Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Day in Indianapolis: Thoughts From Places

This past weekend truly was an adventure, comprised of an entire Sunday spent running around the great city of Indianapolis. My friend and I bought tickets in January on a whim, deciding in an instant that no distance was too far to go if the end point had us at a concert to see our favorite British artists, Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol.

The show truly was invigorating - I can't think of a better word for it. It had me thinking of a series of books I read a few years back by Justine Larbalestier called Magic or Madness. In the middle of the roaring crowd of people in the middle of the Egyptian Room in the city of Indianapolis, I felt an  energizing pull, much like that of the feeling Jay-Tee experienced when she was dancing in Magic or Madness. Larbalestier described the way Jay-Tee could use her magic to harness the energies the bodies around her put off while on the dance floor and in her close proximity. During the story, the crowd actually acted as a life force for her, giving her the energy she needed when her magic ran low and she was especially susceptible to going mad. In a way, Jay-Tee's experience had me relate to a lot of  events in that brilliant series. I realize only now how positive energies, much like magic in Larbalestier's series - or any literal magic in fantasy series, for that matter - are what give us the drive to live life fully. Magic is our inner fire.

Before all the fun of the concert, my friend, an artist, wanted to spend a few hours at the esteemed Indianapolis Museum of Art. Now because I am not an artist, nor am I familiar with the essentials of art history lesson, I did not understand or appreciate as well the fine intricacies or revolutions in art that the lot of the paintings in the museum offered. (As was noted aloud by my trustee friend as my quizzical looks provided answer to her many nerderific outbursts as we approached the most famous of the works of art). I did, however, take special interest in the sculptures. Like one sculpture, which was actually a glass floor being held up by generic plastic toy soldiers that took up the entire room. (Apparently - unfortunately - people are not supposed to photograph things on the sculpture floor, as the nice security man following us around eventually said).

Another exhibit on the sculpture floor was creepily enchanting. Someone had connected speakers around an entire room, ones that hung from the ceiling and whispered to you from all over. I couldn't imagine being in there alone at night, but of course the faux-ghostly presence that the speakers created forced my imagination to deceive me, even as my friend was standing, bless her, just a few feet away. This may just be a me thing, but I have come to find that, no matter the museum in question, I always seem to find something unsettling about artifacts - they evoke a certain cowardice in me, creating a sort of Shaggy from "Scooby-Doo"-like complex in me.

As we got home in time to go straight to school the next day, I realized how worth it the entire day-long trip was. Just like I wrote above, going to Indianapolis was an adventure. The feeling of being so far away from what was familiar, of being out of my comfort zone, was most gratifying. In a way, that was part of the invigoration, the excitement of the adventure.

I think it's important that everyone take an adventure and exercise their comfort zone, even when (and especially when) they feel least ready.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jolly Good Time, Indeed!


As the next month will include loads of British detail and British-influenced material - as I will be seeing Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol on Sunday and going to the British Isles in May! - I thought I should probably make a notification post (or disclaimer, however you see it).

So for the Anglophiles out there like myself - enjoy! It's about to get brilliant, quite right!

(Also note: still working on current British jargon.)

You're in for a jolly good time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thinking in the Present Moment

When it comes to thinking in its chronological form, I am the "in-the-future" type. I think about what's going to happen next. Which is good, don't get me wrong (this is the kind of thinking that gives your conscience the reigns of decision-making, keeping you effectively out of trouble). But too much future thinking can also ruin the spontaneity that life gives you with present thinking.

Thinking in the present moment is most fun. I recently read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink. The book took a scientific approach on split-second decisions, saying they gave the better result when compared to the outcome you would have gotten with a long, thought out hypothesis or plan made before taking action. It was definitely an eye-opener for me - especially since it spent so much time rebelling against what every parent tells their children to do (think ahead!) But I think from his book, I mainly found the importance of split-second decision-making in certain settings that could make them most memorable and fun.

Of course you want to plan ahead things that are meant to be long term, like moving or scheduled classes you will need before obtaining a degree, or budgeting before making an addition to your family; and trust me, being the future-thinker I am, these all have THEIR OWN FILE in my brain already. But once that is all set in place, the rest of your life should be devoted to spontaneity. If we have a stable job, a mode of transportation, good friends to call up when we need a night out, what is to stop us from keeping with the same schedule everyday? All is good in well with this uniform stability, so why go and shake it up? It is with this previously-thought-out state of mind that we fall into the abyss of normalcy, where our

DAYS BEGIN TO RUN INTO ONE ANOTHER.

