Monthly Archives: April 2015

Judge Me: Why Judgement is Both Unavoidable and Healthy

Judge me. No really, seriously, judge away. And don’t keep those thoughts to yourself, please share what it is about me that bothers you in some way. These phrases may sound like snarky text messages from your 13-year-old sister, but I actually expect them to be read as literally as possible. I am almost 100% in favor of judging.

Of course, to explain an opinion like this I need to do a bit of refining of terms and meanings. To me, being judgmental and being an ass hole are not the same. However, passing judgment where it is neither constructive nor warranted can turn you into an ass hole quite speedily. Furthermore, using judgment as a pretext for malice will seal the deal. I’d like to pull a quote from a book I just started reading, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. This is my first foray into the ideas of Stoicism, a philosophy developed in Ancient Greece and popular in Rome that bears some similarity to Buddhism. Although I’ve only read a few pages, and thus have gained only minimal insight into the inner workings of the late Roman Emperor’s mind, I am already stumbling upon useful ideas:

 

“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I, who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it is in the same intelligence and the same potion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him. For we are all made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.”

 
 

Taking a second to ascertain the meaning behind ancient Rome’s longest run-on sentence, I sensed within it the same opinion I’ve harbored for years: It is not inherently wrong to judge someone. This is a rather unpopular stance in modern culture, where the phrase “don’t judge me” is a favorite mantra among the overly defensive, the ill advised, and guests of Maury. Yet as Aurelius hints at the beginning of this “meditation”, we all go through life each day encountering people whose beliefs and actions do not align with our personal code of conduct. We judge them against this code. To call for a society in which no individual passes judgment on another is not only impossible, it’s actually just a terrible idea. The goal is not to abstain from judgement, but to abstain from irritation, anger, and cruelty. Having said that, are there still millions of petty circumstances in which a person has no business sharing their opinion of another’s choices? Certainly. But are there also circumstances in which a healthy dose of judgment is not only warranted, but desperately needed? I say hell yes.

I judge the person who refuses to acknowledge their privilege, the person who thinks animals are ours to torment, or the person who lives upon the planet with no regard for the greater Earthly community just as Aurelius judges the ungrateful, the arrogant, and the deceitful. Simultaneously I judge myself for being “unsocial”, for being quick to anger, and for being overly concerned with self image. Without judgment there is no reflection; without reflection there is no progress. Do those who announce that no one has the right to judge another still reserve the right for a person to judge his or herself? If so, why is your own person so vile that you would do unto yourself what you should never, ever do to another? And if not, then how do they expect individuals to grow and mature? Loving yourself really does lead to loving others, but loving yourself so much that you never question your own beliefs is a recipe for disaster.

The problem is not judgment, but dickishness. The personal codes of ethics that exist (hopefully) within each of the 7.something billion human beings on this planet will never “synch up”. There will not come a day when we all collectively wake up and realize hitting your kids is wrong or that mayonnaise is just gross. Barring some terrifying, Brave New World-esque overall in which humans become standardized from birth, difference in developmental pressures, culture, and perception will always produce individuals with different neural maps, thus opinions. To decide someone is less deserving of your kindness based on your judgment of his or her behavior is the folly. Ideally, I should judge people in much the same way I judge myself. I should see the ways in which a man’s actions negatively affect himself, those around him, or the planet and think to myself that he is wrong for those things. Yet just as I do not berate myself, I should not go over and push the man in dirt.

Although I see the righteousness of Aurelius’ Philosophy, I still struggle to live true to it. A couple weeks ago I beckoned to any of my Facebook friends who supported Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration” act to promptly lose my number. “Anyone who believes it is ok to treat a fellow human being this way has absolutely no place in my life!” I internet-screamed to the masses. I felt it was necessary to both judge and act against those who had acted against others in such a grotesque way. Simplified: I was being a dick to the dicks. This is the kind of behavior I have trouble avoiding. The better approach is obviously to judge silently, forgive ignorance, and should the issue ever come up in a civil environment, do my best to explain why their behavior is unacceptable to me. However, I am just not a big enough person yet. I feel compelled to be a dick to dicks. In this case, fundamentalists hating on gays irritates me in and of itself, but I am able to stay respectful and silent until something they do actually affects people.

