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Sintra

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Sintra, Portugal

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The Case Against Hyper-Individualism

“You can be an individualistic person but that does not excuse selfish or amoral behavior at all.”

It is not inherently bad to look out for yourself and your own interests. How many times have you heard that you have to “be a better friend to yourself” or to “take care of yourself?” If you can’t help yourself, then how can you help others out? The key thing to keep in mind with being individualistic is that while it can help you as a person, you should always remember that it does not mean neglecting, hurting, or disadvantaging others in the process. You can be an individualistic person but that does not excuse selfish or amoral behavior at all.

I would argue that hyper-individualism has become more and more common in our society and has led to people being taken advantage of, scammed, lied to, or otherwise mistreated because they had someone take advantage of them because they were acting in their own interest but without regards for others who were affected. If I had to give my own definition of what distinguishes hyper-individualism from individualism is that in the former, you are looking out for yourself only without regards for others or you are looking out for yourself even if it may cause other people to be negatively affected by your focus on individualistic behavior.

While it is okay in my view to strive to achieve your own goals, seek out a better life, find your own path, and to not be dependent on others if you can afford to do so. It is not okay to hurt others in the process by robbing them of their own goals, their own chance at seeking a better life, and even preventing them from building a community where the individual takes a back seat to the interests of a group.

I find that hyper-individualism is similar to a ‘dog eat dog’ kind of world where everybody is on their own all the time, there is limited or no support if you fall on tough times, and where communal living or community-building is sacrificed for individual power seeking, wealth gaining, or prestige building. Caring about oneself alone and not others at all or not caring if your own goals, success, and overall happiness may put others in a bad place can also fall under what hyper individualism would be to me.

I believe that most people cannot be hyper individualistic because since the early days of our species, we could not live on our own without the support of a tribe, group, or a small community. Everybody had their own individual wants, desires, or needs, but we worked together to achieve those needs by catering to our individual strengths. Each person brought something unique or useful to the larger group and that is where individualism can play a healthy role within a community. If you can hunt, you can provide food to yourself, yes, but also to others if you are good at what you do. If you can fish, you can fish enough to help yourself but also for others in the tribe too. The same could be said for cooking, cleaning, protecting livestock, building shelter, etc.

This kind of individualism where we express ourselves in what we do best and how we can contribute meaningfully to a larger group, community, or society helps to make individualism a powerful force, often for good. Where hyper-individualism goes wrong is where you only look out for yourself and don’t share with anybody else or lend a helping hand with your skills and talents. It is not good to hoard or be greedy but that is what hyper individualistic behavior is based around and the disturbing thing to remember is that it seems to be encouraged more and more by our popular culture.

Think about the advertising and marketing messages we often receive: do they cater to your needs or to the needs of a group? When society is largely telling you to constantly be going after the money, the cars, the clothes, and the fancy mansions, this kind of behavior often leads to hyper-individualism. Sadly, we don’t hear about how we can use our skills to help others or to volunteer to use our resources for a shared good or effort. It is up to us to resist hyper individualistic behavior as much as possible.

Hyper-individualism may make that person feel good at first, but it is an empty feeling especially if they are not contributing anything meaningful to the larger society. Yes, you were able to buy a nice car, a flashy television, and an expensive house, but while that’s good for you and your own skills and abilities, is that all there is to your life? For a few of us, maybe that’s good enough, but I believe that we feel happiest and most fulfilled when we not only share our talents with the world, but we use those talents to also better the world in some way.

Individualistic societies and more community-focused societies can both be wealthy, happy, and productive, but if you go to the extremes of individualism or to communism, to state the obvious, societies will often crater in on themselves and cease to function well. I like to think that the best societies in our world are those that recognize, encourage, and foster individual talent but to use that talent to create a better society and to make sure that success while rewarded financially or otherwise, is also meant to help others receive a helping hand up so they too can also succeed and pursue their individual dreams and goals.

My analogy for hyper-individualism is if you’re in a rowboat and you have six people in the boat, and we’re all meant to row to get to the shore. Problems can start to arise when you have five people rowing in sync together and starting to move the boat faster and faster to the shore. However, if that sixth person does not row at all because he or she does not want to or if they want to row back out to sea, all six people as a result are going to suffer together because of that one person’s hyper-individualism.

