Saturday, March 2, 2013

Musing on Morning Midterms

          I remember one of my public school teachers who had a poster on the wall with a picture of a giraffe in a crowd of zebras and a caption that read: "dare to be different." Even then, I realized how absurd it was that an institution that harshly enforced mindless conformity would encourage me to act contrary to their whims. 
          Then I realized that the giraffe didn't do anything, it just was different whether it liked it or not, and remembered our teacher telling us that everyone was different. Then I realized that the goal handed to me by that poster was completely arbitrary, since I already was different from other people. I concluded that this poster was merely mindless psycho-babble used to distract me from the soul-crushing conformity being inflicted on me by teachers. 
          Do you ever wonder what you would say to your teachers if you had to go back to school, but you knew what you know now as an adult? Sometimes I almost wish I could go back, just because I feel much more secure about who I am and what I believe, and it would be so much fun to watch the backlash I would inflict on my environment. I've recently come to the conclusion that if I were to take the personality and knowledge that I hold today and put it into my 9th grade self, it would result in overwhelming disciplinary action, detention (actually I did get detention a couple times), suspension, expulsion, and it would probably lead to many arguments in the classroom, I would probably end up skipping school a lot, I would be labelled as a troubled child who had a negative influence on his peers, and I would probably end up involved in several lawsuits, on several medications, and I would probably receive a lot of psychiatric evaluation. It makes me look at some of those kids I knew who were "bad apples" back then in a whole new light.
          The most interesting insight I think I gained from this thought experiment was realizing that because my values are completely contrary to the values of most school teachers, it's ridiculous to hold myself up to their standards as closely as I did. Then I thought about some of the standards of my professors that I hold myself up to as a college student today (most of which are remarkably similar to my k-12 teachers!) and started thinking about how I would look back on this time later on down the road, as I look back on my k-12 education now.
If anyone was wondering why I'm not more upset with myself that I slept through two midterm exams this you know. 
In the big scheme of things, it's really not a big deal. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The grace of God

       So here's the scenario: I was nominated to be in an all-state colliegiate honors choir. Fortunately my institution is so liberal with their funding they wouldn't spring for hotel rooms in the large city the event is being held in. Also fortunate: the city is only about an hour away from me, making it plausible to drive an hour in the morning there and an hour in the evening back...on a busy interstate highway during rush hour and inner city traffic.
       I left my house at about 8:30 this morning, and got home around 11:00 p.m. All day was spent in rehearsal for this choir. It was a long day. As I was leaving, it had been raining, and was still raining, and my windshield wipers did not help clear my vision very much. So far so good.
       Add to that I'm trying to find the interstate driving downtown through a large unfamiliar city, and I'm having trouble seeing the lines on the road. I kid you not, the events described here are 100% true.
       I nearly hit a pedestrian. If I had not had lightning quick reflexes which told me to stomp on the brakes, I wouldn't have seen him. It helped that he was wearing dark clothes on a rainy night.
       I should mention: I had begun my journey by praying to God that He would keep me safe, guide me and give me His protection on the way home, because I knew I was embarking on a dangerous trip. After nearly hitting the pedestrian and not finding signs guiding me to the interstate, I started praying again.
       I found a state highway I recognized would take me North and inevitably take me home if I followed it long enough, but it led me through various residential neighborhoods and the speed limit was 30 mph. At one point while following this road, I saw a SWAT team van turn a corner at an intersection in front of me and pull over to the side of the road with lights flashing. This caused me to become unnerved and I cautiously passed the police officers handling what looked like a man in shackles and bringing him out of the van.
       I followed the state highway for about 20 minutes, before I saw a sign for the interstate. I started rejoicing at my good fortune, thanking God and driving home. When I was finally almost home and turning into the narrow alley that is my driveway, I noticed that it had been completely covered in ice.
       I did mention earlier that it was raining, did I not? Well, today is January. It's very unusual in this climate to have rain in January. Usually it would be cold enough for it to turn into snow and ice. That is in fact what it had been turning into through several storms for a month previous to this. If you're from a similar climate and following the logic, you may realize that this means that buildings are liable to have large icicles and bits of ice on them......that break off when it gets warmer........and starts raining.
       Well, in my neighbor's case, this buildup was a sheet of ice on the roof of their slanted-roof building that was about half a foot thick. I say was because it is not anymore. As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed one of my neighbors (there are multiple units in the building next to me) standing in her doorway, and motioning for me to stop.
       Long story short: I got to shovel many square feet of shattered half foot thick ice sheet. The ice sheet had fallen off the neighbor's roof about 2 and a half stories, collided with the pavement below, and shattered in all directions up to at least 20-30 feet away from the point of impact, and the driveway was now covered in ice, parts of which were large chunks too heavy to lift with my snow shovel. I learned from my neighbor that it had fallen off the roof about a minute before I pulled in the driveway, and that if I had been just a minute earlier, I could have had a large ice sheet a half a foot thick fall on my car, or worse, if I had been one and a half to two minutes earlier, I could have have a large ice sheet a half a foot thick fall on my head while I was walking back up the alley. Or if I had been earlier than that, I could have woken up early tomorrow morning to go back to the city, only to find that I couldn't get out of my driveway, assuming I wouldn't have noticed it falling off the roof from the noise it made (according to my neighbor that is unlikely). In any case I still would have to shovel to get out of the driveway tomorrow morning.
       I helped her remove the ice for a while, but eventually we gave it up as a bad job because head-sized chunks of ice were still falling off the roof overhead, and nearly hit us while shoveling.

