….who help themselves

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My first exposure to self-help took place several years while I was enthralled in a pyramid-schemed business venture. I was still fresh meat in college and was dealing with the same concerns many college students struggle with throughout their time: how to pay for college, searching for a career that meant more than a paycheck, finding myself, and all that existential crap.

I was encouraged to order certain books to read on a weekly basis, ones that would empower me to become a better business owner and and overall human being, apparently. Dozens of new books soon flooded my personal library, ranging from topic-specific books (How To Win Friends and Influence People) to the more fluffy, quasi-biographical ‘self-help’ books.

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At first, like many, I was touched and inspired by the words printed on the pages. ‘It’s as if they were talking directly to me,’ which I suspect is a sure sign of a generalized book that uses this language to form a bond with the reader. I tried applying some of these ironclad strategies into my own life. Some of which are gobbled up by the masses of people who attribute to their success to a specific book. The 5-AM club, the ‘Dream board,’ the ‘Focus on You’ attitude, I tried several of these in search of the answer I was so desperate to find.

Somewhere along the way, I started to listen to a little voice, which I later recognized as my instinct.  What were once omniscient passages suddenly turned into spin tactics and ridiculous comparisons. Inaccurate and paraphrased quotes. Misguided, albeit well-intentioned generalizations.  And some of it, just plain bullshit.

Some of the authors and life coaches may classify me as a negative person, a ‘leech’ of life, or just someone one should ‘stay away from’ because my views may not encourage personal growth. As if rational thought should be shunned and one should blindly follow advice and apply all of it to their own life and Poof, Here’s your brand new life.

Why do I say all this?

selfhelp4My issue with self-help, in general, is well, it’s vague and misleading. It’s as if we carry our crosses with us to some ‘guru’ and expect him or her to have the answer. Do they know exactly what we have been through and know that the answer to our question is exactly what exactly what will be said? We throw our problems to and fro onto a veil of putty, expecting to find specific answers when all we get back in return is a glossy-filtered, sepia Facebook post with ‘It’s all about you, live your life’ written on it. Such is much of what composes self-help,IMHO, using general information and guidelines geared towards isolated events and claiming this is irrefutable dogma. When in reality, all that’s really happening is a morphed version of cold reading, and all the listener fills in the blank.

I believe it was Adler who ascribed to this form of therapy. This is coming from the little I remember from my Psych classes, but I believe he prescribed all of his patients with the same diagnosis: “It’s all in your mind.”

While I don’t have a problem by the people who classify themselves as self-helpers or consultants, as it’s their way of life and their means of helping others, I do have a huge problem with people who willingly and flippantly accept their words without doing their own research or seek out other mediums.

In a world writhe with quick answers, this, to me, is another symptom of a global epidemic of instant gratification, having the solution neatly wrapped up for you for the low price of $xx.99.

And here’s another unsettling notion.

Why do you think self-help is so rampant? And encouraged so well within societies to these gurus actually rub shoulders with politicians, clergymen, even leaders?

Think about it.

When people go these events, and swear by these teachers’ words, do you think they’re happy with their life?

No, You wouldn’t feel the need or want to attend if you weren’t convinced that you were unsatisfied. For optimal results, one must be in a very malleable state of mind, one of which any strong push will leave a significant print on your psyche, even much more so when the push is a positive one.

And now, with this newfound happiness and will to live, what do you think these once downtrodden men and women will be more inclined to do?

Travel (stimulate tourism), Start businesses (Banks receive more loan applications), ‘Do You’ (including but not limited to shopping, dining out, buying gym memberships, taking up that new hobby of painting, go out more often and meet new people, ‘indulge yourself’ in buying that expensive gift to yourself etc.)…do you see the pattern?

Self-Help is a win-win. You help the individual, and in return, that individual becomes a larger contributor to a mercantile society. Now, on the surface, this may not sound virulent. This is great news, right? Why wouldn’t we want to empower people to become more active? To love ourselves and indulge and enjoy the finite time we have? 

While it may not be evident when told this way, think of it another way.

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Millions of people, doped up on endorphins, looking to better themselves and enjoy themselves and live their lives and take every day by day? To themselves?

With all this happiness and bliss, who has time to think about anyone else? Who wants to open their eyes to the ‘negativity’ of the world if it’s not part of the ‘blessing,’ as if the two are mutually exclusive? 

What I see when I see self-help is extreme self-entitlement and loss of humility and reluctance to see the world for all of its aspects that are outside the realm of ‘pretty.’ There’s a fine line between a generally positive attitude and a blatant, self-imposed blindness to the reality of the world.

That reality is that there are some fucked up things in the world.

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Displaced Syrian refugees. Read more here

Terence Wright, at the site where Walter Scott was shot and killed by Officer MIchael Slager

Terence Wright, at the site where Walter Scott was shot and killed by Officer Michael Slager  Read more here

Rape. Torture. Genocide. Human Trafficking. Racism. Hate Crimes. Injustices.

These have no borders, no origin, nor are they contingent to any specific area. They are real, palpable aspects of life. Whether we choose to open our eyes to them or look away, they will continue. And it is my fear that this ‘Me’ attitude will ’empower’ us to think even more about ourselves and even less about the rest of the world.

It is my hope (Yes, although the tone of this entry is pessimistic, I am still hopeful) that this new hype of self-awareness will empower people to open their eyes and believe that they CAN do something about the issues we face today. That we stop focusing so much on what we deserve or are entitled to, and focus on how we are blessed how we can help those who are not as fortunate. It is my hope that we realize that we’re all in this together.

