Tuesday, March 26, 2013

20 Things to Do Before I Die

For my Health and Fitness course, we were assigned to make a list of 20 things we would like to do before we die. These are a few things I've constantly hoped to achieve throughout my life.

1)      Have a thriving garden from which I can eat my own veggies and herbs.
2)      Have at least one published novel.
3)      Read all of Walt Whitman’s work.
4)      Teach English in a foreign country.
5)      Keep a dream journal every day for a year.
6)      Meet one of my favorite authors.
7)      Change stereotype for typical American in the eyes of at least one person in a 3rd world country.
8)      Spend one winter snowmobiling in Montana.
9)      Continue being a pescovegetarian throughout my life.
10)   Love a man I feel equal with, above all other attributes.
11)   Continue to skydive every year.
12)    Try to live in New York for at least 3 months, overcoming my phobias of small spaces and elevators.
13)   Learn to speak Spanish fluently.
14)   Retire in Montana.
15)   Scale Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
16)   Have a job that I can bike or walk to every day.
17)   Keep the blog I have now throughout my entire life.
18)   Take lessons in surfboarding.
19)   Try different foods any time I have the chance to.
20)   Retire somewhere in the mountains, with way too many all-terrain vehicles.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Being "Young and Naive" in the Year 2013

One of the greatest advantages I believe I have as a 19-year-old in the year 2013 is the ability to have such quick and easy access to any material that would help me through the crappy parts of life. I have the ability to go back to my dorm after class and check up on the latest information concerning the people I admire most, and with that, it's as though I have the best chance anyone in history has ever had at learning things in life that a 19-year-old formally would have had to spend a lifetime learning by himself or herself.

Take the life lesson of heartbreak, for instance. I have watched enough Vlogbrothers and ZeFrank videos on YouTube to know that the feeling one gets after being heartbroken the first time is a feeling that is indescribable and different from the feeling of heartbreak experienced by anyone else in one's life. It may be similar, but it is undoubtedly something no one can prepare for, and in that way, it is itself a life event that brings us all together in its strangeness.

I find it hard to understand the point of view of Nicholas Carr, who write articles online such as "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" or "This is Your Brain Online". Where these articles call for solutions of children and adults to quit using the Web to satisfy every itching curiosity that arises in them, I feel as though I have become a more mature person having the Internet always at my reach - as though I have a better understanding and connection to the world around me. Like I mentioned above, without a lot of the life lessons I learned from the Vlogbrothers, I know I would feel alone on a lot of issues I've faced in the past - and not just the heartbreak.

The Internet not only allows for a way to know that the issues we face as humans are faced by everyone, but also that the issues we face collectively pave the way for being able to connect to others in the natural quest we endeavor on to find others with whom we can relate in life.

I do not think that "Google is making us stupid," but rather that it is doing the opposite. The Internet is a highly developed means by which all may express their issues in life, and come together in their endeavors to make the best of them. It's hard in life this year to be "young and naive" with a world of relatable life lessons and information at my own fingertips - and I find that to be one of the most beautiful things about it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Insides

The Insides lie along the Oceans,
rimming the Lakes, Rivers, and Mountains,
acting as man's elixirs or potions
for the notions that scold man from the elements -
the elements that we only condone as cold-inflicting zones.

The Insides lie face-to-face in the cities,
creating apertures in the brick work that
connect us to creatures as though our
neighbors were meant to be exhibitions
at the zoo.

Why do we continue to build apertures on the Insides
that face our neighbors' apertures? 
What gives a man contentment in seeing into
the daily lives of his neighbors?
Could there be solace in such living?

The Insides hold true their closed doors.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Life Pro Tips (Mostly College Student Edition)

Recently, one of my favorite YouTube vloggers, Hank Green of the "Vlogbrothers" channel, made a sort of video response to the trending LifeProTips on Reddit.com. This has inspired me to record a few of my own nifty daily life tips, which I consider to be surprisingly helpful in my daily routines. I have listed all that I can think of below on this blog post.

