Posts tagged self discussion
There’s something about the bond you make with your car. I’m not sure if that’s a universal statement, really. I suppose for some people transportation is just transportation. That’s where it begins and ends. A car is just a car.
But to me it’s something more.
The older writers – the ones that lived through the 60s and 70s – they usually use words like “freedom” and “individuality” to describe what the car means. It’s travel, controlled by you. It’s the ultimate tool for wanderlust. The perfect thing to highlight American values. I don’t think that’s because of an advertising campaign, either. I think the attitude predates the marketing. Chevy, Ford, and Dodge aren’t big because they’ve been crammed down our throats, they’re big because we’ve lovingly woven the car into our national fabric, more so maybe than any other nation. It’s just coincidence that they were the three along for the nationalistic ride.
But I digress.
A car is sort of like a summary of a person. Picking one out is like going to the shelter with the intention of bringing home a dog. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. You just see one and it grabs you. You just want it. You feel a pull. You grab it, you take it home. It looks like you. It takes on bits of you. If you’re aggressive, you’re probably not going to pick out a poodle. Likewise, if the aesthetic is important to you, your dog likely won’t be drooling on your knee.
But sometimes it will. Sometimes the pull is too great. It defies logic. You might have a small house, but you’ve picked up a big dog. You don’t care. It makes you smile. It makes him smile. The bark is all that matters.
So say the car lovers with engines greater than their wallets. Or the tinkerer who picks up a car that’s, well, German. I mean, we can beat around the bush, but no rational individual seeks out mid-90s BMWs and Audis unless they’ve got that thing, you know?
But still, I digress some more.
It doesn’t matter what you drive. You start to bond with it. I had a Pontiac G5. I still miss that car.
Now, that doesn’t really make sense. The last few months weren’t exactly honeymoon. The roof leaked. Never get a sunroof – especially not one with GM stickers on it. The whole trunk carpet had to be replaced, as well as a bit of padding in the seats. And the roof itself? Well, it only worked half the time, when you could rig up the button on the headliner to do what you wanted it to do. And then there was the O2 sensor issue that made zero sense. And, of course, there was the fact that it just wasn’t a great car. I mean, really. Not the best looking – not the worst, either, but you can do better. And the engine? It was no faster than the 2.2l Ecotec, but it sucked twice the gas.
And the seats. Ugh. They were not made for my miniature ass.
But I loved it. It was something else to me, something comfortable. I loved how it sounded. That shitty four-banger was wonderful. Sure, I might’ve thought someone was stealing my car when the mailman drove by a few times – but that isn’t important.
That thing got me where I needed to go, if nothing else. It lived with me for my first few years in college, and my last few years of high school. It carried my junk without complaint. It had no qualms about being stuck in Rt. 38 traffic. God, it was nice having a real trunk. That’s for sure.
But it wasn’t the utilitarian in me that made me love it – it was something else. I distinctly remember one day before I went to class. It was raining, I was parked outside in my driveway. I stuck my key in the ignition and just sat there, idling. I remember my eyes drifting across the tachometer, the needle fairly steady, slowly calming down from idle. The green LED on the dash read 10,000 or so – still a baby.
Maybe it was the way the light was shining into the cabin – you know, that nostalgic glow that you sometimes get for whatever reason. But I just felt comfortable. It wasn’t the best car. I’d scraped up one of the rims on the curb. There were a few scratches in the paint. But it was home, a traveling little safe space. The steering wheel (a running joke between my dad and I) was a joke, but that shitty fake leatherette felt good beneath my fingers. The cloth seats had a smell to them. Ozone, new car, and rubber.
I stumbled across pictures of it the other day. It sent me for something of a flashback. It was a good car.
I shouldn’t miss it. I drive a car now with a pedigree. You know, one that isn’t badge-engineered. One from a company that is still kicking. One that wasn’t swallowed up despite so much promise (G8, never forget).
300hp to the rear wheels. Styling that makes Porsche owners jealous. All that attention. Face-ripping mechanical grip. Cockpit interior. One of my all-time favorite
engine exhaust noises. (Let’s be real — the VQ exhaust note is exhilarating. But muffle it and the engine sounds like its gargling rocks.)
Yet, here I am, 15,000 miles in, and I don’t feel it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love the car. I adore it. It’s great. I haven’t been able to find anything better since I bought it. Or at least anything I’d be willing to spend my money on. It just touches on way too many bases.
