Monday, December 10, 2012

The Elusive Truth

The Elusive Truth

Many people over the eons claim to know the elusive truth. They swear by it, lay down their lives for that ideal. That only leads to the next logical question. What is truth? The question is not a new one. This question has been held in the minds of scholars and laymen a like since man step foot on the earth.

 This question has yet to be answered. Or has it, and we just choose not to see.

We already know truth is colored by our own perception of the facts at hand, but it is also colored by the facts we choose to believe. There are many facts, all supported, all true, and in the right combinations create very different truths. Let us take politics, I apologize for this but it is the most current example I have at hand. The principal idea remains for all topics of contention.

Obama supporters claim victory over serious opposition, and that things are improving. There are, in fact, statistics and facts that show this to be true. Detractors can show facts that are ALSO true, that support their claims, that things are going terribly wrong. Of course it gets tricky because amongst the "truths" you have the twisted versions that are actually not true. Ah the complexities of life.

For every statistic to back your belief, there is another to contradict the validity of proof. A perfect example of this is a quote from one of my favorite comedies, My Cousin Vinny.

Vinny Gambini: The D.A.'s got to build a case. Building a case is like building a house. Each piece of evidence is just another building block. He wants to make a brick bunker of a building. He wants to use serious, solid-looking bricks, like, like these, right?
 [puts his hand on the wall]
 Bill: Right.
 Vinny Gambini: Let me show you something.
 [he holds up a playing card, with the face toward Billy]
 Vinny Gambini: He's going to show you the bricks. He'll show you they got straight sides. He'll show you how they got the right shape. He'll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there's one thing he's not gonna show you.
 [Turns the card, so that its edge is toward Billy]
 Vinny Gambini: When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they're as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion, 'cause you're innocent. (I also must note the character of Bill was innocent, but the text rings true.

We select our facts that back our position. They may be true, but not always all the truth. Maybe we should start to realize that truth as we know it is more akin to the relativity of what is defined as "good art." Everyone has their own perception of what is defined as good. They are all right.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Post Thanksgiving Thanks Giving

Below is a blog post written for my office newsletter. I felt that its message transcended into my personal world as well. Our office had a Thanksgiving food drive to collect food stuffs to donate to the Embry Rucker Homeless Shelter in Reston, VA. This blog post was born of that experience.


Last week I dropped off the food and household items that generous Circle employees donated to the Embry Rucker Shelter for the homeless. Initially I tried to drop the donation off midday, but it turned out I needed to make a return trip after-hours. The midday trip was relatively serene and quiet. Not many people were around, and the front-desk staff even looked bored. 

When I returned later that evening, the story had completely changed. Now the parking lot was very full. As I pulled into one of the few available slots, I noticed the vehicle next to me had a towel being held up in the window like a curtain. Someone who could not find room in the shelter was spending a few hours sleeping in the car. I found myself wondering, “Who is this person?” And in a fraction of a second I knew it could be ANYONE. This could be a coworker I see every day. 

The front door had other clients loitering and chatting; they even seemed in a jovial mood. One gentleman asked me if it was food I was carrying in the cardboard box, and he was so excited by my affirmative answer that he quickly opened the door for me.

Were these people waiting outside just to “kill time,” or were they out of luck in getting one of the highly coveted beds in this shelter? Were they waiting and hoping that by some miracle, a space would just happen to open up?

After handing over the food to the receptionist I turned to leave, and a very friendly man asked if I had more boxes to bring, as if he were eager to offer his assistance. At that moment, I felt bad that I didn’t.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I believe we all feel thankful for what we do have, but never does the fact of how truly blessed we are really sink in until we are faced with the reality of those who have less. I am thankful that it was I who delivered that food that evening and that I got to see real life as it is for those at Embry Rucker. It took seeing the shelter in the dark to truly see it in the proper light.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Child's World Changed

I am going to kick off this editorial with that over used and cliched phrase, “When I was a child.” In this case it is fitting. When I WAS a child there was this wonderful and magical structure known as a playground.  A castle made of wood and metal. A megalopolis of imagination and play. Nooks and crannies abound, enough to Make Thomas raise his eyebrows in admiration.

Behind every pillar the chance for intrigue and endless games one can play. Some time between now and then, something terrible occurred. All the monuments of childhood were defiled and torn down. They no longer exist.
This happened because of the chemicals used in the pressure treated wood. Unsafe for children. Instead of replacing the God worthy structures with equally magical ones made with the right kind of wood, yes it exists, they tore them down for much smaller and inferior replacements. 

This really hit home when I visited my old haunt and elementary school, Terraset. The playgrounds in Reston were legendary fortresses of whatever you could imagine them to be. The one in Terraset was also special since the parents of the students helped in the building.

Recently I was there, and in its place was a small, boring, not worth describing really, metal plastic contraption. The playground was not suited in size to a school. If they want children to play on it, they should not make it standing room only. I literally wanted to cry. There was nothing in this geomentrically shaped piece of crap that screamed out to me “PLAY WITH ME!” All I heard was a whimper.

I know parents want to keep their beloved children safe, but in the process they have removed the thrill of what it is like to be a child. The smallest things can send your imagination into overdrive. A playground was not just a playground, but a pirate ship in the middle of rough seas. It could be a castle and you a doomed prisoner.  Climbining across the monkey bars from one side of the play structure to the other, was crossing a chasm in the snowy mountains.

By making play safe, they took the wonder out of play. When I drive by playgrounds these days, I do not see hoards of children playing, they are empty. Some of this is due to the influx of video games in the culture, but I do not think that is the only cause. In my neighborhood the children play outside all the time, just not on the pathetic playground we have right here, they play in the parking lot. To me that expresses a great deal.

