Thoughts on Carl Sagan’s ‘A Pale Blue Dot’

“This effort will only intensify in the years and decades to come as we go from being space-bound again to even Moon-bound and Mars-bound with our eyes set forward to being a galactic species.”

Carl Sagan’s ‘A Pale Blue Dot’ Speech

As much as we try to ignore it, pay it no thought, or just let it fade into the background of our priorities, Planet Earth is our only current and future home. When I say ‘future home’ as well, I may be met with some skepticism given the exciting recent events in putting man and woman back into space with success. This effort will only intensify in the years and decades to come as we go from being space-bound again to even Moon-bound and Mars-bound with our eyes set forward to being a galactic species.

However, while this excitement is commendable and our goals of being an interplanetary species a revolutionary event that could transform human life, I think we all need to remember that even though this effort to touch down on other planets including Mars may be a decade away, it will be quite a while still where people in large quantities can explore, live, and settle down in a planet not named Earth. You can practically guarantee that by reading this article in the year 2022 that it is very remote that we will be able to see humanity transcend Earth to live on other Earth-like planets in our lifetimes.

While I personally believe that Earth in our galaxy is not the only habitable planet, finding one that is, being able to go there, and then sustaining ourselves there will be the challenges of not years or decades but centuries forward. It is a noble pursuit and one that is likely to occur in the far future. My concern during this renewed era around space travel and interplanetary focus is that we stand to lose our only planet’s hospitable climate while we try to find others like the current one, which we are so blessed to have.

Multiple reports out there especially recently cite that we may be past the point of no return already when it comes to pulling the planet back from the depths of climate change activity already in motion. Our Planet Earth or as the great Carl Sagan would say, the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is in danger of only having a century or less left where it is hospitable for humans to live there comfortably. Natural disasters are clearly getting worse, droughts, wildfires, flooding, torrential downpours culminating together to create something out of a Biblical prophecy on top of the fact that the Polar ice caps melting has accelerated alongside unseasonably warm temperatures in the Arctic.

While we marvel at putting impressive rockets into space that can land vertically after being thousands of miles away, our planet is going through a stage five fire alarm and basically ringing the warning signs for us to collectively do something about the current climate crisis. We do not know how fast this crisis will accelerate and how bad it will get and when it will be unsustainable for Earth to be a hospitable planet, but we can measure that in decades and not centuries. We race to get to space and to find a hospitable planet other than our neglected and vengeful home of record, but we are at a disadvantage in my view. We do not have centuries to fix our climate crisis, but mere decades or even a decade as some have argued. Our ability to find an Earth-like planet for which humanity would have to relocate in mass would not take place for centuries and not decades.  

I am not writing this article to solve the climate crisis or to illustrate what we all should do to combat it; I believe we know what to do in our lives and what we should tell those in power to implement but rather my fear is that we have lost sight of the importance of why Planet Earth is so precious and worth fighting for. There is no better illustration of the gravity of our current fight to save Earth than the humble video recorded speech of the late famous American astronomer, Carl Sagan, who summed up the sheer importance of why ‘here’ or ‘Earth’ matters so much in the grand scheme of the Cosmos. “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

The ‘A Pale Blue Dot’ speech by Mr. Sagan highlights the totality of how Earth captured the human experience from across the globe among the tens of billions of people who lived on our planet including every hunter, forager, creator, destroyer, king, peasant, mother, father, and hopeful child. Everyone who has existed has lived on Earth on a ‘mode of dust suspended on a sunbeam.’ Mr. Sagan highlights the cruelties and violence that we have committed and continue to commit against each other to control a small part of the ‘pale blue dot’ we call Earth. The delusions of grandeur, the great ego we all struggle with, and how we think of ourselves as greater than the vastness of space and the endless infinity that surrounds us outside of our banal conflicts and glories.

