Third Parent

My family would shop at Costco at least once every week when I was growing up and I will never forget the looks on people’s faces when they saw us parading through the aisles. They were less impressed with our shopping cart that was threatening to topple with groceries, and more interested in the fact that all eight of the kids were, indeed, my parents’ children.

 “These are all yours?” one lady asked. I remember her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her workout clothes seemed either brand new or unused but she, like all of our interrogators, always had the look of amazement mixed with shock. And as her son sat calmly in the cart, munching on one of Costco’s new teriyaki chicken samplers, my brothers and sisters wandered in and out of people, attempting to get more delicious Costco samples.

“Yes, all mine,” my mom laughed. My dad stood there, grinning as he put his arm around her. My mom continued to introduce us, trying to point those standing in the line. “That’s Gabriel, our youngest, with Yzabel and Angel, our next two girls.” The trio was holding hands in line, eager for a snack. “Then comes Nathaniel, then Briel, then Kristel.” Kristel glanced over at us from her spot in line, keeping us in view. “And this is Ariel and then Daniel, our oldest.” I stood there, feeling a little uncomfortable. “And it’s not as hard as it looks,” she added quickly, as if to avoid more questions. She looked at me. “It gets easier when they grow up. The older ones help out a lot.” Then, as if it were my cue, I went to gather the kids together so that we could move on to the next Costco sampler without anyone getting lost.

            “The older ones help out a lot.”

At the time, I barely acknowledged this phrase. Helping my parents out was something I did because I wanted to and because they needed it as well. But now, looking back from where I stand now, there’s more to this than I first thought. It first dawned on me when I began to examine how and why I missed my brothers and sisters each:

I miss Ariel. She is the second oldest of eight in our family and is going to be better than me in life, despite popular belief about me being the firstborn. Somewhere in my junior year in high school I realized that she was going to achieve much more than I would ever in life, a fact that I readily accept. She was homeschooled until high school where she got above a 4.0 GPA and never got in trouble at school or at home. She was in the choir department all her years in high school and won the “Best All Around Singer—Oh, And Everybody Loves You” award. She sang barbershop as a soprano doing all those different harmonies and so whenever I would get the chance I would show her my harmonizing skills by singing off key or monotone. She would just roll her eyes but not say anything. My commandeering personality was wholly untreated growing up and so we got along well because she agreed to whatever TV show I wanted to watch or to whatever game I wanted to play. But what I thought was my knack at having good, fun ideas was simply her passive compliance to my demands. Today, she’s at Biola scoring in the 98th percentile in her nursing class, taking care of an elderly couple that lives in a cemetery and also being enrolled in the Torrey Honors Program. We call each other when we can but with each of our busy schedules we understand that we don’t keep in touch as well as we should.

I miss Kristel, the third born. As a baby, she always knew what she wanted and always did what she wanted. I used to call her BooBoo until one day she told us to stop our habit cold turkey. And once, when we went to the Phillippines, we were assigned nannies that would take care of us, as is customary in the country. Kristel refused her nanny blatantly, at five years old, knowing that she could take care of herself in this foreign country. Or other times, she would eat candy secretly under the table before dinner even though we weren’t allowed to eat sweets until after dinner. I always knew where to look when I couldn’t find her anywhere else. Seeing her grow up has been one of the proudest privileges I have had and I’m excited to see her graduate in May from high school.

I miss Briel. I have a special place in my heart for Briel. I always tell people she is the female version of me, almost exactly. I have seen her grow up with many of the same struggles and problems and strengths and weaknesses I have. She definitely gets in trouble as much as I did, although she has yet to be grounded for four months. But then again, she’s not in high school yet. When I call home these days, I ask specifically about Briel and the answer is usually in the same tone of voice I remember hearing when I would eavesdrop conversations my parents had about me: tired and exasperated but patiently loving for the day that attitude and trouble would cease. Disciplining Briel was and is always more difficult than with the other kids because her grasp of logic and reason outstretches her maturity. She’s going to be a great leader and she already has a nice little following of groupies wherever she goes too and her own pick of friends but a good enough head on her shoulders to want at least one real friend.