A young man joined a guru for a walk downtown. As they approached the inner city, the two stopped into a cafe for tea. The T.V. played in the back, flashing images of violence and war-torn villages. Scenes of crying women holding their sons’ body played back as the reporter read off the casualties of the civil war. The young man lifted his eyes from his phone and began to feel angry, but only said ‘Someone should do something about this.’ The guru continued to sip his tea and after a long silence signaled the man to leave with him. As they walked back, the two witnessed a man being mugged. His assailant had taken his wallet and left him badly beaten. The young man stood defiantly, and watched as the mugger ran off with the wallet. A small crowd began to form, but the assailant still ran. “How could you just stand there and do nothing?!” screamed the young man to the guru. What is wrong with you?!” The guru kept walking. The man reluctantly followed after the crowd dispersed. When they finally returned, the young man could no longer contain his frustrations of the guru. He finally blurted out “How can you be so relaxed? There are people dying and injustices taking place everyday. Yet you do nothing nor even bat an eyelid. Why didn’t you help? Someone has to do something about this.” As the man finished his tirade, the guru looked back at the young man and finally asked, “Are you not somebody?”

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Stories in Dreams

Dali's Hand of Remorse; and what my dreams feel like right after I awake

Dali’s Hand of Remorse; and what my dreams feel like right after I awake

Dreams.

(I don’t mean the kind you think of when you’re awake)

I’m talking about those strange moments between consciousness and unconsciousness.

Freud said it was the door to our mind, unleashing our innermost secrets long hidden behind our defense mechanisms and instinct to survive. But are they really more than just our brains’ s way of recycling the millions of synapses formed throughout the day? Could anything original and new be born from its crevices? Or perhaps we’ve seen it all before and we’ve forgotten about it?

I’m not sure, but every now and then, I’ll wake up from a dream, and grab the first thing I can write with to write down what I just dreamed because it jut seemed SO DAMN GOOD!!! The next blockbuster, the next great novel, the next award-winning series, Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve dreamed up Breaking Bad at least twice…

…Maybe not.

As I start to write, the ideas evaporate almost as quickly as they manifested. By the end of squeezing out everything I can, I’m left with a skeleton, lacking the meaty muscles of plot, the intricate nerves of characters, with just barely a lung or an appendix of a setting and time, and I’m left disappointed that I’ve let this brilliant idea die a quick death.

What my dreams seem like an hour after

What my dreams feel like shortly after

But, sometimes the idea outlives its biological clock and lives on, sometimes throughout the day. I’ve had a handful of these old timers and decided to write them out. Who knows, maybe this is the start of the best story that’s ever been dreamt. At the very least, it’ll be fun to see what comes out of them.

So……

This happened, more or less, on February 12th, 2015.

I’ll call you “The Mid-Autumn Revolution.”


“Did you see that?” muttered the young lady to her lover.

“It’s October, why would there be fireworks?”

“I don’t care, they’re soo pretty in the full moon.”

“Strange…but oh well. Beats looking at that eyesore of a refinery.”

The lovers held hands while they snuggled from their million dollar condo off the Strand.

The night sky had been dancing with green and purple lights. Fluorescent streaks of neon penetrated the night sky as they shot out from invisible cannons. Dozens of people began to gather at the beach to watch this unexpected show of bright lights. Without as much as a second of pause, another set of fireworks shot out from the horizon. An enormous sunflower bursted from the singular line of yellow fire, melting away into the sea after its beauty was exposed to her spectators. White horses galloped upwards towards the moon, kissing its forehead before plummeting back to the water.

“Hun, where do you think they’re coming from?”

“You know, I was just thinking that. I don’t see any ships out in the water.”

“Maybe it’s a small boat?”

“Doubt it. You need at least a 15 ft. radius to be safe from the blast. Plus, the right equipment, a precise trajectory. The full moon’s out, too. The waves would make the ship unstable. It’d be dangerous to shoot them out from the water now.”

“…mhmm..”

“You also need a license to carry fireworks. Unless it’s the city, someone got them illegally. You can’t fire them without a permit. Try getting one of those if you don’t..hey, are you even listening?”

“…Hmm? Yes, dear. The full moon’s out.”

It wasn’t until the fourth wave that the Hermosa Beach Police arrived. Four cruisers parked their cars by the shore. As they stepped out of their cars, the officers shared looks of confusion. One of them pulled out a pair of binoculars while the others radioed for a helicopter to light a path from a safe distance.

“Griggs, what do you see?”

“A whole lot of nothing. I can’t make out any type of maritime vehicle. It’s like they’re being shot from the ocean.”

“Let me see. I think you’ve been abusing your green card.”

“Hah, maybe. You know I don’t smoke off the job.”

“Griggs, get Jerry. We need eyes in the sky.”

“I already did. He was in Compton, should be here in a few.”

The two cops stood side by side trading the binoculars, expecting to find what neither of them were supposed to find. Several of the remaining police officers pushed the audience back onto the Strip, but not with much fervor. October was a slow month for HBPD, aside from the usual drunken Saturday nights and the occasional speeding tickets. This was the strangest complaint they have received all month.

The sudden approach of the chopper startled the spectators out of their nightly trance. Hermosa’s cozy residents were not used to the sound of its thundering wings. Anything louder than a car horn was considered a big deal in the well-off neighborhood.