Carl Sagan makes the point that in 2022, “The Earth is where we make our stand.” We can visit other planets like Mars or our own Moon, but we cannot live there yet. Mr. Sagan highlights the need to preserve and cherish ‘the pale blue dot’, which is still the only home we have ever known. To be kind to one another, to treat one another with respect, and to realize that the significance of our lives and of our place in the universe is quite minimal when you consider the vast never-ending spectrum of the cosmos. The Voyager 1 took the photo of the miniscule ‘pale blue dot’, otherwise known as Earth, over thirty years ago on February 14th, 1990, which inspired Carl Sagan’s speech and then book on what it means to see Earth from space to realize how small yet precious it is to have our home in the galaxy, and that it is the only known one we have in our universe.

As much as we try to distance ourselves from the fact that we are quite small and insignificant outside of ‘pale blue dot’, we occasionally should use that photograph to remind ourselves of how significant the Earth is to humanity and how we would not be surviving as a species without it as our home since the dawn of man and woman. If we choose not to preserve and protect for future generations, it will be a sad day with ancestors henceforth will have to leave a dying Earth to hope for a ‘better’ world, which may not even exist for us. All the love, death, goals, hopes, dreams, pain, pleasure of what it means to be human has taken place on our only home of Earth. The speech was a wakeup call to people in 1990 to take our only home of Earth more seriously and it will continue to be that clarion call for 2022 and beyond as the warning signs grow louder and more ominous if actions are not taken to combat the climate crisis.

While the movement to preserve Planet Earth has been around since at least the 1960s with the growth of environmentalism, Sagan’s ‘pale blue dot’ speech has inspired and continues to inspire those of us who realize how grave of an existential threat climate change is to humanity and how vital it is to protect this only home of ours. Sagan would not argue with those people who are trying to get us into space currently and to the parts unknown of our galaxy, but he would also remind us not to neglect our only home, not to abandon it to certain devastation, nor destruction, and to fight to keep it as a hospitable home for future generations. “Every human, who has ever lived, has lived on Earth,” he makes clear in the ‘pale blue dot’ speech and if the Earth is thriving, humanity will also have the chance to thrive too.

Standing Up to Double Standards

“I am all for having standards to abide and follow as they form the backbone of our laws, rules, and regulations, but what we need to avoid is having two sets of standards, which divides people and aggravates resentments.”

I discussed in a previous article of mine why setting standards around behavior, conduct, and fairness are important. I want to dive further given recent current events of which I could put to a few examples, but for which involve the recent internationally televised and particularly controversial awards show (not naming names here) as well as other prominent examples from politics and business that come to mind in past years on why having two sets of standards can be so deleterious for a society. I am all for having standards to abide and follow as they form the backbone of our laws, rules, and regulations, but what we need to avoid is having two sets of standards, which divides people and aggravates resentments.

We all can agree upon certain norms and standards that are set for us to build trust, reliability, and faith in our institutions and our society. However, when standards are ignored or watered down or not even followed by certain privileged parts of society, that can backfire in several ways including the loss of trust in the standards that were meant for all but are not followed by everyone.

When a few noteworthy individuals, who are looked upon as role models or are put into positions of power and/or influence, when they do not abide by the standards or thwart them openly, it causes others to realize that there are ‘double standards.’ Double standards can happen rarely, occasionally, or often enough that most people will start to realize that the rules set for them are not good enough for everybody and it can cause a ‘domino effect’ when more and more individuals choose to ignore the set standards if they see those with great power, wealth, or influence ignore the standards that they so diligently abide by and follow.

Certainly, there is no excuse to avoid set standards when wealthy and powerful people go out of their way to avoid or ignore them, but it does have effects on people’s faith and trust in those standards when some people because of privilege or background can just ignore or trample all over them. When there are “rules for thee, but not for me” and they are openly flaunted without consequence or punishment, our standards of behavior, conduct, and overall kinship will suffer. On top of that, when standards are diminished, degraded, or abused, that can cascade to our laws, rules, and regulations falling out of favor with more and more people as a result.

The most influential, wealthy, and powerful people in society may not feel they have a moral and a legal obligation to abide by standards but if they choose to ignore or chastise them, there will be negative ripple effects that can come about when others who follow, support, or condone them makes excuses to avoid those standards too and to create their own that are weaker or unenforceable. Double standards involve two sets of standards; often contradictory or competing or negating each other, which can cause unfair practices or inequal application to different groups of people.

