The people I’ve known are beacons of light. Every one of them, a star– shining with varying intensity– in the night sky of my life; guiding me through the existential galaxy. Constellations of lovers, friends, and familiar faces; reminding me where I am going, how far I have come, and always, always, how to get home.

From the people who have left heavy footprints in my heart, to those who’ve merely brushed shoulders my aura, every one of them has made it real, made it worth it, and made me who I am. Without the electricity of other humans, I truly feel that this life would be meaningless.

I try my best to be all these things in return. It hardly feels like enough, sometimes. The compassion I have been fortunate enough to witness in my fellow humans is nothing short of inspirational. The collective spirit is bouncy, flexible, and incomprehensibly strong.

There are times that we call upon others for their frankness or their clemency. Times when we need an honest opinion, a helping hand, or just a sympathetic ear.

There have been times in my life where a hug has saved me.

There have been times when seeming strangers were actually the best friends I had.

One phrase I have given a lot of thought to is one I hear with incredibly frequency in the English language: “Just remember to breathe.”

I have given this sentiment a good deal of thought because it is so baseline simple, yet so profoundly elegant, that it really does merit at least a footnote in our mental manuscript. This advice is most often given to another person when they confide in us that their lives are becoming unmanageable, or out of their control. Be it relationship woes, stress at work, or financial difficulty, everyone gets to feeling overwhelmed on occasion.

When you break it down into just language, reminding another person to breathe is such an absurd thing to do. Breathing is one of the things we’ve been scheduled for on reflex. One of the few things humans should hardly ever have to think about. Yet, when I find myself in over my head, bogged down with negative though, that simple reminder somehow helps put things in perspective.

Just remember to breathe.

In the modern era, where a full time job is hardly enough, where we’re all are on-demand 24 hours a day, and where everyone expects the extraordinary, it truly can be difficult to lose sight of any purpose. As I always say, in reference to the legend of Sisyphus, it feels like rolling the boulder– you get to the top, and it all tumbles back down. Every time.

An inevitability.

There are points when this cycle becomes too much, too maddening. When the day-to-day has us ready to scream, cry, rip out our hair. Where the menial tasks begin to take over our lives and we are ready to just throw in the towel, call it a day, and give right the hell up.

Because if the car has a flat tire, the bank is calling again, you’ve been sick for a week, and the dog peed on the floor– what is the point of living, anyways??

Just remember to breathe.

This cliche’d pattern of sounds uttered from just another mass of rapidly replicating DNA is somehow consoling. It’s the lowest common denominator, breathing, it’s quite literally what keeps us alive.

But more than simply being a reminder to another human to continue their maintenance, it’s an expression of your desire for that person to stay alive, and in the moment. One breath at a time. The one thing we have to continue doing regularly, every day, is the one thing we hardly ever think about. An action we take entirely for granted.

Above and beyond it’s straightforward implication, “just remember to breathe” is a reminder of the connection between all living things; it is a suggestion to slow down and appreciate the ebb and flow; it is a prompt to surrender to the machine and, if only for a moment, to remain in the present, focusing on what one really needs. This reminder is a mainstay of Eastern religions and meditative thought, not for nothing.

In spite of what the news man tells me, humanity has not left me roughed-up along the side of the road after prom quite yet. The altruistic instincts, the sweet sympathies, and the constant cascade of loving energy I feel tells me that being part of the greater network is worth it. If I can provide for others even a small fraction of what they provide for me, I would consider this life a success.

Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again. [[L.FrankBaum]]

I’m just going to come out and say it: the world is full of music that sucks. This is *not* a playlist of that music.

It’s reggae. It’s quality. And it’s totally free. Scout’s Honor.

So here’s 20 minutes 41 seconds of Kat-crafted tuneage to improve the quality of your afternoon.

Dig it! [[Drop/ Audio Player link]]

Bleeding Out

May 17, 2010

Unless you’ve been in an underground vacuum chamber for the past month, you have no doubt seen/ read/ heard about the “oil spill” in the Gulf Coast. I am not going to regurgitate or dramatize a bunch of already paraphrased information. This “oil spill” is not a little puddle or leak. This, my friends, is an utter environmental catastrophe. Plain and simple.

The numbers are all over the charts– from conservative estimates provided by invested parties, to the ominous figures scientists and environmental groups are purporting– but even the lowest guesses are absolutely STAGGERING. BP, the company with the most financial investment (not to mention responsibility) in the disaster has estimated approximately 5,000 BARRELS A DAY, GUSHING into the ocean. Scientists and engineers are estimating the actual volume to be 10 times that.

