Recently I found out about Parkour. I think this sums up the “modern” form best:

Parkour is a non-competitive sport, which can be practiced alone or with others. It can be practiced in any location, but is usually practiced in urban spaces.[7][8] Parkour involves seeing one’s environment in a new way, and imagining the potentialities for movement around it.[9][10]

The video above is long (10’00”) but worth a full viewing. Once I got over the physical prowess and poetic, almost dance-like nature of it, I began to feel a sense of being uplifted. At first I thought it was just inspiring to see what people can do (courageously) with their bodies—which it is—but then I realized there was something powerful about seeing people navigate urban spaces in such an elegant and strong way. It’s a visual representation of the beauty of nature overcoming something so unnatural, and in many cases, ugly.

Some of the footage is shot at competitions and in natural settings, but much of it captures the “seeing one’s environment in a new way” and beautifully illustrates a freedom that I think people will always have over the cages they create.

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Letting Go of Cracked Notes

Photo by Sean Nolan

Photo by Sean Nolan

Though I’ve been on a hiatus from performing for a few years now, I’ve probably played hundreds of concerts/gigs in my life as a trumpet player—and I’ve probably played millions of notes—yet I still remember all the major times I cracked a note. Of course what this expands to is how I dwell on mistakes in general. I have a tendency to hang on to not just these cracked notes, but mistakes as a husband, parent, or friend; mistakes at work; and even past seasons of baseball where my batting average or ERA was less than desirable.

In my head I can reason out all kinds of things:

  • I’m only human and humans make mistakes.
  • Nobody’s perfect.
  • Mistakes happen for a reason, learn from them.
  • If you hold onto mistakes, you can’t move forward.
  • The good I’ve done outweighs the bad. Focus on the positive.

I do really believe all these things, but still, old behaviors and ways of thinking creep back in.

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The Delicate Strength of the Social Contract

social_contractHave you ever wondered why someone doesn’t just steal all those Christmas lights? Or what’s really stopping people from slashing our tires or breaking into our houses? Or worse? Yes, we lock our doors and some people have alarms—and we live in a type of police state, so certainly the fear of getting caught curbs a lot of negative behavior—but I find myself imagining all sorts of mayhem that I don’t think anyone would get caught for. Luckily for my fellow humans, and especially my neighbors, I’m a standup guy and tend to be more on the side of “neighborhood watch” than “neighborhood terrorist.”

Still, I wonder…

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Childhood’s End, A Review

I have never written a book review and it almost seems pretentious of me to even try. What could I say about any book that hasn’t already been said 100 times by others—more eloquently than I could ever say, for sure? But this review isn’t necessarily for anyone but me I guess. It’s a chance for me to process what I’ve read and by sharing it, maybe it helps someone else too, who knows? So let’s get to it.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke is a sci-fi novel—one of the first I’ve read, really—and while yes, it is about space, time travel, physics, aliens, and the like, it’s far beyond just a cosmic tale. I won’t get into the details of the plot or spoil the ending, because that certainly has been done. Instead I think I should point out what I found intriguing about this book.

Like I said, I don’t usually read sci-fi novels. This novel was recommended to me by a good friend, possibly over 10 years ago, and it’s sat on my mental bookshelf until this summer. His review was glowing and I certainly respect his taste, yet I think it was the fact that it was a sci-fi book that lowered its rank a little. I’m glad I overcame that. Yes, the book is very well written and Clarke weaves the story’s plots and timelines together masterfully, often jumping 50 or 100 years at a time, and I never felt confused or abruptly transported in the storyline. It’s really a commentary on human nature and our creativity and potential.

No Utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond tehir wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.

Aliens come to earth and help solve our greatest problems which leaves humans comfortable and at peace, yet there are many that are left questioning the inevitable “why?” and “what’s next?” For all the cultural and technological advances that take place for humans, in the end, there is no stopping our potential to evolve and become greater than ourselves, but only through our most creative and non-scientific endeavors (think unexplained phenomena), and only in a united form. Clarke has this transformation take place (fittingly) with the children in the novel and the adults are beyond the next step in evolution. In fact, anyone older than 10 is literally left behind and the aliens that are first seen as “overlords” eventually liken themselves to “midwives attending a difficult birth”.