Disclaimer: I am currently only 19 years old, and therefore absolutely do not constitute the best source for tips that would be beneficial to those much older than myself. These are tips I have learned to be helpful at home or at college. Enjoy!

1) Put Vaseline or some other lip balm on your lips before bed. It usually helps reduce the amount I need to put on during the day, especially during the winter when the air is so dry.

2) Replace soda with water, or at the very least, juice. Significantly cutting the sugar out of my diet has proven to be extremely easy once I cut out soda a few years ago, and I no longer crave anywhere near the amount I had before in my diet.

3) Instead of creamer, use milk to lighten soften the bitterness in your coffee if you don't drink it black. (Better yet, drink soy or almond milk. You won't be filled up so much by your coffee or cereal if you use either of these alternatives, so you can eat other foods with your meal. The better the variety, the healthier the meal is for you! A good objective is to try to make your plate as colorful (naturally, not artificially speaking) as possible).

4) Really, truly eat as little of the red meats as you must! Baked or raw fish is a good replacement if you're looking to shed a few pounds, or just it is a meal that won't make you feel sluggish afterward.

5) Listen to classical music while doing something creative, whether it be creative writing, art projects, or even math homework. I am one of those people who gets distracted by the slightest noise, especially in listening to music with lyrics. Classical music has soft crescendos and decrescendos that level out the noise around you, creating a good alternative to absolute silence where you notice slight distractions such as tapping feet, the air conditioner, or any other disturbance. Though any kind of white noise could do the trick. If classical music does not also suit your fancy, try the white noise app called Sleep Pillow, and see if the sounds of rain, crackingly fire, or thunder might help.

6) Use honey instead of buying cough medicine! Honey is usually the main ingredient in cough medicine anyway, and you don't have to take in the chemicals companies add into it along with the natural stuff that your throat actually needs.

7) Join ONE activity when you go away to college, at least! Trust me. I joined Equestrian Team just for the hell of it one semester at the beginning of university and I met my best friend there. Joining activities is crucial to meeting new people - especially when first going away to college, where nobody knows anyone and others are more open to meeting new people.

8) Keep doing that thing you did before you went away to school! If you give up completely on your old hobbies, you'll lose that escape you needed to get yourself away from college for a bit. My escape has been reading recreationally. Without reading, after I while I become homesick. Make sure that you allot yourself time to keep doing these things on top of the homework you already have to do.

9) Thank you letters! It is so important to formally thank people while going through college. Whether it is for a committee member accepting you into their group, a friend on campus going out of their way to grab you a few things in between classes while you're sick in your dorm, or just your grandmother sending you a care package, nothing is more memorable (especially nowadays with the convenience of text messaging and email).

10) Try to eat a piece of fruit or leafy greens with every meal. Fiber is important in a college student's diet, especially since we do a lot less moving around and a lot more sitting at our desks in minimal living space.

11) ALWAYS keep a water bottle, gym clothes, and tennis shoes in your backpack! You will be much more likely to go to the recreational center (a.k.a gym) if you have all your gear with you. As I said in the previous tip, living a more sedentary lifestyle will be new to a lot of college students, especially those who partook in physical activities in high school. The "Freshman-15 [pounds]" doesn't just happen from all the lovely convenient dining hall foods - it happens also because we spend so much more time at desks, without a regular exercising routine. Make it convenient for your new lazy self and keep the gym gear in your backpack!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Giants and the Humans

On my latest trip to visit my dad at his place in Destin, Florida, I felt a certain other-worldly pull on me when I stepped on land that was, up until the mid-1960s, a road. The old road was called Scenic Hwy-98 (now called Old Hwy-98), and went through what is now Henderson State Park. I walked up to the threshold of the walkway into the park and followed the boardwalk that leads pedestrians over the old highway, which is now so grown over with shrubbery that it blends in with the rest of the foliage of the park.

