Hello everyone.

So a few months back, I was hanging out with a friend of mine. As we did fairly often, we were up into the early hours of the morning, having a drink and talking about a pretty wide range of things, but in the conversation we came to a point where somebody (I think it was me) said that they were proud to be a member of a certain group of people. And as we talked back and forth, I realized that our definitions of pride we so varied from one another that it was making dialogue nearly impossible. So I thought it could be helpful to clear up the way that I see pride and touch on a couple related subjects.

So generally, I would say that I see pride as being an emotion. It often translates to/affects behavior, but it itself is an emotion. Now, within this emotion I believe there are two categories: inclusive and exclusive. I’ll take them one at a time, then try to compare them.

First, inclusive pride is a feeling of distinction that you have which is intended to place you into a group with others, to find a commonality in something excellent and remarkable. This is the kind of pride to which we are referring when we talk about things like academic pride, team pride, personal pride, etc. The biggest characteristic of this type of pride is that it is only found in that which takes effort to achieve. If you study hard for months and you get an A on your term paper, it’s okay to be proud of yourself. You are now part of an excellent, remarkable group of people, and your hard work has resulted in the reward you desired. Be proud of yourself.

The second type, exclusive pride, seeks to separate you from others. This type of pride does not demand evidence for excellence, but only that you are separate from another (implicitly inferior) group of people. Another staple of this pride is that it required no effort on your part. Things like national pride, racial pride, or pride of sex are characteristics that are not attained, or worked for. Pride in these involuntary qualities would mean that those who are not the same are somehow inferior to you, despite their lack of responsibility for them (or ability to change them). Basically, don’t be proud to be a certain race- you didn’t choose it, and you can’t change it. 

Be proud of those things which are only attained through hard work and skill. All else was given to you, and not a testament to your worth or value. 

As always, I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on this. Thank you for reading.

Think well, and have a great Tuesday. 


Learning To Hate

Hello everyone.

So, about 5 years ago, a little while after I moved to Seattle, I started going to Jackson High School. I had just turned 16. And I remember one day, I was in Ms. Blevin’s World History class. I had only been in public school for a couple weeks, and until that point, I’d been a nice, relatively sheltered home-schooler with no concept on really how to judge or exclude people for basically any reason. This kid, a young man, came in to give our teacher a note, and as he was walking out, I said “Hey, I like your hat! It’s funny.” It was a green dinosaur hat, and I’d never seen one like that before. He kind of looked at me, then walked out. A couple minutes later, a girl leaned over and said “That guy is gay, everybody thought you were hitting on him.” What I said wasn’t flirtatious in any way- it had just been an observation, maybe a compliment- and everyone had immediately made a determination of the type of person I was, and it apparently wasn’t positive. A few days later, I saw him walking down the halls, and he gave me a friendly smile and pointed at his hat- the same one.

I just looked away.

I had learned to judge.

People are quick to bash homeschoolers for being socially awkward or religious weirdos. But I will always remember the first placed I learned to judge, the first time I learned to treat somebody differently just because of who they were. And it wasn’t in a Bible class, and it wasn’t while I was in a Christian school. It was at my public high school.

P.S. If that guy ever reads this and remembers that happening, I want to apologize now for letting other people influence what I knew was the right thing to do. Rock on, amigo. 

Tweet me with your thoughts here, and thank you as always for following.

Think well, and have a great Thursday.

Success & Happiness

Hello everyone.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve experienced the phenomenon wherein the same theme or problem is seen several times, much more often than one would think. Like when you talk to one friend about fear and pain on Monday, and find yourself talking to five other friends about the same exact subject throughout the week. I like to think this happens because we are all much more connected emotionally than we suppose, but without proof I’ll just be a content observer. 

Well this past week, the theme has been success and happiness. And for a lot of people, these two subjects are usually interchangeable- succeeding with our goals would make us happy. But the order of operations (and importance) might need a little more focus. 

First, we need to establish what we’re talking about. Let’s say that success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, and that happiness is an emotion, ranging from contentment to extreme pleasure. Basically, success is doing something you set out to do, and happiness is a good feeling that you have for a given period of time. Now initially, it might be hard to see where these two ideas would not be associated with one another. But for Aron Ralston, an acute awareness can clearly be supposed. The victim of an infamous canyoning accident in 2003, Ralston was forced to cut off his own arm when he became trapped under a dislodged rock for over 5 days in Utah. (You saw ‘127 Hours’ right? No? Good for you.) Well for him, when he had made the decision to amputate his own arm with a dull knife, he knew what success meant. He knew that in his best-case-scenario, he would have a mangled stub of an arm, and severe blood loss, before needing to rappel down to safety. But that is far from happiness. 