This is a cool story, but I did I bother to explain it in great detail?

       If you haven't connected the dots yet: God is all knowing, all powerful, and answers prayer. I asked God to watch over me and keep me safe on the journey home, and what did He do? Just what I asked.
       Now, I'm not the type to go over-spiritualizing things, or making it seem like every little coincidence in life is God's doing. In fact, I often rag on Christians who over-spiritualize everything. I used to get into fights with my ex-girlfriend about how God works because she would take very small coincidences and say that it was a revelation from heaven, like hearing a song on the radio more than once. I do believe that God created a natural law to govern the universe, I do believe that's what governs most of our actions, and I think He did it that way on purpose. This is the way I think by default, because this is the way the world works, that's the way God programmed it to work.
       The point of this story is to demonstrate that I'm not so arrogant as to think the God never does any intervening in my life or that He isn't there looking out for me. I do believe God can cause miracles, I do believe that God can intervene in the lives and affairs of human beings, and most important: I do believe that He answers prayer.
       The other reason I made this post is so that you can read it do some self-evaluation. Does God know what you're up to? Do you let Him work in your life? Have you prayed recently? Is He in any part of your plans for the future? If the last time you prayed was the last time you went to church, you might want to consider at least giving Him a short update. He likes to hear from you and know that He's still important in your life.

       As I was helping my neighbor shovel the ice from the driveway she said something which might be burned in my memory forever: "You must have a guardian angel or something."
I paused for a moment to ponder what she had said and decided to make this post. It was an excellent reminder and worth sharing.

"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."-Psalm 91:11

Monday, September 10, 2012

Moral Musings

My life has been significantly changed by watching this series: The Fuel Project-Know Your Enemy
I have often heard as a Christian that Lucifer is the ultimate adversary, and a force behind all evil, but I never really realized how true that is. It's like one of those things you understand and believe, but you don't really know why you believe it other than a reliable person told you it's true. When you watch this series, you will realize just how true this is. Once you realize how true it is, it changes your outlook on life a little bit. I highly recommend that everyone watch this, especially if you are a Christian. The time to fulfill the great comission is not tomorrow, it is today.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Musing on Maturity

I have noticed a trend in the culture of my generation that I suspect a lot of people in older generations aren't aware of. Nobody talks about religion or politics.

It seems to me that our culture of "offensensitivity" (a term coined by Berkely Breathed meaning offense at another person's being offended) has trained a generation of people who refuse to face the world around them honestly.

I honestly can't say I really blame them, after so many classes like public speaking or persuasive writing with "banned topics" I'm starting to become afraid to write or speak about polarizing issues. And so we've put yet another nail in the coffin of my generation's maturity. It isn't enough to condition us to random warrantless searches with drug dogs while being locked in classrooms. It isn't enough to condition us to interrogation by school officials who lie to us while acting on the authority of the state in loco parentis without miranda rights or providing us the knowledge or means to contact parents or legal counsel. (Those of you who know me well know why this is part of my rant)
I remember so many orientation sessions and rallies and so on in high school and college where we were all told we were getting older, and now we were expected to start taking on more responsibility, and act like mature adults. But the school administrators who are telling us this turn around and treat us like children and prisoners.