The whole world is a playground to a child, this is good since the playgrounds are no longer their world.

Which would you rather play on?

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Declaration of Freedom

Back in 2009 I came to a realization about my life and where I wanted it to go, or more appropriately, where I did NOT want it to go. Since Blogger removed my old blog, I felt inspired to repost the entry here. Though some details are out of date, the sentiment still rings true. It was in that moment I realized the unbelievable... I did not want what I thought I wanted.

For the encore presentation...

Recently I paused for a moment in my “busy” life, and I asked myself, “What am I doing?” I looked around my crowded abode, and I could not understand how things had gotten so out of control.

In our society, we are programmed to want. We want money, a prestigious job, the newest gadgets (Yes I know I was the worst on that front), the greatest car, you name it. What all that boils down to, is that what we really want is for everyone else to think we are important. By having all these things, by rushing around like a mad person in our swanky cars, we appear to be, somehow, more vital. However, this is not usually the truth. This is just a mind game we play with ourselves, and truth be told, everyone might see you as more important if you have all those things, but it will not change how you really see yourself.

That is what I came to realize. All this time I had been striving to climb that corporate ladder, and when I searched for my real motivation, I discovered that I did not really know or understand it at all. I was trying to show the world that I was OK, that I was just as valid as everyone else. That realization floored me. How could I think so little of myself?

For it is not my job, car, or clothes that define who I am, and they definitely do not define who I want to be. I honestly asked myself, when I look back at my life, what do I want to see. I realized that none of those ideals and goals I had for what I considered success, even made the cut. I was not living MY life; I was living the life I thought I was supposed to be living. That ends now.

The fact is; I am tired of playing this game. I do not care if you make more money than I do, and have a Lexus and a 3000 sq foot home in Great Falls. Acquiring things will no longer be my motor. Instead, I plan to achieve the ideals to which I have always wanted to aspire. I want to slice away the unnecessary excess and release myself from the bonds of avarice. I no longer need things to define who I am.

In the past, I based my worth on outside validation at work, etc. I believe this revelation about my life came from a recent hiccup in my upward climb in the corporate world. I hit a wall, maybe two, and it shredded me. It was then I realized why all this crap kept happening to me, and how I could get it to stop. The things that kept falling in my path were a message that I was doing it all wrong and for all the wrong reasons. I had to stop looking to the outside world to validate my life and me.

You might ask yourself, “How does she plan to accomplish this task?” Well, nosey, I will tell you. I have decided to take up a practice called Voluntary Simplicity. This “movement” is not easily definable. It means different things to different people. There are varying degrees of voluntary simplicity. One definition that I think encompasses it best for me is, a lifestyle characterized by minimizing the 'more-is-better' pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in 'quality time' for family and friends, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality. I would also add environmental impact to that list.

Very soon, I will be ridding myself of the burden of excessive possessions at the Reston Association annual garage sale. I think I will find this endeavor liberating and satisfying on many levels. I no longer wish to receive physical gifts, for any occasion. I think a gift card to Target for every day needs, or a donation in my name, would be more appropriate. I am not saying you have to buy me gifts, this is just on the off chance, you feel like doing so.

There is only one item I am pining for right now, and that is a professional grade camera. I have taken up hobbies again, such as photography, this will be the first time I have done so in many years. It is exciting to want to enrich my life with activities not work related. For so long my self esteem had been wrapped up in work, well no more.

I have always wanted to do my part to improve the world, so I am returning to a love I had not seen in a while, volunteering. I occasionally volunteer at an animal sanctuary in Maryland, and I will be helping the feline rescue group where I adopted my sweet little furry babies (Feline Network in Springfield). It feels good to have a positive influence on this world we currently inhabit. It feels like coming home…. Maybe you wish to join me on this quest, and maybe not, I will keep a warm seat by the fire for you when you are ready.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Siren's Song

It begins with a garden. A beautiful iris garden. One I gazed with wonder as a child from the comfort of a moving car.

Brilliant explosions of blue and yellow, purple and pink, and colors I am not sure they have found names to describe its beauty.

Every time we'd drive West Ox. Whether we went to fair oaks or some other destination beyond, that garden, seen from the road, was always the highlight of my trip.

Many years pass. I move away and return. And that garden, though stored lovingly on the dusty shelves of my mind, remains a permanent memory.

Only now do I finally learn the history of this place that teased my imagination, and it turns out I was not alone.

This heaven on earth did belong to someone, a woman. Though hers, she did not greedily keep it only for herself. All were welcome to come and linger in the beauty and color. Artists came to paint it, and photograph it, in desperate attempts to capture one moment in time.

For 46 years that garden grew. Each year luring poets of brush and pen, like a siren's call. Till that song fell quiet this year. With the passing of Margaret Thomas, a shadow was cast on that garden that now lays bare of the color and is overgrown with weeds.

With its guardian gone, the future of this influential spot is in danger of being assimilated into the generica of our everyday world, where before it was 5 acre heaven, its sole purpose to transport you out of the harsh realities of the now and abrasive walls we call "real" life.

How many lives had she changed by simply allowing this haven to exist. Now I, like so many others, might never step on the fertile soil where Margaret's garden grew.

She wanted the land preserved as park land, so more lives would change, and her labor of love would continue firing the imaginations of those who graced its path. If only those who govern would hear. She calls them still, do not let this niche of Beauty that I carved out for the world be swallowed never to be seen again. Do not let the siren's song cease.