The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Center

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Air and Space Museum Annex; Chantilly, Virginia, United States

Don’t Let Little Transgressions Become Big Issues

“I would also extend to calling out those transgressions where someone is trying to take advantage of you or doing something illegal or unjust when they know it’s wrong but refuse to do anything about it.”

It can be difficult to step in when it comes to witnessing someone commit a transgression, which goes against societal norms and values. A transgression is an act, often small or basic in nature, that goes against a rule, law, code of conduct and causes offense to others in the society. While you may witness these transgressions as a bystander, you have it within your rights to call it out when you see it within reason. While I am not an advocate for self-policing and calling out random strangers for bad behavior, I do believe that it should be allowed especially in matters of public health and/or safety.

I would also extend to calling out those transgressions where someone is trying to take advantage of you or doing something illegal or unjust when they know it’s wrong but refuse to do anything about it. To give you some basic examples, if you are living in a city or a town and see somebody littering or throwing trash on the ground in front of you, I believe it’s worth calling them out for doing it because your tax dollars are going towards maintaining the cleanliness of your community and for hiring those local employees who help keep the streets clean.

The person causing the offense must be held accountable or at least giving a stern reprimand because while they may think they get away with it, everybody including yourself witnessing it is paying for it in extra tax money or effort to pick that trash up later. When you call out a transgression, be stern, make your point, and move on. It does not do any good to escalate directly with that person since you’re not enforcing the law yourself as your duty but rather express your concern as an ordinary citizen.

Other transgressions that come to mind include not picking up after your pet when they do their daily business, which you should call the person out for if you witness it and to report it after privately if you know where the transgression occurred. Also, another increasingly common one in certain cities is to see a group or a few individuals shoplifting and if you see this serious transgression, let a store person know to apprehend them or even call the police who can catch the individuals if the store or place has cameras.

You must keep your eye out for these kinds of transgressions because if there are no consequences for acts like littering, trespassing, not picking up after your pet, shoplifting, etc. which can result in heavy fines and even mandatory community service, those offenders will feel more emboldened to continue doing so and even commit even more violations of the laws and rules that our society is built on. If some people are abusing these basic morals and values with their transgressions, no matter how small they are, they must be held accountable for them in some form or another.

Think of our society as pillars holding the foundation together that binds us all under the same rules, laws, regulations no matter who we are. When one of those pillars starts to falter, in this case, being when little transgressions go without reprimand or punishment, it can start to crumble the entire foundation and weaken the other pillars as well. When these violators cause infractions and don’t get a stern slap on the wrist or a scolding at least, then they will be emboldened to do it again or even commit worse offenses, which we should be mindful of as a society.

The COVID-19 pandemic made me think about these small transgressions especially when you’re abiding by a mandate on public transportation, for example, and others refuse to abide by the mandate, and for which is not being enforced. When you follow the temporary mandate especially in a bus or on a train and others don’t, it does create a sense of entitlement to for those people who think they are above the rules and that the mandate should not apply to them even when it is a ‘mandate.’ I often ignored those people who would not abide by the mandate but there was one instance where I had to say something when the only people not wearing a face mask on the bus were sitting next to me and it was an entire family. They were oblivious to the fact that everyone else on the bus had a mask on at the time and even the driver had one on. This was before the vaccines were being distributed.

I would rather the bus driver had enforced the mandate himself but if you’re sitting next to me without a mask and I’m abiding by it, I don’t want my health to be put at risk by your lack of acquiescence. It was the only time I spoke out about it to a group of people as it puts you in an awkward spot but when it comes to public health, mask mandates on a bus, train, or a plane at the time should be the same for everybody especially when 90-95% care enough to abide by the temporary measure.

Unfortunately, those who impose the mandates are not able or willing to enforce them, which is doubly annoying for those people who abided by them each time and yet had to see other people flaunt the rules like it was no big deal without being held accountable for it. This kind of transgression is particularly disturbing when you realize that it could have public health consequences and those who set up such a mandate to begin with lacked the follow through or the care to enforce such a mandate making it rather useless and abusable.

Another transgression I’ve noticed is some people jumping the fare gate at the metro system or going in right behind someone who has paid their fare ahead of them and not paying it because they sneak in before the gate closes. That situation happened to me as I paid my fare to enter the metro station and go down to the train like any usual trip and there was a young guy behind me who bumped up right behind me and invaded my personal space. I noticed he came in right behind as I paid the fare and the gate opened for me. I also noted how he didn’t pay the fare since he wanted to use mine without paying his own way. I was mad about this to the point that I sternly reprimanded him and told him that he was abusing the system by not paying his fare like the rest of us.

