Month: May 2019

Exit 243. I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

Recently, a friend of mine who has been known to read this blog sometimes shared an article from the San Francisco Chronicle in which she was quoted.  The article tells the stories of people who, through DNA testing, discovered that they had previously unknown biological relatives.  I would imagine that such a discovery would bring up a lot of very complicated emotional reactions.  My friend (who gave me permission to share this article) now has positive relationships with multiple newly discovered half-siblings.  But not every one of these kinds of situations has resulted in a happy ending.

One of the other people quoted in this article (not my friend) mentioned having been contacted by a cousin that she had just recently discovered the existence of.  The article says that this woman thought that her new relatives “seemed like decent people,” but she unfriended her newly discovered cousin on Facebook and cut off all contact after discovering that her cousin was a supporter of President Donald Trump.  My first reaction was that this woman was being shockingly closed-minded and petty.  Cutting off family and loved ones, and questioning whether or not they are decent people, because of whom they voted for just seems wrong.

But then I realized that I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

I have some views that are not shared by many of the people in my social circles.  A certain such issue has been in the national media quite a bit lately, and I have been seeing many angry Facebook and Instagram posts on this issue.  The thought has crossed my mind that I need to do a mass unfriending on those sites, because I’m tired of hearing all this crap and feeling like the whole world is against me.  But if I were do that, aren’t I being just as petty and closed-minded as the woman in the article whose response bothered me?  Isn’t it healthy to be exposed to different points of view?

Yes and no.

What is healthy is having a fair and respectful discussion on these issues.  What is healthy is understanding where those who disagree with you come from, and why they believe what they do.  And a few of my friends have been genuinely attempting to do this when they share controversial posts.  I have no intention of cutting off contact with any of these.  But others are clearly not interested in learning about the opposite side.  They might be trying to rally and encourage their own side, or they might be trying to piss off or intimidate the opposition.  But reading that kind of thing, especially when it comes with an incorrect characterization of why I stand for what I do, tends to just make me unproductively angry.  I will acknowledge, though, that I probably have some misconceptions about their side’s motivations as well.

Should I be cutting off contact?  Should I be trying to engage these people in discussions?  I think that’s something I’ll have to decide for myself on a case-by-case basis, keeping both their intentions and mine in mind.  It should also be noted that many of the people involved I was never extremely close with, and I never see or talk to anymore, because of changing social circles or (in some cases) the other people having moved away.  I feel less bad about removing those people from social media as compared with people I see on a regular basis.  Also, it should be noted that Facebook offers the option of “unfollowing,” where someone’s posts do not show up in your feed but you stay friends and you can still see their posts if you look for them.  Instagram offers no such option as far as I can tell, but I wish it did.

So I haven’t undertaken a mass unfriending or unfollowing yet.  And it’s not something I need to decide right now.  I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Exit 242. The unrelatable becoming relatable.

The television sitcom The Big Bang Theory came to an end this week after being on for 12 seasons.  The show has an ensemble cast of nerdy and geeky young scientists and their ditzy aspiring actress neighbor.  They all come from such different worlds, and often they don’t understand each other’s little quirks.  As the series went on, new characters were introduced, mostly to bring in love interests for the main characters.  (Leonard didn’t need a new character; he ends up married to Penny, the aspiring actress).

I started watching that show in the middle of season 3, on the recommendation of nerdy and geeky friends.  I stopped watching somewhere around season 8 or 9, I think.  I don’t usually stop watching TV shows at all.  I’m still watching Survivor after 19 years, and The Simpsons after 30 (although I’m not as excited about it anymore as I used to be, for a variety of reasons).  I stuck with X-Files even during the mostly Mulder-free season 9.

Part of the reason I stopped watching The Big Bang Theory was that I was really busy for a while, and I just never caught up and never got back in the habit of watching it again.  But part of it was that it just wasn’t as funny as the older seasons were.  The show changed in a way that made it less relatable to me.  As the show became more popular in the mainstream, they placed the characters in more mainstream situations, by which I mostly mean they all found significant others.  Also, the characters felt more like Hollywood trendy elite’s stereotypes of what scientists and sci-fi aficionados are like, rather than what those people are actually like. (To some extent, though, this was true about the show from the beginning).

So, a year ago or so, they announced that this season would be the last, and I’ve been seeing commercials during Survivor and The Amazing Race that the last episode of The Big Bang Theory would be coming soon.  I decided that the show deserved enough respect for me to tune in one last time.  Apparently I had missed a lot in the last few years.  Sheldon and Amy got married.  Howard and Bernadette had kids.

The final episode was a good one.  It still wasn’t the same kind of funny as the early seasons, but I think they did a good job of wrapping up the story.  It was relatable to the mainstream, yes, but also enjoyable to someone like me.  And that was sort of a theme addressed in the show… the unrelatable becoming surprisingly relatable.  But I won’t give anything away.

Maybe I’ll have to go back and watch the seasons I missed someday… someday when I have time.  Then I’ll feel like I know the complete story… because, you know, not having the complete story totally sounds like something Sheldon would freak out about.

That’s all for this week.  I’m exhausted, and I can’t think of anything more profound to write about.

Exit 241. Five years.

So I’ve been trying to think about something to write about all weekend.  I kind of had an idea earlier today.  But then I remembered that this week marks five years since I started this blog.

Well, not exactly.  Last week was the actual anniversary, but I had something more important I chose to write about last week.  Still, five years.

Looking back, I had one post before I started my actual posts.  When I started numbering the posts, I didn’t include that first one, because it didn’t really say anything.  I was just kind of writing out my thoughts about starting a blog.  And one thing stands out, now that I look back on that post from five years ago: “I don’t know if anyone other than my friends will ever find this page, but who knows?”

