Meditations: On Breaking Rules

 

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Stargazing
  1.  A rule breaker says with confidence, “I know better than the masses, and those older and wiser before me.” He believes he is above them. Yet, rules are icecaps. He must pass them by swimming from under. A point of vulnerability.
  2. He keeps swimming and swimming downward, until he realizes it was an iceberg. It’s impassable. Alas, full responsibility on him. How far did he swim, how much water did he ingest, before he realized this one cannot and should not be crossed?
  3. Rule breaker beware: When the rules of the world triumph, how he will wish to have obeyed. But what is life without a little risk? What is life without lots of failure?
  4. In conclusion: one must have the perfect amount of arrogance, but not too much, so as to see when he must turn back. One must strategically break rules that can be broken. Some cannot, even though they should be.
  5. A person, at some point, must settle on his vision of “should” with his limitation to see it through.
  6. Unless of course one has nothing to lose. If a person believes that reaching the bottom of the sea will be a meaningful end, or a worthwhile attempt alone, then man has no limitation. Unlike matter, which has a starting and ending point, the human mind can venture beyond any matter. And thus, he swerves around the iceberg on his last breath.
  7. Like gamma rays, a visionary is unstoppable. He looks through any obstacle and finds its weakness. A visionary is neither inherently good or selfless, he is a force.
  8. What can be said of both types of men: a rule breaker plays at ease with the obstacles everyone else fears to remove.

Eduardo Kobra’s “Peace” – Portraits of Famous Humanitarians and Political Leaders

 

The meat and potatoes, essentially, is “no.”

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Scott Simmerman “The Square Wheels Guy”

 

The brain is green, according to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit.  It likes to save and conserve energy and as a result, “[the brain] allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors.” If you’ve ever tried waking up an hour or two earlier and found this challenging, this is because of a “habit forming loop” embedded within the brain. “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making, It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.”

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1966 poster of Bob Dylan by Milton Glasser

In the month of New Year’s resolutions we vow change our bad habits. And yet, we often fail and promise the same ones in the following year. Duhigg believes that we must discover the trigger that proceeds an indulgent or unwanted action. Once we identify the trigger, we can supplement another behavior in its place, and satisfy our need for a reward with a different one. Basically, in order to have that coveted 360 change we must use the existing framework in our lives to change for the better.

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Two Mestizos of Airplane and Human by Xul Solar 1935

So if you come home every night and reach into mom’s dinner, the trigger may be stepping into your house and seeing the kitchen. Next time use a different entrance, and supplement a different behavior. Head on the elliptical or to the den to read a book. This way, you’re not tearing the structure of your life apart and building from nothing. You’re swapping things and switching around. This takes a lot less energy to execute, and eventually this will become a new habit. Your brain still wants to conserve energy and clings to energy efficient auto-pilot mode. Whether the brain forms positive or negative mechanisms is up to you.

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Susan Rothenberg

Duhigg offers a solution to break life’s individual bad habits. But what happens if our entire life becomes a block of monotony. We habitually go about our days without thinking about why we are here. We achieve, we push forward, we learn and absorb without being conscious of time’s passage or of ourselves. Building conscientiousness is another habit we should try to implement. If you’ve ever needed a vacation, or a change up in your routine and scenery, you might be trying to escape the brain’s autopilot mode, which feels quite dull.

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Pablo Picasso, Femme accroupie (Jacqueline) (1954)

I remember one time when walking home from school I glanced at the sky. I was going to continue to walk into my front door and do some more work, when, I decided instead to take in the moment and gaze up at the sky. I realized – it was the first time all day I had taken the time to think. 

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Melissa McCracken paints John Lenon’s “Imagine”

 

When we are on auto-pilot we can slip into being robots, and potentially, “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” Which is the way of non-essentialism. We might begin to say “yes” to opportunities we don’t want and obligations we can’t handle. Which leads Greg Mckeown to ask in Essentialism“How do we discern the trivial many from the vital few?”

Good question.

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“An Non-essentialist thinks almost everything is essential.
An Essentialist thinks almost everything is nonessential.”

During this past semester I felt like a machine that had one goal – full steam ahead. I was writing essays for school, writing for extra-curricular articles, writing for a fellowship, helping friends with their writing. I even took to tweeting, the lowest form of writing. I thought it best to diversify myself, which would look good for my career. Yet, have a look at this graph.

 

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“You have to look for every opportunity to say, ‘Well, no… I’m sorry. I’m not going to do a thousand different things that really won’t contribute much to the end result we are trying to achieve.”

In an unthinking state of mind we believe the myth of having it all and forget that every decision and activity has a trade-off. One thing I didn’t write for was for me, my blog. My pride and joy.

