third, if a woman goes to the gym, what exactly is she supposed to wear, if not form-fitting clothes that wick away the sweat? Looser, baggier style pants could pose a hazard in that they could get caught in the machine and injure her. It is also often difficult to try to do yoga or Pilates correctly in pants that don’t fit snugly, as ones with less give often prevent a full range of movement.

Fourth, if schools plan to ban girls from wearing them, exactly how much of my tax money will go into buying new uniforms for track, swimming, football, wrestling, and volleyball, which are tight spandex shorts and pants? You can’t ban it during school hours and then allow it for sports — that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen from parents whose children are not athletes and are disciplined for wearing tights during the day.

Fifth, it is not my job to dress for your preference when you are not paying my bills. Keep your big government out of my closet.

Peace and love.Yoga Outfit and Cats 011