I miss Nathaniel, my first brother. I prayed for a brother since before Ariel came into the world and finally he came. My mom decided that day in the hospital that his nickname would be NutNut, which I didn’t like, but it has stuck ever since. He is a kind, loving soul, something that I will always admire, and his tears flow on familiar streams. He is the upgraded version of myself in all aspects. Physically, he will be a better soccer player than I could have ever dreamed of being. Academically, he can read in Latin and has read and understood Plato and Aristotle at the age of 10. Socially, all the boys want to be his friend and all the girls want him to notice them already. He is still indifferent to the opposite sex and so has time yet to enjoy his youthful innocence, much to my relief. I will never forget waking up in the night, as he would be crying in his crib and I would climb, half asleep, down from my loft bed to rock him back to dreamland; Or waking up as soon as the sun rose to his little voice calling my name as he rattled the plastic bars on the cage that kept him; or sometimes too, I snuck him candy and told him not to tell or gave him something he was not supposed to have yet. And even when my mom did find out, she just shook her head in disapproval and I would shrug my shoulders.

I miss Angel and Yzabel. The two are sort of a package deal even though Angel is almost two years older than Yzzy. Her demeanor is the most “normal” for girls her age out of the sisters, meaning she loves dolls and playing house and dancing ballet. Angel and Yzabel are always playing “Pet Shop” with each other or teaming up against me in the fight between good (them) and evil (me). Even though she is the older sister, Angel sees Yzabel as her best friend and vice versa. The two of them also share a room but separate from the other three girls, which is a good thing. The fights they get in threaten to cause deafness. This is usually because Angel tends to be more pragmatic while Yzzy is the creative idealist. They butt heads in the same and many ways that the infamous literary eternal struggle does. Fortunately, their battles are short lived and playtime is resumed shortly. Maybe they fight just because they are only seven and five years old but I don’t see Yzabel changing her idealistic view of life when she grows up. She is the smartest kid at her age than any of us were. She started reading when she was around three because she got tired of seeing letters but not knowing what they meant. She self taught herself ninety percent of the way, learning all of her letters and sounds. Recently, Yzzy, who was reading one of her many new library books, was told to get ready for bed. “I never have enough time to do anything!” came the curt reply as she threw her book. Now, she’s allowed to keep the light on and read a book before she goes to sleep, much to Angel’s dismay because Angel loves her sleep, giving them one more reason to fight.

I miss Gabriel—or Geb, for short—the youngest, our baby boy. He’s about three feet tall but packs a whole lot more fight than a person his size should.   He’s the roughhousing type and we were wrestling the day he started crawling. This presents a bit of a problem, however, because my sisters tend to refrain from that sort of activity. So, the first mantra I taught him was “Sisters are for hugging and kissing, not punching and fighting.” Once, I was Darth Maul and he was Master Yoda and he tried to execute a spinning slash move on me, leaping from the couch. Naturally, I dodged out of the way unharmed while he tumbled and fell in a heap. I paused, expecting cries and instead, I heard laughter. Then I saw green and felt plastic hit the side of my head. “Got you!” he yelled. Then from the heat of battle, he proceeded to attack the nearest target which happened to by Yzabel and Angel. I picked him up and raised him over my head until he apologized and his sisters were both satisfied. I guess I still have to beat that lesson into him every now and then, metaphorically and literally. He can take it, though.

 “The older ones help out a lot.”

These are all the kids in my family, besides me. I never realized how much that statement meant and all the responsibility that came with it, until I came to college and began to miss my family the way I do. There is a sadness that will grasp me every now and then when I dwell on the fact that I missed out on soccer games or church performances. When I’m in conversation with my friends talking about their brothers and sisters, there are few that seem to share my sentiments, and usually these friends are the oldest in their families as well. I participated in an exercise called family sculptures that helped shed some light on what I was feeling. In the exercise, I was required to place other classmates like statues in a formation to communicate how I viewed my family. The result was the “statue” of my dad in the forefront with my mom “statue” at his side and the kids “statues” behind them in a “V” formation. Meanwhile, I stood in the back with my arms outstretched, trying to hold the rest of my family within my arms reach. The observations from the rest of the class threatened me to tears. The position I placed myself in was in that of a caretaker and that I felt personally responsible for my brothers and sisters, a “third parent” in many ways, not just a brother. Thinking back, it makes sense: I would watch over the kids, drive to soccer practices, make lunches, make dinner, change diapers, put the kids to sleep, wake up in the middle of the night when the kids couldn’t sleep, treat the kids to ice cream, buy them Christmas presents, administer discipline and many other things that established a sense of responsibility and duty that was more than simply being a brother. At twenty-one years of age and as the oldest of eight children, I’ve probably changed more diapers, made more lunches and dinners than some parents have raising their own children. While I know I’m not a father because I’ve never had any kids of my own, I’m also not completely inexperienced at being a parent either and hopefully, soon, I can utilize my “third parent” experience raising my own children.