“Jerry, light ‘em up!”

The helicopter manifested a spotlight onto the ocean. To everyone’s dismay, the light landed on nothing but water. The spotlight shifted around in search of the origin of the fireworks to no avail. There was no trace of any sort of maritime vehicle. A creeping discomfort rested on the residents at the beach. Each had their own look of perplexity as they tried to come up with their own hypothesis.

“Maybe it was a speedboat? It sped off.”

“We would hear it, wouldn’t we?

“You can’t light fireworks from a speedboat!”

“It was a yacht…”

“It’s the middle of the night! Why would you take your Yacht out now? It’s way too dangerous.”

“Maybe, aliens?”

“Yeah, OK. Aliens came down to shoot fireworks for us. Brilliant.”

“Look! Farther back!”

The onlookers and police shifted their focus southwestward. A streak of blue had shot out from the ocean, only much farther away.  It was barely heard through the loud wings and the waves crashing below, but everyone saw it.

“Just what the hell is going on, Griggs?”

“I think we’ve all been hitting the pipe too much tonight, Tim.”

“Jerry, go after that boat. Griggs, call the Coast Guard. Tell them we have a fish out of water.”

“But they’re still in the water.”

“I know, I was being ironical.”

Another shore had seen the light of the fireworks streak through the night. This beach was nearly empty, save for a homeless man walking towards the pier to rest for the night. He had seen the blue light but thought nothing of it. Sand had jumped in out of his $5 dollar sandals as he tried to avoid the seaweed that peppered the beach. A half-full bottle of E&J Whisky had slipped from his fingers and was caught in a wave crashing towards the shore. Cursing at the ocean, the man stared blankly as the now white streak of fluorescence shot out from a closer point to him. The flash of light blinded him for a moment. He lost his equilibrium and fell into the sand.

The sound of footsteps startled him as he tried to crawl back to his feet. He quickly turned around and squinted to see who was there. The falling firework had served as a light to reveal who was walking towards him. Five women in uniforms marched towards the man. Camo pants, black leather boots, a semi-automatic rifle. Each soldier with her own set. The man had screamed out of sheer confusion. Never had he had such a bad trip before, even when he’d mix acid and weed. The five shadow soldiers continued their approach towards the beach. A soldier with large bun of brown hair had slowly approached the now sober man. She placed a firm hand on his shoulder and knelt down to help him up.

“It’s OK. Get to the Strand and stay there. Don’t look back.”

The man’s feet had embraced the sand and bolted towards the boardwalk. Obedient only for two of the three request, the man peered back as soon as he was off the sand.

The five women stood on the shore where the waves broke and enveloped their boots. The woman in the middle continued on as her companions stood back at the shore. Carrying her rifle over her head, she marched into the icy water. She stopped when she was waist deep in the ocean. The man rubbed his eyes over and over to believe what he saw. The woman, once underneath the water, had slowly been lifted up to the surface of the water, and was now hovering six inches above it.

Another round of fireworks had escaped into the night, revealing brief clarity to the scene that was taking place.

There was another figure that stood opposite of the soldier. It, too, was hovering over the water. He could make out some shouts, but he was too far to hear what they were saying.

The shouting stopped.

The beach was silent. The meanderer dropped his bottle of whisky on the boardwalk, but it fell silently to the world.

He only made out one word:

“War.”


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One Year Later

This is for anyone that sets a goal and pushes forward, only to look back to see they aren’t as far as they’d like to be.

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365 days ago, I moved to California in search of, well, I didn’t even know at the time…freedom? purpose? dreams fulfilled? Hell, I had no idea what I really wanted!

But I knew that I would find it here, or at the very least would lead me in the right direction.

To describe it briefly: sensory f***** overload. Thousands of thoughts came in at once, like a dam had been built up and it broke down as I stepped off the tarmac at John Wayne Airport. With a cousin and uncle and a job to hold me up, everything else was up to me.

I really did feel like a boy in a candy store. Or, for 9-yr old me, the largest L’eggo store in the world. I really could do ANYTHING I wanted to do.

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When I moved, I thought I was going to have everything figured out in a year.

In a year’s time, I’d have the first draft of my book done, I’d have a following of readers on my blog, of which I’d be posting at least once a week. I’d be doing free-lancing jobs left and right, all the while writing my own essays and articles about whatever interested me.

I’d be in shape, sporting a six pack, walking around with a strut, but still humble. But if I had to take off my shirt for any reason, why not, right?

I’d be the king of my own kingdom, and my body, mind, and soul would be my temple. I’d be at a higher place spiritually, going to school and working on my thesis.

I’d be prolific in writing and be living up to my pen name, Soul on Fire.

Next year is today.

Far from where I thought I should have been.

While I can sit here and type out, it’s what you make of it, it doesn’t help me as I sit back to evaluate the last 365 days.

I’m not writing an article a week, or even an article a month. I’m only about 16 pages into my novel, I’m not living up to the ink itched into my right arm, a reminder that I had within my this fire that’s been longing to burn wildly and gasping for air.

And I don’t feel closer to finding out the Why? that I asked myself a year ago. As I type away and further chastise myself for my inadequacies as I always do, I stop.

As humans, we are our own worst critics.

When we look back at our progress, we sometimes get muddled by the details and get hung up on what we did not achieve instead of evaluating what we have done. It’s easy to do, and we make it harder for ourselves to push forward.