I have to admit, when I wrote that, I had fleeting thoughts of Highway Pi getting this huge viral following, getting me millions of followers and so many clicks that I could quit my day job.  Yeah… didn’t happen.  And I’m not surprised.

But what does stand out is that while I haven’t gotten millions of followers, some people other than my friends have in fact found this page.  I’ve made friends just through here (although I haven’t met any of them in person), from looking at people who comment on my posts and then reading their blogs.  I have read about organizing your life; people’s experiences with introversion, autism, eating disorders, anxiety, and various medical conditions; some interesting posts about Christianity; poetry and short stories; just life in general; and many other subjects and cultures from around the world that I wouldn’t know as much about otherwise.  And I have also started a second blog, episodic fiction which has led to a great deal of introspection about a significant time in my life.  And most importantly, I’m not stressing as much over either blog about having to write something every week.

Thank you all for a very memorable five years.  It’s been nice meeting and getting to know all of you… and to those of you whom I already knew, thank you for your comments and helpful words.  I plan on keeping this going as long as I can.

Exit 240. The harvest is plentiful.

You may have noticed I made a little change to this site today (or, more precisely, I changed something back to how it used to be).  But more about that later.  And let’s agree not to argue politics on this post, because that isn’t the point I’m trying to make.  Stay with me.

I don’t normally get political on this blog, although I’ve done that a little more than usual lately.  And I’m going to try to be respectful about it… but let’s be honest here.  The political environment in California is getting a bit oppressive.  Some of the actions recently taken or proposed by the California State Legislature, or by various city and county governments, no longer seem to be about financial policy or safety.  Instead, it seems like California’s government wants complete control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives.  (Of course, some of the local ordinances cited here do not affect me… yet.)  They want to control what we eat and drink, who gets how much money and why, how and where we travel, how teachers are allowed to do their jobs, the age at which children are introduced to certain sensitive topics, whom we are allowed to vote for, when we run certain appliances, how much water we are allowed to use, and what religious beliefs certain organizations are allowed to have.  While some of these at least have a point behind them, while possibly misguided, none of them seem to me compatible with the concept of freedom espoused by our Founding Fathers.

This lust for power echoes The Party from Orwell’s 1984 (not to be confused with a similarly named early-90s teen pop group).  While torturing Winston Smith, another character whom I will not name so as to avoid spoilers says, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake… We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.  Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of power is power.  Now do you begin to understand me?”

So what does this have to do with me?  Fourteen years ago, a lot of people around me were similarly angry about a Republican being in the White House, and much like today, I was feeling (for a variety of reasons) like I did not fit in among the culture around me.  As you probably know, if you have known me for a while, I hit the road in June 2005 and wandered around the country, living out of my car, sleeping in Motel 6s and KOAs and friends’ couches.  I intended to come back to California only to get my stuff.  But after 117 days on the road, and a great experience in and of itself, I returned to where I started (my parents’ house) with more questions than answers.  I spent the holidays with my parents and moved to where I am now in January 2006.  I opted for a shorter move instead, to Sacramento County, which feels to me like California’s Happy Medium.  It was far enough away to make a real fresh start, but still within day trip distance of everything I knew.

Recently, with the contentious political environment of 2019, I’m really beginning to regret not having moved away when I had the chance.  It’s pretty obvious from the above list why I would want to leave.  But I have a lot more to lose now than I did in 2005.  I have a house and a mortgage.  I’m working at a school where I get along with my administration and coworkers, and while most people whose heads are not stuck up their posteriors agree that teachers are underpaid, most of the states that are less controlling than California pay teachers even less.  And I’d probably experience a bit of reverse culture shock in any of those other places; while those ruling California disgust me, I didn’t vote for President Trump either, and most of my hobbies aren’t the kinds of things I’d find in rural areas.

On the way to church Sunday morning, a week ago, I was planning on bringing up my inner turmoil as a prayer request.  Last week we finished a series planned around Easter by talking about the crowds who praised Jesus and then shouted for his crucifixion just five days later.  Jesus came into a world where the religious leaders were corrupt and many of the people around him were lost and confused.  Earlier in Jesus’ life, he makes a statement that shows clearly how he viewed these crowds.  “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'” (Matthew 9:36).  Then we had a little discussion on how this same thing plays out in today’s world, how there are many people harassed and helpless who do not know the Gospel and God’s love for them.  That led to a discussion specifically about California and how hostile the culture here can be to Christianity, and how Jesus is calling us to go out there and minister to people and tell them about God’s love through words and actions.

Six days later (last night, as I write this), I was in Davis for the annual alumni night of the Christian student group I was a part of in the late 1990s.  (I’ve written about this event before; in 2016, I was invited to speak.)  One of the people sharing was talking about this organization’s vision to open chapters on thousands of campi where they currently have no presence.  He said that college and university students are searching for meaning in their lives, and he quoted this same verse in the context of students being ripe for the harvest, ready to learn about and experience the love of Jesus.

So… the point I’m making… having heard this twice in less than a week, I’m pretty sure this is God telling me that now is not the right time for me to leave California.

As much as I disagree with much of the “California values” that those in power continue to cite as justification for their policies, God has a purpose for me here in California.  California is my home.  It’s a beautiful state as far as the natural world is concerned.  And it’s a part of who I am.

So, in light of all that, I’m changing the logo for this site from the US highway sign back to the California highway sign I used previously.  The change initially was borne of anger toward California politics, but it’s time to put that aside.  God has me here for a reason.  Jesus never came to institute a political system.  And as for my tax dollars going to support things I’m morally opposed to, Jesus also said in response to a question about taxes to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).  So there are more important things I should be looking at, and first and foremost among them would be all the lost souls around me searching for meaning, like sheep without a shepherd.  Here I am.  Send me (Isaiah 6:8).