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What Can You Do For Me?

wpid-self-centered.jpg.jpgI’m a selfish guy. I have no problem admitting that. I think of myself more often than not, and I am a firm believer in the power of self preservation and self improvement. I want to know what YOU can contribute to ME by maintaining a relationship. What will I gain by knowing you?

See, here’s the thing; regardless of age, gender, political leanings, religious denomination, race, or language, we can ALL learn something from each other.

People, by nature, NEED other people. We mourn together (been doing that recently), celebrate together (dancing counts as celebration) , and even complain together (see “political leanings” above). The different methods we use for all of these activities is what makes human interaction and relationships so valuable.

I’m fascinated by the quiet people, the introverts, the deep thinkers. I know that their “gears” are constantly turning and I’m curious about what the end result of their thought process will add to our existence. Being quiet isn’t a crime, it definitely isn’t odd, and making a sound decision necessitates plenty of time for introspection.

I’m just as equally interested in being around the loud ones, the fun folks who keep the energy level up. I may get tired and need to withdraw after a time, but these fun people are the ones that get us out of our shells and force us to try new things we might not have otherwise.

The younger kids who haven’t been tainted by the world’s cynicism yet have something to offer as well. Remember, when we were kids, how the world was full of endless options? Before we got sucked into the daily grind, remember how much fun it was to dream of your future? What job you would have? What your wedding would look like? Which super power you wanted? The butterflies in your stomach when you saw the boy or girl you’d been crushing on? The skip in your step when you had that first kiss? Don’t sell the younger ones short. Yes, there are some that suffer from that unfortunate I-know-it-all attitude and an inflated sense of entitlement, but for all of those kids, there are just as many (if not even more) kids that have a deeper sense of self and want to, NEED to, make their mark on the world.

The abundance of experience available to us if we only ask those older than us is immeasurable. Our lives, in the overall scheme of the planet, are inconsequential but even so, learning from previous generations and their shared experiences will do nothing but educate us. It has been said that “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. Truer words have seldom been written. Take the time to thank a veteran who served in a previous war, ask open ended questions to older people about how their lives have been lived thus far. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you think they may have performed the same task you’re struggling with.

A debt of thanks is also owed to those people who have hurt me and disagreed with me countless times, be it politically, religiously, or just on any trivial matter. Being wrong (yep, SOMETIMES it was me – Ha!) may sting initially, but in retrospect it has made the acquisition of wisdom so much more effective. Looking at a situation after all the tempers have cooled and the emotions have settled can be an incredibly objective experience. Paying attention to the opposing viewpoints, and looking deeper into them, will only strengthen your own resolve and either confirm what you already knew or allow you a new angle of looking at things.

Like I said, I want to know what YOU can contribute in MY life. Don’t worry, it’s not anything you have to work at or even attempt to improve. Interacting with me (even just a the smallest bit of small talk) has changed my life and perhaps given me a different outlook on something. You, just by being YOU, have already done all you could do.

So, yeah I’m selfish. I want to know what time spent with you will garner for ME. Know that whether we’re friends in the “real” world or only the online one, I’m always taking in what you’re putting out. You’re helping me improve myself every time you share a moment with me.

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This post was inspired by the courageous fight and unbelievable reach of a friend who succumbed to cancer earlier this week. Handling her painful battle with the utmost grace and humility, never complaining but constantly lifting up God in her life and worrying about her loved ones and friends, Katrina affected a countless number of lives. Take this as food for thought; in the midst of you living your life and interacting with others, there is no way to predict how your actions will affect someone, but do all you can to leave a POSITIVE footprint in people’s lives instead of a negative one.

Rest in peace, Katrina.

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Coursera (and other MOOCs)

Coursera_Computer_NarrowIf you’re not aware, there is currently an educational revolution taking place. The ever expanding power of the Internet is bringing more information to your “front door”, if you will. College level courses are being offered at no cost (and in some cases, substantially lower costs) on the Internet!

If you haven’t already heard of the current MOOC explosion, I’d like to share with you briefly my own experiences with Massive Open Online Courses. There are several sites out there that offer this educational option, but my experiences thus far have been limited to Coursera and that’s where my frame of reference comes from.