I have heard this phrase spoken in long conversations with my friends many times. It's usually juxtaposed with conversations of boredom and forgetfulness. On the less frightening end of the spectrum, we will be talking about what happened the other day, and then one of us will say, "What day was that? I can't even remember - my days seem to be running into each other." On the other end, my friends could take on a depressed countenance, speaking in dragging tones of how completely boring school is and how they can't remember the last time we hung out together.

This is where we must seek help from spontaneity!

Even if we have no choice but to resume our normal life schedule - the whole darn thing that is keeping us down in the first place! - we must make time to think at the present time, for the sake of giving each and every day roundness. In giving our days shape, we will realize that we are gaining back our memory. With present, snap-decision-making, we can learn to truly have fun in the moment and remember what the heck happened the other day.

So even if the only time you have is driving home from work, think during this commute, all-at-once,"What do I want to do right now?"And don't think any more of it; just do it. If adopting a puppy comes to mind, by golly, do just that. That's probably the exact thing you've been wanting for so long, and probably the thing that will not just add excitement and memory for that particular day, but likely every day for as long as you have that new member of your family. If what you think of at that moment is how much you miss an old friend, go see them.

What got me to reading Malcolm Gladwell's book was the fact that I made this year's resolution (2012) to be as spontaneous as I could be. This led me - on a greater scale - to do crazy things like taking a 14-hour drive to Destin, Florida at the beginning of January, and also taking it upon myself to kiss a guy I'd liked for five months. (Though, in hind-sight, I suppose the latter is not a very good example for the benefits of split-second thinking). But I also realized how much learning I received in these experiences. And besides, let's be honest, had I just stayed here in Missouri over winter break I'd have probably just watched That '70s Show re-runs and read fairy books.

Anyway, the point is that thinking in the present moment is not juvenile thinking. Though it may result in doing seemingly crazy things, to not do them could lead to becoming crazy ourselves. This day-to-day living where we can't tell yesterday from today NEEDS to be interrupted with spontaneity if we want to be truly living.

Let your life be shaped with decisions made as quick as a blink.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shameless Words

Recently - March 28th, to be exact - the New York City public schools banned 50 particular words from going onto future tests, no matter the subject. Most of the words were banned for being deemed "offensive", the rest for being too distracting.

In a FOX News radio report, specific reasons for each of three of the 50 words were given:

"Dinosaur": it might offend those who don't believe in evolution.
"Halloween": Possible support of Paganism, might be offensive to some.
"Birthday": it is a celebration not recognized by Jehovah's Witnesses.

But the list becomes more outlandish, with the banning of words like "computer", "dancing", "celebrities", and even "homes with swimming pools", which they deem to be a word.

My thoughts on this are the same as if I were to be asked to give my opinion on the banning of classic literature. Words and events in books that are largely banned from school curriculum are banned for causes that generally can be linked to human shame. Why should schools ban Huckleberry Finn from the curriculum just because the "N" word makes people uneasy? Or because the use of curse words in As I Lay Dying might influence students to speak likewise? If a student is reading these stories, they will find that the story would lack loads of meaning should the "offensive" dialogue be taken out of it. Mark Twain was clearly not racist in writing Huckleberry Finn - as the events and how they unravel would entail. Each of the 219 "nigger" words in the book were placed exactly in the book where Twain wanted to elicit strong emotion in the reader. He wanted the reader to feel for Jim every time they heard this "offensive" word, and with those feelings we get a better picture of what Jim went through and what the surrounding characters felt about him.

In As I Lay Dying, we start to realize the differences in Jewel and figure out the mystery of him through the strong dialogue he provides. Without this explicit language, author William Faulkner would not have such a deep way of communicating to readers of the language that sets Jewel apart from the rest of his family.

With these two largely controversial banned books, we can see that the author's placement of the words and choice of words are what add to the dynamic of the books. To say that students cannot read a book because of explicit language is to rob them of books that have been made classic literature for a reason.

Who is to say that curse words, let alone the shameless words with which New York public schools have banned from tests, take away from our understanding of works and daily life? Words are words, and unless they are written for work that is meant for insightful purpose, they should be taken at face value.