Only by stopping and looking back briefly can we fully re-examine all that we have learned on the journey and appreciate that we are stronger, more resilient, wiser than we think.

What have I done?

I’ve gone to San Francisco, Las Vegas, the desert, Mexico, on countless hikes, trails, and have met many new people.

I came face to face with addiction, and came out with a clear head. 

I’ve stepped myself out of my comfort zone 

I’ve run thousands of miles on the beach.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten in touch with someone I forgot about, someone who has since been a constant friend and confidant, whom I’ve listened to more fervently, who has gotten me out of many a jam, who studied with me, kicked my ass when I needed to, picked me up when I’ve fallen,  and whom I’ve gotten to know and understand more than I ever have: me.

Here’s to another year. 

Here’s to more spontaneous adventures, harder workouts, longer writing seshs, epic-er jam sessions, smoother open-mic performances, crazier road trips, higher mountains, bolder coffee, sexier sexy times, farther runs, deeper conversations, rowdier parties, heartier meals, bigger problems with bigger solutions, clearer epiphanies, funnier stories, livelier dances, and …

to a soul on fire.

SOFtat

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Dapper Man

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This poem was written deep in the trenches of Corporate America.

As my 3-year anniversary was approaching, my boss had called me in for my yearly review. Advice was given, hands were shaken, and work resumed. When I left work, I was felt a soothing calm. I felt satisfied with my accomplishments and continued my daily rituals.

Towards the end of the day, my boss approached me and asked me if I would like to join an organization outside of work. He needed help attracting a younger crowd and asked me to be a member and to brainstorm ideas for attracting new recruits. I would essentially be doing the same thing I did on a daily basis, only on my free time and without pay.

When I left work that day, I was overcome by an inexplicable, overwhelming dread.

The following workday, I decided to leave ‘early.’ I opened up my laptop and began to decipher why I felt the dread that day.

This is what manifested:

The inescapable truth is that he was not happy.

As he strangled the life out of his daily rituals, desperate for a purpose

A riff escaped from the withered shadow of his doubts

There is no left. There is no right

Just forward,

And looking backwards to find your next destination

Is a tradition his heart succumbs to twice a month.

He convinced himself that chasing your dreams

Is a gamble left to the lottery chasers and the big game hunters.

Your dreams don’t mean shit here, young man.

Just hang your coat up, take a seat and leave your passions aside.

You’re a mole, so dig deeper,

Dig down into the rabbit hole until you reach a prejudice

Or rather precipice, precisely, a prejudice that begets ignorance, sheltered by the hive in accordance to the great Green Queen.

Your next steps are laid out for you, tradition as maniacal as it is mundane.

Born of a ‘That’s what I was told to do’ attitude, no need to burn your brain cells off thinking about what’s the right thing.

Just hang your coat up, take a seat and set your dreams aside.

Because they’ll tell you the wonders of a hundred dollars in your pocket, a brand new shiny sense of self, that’s part of you now, son.

Take care of it as if it were your own blood and skin, your next of kin and your one true love.

They’ll show you how to manage your time so you work more and think less, and make
more means to justify the shiny new ends, to show the world your means out shadow their shiny new ends, until the next one shows up with a brighter piece of soul.

That’s just not right, I need this now too.

Well, hop on it, son.

And take it up a notch, show us you deserve more respect from the shelf and give us more of your soul.

That’s right, no need to be shy, there’s plenty to go around, now.

Just how bad do you want that those three extra letters after your name? That flashy new little after your family name?

Just hang up your coat, take a seat, and swallow your pride.

Now you made it, sir. You’ve outgrown us all, dapper man. You wear that suit like a fresh new mannequin, rocking that livelihood of Bangladeshi children like you should.

You get out there and show the world just how much you matter, and tell them why you deserve to have your voice heard. You show the world what you ate for dinner today,and touch the hearts of millions with your No Filter Instagram picture of a Sunday sunset like you just finished the last stroke.

You show the world how better your life is. You deserve it, after all.

Out of billions of people in the world, this is your story, man. You are the only one who is you, man. You have to be all you can be, man.

Because you don’t want to live a life full of regrets, man.

Who wants that, regret?

Who wants to look back and see your mistakes like some kind of goddamn tally of things you should have done as if you had the knowledge you have now? Like you can magically give your former self the gift of 20/20 hindsight and wish for a better plan of action and a new hand of cards, as if you didn’t handle your life with everything you had at your disposal at that time?

Who wants to have to live in a studio flat as you find the meaning of life through the gifts that you were given and are not truly yours when you can sit back and watch someone else achieve their goals for a dollar at the RedBox around the corner? Why would you willingly embrace scarcity and budgeting while you do something you ‘love’ when you can sit in a cool desk with your own supplies and make much more money to be well off?

Sit down, son.

Just hang up your dreams, take it up with your God, and set your soul to Silent mode.

Dreams are overrated, anyway.

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Detox – A love story

 

Detox – A Love Story

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Writers’ note: The following is a piece I wrote on addiction.

It’s something that I’ve lived with and experienced both second-hand, and more recently, first-hand. Bits and pieces come from my own experience as well as outside inspirations.  The style is somewhat different than previous posts, as I am going for a spoken word approach and performing this is meant to be done with an element of story-telling, which is difficult to transcribe on paper.

Addiction isn’t limited to hard drugs. It can be anything, even love.


It always starts off the same.

A curiosity into the unknown. A little itch that you need to satisfy, just get a taste.