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on the subject of love.

Can you describe love?

I’m trying to post about love. Because I like talking about love. I could talk all day about it. It is seriously the best thing to talk about. Not only is there so much depth to it, it also makes you feel very good. I’m not saying that’s why I talk about love though. It’s just an added benefit.

I guess one of the first things I think of when the word love comes to my mind. Is what is love? And now I’m talking about the love between a man and a woman, because there are all kinds of love. But for this post I want to restrict myself to this one area of love. Otherwise I will get confused or this post will become a book because there is an incredible amount to write about love.

I don’t believe in love at first sight I don’t think. At least not true love (How cliché, I know). Yes, I think there is a distinction between love and true love. Deep, true love cannot manifest itself in a person right at first sight. I don’t think. I mean, not in the way that it is often portrayed as today, like getting hit on the head with an anvil or something. I think that love takes time to build up. But there is definitely a moment when you realize that you are truly in love with a person, a sort of epiphany, but bigger than that even. And it doesn’t happen the moment you see some either. Although a strong attraction might form right away.

When I first try to describe love, the only thing I can use to describe it is my own love for a girl because I can only speak from my experience. And as of right now, I have about 7 years experience of being in love with a girl.

Now, the first thing I remember when I fell in love (and yes I fell in love and no, when it happened at the time, I didn’t know it, or rather, I denied it) I couldn’t speak about it. Not coherently at least. I could only yell and shout in joy. There are no words really to describe how it feels to love someone, to love a girl, a woman.

After I fell in love, I began to grow in love. This is something I did not expect in my immaturity at first but I now look forward to growing more and more in love. It’s great. And my favorite thing about love is that it is endless (yes, I know quoting Luther Vandross, what can I say? I grew up listening to him).  But seriously, it really is. There is no limit on love once it starts.

I would also say that this is a key and integral part to true love as well. It’s that moment when you realize that you love a person more than you did a second ago and that it keeps increasing every moment that passes by and you’re sitting there, wondering if the lid on your love will ever cover the jar, and stop increasing but then… it never does. And it never will. I think that is part of true, deep love for someone.

Love is simple. It’s the details that count. What I value most about my relationship with her is that she knows all the details about me. It’s kind of ridiculous actually. Like she knows how I like to be woken up from a nap, otherwise I’m cranky. Or when I get mad, 99% of the time she knows why and calls me out on it, which makes me angrier. Or she knows that I really like and suggests books to me or movies. Or especially when I express my thoughts vocally or with facial expressions and she just looks at me and says, “I know, Daniel” and it’s not in a condescending way at all, but just the truth, that she knew that’s what I was going to say or that’s what I mean or why I’m saying that. There’s a lot more than this but I don’t want to get mushier than I already am, and I could get mushier, believe me (And this is another instance where she would say “I know, Daniel.”).

On the other hand, I do think that you can stop loving a person. But this is something I haven’t really experienced.

These are a jumble of my thoughts about love. More to come.

 

Facebook stalking.

Okay, okay everyone please step forward. I know that you do it because I do it too.

I’m talking about “Facebook stalking”.

Let’s be honest here. Everyone that has a Facebook does it. Whether or not you it call “stalking” is a different question.

This type of stalking isn’t the same type of stalking that people can get restraining orders for. No, this is different because once you sign up for Facebook, you basically agree to let your wall and comments and pictures be accessed by friends or the public, depending on your privacy settings of course. So in a funny way, Facebook has made stalking permissible—except that no one really talks about it.

By “Facebook stalking” I mean checking out the photos of people you haven’t talked to in while, checking out their comments and seeing what they say to other people. Especially to people that you don’t know but that one of your friends might know. And admit it, there’s a list of 5 or 6 people that are the “go to” profiles to check and get your stalk on—and usually they are also people you never talk to but think they are weird and interesting.

Facebook just makes it so easy to stalk friends and friends of our friends and so on and so forth.

