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The Planet’s Lungs Are Burning and Why We Don’t Care

I remember being in class during my NYU Master’s program and thinking to myself, almost everything I am learning about environmental policy is relative to where one lives.

That was 5 years ago, and today the Amazon burns and my opinion hasn’t changed. We all like to think that logical theories and practical solutions can be blanketed over the globe’s different populations. We want to believe that what works in the US will work in Europe and might even work in India or a Middle Eastern country. The policies protecting our planet can be global and those feel so good to hear about. Yet, when one looks at their own local government and finds that little is being done, the macro picture stops mattering as much; not because of its reduced effect but on the contrary due to the clear lack of accountability people feel towards the pieces of earth they inhabit.

This post is not about arguing for global warming or about what industrialized countries have contributed and where each country finds itself at fault.

This post is about the human factor in all of this. This is about doing something out of love and not out of fear of extinction and desertification.

Surely, I can understand that people’s lifestyles and relationships to nature differ immensely and sometimes even in unrecognizable ways from one neighborhood to another. Except compassion must find its way back into our lives even if in the smallest incidents.

Then again, sometimes it seems that compassion and kindness towards the earth are really big asks. We work endless years until we annihilate ourselves, and we simultaneously lose consciousness of anything that surrounds us. We self sabotage, and we put so much effort into becoming kinder to ourselves, and still we struggle. Perhaps we must first understand that one big challenge to the environmental problem is not that we don’t care about earth and nature, but it is that we don’t care about ourselves.

The Earth’s lungs are burning, but so are our lungs; so where does that leave us? If nature is a representation of our spirits, then the abandonment of our spirits is the problem.

So reconnection is essential. Rebuilding a relationship with one’s direct environment is important, because if you don’t care about watering the tree in front of your house, then you wont care about the bigger problem; and it is immensely bothersome to force you.

That is where local policies come in place, that is where parents come into action and people with any kind of authority become the little workers for a much bigger cause. It surely requires more than just second thoughts, but it requires some dwelling on the subject, some education and wide awareness about our parts in nature. Logic seems to help in creating solutions, but logic has rarely convinced anyone to do something differently.

We are emotional creatures driven by some loathing a lot of hope, so what can we do with that? How does this mix bring forth something good?

Hope is good, but the loathing needs to end. Eventually, those among us who manage to drop the loathing suddenly find immense power in spirit and a connection to the environment.

I end with the beginning; what kind of loathing exists locally around you, and whom or what is it directed towards? That is the distraction, that is where we begin to care.

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Brain Chatter and The Opinions We Form

Take a moment and look here, give this a couple more seconds of attention and read 2 more sentences. Now move on, but before you do let me point you to this:

Our minds are filled with chatter, a lot of it is our own, but it also is made up of everything we read, everything we hear and most of what we see and choose to tell ourselves about it.

How do you determine what your opinion about something is? Do you first check how you feel about said topic? Perhaps it makes you angry or maybe just sad? You start to develop a harsh opinion, one that serves those strong emotions. You look for reasons that serve the opinion you have already made in your head, and reasons that reaffirm your emotions and your energy is then doubled because maybe many others share your reasons. How objective are you really? How objective can we actually be?

Are you right simply because you feel strongly about it?

It is hard to differentiate between how we feel about something, and what it really is as a stand alone thing (minus our feelings). One is fed by our experiences and our sensory history and the other is completely mute to us and our existence around it. We tend to live our lives completely in that loop, and little do we step away from something no matter how close to examine and wonder about our relation to it.

And so we choose that we either love (fill in the blank) ______ or hate it. But mind you, we become rigid if we don’t allow ourselves some space from our opinion to check what it looks like on its own (ideally).

The purpose of this post is to ask you one thing:

Where does the chatter in your head come from?

Does it come from books written by certain types of people? OR by magazines directed towards specific kinds of audiences? Do you consume only one type of media vs the other or is your experience universal? Are you capable of shutting down the chatter in you mind by recalling some facts that put your opinions in line? OR are your thoughts saturated with a single color, experience and definition?