To put it in perspective, well-educated individuals across the globe are estimating the scope of this “oil spill” to be the equivalent of the late 80’s Exxon Valdez catastrophe EVERY FOUR DAYS.

Multiply that by the fact that this pipeline has been GUSHING for nearly a month now, with no foreseeable conclusion.

The way I am seeing this, and I could be totally off base, is that the world, much like the human body, has a number of systems. In the earth, there is oil. Crude oil is essentially a waste product– thousands of years of mineral breakdown. The oceans are the veins that pump our planet’s blood. Full of life and driven by currents, they keep water, the blood of all existence, in constant global circulation. The ocean and the oil reservoirs are naturally separated, and with good reason.

What happens to a person when their kidneys, or appendix, rupture?

Am I way out of the ballpark in my analogy? Perhaps. Science isn’t necessarily my area of expertise, and I have never made that claim. But when I watch the video footage of this pipeline pumping oil into our ocean– a home for millions of species; the source of all life– I feel something inside me ache for the planet. I feel her groan. And I know that I am not alone. A lot of us are feeling it. Call it mana, call it the force, call it whatever you will; the connection between all living things has been disturbed. The global energy is at an unrest.

We are watching our Earth mother bleed out on TV.

Relevant reading materials:

Just How Much Oil is Spilling into the Gulf of Mexico?
Worry That Oil Spreading into Major Ocean Current
Coral Reefs Tainted by Oil Spill
The Daily Show– Who’s To Blame [video]

I started this blog after a mini-meltdown; an existential crisis of sorts. Nearly two years out of college, I got to wondering where it all was going.

Reality crashes pretty hard, once the party is over and the bills start rolling in.

I hadn’t galavanted off to Europe on a dime and a dream. I wasn’t living out of the back of a VW bus on a beach. I wasn’t in some cosmopolitan city center, rubbing elbows with the upper crust while putting my journalism degree to use at a household-name literary establishment. I was 75 miles from my hometown, living with my brother.

I know. It’s not so bad. It’s not actually bad at all. I work a 9-5 job at a fun company where I get treated well. I’ve made some awesome friends in this city. I live in a nice apartment, I own a couple of nice things, and I’ve gone on a few nice trips.

My problem, I began to realize, wasn’t in my lifestyle, but my perspective.

I have an incredible ability to exist in fiction. We all do. Every time we encounter a bit of information that is not cohesive to our desired reality, our subconscious weighs it heavily before attempting to fit it into the jigsaw puzzle of our lives. We try to make sense of it based on our worldly frame of reference.

When something doesn’t fit into the frame, it is rejected. People don’t want to hear things that throw their reality into question. The human mind cannot wrap itself around inconsistencies. One famous example is that if you saw something fall UP today, you would not totally reject the widely accepted theories of gravity. You would isolate the anomaly, and attempt to put it into your frame.

While I had made a number of adjustments to my existential being, the frame was still much the same. In my mind, failure had become imminent. No matter what I was doing, regardless of what endeavors I undertook, it was all destined for failures. My greatest success– a college diploma– had gotten me nowhere (besides in debt). Fast. Quitting drinking had served to preserve my status-quo. Nothing notably gained. Budgeting my life just left me broke, and painfully aware of it. I was so focused on everything I wasn’t doing that I had delegated all my accomplishments to the failure pile.

I’m now aware that this– all of it– was sense of entitlement.

And, really, I still don’t think I was wrong to have expectations. If you haven’t checked the cost of a 4-year university lately— and I’m not even talking Ivy League, here– do it real fast, then add the cost of books ($100-$500 PER CLASS). I graduated on time, and in the top 25% of my class. I wrote front page articles for the school paper almost every week. I did unpaid internships and befriended my professors. Did I feel entitled to SOMETHING..? hell yes.

And something is exactly what I got– a degree and a load of new responsibilities– a dog, a car, a job in an office; and a relatively comfortable American lifestyle. What was I expecting? I got exactly what I shot for. Nobody was about to hand the world to me on a silver platter.

I needed to adjust my reality.

So, I started this blog. Hammering out my discontent. This has served a dual purpose, as I am a writer. Long before I even knew what a computer was, I was writing. As a child, if I wasn’t reading, I was composing. As simple as that.

In the years following college, as I am discovering is devastatingly common, I fell away from what I love. I left a big part of myself sleeping on a stack of books at the end of finals. I surrendered to the flow and fell into a pattern of  routine and complacency. And that’s sort of where I still sit.