The photo stalk is the most common form of Facebook stalking, because it’s the easiest. It starts with one click on the default profile picture of one of your friends. Then that new little black window pops up and you can click through the rest of their pictures in a matter of minutes or seconds, depending on how many there are. And while you are viewing the pictures, you are thinking how pretty they are or how hot they look or seeing if they were partying or drinking or whatever they were doing—maybe you even “Like” a photo or drop a comment or two. At the same time this is going on, you see someone you don’t know. Luckily, for you they are tagged! So you click on their name and find yourself at their profile going through the whole process again. Sometimes this can go on without noticing for an hour but usually somewhere along the clicking and liking, you come to your senses and go back to your Profile or News Feed. But it’s not like you were necessarily trying to stalk someone—no, you were just bored and Facebook makes it too easy.

Now the comment stalk is a little more in depth and usually happens when you are really trying to find something out about someone. This form of stalking usually starts out in the News Feed when you notice a particularly interesting comment someone has left. There are many variations of the comment stalk but one of the more common ones is the boy-girl comment stalk. For example, you see “Jack” comment on a “Jill’s” status and notice that there are 27 other comments that are hiding. Naturally, you read the whole conversation. By this time your curiosity is sparked so you check out other comments they have left to see what they’ve been saying by clicking and typing your way to the “Friendship” viewer that lets you see all the comments and photos and interests two people share with each other on Facebook. This whole time you are getting a gist of their relationship, formulating ideas in your head like “Maybe it’s more than just something platonic” and “I don’t know for sure” but either way, you aren’t commenting or liking any of their comments—just reading them.

If you don’t know either one of the individuals, the Facebook stalking usually stops when you make your way back to your Profile and log off—at least until later. However, if you do know one of them or even both of them, that’s when it can get a little awkward…

Let’s say during this comment stalk of Jack and Jill’s relationship, you read that they went out for coffee. Unfortunately for you, there is no mention of how the date went or any update from that point on—frustrating isn’t it? Then, as fate would have it, you see Jack. You don’t know if you should ask, “Hey, how did the hangout with Jill go?” because then he will know you were stalking him but you want to satisfy your curiosity. You are presented with 4 choices:

A) You don’t say anything and you never find out.

B) You don’t say anything and find out later during another Facebook stalking session.

C) They bring up the subject and you act completely surprised.

Or D) You remark that you saw it on Facebook and ask them about it.

Personally, with either choice I end up feeling a little awkward knowing something that the person thinks I don’t know. But I usually just embrace the awkwardness and chose D.

It’s funny to me that Facebook has made it permissible to see into other people’s lives without them knowing and that it is enjoyable to do so, for some strange reason. What is really hilarious is when you and I get together and go Facebook stalking together, spending hours poring over what other people do and talking about pictures and comments.

No one really talks about stalking people on Facebook even though we all do it. It’s taboo or something. I’ve tried to start conversations with, “So I was stalking some people on Facebook the other night…” or “So I was stalking you the other night and I noticed that…” but it hasn’t had the effect of bonding a community of Facebook stalkers that I hoped it would. Ah well.

So I’m here tell you hey, it’s okay, let’s Facebook stalk to our heart’s content. There’s no right or wrong to it.

But let’s just get over that inconvenient awkwardness of telling someone, “Oh yeah, I saw that on Facebook…”

on the subject of Justin Bieber.

Question: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words Justin Bieber?

For thousands of little girls it’s screams of love and adoration as well as the lyrics to many of Bieber’s pop/R&B songs.

For others it’s pretty much just one thing: hate.

People around the U.S. and around the world that proclaim their distaste and extreme dislike for Bieber’s music and Bieber himself.

On Facebook, the first two pages found after typing in the words “I hate” are pages hating Justin Bieber. Each post by some unknown moderator has over 600 “hate comments” of people leaving nasty comments about the kid.

And apparently on YouTube, there’s even an “I hate Justin Bieber” song, not to mention the degrading comments on his own music videos and a movement to dislike his videos over 1 million times.

Also, I was browsing over a news page the other day and found the clip of people booing Bieber at a Knicks game as well.

Kind of ridiculous, I think.

When I really try to wrap my head around it, I don’t understand why or how people hate Justin Bieber so vehemently. I tried to think of grounds to hate the kid but I couldn’t think of any reasonable explanation to hate him. To list a few, he doesn’t know anyone of these “hate commenters” personally so it’s not like he did anything against them; and he hasn’t committed a crime against humanity that deserves that kind of treatment; I don’t even think he’s committed any sort of crime actually; Sure, he had a high-pitched voice but any guy has at some point in their life until puberty; Sure, lots of little girls like him but I don’t see why that’s a reason to hate him; Also, he may have gotten a bad haircut but someone out there tell me that they’ve never experienced the same thing as well.