Imagine your brain is a news feed, when you want to tap into it what will you find? Who do you follow? Who and what feeds your thoughts and opinions? Is it filled with very precise and similar content or is it quite wide and open? Does it allow expansion, can you read more into things or is it just images and one liners with little depth?

Try to think about this slightly complex sentence:

Know that just because we think something should be a certain way because it makes us feel better, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so.

Learn how to listen and how to always keep one foot in someone else’s shoes despite how funny it sounds. Don’t walk that mile don’t even skip twice, but recognize that the road isn’t yours alone, there are other feet and other shoes walking beside you against you across you and under you. Who are you really in that sea of opinions and experiences? Are you the only one who is right? and does it really matter? Click back into your self and really listen to the chatter in your in head, is it a good place? Is it an angry one or a naive one? Take two steps back and think about how you would like your self to be and work on that chatter, work on the content that goes into your brain feed.

Keep it good, keep it clean and keep it real; more facts, less opinions and put a lid on your strong feelings maybe even talk to someone about them. Life is too short for rigid thoughts better yet, life is filled with wonder if you follow the right content.

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Sexless Millennials and Their Pursuit of Joy

Now that we’ve talked a lot about happiness, let’s talk about sex.

A lot of the stories about sex whether real or made up were/are told by men. What our mothers, sisters and girlfriends tell us tends to sound different; perhaps even completely unrelated to the stories we hear from the guys. You grow to discover that something as universal as consensual sex is also absolutely subjective.

Is sex magical or is it a mechanical act that simply allows us to enjoy procreation? Is sex influenced by porn and people’s imaginations or is it the other way around? A person might look absolutely dreamy, super seductive and quite open for a sexual interaction; come showtime and the experience is subpar. A person might seem quite closed-off sexually, socially and emotionally but the flood gates open once the opportunity presents itself with the right person. POINT being; we are judgmental and needy, we have a streak of hunger for the fantastic but at different points end up being mediocre ourselves; or are confronted with an ordinary experience that leaves us questioning.

I casually asked some friends what they would prefer to read about and I got an overwhelming response that they want to read about happiness and sex. Poor me, I had to muster the brain power, energy and material to write about happiness for a while only to find that life could be as simple as we choose it to be or irreverently complex if we allow it to. Then came sex, something generally alluded to in almost every aspect of our waking life but that people actively avoid talking about.

My angle? Well, perhaps it’s about trying to keep it real for you and I, and all the concerned parties. Talking about sex requires digging into its conjoined twin Intimacy. Not having the greatest relationship with your partner? check your intimate experience first. But then again, you have a lot of things you also need to check.

Apparently millennials (contrary to what social media is showing you) are having significantly less sex than older generations. Just Google sexless millennials and skim through the 95K results. It doesn’t make a big difference if single or in relationships as well. Reasons vary, like overstimulation by our modern lives where we don’t even need to leave our houses to receive entertainment, think Netflix, computer games, social media and surely porn at everyone’s finger tips. So surely the less we interact with people the less we are conscious of the value of high quality interactions whether professional, emotional or sexual. Others argue that decreasing sex comes from higher standards, and more sex positive conversations especially for women and LGBTQ communities, where people are more aware of consent and mutually pleasant experiences; essentially we are no longer settling for less than optimal experiences.

Where does that leave us on the happiness scale?

It matters how you choose to perceive your life and the interactions you make with people. We can choose to succumb to the numbers and tell our selves that everyone is lonely, anxious and sexless anyway so why bother. OR, we could understand that we are the drivers of our lives, we can either choose to fix problems or shove them under that IKEA table. We can choose to be honest with ourselves and with our partners about our needs, both the ordinary ones and the fantastic ones.

Life is OKAY if you let it be so, and work with what you have; or it could be a disaster if you feel completely helpless. Sex is not a stand alone feature in our lives, just like happiness, it’s all about attitude, energy and the will to improve our lives. So are we really a generation who wants to make an effort for one another? Or are we happy with keeping our distance and accepting everyone as long as they don’t see us naked?