He made a lame excuse in saying that he was in a rush and had to catch the next train. I kept my cool but informed him sternly that was not an excuse to not pay his fare and that some of us pay taxes and the fares each time to keep the system running well. The offender didn’t get it, of course, and weaseled his way onto the next train and I kept my distance from him. Sadly, he is a violator of the metro system like others who feel like they can jump the gate or not pay by bumping up against someone like me who pays each time.

These hooligans who do it unfortunately don’t get fined or reprimanded by the metro system officials very often, if at all, which is quite unfortunate and even detrimental to the larger society. When fare-beaters and anti-maskers get away with breaking the rules without consequences, it makes the rest of us sad that we are carrying all the weight for them, and they are mooching off the system based on mutual trust, benefit, and adherence.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, the rules and laws are meant for everyone and when the smaller ones are abused or not followed, these transgressions can lead to bigger issues in the general society. It leads to a lack of trust, a breakdown in norms, and an inability to keep track of how many people are abusing the basic laws and standards that keep the society running well. It erodes the pillars over time that keep the foundation of our shared society afloat. I’m not arguing for self-policing since that tends to not solve anything, but we need stricter enforcement for everyone to avoid these little transgressions, so they don’t lead to bigger problems that form later for all of us when the accountability and transparency is gone.

Nighttime Game at Camden Yards

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Orioles Park at Camden Yards; Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Finding Your Place of Zen

“What do I mean by finding your place of Zen? Well, I am glad that you asked. A place of Zen is your own little corner of the Earth where you can relax, think to yourself, listen to the birds or the trees or the whistling of the wind.”

In an increasingly fast-paced and tumultuous world, it can be quite difficult to find a place of calm, quiet, and serenity. You may find you are in a big city or a large town and can’t have a moment’s worth of peace.

You are also being constantly bombarded by visual stimuli through the forms of advertisement, phone pings, car honks, and loud talking. You can’t seem to think through all the noise that you are constantly surrounded by without a needed pause. It can be almost impossible to get away from it all unless you are actively looking for a place of Zen.

What do I mean by finding your place of Zen? Well, I am glad that you asked. A place of Zen is your own little corner of the Earth where you can relax, think to yourself, listen to the birds or the trees or the whistling of the wind. Only you and you alone know about it, and you only decide to share it with those people closest to you, if anyone at all. It can be a pond or a lake or a bay dock. It can be a mountain overlook or a nearby stream. It can even be a field of grass tucked away from sight and for which you only know how to reach. If you are really being creative, even going up in a tall tree or taking some time out in the desert sands may be your own place of Zen.

The key word to keep in mind here is the ‘Zen’ involved. Does your own place that you can seek out serenity or calm or quiet give you a bit of inner peace? Does it quell your anxieties, your fears, or your doubts? Does it allow you to think deeply about your past, your present, or your future or generally whatever is on your mind?

If the answer to all these questions is a strong ‘Yes’, then you have found your place of Zen. Just 5-10 minutes there will improve your day in my view. I believe that we all need some time alone to recharge, to destress, and to come back better than ever after taking a break in our place of Zen. If you have a few minutes per week or ideally each day to visit this place of Zen, you will be better off for having been able to go there.

‘Zen’ involves total concentration, total awareness, and a dedication to come back there again and again. If you are not consistently able to go there and is out of reach for you, then you should consider finding a new place. To maintain that Zen beyond your own special place and to stay calm, cool, and collected when you are not actually there, you must be able to visit there at least once a week. I do not think it is enough to only go there once a month or once every other week, you should be able to take the time and the effort to go there at least once a week to get the various positive results out of your visits.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to keep your place of Zen a secret to others. The world can be a crowded place sometimes and we all need our own little space to think, to relax, to observe, and to reflect without anyone joining us. It’s important to have our own secret space to come back to and find if anything has changed there besides you as you go through the years of your life.

I have written before about how ‘a walk in the woods’ has been beneficial to my life and how it has calmed me, kept me centered, and allowed me to reflect. I have found my own place of Zen that I hope to have for many years to come. You can have more than once place of Zen if you’re lucky but if you find other people constantly there or intruding on your time spent there; it may be best to find a new place to find that brings you Zen-like relief. The good thing is that if you’re reading this article, you already crave to have that special place to call your own where you can be more Zen-like and improve your life at the same time. Zen does not come to those who do not seek it out to begin with.

