Monday, October 24, 2016

Using Truth to Hide Pain

Attended a conference for my wife's work this past weekend. This post will be an attempt to process through some of the thoughts that I encountered while at the conference.

Went to a seminar on/about emotional health with low expectations and was confronted with some ideas that challenged my preconceptions. I consider myself to be pretty emotionally healthy so when the speaker challenged my thoughts about it I felt the need to spend some time to consider how I should react to it.

I think that a good place to start at on this subject is my previous definition of 'emotional health'. Previously, I would have defined emotional health as neither getting too up or too down when confronted with an emotionally charged moment. That along with the ability to use logical thought processes in order to overcome whatever obstacle was at the root of the emotion.

What I'm starting to be confronted with is the necessity of emotional highs/lows. My use of logic and intellectual processes in the past to overcome emotion has not been adequate in grappling with it, its merely a vehicle I use to deal with the emotion for the shortest amount of time necessary, so that I can move on to my normal rhythm of life which doesn't include the bad emotion.

I've often in the past been particularly conscious of the fact that I oftentimes don't feel a specific guilt when I'm confronted with a sin.What happens is that I am aware of the knowledge that sin is wrong and therefore I should avoid it and also by extension, I should feel bad when I commit a sin. Sin should be grievous! We should feel the weight and burden of the acts that separate us both physically and emotionally God our creator! I think one way of improving on this is to regularly participate in the act of confession. By confession's inclusion in 'The Lord's Prayer' we can treat confession as being a commanded part of our prayer. My acknowledgement of sin's everyday presence in my life will help me feel the weight of sin and consequently my need for a Savior on a daily basis.

Probably more thoughts to come on this subject, that's all I have for now.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Enforced Creativity

Gonna try to start forcing myself to do something creative in order to keep my brain active in a productive manner during downtime at work instead of trying to beat my high score at minesweeper again (150 seconds on expert, if you were wondering).

The idea of how much time I spend in front of a screen/device has been prevalent on my mind lately. Call it 7 hours a day of computer screens at work, 1 hour of video games, 2 hours of TV, 2 hours of Phone sandwiched somewhere in there and that's 12 out of 16-ish waking hours spent interacting with screens.

I had a conversation with a school teacher over the weekend and she chalked 'screen time' up as a main reason as to why her students read at a 4th grade level even though she's a 7th grade science teacher which got me to thinking about the subject. Although I consider myself to have above average intelligence (who doesn't consider that to be true though..), I do think that some aspects of my intelligence have been dulled by the constant checking of screens and interacting with these digital overlords of my everyday life. The sub-conscious desire to pull up my phone every 5 minutes, the fact that my phone is within 6 feet of my body about 22 hours a day, and the fact that the only thing that holds my attention for longer than 10 minutes at a time is a video game, which may only be because it requires my eyes, my ears and both hands.

Ask yourself the question, when is the last time you watched an entire movie on your couch at home without checking your phone throughout. I think that the multitasking that seems so benign to our existence drains our ability to have great conversations, to read good books, and to fully enjoy a single thing because we know that we can be partially enjoying 3 different things. I find myself sitting on the couch with an episode of some TV thing (what exactly it is, is besides the point) going, with my beautiful, intelligent wife sitting besides me and what am I doing? I'm on my phone bouncing between reddit and clash of clans mostly.

As with most things, I find myself questioning, is this behavior trend wrong? The sensory overload of phones, tv's, computers, video games and if possible 2 or 3 of those things at once is a new thing for mankind to be encountering, so there's not multiple generations of humans who've experienced this for any worthwhile conclusions to be made about this. But I think most people's gut instincts would say that it isn't optimal.

While saying this, I'm completely aware this is not an entirely original thought. Also, I don't mean to be alarmist as this is something like the 16,000th blog/article/op-ed about the topic spanning back to the time when newspapers on the trains took away from potential conversations back in WWII times. I'm more thinking about the impact on my life, my relationships, my personal health (both physical and mental). Currently, I'm thinking that this might call for an 'unplugged time', whether that means an hour a night, or a night a week or whatever. So that I can be less dependent on outside entertainment, definitely something to consider.

'Til next time

Friday, September 9, 2016

Damn Aaron, Back at it with the Blogging Again

6 month old reference? Check.
18 months since last blog post? Check.
Sleepless night preceding the urge to want to write something down? Check.
Following old behavioral patterns and cyclical patterns here. Check and Check.

My typical writing pattern is to tie some personal experience I'm having with larger trends that I notice in the world around me. Since I'm not a very experienced writer, I'm not yet comfortable moving away from the comfortable box I've created for myself (not to mention the afformentioned 18 months since the last time I wrote something substantive.) So we're gonna stick with the format we know here, sorry.