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Are You Happy or Are You Fooling Yourself?

Who doesn’t want to be happy? If you answered “ME” to this question, please refrain from reading on; this post will lead to unnecessary feelings that might indirectly take you to a happier state. Consider yourself warned; your darkness is much appreciated for contrast purposes, and still welcome here.

Let’s get straight to it shall we; consider the following two quotes first:

“All happiness is of a negative rather than positive nature, and for this reason cannot give lasting satisfaction and gratification, but rather only ever a release from a pain or lack, which must be followed either by a new pain or by languor, empty yearning and boredom.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is alone and unique in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Perhaps both quotes tickled you the wrong way, but both help us see something very interesting in the historical pursuit of happiness; mainly that suffering exists in life and it takes so many forms. What one person perceives as a punishment or an exercise in suffering, another person considers normal or acceptable.

So we all suffer, and we all perceive it differently; so how is it possible to perceive happiness as the same for all?

Frankl goes on to dissect positive happiness vs negative happiness, the latter being freedom from pain or of suffering. Positive happiness then becomes a very personal experience, almost a spiritual one.

TOO MUCH PHILOSOPHY TALK AND YOU WANT TO GET TO IT?

Happiness should not look the same for every one, the same way that suffering is unique to each person. So are you happy based on your standards of that? OR are you happy because people tell you that you should be, or have no reason not be? We often experience life so differently within the same moment, and time frame, yet we expect that there should be one story that binds us all together. We expect a streamlined idea of life, one that everyone buys into; and that’s not a recipe for happiness.

How is it possible for people to be in the midst of suffering, and still experience joy? It is then easy to see that those who have discovered internal happiness, no longer seek it by removing themselves from pain or boredom or suffering as a whole.

It sometimes takes us forever to understand what really matters to us despite the suffering, and sometimes all it takes is a split second for us to truly see how happy we are where no comparisons are needed.

So are you happy because you know what happiness means to you, what it entails and what it refuses?

Or are you fooling yourself out of the experience and joining into the suggested story of happiness that people, movies and songs tell?

Worth a thought.

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The Departure from MEN: Women Only Communities

Try to imagine a world so different from yours, what would you envision? If every aspect was the complete opposite what would it look like? When one single element is changed, would that world still look so different? Let’s talk about women only communities.

How do you feel about women only communities? Where would your mind travel? Let’s all agree that you are imagining strong women with spears and hunting skills that would put anyone to shame, or so that was what ancient Greek stories told. The Amazons based in Greek mythology were aggressive, highly skilled warriors who were especially adept in war. In short, and in foul language, “They Kicked Ass and were very scary”.

The Amazons

The Amazons mythology interestingly, seemed to have been inspired by real life ancient women. And to feed our curiosity, David Anthony in his book says, “About 20% of Scythian- Sarmatian ‘warrior graves’ contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a style that may have inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons.” So rest assured, this is only the beginning of this awesome post about women only communities who also, for no better way to put it “kick ass”.

Gender Based Violence

Women who suffered and continue to be victims of abuse, rape and gender based violence are all around us. Many are survivors, and many have yet long battles ahead of them; some women however decided that they have had enough. They imagined a world that was so different from their own and they created women only communities.

Women Only Communities: Jinwar & Umoja

JINWAR is an ecological village created by the women of Rojava, who had lived through and successfully resisted ISIS. You may remember the stories of Kurdish female fighters that took the internet by storm in 2015; those women lived on to develop the Jinwar narrative. On the website, a brief bio and concept is described, I quote a statement, “Jinwar aims to provide an alternative, peaceful place for the co-existence of women, free of any and all violence.”

Mural, from Jinwar.org Photo Gallery

UMOJA founded in 1990 was a response by the Kenyan Samburu women to the abuse they were living. Reports of thousands of women who suffered abuse at the hands of soldiers were cleared and dismissed leading to the destruction of those women’s lives due to the social construct they lived in. The village started with 15 women, who were victims of rape, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence. Their purpose was and still is simple, to live in peace, and sustenance with their children, primarily away from men, by means of selling jewelry to tourists and those who wish to visit the village.

