From the Bottom Up

Robert Reich asked the following on Facebook.

I’ve been trying to attract conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, to help get big money out of politics [...]. But I haven’t had much luck yet. [...] How can we get the right to join in on this, and make it a non-partisan citizen’s movement?

I replied with this comment.

We need a culture that encourages patience, trust, and humaneness. It would be faster to start a movement like this with leadership from the top down, but it would be more practical to start with everyday actions from the bottom up. Things like smiling at people, picking up litter as you pass it, and remembering that everyone is only making the best of their circumstances. If we can stop “othering” people and turning issues into arguments of us vs. them, then maybe we can give politicians a reason to lay down their arms.

I have assumed the development of this approach as my purpose in life, after family. I will have more to say about it in the future.

My Life in Six Songs

I have been thinking about how the human brain attaches states of consciousness to sensations, especially to music. It’s amazing to me how hearing a familiar song can be like revisiting a past station in life. I have hundreds of such memories locked away with musical keys, as I’m sure you do.

Coincidentally, Linton Weeks at NPR’s blog The Protojournalist has published a few, self-reported soundtracks of people’s lives. Submissions came from the blog’s readers, who each listed six musical works that represent their stories thus far. Below is the playlist I sent in.

1) Theme of the Challenge of the Super Friends animated series

There were dozens of cartoons to take in during the 1980s, but Super Friends was my go-to series. When I hear this version of the theme song, I remember being 5 years old, sitting on a hard tile floor in a living room, and eating cereal in front of a wood-cabinet TV on a Saturday morning.

2) “Opening ~ Bombing Mission” and “Mako Reactor” — Nobuo Uematsu

My brother, sister, and I received a Sony PlayStation on Christmas Day of 1997. We owned several video game consoles, but the PS1 brought us together in new ways. After presents, we huddled around a TV in a bedroom to marvel at Final Fantasy VII. (“It’s like a VCR with controllers!” I exclaimed.) The three of us share a strong, unique bond, and I consider the opening sequence of the game as a moment where some of that took shape.

3) “Rubicon” — VNV Nation

In May of 2001, I flew for the first time to Massachusetts and stayed with my friend, Kyle, for a week. He took me to visit Manhattan while I was there, and I bought a copy of Empires, one of VNV’s major LPs, at a Tower Records store. It remains one of my most-played albums. I remember that trip vividly when I hear any song from that album, especially “Rubicon”.

4) “While We Were Hunting Rabbits” — Matthew Good

In 2007, I was pulling late shifts at an assembly plant in rural north Alabama and saving for university. After work, I would play Matt Good’s first solo album, Avalanche, in my car, drive home, and ponder the future. “Rabbits” in particular reminds me of the solitude that swallows north Alabama at night. I’ll never forget how comforting those lonely back-roads were with Matt Good on at 2:00 in the morning.

5) “Stepping Stones” — Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam

Someone had warned Sara and I that our wedding day would be a blur, and they were right. I remember we arranged for “Stepping Stones” to play us off the altar. I also remember feeling relieved (but not nervous) as we walked away that the ceremony was over. Thanks to Tim and Sam, I can relive much of that event for years to come.

6) “There Might Be Coffee” — Deadmau5

I discovered “There Might Be Coffee” while writing my Master’s thesis. Sara and I were renting our first house at the time, and the coziness there minimized the servitude I was putting myself through. I imagined the instrumentals as my thoughts, and that helped me to make sense of them.

Things For Which I’m Grateful

My 34th birthday has come and gone. It was a good day, and one that I needed. The last few months have been tough on me for many reasons.

I’d like to spend a few minutes listing things I am grateful for as I begin another year. Research shows that people who regularly express gratitude score higher on measures of happiness and well-being. Plus, I could use the cognitive kick in the ass.

  • I’m healthy, I only get sick once every 12–18 months or so, and I have no physical ailments to complain about.
  • I’m married to my best friend, Sara. I can trust her with anything, and we never get angry with one another. She’s the best part about being me.
  • We have two well-behaved cats, one of which is the sweetest, most entertaining cat I’ve met.
  • We have a supportive family structure, both on my side and on Sara’s.
  • I achieved my goal of obtaining a Master’s degree. (Although I struggle with this one, I know I should appreciate it.)
  • I care about other people, and I want to give back to the world somehow before my time is up. Not everyone can say that.
  • I’m relatively well educated and usually well spoken.
  • I’m generally humble, patient, and cooperative instead of competitive. I’m proud of that.
  • I have yet to make any friends in my current location, northwest Pennsylvania, but I have somehow kept a few close friends around the country that I can count on.
  • Despite all of the problems I could identify with my current circumstances, or with living in the United States, I am glad to inhabit one of the safest and most technologically advanced periods of human history.

I’ve been hyper-focusing on my troubles lately, so writing this list was helpful. I hope you’ll take a moment to consider what you’re grateful for, too.

First Post

I’ve been writing online since 1996 and blogging since 2000. I like to imagine this blog will be my last attempt at it because I’m over the idea of vanity projects. Still, I have urges to write in long form and share other articles that Twitter can’t accommodate. I’m committed to maintaining this blog as a hobby and have no interest in producing clickbait. I’ve tried writing for followers, and I just don’t have the energy or the ego for it. I’m back to writing for me.

So here it is, one more blog. Let’s see how long it will last.