But I still don’t feel it. On paper I get it, sure, but this isn’t a matter for facts and figures. It’s a matter for the soul. For that thing that makes car people… car people. This car makes my G5 look like an utter disgrace in every way imaginable – and you know what? The G5 was poor, as far as driver-cars go. It was bad. Let’s just leave that there. We’re essentially talking about going from a commuter car to a respectable sports car. There should be no comparison. Not for a car guy.
But damn it, if I don’t miss it sometimes.
If I’m realistic, though, it wasn’t the car. It was everything it stood for – or stood in. When you go through events in your life, you often impose those memories onto things around you. That’s nostalgia. Even if those objects are completely irrelevant to the struggles at hand, you have this tendency to mesh them together. The G5 was there when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. It was there when I had my broken arm from the Cobalt (ask me about getting hit head-on by a driver who doesn’t know how cell phones, headlights, or speed limits in residential areas work). It drove me from GI test to GI test. It was, in many ways, a big comforting tub of metal that I could curl up in when I just wanted to get home as fast as I could.
Now – holy shit, knock on all the fuckin’ wood – I don’t want some tragedy to befall me in my Nissan. God no. And you know, I’ve been through some shit in the Z.
But perhaps that’s just the thing. It is nostalgia. I didn’t realize it then, when I was sitting in the G5, that I’d remember that one moment – or any of the these moments. I had no clue. At the time, it was just a car. Now it’s so much more, but then?
Maybe in one, two, five, whatever years, I’ll be sitting in my new car and looking back. Remembering getting my academic shit together. Going through relationship things. Graduating college. Finding Natalie. Driving to grad school and tallying up the miles. Maybe then I’ll look back and appreciate it, sewing all of those major moments into the Z’s soul. Maybe at that point the 370 will morph from just being a great car into being a part of me in the way the G5 was.
Maybe the bond you make with your car doesn’t really happen when you’re driving. Maybe it’s Freudian, manifesting in your dreams, entering your subconscious only to be revealed at a later date, when the light hits your eyes in just that right way.
This post may come off as sort of stream-of-consciousness. More of a few scattered thoughts than an “article.” Sorry about that, but I was just having a bit of inner dialogue that I wanted to share.
Generally, I’m not one to be offended by much.
I’ve always considered something I was told by my mother at a young age — “Take it from the source.” Most of the time whenever something possibly outrageous is said I just roll my eyes (or write a light article!) and move on. While I might not like or appreciate the humor in a joke or the purpose of a statement, I generally just shrug and walk away. While that attitude lets me be a fairly chill and relaxed individual, it also has let a lot of things I’m only now becoming aware of into my personal speech.
It’s never fun to point the finger at yourself, but I realized how much I was using words that were offensive or demeaning to people literally right next to me. Now, of course, I had no intention of malice — but that was part of the problem. I had become so desensitized to the words from hearing them in daily conversation (on TV, online, from friends, relatives, etc.) that I never even considered them twice. Keep in mind that I wasn’t using anything out of the ordinary from “regular” speech in this country (and age group, I suppose), either. I sounded just like everyone else.
It has become socially acceptable to mark things we don’t like as “gay” or “retarded” — and while it could be argued that the very definitions of these words have changed due to modern use, wasn’t it their social association with “negative” things that pushed them in that direction?
Now, I’m not blaming society here nor am I trying to claim the moral high ground. I know I didn’t really consider the impact myself, so it wouldn’t be fair to push that expectation on others — but I do think it is something that we need to think about.
I feel sort of especially close to the issue simply because I’m a gamer. It’s not really a secret that gamers aren’t really the most accepting bunch in the universe sometimes. The young male stereotype hasn’t really helped much either. Anyone who has been on Xbox Live or a game of Counter-strike can tell you the sort of audible assault that tends to go on. While I’m personally proud of a lot of things that have come out of the gaming subculture, there still is a lot of questionable stuff there.
Bringing this post back to the point, there is a whole lot of misogyny, racial and sexual epithets and just general hate amongst the benign comments. While these sorts of things have never directly bothered me, I wonder if there is some malice there? Is it just a way of speaking that is accepted in certain circles, or is there a sort of inner demon that has been constructed by society to defend various forms of privilege? Is it a method for segregation and marginalization?