This “hate Bieber” thing or phenomenon seems more like a bandwagon club for people to join. I know hate-bandwagons like this happen quite easily though for anything new and upcoming. It’s very easy to be a critic and even easier to form a club that criticizes someone or something. And now with the momentum of Bieber’s career on the rise, the “hate club” seems to be on the rise as well.

I just don’t understand how people can write off Bieber like they do. I mean, first of all, he is a very talented guy. He’s got pipes. There’s no doubt about that. If there’s complaints about his high-pitched voice well I foresee that changing in the next couple of years as he matures. And apparently he can play the drums well from what I see from the trailers of his new movie. I also watched an interview of him on the Letterman Show and he was talking about how the movie was made to show people that it took hard work and effort as well as talent and opportunity to get to where he is today—which sounds like the American Dream to me.

But let’s say you legitimately dislike his voice and his music. I still don’t think that it is a reason to hate him. Or any recording artist for that matter. I would understand it more if Bieber was a jerk guy that hated everyone or had lyrics that spoke something to that effect. The opposite is more true, however. Bieber’s lyrics promote lovey dovey feelings and a good time to say the least. And from what I’ve seen and heard about Bieber, he’s hasn’t done anything scandalous or criminal; he’s a nice kid who had the opportunity to get discovered, made it big and is living a dream now so more power to him.

Personally, I like Justin Bieber. I think he’s a good kid making good music.  I happen to also like the music he names as his influences like Boys II Men and other oldies. I especially like the air of romance his songs have. Good songs, good kid. I’m not saying you have to like him but at the very least, let’s stop all the nasty hate against the guy.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Justin Bieber.

(And on another note, a happy birthday to Ronald Weasley, even though he is from Gryffindor.)

a creative story of mine.

I haven’t been able to post or write very much this last week, much to my own disdain and chagrin. So in the meantime, as I get back to writing and editing, I decided to post part of a short story I wrote for one of my classes. It is my first serious attempt at writing my own story and a very rough draft so please be a little easy on me. But let me know what you think, I would appreciate any support or criticism. Thank you.

Here goes:

A Noble Jewel

The sun shone bright, beaming at the world. Crisp, like fresh cut grass, the breeze playfully ran through the young man’s hair. Annoyed, he combed it down with his fingers. Dew peppered the blades of grass, clinging to him as he walked by—not that he cared though; there were more important things on his mind than wet jeans. He paused for a moment to consider his path through the creek, before balancing his way across boulder to boulder and continued his way downstream. Around him, the crowd of trees was busy with activity: a robin feeding her chicks, sparrow chasing each other playfully, and a pair of doves, cooing softly to each other. Darting in and out behind the leaves, the sparrows rustled the branches as the robin trilled furiously in rebuke. Similarly disturbed, the two doves took wing landing in opposite trees. The sparrows paused amidst the flurry of wings in shame. Apologetic tweets sounded out through the leaves as one of the doves angrily cooed back. With the dignity of a bird of prey, he alighted on the branch next to his mate and the couple continued their happy cooing. The scene went unnoticed by the young man, preoccupied as he was with his thoughts.  Head down, he barely noticed the dark shadows cast by the clouds above. Nature seemed to be waving beauty in his face but his mind was focused elsewhere.

For the youth, “elsewhere” was with Aristotle and Archimedes, with Darwin and Descartes. Logic ruled his mind as questions argued themselves into answers on his furrowed brow. Clutching books to his side, safe from abduction, the worn edges pressed dully into his arm. Earlier that day, his professor had allowed him to borrow from his own private book shelf, to which the young man vowed life and limb in protection of the pages. As the young eyes hungrily rifled over the titles, the professor suggested a smaller tome to take home. It was a smaller book wrapped in black leather and it had, the professor claimed, helped him get through one of the most challenging times in his life and was very dear to him. The old scholar left the volume on the table, chuckling to himself, leaving the youth to his devices. An hour or so passed before a healthy pile walked out the door, leaving the small novel ignored. Anticipation of the coming information rose steadily within him as he walked hurriedly along the bank of the creek on his way home.