Think of that rowboat of six people like a society of a million or a billion people. If you have one person or a few people ‘rowing’ against the others and hurting the total society as a result, the problems even a few people can cause would affect everyone in that boat or in the society negatively. Let’s all remember that we all rise or fall together and that while individual success, wealth, and prestige, is admirable to achieve, it is not everything in life and we are judged not just by our own merits but by our character and our values as well in society.

Welcome to Lisbon

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Lisbon, Portugal

It Feels Good to Do Good

“The good work we do whether it’s volunteering, donating, or contributing to society in our job or a non-paid effort can not only improve the state of the world in a measurable way but also make us feel good in the process.”

It can be disconcerting to make sense of how little is within our control and how much we would like to have the world be different than it is. Whether its politics, culture, the environment, or society in general, our lack of control over these forces that have a massive impact on our lives can be difficult to make sense of. Even when we do our best to make positive change in the world, it may only cause what I have previously referred to as a ‘ripple effect.’ However, we don’t realize that not only does the good we do ripple out in the world in a small yet powerful way, but we become the better for it as a result.

The good work we do whether it’s volunteering, donating, or contributing to society in our job or a non-paid effort can not only improve the state of the world in a measurable way but also make us feel good in the process. Other people in our lives may or may not know about these contributions that we make whether it’s with our physical labor, our financial resources, or just a caring thought or gesture but if we are the ones making the effort, we should take the time to recognize its significance and the beauty of the act itself.

It does not hurt to pat yourself on the back metaphorically for showing up and doing your part. I don’t believe it is egotistical or detrimental to your self-esteem to recognize that you are taking time or money to do something good in the world. While you should not expect others to be so forthcoming in their adulation or praise of what your contribution means, you should feel good about helping others or helping nature or just being kind and caring towards your fellow man or woman.

If you feel like you’re in a rut, I truly believe volunteering some time out of your busy schedule and working towards a goal in that kind of volunteer work can really cheer you up and make you feel a bit better about the world. So much these days is out of our own control in an increasingly technologically driven, lightning-fast world where we do not have as much time to slow down and focus on what really matters, which is to leave the world better than you found it.

The work can be hard, disappointing, and even cause you to question whether it is worth your time or money but hold true to the reason why you got into doing work for the betterment of others in the first place. While it is considered a selfless act to volunteer or to donate or to work for others, do not let yourself forget that it feels good to do good and you’ll often be better off for having done that work even if it was difficult, thankless, or draining to you mentally or physically.

Having that sense of control, to work hard towards a specific goal, and to feel better for having stuck with your good work to its end are all ways that can make us feel good about doing good. People all need to feel that sense of self-worth and to have that self-esteem be boosted a bit and that can come with taking the time or money or both to contribute to the betterment of the world around you. While time and money are precious resources for which we tightly hold onto at times, perhaps too much so, it is without question a good use of time and/or money to help those people out who are less fortunate than you are.

Only you can decide how much of either precious resource, time or money, that you would like to contribute as a volunteer but I promise that whatever you decide to take upon you in terms of doing good, you can guarantee that whatever effort or work you put in will pay you back in the most beautiful way in that sense of satisfaction and contentedness you can get from healing the world or helping a person or contributing to a social cause you care about a lot.

The work involved will be difficult and you will need to put in hours, days, and sometimes months or years to see the fruit of your labor lead to the good you sought to come about as a result. The blood, sweat, and the tears you put in may not seem worth it but if you work in a group or a team with other committed people who care about the same good work that you do, not only will it be easier, but it will be done quicker.

During the good work you do, make sure to keep reminding yourself that results will take time, that you have your goals clearly in mind as to why you’re contributing to do good in the first place, and to remember that you may not get praise from others but that your own satisfaction and happiness from contributing will be most powerful as it comes from within you. We only have so much time to volunteer and to do some good on our own terms so make sure you think deeply about how you want to contribute and why you’re contributing to that cause.