One thing that's different about this post is the location from which I'm writing it.

I've been feeling especially uninspired about work lately. I had fallen into a routine of doing the minimum amount of work and watching plenty of Twitch streams and doing a large amount of general internet browsing. It started with a few minutes a day, and gradually after the course of many months, I probably had Twitch (or something similar) open for 4 hours plus a day. After 6-ish months of work mistake or two seeped into my work, and then, poof!, Twitch gets banned, and internet monitoring is happening. Now to make things perfectly clear, I have no resentment towards my superiors for their actions, completely warranted, and if anything, I feel like I may have gotten off lightly. I fully understand their reasoning for the decisions that were made and I would even go as far as to say that had I been in their shoes that I  would have done the same exact thing.

What this experience did was open my eyes up to how I think about work. I now have multiple hours a day of being in a medium sized cubicle with not a lot to do. Replacing 4 hours of internet browsing a day with general thumb-twiddling will do that to a person. Not a lot of opportunity for learning new skills, not a lot of opportunity to apply the more high-level skills (i.e. not mindless spreadsheet jockeying) I do have or work on things that I find especially interesting or am passionate about.

This train of thought brings me more to the central thesis of this post. To what degree can we expect a job to be 'fulfilling' on some sort of core personal level. Is it wrong to expect a job to tickle the itches we have to work on passion projects? What if we don't know what our passion projects are? I find it hard to complain about a $50k+ a year job when compared to the struggles that many (read: most) people face in this world. Furthermore, it's a very new thing in the course of humanity's history for a person to be able to complain about the fulfillment of a job when the job they have requires low physical effort, medium mental effort and provides a comfortable living with all the necessities and many luxuries for them and their family.

Now is the part where I plug this into the societal issue I see in the world around me. I've seen a lot of talk about millennials lately (to the point where applying 'millennials' to world problems as a non-sequitur has become a meme), and i think the complaints that I just voiced would be placed into the 'whining millennial' bucket by a lot of people, and rightly so. Does that invalidate my complaints? Does that mean i should sit down and put up with it? I don't think so, but I'm not sure about that.

So that's where I am currently. Knowing that my work isn't fulfilling,  and not seeing a long-term future for myself at my current company. Not knowing what to do about it. Not knowing what real tangible thing I have a true passion for anymore (subject for another blog post, perhaps.) Not knowing what I would do to enable the sort of work I envision if I were to up and quit the job that I have. Do I go to grad school and pursue more higher education? Do I volunteer in some worthy local charity? Do I pick up a hobby that requires blood, sweat and tears?

Unanswered questions. Unknowns everywhere.

'Til next time.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seems like I'm an Anarchist

To me, the debate about government is often about the wrong things. We love to bicker about partisan this, bi-partisan that, government standstill, ineffective leaders, long-standing incumbents and all that, but we often ignore the most basic tenet of good governing, the overall welfare of the people. To me the central debate within government should be what we define as the welfare of the people, and to what ends the government should be involved in helping those things come about.

I think it's pretty clear that republicans and democrats agree on a lot of the same principles, but the methodology for fixing them is different. For instance, both want the general population to be healthy and to have access to healthcare, both want the nation to be secure from outside threats, both want americans to be able to find work, get education and a litany of other things. I'm not here to debate about what is and isn't the right methodology for these things. As an Economics Major, I have a tendency to view things from a fiscal point of view and also leaning towards the liberal viewpoint. What I do want to do is talk about the ideology of the people making the big decisions.

Which brings me to the main point, the thing I look for in a politician. The character trait of looking at a problem and trying to fix it in a way that hasn't been tried before. Far too often, government is stuck in a loop of trying new things, a new regime is in office, congress changes control, the new regime undoes the old changes and redoes their same old solution. This is true for both parties to at least a certain extent, but I'm tired of that cycle.

Give me someone trying to try something new everyday. Obviously, it still has to be rooted in realism, have the backing research and due diligence, but give me a break with the undoing and redoing of tax breaks and tax raises. Gov't spending and Go'vt cutbacks, the worst possible outcome for a government is when the people feel that it can never enact true change and stop believing in it. And in my opinion, we are heading there, there's a deep distrust of the things we don't know, and an equally deep cynicism for the things we do know.

So from now on, my vote is going to the person whose viewpoints and agendas are the most different from the person in office. I'm not even joking, thats the sad part.

Not 1000 words, but i'm tired. Also, this post made little sense and only covers about 10% of my thoughts about government.

