Monthly Archives: January 2012

Yesterday’s Heroes

May we never forget the legends that built the foundations for this world.

These men and women carried the torch, the burden, the world before us. As the cycle continues, and as generations ahead sail for the shores of the great unknown, the responsibility falls to the next series of generations to step forward and define their legacy. Yet, in the middle of this transition, may we never forget the songs sung by both the heroes and the faceless masses they represented.

Pandora Radio provided a reminder this past week of this very thought. In the midst of my music, most no older than the millennium, a song by Johnny Cash began to play. In full confession, I have never considered myself, nor, do I expect, I will ever consider myself, a true fan and devoted listener of Johnny Cash, but that does not diminish my respect for him as a musician, as a man, and as the symbol he represented to those of his time.

Just yesterday, the world lost another icon: Etta Jones. Again, I must confess I know nearly nothing about her as a person or her music, yet I still notice the impact she had on the world of her day, especially through her music. In my time, my generation will discover its own symbols and heroes–our own icons of music and culture, but may we never forget those who placed the foundations for them.

Here’s the song that inspired this post: “God’s Gunna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash

New York Times article on Etta James:

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One in a Million

One in a million: my unofficial statistic for the probability of a freak accident in which my laptop’s AC adapter would slip, connect while I was attempting to plug it in, and thereby create a circuit within itself, leaving me with a fried, worthless power cord and a dormant laptop.

Welcome to my life. One in a million.

At least, that is how we often view ourselves, especially in the individualistic society which dominates America. However, we are not nearly as unique (please forgive me fellow grammar enthusiasts) as we often believe.

I would imagine, that most people would be largely offended and, at least, slightly confused if I proceeded to accuse each of them of being anything less than unique. This reaction stems from a perspective built upon the individualistic nature of each person. No two people are the same. If you violate that basic premise, much of what some people believe in falls apart rather rapidly. Through my experiences, I have arrived at the conclusion that you, I, or that guy/girl down the hall is far from unique.

Definition of “unique” according to Merriam-Webster: 1. being the only one; 2. a. being without a like or equal, b. distinctively characteristic; 3.  unusual. (link)

I’ve struggled to accept this individualistic view of humanity. If I truly believed each person was radically different from another, this blog would cease to function as anything more than an internet diary of my life. The reason you can connect, understand, and empathize with another human being is rooted in the similarities you and that person share.

Think about those you share relationships with: friends, family, spouses, etc. What draws (or drew) you together? Shared similarities. What differentiates you from one person, is the very element you share in common with another.

The sum total of elements which comprise one person may form a unique individual, but to view life with this as a foundation completely neglects the truth of the human condition. Humanity was built for community. Life is measured through and by the relationships one forms and maintains. Individuality has its place, but that place resides within the larger picture of community.

One in a million? Maybe, but I’d rather be one with a million.


The Excuses We Make

“We have more ability than will power, and it is often an excuse to ourselves that we imagine that things are impossible.”  
~François de la Rochefoucauld

I almost didn’t write this week.

And not without good reason, mind you. This week was my final week at home before returning to college on Thursday. Therefore, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on various errands and with friends whom I am now removed from for the next two months. Thursday flew by the roadside as I drove the 12(ish) hours back to college. Friday and my need for orderliness demanded I organize and move all my belongings into the new room.

With this in mind, I awoke today with a thought: Why don’t I just take a week off from my blog? It’s been a hectic week; I’ve been busy settling into the new routine. It’s a perfectly acceptable excuse. I’ll just resume next week, maybe even write two posts then.

To the vast majority of you, and possibly all of you, this thought process is far from foreign. While each excuse is different in specific content, it typically follows a similar logical pattern. Perhaps the most universal aspect is the final two sentences, in which we attempt to convince ourselves of the legitimacy of the excuse and follow it with a vague promise of overcompensation next time.

I find it amusing and revealing of the nature of excuses that we often spend more time attempting to persuade ourselves than the time required to convince most others. Often coupled with this rationalization is the overcompensation, which aims to reduce guilt. If I accomplish twice as much tomorrow, next week, or next year,  that will absolve me of and compensate for this failure. This mentality treats responsibility as a quota to be filled before life expires, rather than a daily struggle.

The ability to make excuses is one of humanity’s greatest talents. Humans are extremely well versed in removing blame and responsibility from their shoulders. Too tired, too stressed, long day/week, too busy, too sick, and so on–the list is seemingly endless. I searched “excuses” on the internet, and many of the top hits were sites that listed excuses for getting out of work and such. We love to make excuses.

“Maybe you don’t like your job, maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, well nobody likes their job, nobody got enough sleep.  Maybe you just had the worst day of your life, but you know, there’s no escape, there’s no excuse, so just suck up and be nice.”
~Ani Difranco

But what are excuses? Excuses are the manifestations of doubt and/or laziness. Rather than simply say you can’t or shouldn’t, these voices try to convince we are not able to achieve the goal, but for supposedly good reasons. Excuses are, fundamentally, lies dressed in the clothes of rational reasoning.

With that said, it is not my place to judge another for the excuses they make. I write this argument not at you, but as a call for self-reflection. Only you can rightly judge the validity of your excuses or reasons preventing you from accomplishing a task. Therefore, it is my hope that each of you will take time to evaluate your habits in order to discover any excuses you have made and continue to make. This will not be easy. It will require a significant amount of self-awareness, and may cause significant pain as old scars are re-opened, but, (as I am slowly realizing) if many of life’s excuses are eliminated, doors will begin to open. Then, that fanciful dream will cease being such a fantasy.

“And I have this little litany of things they can do. And the first one, of course, is to write – every day, no excuses. It’s so easy to make excuses. Even professional writers have days when they’d rather clean the toilet than do the writing.”
~Octavia Butler