The Tired Traveler

road

Like a tired and weary traveler, all we desire in life is a moment of rest. A quiet mind and unburdened heart, a destination that is actually within our reach and that rewards us with our desired outcome. But also like the exhausted traveler, we cannot expect those things to find their way to us on their own. We must walk that road to get where we want to go. Decisions must be made, motivation must be found. We cannot assume that comfortable refuge will greet us without striving for it.

We are all tired travelers, and life is but a rough and rocky road. Our destination always seems out of sight until we are nearly upon it. What lies at the end of the road is relatively unknown, no matter what our preconceived hopes may be. There is one thing that is certain, though:  If we do not find the drive to continue–or if we do not dream of what we want that destination to be–we will surely never find out. We cannot simply hope that things will be as they should, or that some miraculous stroke of luck will ease our worldly pains. A vision must be had, and action must be taken. A calm state of mind and positive thoughts will only get us so far. Sure, it’s good to avoid melancholy feelings. But doing so will only perpetuate our current situation, and will do nothing to advance us down the road which we are traveling.

Our hopes and dreams are often mired and hard to find. The saying, “Everyone has a dream,” is not always true. For some of us, our destination in life is quite clear. For others, however, it seems nearly impossible to find where they want to be. This makes for a dark road to travel on, indeed, but something can always be done to reveal a promising pursuit. We merely need to explore the world we live in, think on the things we have learned, and always seek to expand our understanding of everything around us. Doing so will eventually reveal a destination, and it will also make inner peace easier to obtain. No matter what happens, one thing in life is certain:  We are all suffering from the Human Condition, and we are all tired and weary travelers on a road of seemingly endless distance. Too often we fail to realize that there are many, many others on that road, even if we have differing destinations.

Advertisements

Be an Inspiration

Live to Inspi

We often think about the things that inspire us. Whether we’re working to accomplish a goal or simply trying to get through life, the people, things, and ideas that inspire us are usually foremost in our thoughts. But what about the inspiration that we invoke in others? It seems that we rarely think about that, or we have already concluded that we aren’t an inspiration for others. Don’t let the latter be true.

It doesn’t take great feats to be an inspiration, so what does it take? Well, let’s take a closer look at the things that inspire us. For me, my inspiration is derived from two things: people and ideas. My grandfather is constantly a great inspiration, and he wasn’t some famous author or philosopher. He was just a man–a very important man, to me–who had conviction and determination. My grandfather was also simple. He didn’t complicate things, and he didn’t partake in dozens of different activities. He was raised on a farm at the tail-end of the Great Depression. He served in the Army during WWII, and was part of the Occupation of Japan. He managed a quarry for many years. Those are the things he did in life. However, he had a great many qualities that I revere. I won’t get into that, but I want to make my point clear: My grandfather was no one famous, yet he is nonetheless a great source of inspiration for me, even in death. Would he have ever thought that he might be someone else’s inspiration? No, probably not. That wasn’t his way.

Other individuals who inspire me are indeed famous: Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Stephen King, Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Epicurus… the list is a lengthy one, and I turn to each of these individuals for inspiration depending on the circumstances. Ideas–or subjects–that inspire me are many, as well, but these are probably the most frequent ones: philosophy, cosmology, history, and physics.

For me, my main purpose is to inspire others. I write because I enjoy the thought of inspiring someone else, whether my work inspires an idea, or a pursuit, or even one positive action. Obviously, not everyone’s primary goal is to inspire those around them, and that’s okay. Just remember, however, that you will always have an impact on the world around you. Bearing that in mind, it is my wish that every individual does what he or she can to be a positive inspiration for others. The butterfly effect is subtle, yet extremely powerful and complex. We stumble through life affecting outcomes that we will never truly realize. That being said, I want you to try something that might be a little different from how you generally perceive your day: Allow the general idea of inspiration to be more present in your mind. Let it come forward in your thoughts, and try to envision how your actions affect the world around you. Think about how much good you can do, simply by demonstrating qualities that others might look up to. What sort of creation might you affect? A beautiful painting, perhaps? A wonderful piece of literature? Even if you indirectly affect just a part of someone’s creation, I think that is cause to be proud. And although we may never know exactly what or whom we inspired, we can at least take comfort in the idea that we are doing all we can to be that inspiration, to light that flame of creativity or well-being.

“I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled [poets] to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.”  –Socrates

A Brief Look at Humanity

Man in Space

Humanity has done marvelous, awe-inspiring things. Things that, when you think about it, will bring tears to your eyes. Super glue was invented in 1951. In 1956, the video cassette recorder was invented. In 1961, the Lava Lamp came out. The Lava Lamp isn’t all the rage anymore, super glue is taken for granted, and nobody (practically) uses cassettes anymore. We’ve all moved on to bigger and better things. In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the first manned, powered flight for just 12 seconds. Only 66 years later–generally far less than a lifetime–the United States launched a rocket into space carrying three astronauts, and Mankind touched down on the Moon. For the first time in the history of Earth, one of its living, breathing organisms looked back at it from its Moon. How amazing it is, to be human.