Til Tomorrow

Tomorrow: Social Media Personality Disorder

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Least Valued Opinion in the World is any Type of Religious Opinion

I'm back, after a weekend away from writing due to some travel, lets get back to the groove of this, and I'm just gonna jump right in to today's topic.

Religion in the workplace is basically just a microcosm of religion in the modern world. "I'm okay with you believing in whatever, just as long as you don't evangelize to me". I've basically heard this on a few different occasions from a few different coworkers, and in a sense it's almost offensive. We put religion on this different plane than we put other topics, like if I've heard a good new song or been to a cool new restaurant, I'm definitely gonna tell my friends and co-workers, so why am I not allowed to be as enthusiastic about a thing that is central to life itself? Because it breaks some modern moral code of the business world? Because it makes people feel uncomfortable?

This is just one part of the issue that I see with how religion is thought of in today's world. I've heard far too many christians say that "If you work hard and work as if God is watching, then people will say, 'Wow, that person is hard-working, it totally must be their christianity thing that is the reason for that'" Obviously, that hypothetical reaction is a bit sarcastic, but I swear to you I've heard multiple christians (and yes pastors too) say that first part. I couldn't disagree more, we've become afraid to speak about our beliefs to the people around us and the only way we're willing to speak is through our actions with the hope that people notice, how backwards is that way of thinking?

Christians as a whole have become too careful of being politically correct and far too cautious in how we talk to non-believing friends. We treat non-believing friends as if they are this precious cargo that needs to be hand delivered to the non-threatening parts of our religion. The religion we believe in is pretty radical folks, it denounces many things that the world accepts, it fights every bit of post-modern thinking that the world has fundamentally shifted towards for decades. Sooner or later, the people we know will have to see those parts of Christianity, and if they can't face them now in a conversation with their friends, what better is it for them to face them in 6 months or ten years when a person they don't know says something in a non-loving way in a public forum. Even worse, what happens when they see a 'christian' say something that doesn't represent what God is (think Rob bell and Oprah).

Who better to hear these inconvenient truths from than the people they're close to? I value my friends views on arts and society and relationships and lots of other facets of life. Why shouldn't my religious opinions and views be just as influential in my friends lives as my other opinions? (Although, this must go both ways, you MUST be willing and engaging in listening to their religious beliefs and/or non-beliefs.)

It's just interesting to me, the thought that a religious opinion is less valued in today's society than just about any other opinion a person could have. Somehow we need to get that to shift in the modern world, and just like most other things, that starts with you and me.

Today's writing veered from religion in the workplace, to just, religion in the modern world, which I think is fine, because for many people, the workplace is where they spend more time than any other. The added hurdle when you throw in the business setting is the idea that you're wasting company time if you talk about religion when there is work to do. And yes, I get that, and that is a legitimate concern, but there's still more to be done than is currently being done.

Also, I find myself reasoning in this way "well, my co-workers know I'm christian, so if they ever have any questions, they can come to me". Sound familiar? I'm kind of disgusted by the thought of that as if that's enough to fulfill God's calling for all christians to evangelize. I'm out of thoughts on the subject for now though, so that's it for today.

'Til Tomorrow

Tomorrow: My highest governmental values

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Give the People What They Need, Not What They Want

I want to start this post by saying that the media and individual celebrities and artists owe us (and therefore, me) absolutely nothing. They have their own lives to lead, their own families and friends to love, their own paths and dreams to follow and should not inherently be worried about me or you. The fact that they're entertaining us for little to no cost is already doing more than they're indebted to do for us. If you're sensing a big however coming up, you're right, cause here it is. HOWEVER, I do think that it is surprising that the media at large and more celebrities and culture-makers aren't concerned with the greater good of people and how their actions and their professional work affects the worldview of those who consume their creative output.

In order to understand where I'm coming from on this, allow me to elaborate a bit about what I mean when I say greater good. When I say greater good, I'm not talking about charities and humanitarian efforts, plenty of celebrities/artists give a lot of their money towards those efforts and I'm not here to praise/deride those who do/don't. What I mean when I say 'greater good' is more of an abstract good, the good that happens when people have a realistic view of the world, the crap that goes on in it, the fact that not everything goes right in life but thats okay, and the fact that through that all, we still need to find ways to enjoy life, enjoy family, enjoy simple pleasures and all that.