I’d love to rule all of that out and say that 99% of the time that isn’t the case — but I can’t.
Sometimes even the stale jokes that get thrown around make me wonder. I can’t help but feel a modern sort of “black face” vibe going on. I’d love to believe that these terms and jokes are directed not at the “victim” but at the ridiculousness of the situation but I just can’t.
To be perfectly honest, I feel like this is a perfect segue into an article on the power of words…
Guess I know what I’ll be touching on next — for now though, I’d love to hear your opinions. Are the negative connotations of words like “gay” and “retard” important? Has the meaning just changed? Is there something malicious there? For the gamers among you, do you feel like the gaming community harbors intolerance at times toward certain groups more so than “real life?”
It’s been a little over two months since I’ve started this blog. So far I’ve written just over twenty articles about all kinds of subjects that I never imagined I would write about in any sort of serious manner. I’ve touched on social issues, things that bother me in general, music reviews and even some flash fiction. In my last post I gave a brief explanation about why I write specifically about social issues, but I’d like to also add a little bit about what you can expect to see here from this point forward past those sorts of things.
First off, while I do deeply care about the points I mention in the post right under this one I want to state that this blog isn’t just for social ranting. I will continue to post creative writing and the occasional music review — or whatever I feel about writing in general. So don’t get upset if you see something that seems “out of the ordinary.”
Likewise, I’ve reached a point where I’m cool with spreading the word about my blog. Up until this point I’ve sort of only tried to spread it amongst friends, but I feel that I have a solid amount of content now where someone reading this site for the first time would be entertained for more than a few short minutes.
On that note — much as I said in the manifesto, feel free to spread the word! Use the tagline “Come for the social justice, stay for the flash fiction!” …uh, maybe not, but still — you get the idea.
Another thing I’d like to note: I love comments! It’s cool to see that virtually all of my blogs have gotten at least one, even if it is the same handful of people who choose to be vocal. I know there are a few of you out there that read the blog on a relatively routine basis but have remained silent and that is perfectly fine — but your input is welcome! Even if I don’t know you personally, feel free to post up a comment. Disagree with me, even! I’d love to get a discussion going.
So anyway, in the future months look for a flash fiction week roughly every month. There will be another one very soon and I’d like to sort of make a habit out of it because it’s really fun. I’d also like to review a few more albums, so if there is something coming out soon that you’d like my opinion on, let me know!
Also feel free to comment on this post if there is anything in specific you’d like me to write an article about (or just hear my opinion on). Seriously! As much as I write for myself, it is always nice to have people enjoy it as well.
I’ve always found Pascal’s wager to be very interesting.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Pascal’s wager is an argument for the belief in a higher power (or technically, a belief in a religion). If you break it down to its most basic levels it says that it’s in your best interest to believe in a higher power because the reward (heaven) far outweighs the risk (nothing).
By sticking in the faith and “work” toward a specific religion, you are rewarded with paradise. Pascal argues that this “reward” greatly outweighs the risk. After all, if you die and it turns out there is nothing, you probably won’t care too much — however if it turns out there is a God then your life of sin and treachery will stick you in an unpleasant place. Using this logic, it is clearly in someones best interest to have belief in a higher power.
Of course, there are a few strong pieces of criticism against this argument.
The first is simply that their are more religions in the world than one, so you have to account for that too. What if you put your eggs in the wrong basket? It is impossible to know which religion is “right” so this adds another unpredictable variable to the equation which throws off the solution. Likewise the concept of “faith” is considered a large part of many religious beliefs, so if your faith is contrived and not genuine then perhaps you aren’t better off at all.
Pascal’s wager never seems like it was designed to account for such things. Instead, it seems like it was designed to defend faith in a world where two states exist — with religion and without. In this sort of vacuum, it does work — but in the “real” world it simply does not seem to work, at least not in the realm of philosophy.
I like to look at it a different way, though. I don’t see it as a good defense for religion — but I do think it works for spirituality. In order to explain exactly why, let me differentiate between religion and spirituality.
When someone follows a religion they belong to a group of people who have spiritual beliefs that line up with whoever determines the ideals of the religion. Their beliefs are defined by the religion rather than the individual. While many within the group have slight differences of belief, most of them are extremely minute and kept personal — after all, deviation from the norm within a religious group often gets you cast out.