If you do not happen to have the chosen background, power, privilege, or wealth to have your own set of standards, you will see the injustice and grievances more clearly when you see the standards not apply to everyone equally even when they still apply to you and your peers. The worst consequences of having two sets of standards with the new set of standards being weak or non-existent or outright morally wrong is when some people act willfully ignorant of the standards that society has fought to uphold, normalize, and spread to everyone equally.

They can end up applauding the 2nd set of standards, ignore the wrongdoing being done, or even condone the action(s) of that individual as being morally upright even when they know in their heart that what that person did is inexcusable. While standards of behavior and conduct can be ignored or demeaned, they never truly go away and while we can choose to forget them or ignore them or mock them, those who uphold these standards will do their best to make sure to point out the ‘double standards’ occurring and how that makes our society worse off as a result.

When you see these ‘double standards’ pop up and there’s nothing you can do about it to change that abuse of the standard, don’t stay quiet about it and do your best to voice your discontent with that ‘double standard’ having reared its ugly head. If you can’t get rid of that ‘double standard’ or hold those of privilege or in power accountable for flaunting their disregard for one set of standards, make sure you do not forget their hypocrisy or their lack of respect for the rules and the laws that keep society functioning.

Standards can change, evolve, and become more just over time, but having two sets of standards will always muddy the proverbial waters and cause discontent, anger, and resentment to brew beneath the surface. Being able to call out the ‘double standards’ when they emerge is crucial to making sure this kind of injustice does not grow or become normalize is very important. If the ‘double standard’ is embraced rather than done away with, the best that can be done is to bring attention to it, try to influence those people who can get rid of it, and then do your best to make sure it never comes back. Once the set ‘standards’ break off into two or more groups or two or more social classes or more backgrounds, it can be hard to put everybody back on the same set of standards in terms of accountability.

People of great power, influence, and wealth are under an extremely heavy lens by the rest of us, which is why they should be ever more careful to strive to be good examples in how they comport themselves even if they never wanted the attention or focus on them. How they act, behave, live, or cause a scene in public can reverberate in how others do the same in their own lives, which may not seem entirely logical but people behave based on the standards that they see around them and when one individual or a group of people betray those strong standards by weakening, abusing, or creating their own lackluster standards for themselves alone, other people will notice and will cause ‘double standards’ to emerge more and more often causing the bonds of societal brotherhood, respect, and love that can hold the society together like a strong glue to slowly weaken, wither, and potentially break off.

The Art of Introspection

“There is no shame in turning inwards from time to time. When I say turning inwards, I am referring to the art of introspection.”

There is no shame in turning inwards from time to time. When I say turning inwards, I am referring to the art of introspection. Being able to concentrate solely on your thoughts, emotions, and feelings is a key part of being emotionally mature. Now, it does not mean that you are constantly evaluating how you feel about someone or something 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but rather you are taking a few minutes or even an hour out of each day to step back, just pause and think, and reflect on how you are doing emotionally.

Being in touch with how you are doing without being prompted by someone else is healthy emotionally. Also, no one knows how you are feeling, what your thoughts are, or what you believe better than you. We can get caught up a great deal in how others view us and what they are thinking about us when the priority should be about what we are thinking or feeling about ourselves instead. Consciously stepping back from the world to analyze our thought processes, our feelings, and our worldview is a healthy thing to do, and I really encourage every reader perusing this article to do so daily, if not each week if you are pressed for time.

Introversion is never a sign of weakness or aloofness. Rather, it is a sign that you can be self-aware to the extent that you can take a step back from the world to pause, reflect, and view your emotions from your own personal standpoint. Being an observer is key not only for one’s surroundings and regarding other people you come across but also to observe yourself and to be able to sum up how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking not only about the present but to some extent to engage with what you’re examining for the future as well as the past.

Psychologists often say that introversion is not just observing or examining one’s own mental state but also one’s soul. Keeping one’s soul intact by evaluating your actions, beliefs, feelings and knowing how to do soul searching or to invigorate one’s soul is part of the introversion state. As a functioning adult or in the process of becoming one, performing self-analysis is key to being a more mature and responsible individual. Nobody’s perfect, of course, and being able to be introspective, will help you learn from your mistakes, do better next time, and see where you went wrong and how things could have gone better.

