A Point of Impact

Every once in a while you experience something that gives you a renewed perspective on the world around you.  Many of mine have come from traveling to different places and meeting new people, but I recently had one while checking the stats for a blog I had posted.

Something I wrote in a small town in Connecticut has been read by people from seven different countries.

Often we see the web as a place to connect with those we know and love by sharing photos, videos, and maybe even an interesting article. We curate our friends list, followers, and news feed to the point where we sometimes have a skewed view of what’s going on in the world.  I want to strike more of a balance.  Discovery is very important to me, and while I don’t want to ignore what’s in front of me (my wife and kids), I also don’t want to squander the immense opportunity I have in the largest network ever known to mankind.

The beauty of the internet is its openness.  Blogs, e-books, websites, search engines, streaming services, and online archives put the majority of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips.  What comes to mind is a movie scene when a character walks into a massive library.  The camera pans out and you see the stacks towering over someone longing for exploration.  I’m often daunted by the sheer mass of information, but I’ve spent hours cycling through design concepts, watching documentaries, and listening to new music.  One might ask, “What’s the point?”

It is so easy to get caught up in your own world and lose sight of the fact that everyone has a different perspective.  When you explore the world outside your day to day experience, the world becomes a little bit smaller.  One specific avenue of discovery that is especially important to me is learning about what someone believes from someone who believes it.  For example, There are tens of thousands of Christian denominations.  Since graduating college, I’ve spent some time studying Church history to learn the origins of doctrines and have gained a respect for a number of sects ai used to blindly denounce. I have even changed some of my own personal views after weighing the evidence.

The danger, I believe, is when you lose yourself in the swarm.  Someone having a perspective does not mean that perspective is right (That statement right there is a blog in and of itself).  However, Someone being ignorant, wrong, or even incorrigible does not give license to disrespect or mockery.  Looking back on my own life, I’ve been wrong more times than I’ve been right.  For many years (and still even now) I’ve tried to argue wIth people to convince them of my views. However, when I step back, I can see it was time and experience that gave me room to grow, not the attacks of others.

Which brings me back to the people from seven countries who took the time to read a few words from my blog: Thank you. Thank you for stepping outside your daily lives to see the world through a twenty-something American’s eyes.  Thank you for reading, and thank you for returning if you have.  I hope that you have gained something from my posts, and pray that some day we will meet. It is an honor.

What is one of your favorite internet discoveries?

The Curve of the Lens

Something I enjoy, but haven’t spent a lot of time doing, is photography.  I enjoy capturing a solitary moment to hold it in the palm of my hand.  From time to time, I’ll reminisce about pictures I took as a teenager and compare them to what I’m taking now with my iPhone, and it is completely mind-blowing that I can take pictures like this on a whim.

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This photo is what the “Curve” Daily Prompt brought to mind.

I used to daydream about having contact lenses that could take photos from the same perspective as my eyes.  While riding in a car, I would see a flock of birds fly by, and wish that I could keep that moment forever.  I remember seeing the launch video for Google Glass and thinking “Oh my goodness,  maybe my dream could come true!”  Sadly the abuse of privacy and social discomfort with the product prevented Glass from being available as a consumer product (Mind you, I fully understand and appreciate the concerns).

My love of photos is what ultimately drew me to instagram as a platform.  I thoroughly enjoy looking through photos I’ve taken and creating a new connection between the post and the image.  It allows me to create a different kind of emotional bond with my writing, and share another part of myself.

Borrowed Worlds

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when fiction seemed like a waste of time to me.  I was learning about science, politics, and other cultures in a way that made me wonder why people spent so much time creating different worlds when there was so much undiscovered in the world around us.  I wanted to discover new ideas and understand other view points, but as I went deeper into each rabbit hole, I was confronted with the dissension and debates of each culture.  It started to feel like everyone had a bone to pick with someone else, and it became unenjoyable to delve deeper.