Try it once, and say you’ve done it. It’s a badge of honor, a claim that you overcame your fear and tried it.

And of course, your voice isn’t the only one speaking. With so much talk of YOLO and living-life-to-the-fullest type shit, you can’t be blamed for following hype shit…for taking some broad, self-entitling phrase to justify your own intricate actions.

No one cares if you try it once, just do it once, feel the rush, take this kush, smoke that dope, get that high, don’t be shy, the voices tell you.

And you say you’re free, I have the will, you tell yourself.

I can stop whenever, it’s just one time.

One time…

what’s the worst that can happen just this one time?

It always starts on the same.

Just one hit, and your mind is racing. Pacing back and forth, on levels never reached before, your heart’s a spinning door, and this ride won’t let you off, it just keeps you lifted, you feel gifted, envision life with new perspectives, details now seem so intrinsic, so beautiful and magical, every mundane object suddenly seems brand new. That tattoo now has eyes and wings, and your room is Paradise, with everything you need to achieve the bliss. Just what is this? What did I miss out on? How did I live before I tried you? Before I had you? Life is now more bearable, enjoyable, even. They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, well I say you don’t know what you don’t until you do.

Your world is now a canvas, I’ve never had so much control. It’s intoxicating, exacerbating, I don’t even know why so much debating, all I needed was to meet you. And now you’ve given me so much to look forward to. Fun times and happiness await, next stop, your dreams…

And then it stops.

It always starts off the same.

Hey, that was pretty fun. But ok, once is enough, you start to say.

So you live on, and go back to the funks and the lows. The daily grind that you never claimed as your own. On that temporary nine-to-five, a typical lifestyle doesn’t seem to vibe anymore. Who gives a fuck if you’re late this one time, you busted your ass for 3 years and now they want to reprimand? Kiss my ass, I deserve a break.

But you cool off for now and continue on. But what were pebbles once now seem colossal, the pet peeves grew fangs overnight.

They no longer just annoy you, they abhor you.  Copier’s jammed, coffee spilled, she didn’t say Hi (…high…), the system’s slow, traffic’s slow, this asshole’s turn signal, though!

The rent’s due Tuesday, I still have 5 days! No, I don’t have any spare change. The plates are filthy. I’m out of Milk again? Is that a new dent? This phone is so old, what the fuck am I doing with my life?! I just want to (…let go…)

Then the itch is back, only this time it says something else.

Hey, remember me? We had such a blast, didn’t we? Remember when we spray painted your shoes and walked on the ceiling of that hotel? Remember that night under the stars when we went to San Fran? Or on the way back when we talked of our dreams? Those were some good times. 

Well, call me sometime.

It always starts off the same.

The daily grind is now the daily screw. Screwed by your job, screwed by the system, (…high…)screwed by your landlord, screwed by the waiter (…free…) who messed up your Animal-style fries, screwed by the police (…let go…) for turning on a red light. It’s 7:50! The No Turn on Red starts at 8! ‘Your cups already full, and its bound to overflow’

 OK!

I just need this one time to get the stress out. And at this point, you just want it to stop. Stop the things from happening, just stop!

I knew you’d call.

It always starts on the same.

 Your life without her just seems so abysmal now. It’s like every passing day is just a another obstacle standing in your way from her. I don’t want to hang out with them, all they talk about is trite shit. They’re so vain and self-absorbed. Whatever, I don’t care about the supervisor position, it’s just another shit-stained step on the corporate ladder.

Everything is an excuse, nothing matters anymore expect her. And the moment you see her again. Until finally, the time in between just stops existing.

You wake up,

you get high,

and hang out,

get high,

you sleep 4 days later,

you don’t eat a thing,

get high,

you fix your room,

get some ink,

get high,

get some food, maybe,

get high,

do nothing,

get high!

And you know what? It feels un-fucking-believable. To spit at conventional wisdom in the face. You figured it out! How to be happy. You don’t need a job that gives you rules and sets a schedule for you. You don’t need to a boss to tell you what to do. You have your dreams, you have your art, you’re going to make it, with all this time you have now! You’re going to be like Kerouac and see the the world now! And if someone questions your logic and doesn’t want to get high with you, well fuck him, poor sap. He doesn’t know what he’s missing, such freedom I have now. Time and fun are all I have now. Fuck responsibilities, they’re overrated. People who don’t drugs are just scared they’ll get elated. And I can quit when I want.

I’m in control!

But you’re not.


The escape is what had given birth to your infliction.

Your body’s now diminished but your mind still thinks it’s fiction.


You’re fluent in denial, it’s become your native tongue.

Isolated from society because the drug and you are one.


There is no start nor finish, time and space are now irrelevant

All that matters now is you, yourself, and all of it

You’re full of it, you can’t even admit to it

You blame the world for judging you because you claim they’re scared of it,

The way you live your life is now the standard way to live it?


 The drugs have fucked your body

But your greed has sucked your soul

You sold your immortality

For the fountain of youth to hold


 You longed for better times, when your innocence was whole

So you made your wish,

and took a hit

So the page would not unfold


 And I don’t single out the hard ones, this applies to any drug:

Food, Booze, Love, Lust, they can all make us succumb.


 ‘Cuz when you grow up in a house where your own idea of love,

is another broken jaw and dodging bottles from above,

and you see your dad’s entrails as he stabs himself to death,

because divorce was just too much, he rather take his own last breath


 It’s no surprise that we get high just to escape what they call life,

everyday is like a paradox, we see a tunnel towards the light.