But, all in all, I no longer consider this a failure. Making waves in the lazy river is better than nothing at all. While blogging a few times a week is certainly no large measure of success, I find that I am getting back exactly what I put into it. After adjusting my perspective, I have come to realize that while I enjoy informational writing, and the research that comes with it, it is the ability to elicit emotions with words that I find most compelling.

So, thank you for bearing with me, providing feedback, and coming back for more. Since I started this blog, I have had more than 1,000 hits and am incredibly flattered and inspired by each one. The ability to touch the lives of others, to share my experience, provides nourishment to my very essence.

And while I still search for my purpose and struggle with my first world problems, there’s something to be said for doing what you love. Just because it feeds your soul.

On that note, while you’re here and it IS funkin’ Tuesday, give my friend Mike’s mix a listen! Hand-DJ’d goodness, dig it [[link]] !!

In the first world, I find that we engage in a lot of self-loathing. Rudimentary tasks– from food to sex, and everywhere in between, we just don’t think were ever doing it right. Always looking for something more. Looking to be better.

How could it be that a whole generation– a whole culture, really– has been raised with virtually crippling insecurities about the simplest things?

When we take a look at the barrage of contemporary media, it’s no small wonder that we believe stuff, places, and pills will complete us. No stretch of the imagination to envision the dull-colored scene of the infomercial we all are without our chemicals, plastics, or electronic gadgets.

Our lives have become a perpetual before and after. The after, however, is never as vivid or full-tooth-smile-worthy as the family on the box. We are keeping up with the Joneses, although we know full-well their family portrait was created in Photoshop.

We are all desperately seeking a level of happiness that doesn’t even exist. That maybe never existed at all.

But blaming modern media is too convenient. While it does serve to propegate and replicate societal dissatisfaction, the media is merely a mule for unattainable status quo; a reference guide to consumerism, capitalism and ethical bankruptcy, that we all mindlessly throw in our cart at checkout. We all buy it.

Media is a scapegoat for the thousands of years of moral misguidance humans have imposed upon one-another. Have imposed upon ourselves. I could arguably date our insatiability back to the time when we came down from the trees; when our altruism was exchanged for these large cranial masses; when we realized that being alpha was a whole new ballgame for the human species. Size and speed were traded for innovation.

Since the time of our earliest hominid ancestors, we’ve come a long way in our aspirations. As a species, we don’t just want to leave our genetic legacy– we want to become immortalized. We do not just struggle to one-up each other, or even set a new record– we want to create new challenges. Be the first!

We’re raised with the notion that nothing is impossible–  a message emblazoned on every elementary school wall in America. We’ve written books on morality; we’ve created religion to keep people on, what millenniums ago, was decided to be the straight-and-narrow. We’ve seen ethical empires rise and fall.

The bombardment of mixed messages comes not only from our contemporary media, for people were just as restless before they could read,  and long before they could veg out in a recliner to the network news. I believe it comes from our struggle against nature. What Freud so eloquently elaborated upon as the struggle between Id, Ego, and Superego. But beyond that, it’s a fight against our own progress.

What is “the dream?”

It seems to be this perpetual oscillation between security and freedom. Between land ownership and pioneering. Between procreation and scholarship. What is our measure of success?

We want it all. Everything. We’ve always been told that it’s possible– as nothing is impossible– why would we ever believe otherwise? We can be a rockstar and a family man. Run a multi-million dollar enterprise, yet have a little place to call home. We can spend every waking hour studying, working, learning; yet have plenty of time to keep the kitchen clean and feed the kids.

And we wonder why it never feels like enough. Wonder why we lie awake at night fantasizing about more hours in the day. Fantasizing about a lifestyle that only exists in our minds, and rarely, if ever, in practice. We are spread so damn thin, trying to juggle several versions of “the dream,” the true  anomaly is that  we are able to adequately complete anything.

Anxiously, we are overwhelmed and underwhelmed simultaneously. Not long ago, a friend told me that anyone who knows what they “want to be when [they] grow up by 40 is in good shape.” This was in sharp contrast to the messages my public education delivered me about immediate and ensured success. And this dichotomy of cultural ambition is evident in nearly every aspect of life. Magazine covers riddled with mutilated celebrities, the enormous amount of credit card debt people go into trying to maintain a “normal” lifestyle– it’ all illustrates a deeper dilemma. Our obsession with potential.

Sometimes, I think maybe I am living the dream, after all.

I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool… You see, I think everything’s terrible anyhow… And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”
[[TheGreatGatsby.FScottFitzgerald]]