A shout followed by laughter interrupted his thoughts and he knew immediately what it was. As usual, there was a couple behind one of the larger weeping willows that lined the embankment. The willow tree was large enough to block the eyesight of any third party from viewing from the outside but was not soundproof by any means. The young man furrowed his brow deeper as he tried to ignore the laughter and conversation emanating from within the folds of the willows skinny branches. A voice yelled out as he walked by, “Oi! Who goes there?”

“Me, just on my way home,” he replied calmly, looking past the willow to where he was headed. He pressed on.

“What? Who? A second there…” said more laughter and giggling as a couple emerged from behind the hanging branches. He recognized the boy’s voice as the source of the constant chattering that came from the back of his arithmetic class.

“Hey Lance.”

“Hiya Jon! Fancy seeing you out here,” Lance replied, brushing twigs and dirt from his clothes.

Jon shifted the books from one hand to the other. “Actually, I usually walk this way from home.”

“Oh, well I suppose I am a little… preoccupied most of the time—” Lance smiled. He shoved his counterpart playfully. “This is Miranda, by the way— from class?” She pushed back, still picking leaves from her tousled hair.

“We’ve met before I think, from before—“Almost dropping his books, Jon took her outstretched hand. He righted himself, noticing her flushed cheeks. Her golden hair accentuated the blue in her eyes, a pleasing compliment to the rest of her features. He let her hand drop, trying to focus on a particular leaf hidden within her curls, wondering how she was not shivering in the brisk air.

She smiled coyly, obviously unmoved by the examination or her exposure. Nearby, Jon heard a frog croak, looking for a partner.

“Well, then— see you in class—c’mon baby,” Lance said, pushing Miranda, who squealed in response before turning to give chase back into the enfolds of the tree.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jon turned back to the direction his house lay, the tension slowing releasing itself from his shoulders. Attempting to return to his original train of thought, he mentally shook himself. He knew many people of course, being involved with a school as large as his was, but his pursuits ran opposite the ones his peers shared. He enjoyed the company of a few friends in school but life outside those doors ran parallel, never crossing paths—especially in the female department. Of course, Jon was attracted to them, sometimes even to girls that were his friends but, they had always remained just that: them. At first, Jon’s innate curiosity was instantly sparked and he could not help but observe. This led to much more confusion, largely due to his inability to gain deeper confidence or seek insight from the subjects themselves. He had eventually decided to leave the area unexplored; a singular exception in his life, though it was an exception he was satisfied with. It would happen when it would happen, he thought, no need to rush. After all, it had taken him a month to read the Organon and an indefinite amount of time to understand it, a process that was in fact, still ongoing. So what could he expect to learn and understand about a subject that was living, changing and different in every case? Much less how to love one of them? Rather than spend time in this beautiful mystery, Jon turned his attention to more graspable, mundane concepts, like calculus and biology. Content with his books, Jon continued on his way, contemplating once again a particular theorem concerning tangent circles.

The sun was halfway hidden when a splash caused him to glance up. He saw first a horse, white, with light brown spots, a curious sight. His stare continued on until it reached the sight of a long haired girl in tan breeches crouched barefoot, examining a crevice she had created in between two of the large rocks that the stream ran through. Jon noticed her wrinkled forehead and pursed lips in concentration as he walked by. He continued staring as he walked by, watching her brush a stray lock of hair behind her ear. Startled, the girl looked up to see his heels and books fly up over his head.

“The log is in great shape by any chance—it would be a shame to see something that had been lying there for over one hundred years damaged in anyway,” a laughing voice remarked. “You, on the other hand, I’m not too sure.”

Jon rolled over onto his back, trying to target the source of the voice and sat up with a groan. “Gee, I appreciate the concern,” he retorted, the world coming into focus. Another laugh.

“It’s understandable I guess, falling over log—especially one as large and obviously exposed as this one. Here—” A hand appeared and he took it, easing himself up. “—and there we go. No harm done right? It wasn’t trying to hurt you was it?”

Speechless, Jon shook his head as he rose to meet a smile that brightened the twilight. Deep, brown eyes blinked at him, laughing with concern.

“I’m Adi.” A goofy smile found its way to Jon’s face. There was a quiet strength in her hands, a smoothness that was also resilient. She shook his hand gently, waiting politely for a response.