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The Scores

movie-musicI’m a fan of motion pictures for more than one single reason. The emotional pull of some movies, the adrenaline rush of others, the stunning visuals of even more all fascinate me and keep me coming back for more. When it comes to emotions felt while viewing films however, a large part of that feeling comes from the music. Now I’m a fan of “vocal” music just as much as the next person, but there are times when I truly enjoy immersing myself in a completely instrumental experience.

If you hear the name John Williams, what do you think of? If you’re a fan of the Star Wars movies, I would imagine that one of the first things that comes to mind is his “Imperial March” song. You may not even know the name of it, but when the opening chords start up, you recognize it.

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the writer

IMG_7973he is in the happiest place on earth.

moving from one line to another, there are what feel like hours of tedium peppered with moments of joy and happiness with the people he loves. he is standing in yet another line, surrounded by the faces of strangers, all cheerful and excited, with the ones they love, here in the happiest place on earth.

then that feeling. that feeling of being watched, of being stared at. the unshaven hairs on the back of his neck stand. not quite straight up, but they lean in a direction they don’t usually. he can feel it so he turns and sees her standing there looking at his arm. she doesn’t look confused, but rather like she is trying to take the entire arm and its images in at one time. she has long brown hair and a button that says “happy birthday ____”.

even after he has turned to her, she continues to look, unabated. she doesn’t care that she has been caught staring. he doesn’t mind, he has gotten used to people being curious about his tattoo just as he is curious of other peoples’. so many people look and don’t ask. it is as though tattoos were meant to be seen and not heard. there is always a story behind a tattoo but remains untold more often than not.

she is different, though. maybe it is her age, maybe it is just the personality she inhabits. she asks, with no compunction or hesitation after being caught staring, “are you a writer?”

how does he answer?

of course he is a writer.

he is perpetually writing and rewriting lines to his tales in his mind.

he is fascinated by the structure of sentences, the way a fragment rolls off your tongue if read aloud.

he knows that even in silence, the tempo of certain words and the order in which they fall can intoxicate the senses of a reader. he knows this and, with each piece of writing he does, he makes his most valiant attempt to create something of similar beauty.

he aspires to create something as beautiful as the authors he reads and admires.

he knows that reading and writing is, or at least appears in the reality-television-instant-entertainment-gratification-world to be, essentially a dying art and the ranks of literary lovers are thinning to disconcerting numbers.

he knows that he has ideas that could be published, could be widely read.

he knows that his “real” life gets in the way of his writing time.

he knows that that “real” life also is responsible for multiple storylines bouncing around in his head and he should be grateful.

he knows that there are endless excuses as to why he has not published anything yet, not the least of which is his procrastinative nature.

he knows that sometimes writing helps him feel better.

he knows that sitting with an empty piece of paper and a full tumbler of whiskey is as clichéd as it can be, but makes him comfortable and creative.

he knows that even if no one reads his words, they have left his consciousness and he has left something behind for the next reader to pick up, perhaps to even be inspired by.

so, yes he IS a writer.

he replies, quietly and embarrassingly, “yes I am, but I have not officially published anything yet”.

the brief conversation over, he and his son get on their ride and the birthday girl gets on hers.

in the happiest place on earth.

God Knows, But When Will I?

frustratedOne good thing about the written word is the option available for readers to stop reading at any point they choose to. That being said, feel free to redirect your browser to  The Nicest Place On The Internet any time you get tired of my written grumblings. I’ve got something on my chest and, as my own personal experience has shown me time and time again, putting “pen to paper” may help me to feel just a tiny bit better.

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Facebook Free February 2014

junkieLast February, I took the entire month off from Facebook. Looking at it as a sort of “reset”, it did me some good. I’m thinking that it’s time again for that reset, to catch up on my reading and maybe dig a bit more into that Great American Novel I’m working on.

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Pete

turkey-potatoesI don’t necessarily look for a story in EVERY experience I have, but some experiences need to be written about and some people are just begging to have their stories told, whether they vocalize it or not.

This Thanksgiving, my wife, son and I met a man named Pete. We didn’t get all of Pete’s story, but what he was gracious enough to share with us is worth sharing with you.

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