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WASSILY KANDINSKY -#1 Composition VII (1913)

Without a clear priority, vision, clear ideas of what opportunities we will say “no” to (or in my case, articles we don’t want to write), we sometimes end up using energy and our time aimlessly and uselessly (shown by the graph). Saying “yes” to every opportunity causes us to put less energy into the BIG yesses that we ultimately want the most. The most successful people, the CEOs, the developers, are those who master when to say “no.”

  • The Essentialist understands, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
  •  The life of the Essentialist is one with discipline and patience.
  • “Essentialists don’t say no occasionally. It is a part of their regular repertoire”
  • “Essentialists do not haphazardly say no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminate the non-essentials.”
  • Essentialists “Get rid of the obvious time wasters”
  • Essentialists “Cut out some really good opportunities as well”

Like journalists who sort through a set of facts to find what is most essential for their story, we should all look at our day to day, our choices, and how we spend our time, to find what we can eliminate. When we know the lead of our lives, we know the opportunities that we would like to devote ourselves to. We can do so fully because we don’t waste time with the “trivial few.”

An Essentialist has a clear idea of what he needs to accomplish for the day in order to go to sleep feeling proud of his day. He has a clear idea of “no” and “yes.” He uses Duhigg’s method to swap out bad habits. He says no more often than yes. He doesn’t believe being busy is a virtue, but instead values eliminating things to make life run smoothly. He takes breaks and takes the time to recharge. He walks with a confident strut knowing full well that he is his life’s designer.

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WASSILY KANDINSKY – #6 Yellow-Red-Blue (1925)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Dwell You Through the Forest?

A metaphor to explain why belief in God, karma, or bad juju, is the ideal. 

Your neighborhood supermarket fired all their staff. A jar is left on the counter with a few Casio calculators nearby. The shelves are re-stocked every night when the streets are quiet. Every person in town has an appointment. Only one person shops for their groceries at a time.

You used to know the owner, he greeted you like a brother, but you haven’t seen him in four years. Now the aisles are quiet; still like a military roll call that yields to soundlessness when the general stops his footsteps.

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‘Embracing One’          Susan Cohen Thompson

The secluded aura greets you at the entrance of a parking lot that is so obscure and untidy that you nearly forget under which consistency of branches and shrubs encloses the gateway. After each week, this untidiness becomes frustrating. As it happens, the peace and quiet you once enjoyed having the store all to yourself and the relief knowing you won’t stumble upon nonsensical interactions by chance, now becomes a source of stored animosity.

You have a question about a product and no one is there to answer it. The milk is spoiled and you can’t return it. The horribly situated appointment on Mondays at 5 PM means you have to lose time at the office. Now realizing this creates rumination over its exactly quantified monetary value that bleeds from your pocket and into the metal bucket on the counter.

The owner’s disappearance of sheer naiveté also speaks to his brazen disregard for your satisfaction. As your memory reprocesses the store owner’s greeting, sentiments sour and an erosion process begins. Instead of hearing a “how are ya?” the question is shoved into a grave and becomes resurrected with an idea instead of a natural man.

Possessions become less his when there’s no one there to claim it. Likewise, time pulls away guilt and stealing can become righteous. Emotions can allow vengeance to look like justice. In a metaphysical sense these hideous mutated plants grow like weeds and yet one will be deluded to think they’re somehow sanctified and beautiful.

The idea manifests like this: After all these years you have been the one losing. You pay the same prices for the product, and he doesn’t have overhead expenses to fairly justify maintaining the price tag as is. So you calculate in your head the wholesale price, throw him a bone with a dollar or two more, and throw the money in the jar. “So fairly precise,” you say aloud.

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Maid of Farmland                  Susan Cohen Thompson

The next week you calculate all the items you were dissatisfied with, for one reason or another, and realize that this adds up to hundreds of dollars. Angered, your hand recoils from your pocket, which has been violated for too long with the help of ungratified patience. You don’t punch numbers this time to calculate the total, and the clink of change does not echo as you disappear through the back entrance.

The store owner’s inventory shows discrepancy, which at first he ignores. Although at some point the inventory tells a compelling story of his town. His wallet whisks from his pocket, and then security cameras are installed watching your every move.  Perhaps this would add a little more logic to your logic. Certainly now you would be more precise with your calculations, and knowing your activity has been noticed, you will adapt accordingly in order to continue to call yourself an honest person.

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‘Tao of Human Nature’                       Susan Cohen Thompson

In reality, an entity is written with a code that can be reprogrammed unrecognizably in permissive environments, yet will believe it hasn’t changed. The truth of err will never occur to one without feeling eyes watching.