While the world is likely to get more chaotic, more unpredictable, and perhaps more crowded as well, having our own place of quiet, serenity, and peace that only you know and appreciate will become even more important. The world can be a rough and tumble place where it is not easy to catch your breath, to refocus yourself, to be at ease, and to relax fully in the quiet around you but I believe it is vital to do your best to find your own place of Zen. It may not be easy to do so but I think the journey to find that place of Zen will be worth the effort you put into it. Good luck.

The Grand Canyon

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

Being The Bigger Person

“If you are not direct with someone about the issue and decide to go behind their back, they may think less of you and to not apologize or at least make the effort to because they will be surprised that there was even an issue to begin with.”

Sadly, some people never grow out of the ‘high school’ or ‘college’ phase of their lives. They become accustomed to gossiping or making conjecture about other people behind their backs and without their knowledge. This is often childish behavior and should be called out as such. If you have a problem or an issue with someone, you should address it in a mature manner, and directly if feasible as an adult. To not do so and to opt to gossip or slander someone’s reputation, even if justified, can often make the situation worse, not better.

There’s nothing wrong with speaking out about a kind of grievance or a specific problem you may have with another person but to do so in terms of gossip or hearsay is wrong. When you decide to ‘go through the grapevine’, it can often insult the person on top of the problem you already have with them and cause the problems to escalate rather than to be solved. If you are not direct with someone about the issue and decide to go behind their back, they may think less of you and to not apologize or at least make the effort to because they will be surprised that there was even an issue to begin with.

If the issue is valid and there is a real concern there, the best way to do it as adults is directly or with a third party directly involved to the ease the tension. If you go through a third party or a third person and then the person you have an issue with hears about it from them, I tend to think that will make them think less of you for having told a third person or party about the problem rather than going to that third party and to you at the same time. To do so professionally can cause problems but to do so in your personal life in the wrong manner can rupture a friendship or a family tie even worse.

When it comes to interpersonal relations, if someone has an issue with you, justly or unjustly, you should always advocate for that issue to be worked on directly whether with just the two parties involved or with a third party, who is supposed to be neutral in weighing the arguments or grievances from both parties. When you have someone as a third party who only hears one side of the story and then already makes a judgment without consideration of the other person’s perspective or viewpoint, then that is also a cause for concern in alleviating the situation.

Indirect grievances or gripes, conveyed to a third party indirectly, with the person or people you have issue with not even hearing from you about it at all can cause further annoyance especially when they feel that their reputation or their livelihood is at risk. I am an advocate for direct communication as much as possible even when the matter at hand can cause offense. It is simply better for both parties to hear each other out and to see if a resolution can be had, especially with a third party as an intermediary who does not make a premature judgment before both persons can be heard fairly.

If one side is not playing fair and is distorting the truth or completely lying about you or what happened, you have the right to defend both your honor and your reputation. You should air your side of the story and make sure the truth is heard. You should not gossip in retaliation or spread falsehoods ever about that person to get even if they have lied or gossiped or spread slander about you. That is what ties into the notion of ‘being the bigger person’ in interpersonal relations. You should not look to score cheap points or to get even or to go down to their level.

You must rise above their childish or teenage behavior and to be the only adult in the room if it comes to that. People’s perception of you or of your reputation does matter a lot especially if you’re a leading member of a community, a state / region, or a country. Even if what you think is gossip or conjecture should not be taken seriously or with a ‘grain of salt’, other people may not take it the same way and your reputation will be harmed as a result. Indirect complaints or problems can often cause bigger issues to emerge because it creates a toxic atmosphere of distrust or ill will especially when one person’s side of the story is not being heard at all, or they can’t find a neutral third party to issue a conclusion or a verdict, or when they would prefer to deal with the problem or issue at hand directly.

It’s often harder to be the ‘bigger person’ in any dispute or issue because some folks want to commit childish actions because they know it will be popular to do so. As odious as ‘gossiping’ is, some adults never grow out of that stage and act like children still even if they are of middle age or even elderly. They want to bring you down to their level in a way and get you to do the same kind of indirect gossip and conjecture as they do, but you should avoid that at all costs.

If you can make a dispute directly with that person in return or find fault with their argument(s), make sure you find a neutral third party to hear you out especially if they heard from that other party without you even knowing. It’s important to not let your guard down in a dispute and protect your reputation to the best of your ability and use the truth and the facts to outweigh the gossip and the falsehoods you may encounter. Being the bigger person is never easy, but it will show to others that you are able to deal with criticism in a healthy and mature manner.

