Month: July 2016

Exit 117. But what will I fill the void with?

I’ve said before that my time off work this summer seemed way too short.  I feel like the last year has been emotionally draining, for a number of reasons, most of which are not related to work, and many of which I have not shared here.  I was hoping that having seven weeks off work would give me time to clear my head, so that life would feel normal again.  But this has not happened.

I’m starting to wonder if it might be time for a more drastic step, and the message I heard at church this morning tied in with this.  Maybe it’s time to become a bit more isolated.  I’m starting to wonder if some of the things I do and people I see might be causing more harm than good.  I feel conflicted about this for a number of reasons, though.  For one thing, most of these things aren’t harmful 100% of the time.  And, for the most part, no one is actively trying to hurt me.  This is not a situation where I’m being bullied, or threatened, or anything like that.  I’m just realizing that certain parts of my life that used to make me happy in the past aren’t making me feel that way so much anymore.

But what will I fill the void with?  Part of the reason I haven’t cut things out of my life is because I have nothing with which to replace them.  That means more time spent at home moping and being alone, and that seems just as unhealthy to me.  But maybe I should be filling that void with God, spending that extra time in prayer and Scripture and meditation, to get some real direction on life.  And this doesn’t have to be forever.  When I feel ready, I can gradually add things back into my life provisionally, so I can better discern who and what are and aren’t worth my time.

I haven’t decided for sure that I will be doing this, but it’s something I’m thinking about.  We’ll see.

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Exit 116. People stood by apathetically and did nothing.

It’s that time again here in the USA… the time when everyone is talking about the upcoming Presidential election.  And, as is the case pretty much every year, there are those people out there talking about how they don’t like any of the candidates, but the system is flawed because you have to vote for one of them, and voting for a third party candidate is throwing your vote away and/or helping the candidate you don’t like to win.  This year, this conversation is coming up more often than ever, because of the staggering unpopularity of both major party candidates.

Some disclaimers first: What I’m writing here assumes that elections are not rigged.  I’m sure that some are, but I want to believe that this is a vast minority of cases.  Also, I recognize that at the time that the USA was founded, the definition of “people,” in the sense of who was eligible to vote and make decisions about government, was much less inclusive than it is today.  That is not particularly relevant to the discussion about what is happening now, though.  Finally, I apologize to my readers outside of the USA, because this discussion may not apply to your systems of government.

There are valid complaints in this line of discussion.  But there is something else that many of us seem to have forgotten (as I have written about before): Our government exists only by the consent of the governed.  If the system is flawed, that is because people put that flawed system in place, or, more likely, people stood by apathetically and did nothing while those who stood to benefit from the flawed system put it in place.

Every single elected official in this country was put in power by voters.  And every single elected official is held accountable for their actions when they come up for reelection.  The main reason that so many of those incompetent NTACs keep getting reelected is because their constituents find the status quo less detestable than the alternative.

I think what bothers me the most about this kind of discussion is the line of thinking that a third party candidate cannot win.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  No one votes for third-party candidates because they believe that they cannot win, and they cannot win because no one votes for them.  Third-party candidates have won states in the past, often when they hold a particularly strong following in one region of the country, which usually occurs because of one specific issue.  (This happened most recently in 1968; sadly, the issue in question was racial segregation.)  The third-party candidate came in second in 1912, and some consider Abraham Lincoln a third-party candidate when he won in 1860, because the Republican Party had not yet been established as the second national party after the breakup of the Whigs.  Some say that third-party candidates never get votes because the mainstream media never pays attention to them.  But this is a time period when the mainstream media is less relevant than it has been in years.  If some no-name lady in a Chewbacca mask, hundreds of foul-mouthed douchebags and douchebaguettes, and dozens of funny-looking cats can all get millions of followers on the Internet, then surely political candidates out of the mainstream can do the same.  The reason it doesn’t happen all comes down to what I said earlier: too many people don’t care.

If a third-party candidate does win states in an election where the two major party candidates are running close (which has the potential to happen this year), this opens the possibility that no candidate will win a majority of the electoral vote, invoking the Twelfth Amendment and sending the election to the House of Representatives, where each state’s representatives will get one collective vote per state, from among the top three candidates.  This is not an archaic vestige of the past; it was designed on purpose, so that compromises and negotiations could happen among the elected representatives.  Each state is different, geographically and culturally, and each state should be different.  The Electoral College and the Twelfth Amendment were designed purposefully as part of this feature of our nation.  This kind of compromise, integral to our nation’s history, is sorely lacking in today’s political climate; once again, the reason for that is that the politicians who refuse to compromise keep getting reelected by people who don’t care, who see ability to compromise as a weakness.