I recognize that in order for us humans to have the type of beautiful world we’d like, we must learn to love and accept each other unconditionally. However this is the definition of “easier said than done”. Just how do you love the racist, the homophobic, the animal abuser, or the misogynist? I haven’t figured it out yet and am open to suggestions. Perhaps getting through the rest of Meditations will give me the tools I need to bridge the gap…but it’s an awfully short book.

Categories: Humanity, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arizona Trip…about a month and a half late

I went to Arizona with my boyfriend for five days at the end of February to get away from the icy hell that is February in Michigan and to visit his godfather. I took a boat load of pictures and I’d like to share some of them as well as a few notes about my first experience in the American Southwest.

The first place we visited was Fountain Hills, a high-end suburb of the Phoenix area. I loved the adobe houses, gravel yards, and interesting foliage but was shocked to see huge fountains (hence “Fountain Hills”) and golf courses in the middle of the desert. It just seems to wrong, especially when some people predict a water crisis coming in the next handful of decades. Regardless, I took some nice photos:

Did I mention this was a wealthy area?

Did I mention this was a wealthy area?

17138278695_e760679804_zNext, me and Nick took a trip out to see the Biosphere 2, an amazing research facility constructed in the 1980s in order to test the ability of people to thrive within an enclosed ecosystem. The Biosphere 2 (Biosphere 1 being Earth) was meant to reconstruct a functioning, closed-system biome on a small scale. It is the largest system of it’s kind. Two “missions” were conducted at the Biosphere in which researchers were “locked” inside for up to 2 years. Due to some difficulty in cultivating food, CO2 problems, and even personal disputes, the missions were not perfect and the second ended prematurely. However, the Biosphere was pegged as a “failure” in the mainstream media. Those who work at the Biosphere now will be the first to say this is not true, and I’m apt to agree with them. The original researchers gained invaluable information about the operation of closed systems that can lead to very important sustainable technologies and a greater understand of Earth in general. Not to mention the problems they encountered, in the grand scheme of experimental science (*ahem* remember how science works? Most things aren’t perfect), were not all that disastrous. Research continues to be conducted at the Biosphere including soil dynamics, artificial “ocean” manipulation, and other fascinating pursuits. Even ignoring all practical use of the facility, it sure is cool to look at:

The future is now folks.

The future is now folks.

17138294745_6fb6675296_zNext on our list was Saguaro National Park within the beautiful Sonoran Desert. I was awe-struck by the giant Saguaro cacti (pronounced “soo-waro” apparently, unless you’re a newb) stretching as far as the eye could see and of course the gorgeous sunset we managed to catch just in time:

16931205297_d111091429_z 17138375245_9b758f8450_zNext on the list was Tonto National Forest, where we took a boat ride through the cañon and, my favorite part, encountered a herd of desert bighorn sheep!!

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What are YOU looking at?

What are YOU looking at?

The last particularly notable part of our trip was in Sedona, land of crystal hippies and rich, confused white people. Though I can’t say I buy into the “vortex” theory of why Sedona is a special place, I won’t deny that it is enchantingly beautiful. to my chagrin we actually ran into snow while we were there, the very thing we were trying to escape. Yet I couldn’t stay mad when I saw how pretty it looked atop the red rocks:

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I couldn't really get over the whole "snow on a cactus" thing.

I couldn’t really get over the whole “snow on a cactus” thing.

All-in-all I was very impressed with the splendor of the Southwest. Because of the unique mixture of cacti, rock formations, and coniferous forest, the higher elevations were some of my favorite spots. However the snow would probably keep me from moving there. But perhaps I’ll go back to Sedona when I decide that I want to spend $130 to have my fortune told by a woman who talks to angels. Seems legit.

If you’d like to see the rest of the photos from the trip (about 300 in all), head on over to my Flickr! Thanks for looking! 🙂

Categories: Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A for Effort

I had some mildly interesting thoughts about effort the other day. What spurred these on was an errand I had to run. Some back-story is necessary to explain this errand. My cat Lita,

This is my daughter, Lita. Also known colloquially as "The Floof".

