May 2009 Archives

May 22, 2009

The World is Made of People's Dirt

I've recently discovered people's dirt. No, really; there's a website--PeoplesDirt.com--that is causing a local uproar. I heard it when I recently started picking up a local weekly, but it has gotten a WaPo write up twice in the last week.

I find it fascinating. Not the site, it's plain, oddly laid out and uninspiring. It'll never become more than what it currently is. It's the responses of parents and school administrators that has me captivated. Really, I'm not sure there's a TV show more interesting.

In their quest to make a perfectly sanitized and unblemished life for their kids, they've completely forgotten that kids are some of the meanest, most ruthless and vindictive people out there. What keeps them from totally destroying society is the fact that they are minors, the ward of adults. It should be no surprise that today's kids run amok on this website as if it were a modern-day interpretation of Lord of the Flies.

To be certain, I understand their concern. But I also remember my time in high school sharing sexual conquests and pitting myself against rival factions. My last two years were in a boarding academy, where it seemed at least monthly we'd gather in a dorm room with a yearbook and discuss our female classmates' appeal and availability. Even in middle school we did this; I remember the notorious "notebook," which anonymously floated around collecting tallies of the cutest girl, hottest boy, the biggest jerk, and so on.

Perhaps it is possible to minimize these kinds of activities, and I think adults are good to curb their prevalence. Yet I cannot understand the local drive to shut down the site and vilify its creator, who apparently moved from the area to Colorado recently. To me it seems like suing Mead for making the composition book we passed around in 4th grade.

You don't punish the medium. The discussion board is not hurting you or causing you distress. It is your children placing that filth on a perfectly neutral platform. Stop passing the blame and accept that your perfect children are creating the perfect storm. The effort wasted in trying to pull down a perfectly legal (albeit also perfectly repugnant) site is energies that could be to improving our lives and responses to life's difficulties--so that those under our care don't grow up thinking that elitism, mockery and disparaging comments are ever good: online, at the dinner table, or on the TV.

As the internet continues to develop communities that are outside of the scope of traditional methods of dissuasion (social condemnation, lack of majority support, restriction of resources), we will ultimately need to reassess the laws that provide protection and security for our life , liberty and pursuit of happiness. PeoplesDirt is introducing us to smudges of the new world.



May 20, 2009

Religion doesn't work anymore

The problem with religion is its inability override human will. People rarely apply their will deliberately, and when they do, it is often in obstinacy rather than in progress. In the case of religion, much more has been done to prove one's religion absolute than to find the absolute religion. In fact, more has been done to discredit religion altogether than has been done to find its merit.

And religion, folks, isn't a bad thing. It's not a good thing, either; it's just a thing. A codified set of rituals for interacting with the unknown. We're not stupid, and we are hard-wired to persist; therefore, we develop systems for getting along in strange environments.

Religion is pervasive. When crossing a pitch-black room, any of us will:

  • slow down
  • step cautiously
  • place our arms in front of us

Why? There's no rule that tells us to do so; somewhere within there is a need to successfully interact with this vague terrain. It's not so far off from a special celebration to welcome the rain, or a shipmate tossed off a boat to appease the offended seas. At its least intelligent, it becomes fruitless superstition (broken mirrors, seeing the bride before the wedding), but at its most intuitive--most spiritual--it develops protective measures and scientific methods of discovery, albeit often via trial and error.

But as potentially enriching as religion could be, it inevitably falls short without adherence. This is obvious in large quantities--if no one pays attention to the rules, the system is of no value. But I believe it is most dangerous in tiny dosages, where abandonment is less of a factor than indifference, tradition and opportunism.

When one abides but has no desire to understand, they risk losing the competency to demand quality and the qualification to participate in development. Religion in its purest form has never been about acquiescence but has completely and passionately fostered the unearthing of truth.

Truth can be re-examined and tested infinitely. It persists because it cannot be bested--not because it is the best we've got. Yet religion fails to our sense of nostalgia--a huge impediment to progress. You cannot go forward when you relish the past.

Most disconcerting are those who see in the aforementioned flaws an opportunity to profit. Capitalism seems to subsist on this selfish premise; perhaps this is why we see power, wealth and religion often so closely related at the upper levels. As long as there is a process in religion that allows even one to suffer from lack of knowledge, that religion is mortally flawed.

In today's option-laden, multi-perspective stream-of-conciousness lifestyle, it takes tremendous discipline to truly adhere to any religion--theistic or otherwise. It is increasingly portrayed as absurd to devote one's life to pursuing truth. Rabbis, pastors and priests are in disfavor, monks, yogis and holy men are distortedly glamorized, philosophers and dreames are ridiculed. Exertion of will is seen as quaint and inefficient while, simultaneously, coercion of will is a moral affront.

In such an environment, religion, so natural and vital, is ostracized and stripped of value. 

May 18, 2009

It's Who I am.

First_Day_Back.jpgI've been neglecting Leftsider. There are so many things that I wanted to write, and the time just hasn't been there. April found me in 4 different countries and relocating all my belongings to a new apartment. A lot of things have changed, and a lot of things have shone that they've never, ever, changed at all.

I turned 30, and I realized that I'm not young anymore. I've never really wanted to be young; it never fit my tastes. That said, I've enjoyed a rather long period as a dual citizen and am rather concerned that new administrations may not see the virtue in renewing my status. And suddenly, it does matter how young I am.

On my 30th birthday I cut my hair for the first time in 8 years, and I cut it rather short. I had dreamed of doing so for years, but had idea what I'd do next. In fact, I knew what I'd do; I'd be--completely and totally for the first time in a long time. It's interesting to see, subsequently, how many people knew me (vs. how many solely knew my hair-sonality).

 I've worked on at least three different themes for Leftsider, never really spending enough time to see them realized before they expire. Creatively, I'm in constant duress; much of my work these days is about troubleshooting, and that is tiring. I hope to adjust the balance very soon.

Overlooked, worn ragged, aging, rebelling, failing to complete. It's who I am. Perhaps someone less inclined to find charm in wabi-sabi would find this unpleasant to declare. But you know, there's one more thing I am: not caring--at all.