We seem to take for granted our natural ingenuity and intelligence. Almost 500 years ago, Copernicus was publishing his theory that the world was not the center of the Universe (only to be shot down time and time again by the Catholic Church). Toilets that you could flush were being invented in the 16th century as well. The pocket watch was also invented by Peter Henlein around that time. 500 years before that, the world’s first paper money was made in China. The concept of true north was discovered, also by the Chinese. The horizontal loom began being used. So, here we are…2014. We have the Internet to connect every single person in the world who has access to a computer. We can drive 50 miles to work every morning in the comfort of a climate-controlled, luxury vehicle, and complain the whole way about traffic and how long it takes to get to work. This journey would have taken a man in the 1800s about a day to complete, with multiple horses. 82 years ago, the atom was split for the first time. Since then we have nearly mastered nuclear fission, created laser cutting tools, discovered hundreds of billions of stars and tens of thousands of galaxies, proven evolution (except to those creationist types), discovered the fused chromosome (Chromosome 2) that separates us from the other Great Apes, sent around 500 people into space, discovered successful vaccines for measles, hepatitis A, chickenpox, mumps…the list of human progression goes on and on. Every step of the way, we seem to be advancing faster and faster. The growth of technology has never been slow, by any means, but it seems that today we are taking off at a dead sprint. It is believed that fire began being used in a controlled fashion around 400,000 years ago, but experts believe it wasn’t widely used until around 50 to 100 thousand years ago. While I doubt that early man truly saw the benefits of technological progression, I must say that their (probably) accidental discovery of controlled fire has led us to where we are today. We, as modern humans, have only been around about 200,000 years. That’s fairly short in the evolutionary timeline. Not a whole lot about the world around us has significantly changed in that period of time. Yet, we have progressed further than organisms that have been around for millions of years. There is some level of pride that must be felt with that. We were a genetic accident…nothing more than a random genetic mutation that turned out to be beneficial rather than harmful (harmful is more common). Yet here we are, so-called masters of our world. We have mastered flight. We have traveled all the way around the world without stopping. We have dived into the deepest reaches of our oceans (although only around 6% has been explored). We have sent people to the Moon. We have sent our devices into space, past our own solar system. We have thousands of satellites orbiting our planet (although only a few hundred are operational). Soon, we will send Mankind past the moon, to planets beyond.

How truly awe-inspiring it is, to be fortunate enough to be a part of Mankind.

However, let us not forget all of the horrible atrocities that Mankind is responsible for. With these great things have also came great horrors. We have waged war like this planet has never seen, repeatedly killing each other in a vain attempt to establish dominance. We have killed millions because of their race or creed. We have polluted our oceans and air, which will take hundreds if not thousands of years to fix itself after we’re gone. We have destroyed entire ecosystems, pushing thousands of species to extinction. We have discriminated against members of our own species, simply because they look different. We have bred ignorance among our masses, shoving useless things down their throats instead of educating them. As wonderful as we are, we are also self-destructive. How very sad it is, to be a part of such an amazing species, yet we do such primitive and useless things.

We must encourage ourselves and others to become educated. While we will undoubtedly continue to advance further than we could ever currently comprehend, we must also realize that the possibility of social devolution is very strong. If we continue to encourage ignorance, and continue to encourage the pursuit of counterproductive activities, we could very well push ourselves backwards.

Let us not forget how wonderful it is to be Human, and let us not take that for granted.

I Think, Therefore I Am

thinking1

We all agree that we exist, right? I think it’s important to occasionally touch upon this subject, because our perception of reality is obviously very crucial to our well-being. My aim here is not to make you paranoid, or fill you with anxiety. My aim is to make you think about who and what you are.

What do we truly know about ourselves and the world around us? How many things can we say that we are absolutely 100% certain of? Sure, we like to think that we have a lot of concepts figured out, but really we don’t know much at all. Before you thumb your nose at this article, please take a minute to read it entirely.

There is only one thing that we truly know for certain, and that is, “I think, therefore I am.” This is not a new concept, by any means. Descartes pondered this notion long before I was around to write novels. However, 350 years later, it still inspires just as much thought. So what does it mean, and why is it important?

The concept is not a simple one, no matter how uncomplicated it sounds. Let’s see it in Descartes’ on words:

“But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I, too, do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all], then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who deliberately and constantly deceives me. In that case, I, too, undoubtedly exist, if he deceives me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.”

Descartes points out that we can never be sure of anything around us, other than the fact of our own existence in some fashion. Sure, we could be floating in a tank somewhere, having all of our “experiences” simulated for us (see Brain in a vat), but then we would still exist in some way. For the purpose of this article, however, we’re going to remain on the surface of philosophy. Keeping Descartes’ thoughts in mind, take a moment to think about the things you experience in life. Would another person perceive them the same way? Are your opinions about them the “correct” ones? I think we could all benefit from practicing a little humility, and that’s really what this article is about. Instead of immediately defaulting to a preconceived notion, take at least a brief moment to consider the contrary. After all, doing so is what makes a progressive society.

Remember, all we really know is that we exist. Everything else is open to interpretation. For the purposes of psychological growth, try to keep this in mind. Perception is everything. Time and size are relative. The way my mind processes a certain experience is not necessarily going to be the same way that yours does. In the end, we are all lost together.