Walking the boardwalk was exciting because I made it into more than it was. In reality it was just an overpass, protecting park-goers from the rest of the untouched land in the park that was made to look like Florida - Florida the way it was before its land was founded and settled. I closed my eyes while standing on the boardwalk, planting my hands gently on the railing, and pictured the walk as though it didn't exist, and I was standing in the same place, 50 years ago.

What I felt when I imagined the road 50 years ago was cars racing through me, filled with excited souls seeing the ocean for the first time, expecting to touch its water very soon. I felt an anticipation toward it that was so keen, it almost felt tangible. The sparkling reflection of the sun on the water answered back to them with its own kind of kinetic excitement. The ocean seemed happy to accept them, the same way it did now, as I turned my head to the right, and looked over the sand and the stairs leading up to the boardwalk.

I noticed then how static things are in nature, the things that humans can't touch, and it made me exceedingly happy in that moment. While that stretch of the Old Hwy-98 had been erased and replaced with the national park, the ocean that flowed just 150 feet from it stayed by its side. The ocean flowed on like an immortal giant humanity could never overpower, and that made me happy.

I thought about the mountains, the waterfalls, and other things that were beyond man's control. And those giants made me happy. They made me happy because I guess I don't like change. I like the feeling that certain things in nature must stay untouched.

It seemed in that moment that if the giants could be static in their placement on earth, then I could be happy, because that was a constant that was not up to man's decision - the giants could change if they wanted to.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Humanity in Arthurian Legend

Even King Arthur's best knight - who was depicted in Sir Gawain and the Grene Knicht as being Christ-like and of adhering to every humanly virtue - was capable of screwing up.

I wanted to include on my blog this argumentative essay from my Medieval Literature class because I think it is important to stress that even the most perfect knights - like Gawain, who in this legend was depicted as being more man than even King Arthur himself - can commit faults.

In my life I am a strong advocate of the "No one is perfect" saying - especially in the way author John Green puts it in his novel Looking for Alaska: "What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person." I think it is interesting how medieval Arthurian legends taught this same lesson. Below I have pasted my paper on signs of humanity in a figure in history who was given Christ-like attributes, but who failed in one aspect that made him human, and brought him down to the level of a person we can relate to as humans.