In contrast, spirituality (or someone who describes themselves as “spiritual” for the sake of this article) is a very personal thing. While a religion controls the principles of religious belief, spirituality is controlled by the individual. Two individuals can be spiritual and not have a single thing in common yet they can both describe themselves in the same exact way. The “purpose” of being spiritual is finding the same inner peace that religion is supposed to bring you but essentially without the strings. Another person describing themselves as spiritual cannot declare your beliefs to be false nor would doing so have any advantageous impact on either set of beliefs.
Religion also often serves as a way for people to explain the unexplained in their lives. While spirituality can serve this purpose, its true goal is to allow the adherent to achieve a sort of inner peace. When there is trauma in someone’s life it is their spirituality that soothes them and brings them back to where they need to be. In this way spirituality doesn’t even have to have any mysticism at all. Someone can be spiritual simply by looking outside and seeing the seasons shape the landscape, the constant cycle of the Earth calming them from whatever sort of struggle they are facing.
Likewise, someone who is “religious” can be spiritual — but I would argue that it is not their church or place of worship that soothes them, but their personal link with whatever higher power they put their faith in.
If we apply Pascal’s wager to spirituality instead of religion the “prize” of belief is not necessarily heaven, but instead a sort of peace gained from inner faith. While someone who is religious has something to lose if he or she picks the wrong religion, someone who is spiritual loses nothing at all because at the end of the day it does not matter if they are right or wrong in what they choose. What matters is that they are personally satisfied with the result.
Essentially, it is the discovery and the process that matters. It is waking up and breathing in the air and having that sense of calm that specifically comes from belief that matters, not the actual belief itself. As long as it is worthwhile to the person who practices it then it is sound.
I spend a lot of my time reading through a couple of forums and on one of them a very interesting thing caught my eye — a topic asking for posters to share their “musical road map.” Users were asked to post a quick text sketch of their musical tastes from when they first realized that music was something they enjoyed to the present. The twisting, often contradicting narratives of taste were extremely cool to read. It was interesting to see how people evolved musically and what guided their specific tastes.
While the same thing can be done for virtually any form of entertainment (I’ve seen one for your favorite literary genre!) I find music to be the most interesting as for many people music is the “object” that best defines them at any one point in time.
I feel that my personal musical journey starts when I was a young lad, probably eleven or twelve. Maybe even younger than that though, as everything in that period of time seems like a blur. I used to listen to a pop radio station as a kid and generally picked up on whatever was playing. I didn’t really have a favorite at the time, I just like the sounds. My mother also was a big fan of club and dance music and frequently had some playing whenever she was doing some cleaning around the house — and I enjoyed that, too.
Most of my listening was pretty passive, however. I didn’t really go out of my way to listen to music nor did I really listen past anything that wasn’t in the background or on the radio. Then came one specific song on the radio — All Star, by Smash Mouth. For whatever reason I liked the song so much that I used some allowance money to buy Astro Lounge, the first CD I ever owned. I listened to that thing all the time, using it as background music wherever I went. While occasionally my mother would listen to something I’d like, I began to develop my own tastes in music. Gradually, I started to dislike most of the pop that I was hearing on the radio and I moved to a different station, Y100.
While the station is now extinct it used to be a paragon of a rock music radio station. They had a pretty diverse sound-scape that was dotted by all kinds of stuff. It was cool and as I’d started to grow toward my teenage years, I began to almost solely listen to the station. There was a small exception though…
Along this time Napster had come around and being that I was quite the internet-capable kid, I began using it. Whenever I’d hear something on the radio I’d go and download it at home. I remember burning my first CDs (and throwing songs on my first MP3 player — a Rio 32MB player) off of my computer and then listening to them as I took rides with my parents.
My tastes blossomed into what you would expect for a kid of my age. Limp Bizkit, The Offspring, Sum 41, various other pop-punk/rock bands and of course — Linkin Park. I loved Linkin Park (and I really do cringe as I write that) and latched on to them completely. While I made no connection to their lyrics, the down-tuned guitars overlaid with hints of electronica called to me. Embarrassingly, I went full gung-ho on the bandwagon. I was a 13 year old rebel without a cause. I used blue-gel in my hair and wore witty saying t-shirts, always keen to stop in the Hot Topic at the mall (before Hot Topic became cool… *cough*) and always willing to stand out just a tad. While I would eventually grow out of the phase, Linkin Park would still remain on my playlist for a little while longer.