 But then again, there are the others who just do it for the fun

No fucked up life required, they just wanna have some fun


 Regardless of the reason,

of why you’re on this ride,

If you don’t take back the wheel of life,

It won’t be yours to drive.

Soul on Fire 

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An everypersons’ guide to: Fluoridated Water, Part 1: The Basics

How-to-be-on-the-walking-dead

Remember that old expression?

Well, turns out there is something in the water. But, it’s not the T virus.

I’m talking about the F-word: Fluoride.

Unless you live outside of the U.S., where water fluoridation has been rejected in most places, like western Europe (1) , you may have heard of the controversy about fluoride and its’ presence in our water. And this argument is by no means a new one. It’s been heavily debated for decades among the hard hitters: dentists, scientists, toxicologists, they all bring a different perspective to the table.

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association states that fluoridated water is an effective way to fight tooth decay to the masses. (2)

It’s even been listed as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century. (3)

But that’s not the whole story. What kind of blog posting would this be if this were the only source? You have to dig a little deeper to see why there’s so much hot air.

Let’s start with the basics: What the heck is fluoride?

Calcite_sur_fluorine_(USA)_1

Don’t call me a rock!

Fluoride is the name given to any compound that contains fluorine, a dangerous gas. It’s mainly found in certain minerals, like fluorite, and also in natural freshwater bodies in small doses. By a small dose, I mean between .01 to .3ppm (parts per million, 1 milligram for every million milligrams), there’s less than a drop of this stuff per L of water.(4)

For a better visualization, imagine an inch in 16 miles. (5) Yeah, it’s infinitesimal. But, when you talk about ppms, the devil is in the details. Even a spike from .01 to 1ppm could be significant through long-term exposure.

Fluoride, as stated, is already found in fresh water. The question is, what dosage is acceptable? The USDA states that adult men and women should ingest no more than 10mg of fluoride per day. (6) This number is a bit biased, however. Since the U.S. fluoridates its water already, most of what we eat and drink will most likely contain much more of it even if it didn’t have fluoride to begin with. Try it with your Sauvignon next time, it gives it a nice woody taste.

So the next question is: How does this stuff get into my water?

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Several ways, actually.

  • Au naturale, from rocks and pores
  • Disposed of from aluminum plants (Boooo)
  • Voluntarily added in communities for dental hygiene (7)

Fluoride comes in lots of different forms, but the three forms most debated about are sodium fluoride, hydrogen fluoride, or sodium fluorosilicate, all of which are known byproducts in aluminum plants.

Here’s where things heat up (bad pun, bad!): Fluoride is a known waste of aluminum smelting, a process where aluminum is extracted from its ores, producing not just fluoride in liquid form but also as its gassy cousin, hydrogen fluoride, which is a serious crop and animal killer. Now, aluminum companies produce a lot of this stuff.  But how much of this stuff can really put a dent into our health?

Just as an example of how much we make : In 2001, the USATDSR (U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry) reported that 2.5 million pounds of hydrogen fluoride were sent off-site from 991 companies. (8) Now that’s just a big number, though. It shouldn’t be taken without a grain of salt. The report also states that 230 million lbs of hydrogen fluoride were recycled, on and offsite. And this is a total, not specific to aluminum plants, but you catch the drift.

So this is the gist of fluoride. I tried to condense as much as I could without sounding too technical.

In my next post, more on the pros to fluoridating water, and of course, the cons.

Now, go brush your teeth.

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist, but do appreciate a scientific approach, where all hypothesis are brought to the discussion. I am an amateur researcher with a journalist background who wants to know more about topics that interests me.  

…Plus, I never want to have to be caught sounding like this lady:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ-ByUx552s

 

References , yo

1.  http://fluoridealert.org/content/water_europe/

2. http://www.adha.org/sites/default/files/7253_Fluoride_Facts.pdf

3. http://www.cdc.gov/about/history/tengpha.htm

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride

5. http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/ndwc/articles/ot/fa04/q&a.pdf

6. http://www.ars.usda.gov/services/docs.htm?docid=6312

7. http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/fluoride.cfm#six

8. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp11-c5.pdf

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Pre-writing Musings or Utter Nonsense

I wrote this as a means of kickstarting my writing recently. My friend suggested I write nonsense to clear the mind. This was the result:

Rene Magritte, 1955

Rene Magritte, The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955

A streak against the midnight sun.

A higher message lies in all you do

Without a path, there is no goal.

No goals equals no beginning.

No beginning, then what..?

are you, or rather

who are you?

A streak against the rising moon

A hidden message hides in all you say

The path is set, there’s your goal

Every goals begets a beginning

A beginning, then where..?

are you going, or rather

where do you want to

end up?

Mind the message for it is just a masquerade. Channel the child as you lift off the veil.

Are you in tune with him yet?

Does she yell for your breakthrough?

Listen…LISTEN, for the voice is faint, but clear.

The ghetto ruts of your ugly, adult mind; they’re rotting away the beauty. The road you have within is paved in every sight you see.

The rose still spawns from the concrete floor,

Wilting, Blooming, Dying, Living,

Forever until you finally pluck her and embrace her.

For this act of love is not Osho-approved. Love, in this case, is taking the flower in your hand using her, USING her, exposing every delicate petal, every sensual curce, pricking your finger on every thorn, and godDAMN does it hurt!

The pain is your cue.

Hey…

You’re alive.