The Humanity of the Best Knight of King Arthur’s Court
Ultimately, the test that Gawain – who is depicted as the best knight of King Arthur’s court in this legend of Sir Gawain and the Grene Knicht – fails is one of fox-like trickery. The Green Castle that lay en-route to Gawain’s destination at the Green Chapel holds a serious obstacle – from it comes a test of pride in which a young, seductive lady of the Castle offers Gawain something he fails to refuse in his courtliness – a token providing supposed invincibility to its bearer. This implies that even the best of King Arthur’s court, who is represented by his courtliness and his adherence to the five Christian virtues depicted in the endless knot on his shield, is still capable of human failure.
The beginning action of this particular Arthurian legend starts as a mysterious knight intrudes the New Year’s festivities of King Arthur’s court. Before this “aghlich mayster (line 136)” comes to the court, the people of Camelot are described as “fayre folk, in her first age, on sille (lines 54-55),” and even the King himself is “so joly of his joyfnes, and sumquat childgered (line 86).” All people of this Arthurian world – including King Arthur – are depicted as young, or in a childish behavior. Only a few pages before, King Arthur is exalted as the bravest person of his kingdom: “Hit were now gret nye to neuen/so hardy a here on hille (lines 58-59)”However, much the opposite is revealed in his character when the mysterious Green Knight appears in the court. When he explains that he is there to partake in a game with the noblest knight of King Arthur’s court, he is answered with disturbed silence by the noble people. When King Arthur must stand to defend his people and partake in the game to protect them, he is red in the face: “De blod schot for scham into his schyre face (line 317).” By contrast, when Gawain accepts the task in place of his king, he does it so willingly that he leaps up and goes to receive the Green Knight’s axe with grace. “And he ful radly vrpos and ruchcbed him fayre” (line 367). With these subtle descriptions of behavior in the text, it appears that Gawain – even being the King’s nephew, therefore younger than the King and likely other knights of the court – is the best of the noble knights of King Arthur’s court. 
Gawain takes off on All Saints’ Day on a quest to finish the Green Knight’s game, saying in a cheerful manner, “Quat schuld I wonde?/ Of destines derf and dere/ What may mon do bot fonde?” (lines 563-565). He does not begin the journey grimly or with plain shame on his face as the King did. He nobly accepts that this is his duty and is proud to try to do the best that he can as would any other man in his position. This also shows contrast between his willingness to do what is noble, and what the King himself is willing to do – another indication that Gawain is made to appear nobler than the “…gret nye to neuen” (line 58) that is (or was, at the beginning of the story) known as King Arthur.
The Pentangle on Gawain’s sword, as he is donned in his fanciful armor in Fitt II, is described as an emblem of truth: “bytoknyng of trawรพe” (line 626), signifying the ways in which Gawain is like purified gold because embodies faultless virtue.  1) He is perfect in the five senses: “first he watz funden fautlez in his fyue wyttez” (line 640); 2) his five fingers are unfailing: “And efte fayled neuer be freke in his fyue fyngres,…” (line 641); 3) his faith is fixed firmly on the five wounds which Christ received on the cross: “And alle his afyaunce vpon folde watz in be fyue woundez…” (line 642);4) he draws his strength from the five joys Mary had through Jesus: “Dat alle his forsnes he feng at be fyue joyez/ Dat be hende heuen-quene had of hir chylde” (lines 646-647); and 5) he embodies, better than any other living man, the five virtues of franchise, fellowship, cleanness, courtesy, and charity: “Watz fraunchyse and felaschyp forbe al byng,/ His clannes and his cortaysye croked were neuer,/ And pite, bat passez alle poyntez, pyse pure fyue” (lines 652-654). In this way, it is almost as though the poet is making Gawain up to be parallel in Christ’s virtues. Not even King Arthur is worthy of the honor of riding into a potential battle armor that would depict him as being perfect in every possible way.
As the epitome of a perfect knight, Gawain sets off toward North Wales, battling and defeating wolves, dragons, bears, boars, and giants (lines 720-723), and even praying as a Christian knight should: “Ne no gome bot God bi gate with to karp” (line 696). Nothing on his journey to the Green Chapel leads the reader to believe that he is nothing but a perfect knight – nothing until he encounters a young lady belonging to a lord of the Green Castle. After Gawain was met kindly at the Green Castle, the lord received him well and asked that he stay awhile. He was to spend some time every day with two women – one being older and the other being young and “loflyest to beholde” (line 1187). It was this younger lady who would visit Gawain three times in the middle of the night during his stay, and cause him – through language and trickery – to commit the one fault that puts him at level with the rest of men.
Though Gawain is embarrassed and annoyed with himself (line 1660) that a woman would entice him so with her presence in the middle of the night, his manners keep him polite in answer to her seductive requests, “Bot dalt with hir al in daynte, how-se-euer be dede turned towrast” (line 662). However, when she offers him a belt that will make a man indestructible [“Der is no habel vnder heuen tohewe hym bat might” (line 1855)], he does not refuse. Though he does not owe her anything, out of pride, he allows possible aid against his daunting opponent. Up until this point, Gawain has shown that he is worthy of carrying the Pentangle shield for all that it stands for. Here, it is revealed that Gawain commits a sort of treason against the lord who has offered him kindness and lodging during his long travels. When he sees the lord again the next morning, he breaks the emblem of truth by offering the lord the kiss he won, but fails to offer the girdle. This holding back of truth becomes Gawain’s downfall as Green Knight himself knows it belonged to the lady. Though Gawain does not fail in his battle against the Green Knight, he fails in his long-standing perfect knightly image, which implies that even in the Arthurian world, the virtues that Gawain represents cannot be preserved by anyone, as even the best of knights is only human. 

Works Cited
Sir Gawain and the Grene Knicht. Trans W.S. Merwin. Knopf: New York, 2002. Web.