As P2P file-sharing became more mainstream, my tastes slowly took a turn in the other direction. Napster (and the internet at large) let me search for bands I’d never heard on the radio. I heard newer Metallica on the radio and decided to listen to their old stuff — interesting I thought, but not for me. I remember passively finding a song by a band called In Flames called Zombie Inc and immediately grabbing my ears. Who could stand this stuff? It was then that I found a band completely by accident that would change my musical taste completely.
As I’ve always loved games, I used to play Jedi Knight series religiously. When browsing through a site one night I saw a video set to a song by an extremely underground (at the time) band. It spoke to me — musically it was awesome and set my imagination alight — and for the first time ever, I cared about the lyrics. I quickly went on a hunt to find out who it was that had caught my attention.
Machinae Supremacy. The song was called “Player One” and remains one of my favorite songs of all time. For a young kid who only ever listened to stuff that could be heard on the radio, Machinae was a radical departure. Here was a band headquartered in Northern Sweden that had created their own genre — SiD Metal — and then proceeded to release songs rogue-style on the internet. I quickly downloaded their entire discography off their site, immediately proclaiming their gospel to anyone who would listen. I suddenly had a favorite band I was proud of.
The band had a message board that was filled with all kinds of stuff — but most interesting to me was a thread with musical suggestions. I read the names of many bands that I’d never even heard of and I decided to listen to them all. The first to catch my ear was a band called Dragonforce (oh god, I know) — then Rhapsody (I KNOW). I loved their fast guitars and thundering drums — plus the singing didn’t hurt my ears! I was sold.
Then I saw another band listed that I had written off a year before — In Flames. Someone had specifically said that “Man Made God” was one of their favorite songs, so I headed off to download it… and was amazed. This song was a long instrumental and it was absolutely outstanding. I downloaded a few more songs, cautiously prodding them to see if I could extract any sort of listenability.
Then one day when I wasn’t paying attention my playlist skipped to Colony — an In Flames song with quite a bit of guttural screaming. I passively decided to listen to the whole thing and much to my surprise… I liked it. Cautious, I decided to pursue this new taste, careful to not offend my senses. I began to download songs by bands I found were like them — Soilwork, Opeth — and from there, expanded my tastes into the metal genre. I found bands like Kamelot, Nightrage, Katatonia — my collection started to expand and my playlist grew.
I was becoming a metal-head.
Though metal wasn’t the only genre I had begun to explore. Electronica was always something my parents had listened to and likewise I had taken an interest in it. While they stuck to dance and radio-friendly stuff, I decided to branch out a bit. I became a fan of trance and “chill” house, artists like Robert Miles also finding their way onto my playlist.
Though, it wasn’t all calm stuff. A friend of mine introduced me into happy hardcore and while I didn’t like it very much, it did pique my interest into another genre I would explore in the future — drum and bass.
As I reached my later high school years I began to become a pretty large In Flames fan — with Opeth not too far behind. I felt my tastes becoming more solidified and objective. Music turned from a subject I had a passive knowledge of to something I felt comfortable exploring with just about any company. Likewise, I began to explore into genres I thought I wouldn’t really like — finding out that some enjoyable stuff had been lurking there. I remember the first time I enjoyed a band like Meshuggah or Daath, something I would have probably found repulsive just years before.
I found that through metal, interestingly enough, I began to have a respect for just about every type of music. I had never been a fan of rap, but I gradually grew into underground stuff such as Aesop Rock and Jedi Mind Tricks. And who could forget VAST? A band whose self-titled album was loaded with the incredibly weird chanting and worldy sounds that would have offended my ears at one point in my life — but now were welcomed as a part of my daily soundtrack.
Throughout college I feel like my tastes have continued to evolve in pleasant ways. While I still feel mostly at home within the metal genre, my playlist is quite erratic. You will often find some dubstep followed immediately by melodeath or perhaps even some indie stuff. Likewise I love finding new music — even if I’m not very interested in a genre I’ll explore a few songs here and there just out of pure curiosity.
Which, by the way, is a great way to make friends with me — just share your music!
I sort of trailed off my original purpose here, but it made for a good self-discussion. Hopefully it gets some internal dialogue going within you!