I may be sounding like an idealist here.  But I still believe in the ideals of our nation’s government, and I hope that more people will learn about these ideals so that they will too.

Exit 115. Seriously, just stop arguing and have fun.

So apparently everyone is talking about Pokémon Go. Let’s establish some basics right away: First of all, I have never played Pokémon Go.  And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m not an expert, but from what I can gather from talking to friends and reading about it, Pokémon Go is a game for smartphones where you actually walk around and explore the real world trying to find Pokémon.  Pokémon are characters from a series of video games, collectible card games, movies, and the like; they are little monsters that you can train to battle other Pokémon, or something like that.  The name was shortened from “Poketto Monsuta,” which is the Japanese transliteration of the English phrase “pocket monsters.”

The entire world has pretty much taken sides on Pokémon Go; either you love it or you hate it.  And as with many things, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I haven’t played it yet for a variety of reasons.  There are other things I’d rather do with my time at this point, and when the school year starts, this will be even more true.  Also, a lot of the most hardcore players are twentysomethings who played the early Pokémon video games and/or the Pokémon collectible card game in their childhood, and this new game gives them an opportunity to reenact those games in reality.  The Pokémon craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s was a little after my time, as far as video games go.  I have a small amount of experience with the card game, but this came far later, in my mid-thirties, during the time that I was in a really bad long distance relationship.  Acrux had learned the Pokémon card game from the kids she regularly babysat, and she wanted me to get a starter deck and learn the game.  I did so on my next visit, and she excitedly pointed out that, since players don’t actually take cards from other players in this game, we could play over Skype after I got home.  And, in the fashion typical of how things went in this so-called relationship, she never mentioned it again, and she always came up with some excuse why she didn’t have time whenever I brought up that I wanted to play.  The one time I did successfully beg her to find some time to play Pokémon with me over Skype, we only played one game, and I beat her in about five minutes.  I then played against her best friend, who was also there at the time, and that game took much longer… so the whole point of finally getting to spend some time with Acrux completely didn’t happen.  Frequent other non-Pokémon-related instances of her blowing me off when I wanted to spend time together is pretty much why we broke up, although that’s another story entirely.  The point I’m trying to make is that, unlike many of my friends who play, I don’t have those pleasant childhood memories of Pokémon.

But I’m not going to sit here and say that the game is evil, or anything like that.  If you play Pokémon Go, and you still prioritize your time so that you can be an adult and take care of your responsibilities (or in the case of children, do your homework), then good for you.  I’m glad you’re enjoying it.  I’m glad you’re getting outside, seeing the world around you, and making friends.  There seems to be a segment of the population who believes that any adult who plays video games, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, is inherently immature, childish, and irresponsible.  As much as I don’t always like to admit it, the world has changed, and video games are not children’s toys anymore.  I see nothing inherently more immature about an adult who plays video games compared to an adult who spends the same amount of time golfing, fishing, or watching TV.  Hobbies are great as long as they don’t interfere with your life unreasonably.

However, if you’re going to play Pokémon Go, stop acting like an idiot and/or a jerk.  Don’t dart out into traffic or jump off a cliff because there is a Pokémon there.  And don’t go around saying that this game is only for adults who grew up playing Pokémon as children.  No, it’s not.  Let the n00bz have their fun.  And if you just jumped on the Pokémon bandwagon recently, don’t act like you know everything, because there are people who have been into Pokémon a lot longer than you.  All of you, seriously, just stop arguing and have fun.

I haven’t ruled out playing Pokémon Go in the future.  I recently saw a coworker who is around my age playing.  She said that, since she is a middle school teacher, like me, she wanted to become familiar with the game so as to understand what the students are all going to be talking about this year.  At that age, it is important for the students to feel like their teachers can relate to them, and I totally get that.  So we’ll see.

P.S.: Do me a favor and stop calling them Pokermanz.  That’s just annoying.

Exit 114. Things are not always what they seem, but…

Things are not always what they seem.

I started going to a new church in November, as I’ve mentioned before.  One time when I was there, I noticed a woman out of the corner of my eye who looked like someone I knew, the mother of a close friend.  When I looked at her straight on, though, I could tell it wasn’t my friend’s mother, just someone who looked like her.