This is my daughter, Lita. Also known colloquially as “The Floof”.

love of my life and best friend since 6th grade (I am now 23, she’s getting up there) has a condition known as CRF—Chronic Renal Failure. It basically means her kidneys woke up one morning, said, “fuck that” and decided to stop coming to work. It is a very common condition in older cats and often can’t be prevented. There is also no cure but there are a myriad of things you can do to control the symptoms and expand both the quantity and quality of time you have with your cat. One of those things is giving doses of subcutaneous fluids to re-hydrate the cat because kidney failure causes chronic dehydration. So my errand was to get to my vet to pick up a big box of fluids and a case of prescription food for my fur child. This wouldn’t be something to think twice about for someone with a car, but for me it was a little tricky. There were several ways I could have completed the task. I could have rented a Zipcar for the trip, asked a friend to help out, or even taken the bus to the vet and then grabbed an Uber or cab home. Simple, elegant solutions to a minor problem. I instead chose to take the bus both ways. Which meant I was hauling a large box of medical supplies and a backpack full of cans of cat food on two busses to get home. F for efficiency, but A for Effort.

The easiest answer to why I chose this route is I’m a cheap-ass. The bare minimum I would have had to spend on a Zipcar or cab would have been around $8. I have a bus pass so the bus was free. I chose free. However my mental process is almost never that simple. Ok never. I have to think of about 37 different angles to every option before I choose one. This is probably part of the reason I have so much anxiety. But that’s a topic for another day. This experience got me thinking about the ways in which people choose to, or not to, expend effort and how they make those choices. I chose to put in about double the effort and time in order to get home without spending any money. However some of the externalities of that effort were positive. For example, the day I ran this errand was a beautiful spring day (we only get about 5 of those in Michigan so it’s something precious). I got to spend more time outside while I waited at the bus stops. I also got the added bonus of a small arm workout from carrying that big box around. These may seem like silly benefits but in my strange little world they were noteworthy.

The broader idea I’m getting at with all these internal cost-benefit analyses is that I think a lot of people neglect to consider how they are spending their effort. If we treat effort as a finite resource (renewable obviously with rest, food, etc. but finite within a giving time period), the question becomes: how do we want to spend it? My decision to choose the more strenuous option for my errand makes sense in the context of another, larger choice I made prior. That was to stop going to the gym. I have belonged to a gym since the age of 16. My mom was always somewhat of a fitness freak and we used to work out together; I always really enjoyed it. I’ve never been one of those people who hates running on a treadmill. I always saw it as a kind of meditative time where I could listen to all the new music I downloaded that week. Yet I NEVER liked the act of going to the gym. Getting to the gym might as well be traversing Middle Earth to submerge the one ring in the fires of Mount Doom: I usually need a friend to come with me and it takes like 9 hours.

During my three months in Costa Rica however the jungle became my gym. And no, I don’t mean I turned vines into pull-up bars or ran laps carrying coconuts, I mean I didn’t really “work out”. Most of my downtime was spent reading in a hammock or sitting on a porch drinking awesome coffee. I was actually really lazy. Yet I felt fantastic and looked great. I figured this was because, overall, I was still expending the same amount (or more) physical effort I had been at home, it was just rolled into my daily life instead of banged out during 60 hardcore minutes at the local gym. Not only were work tasks physically demanding (maintaining trails, leading hikes, changing dozens of beds) but even small things just took more effort. Hand washing your laundry burns a lot more calories than using a washing machine. Carrying weeks worth of groceries in from a boat on the beach and up two flights of stairs to the kitchen is a bit more strenuous than walking 10 feet from your car to your apartment. These seemingly small, insignificant expenditures of physical effort added up to a lifestyle that kept me in fabulous shape.

Taking those principles with me into the modern world has, so far, not been as difficult as I thought it would be. Although I am fortunate enough to have a physical job (I know leading an active lifestyle is a lot more difficult when you work in a cubicle), I also have introduced effort into my life in places where most people opt for efficiency. In our busy world, time is king. If something can save you a half hour of time, it’s worth its weight in gold. I don’t really subscribe to that anymore. Choosing the more difficult route (such as biking to work or walking 15 minutes to a bus stop) may cost me both time and effort, but my return on investment is huge when you consider I’ve eliminated the need for two expensive, often unpleasant things—a car and a gym membership—with one simple act. In a country where one in three people is obese (I think that’s the statistic, right? Someone fact check me if I’m wrong), do we really need to prioritize physical effortlessness? I would obviously say no. I’m not saying don’t own a car or never choose the time-saving option. Sometimes our lives necessitate these things. To me it just seems silly to, as a rule, pay more for transportation in order to spend minimal effort all day, only to use the time and effort saved to get to a gym (with a membership fee) in order to run literally nowhere. As far as time goes, that just depends on how busy you are. But if you really don’t have time for longer commutes or errands, you probably don’t have time to go to the gym every other day either. That sort of lack of free time is another issue entirely that I’m not prepared to address right now. Let’s leave those worms canned.