Other people, even friends and family, may question why you are dedicating your time and/or your money to the good work you’re doing, but you do not need their approval to go forward with reaching your goals. You only need to deeply internalize that doing good will make not only you feel good about it but the people or environment or our world, which will be better off as a result. If you have to justify why you did the work you did, don’t look to other people to confirm your righteousness but rather look within yourself in your heart to see what you contributed was needed, that you had the skills or the knowledge to help out, and that the impact you made was measurable and that it could ‘ripple’ out through the society and the entire world.

Swan Pond

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Caleb Smith State Park; Long Island, New York, United States

Putting Yourself in Natural Environments

“Man or woman was not meant to spend all day under fluorescent lighting in an indoor place without windows, natural light, or sun.”

Man or woman was not meant to spend all day under fluorescent lighting in an indoor place without windows, natural light, or sun. While modern life often forces us to work and live in less-than-ideal conditions, we often have to spend our time away from nature and where we feel most comfortable. Whether it is a factory, an office, a clothing store, a mall, or a movie theater, we spend somewhere between 80% – 90% of our lives indoors. While many people consider this to be a normal part of life, I would argue that while it may be ‘normal’ in our modern age, it is far from healthy for all of us.

While we do have limited choice on where we live, where we work, where we eat, etc., I would encourage everyone reading this to remember that we as human being are most comfortable, free, and healthy when we are in a natural environment. In nature whether it is a beach, a jungle, a mountainside, or a forest, while intimidating at first, once you get used to being in the great outdoors, it is hard to get used to being inside or routinely indoors again. You never lose that yearning to be breathing fresh air, swimming in fresh air, and cooking fresh food over an open flame.

I truly believe that this is kind of environment is what is best for our health and well-being. When we are in a natural environment, the stress is less for all involved, we tend to be more social especially if we must cooperate to fish, to hunt, or to cook food together, and there is a great sense of satisfaction achieved from climbing, hiking, fishing, swimming, or starting a fire that you can’t get in other environments.

If you do not have the great outdoors near you, at least make the effort to get outside on your balcony, your rooftop, or even your garden if you have one. I promise that you will feel refreshed from getting out of the florescent light and into real sunlight. While being indoors is not a bad thing, I do think that we have overindulged in modern life in an effort to keep ourselves comfortable rather than challenging ourselves by dealing with the outdoor elements.

No matter where we come from, all our ancient ancestors had to deal with the elements. That is why being out in nature is most rewarding because that is what our ancestors had to deal with for thousands of years. Modern agriculture and industry have been around for maybe a few hundred years in terms of its adoption by most of humanity. We are still more accustomed to being out in the jungle, savannah, or forest rather than inside a city or a factory farm. It is unfortunate that most of our time at work or at home is indoors because there is a lot that can be done outdoors and for which we can socialize with each other in different ways.

If you cannot get outdoors as much as you want, try to at least take 10-15 minutes out of your day to go for a walk or to get lunch and sit outside. If you are having a bad day, I can guarantee that having the sun shining down and the breeze hitting you can really improve how you feel, if only for a short while. Instead of going to a bar or a movie on a warm, spring day, encourage your friends to go hiking or to go hang out at the park instead. You can also make use in some places of an outdoor gym where you can lift weights, do calisthenics, or even practice Yoga with the wind at your back.

When you’re at work, see if you can’t encourage your colleagues to do a working lunch outdoors one day a week when the weather’s nice or to do an event outdoors if possible. A team building event, as cliché as it sounds, can be a good idea to spend more time outdoors if you can ask your boss to do a retreat somewhere where you can be outdoors part of the time or to maybe go hiking, try out kayaking, or walk around the city together to boost your comradery or teamwork.

Society may be pulling you to go from your car to your office to your home and to do it all over again each day but that is no way to live. Try to find the time to get out of unnatural environments and be in nature again, whatever kind of nature that is. You are not meant to be indoors for 90% of your life. Instead of being in your car, walk or bike to work if you can or try to have a work meeting outdoors if you’re remote or can ask your colleagues to do it there.

Taking a trip or vacation where you’re mostly outdoors, exploring new environments, and trying different activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, bungee jumping, skydiving, etc. are ways that you can broaden your horizons and enjoy what the wide world has to offer. Life will get very boring and repetitive if you are constantly going from one indoor environment to another indoor environment without mixing it up. You should remember that it is no way to live and especially no way to live healthily.

