I was a pretty strange little girl. While the other girls at my preschool were playing princess-dress-up, I was collecting bugs in a dirt patch. My parents bought me a Barbie Dream House once. I ended up cutting off the dolls’ hair, covering them with paint and Crayola marker ink, and ultimately mutilated them before throwing them out and proclaiming “No Barbies allowed! Only dinosaurs and animals!” as I filled the pink plastic mansion with brontosauruses and pterodactyls. I don’t think I ever wore a feminine Halloween costume until I was thirteen (previous Hollows’ Eve ensembles included a T. Rex, a Wolf, a Sorcerer, and Bob Marley). It wasn’t until my early teens that I realized that being a girl didn’t mean that I had to be pretty in pink and plastered in princess-y pomp. A girl can be a trailblazer. A girl can be a scientist. A girl can be a senator. A girl can be a leader. A girl can be intelligent. A girl can be independent. A girl can be powerful. A girl can be anything.
Vote for me. Vote for drama. Vote for anger. Vote for fads. Vote for bigotry. Vote for loud-mouthing. Vote for scandal. Vote for headlines. Vote for scape-goating. Vote for bandwagons. Vote for roasts. Vote for discrimination. Vote for red-faced, mindless, finger-pointing. Vote for me. Vote for me. Vote for me.
This is what modern politics have come to. A big circus freak show in which candidates attack each other and haggle over who’ll get to be ringleader. The goal is to win the prize for most shock value, because any press is good press. Too many politicians are willing to say almost anything, no matter how offensive, irrelevant, or ridiculous, just to get a headline.
Look at me.
No, look at ME.
Politicians acknowledge problems and the masses hoist their banners and shake their fists in agreement. Yes! This is a problem! I’ll support you! But who’s proposing solutions? Presidential candidates gain massive followings by riding the wave of anger that they’ve incited. They take advantage of people’s whirlwind emotions, especially hate, in order to overshadow each other and gain the most support. Everyone’s talking so much, and what do we get when the election’s over?
Nothing. Continue reading
We humans like to cling to things. Especially hope. During times of fear and struggle we hang dangling over darkness and uncertainty, clinging to our frayed threads of hope until our knuckles turn white. If we can hang on long enough, hope can get us through times of violence and destruction. But what about when the violence and destruction returns? We cling to the hope that things will get better, and for a time, they might. But it seems that some new conflict always arises to break down our sense of security and forces us to once again grip precariously to our threadbare hope.
If the violence and struggle keeps coming back again and again, then there must be something we’re doing wrong. There has to be some kind of change we can make to really, truly, make things better. Continue reading
People tend to draw lines between each other and place themselves into categories. You are either young or old, educated or uneducated, thoughtful or shallow, middle class or working class, popular or a loser, or whatever other labels society uses to define us. Why is it that we pay such close attention to whatever groups we “belong” to rather than reach out to each other in spite of our differences? Neil Young’s “Old Man” discusses the idea that beneath our external differences, we all have the same desires, fears, and feelings.
Neil Young in 1970.
The world is full of problems: hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, intolerance, destruction of the environment, homicide, suicide, genocide, entire nations at war with each other, and so much more that brings pain and suffering to the world. But this is not the saddest part. What I find to be the most bizarre and mind-boggling is that all of us sympathize with at least one of these problems. We can all tell that something is wrong. We all want an end to these problems. We all feel that something must be done.
But how many people will actually do something?
The thing about people is that they can see suffering on their TV’s, they can read about it in the news, they can even be a spectator of it on the street, but very rarely will they cast a second glance after thinking, “Oh, how awful!” before continuing on their way. The problem is not that people are insensitive – for the most part everyone will feel something after witnessing a tragedy – the problem is that most people do not think of how much their actions can make a difference. Continue reading
We all want to be seen a certain way by others. We want our beliefs, our ideas, and the essence of ourselves to be understood by the people we come into contact with. We hope that what we stand for touches the lives of other people and that the unique identity of our souls leaves a mark on the diverse, fast-paced world that we belong to.
But this is no easy feat.
The purpose of art is expression, either of oneself, an opinion, or an ideology. The world full of voices, each one screaming for attention, dying to be heard. Art magnifies the voices of those who might otherwise have been drowned out by the din. Art attracts the eyes and ears of the world to the problems we face in everyday society when we are otherwise ignored by our superiors. Art takes a stand when the world stands against us. That is, until money is involved. Once the big commercial industries take over, art plundered of all that it stands for and simply becomes a money making machine. Rather than giving people what they need to hear, they are sold what they want to hear. Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” dares to speak out against the industries that have morphed the music business into simply a cash-cow rather than a place for artistry to flourish.
Pink Floyd left to right: Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright
Every one of us is a story teller. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like to read or write or don’t consider yourself a creative person. The decisions we make, the actions we take, our triumphs and mistakes – they are all just plot points of our own stories. Our choices to take risks or to hold back are what can make our stories not only memorable, but also significant within the scope of the world. Anyone can weave a powerful story – it doesn’t matter how it starts, that is not up to us, but what we can control is how it ends. A story’s greatness isn’t determined by how widely read it is, but by how deeply read. If someone, somewhere is impacted by you, then you know you have done something at least somewhat significant amidst all that has occurred within time and space. Ultimately, it is ourselves who choose how we will remembered, and it is those who do the most to touch those around them that will be remembered most affectionately. Continue reading
Sometimes life is heavy. It presses down on your back, compresses your chess, constricts your throat, and pushes down on your temples, like a large, calloused, relentless fist. Maybe life has added something to the weight, thrown something at you that was unexpected or unwanted. But it seems to me that the weight is heaviest when it takes something away from you, something that you didn’t realize was actually keeping you up on your feet. Sorrow does not crush you instantaneously like rage, or dangle above your head guilt. It is a load that drags behind you, making sure that you are always looking back and never ahead. Eventually, this load may become a part of you, some extra piece of luggage that you must take with you everywhere you go. Is there any way to rid ourselves of this weight? The struggle to stay afloat in a world that seems to be trying to drag you down is beautifully detailed in the Beatles’ medley “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End”, an eloquent and insightful conclusion to Abbey Road, the final album that they would record together. Continue reading
Everybody is susceptible to following a charismatic leader. A few times every century, time and time again, a major issue of some sort will occur — whether a revolution in Russia, a thirst for the end of British imperialism in India, civil rights movements, or the Cold War — heating up until conflict is just about ready to boil over. No matter what the situation, the story is always the same. Someone, whether a humanitarian or an opportunist, will take charge of the situation and direct the needs and desires of the people towards a cause. And because the people believe that this person can give them what they desire, whole nations will follow a charismatic leader to the ends of the earth, even if it turns out that their interests were never truly with the people. It is those that see a need and fulfill it (or at least claim to) that bring about change in the world, for better or for worse, and are written down in history textbooks as benevolent champions and liberators or as megalomaniacal tyrants and oppressors.