Overreacting by getting upset or using the same ill-advised gossip as they do is a recipe for disaster and for that one issue to lead to multiple other issues. Resolve any dispute or issue that you may find yourself in with the truth of the matter, the straight facts, and to deal with the other party directly. Do not rely upon hearing something suspect, through the ‘grapevine’ as some others prefer to do and accept it without any reservations or questions. Those who accept this kind of conjecture without any pushback or evidence or getting the facts from both sides shows that they may not have matured as much as they think even after having left their high school grounds or their college campus.

Marble Canyon

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Marble Canyon, Arizona, United States

Anatomy of a Scene – ‘A Small Measure of Peace’

“To be at a certain place or with a certain person for the rest of your days and to be at ease with your decision, that contentedness is to have found the ‘small measure of peace’ that we can spend our entire lives trying to capture but only a few ever truly find.”

The Last Samurai (2003) – ‘A Small Measure of Peace’

There is a distinct moment in our lives when we realize that the fight is done, and the work is over. It is a pleasant realization that all you can do has been done and that you must take the rest of our days to welcome ‘a small measure of peace’ in one’s life, which is not easily found or embraced. To be at a certain place or with a certain person for the rest of your days and to be at ease with your decision, that contentedness is to have found the ‘small measure of peace’ that we can spend our entire lives trying to capture but only a few ever truly find.

It does not mean that the work is over but rather that the trials of our life have come to pass and that what we have fought for, bled for, or even cried for have now come to pass. While there may no final resting place until we depart from this Earth, finding a small patch of land to call your own, a garden or a farm for you to mend, and a woman (or a man) for whom you can love freely, that is the ‘small measure of peace’ to strive for obtaining, especially in one’s later years.

One man who was able to find his small measure of peace was Nathan Algren, who in ‘The Last Samurai’ can redeem himself, end his alcoholism, and fight with courage and honor in preserving the memory of the Samurai. While the Samurai age came to an end, Industrial Japan, and its Emperor, partly thanks to Nathan leading the Samurai into battle, to preserve their dignity and honor, were able to leave their mark on Japanese culture and history. While he may have been the last Samurai and a foreigner in Japan, he was able to rally them to a glorious end for which Imperial Japan would never forget.

“Tell me how he died.” “I will tell you…how he lived.” Even after losing his close confidant and friend in the final battle, the samurai Katsumoto, who took Nathan under his wing, told him the ways of the Samurai, and introduced him to the woman he came to love, Nathan wanted to preserve his memory to the young Emperor and to let the Imperial Japanese court know how special the age of the Samurai was and how it should not be forgotten.

“Nations, like Men, it is sometimes said…have their own destiny.” While nations choose to look forward to the future, they must also embrace the past to preserve their identity. What was once part of their culture may go away but it can leave an imprint and be remembered by generations to come. Japan’s destiny lies in looking to the future but always remembering the past, such as the age of the Samurai. Nathan Algren, the American who learned the ways of the Samurai, was able to throw off his own turbulent past as a Civil War captain by learning to fight with dignity and honor as a Samurai in a cause bigger than his own ego.

“As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him…some say…he died of his wounds…others…that he returned to his own country…But I like to think…he may have, at last, found some small measure of peace…that we all seek…and few of us ever find.”

After trying to get himself killed or trying to deliberately drink himself to death, being able to survive as the last Samurai and tell of their traditions to keep the memory of Katsumoto alive, Nathan Algren was able to finally let go of the demons of his past and find the small measure of peace in a small Japanese village where he was first introduced to the only woman he truly loved. In her, Nathan finds a reason to stay alive, to make a life away from war and suffering, to be part of the woman’s village again, and perhaps start anew where he could be at peace with the past and have a pleasant future that is filled with love and peace.

As Nathan gathers his horse and rides down to Taka’s village, he is a man who is content, who is at peace, and who knows what exactly he must do for the rest of his living days. Taka and Nathan have a history together over the course of the film but by the ending scene, she is happy to see him alive and well again. Her beauty, grace, and femininity shine through as she gazes at Nathan, giving him a heartfelt smile, happy to see him in her presence again.

One look at each other says it all and they have been through so much in their time together that just to be making eye contact again is enough to fill up both of their hearts with joy. Like how Japan was willing to move forward to a new age while remembering the last Samurai, Nathan is also ready to be at peace with his past while looking to the future with Taka.

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