Remember to get yourself outside at least 30 minutes to an hour each day. You owe it to your mind and body to put yourself in a natural environment, whichever one is most comfortable to you. A change of scenery can do a world of good. If you’re feeling like you have no energy, are going through the motions, and are just plain bored, getting outdoors and into nature may be the closest thing to a cure. Try to encourage others to do the same as it is healthier, and you’ll feel better from having involved others to be in nature with you. Man or woman was not meant to be indoors for most of our lives and I hope that you all will spend more of your lives outdoors in natural environments and less time indoors under fluorescent lighting.

U.S. National Arboretum

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: United States National Arboretum; Washington, District of Columbia, United States

‘Everything In Moderation’

“My philosophy on enjoying what life has to offer and its libations such as food, drink, or gambling is ‘Everything in Moderation.’”

I find that it is very important to find balance in life whenever possible whether that’s between work and play, relaxation, and exertion, and even abstaining and indulging. My philosophy on enjoying what life has to offer and its libations such as food, drink, or gambling is ‘Everything in Moderation.’ I mean that kind of balance for adults who I usually write for when it comes to being of the legal age for these types of indulgence and regarding what is legally allowed to put as a disclaimer up front. Life should be enjoyed responsibly especially if you’re hoping to find pleasure out of it.

Still though, it can be hard to find a balance of enjoying something too much or not at all. I have nothing against people who abstain entirely from food, drink, gambling, or other risky yet fun activities nor do I think it’s harmful to indulge a bit too much on the rare occasion where someone can go a bit overboard as long as they’re not hurting themselves or others from that kind of overindulgence. However, I don’t think it’s right to deny someone entirely when they would like to enjoy something in moderation nor is it right to indulge their vices so much that they end up either getting addicted to the vice or abusing it when those around them know that it’s become a problem.

You have to be looking out for your own health and well-being especially as you get older and age out of certain pleasures. However, if you have the self-awareness to realize which vice(s) you should stay away from or be extra cautious about, you should work to make sure you don’t indulge as much as you want to. Self-control around different pleasures can be difficult so if you need help from people around you to temper your indulgences or need to stay away from it entirely, there is no shame in doing so. Certain people can enjoy something moderately like a glass of wine or a cigar every now and then without becoming dependent on it. There are those people who are unable to do so at the same time when they play poker, go to the dinner buffet, or bet on a sporting event though.

Certain indulgences hold sway over the individual person more than others, so you must be aware of which vices or pleasures you really enjoy and learn to temper your use or consumption of them. It’s good to be self-aware and exercise self-control so that one glass of wine each night doesn’t become three or four glasses each night or that when you bet money on Fantasy Football once a year with friends, you don’t end up betting multiple times on different Fantasy Sports leagues where you’re losing a lot more money without controlling how much you’re betting.

If an obsession becomes an unhealthy addiction, I think that is cause enough to abstain entirely from that vice or indulgence. If you are being harmed by it or others around you are hurting cause of the addiction, you need to abstain entirely because moderation won’t be able to cut it then. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to give up a cigar or some wine because of you have a gambling or betting addiction, but you just need to recognize what pleasurable activities you can take too far and which moderation does not work. If you like to gamble too much, it doesn’t mean you need to give up alcohol or fast food entirely too as a result.

Part of being a healthy, mature, and responsible adult is recognizing that life is to be enjoyed but to do so responsibly by knowing your own limits both mentally and physically. If your health, money, or relationships are being affected by the fact that you’re indulging too much or abstaining entirely, you may need to rethink your relationship to that pleasurable activity that you enjoy. I do believe that ‘everything in moderation’ can be done for most people who know their limits, who understand what they are doing is legal yet must be consumed or done responsibly and legally and are able to recognize when others are going too far or may need to tone it back a lot.

It’s good to learn about moderation when you’re first in college or in your 20s so as you get older, you form those healthy habits around vices, indulgences, or fun activities that you know require you to be responsible and mature about them but for which you know what is moderate and what is excessive.