In my high school we weren't allowed to use plastic knives in the cafeteria because they were too dangerous. That's right, high school.
At my college, there was one time somebody pooped in a dryer in the laundry room of a dormitory. Now I wouldn't say that this sounds like mature behavior, and whoever did it was probably drunk, and it was very irresponsible. But what the campus security force did in response to it was equally reprehensible. All the students in every room of the dormitory (including the ones who don't use that room) were either rounded up or woken up at 3 a.m. and forced to stand at attention in the hallways while security interrogated all the students.

I have seen countless ways in which the members of my generation have been treated like prisoners while being told to act like responsible adult citizens. Then I've seen administrators, teachers and parents wondering why our kids are getting worse.

Now they're coming for our speech. My generation is being taught to be so afraid of offending people that they have no courage left to speak about controversial things, and as any student of history, philosophy or theology knows, those are the most important things to talk about!!

You really want kids to grow up and act mature? Tell them to talk about offensive things. Tell them to argue. Tell them to have honest, respectful discussions with each other and their elders. Respect is being willing to say to someone's face: "I think you're wrong, and here's why." Respect is not just letting other people believe whatever they want because it doesn't matter. It does matter, beliefs effect action, and actions effect everyone. If you love someone, you wouldn't let them believe whatever they want to, you would want them to know the truth.

If you are a young person like me, consider this my sign of respect to you:
Suck it up. You can't please everyone, you can't avoid offending someone in this life, it's going to happen. There are millions of people all over the world right now who hate you just because of who you are. They don't even know you, but they want you to die. These people are not allowed to engage in discourse the same way we are in our country today. We have been given the greatest freedom ever enjoyed in the history of mankind: speech, and there are those who want to take that freedom away from us. He who controls our information controls us completely, because they control what we know, and consequently what we think, and consequently what we believe. And as I pointed out earlier, what we believe effects how we behave. Our freedom of speech is also our greatest asset in defending our freedom of speech. You've got to use it, or we're going to lose it.

Now here's my challenge to you:
Next time you see a "speech code" at your college or university, violate it. Blatantly. "If there's one thing a totalitarian government can't tolerate, it's ambiguity."-Penn Jillette
If you get in trouble and they tell you to stop it, violate it louder. Post it online, send it to newspapers and to the press and tell them your freedom of speech is being violated.
Talk to your friends about controversial things. You'll find out really quickly who's really a jerk and who's not, and not because everyone who disagrees with you will stop being your friend. Civilized mature people can have discussions, even arguments (shock and horror) without getting really nasty, without hating each other, and without breaking up friendships. I'm friends with people I disagree with about things, and they know, but that doesn't mean we can't be friends. If anything it makes our friendship stronger because we know that we respect each other in spite of our differences.
Conversely, I've had people who I thought were friends, but as soon as I start talking about things we disagree on they've decided they don't want to be my friend anymore, or even become very hostile and nasty. I affectionately referred to those people as "jerks" a few sentences ago.
Next time you have to give a speech or write a paper for a class and you're told to avoid certain topics because they're too controversial and you might offend someone, consider it a gift. Now you know exactly what to write a paper about. It'll save you a lot of time brainstorming. Maybe you'll get a bad grade, that's true. But personally I would give up every "A" I've ever gotten if I knew that I gave it up in defense of my freedom, and if I knew that I symbolically gave the finger to all the socialists (I consider most teachers to be socialists whether they know it or not) who want to take my freedom away, that's just icing on the cake.

I can hear it now: "But what will my friends think of me? What if my point of view isn't accepted? What if I change my mind because someone offers a better argument? What if I get a bad grade? What if I fail the class? What if I'm expelled? What if my friends turn out to be jerks?"

If you're expelled simply for speaking your mind about something controversial in a respectful way, you should consider it a badge of honor in the fight for freedom. That's the kind of thing I would brag about. If you're worried that your point of view won't be accepted by everyone, maybe it's about time you realized you can't please everyone. If you change your mind because someone else offers a better argument, that's a win! You've learned something and become a better person, and your peers will feel good about themselves for having convinced you of something. And if they don't convince you, you'll become better at defending and reinforcing your point of view, and it may open your mind to other truths you weren't previously aware of. If you get a bad grade, again: badge of honor. If you fail the class: badge of honor.
Finally, if your friends turn out to be jerks and stop being friends with you because they disagree with you, that's a win! You don't really want to be friends with them do you? If anything, I would argue that standing up for your point of view in an intelligent and respectful way is more likely to make you incredibly popular. People are often impressed by and enamored of those who have the courage to challenge authority and stand up for what they believe in, especially when everyone else didn't. It will make you look like a big fish in a small pond.