You have all senses, to make sense of this nonsensical, sensational satire. So tire away and wear out those callouses on your fingertips, you crazy dreamer.

No one ever wished for approved O.T. on their deathbed.

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..and your Heart

..and your Heart

This photo was recently sent to me through e-mail from an old friend.

I’m not always as receptive to existential posts that point out what’s wrong with our system, our society, our own way of thinking.

Some of them are exaggerated. (Being desensitized to human suffering: While I agree there is a huge problem with apathy in our country, I’ve met so many people and have read so many more stories of selfless acts that can at the very least bring the balance into equilibrium between caring and non-caring people.)

Some sound downright judgmental. (You should have just changed your job if you were unhappy…um, yeah? Say that to the single mother who’s working three jobs, has no real retirement funds, and can’t afford to go back to school to get a new set of skills for a job that may NOT even be available when she finishes.)

It’s as if these statements throw up a huge putty-shaped veil and we throw on our own situations onto it and see how they apply. They don’t take into the account the individuals’ many struggles they have to fight every day.

Posts like these seem like glorified trolling, and maybe I’m being cynical, but it’s easy to point out something that doesn’t work and wrap them up into a war cry for a V for Vendetta-esque revolution.

But I like this post.

Especially the part of not ‘taking power back’ but rather ’empowering ourselves’.

It has a tone of accountability at the same time bringing an element of hope. No single person can do it alone, it’s a group effort.

Maybe we won’t change the world in this lifetime, or even 100. But learning to share the struggle with one another, to me, is a step in the right direction. And each step eventually begets another step until those steps create miles.

Onward, then!

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Fear and Loathing in Corporate America: Lessons learned from inside the cogs of the machine



C
.Y.A.

One of the first things I heard when I dove head first into the machine that is Corporate America. One of the first cardinal rules if I wanted to ‘make it in this game’: Cover your ass.  This was my first taste of what I would later experience as the norm: a carnivorous culture of looking out for yourself and only yourself. Though not the most important, it set the mood for the many other lessons my inexperienced, innocent mind was apt to take in.

I was a fresh, young mind, and oh so eager to prove myself. I wouldn’t change, I silently reassured myself as I strode through my very first cubicle.  I have plans, huge plans. This is only a stepping stone, my first real job after college and a chance to show the world what I’m about.

Looking back now, the last 3 years have given me situations I could never fully capture from a textbook. And even more so than that was how I reacted, or failed to react. Those choices that I still mull over pretty much define how I felt throughout the journey, never really 100% prepared nor ready for what comes but using the tools I’ve acquired to my best capabilities. And I’ll be straight with you, I still feel I fucked up and could have handled situations much better. I don’t say this with regret because what I learned about myself made the journey worth it. Let me share with these lessons with you:

Remember who you are & why you’re here

r9AgBY

Wherever you go, whether you go the route of a 9-5 job or an entrepreneur, you’re going to run into many people.

Some will inspire you, some will help you, some will want to be your friend. Others may not give a shit, or be so caught up in the vicious cycle, that they inflict the same stab they may have once received.

I’m telling you know, so you don’t repeat my mistake.

Don’t let it.

Be ready for it; the mental games people play can cause a serious brain drain. Nothing sucks worse than having your hopes dashed by someone who’s seen the shitty side of the job and came out a disenfranchised veteran.

 

Picture the first day of your new job, or anything new. Remember your mind going in different directions, endless possibilities? Good. Now try to remember this when the monotony sets in. When you get thrown to the lions for not following directions to the T. When you spill your coffee on your desk,papers and all. When you forget why you’re doing this, remind yourself.

(For me, it was to go back to China. To finish my novel. To live on my own. One down!)

Oh, and about the veteran, a word of advice: Listen, but tread lightly. They may have insight on something you didn’t know about the industry you’re in. And even if not, they’re human, too. They may have been just like you once upon a time. It doesn’t hurt to care, just don’t let it turn you cold.

 Your title means shit

If I’ve learned any piece of wisdom from working in corporate America, it’s most definitely the following: your title doesn’t mean jack shit. If your aim is to reach the top, you can:

Boss Vs. Leader

Boss Vs. Leader

A. Work hard, put in extra hours, work on the weekends, bust your ass, work harder, take the heat when your teammate messes up, share your knowledge with others, work even harder…you catch my drift 


B. Do whatever is necessary, including but not limited to:

  • taking credit for accomplishments that aren’t completely your own
  • not acknowledging your crew
  • throwing people in front of a bus to make you look more ‘responsible’
  • ignore those on your level and kiss ass to people in higher positions
  • blow your own horn whenever you can
  • exaggerate what you’ve done
  • point out others’ mistakes (and make sure EVERYONE knows)

C. Falsify your birth records so that you become the CEO’s long-lost 3rd cousin, thrice removed


If you chose answer A, then get ready for a long trip. Unfortunately, the methods in option A are often overlooked and are what keep people stagnant in progressing, for the most part. Long gone are the days when people put in their time and were bumped up by seniority. Today, there is more to it than that. The idea of ‘work smarter, not harder.’ 

The ‘B’s  are the ones that are most encouraged and rewarded. Modern-day thinking dubs these under ‘ambition.’

To give everyone their fare share, ambition can be a great thing (when coupled with integrity).

However, the quick rise to the top doesn’t come without its hazards. A shark mentality may pave a way to a glossy new position and all its perks, but there are more inherent issues that new-age thinking doesn’t really touch on. Mainly they fact that you’re dealing with people, not cyborgs.