Regarding prohibition or having people forced to be abstinent, banning alcohol and making it illegal to obtain, buy, or sell liquor in the United States during that 1920s era failed miserably. Partly as a result, bootlegging and organized crime came about to help fill the supply for alcohol because demand did not go away even when alcohol was illegal. Responsible adults of legal drinking age had to go to ‘speakeasies’ and ‘backroom bars’ to drink, dance, and enjoy their free time after work.

I would argue that during prohibition, the average adult American wasn’t looking to abuse alcohol even when it was illegal, but that they enjoyed having a drink or two with work colleagues, friends, or family after a hard day’s work and were denied that pleasure. It didn’t work for long as that amendment was repealed, and people were trusted by the larger society and government again to drink alcohol moderately and responsibly without issue.

 When it comes to alcohol, gambling, and even smoking, adults should be allowed to make their own decisions about their consumption or taking part in those activities. Of course, it is vital to be aware of the negative health consequences or issues that come as a result, but to forcibly make abstaining the only way forward would not make it go away. Rather, it’s important to educate about how to enjoy these ‘vices or pleasures’ moderately and responsibly, while helping those people who overindulge or get addicted to these pleasures, and may need help, support, rehabilitation, instead of judgment, neglect, and punishment.

At the end of the day, adulthood comes with responsibilities in our society including gaining wisdom, judgment, and acting responsibly. Acting responsibly includes enjoying life’s pleasures but to do so in moderation because abstaining or overindulging should be avoided as much as possible, and we should do well to know our own limits and know what a vice is, how to manage it, and what to do when we need to rethink our relationship around one. ‘Everything In Moderation’ is a good start in terms of that relationship but if you want to abstain entirely, you should also be free to do so but be careful as well to avoid overindulgence but if it is to happen once or twice, it is not the end of the world as they say. Be careful, be safe, be responsible, and remember to enjoy life, because we only get one life to live.

Phillies Baseball at Citizens Bank Park

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Citizens Bank Park; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

They Know, They Just Don’t Care

“A lot of personal and professional issues that are unaddressed or dealt with will not go away and will need to be handled. In most cases, the problem or issue will metastasize and becomes even more difficult to resolve.”

The popular adage that goes “the first step to solving a problem is to realize that there is one” is key to recognize in life even if it involves admitting an inconvenient truth. A lot of personal and professional issues that are unaddressed or dealt with will not go away and will need to be handled. In most cases, the problem or issue will metastasize and becomes even more difficult to resolve. On top of that, you’ll often need more manpower, resources, or funds to solve the growing problem when it could have been tackled days, weeks, months, or years ago.

I truly believe that knowing a problem exists and refusing to solve it or letting it fester is worse than when a person is unaware that there is a problem to deal with in the first place. Pleading ignorance when you know the truth but lie to yourself and to other affected problem will lead to a lot of stress and turmoil in the long run. There are numerous ways to describe this kind of mentality but to me, it’s about someone or a group of people knowing that a situation is unsustainable or untenable and refusing to fix it even when it would be the right thing to do.

Acting or admitting fault or an error is never easy but doing so is the first step in actively solving the problem instead of letting it continue. Standing by and not admitting what’s going on is not right or not sustainable will put you on a collision course with a rough ending in most cases. This kind of mentality of “knowing but not caring” can erode trust, relationships, and even ruin people’s lives if it is allowed to go on. In this case, knowledge of a problem and not acting to resolve it can cause a lot of damage in various areas of life. To make this ‘knowing and not caring’ examples of hypothetical professional or personal situations where this kind of attitude would lead to negative consequences, let me discuss two instances where ‘knowing and not acting’ can lead to regrettable events:

Let’s say that someone worked hard to be trained as a lifeguard and was paid to do so by the local city by the beach for the summer season. Many people were trained, funds were spent, and chairs / stations were built. The foundation is strong so that people’s lives can be saved if something bad were to happen and each of the lifeguards were trained in CPR and other first aid tactics in case it is necessary.

Not only are the lifeguards trained in first aid, but they also need to pass swimming tests to qualify for the city’s public beaches as employees. However, since the city’s budget is running a deficit because of improper management and cost overruns, the city council must decide where to cut funding to balance the budget. The folks in charge of the budget knew that the deficit would cause problems when they projected in in the previous years, but nothing was done about it.                                                                                                      

As a result, costs need to be cut by the city so difficult decisions will need to be met. The city needs to keep schools open for some students to receive summer school and must pay the public-school teachers to do so. They also can’t reduce the police or firefighter budget given that the summer season tends to be the busiest for them and they also are guaranteed pensions that are negotiated by the unions.