“Oh—Jon,” he stumbled, “and I just forgot about the log. This is the first time I’ve tripped on it—or tripped in general. I usually don’t trip. I got distracted.  And it’s getting dark, I—” He let go of her hand. She laughed in amusement, a wonderful sound that interrupted his speech and thoughts. He looked around, scratching the back of his head, mumbling something about bad eyesight. Bending his knees, Jon proceeded to pick up his books, dusting the dirt off.

“So…these are all yours?” said Adi, dusting off a cover to reveal the title On the Origin of Species.

“Yeah, I got them from my professor at school. He lent them to me.”

“You like this stuff?”

“Stuff? Well, yeah, I suppose… I read it in my spare time…”

“Hm—strange.” Jon glanced over at Adi, who was examining the inside of the book, with that same, focused look on her face, and was distracted all over again. He swiftly turned to look at a book behind her before she noticed.

“But cool, I guess—” she trailed off into silence.

“It really is interesting, like once you get to know it; just learning about it is fun. Like I don’t believe it all, but I like learning about it.” The words were out of his mouth before he knew it. He mentally slammed a hot iron onto his head. He stood up with his books under his arm. “Do you—come here often?”  The imagined hot iron slammed on his head again. The punishment, however, went unnoticed.

“Um, no, actually, this is the farthest I’ve been downriver. But it was a nice day today so I rode a little farther than usual. There’s a willow tree upstream a ways, I don’t usually ride past, but today I did…” She looked away. Adi shielded her eyes from the rays of the disappearing sun. “I should probably get going.”

“Oh yeah—of course, no problem, me too,” Jon blurted out. Adi ran her fingers through her straight bronzed hair, turning to go. He watched her hair swing back and forth as she crossed back over the stream with ease, firm legs leaping from rock to rock. Water splashed up onto clothes, near her hips. Jon struggled to get words out again. “Wait—what school do you go to?”

“I don’t,” she called out. “I have a private tutor. There’s like ten of us that he teaches though, but it’s not a school or anything.”

“I see—well then, see you around…” Jon took a lifeless step forward, trying to move on home.

“I like this part of the creek though. I’ll probably be back here.” Adi took the reins, shoes in one hand, barefoot in the stirrups.

“Oh sweet! See you later—”

Hoof beats drowned out his words and Jon imagined her hair waving, returning his farewell to her. He reached home after nightfall, read a couple of books and returned to the touch of that silky hand again, drifting off to sleep.

 

dehumanization.

Although racism isn’t legal in this country, it still sours and decays the world. It is a dark blemish that has bruised the minds of people so that without knowing it their words and actions carry a stench of racism. It silently infuriates me when I encounter this contagion in the world today and even more so when I fall to its infection.

Nike's campaign against racism.

I’ve been passionate about fighting racism for a number of years now and I have been attempting to explain my stance adequately ever since I made that mental decision. But this post is not only about ending racism, but about a new way to think and live.

Recently on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Dr. Cornell West said he believes that “Any ideology or perspective that dehumanizes someone is wrong” and I agree with his statement and say that racism falls under this category of an ideology that dehumanizes an individual.

Before moving on, I want to define the word “dehumanize”.

The word “dehumanize” has an obvious primary meaning which is that the individual is made inferior, or less than human. On the other side of the coin, dehumanization has a secondary meaning. The dehumanization of an individual can also occur alternatively by making the individual superior, or more than human because of their race. The latter meaning is more common nowadays I’ve found and has become more acceptable too but takes some explaining. For example, there is a belief in school that if you are of any Asian descent you should do well in the academic world and success is attributed to your race but not to your hard work. The same thing happens in athletics all too often as well—for instance, a guy that is great at basketball who puts in hours and hours of hard work is only good because he is black or the soccer player is only good because he is Hispanic.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect in the very least. I have made racist comments consciously and subconsciously, though neither is more excusable than the other. It took me a while to realize that I was spreading the ideology of racism I confess but once I did, I began to wonder why and how it still does exist.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that since racism is pretty much “illegal”, people believe that it does not exist. And I’m talking about racism against all races; against black, white, yellow, red, brown, the full spectrum. All that prejudice, all those prejudgments that we make about a person based on the exterior that cause us to treat them differently.

These days, racism does not happen with malicious intent too often, I would say. More often these days, racist jokes seem to be the mode by which racism spreads. The last thing most people would want to be called is a racist and I’m not trying to call anyone a racist. I’m merely attempting to point out a problem that still exists, that something that is “just a joke” does not mean that it isn’t racist.