Respect doesn’t magically come from a cool new title after your name in your e-mail signature.

Let me rephrase that.

TRUE respect doesn’t magically come from a flashy new title after your name in your e-mail signature. TRUE respect is earned from how well you work (both on the job and on yourself) and how you treat others, especially those “below” you, not from the fluff after your name. Willfully opting to not give a shit about anyone but yourself can cause a great rift between you and others. You may have the ass-kissers lining up. Don’t ask how, but you’ll feel it, maybe in the form of a stare, or that ‘feeling’ you can’t explain. And once you’re up there, it can get pretty damn lonely.

If you chose C, well, good luck with that.

 Personality goes a long way

pulp_fiction-bible

…And you don’t have to be one charming m’f’ing pig, either. But seriously, what do I mean by this, you ask?

Thank – Remember the ones who helped you out, whether a small bind, a huge help, or took the blame for you, appreciation trumps entitlement. No one is guaranteed shit in this life. Show your thanks, don’t just say it.

Uplift – There are people like you who want to advance, and learn more. Why keep them down just to lift yourself up? This universe has enough success for everyone to go around,  despite whether our ego thinks so or not. Empower someone to flex their leadership muscle. It’ll come back. Maybe not directly, or for a long time. But who knows whom you’ll inspire?!

Improve – The best thing you can do you for yourself is to invest in yourself. Perfection exists in the dictionary and in nature, but we humans lack it. And that’s good, you know why? Because the absence of perfection means that the potential to improve is unlimited and ever-present! Meaning you can always up your game,  join a master class, link up with a group of like-minded peeps, c’est a toi…(it’s up to you!)

Own Up – The CYA culture I mentioned earlier is like the antithesis to this: accountability. Everyone wants to play the blame game but no one wants to lose.  And for me, this was one of the hardest things to conform to. I. CAN. NOT. STAND. CYA! It’s petty and a huge waste of time (my two pet peeves). Do yourself a favor. Don’t play. If you mess up, fess up. I can say from experience that when I’d admit fault to something I did wrong, the reaction was never as terrible as I had pictured it in my head.

Collaborate – With the dog eat dog world and watching your back for knives, it may seem counterintuitive to look out for anyone but yourself.

But, look at it this way: The guy next to you. What do you really know about him? Has he done anything to betray your trust? I may be naive in saying this: It’s my belief that we are not that much different from each other. In the end, I believe we all basically want the same: to feel appreciated, to find love, to pursue what makes us happy, and to be happy. And sometimes along the way, we get caught up in a cycle that we never intended to entangle ourselves with. In our pursuit, we got caught up in the ‘temporary’ job. That ‘in the meantime’ type of flow. The few months becomes a year, the meantime becomes 5, and you look at your life and see that you just spent half of your life ‘in the meantime.’ Who wouldn’t be a disgruntled veteran after that?

We’re all in this together. Why not help each other get there? Maybe then, this CYA culture will slowly transform into something else: we’ll have to act, wait, and see.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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A day of Remembrance and Hope: The 2nd Anniversary of the Syrian Revolution

Today,

I took the 10:55 train to New York Penn Station, decked out in a green button-down shirt over a green undershirt. But I had no intention of walking into a pub for St. Patrick’s Day this year. I was wearing green for another reason: solidarity.

DSC_0015

Demonstrators hold the Syrian Flag* and chant for freedom

Dozens of Syrian men, women, and children met in front of the U.N. to commemorate the 2nd year since the revolution to free Syria started back in March 15th, 2011. Despite the cold weather and the inevitable overshadowing from the 2013 Half-Marathon falling on the same day, demonstrators delivered passioned speeches in response to the continued violence in Syria.

“We Want Freedom” echoed through the street, tears spilled onto the pavement, the beat of a Doumbek drum gave the chants backbone and power, chants broke out into dance…The feeling was penetrating, contagious. I felt like I was Syrian.

I admit I am ignorant to most of the happenings in Syria and was only aware of the bits and pieces major news sources had provided about the civil war, which are scarce.

A 90-second news report can’t hold a candle to a mother holding up a picture of reality – those slices of reality that smack you out of being a bystander and place you on the front lines. DSC_0068

As the organizer began to settle the crowd for a moment of silence for the fallen, the mood shifted. Everyone lifted their heads to the sight of a young man walking through the crowd with a young woman.

The reason I came out today: to witness my friend Hamid’s engagement. He made his way to the front of the crowd and wasted no time in projecting the emotions of the people. I don’t understand Arabic, but by the reaction of the crowd, I can surmise that his words touched many hearts in a deep way.

The fact that he chose this event to declare his love and marriage to the world, to me, speaks of a selfless love for his country. I’m proud to call him a friend.

Hamid & Zhilwan

Hamid & Zhilwan

As I stood back and briefly became part of something bigger than myself, things came into perspective. Most of the demonstrators at the rally have been away from home for years, others were U.S. born with family in Syria.

Still, there were some who had no real ties to Syria.

Thousands of miles away seems so far if you have no connections, no bonds, no ties. Things are easy to avoid when they’re not in front of you.  Thousands of miles of way, there are people like you and I who want the same thing. They want to feel safe, to raise their children, to be free; Why should kilometers separate our ties with other human beings? Whether Syrian, American, or whichever nationality we claim, we are all human beings.

DSC_0075
We’re all in this together.

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