One of those most simple, yet convincing arguments for alternative transportation I've ever seen.

One of the most simple, yet convincing arguments for alternative transportation I’ve ever seen.

Categories: Lifestyle, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Of The Greatest Things About Pink Mohawks

This past weekend I had the extremely pleasurable and cathartic experience of cutting all my hair off. Although I’ve had very short hair before, last time it was a gradual process from long and curly to medium-length to bob to short. This time, I simply grew it out to my shoulders and then got rid of all of it. Combined with the lifting of seasonal depression that accompanies the transition from winter to spring, I basically felt as if I had been reborn in my sister’s salon chair. I breathed a sigh of relief as she cut the bulk of my mousy brown hair off. I almost graduated to tears of joy as she shaved the sides of my head and I once more noticed the sensation of cool air against the nape of my neck. This may seem like an overly dramatic description of a haircut to some, but for me and a lot of other girls (and guys I’m sure), hair is kind of a big deal. Some of the reasons for which will be touched on below. For me, short hair is a big deal. More specifically short, loud hair. This time I went with a pink mohawk:

"Wild Orchid" to be exact.

“Wild Orchid” to be exact.

Now obviously the pink mohawk isn’t for everyone. It isn’t even really for me in the long run because that color is way too much of a pain in the ass to upkeep. But I do intend to keep the mohawk style in one form or another. My points touch more on the general positive externalities associated with unconventional hairstyle choices. But just for fun, let’s focus specifically on the benefits of the pink mohawk:

1. It’s streamlined. Like a shark fin.

Much like how the cartilaginous dorsal fin of the great white shark cuts through murky waters, pink mohawks allow for ease of movement through daily life. Because you know, fuck hair ties. Like seriously fuck hair ties. And bobby pins. And all those other things that never manage to hold more than like 72% of your hair in place.

2. With a pink mohawk, you’re just an oversized broadsword and small animal companion away from being an anime character.

That’s right, my hairstyle is strange and bright enough that I could almost walk right into an anime convention and someone would start making educated guesses about what series my cosplay was from. Furthermore, going through life with an outrageous hairstyle makes every day feel like the kind of adventure anime-you would have. Like you’re the star of your very own TV show. And hey, no one wants to watch your TV show if you do the same boring things every day, go crazy! If that’s not enough for you, a short hairstyle like a pink mohawk allows easy access to the fun world of wigs (a world which is exponentially more diverse with things like Etsy and Ebay)–you can literally have any hairstyle you want!

3. Confidence, by default.

When you have a hairstyle that more of less blends in, it is possible to do things with minimal confidence or gusto and no one will notice. But when you have a pink mohawk, you have to kind of go big or go home. You have to do things confidently and intentionally. Why might you ask? Well my inquisitive friend, picture someone dancing awkwardly at a club but instead of embracing the awkward and having fun, they shrink themselves down and keep their eyes cast at the floor to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Now picture that person has a pink mohawk. Doesn’t the scene get 100x more awkward and painful to envision? That’s because acting like you don’t want people to look at you while also sporting a pink mohawk is really stupid. So I find that when I do things, regardless of whether I’m doing them correctly or well, when I have a loud hairstyle I do them intentionally and with confidence. Often, just doing something confidently improves the quality of whatever it is you’re doing…or creates a really powerful illusion of quality. And that’s almost the same thing, right?

4. A person with a pink mohawk doesn’t give a shit about being seen as normal.

This is the big one. It’s less of an “I don’t give a fuck about you” (ok Big Sean) thing than it’s a “lets get this out of the way early” sort of thing. I’m not saying I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, I clearly do, or else I wouldn’t bother looking a certain way at all. I would probably wear an oversized t-shirt and hippie pants out everyday since that’s the most comfortable ensemble I own; yet I refrain from this tempting possibility. I like to look nice. This is more about me communicating without having to say anything that I’m a little odd. Much like the “Hello, I’m poor” cheat from my previous post, having a pink mohawk skips the several conversations it might take for someone to realize I’m a little “out there” and clues them right in from the start. I like this because I hate smalltalk. I hate the pleasantries involved in trying to appear more or less “normal” to someone you just met. That’s not to say I’m going to launch right into talking about why cats are better than children with someone I just met, it just means that when those things do come up, they can’t really act like I didn’t warn them. I have a fucking pink mohawk after all.

Categories: About me | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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