I used to be okay with racist jokes. Especially I thought it was acceptable if the person telling the joke happened to be the race that was the butt of the joke. I used to laugh heartily, thinking to myself that it was all “just a joke” that racism was pretty much dead or that it didn’t count if no one took offense. I used to make these jokes myself. But I soon realized that I was perpetuating the circle of the dehumanization of people. People with feelings and thoughts and hopes and personality and character; And I believe this is the crux of the whole issue.

Racist jokes lead us to believe in stereotypes and if we believe in stereotypes, even jokingly, we write off an individual as a stereotype that looks like they fit the bill. What we should be thinking instead is that all people are specially created people that you and I must love. People are people. Confusing and repetitive, but let me explain…

While on a mission trip to Louisiana two years after Katrina hit, my team and I volunteer at a local church that would provide free meals. I will never forget the distinction in attitude and mindset that the leader of the shelter gave us. She said that instead of thinking of the men and women coming to get a meal that day as being homeless people, we must think of them as people that are homeless. You see the difference in mind set by switching those two words?

It is not that I am a brown person or that you are an Asian person or that he’s a white guy or that she’s a black girl. We should first recognize that we are all bonded together on the common level of humanity and feel the bond of brotherhood, the bond of family and, at least on some level, love.

Extending this discussion I would even say that in the similar way that seeing homeless people instead as people that are homeless, we must see “gay people” as people that are gay, Muslims as people that are Muslims, murderers as people who have committed murder, superstars as people who are famous, even the President as the person who is the President. Because at the end of the day, in the bright light, naked, vulnerable and exposed, we are one and the same: human.

And if we ever want to make change in this world and if we ever hope to save this world and if we ever profess that we have the ability to love, we must acknowledge our neighbor and love them as we love ourselves, not necessarily blind to the differences but more that we should love regardless of those differences.

on the subject of a best friend.

We learn early in our lives about friendship: having friends, making friends, fighting with friends, getting in trouble with friends, good friends, bad friends, childhood friends and fast friends… the list could go on and on. Included in this category of friendship that we learn about is a bond that can be easily made and can be terribly broken, like an anchor holding a ship steady amidst a raging storm: the bond of a best friend.

I have recently taken to watching a show called Psych. It is about a guy named Sean who fakes being a psychic as he solves cases using observation and deductive reasoning—a modern day Sherlock. In the show, Sean solves cases with the help of his best friend, Gus. The two are a comedic pair and their friendship is true example of the sacred bond of best friendship. They fight and bicker but always have each other’s backs; they stand up for the each other; they know the most embarrassing things about each other; they go way back; and they work in silent tandem, like only two best friends who know each other’s moves can. They are my favorite example of two best friends.

This term “best friend” can be defined in various ways. Too long to list, I would say. I’m not sure how to sufficiently describe the term best friend either without using best friend. At the easiest, offhand definition, I think that a best friend can be defined as someone (notice the singular) who is the paramount ally who you think the fondest of trust the most. I think that will work for starters although you and I both know that there is much more to a best friend than that.

For me, the term “best friend” was not something I used often. I never really had someone who I called my “best friend” and I told myself that it was okay—I had many great friends and I thought that was better anyways. But as I grew up I found myself hearing more and more phrases like “oh, he’s my best friend” or “my best friend and I were hanging out the other day”  and I wanted to be able to say that, to mean it wholeheartedly about another person and to receive the title as well.

I knew people who would grant that name of “best friend” to a lot of people and they were also the ones who threw around “I love you” very loosely. I nodded my head at those persons and continued on my way. But there were those few lucky, honored ones who said the word “best friend” with reverence, as if it was a word of power, of magic, evoking memories of laughter, secrets, sadness, fights, fun, late night talks, sleepovers, special handshakes and all the things two people can share on a deep, platonic level.

To be honest, I would imagine having a best friend Sean or Gus, working together to accomplish something awesome. Or remember Shawn and Cory? Or like Arnold and Gerald, who never did anything of particular renown, they just lived life as best friends.  I even consider Batman and Robin a form of best friendship, except that in real life two best friends are both sidekicks to each other.

Having a best friend is a great thing, something I didn’t admit to myself for a while. Luckily, I think I finally found someone I can call my best friend. And although we may not talk or hangout all the time, when we do get together we become something like Sean/Gus and Arnold/Gerald and Shawn/Cory combined.