The irony is that I grew up surrounded by fiction.  Saturday morning cartoons and video games comprised a sizable amount of my younger years.  I played hours and hours of RPG’s in middle school and high school, read books like the Animorphs series, and discovered Magic: The Gathering during college.  As time goes on, I’m coming to realize that it was a twisted concept of adulthood and embracing responsibility that made me recoil so much from fiction.

Now, I’m having a bit of a renaissance.  My wife is an avid reader, and has introduced me to some really compelling authors, Brandon Sanderson being the most notable.  I’ve also enjoyed exploring the forgotten realms in the Drizzt Series from Wizards of the Coast, and discovered a hilarious podcast from Maximum Fun called The Adventure Zone where three brothers play Dungeons & Dragons with their dad.

The world we live in is both wonderful and horrible at the same time.  Borrowing someone else’s world for an hour at a time has significantly increased my ability to cope with the stresses of daily life.  At the same time, delving into a world that someone else has created can also give clarity and perspective on the world we live in.  Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson, is a story that did that for me.

A good portion of the book is written from the perspective of an antagonist, Hrathen. Throughout the novel, he makes some despicable choices. However, by the end of the book I found myself as attached to him as i did the two main protagonists (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers).  Gaining that kind of empathy for an “enemy” can have a dramatic effect how you approach those you do not completely understand.  Maybe you’ll even give someone a second chance.

What fictional worlds have had an impact on you?

The Bottom Half of My Face

I love my beard.  I’m currently at 29 weeks of growth, but I grew my first one 10 years ago.  I had just finished a three year stint with a company that required me to be clean shaven, so I gave it a try simply because I could.  To be fair, I was a lazy college freshman, so the idea of having less to do before I rolled out of bed made the prospect of tossing my razors pretty enticing.

A decade later, I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror when I trim my beard, let alone shave it off.  One of the great ironies is that having a long beard has actually helped me to take better care of my physical appearance, (and grow a deeper respect for people who keep long hair on the top half of their head) because long beards get some pretty gnarly tangles in them.

I’ve discovered an entire culture built around facial hair.  There are clothing lines, beard care products, even growing and styling competitions. Two facial hair  clubs regularly meet within driving distance of my house (both of which my work schedule sadly prevents me from attending).  Some people may find it silly, but growing and maintaining a healthy beard is something worth appreciating.

One thing I’m hoping to see more of over the coming years is brick and mortar facial hair shops, or a beard care aisle in Target.  As much as I love supporting small online businesses, there is something to be said for at least knowing the exact scent of your personal care products.  I’ve purchased beard oils and waxes that are currently at the back of my vanity drawer due to a scent or texture that I wasn’t thrilled with.  I’ve thought about starting a business that centers around beard product trials, because I’ve discovered dozens of beardcare companies, and think it would be cool to get a goodie bag in the mail with a variety of products to try out (who doesn’t love goodie bags, right?).  What do you think?  is that a service you’d sink your folicles into?

Ultimately, my beard is part of who I am. I wear it proudly, and encourage every man to grow one at least once.

Let it grow!

 

Entrepreneurship and Following Through

Enjoying the stability of a regular paycheck and, now, having a family has heightened my desire for stability.  I’ve worked in the customer service and non-profit fields for almost ten years now.  My resumé consists of three large companies and a handful of small organizations.  During my tenure I’ve spent a lot of time talking with customers from my parents’ and grandparents’ generations.  I have always had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that many are close to, or have already retired from a company they’ve been with for twenty, thirty, or even forty years.  The longest I’ve ever been with a company is three years, so the idea of long term company loyalty is foreign to me.

Ultimately, I would love to start my own business or non-profit, but also understand that I have a romanticized view of what that means.  Entrepreneurs are almost always on the clock, especially early on in their venture.  The truth is tat I love the idea of starting things, but am not always the best at following through on the idea.  For example, I’ve been writing digital music for 12 years now.  I’ve had some really cool opportunities, like having one of my songs played on a British underground radio station, but I also have dozens of unfinished songs.  The thrill of starting something new is intoxicating, but setting goals and keeping them is a whole other story.