It’s easier to examine the people in your life’s actions, beliefs, or thought processes but those assumptions may not be accurate or fully formed because you never truly know what’s going on in another person’s life or why they act or believe in the way that they do. The only 100% analysis I believe that you can do is the one you can do on yourself since no one knows who you are better than you do. While you can still lie to yourself or not be entirely faithful to who you believe yourself to be, introspection is an action that you can always get better at the more you practice it sincerely.

When it comes to introspection or self-analysis, it’s not a one-and-done deal. You must be introspective multiple times a week in my view or at the minimum at least once a week. It is key to be in a quiet or tranquil place or setting by yourself and without any distractions. You should not be on your phone, with a friend, or performing some activity or action. You cannot do a real self-analysis or self-reflection when you are doing other things that require your attention.

Some people do not even realize that we already perform introspection without even noticing that we are committing this action in our daily or weekly routines. Whether it is brushing our teeth, jumping in the shower, going on a solo hike in a secluded forest, or even performing your fifteen minutes of yoga or meditation; these are all excellent forms of introspection where we can take the time to analyze our behavior, emotions, and feelings. It does not take a lot of time to do and if we have an activity that doesn’t distract us with talking, eating, listening to music, or being entertained by something we see or hear, you will better be able to perform your introspection or self-analysis at least a few minutes each day and it will add up over time.

When you can perform some introspection through some habit or activity in solitude that you do, you will get better at being able to perform this introspection without it being too difficult or tedious. There are twenty-four hours in a day and even a few minutes to check in with ourselves to see how we’re doing, what we’re feeling, thinking about how to be a better person or what to change for the future; that kind of introspection will be worth it to do so, and it will be easier to do so when we set some time apart to look inwards.

The next time you feel like you need some alone time to think, reflect, and get in touch with what you’re feeling: you should do that. There is nothing wrong with some introspection and I find personally that it is extremely healthy and beneficial to our mental clarity and our overall state of being. Each day, we are seemingly overwhelmed with the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of others and we are forced to react instantaneously since it affects our lives to some degree. It can be a struggle to take a step back to think things through or analyze why we reacted the way we did. Because of how fast things happen in our lives and how often we are around others and must be quick on our feet, it is very healthy to be able to carve out some time, even if a few minutes each day, to reflect rather than react and to process our actions to be able to be and do better in an effort to be more emotionally healthy and mature.

The Fruits of One’s Labor

“The song is called ‘Victory Dance’ by My Morning Jacket and whose lyrics directly address the earned happiness and contentedness after a day of struggle through a hard day’s work.”

One of my favorite song lyrics deals with the satisfaction of another day worked and to see the fruits of one’s labor enjoyed at the end of the day. The song is called ‘Victory Dance’ by My Morning Jacket and whose lyrics directly address the earned happiness and contentedness after a day of struggle through a hard day’s work.

“Hope to watch the victory dance after the days’ work is done
Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun…
Hope to watch the victory dance over many lives to come…
Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun.”

The ‘victory dance’ could be interpreted as a metaphor for a celebration or a relaxation or a general happiness that comes over you at the end of the working day. Regardless of the work involved, at the end of the day or the week or even the year, you can be able to look back with pride and satisfaction in your ability to ‘dance’ or enjoy the fruits of your labor in the evening or night or whenever your work is done.

The key lyric I can relate to is that the work may be done for the day, but it will continue for many ‘lives’ or ‘years’ to come. While the work you did today was hopefully meaningful or valuable, your progress will need to continue in the future so you can keep enjoying the ‘victory dance’ in whatever form you celebrate or take stock of what you were able to do.

Fruit takes time to grow and to be at its most ripe for eating and the same goes for our labor. While labor or work can be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, real progress in our labor whether it’s a business, a corporation, or a conglomerate, that kind of work can take years, decades, or even generations to build. You can enjoy a ‘victory dance’ for any kind of daily labor you can put in because of the progress made, but a key point as highlighted in this song by My Morning Jacket is that you really should try to enjoy the ‘victory dance’ for “many lives to come”, which I interpret as years to come or even over the generations from one family member to another.