I really don’t want to give much more away in case anyone is actually reading this, but I really enjoyed discovering the still-current perspective of Clarke’s 1953  tale on how technology and cultural changes affect—or don’t affect—us as humans. And how he saw that, in the most ideal of circumstances, humans thrive best through following creativity, curiosity, and that a certain level of adversity and discomfort is really necessary for us to achieve our greatest potential—a potential that is essentially limitless.

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I am brave (behind my computer screen)

I love to observe and “study” human interaction. What’s really interesting is to watch how insecurities affect body language, tone of voice, and behavior, especially in social settings. And since the rise of social networks, I’ve always been curious how others handle potentially awkward situations in these online social spaces. The big difference I see is that online, all of sudden people are brave. People you only sort of know or knew, who would’t even look you in the eye or say “hi” on the street, all of sudden want to be your “friend”, want to know what you’re up to, and actually comment on your life.

I recently got a friend request from someone I knew in junior high and high school, and if memory serves, she annoyed the hell out of me. This led me to not always be very nice to her. I’ll be the first to admit I have the potential to be a total asshole, and when I was a cocky, figuring-the-world-and-relationships-out-teenager, I didn’t have a whole lot of tact or patience at times. Now with this particular girl, I don’t think I ever made her cry, but I know we weren’t friends. We were in band together and we didn’t exactly ignore each other…but maybe it was a mutual annoyance that sometimes flourished into “words”. Anyway, here she is now, 13 years later, sending me a friend request on Facebook. Unlike many people, I usually only have friends on Facebook that are actually my friends, or are people I care about, because I don’t have time for fake relationships anymore. In fact, long before Facebook or even Friendster (remember that one?) came out, I had started weeding people out of my life that were just too much work to keep relationships with.

So I put a post up to my Facebook friends and asked what they’d do. There were basically two approaches that were recommended: ignore the friend request or add her as a friend to a list that doesn’t show any updates (so she would be my “friend”, but she wouldn’t see anything). I followed up asking if sending a note would be an option, asking why she’d want to be “friends” after all these years (and after our not-so-great relationship). No one really liked that idea.

As many of you know, I’m sort of on a quest for an authentic online representation of myself (see Social Censorship). I mean, if we’re expanding our social circles beyond face-to-face, why should our online self be so different from what people get face-to-face? Why mask or mute aspects of ourselves, just because we can? Why not just use social spaces online to amplify our our true selves? Of course, our persona would translate accordingly. We all act a certain way with coworkers (which could be one list in Facebook where you wouldn’t post that Onion article about how many pounds of pubic hair are being shaved this Valentines Day), and we all act a certain way with our close friends (another list in Facebook where that Onion article would be happy to live).

That being said, I don’t feel comfortable just ignoring friend requests. I’m not the type of person that will pretend I didn’t hear you if you say “hi” to me in person. Sure, I’ll avoid you if I see you across the street and I don’t like you, but only if I know you haven’t seen me first. If I know I’ve been spotted, I won’t run away. I’ll probably even be nice now that I’m not an ignorant, cocky, insensitive teenager. Also, for the people I’ve gotten friend requests from that actually were friends that just sort of faded away, but I’m interested in what they’ve been up to, I accept the request but always follow up with a note saying, “Hey, wow, been a while. Good to hear from you. What’s up?!” as a way of saying, “Glad you found me and I care about this relationship we just (re)started, even if it is online”.

I think we sort of owe it to each other as humans to be respectful of one another, even from behind our computer screens. We shouldn’t do or say things online that we wouldn’t do or say face-to-face. Sure, maybe it’s easier to work up the courage to reconnect with people electronically, which I think is fine, but then don’t be afraid to follow it up with a conversation. Don’t just friend someone and let it fall by the wayside with your other 543 “friends”. What’s the point of that? How do we benefit from having hundreds of connections that we either block or hide from? On the other hand, don’t “friend” people you don’t really want to have a relationship with. Save that person the agony from over-thinking it (as I have here).

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