Writing this blog is an anomaly in and of itself for me.  This will be my third post in less than two weeks and I’m still excited to sit down and type away.  I don’t have any real goals other than tossing my ideas out here, which may be part of the reason I’m still at it.  I’m hoping that it turns in to a habit, because it’s remarkably liberating.  I’m not sure if writing is something I could turn into a business or expect people to donate money to me so that I could do it full time, but sometimes the idea tugs at me.  For now, I’ll stay here and see what happens.

If you happen to have a topic suggestion for a future post, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

Someone Else

I enjoy learning about what other people are excited by, and why it excites them.  A perfect example of this came in my Instagram feed this morning.

Today, New balance announced a limited run of shoes constructed with a 3-D Printed midsole.  Now, some of you may be thinking, “Ok, whatever.” because sneakers and running don’t interest you, but they are someone else’s passion.  Someone took the time to design, develop, and engineer shoes that are constructed using cutting edge technology.  These people have dedicated their life’s work to making better sneakers because there is a group of people that are always looking for the next best thing in athletic footwear.  When I read through the inspiration and creation process on their website, I could feel the child-like glee oozing out of my screen.

I grew up surrounding myself with people that were interested in the same things as me, and my world was fairly small because of it.  Thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to learn more about ideas, cultures, and people that are dramatically different from my own.  I still prefer to spend my time with people who have shared interests, but I’ve been slowly growing my understanding of differing subcultures (freerunning and parkour being one of the most personally impactful).

I know that I can’t know everything there is to know about every subculture, but I have found a joy of exploring what makes other people tick.  To me, the discovery and awareness of what drives other people is a powerful tool for me to be a better person.  I know that it will sometimes be difficult to avoid losing who I am in the midst of the exploration, but I still regularly find myself wanting to take the plunge into other worlds.

Ultimately, this blog will be an outlet for that exploration.  It will be a place to process through my discoveries and share what I have found.

Confidence and Liberation 

This is the fourth or fifth blog I’ve started.  Some have been public, some private.  They’ve all slowly died away because I never felt confident in my writing or the story I had to tell.  I have also have this quasi-narcissistic fear of having my thoughts read after I’ve died.

When Sharing ideas, I often find myself misunderstood.  It can be very frustrating because I very seldom come to conclusions on my own, but work through my ideas most effectively through conversation.  At the same time, I don’t like to cause controversy or foster division, and I’m ultimately a people pleaser.   More often than not, I find myself silent in conversations about topics I’m passionate about.

About a year ago I stumbled across parkour and freerunning via the Red Bull mini series “Free My Way”. I was blown away by what the athletes were able to do.  I’ve never been a sports fan.  The competition, arrogance, and downright bloodlust I’ve seen in major sports athletes and fans alongside of the arbitrary rivalry made me steer clear of sports for most of my life, but I’ve seen something different in parkour and freerunning.

I have watched dozens of videos, seen hundreds of social media posts, and even watched a few competitions.  All the while I have seen remarkable comraderie and humility from the community.  Sure, there are debates over the distinction between freerunning and parkour, but there seems to be a general air of respect across the spectrum.  Feerunning and parkour are ultimately individual sports that test the limits of body and mind.

One of the best examples that comes to mind is Alfred Scott’s finals run in the Red Bull Art of Motion 2015.  He tried to pull a trick he had never done in competition and missed it.  Rather than try and regroup and get more points he went back, pulled the trick, and ended his run.  It ended up winning him a best trick award, but it was the personal challenge that drove him (You can see the run here).  

I’ve had a lot of mental and emotional struggles over the last few years.  My Christian faith has kept me grounded, but it’s been an uphill battle.  Watching parkour has lit a fire in me to see what I’m capable of, and I’ve started the conditioning to practice it myself.  More than anything else in these first stages, I’ve realized the weight of the mental blocks I’ve buried myself in.  Deciding to have the confidence to do parkour has given me the confidence to be a better dad and husband.   The only word I can use to describe that is liberation.

Thank God for parkour.