Sadly, the only way to start to balance the budget is to cut recreational programs including the lifeguards at the beach even after they did the training, and the city spent the money to train them for these jobs. Other recreational programs will need to be cut along with reducing hours for access to public parks and sports courts. Most regrettably, the city council will have to cut access to the public beaches there because they don’t want to take the risk of having liabilities involved of having its citizens swim without lifeguards present. It causes a lot of anger, disappointment with the city’s residents as well as students who were looking forward to swimming, playing on the beach, and seeing friends but since the city can’t afford lifeguards, the public beaches will have to be closed the whole summer season.

While many individuals or one individual in city government would be responsible for seeing where the budget deficit would start to harm the city’s services, but because no one looked hard at how to prevent the deficit from affecting the public recreational programs or saw that cuts would need to be made in a year or two years’ time in other less important areas, the problem was unaddressed. It’s about knowing the problem exists in this case, but doing little or nothing, or ‘passing the buck’ onto someone else in the city’s government rather than working in advance to fixing this issue before people’s lives were affected.

Another potential issue is that it is difficult to keep watch over public beaches 24 hours, 7 days a week. Chances are increasingly high then for an accident to happen where college or high school kids come to the beach even when it’s closed or limited to swim or have a bonfire. Because of their anger, they may end up swimming in defiance or doing something that could put themselves in harm’s way. Not only will the city not have lifeguards there to prevent that from happening, but it’s possible that the city will be blamed or liable for any possible accident or issue with people using the beach illegally because they did not balance the budget in advance.

A potential tragic loss of a life, an accident, or the loss of trust in the city’s government are all regrettable consequences that could be avoided if a group of people or person(s) would do something about the problem when they knew of it rather than letting it grow out of control later. While this is a fictional instance, this kind of regrettable story or event happens a lot in our world and the issue at hand could often be avoided with due diligence, foresight, and good work.

More generally, regarding possible examples of this kind of ‘knowing and not caring’ regarding someone’s personal relations, I believe this could apply to situations when it comes to family members or close friends not helping someone out when they know their beloved family member or friend is going through a tough time. They may know of a problem that person has like an addiction to gambling, drugs, alcohol, or other substances, and believe that only they can help them rather than taking them to a licensed professional or a doctor.

This can also be applied when that person’s addiction is harming their relationships, is getting worse, and tends to cost that personal financially, morally, and in other ways. If the family member(s) or friend(s) don’t address their beloved one’s problems head on and let them continue, that affected person in a personal situation will be more likely to hit ‘rock bottom’ and may not be able to be saved from themselves. When that person is not reigned in and told that they have that problem the family member or friend knows about, then they are doing a real disservice by not helping them get better actively. Letting the addiction or mental health problem continue even when that other person in the relationship or friendship knows it must not go on but won’t take action to resolve it, then that’s a prime example of where ‘knowing and not caring’ enough to solve the problem can really backfire.

Sadly, in most cases, the friend or family member affected may suffer even more from the problem not being fixed or aided by the significant other. They can lose themselves fully to the addiction, end up losing their job, their home, or even their life as a result. Part of being a friend or a family member is to be there when that person needs you the most. They don’t want you to sugar coat things and sometimes, you must give them the ‘tough love’ by telling them the absolute truth and letting them know that they have a problem, but that they are not beyond saving, and that you can go ahead and help them get better. That is the mark of a true friendship and relationship when you know about the other person but also care enough to help them be and get better if necessary.

The world can be a messy and complicated place but the concept of knowing when a problem exists in your personal or professional life and not doing anything about it and trying to find a solution to it is disheartening to me when it does happen. It does happen a lot in life, and I hope that you will be different to act on the problem rather than letting it fester. You may change someone’s life or people’s lives for the better when you know about the problem and address it so the solution can improve lives and make the world a better place through your actions to find solutions rather than let the problems you know about to multiply and grow.

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