“Pray you, tread softly, that the blind mole may not” (Cymbeline, William Shakespeare)

Even the darkest black looks more grey under scrutiny. Especially when you can leave through the back door and through a prickly curtain backed by nature.

 

 

Diseases Within You

‘Put yourself first,’ ‘you deserve better,’

We have all been told this or have used this language to console a friend, but one must ask themselves why these catchphrases, which revolve around speculative entitlements, are the standards of advice?

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Narcissus (Caravaggio)

What if someone were to tell you that you do not inherently deserve anything, how enraged would that make you? Where would that leave your identity? Perhaps in protest to such a claim you would rate yourself on a scale from 1-10, you might compare yourself to  other single people and clarify your worth, you might cite your wonderful family as a reason for your deserving, your brain, your looks. Add up all the points that make you a wonderful catch, as if you’re an object, and then commodify someone else to see if you’re compatible.

The problem is that people are misdirected; instead of seeking common values, we seek common worth. The consequence is a diseased thought process that revolves around either “getting” or “settling,” and therefore, no time for introspection. However this problem, I believe, can be easily solved with self-evaluation.

The precise measurements at which we use to pull apart another person, we should use tenfold to scrutinize ourselves. This is not a call to change your sense of entitlement of others, but to expand those same expectations and demands towards yourself.

Meditate to discover which diseases lie under your skin, i.e. your  bad characteristics, and what that could mean to another person in your life. “What are you looking for?” should be internally changed to “what qualities am I looking to develop and harness within myself so I can be a better human, partner, neighbor, sibling, and friend?”

One thing you should never settle for is constant self-affirmation of your ‘commodified worth,’ without taking breaks to pull yourself apart every once in a while to look for diseased or neglected personality traits.

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my conclusions/solutions?
What do you think the consequences of this mentality could be?

Featured image: Salome (Franz Von Stuck)

 

 

 

Dear Humanity, Have a Voice For Me

Dear Humanity,

It has been long told that a woman’s dress does not reflect her desire or consent to engage in physical touch or anything beyond this point. Much has been said about the foul and rotten individuals that violate, trample on, and extort consent to touch. These people attempt to conjure connection despite the obvious unpleasant and uncomfortable reaction that is clearly etched upon the victim’s face.

Though at times, even to the trained viewer and purposeful observer, the desire of the victim in question can be elusive. For women, as well as men, have been trained to be polite and socially agreeable. As an example, being polite means smiling when someone says something stupid or not funny, or even, uncomfortable. The programing for this has long been developed in early childhood. However in childhood we are simultaneously taught not to talk to strangers. When one becomes an adult and more comfortable with engaging and meeting strangers, without parental consent, the latter becomes null and void, and politeness is carried over and precariously offered to strangers.

I say this as a woman who learned the ‘hard way’ when I politely engaged with strangers who said hello, and was left uncomfortably finding an escape, an excuse to end the interaction. I see this type of behavior of ‘politeness’ amongst my friends, but without fail this can be seen anytime I go out to a bar, a party, or event, if I pay attention. 

Years ago, I was offered a ride by a gentleman in one of my courses. Everything about the interaction screamed “no,” this would go against what I was taught by my mother. Frankly, the gentleman was odd, yet, I felt ‘bad.’  He insisted “you sure, I’m going that way anyway?” Thereafter I agreed to get into the car with him, I felt as if I could not say no.

Though the reader may tense and suspect that something bad happened, nothing actually did. However, this incident helped me to understand how vulnerable I am to danger, to violating my own will, in order to follow a code of kindness. Easily this rule book I followed could have resulted in violation to any degree. Although, even the fact that I would rather have taken the train, if not solely to avoid discomfort, I could not grant this to myself. I couldn’t allow myself the luxury of being comfortable in my travels, because of a social standard of conduct.

However, it is through these experiences that I have changed tones completely. For instance, when I am dancing with my friends, if a ‘gentleman’ grabbed my hand to bring me to dance with him. I firmly say “what is your problem? Don’t you grab me!” and quickly I pull away. When I am outside of a bar and a ‘gentleman’ asks me if I am ‘okay’ and tries touching my arm to console my apparent frazzled state, which did not exist, “Personal space, don’t touch me,” is my response.

You may think this attitude is “feisty,” a deviation from the norm. You may think that I get an ego boost or sense of triumph from people telling me so. On the contrary, I long for the day that I would not be called this, that one day this attitude would be more prevalent amongst my gender.  These incidents should not be regarded as an oddity, or a spectacle for that matter; clearly, I am not “feisty,” I merely establish the rules of how I will be interacted with and treated.