And yes, some would argue that in some ways he was probably happy because he escaped, but we all know what we would be feeling. And thinking. And saying. While he may have been pleased in an intellectual sense, he almost certainly was not happy. Another example would be Victoria Soto, the Newtown teacher who drew attention away from her students from the shooter, sacrificing her own life in the process. She was willing to die for others, and succeed in saving their lives, but I would not guess that happiness was the primary emotion she was feeling in those last moments. 

People tend to do what makes them happiest. Even if it’s indirect (like waking up at 6:00am to get to work), the feeling is there in the end (like getting your paycheck). This is why for most people, success is what would make them happy- because we have set these goals for ourselves, and the results are things that we know would make us happy. 

But here is the problem: When we don’t succeed, we aren’t happy. Because our happiness is so tightly knit together with what we define as success, we often cannot find other ways to attain it. Try it. Try to think of the top 5 things in your life that make you happy, and see just how many of them are associated with some idea of success, or accomplishment. But to be clear, I don’t really see this as a bad thing- this enjoyment we as people get from doing well and succeeding is what drives us forward, and makes us want to be better than we are. Without the good feeling that goes along with success, it would be pretty hard to motivate ourselves. 

The main idea is this: We as people need to seek out things in life that make us happy, but which are not dependent upon success or achievement. For religious people, this happiness often comes from a feeling of closeness or safety they feel from their connection to god or others. This is indeed one of the most alluring parts of religion: that even if you fail, even if you are lacking in every way in which you know you must be sufficient, there is a god that will pick you up and return you to grace- that it has absolutely nothing to do with what you must do, and everything to do with what has been done for you. For others, it may come from appreciating the beauty, complexity, and general wellness of the world and of the people in it. They see the wonderful, breathtaking activity in the universe, and they are happy- happy to be a part of it, happy to witness it, happy to perhaps even have created it. 

I would encourage all people to take stock of their lives, look at the goals they have and the happiness they feel, and organize- fit success into it’s own place, knowing that if it is found, happiness will mostly likely follow. But make sure that your own happiness also has its place, separate and alone from anything that can fall down or be torn apart, because the safer you can keep your happiness, the longer it will last. And the last (and perhaps most important) admonishment I can give is this: do not store your happiness in yourself. We are our own worst critics, and we are all too aware of our own failings. If your happiness is stored up in your own accomplishments, what happens when you fail? What happens when you can’t put food on the table, or keep a roof over your head? Over your kids’ heads? Find the happiness in success, but be sure to find it outside as well. There is plenty out there for us to be happy about, and finding it is one of the best parts of life. 

“Oh how great this world, and we so great within it.”

Thank you for reading. As always, leave comments here or on twitter.

Think well, and have a great Thursday.

The Problem With Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches'

Hello everyone.

Okay, so I’ve seen this video posted a few times, mostly by women with the same comments, that it is a “must see” and “every woman should see this”. And while I’m sure that the intended statement is worth examination, my problem with it is this: beauty is still seen as a necessity for women.

This particular “study” would postulate that women are their own worst critics, and that being less harsh on their looks would be rewarding, and help them to appreciate and value their own particular brand of beauty. This idea that all women are beautiful in their own way is definitely noble, but I think within itself, there are some flawed warrants. 

An example of this can be found in the recently popularized quote from A.A. Milne’s original book “Winnie The Pooh”, wherein we find this quote:

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”

And this is admirable! We must always strive to break down those barriers of doubt which we set for ourselves, and which hold us back from achieving that which we have the potential to accomplish. But recently, as it has been circulating, the quote has been altered. As can be seen here, here, and here, a small bit has often been added to the quote, and it reads “…and twice as beautiful as you ever imagined." 

Now, aside from my general dislike of people who misquote such amazing authors as Milne, this addition does offer some insight into our topic and it is that beauty is seen as a necessary and innate quality of women. But why? Qualities such as bravery, strength, and intelligence are qualities of character, and offer testimony as to the caliber and worth of her person as a human being. Clearly, the beauty we are talking about (especially in this video) is examining only external or physical beauty. And as I said earlier, some will say that all women are beautiful in their own way, and that’s fine, but my problem is… why do they have to be? Where does this desire, even need, for physical beauty come from? I believe we should be cautious of the effects of putting such a high value on physical beauty, because even if every woman believes she is beautiful, she still thinks that it is necessary to be that way. I believe this to be false. 

I think we need to stop telling women that they are all beautiful in their own way. Instead, we need to encourage them to care about traits of more worth and substance. All women may be beautiful, but they don’t need to be. That will not (or at least should not) determine the quality or value of her as a person- only as a woman. 