Last week after church, I heard someone behind me calling my name, in a tone of voice that indicated that the speaker was surprised to see me.  I turned around and was surprised and a bit confused to see my friend’s mother, the one who I thought I had seen months ago.  She was with the woman who I thought looked like her, and she said that this woman was her sister, and she was picking her up from church because they were going to do something together that afternoon.  I said that I had noticed the resemblance.

Things are not always what they seem, but sometimes things are pretty close to what they seem.

Maybe there’s an illustration in this.  To many people, my life looks great.  I have a job, and a lot of the kids there say I’m their favorite teacher.  I have friends.  I’m a homeowner.  I’m good looking… at least old ladies tell me so.  But underneath, it doesn’t feel so great.  I feel lonely, with the whole still-being-single-at-my-age thing, and I feel like I have a hard time being around some of my friends, because of my very different lifestyle and beliefs.  And I feel just as out of place among many people who do share my beliefs.  I often feel angry and frustrated that my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would be.  I feel like I was sold a bill of goods by some of the people influential in my spiritual development in my 20s.  My great life isn’t what it seems.

But maybe my life is pretty close to being great, just like how the woman who looked like my friend’s mom turned out to be my friend’s aunt.  All those things really aren’t significant, and focusing on the negative just ends up being destructive in the long run.

This probably isn’t a very good analogy, but I’m tired and cranky and I needed something to write about this week.  Good night. 🙂

Exit 113. All I can say is that my life is pretty plain.

Those of you my age may recognize the title of this post, from the lyrics of the song “No Rain” by Blind Melon.  If that title doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps I should refer to it as That Bee Song.

I don’t have this song in my collection currently.  But I’m going to add it soon.  But why the big deal? you are probably asking, especially if you know me in person.  You rediscover one-hit wonders from your teens and add them to your playlists all the time.  Why is this one a big enough deal to blog about?

Two reasons.  First of all, because my brain is mush from all the socializing I did over this recent holiday weekend, and I can’t think of anything else to write about.  But more importantly, because this marks a major turning point in my feelings toward this song.  I’m not rediscovering this song; I’ve never forgotten it, despite the fact that, for the greater part of the last two decades, I have refused to listen to it and immediately changed the station almost every time I hear it on the radio.

If not for one specific incident, this song wouldn’t be a big deal, and I very well may have forgotten it in the almost-quarter-century since it was released.  One time, back when I was young and confused, a guy I knew went to a Blind Melon concert with a girl I really liked and didn’t have the guts to ask out.  And this guy was a jerk.  She could definitely do better.

That’s it.  After that happened, I refused to listen to this song.  Nothing ever happened between that guy and that girl, as far as I know, but for many years after that I refused to listen to this song, because I was angry that he got to go out with her and I didn’t.  It sounds petty and ridiculous, but… no, there is no but here.  It is petty and ridiculous.

Approximately eleven years after this incident happened, I was making cookies with the radio on in the other room, and I heard No Rain come on.  I instinctively started to walk away from the cookies, toward the room with the radio, so I could change the station.  But then I realized something.  I realized I was being absolutely crazy.  There was absolutely no legitimate reason I should leave what I was doing and go change the station, getting the flour that was all over my hands all over everything else in the process, just because someone I liked went out with someone I didn’t like, once, over a decade earlier.  Not listening to No Rain had become so ingrained in my brain that this was the first time I really thought about why I didn’t like this song, and how it really didn’t matter at this point.

For a while, I still didn’t particularly like the song.  R. Shannon Hoon, the lead singer (who, sadly, died of a drug overdose a few years after recording this song, only a few weeks after surviving age 27), has a weird voice, and on those occasions when I would hear No Rain come on the radio (which usually happened in the car, when my hands weren’t full of flour) I would still change the channel.  But I’ve heard it twice in the last couple weeks, all the way through, and I got to thinking about how I still associate this song with something that happened more than half a lifetime ago that still has nothing to do with me and is insignificant in the long run.

And, even though I’m still not a big fan of Mr. Hoon’s voice, it really isn’t a bad song.  It’s exactly the kind of nostalgic one-hit wonder that I’ve been listening to a lot in the last few years, with the kind of beautifully sad lyrics that I can really relate to.  So, now, every time I hear this song, it will be a reminder that the world didn’t end for me on that day decades ago when I found out that my crush had a date with a douchebag.  I’ll probably ever completely forget about this, since that’s not how my brain works, but I don’t need to let the past weigh me down anymore.