What inspired me to write this down, finally, was not my own experiences, of which there are many of my “feisty,” and regrettably, “polite” reactions. In fact it is a specific altercation I had with one ‘gentleman,’ last night on New Year’s.

It all started with a random comment towards me, “you do not understand, I’m such a good guy it hurts.” My reaction was nodding and inching away. I ignore this  “good guy,” and assume the interaction with this fine gentleman would be over, but I was wrong.

Later that evening, or earlier that morning, I see this gentleman etching closer while conversing with another young woman. I took notice over the course of ten minutes that there might be something to investigate. This took time because at first, I could not tell if she resented the interaction or not, and I did not want to stand in the way of social interaction. Thus I resorted to standing nearby and observing, waiting for a possible sign, an accidental break of the facade of politeness, that my suspicions were correct.

Finally, I see that he touches her on the arm again, and again, and she steps back. He now fully is encroaching in her space; though oddly, I notice the look on her face does not immediately convey the discomfort she must have felt. Nonetheless confirming my suspicions I lean over to him and say “dude, give her personal space, she’s clearly not interested.”

Immediately, something possesses this ‘fine’ gentlemen, and obscenities are heard and alarms begin to ring within me. I back away looking at him in fear; he begins to match my backward steps away from him while he screams at me, something to the degree of how I’m a horrible bitch. I exclaim firmly “walk away,” which he does, but to my horror, he returns. He leaves, and then returns once again, this time clearly attempting to assault me. As he marches toward me I yell “get the fuck away from me,” and stand behind some gentlemen. Again, he yells to my friend, but finally leaves.

This is what is out there, this is what we have to fight against. They come to you pretending to be a “good guy,” they may even exclaim clearly their character, but it can all be lies. Being polite in these cases could cause harm to you, my fellow women. Being polite could create a situation in which the most grotesque can be acted upon you. Being polite can cause damage, you must not be polite for just it’s sake.

Be a ‘bitch,’ and let him call you one. He does not earn your interaction simply by wanting it. And no one is entitled to conversation from you, or to your space, or a slight touch on your arm, that is not authorized. You are not a bitch for making these rules clear, you are a human who stands up for their rights, however harsh you may come across.

Finally, the stranger framed, is the most important message to communicate to my fellow women. Someone who approaches you, understands that he is a stranger, and understands that he must be careful of your discomfort. Indeed, people who approach you are violating a social standard, touching as the second violation, and as such, the gentlemen are in the wrong in the case in which these social violations are undesired. You can scream, you can ask another stranger for help, you can say “get the fuck off me,” “don’t touch me,” and most importantly, “no.”Consider the type of person that will violate this societal rule; many are inconsiderate, while few are genuinely worthwhile to get to know.

To all the friends and those who passer by, be vigilant, be the voice and exclamation of declined consent to those who feel unable to offer it. Let’s fight this battle together, this overlooked aspect of assault, that represents an enormous problem for our women. Let us join together, let us help each other, let us protect each other.

Stay safe, Be prepared, Be vigilant,

Sincerely,

Fighting For You

 

Another great article on this topic, click here.

Unfortunately, the art picture above is not credited due to unknown source. If you know the source please contact me to credit.

Oddity of Chance Encounter, Again


Recently, I have been noticing a homeless person as I walk to college
I could not tell if the homeless person is the same each time, or the gender of this person
Perhaps with all the clutter of belongings that surrounds, its unclear
Though its probably because I did not care to notice
 
However this morning I was feeling like shit
With barely any sleep, finally I arrived at Atlantic terminal at 6 A.M
I then bought my morning coffee and instantly I felt better, I needed to treat myself
A cinnamon dulce latte indulged me
 
After brightening my morning and alleviating the morning ache of a 3:45 alarm
I went on my way to relax and read at the library in Flatbush
However today is a different day
I saw a human on the ground
Probably cold
And alone
And me and all my privilege, I could treat myself to a $5.75 coffee
This woman whether she has a bad headache or not, is unable to enjoy this remedy
 
As planned I walked past the Target, and the homeless person
My destination is not here, not yet
I want them to feel the relief I felt on this cold winter oppressive day
I buy hot chocolate, which is universally loved
A bagel and cream cheese, a typical new york breakfast
Munchkins, a cinnamon roll, and a vanilla iced donut
To someone who is on the cold cement
It takes a little extra,
Or maybe, one donut could have sufficed
Because people on the street, they appreciate anything
And remember everything
 
Now, how do I know that?
Well I assumed it at the time
But today is a different day
Today I have poof, I now know this is true
And you will see why
 