All women are beautiful, but they don’t need to be. They need to be brave, strong, and intelligent. That is what will truly fulfill them, not some dermal, outward semblance of worth or value. These are the only qualities that are truly, absolutely needed.

Thank you as always for reading.

Think well, and have a great Wednesday. 



Try this today!

I think I’ll start doing this every day. 

Take 30 minutes out of your day, when you need to relax, and go to wikipedia. If you’re using a FireFox or Chrome browser (which you should be) then hold Alt+Shift+x and it will give you a random page! A lovely way to just browse, and get a surface knowledge of events, people, ideas, and so much more. Try it!

Think well and have a great Monday.

Fairy Tales

Hello everybody.

So the other day, I was watching a movie and the mom came in to read stories to her kids before they went to bed, and I was thinking about how common and picturesque that image is to us. I don’t know how common this activity is, but it never really happened for me. The closest thing I can remember is one of my parents reading Bible stories to the family in the evening, and that certainly didn’t happen every night.

But there were stories I do remember, stories that stuck with me, taught me subtle life lessons about people and love and life. See, whenever my mom would watch a movie that I wasn’t allowed to, inevitably the next day, my sister and I would ask her what the movie was about. I heard stories about the great Maverick, soaring through the skies and trying to prove himself and overcome his fears and demons. We heard about the adventures of Henry, a man living in Hawaii who proved his love to a woman with amnesia by taking her on 50 first dates.

A lot of people will argue that movies will never compare to books, and that movies and video games will turn kids’ brains to mush. Movies are the fairy tales and great stories of my childhood, and just like books, there are good ones and there are bad ones. Video games can have downsides, but a recent study shows that children with dyslexia can see improvement after playing for a while each day. My point is, there are benefits and drawbacks to all media, books included, and it’s just a matter of finding a wholesome and balanced example of whichever you enjoy most! 

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to thank my mom for all the great stories, and showing me that tales of virtue and love can be found anywhere. I love you, mom.

Thanks for reading, tweet me your comments and thoughts here!

Think well, and have a great Friday.

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What the hell is a #hashtag?

Hello everyone.

So today, I was talking with my wonderful little sister Alli who goes to CUI in California and we started discussing twitter, and the merits and drawbacks therein. She said one of her biggest hesitations about joining is that she frowns upon the use of hashtags, pretty much as a rule. And I wanted to share will all of you some of my thoughts on the issue, which I also expressed to her. Cuz we’re twenty-something year olds and this is what we do- we write blogs about hashtags.

So where did it all start? Hashtags first appeared in the IRC (Internet Relay Chat), which was a protocol for standardizing Internet communication back when the Internet was just a tiny little baby (yeah, I don’t really remember that either). They’re used to help with things like metadata (wtf is that?!), and basically, they are topical identifiers. So when I post a tweet like “I just got to test-drive the new 2014 Corvette!”, this goes out into the ether of all tweets (which, to give you some perspective, is about 140 million tweets every single day). So yeah, there are kind of a lot of them, and for businesses and writers and scientists, it can obviously get kind of hard to search through all that raw data for posts about the new Corvette. 

Thus, the hashtag. Companies and services like twitter use hashtags to help themselves (and others) sort through this massive amount of data to find what they really want and need. And this is actually a pretty brilliant bit of cooperate maneuvering, if you think about it. The company is avoiding the need to hire hundreds of analysts to sort through all of the incoming data, and instead letting all of the users sort it for them. Think about that. You are actually working for twitter (and all the companies that purchase data/marketing space from them) when you use hashtags. But don’t worry, it’s fun for us too. It allows us to also make sense of the other people out there, and add ourselves to a very specific conversation that we might otherwise be unable to join!

So instead of the tweet example before, I would probably write “Just got to test-drive the new #2014Corvette!” In doing so, any time someone searched for that hashtag, they would easily be able to add my tweet to the list of posts that interest them, while excluding those that do not! Highly efficient, this system is perfect for a site like twitter.

Now, having said all that, we all know those people who abuse helpful tools such as these. They will clutter up their post with horrible, non-related hashtags in a rather desperate attempt to gain exposure. A tip is, if you’re using more than two or three hashtags, you should probably make your post a bit more specific- otherwise you’re defeating the purpose, and your post will land in all the wrong lists. Less is more, people.

I hope you have found some of this helpful and informative, and I hope we’ll see comments and feedback from all of you. Thank you again to my sister for always being a brilliant intellectual with whom I can always talk and be challenged.

Think well, and have a great Wednesday.