Picture by Georgina Goodwin for the Observer

Women Only Communities Towards a Peaceful Future

Escape is not simple, especially when it is from everything that you have and know. These women’s journeys away from the normal world of men and women coexisting highlight disturbing truths. Although my attempt at sharing those stories is lighthearted, there is nothing funny about people escaping and creating new communities to feel safe in. Perhaps, this will become a norm and not only a form of dealing with gender based aggression.

Humans thrive in peace, and I do not differentiate between men or women or other identification forms here. But peace must be present at birth, during infancy, childhood, teenage years, into adulthood and old age. Momentary bursts of peace are not something to pride ourselves with. They are not keys to building healthy societies of acceptance and fortitude.

So, there is something we can learn from people’s struggle to create new space where hope can live and become abundant. Women being at the forefront of so many types of challenges, find ways to accommodate themselves and their children. They physically move away from the terrors of living a life of victimhood.

Perhaps children of peace will not need war; or so that seems to be the hope of the women of Jinwar and Umoja.

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A Dab into Social Psychology: The Obviousness of Why We Do What We Do (sometimes)

Are you familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment?

The experiment was conducted by Professor Phillip Zimbardo. It had a simple purpose to identify how subjects (college students) behave in a prison environment after being randomly assigned their roles. Some were assigned the role of guards and the others of prisoners; to be incarcerated publicly, and transferred to the make shift prison in the basement of the university. No rules or codes of conduct were set forth for either roles and the experiment showed hard results. Mainly, brutality and sadism ensued from the previously determined psychologically healthy guards, and depression and rage from the similarly tested innocent student prisoners.

Professor Zimbardo had to end the experiment after one week because of the adverse effects that environment was causing the participants. And the biggest finding was that environment heavily impacts the behavior of humans. The statement sounds like an obvious one, but it can go farther into why we choose to do what we do, say what we say and behave negatively or positively.

Many Americans thought of the Obama presidency as the clear line propagating the United States into a post racial world; where equality, equity and freedom would no longer be influenced by color, race, gender or religion. Except, people’s behavior was somewhat a function of that specific environment. Racist remarks where not accepted because the face of authority said and showed otherwise. However, fast forward to today, and a lot of the skeletons in people’s closets have stepped out into the sun and all kinds of discriminatory slurs have become to some extent no matter how muffled, tolerated but not without contest. Why? Because the current environment allows it, it actually is built on it. Triumphant political discourse dismisses opponents based on how they look, how they speak and other attributes that have no relation to political merit. The fact that the face of authority is President Donald Trump who is publicly against political correctness and an improved social contract, the stage is set for an environment of negative social interactions.

So, this is not about blaming our environment for our behaviors whether positive or negative, but it is about acknowledging its power to influence us. Values tend to be taught, and acquired over long periods of time, and we favor those who have values that coincide with ours, because we have an inclination to believe that we are doing what is right to some extent. Except, our environment determines how right we are, not due to the innate quality of our intensions but because of what our values mean to others who share our environment.

It is then not strange to find social bubbles that are birthed by individuals aware of the influences of the environment and who distrust how it can change them with time. So our environment is not an absolute situation, we can operate within it, but we must be careful. Sometimes minute changes occur over time in our behaviors just because we were trying to fit in, get comfortable, or be less controversial, slowly then surely, our environment impacts our behavior. We then become what our environment allows us to be; someone we didn’t think we could be.

Do you want your behavior to be absolutely determined by the environment you live in?

It is a question many people get to ask themselves as they practice some soul searching. Those who have the power to step out of the comfort of being similar, tend to grow perspectives and start recommending change that might not be acceptable but often necessary. The key is to start with one’s self and understand that most environments will change, sometimes slightly and other times completely. So we must remain mindful of why we do what we do, how our reasons for certain choices play out and what we expect in return.