When I approached the Target I nearly walked by and talked my way out of it
What if this person rejects me?
What if they get mad (its 6:30 A.M, after all)
No matter I decide, I am willing to take this risk
I kneel beside, and notice the homeless person is a woman
“Good morning mam, I brought you some breakfast”
 
This woman, who has no name for the moment, looks up at me
She’s not scary, offended, or standoffish
She greets me as an old friend
I tell her what I brought, and warn her not to let the hot chocolate get cold
And of course she thanks me, not vulgarly, but in the same way an old friend would offer appreciation
 
Instantly she opens up to me
Were this to be in a different context, such as a random meeting with a non-homeless person
I would have found it off putting
But coming from a homeless person, who you assume surely has pain
And given the vulnerability of approaching someone you don’t know,
It doesn’t feel foreign and alarming
 
I sit down from my kneeling position
I join her on the sidewalk
Indeed, it is cold
I ask her for her name, she says “Sally,” I tell her mine, “Hannah”
She tells me why she is homeless, though I did not ask
Someone robbed $6,000 from her, expelled her from the apartment illegally
I begin to believe her
And then I don’t
She tells me she has a picture of the man who robbed money from her
She asks me if I’m a journalist, if I can tell her story
“I am, sure I can,” I say, partly with disingenuity
 
Though I know her story is slightly if not all delusional
What must that feel like to live that reality?
To have $6,000 dollars stolen from you, leaving you on the street
Being expelled from your apartment
Police don’t listen to you, “they didn’t even file a police report,” she says
Does it matter what is true or what is not? There is a human being suffering, ignored
I ask her “How do you deal with it all?”
She responds “I’m a survivor,” with a smile etched on her face
 
I begin to think that this is perhaps the most genuine conversation I have had with someone in a while
I begin to think that this is perhaps the most genuine conversation I have had with someone in a while
Though you may think I was being duplicitous by engaging and asking about a story which I believed untrue
I believe that she believes what she is telling over to me
And so I listen,
I am careful not to apologize “I’m sorry you have to…”
Rather I’ve learned to acknowledge and state the state of being
“You’re a survivor” I say
Which I believe to be true
 
At some point the conversation turns to oddity
At some point the conversation turns to oddity
She states “I think I met you a few months ago”
I say, “oh really,” intrigued, and of course, in disbelief
Perhaps she has mistaken me for someone else
She confirms that she remembers, I bought her something
She remembers that I was nice to her
This jogs my memory
 
Then I remembered, “Sally!”
I remember meeting her outside of Brooklyn College
This is vague at first as I try to recall it
Then I look at her, and remember more clearly
When I met Sally, she made me smile
She told me her story then too, someone stealing money
Getting evicted, the police unhelpful
She told me then, no one believes her
Her story hasn’t changed by any detail
 
Though Sally is mistaken on when we met
We actually met about two and a half years prior when I was enrolled in Spring 2014
I remembered this, because I happened to have skipped class that day
It was a Wednesday, later in the afternoon when I had American Pluralism
I remember this because we left on saying ‘well see each other again,’
No pressure, she ventures to the area occasionally, I’m there on Wednesdays…
We never saw each other again
Until now
 
What can one say about such an encounter?
I met Sally post-injury from an accident
This had been a very isolating and emotionally voiding experience
Which happens to be the reason I wasn’t in class on that Wednesday
I sought out human interaction, and Sally was out there on that day to offer it
I had left after Spring 2014
I have found my footing since then, I am back in college, 
And I encounter Sally yet again,
But she is in the same situation as two years ago…
 
…Now I remember something else
This will challenge what I have just alluded to about being the “kind one
Essentially all I did that day is engage with a Brooklyn pedestrian
This is odd to recall, I actually opened up to Sally on that day
After someone offended me, and I had no one to talk to
Sally told me, don’t let people effect you and mistreat you
She told me I was beautiful and deserved better
I spoke to Sally about !#@$$@#@#%#%#%#@%
Because I was heartbroken at the time
Sally gave to me that day
She encouraged a downtrodden person that day
She healed a broken person that day
With all she had to give, she delivered it perfectly, to me
And here we are again, seeing each other again in the crack of dawn on Flatbush Avenue
 
How does one end story like this?
Everything about it screams that it needs a proper ending, an explanation
An offering of meaning
Yet I think the story itself speaks
What is kindness? And who can offer it? Is there anyone who can’t?
What is the meaning of a stellar memory, yet a delusional one?
Where is the fairness?
Where does survivalism come from?
Does it come from delusion? Or rather the ability to smile
To greet a stranger without coldness
To set aside ones problems in sympathy and consideration for someone else’s
Because were all human beings after all
We all bleed the same way
We also can be saved the same way