We can't afford any more conditioning from the socialists, be they schoolteachers, administrators, professors, campus security, parents, friends, family, or the government itself. I often hear public figures and famous orators being remembered as courageous people for speaking about unpopular things or saying things people didn't want to hear or think about at the time. I do not believe this is ultimately true, I think they were driven to speak about those things by their fear. If you believe that speaking the truth is risky, you have not yet realized the far greater risk in remaining silent.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Two posts in one day!?!?!?

I know. It's unprecedented. But I've been hearing forever this argument back and forth about greed. Liberals are always against greed, yet I hear conservatives constantly saying greed is good, because it inspires progress and success. Let me clear this up for everyone.

Proveerbs 15:27 says: "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live."

This seems pretty clear. Greed is bad. But what is greed? says: "excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions."

Some of you have probably heard debates by pundits or talking heads about greed. I've heard Rush Limbaugh talk about greed actually being good, I've heard liberals cite it over and over again as the source of evil. How can we make sense of it all?

I was surfing the internet recently reading an article, and I read the comments on an article where somebody said this: "It is good when greed makes one to create, produce, improve. when greed is taking from others what is unearned - thats wrong kind of greed."

I thought to myself: "yes, that sounds good. There are two different kinds of greed, or different levels of greed, and one is bad, that makes sense." But a fundamental disagreement at the heart of the debate between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives believe that wealth can be created, whereas liberals (herein referred to as "commies") believe that there is a limited amount of wealth to go around in the world. That is why we hear so much about wealth redistribution. It might make sense at some level to redistribute wealth if there were a limited amount of it in the world, because having it means someone else doesn't have it. Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works. Wealth is a relative term, because different people place value on different things, and different people have different talents and abilities. Through trade, wealth can be created and the comfort in our standard of living raises, because people value different things. For more food for thought on this topic, I recommend rabbi Daniel Lapin's book: "Thou Shall Prosper."

Then I started thinking: "Is it greed that drives humans to create, produce and improve?"

The dictionary definition of greed said that it is "excessive or rapacious desire," which would seem to indicate that it is a desire without control.

For example, my neighbor might have a better tv than I have, and I might want it. But if I was consumed by rapacious desire (greed), I might take it for myself. But fortunately I believe I have the self control to recognize that it doesn't belong to me no matter how badly I want it, and therefore I must control my desire to take it.
But on the other hand, if I controlled my desire to take it (remember self control would be the cessation of greed) and instead used my desire for a better tv to give me the motivation to invent a better one than my neighbor's, I might then have the potential to improve society by creating better tvs and selling them. Or as is more likely the case for most people (since most people wouldn't know where to start building a tv, much less a superior one than their neighbor's) my desire  would at least give me the incentive to work harder at whatever it is I do to add value to society, so I can make more money and simply buy a tv that is identical to or superior to my neighbor's.

Didn't I just say the same thing twice? Isn't the second example just a way of saying that there is a good kind of greed? I don't think so. In the second example, my desire was controlled and chanelled to be used as motivation to give me energy. It was not a "rapacious desire," nor was it necessarily "excessive." I don't think that a non-rapacious or non excessive desire really fits the definition, do you?

As with most intellectual debates, this can easily be resolved into clear language that everyone can understand, if our society only had a better vocabulary, or at least bothered to use a dictionary to discover the proper definitions of their terms before they go on hour long rants about them.

My conservative friends, it is time to make a distinction between greed and desire. The commies are right, greed is bad. But the commies are also wrong, desire is good, when it lies within the boundaries of self control. I think that is an easier idea to understand and accept.

Money Musings

I was in class listening to a lecture recently being given by a featured speaker at my college. This guy was the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, and he had spoken to a large audience at a convocation in the theatre earlier that day, but now he was in my economics class. He told us many inspiring stories about his journey through life and how he built his career, and he said something which struck me, and it was this: "Entrepreneurs are different, they see the world differently. I'm not an entrepreneur, I want a job. Whenever I look at entrepreneurs, I see risk, but for some reason they either don't see it or it's just not that big a factor to them. They're a totally different kind of person."