I say this because a trend that I've noticed is the tendency of most tv shows and movies to basically sedate the viewer. I watched Parks and Recreation all the way through and was onboard for the whole run of the series, for a sitcom that didn't shy away from some tough issues (feminism, gay marriage, etc.) the way the show ended left me ultimately unsatisfied. A bunch of friends all splitting paths and heading in different directions SUCKS, it's not fun, no amount of montages and memories makes it a fun enjoyable thing to go through. I do understand that sitcoms traditionally act as escape, and I'm not saying that sitcoms all need to try to hit us over the head with the fact that life can be rough, because we all need a place we can go 30 minutes a week and not think about tough issues. That's just one example though, I also think of Breaking Bad, a show that more than any other popular show in the last few years had a dark subject matter. For a show whose main characters were a bunch of lying, betraying, overall bad people, why was everybody okay with the show ending in a way where every single people got exactly what they wanted out of life? Even the people who died, died in a happy fulfilling way (minus maybe Gus), why is this acceptable out of the things that shape people's worldview in a huge way?

Americans spend hours a day in front of televisions, absorbing the programming that culture makers put on the various channels. Whether knowingly or not, these things shape the way we think about the world and what we expect out of life (especially so in an age where many kids are raised by TV). So many of these shows don't even try to deal with the issues that should be dealt with in society. Where are the characters in a TV drama who volunteer at homeless shelters in addition to having a 9-to-5? Protest unjust laws in addition to raising a family? By and large characters are absorbed with their own problems in TV shows, the characters we love (and in a weird way admire) are ultimately self-absorbed, so is it really a surprise that the majority of Americans are too?

So yes, maybe Americans shouldn't take so many cues from TV, but I think the onus is more on those who produce TV to make a higher level of show, more multi-dimensional characters who are concerned with bigger social issues on top of their personal ones and scripts that aren't afraid to end in a way which leaves characters confused, scared and not sure of the answers to life's big questions. Ask yourself a question, wouldn't that show be the most realistic show on TV? Instead, we get an escape from the real world when we watch TV, which is fine in small doses, the problem is that we are escaping the real world for 6 hours a day, which leaves no time to actually participate in the real world.

'Til Tomorrow

Tomorrow: Religion in the Workplace

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

So You've Thought a Thought, Now What?

cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance
  1. the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

I've been pondering the idea of cognitive dissonance as it relates to me and society as a whole. In the course of writing these posts I make a lot of claims about the way I think or the way I view things. The problem being is that when I take a step back and think about how those thought process and viewpoints affect the way I act on a daily basis, I really begin to question how much conviction I really have in those thoughts and viewpoints.

The two ways that I see of attacking this issue are as follows:
Firstly, at the thought level, where the solution would end up being something along the lines of me being more honest with myself and the thoughts I have and putting a more restrictive on the ways I let myself think and share those thoughts with others (I think presenting yourself in a dishonest way with others is pretty dejectable.)

Secondly, at the action level, basically continue to let myself think the way I think but do more on the action level to back those thoughts up. In essence, if I have a thought that I consider to be crucial, I would force myself (with the hope that eventually it would be less forceful, and more habitual) to back that thought up with some sort of tangible action.

Basically, when I go back and reread some of my posts (take for instance the one on mental health), I don't want to have the conclusion be so wishy-washy. I don't want to have myself be the type of person who has strong thoughts on a subject but doesn't do anything about it, and the reverse is also true, I don't want to just do things without taking the time to evaluate my motivations and reasoning for doing so.

Even writing this post has the massive potential in my life to further exacerbate the problem of cognitive dissonance. It's like it reaches a meta-level when somebody writes about their hatred for their own cognitive dissonance and then continues to be cognitively dissonant.

Now, I don't think that I'm alone in the world in not having my thoughts reinforced by the actions that I take on a daily basis. There's definitely a a certain overarching detachment in my generation of Americans from a lot of social problems. I look around my office and I see a lot of me-first thinking while being very willing to acknowledge a lot of socio-cultural problems that exist in the world. This fact alone doesn't excuse me more than it kind of points out a trend, we're so insulated that we don't see the problems and therefore don't feel obligated to do anything about them.

Put yourself in this situation: you're walking down the street and a 12-year old girl is abducted and thrown into sex slavery halfway around the world. Would you do something? Chase the attacker down? Get his license plate and inform police? This is an act that happens hundreds if not thousands of times a day around the world, but we don't see it, so we do nothing. In fact, somebody in your city is the person on the receiving end of that 'business transaction'. It's a growing epidemic in America, but we don't see it.

This to me is very similar to cognitive dissonance, your actions in some circumstances back up a thought process but aren't the same as your actions in other circumstances even given the same thought process.

Like a lot of things in life, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of all this, but it definitely warrants some more thought on my part, but it's almost midnight so I'm gonna sleep on it.

'Til Tomorrow

Tomorrow: The role and responsibility of media