I was reflecting on this while I was putting gasoline in my car the next day, and I realized that he's right and wrong. He's right that we (entrepreneurs) see the world differently, and it wasn't until I heard that lecture that I realized just how different I am from my classmates. But he's wrong that entrepreneurs can't see the risk in starting their own business, and he's wrong that it doesn't bother them. Of course we see it, and of course it bothers us. I think he was missing the following three ideas:
1. Entrepreneurs engage in risk management. It's not that the risk doesn't bother us, we just realize the life is a risk. You don't get anywhere without trying and failing. Failing at something is generally how you learn how to do it. You have to fail and learn what not to do before you really get good at it or start succeeding. Entrepreneurs have a way of looking at the world that says: "I know it's risky, but it's a risk I'm willing/not willing to take" instead of, "that's risky, I'm staying away from it."
2. Entrepreneurs choose freedom over safety. It's at the very foundation of American society. As a famous quote from a founding father goes (I believe it was Benjamin Franklin): "Those who choose safety over freedom will recieve neither," or something along those lines. The only way you can really make your own decisions and take control of your finances and your life as an entrepreneur is to take on the responsibility, take the risks. Entrepreneurs also realize that the more risks you take, the better you get at deciding which ones are good ones, and which ones aren't.
3. Most entrepreneurs think the word "job" is an acronym for "just over broke." Most entrepreneurs realize that having a job is actually much riskier than owning your own business. Everyone is in the business of selling themselves, or more acurately, their time, knowledge and resources, it's just  a question of who your going to sell yourself to. You can get a job, and sell yourself to one client. That client will have a lot of power over you, because they know you're their only client, and you consider yourself lucky to serve them. Or you can own your own business, and have many clients. For example, if I become a band director for a school I have one client: the school, and they can influence the amount of money a make through a single paycheck. But as a private teacher, I have many bosses. All the student's parents (or sometimes students themselves) are the ones collectively in charge of my paycheck, and if one decides to stop contributing to my salary, I can easily find another person to take their place without doing a lot of job interviews, and without having to uproot my family to move to a different town, and without worrying about how my bills are getting paid, because one client isn't going to make that much of an impact on how much I am earning.

I wish they taught us this stuff in school.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Major Psyches

This is my psyche week! I am getting psyched for the return to school, and hectic life. I am really glad I had a summer off, it's allowed me to regain control of my life. I have come to the realization this summer that what I put in my brain becomes what I think, and I've started to realize just how much brainwashing garbage gets pumped into my head when I'm in school. So I've started a new program.
The first thing I'm doing is reading for an hour every morning, first thing in the morning. Right away. I read the bible for 10 minutes which gives me just enough time to finish one chapter, then the remaining 50 are spent on some other book. Time management experts call this "the golden hour." The first waking hour of your day is when your mind is most awake, and most aware. Studies show that if you spend that first hour reading, it's like a mental warm up, and it will keep your mind running at maximum efficiency for the rest of the day. Then I eat breakfast.
The next thing I'm doing is budgeting 3% of my annual income to be spent on educational materials, mostly audio books and programs, so that I can attend my own university. I call my university "mobile U" and it comes out of my car stereo. If you spend and hour a day reading, and you listen to programs in your car, it will take 4 years to complete the amount of study equivalent to a doctoral dissertation, and I would argue degree, the only thing missing is hands-on experience. The good news however, is that everything you choose for yourself is totally relevant, and something your interested in. You'll probably enjoy studying it more, retain the information better, and you won't be forced to study a whole bunch of topics that are totally unapplicable to your life. If you really want an education, just read and hour or more everyday. It will most likely be way more relevant than what you get in school, depending on the field of study, and degree you are pursuing.
The next thing I'm doing is keeping a well-organized to-do list and planning out each day ahead of time. This helps me stay focused on my goals during the day, and it allows my subconcious mind to work out solutions to my problems and goals during the night.

I'm going to focus like I'm in the military, keep everything organized, and provide more information to myself than I get through school to counteract the brainwashing. Too many years, I have felt like a David facing the Goliath of school, with a rock and no sling. Now I feel like I built a working model of Optimus Prime, and Goliath (school) is going down! I am so psyched for the new school year!

Most of these ideas are based on information I got from Brian Tracy. He is a motivational speaker and expert on success. My management system is also based on Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Effective People." Although, I did think of the planning my day out ahead of time thing before I heard it from Brian Tracy. I highly recommend you look for youtube videos or look up these people's materials if you want to be successful.

Advice on becoming a great musician: See above. Also, practice.