Long-term progress requires ‘lives’ or ‘workers’ to build over the years or decades so it’s important to not celebrate too early or to ‘dance’ too early because the fruits of your labor should not be enjoyed too prematurely but rather when the moment is right or when the fruit is all ripe. Fruit, like one’s labor, takes time to enjoy so it’s best to be patient and work hard over time rather than to try to rush the process to enjoy ‘the fruits’ prematurely rather than when things have progressed to a finished point and even then, there is always room for further progress and improving in one’s work.

Another few of the lyrics from ‘Victory Dance’ that I really enjoy is the emphasis on trying out whatever labor may be best for you to thrive, or for which is done out of necessity to survive. It is key to adapt to the labor required of you or which is most available at the time since the ‘fruits’ will be just as enjoyable at the end of it. If you are committing yourself to ‘labor’, which inevitably involves struggle, either mentally or physically, the rewards or ‘fruits’ will likely be worth it because of that same ‘struggle’ involved.

“But you should work, for the self and the family
Should I hit the water or stay on dry land, even though I never swam?
Take machete into the brush, though at first there is no path
Taste the warpaint on my tongue as it’s drippin’ with my sweat
Place my gaze in the futures path, seein’ things that aint come yet.”

Your labor or work is not just for your own fruits as the lyrics state above. It’s also for your family or for the people who depend on your labor. They must share in the ‘fruits’ as well beyond your own needs and desires. Needing labor to survive and enjoy the fruits of life’s necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. will sometimes force us to get out of our comfort zone as well. As the lyric above suggests, we often must test our limits to secure labor to have the ‘fruits’ in life. We may have to swim even when we have never swum before, but labor will require learning both new abilities and skills to be good at what we do.

You may have to learn those new skills to secure labor to do or to have work for the future. You should leave your comfort zone such as learning to swim, or to hike, or to hunt, or to lift heavy things or to use your mind to solve problems.

Whether it is a machete or a screwdriver or a keyboard, you are going to have to ‘clear a path’ with your labor even as the song says, nothing was there before. Creating something or making something out of nothing is a key part of being able to enjoy those fruits later by the work of sound mind or a good body.

Lastly, you may be physically challenged in your labor especially if there happens to be conflict as the song alleges. You may not know it, but you may be asked for labor of national importance or survival such as in times of peace but also in warfare, and you may have to provide service as part of your labor not for yourself but for community or for country as well. The final lyric in particular sums up why we labor for our fruits to begin with to plan for an uncertain or unknown future.

We may not have planned to do certain types of labor or work but regardless of if you’re an engineer, a blacksmith, or a doctor, you may be asked to do other types of work that you will have to both learn and then be proficient at. One must always be prepared to do other kinds of work to stay agile, be flexible, and plan for the unexpected such as a war or conflict that you did not see coming but you may be forced into fighting as the reluctant warrior in the song lyrics.

To secure the fruits now and for later as well will help to make sure that our collective labor will not have been for nothing. When your secure labor for yourself to do, you cannot work forever so it is important to think of the future and how to plan to have those ‘fruits’ not just for today, next year, but for the rest of your life too.

“Got to, This is America, Man…” – Anatomy of a Scene

“‘The Wire’ is the greatest television show of all-time. Even as the show nears the 20th anniversary since when it first aired on American cable television network, HBO, it still rings as culturally relevant and as emotionally stirring as it was when it first debuted in the Summer of 2002. While technology may be different now, the characters would not be the same, the setting could be different from the show, the overall themes, and messages from ‘The Wire’ as well as the institutions that the show focused on for five great seasons have not changed that much.”

‘The Wire’ is the greatest television show of all-time. Even as the show nears the 20th anniversary since when it first aired on American cable television network, HBO, it still rings as culturally relevant and as emotionally stirring as it was when it first debuted in the Summer of 2002. While technology may be different now, the characters would not be the same, the setting could be different from the show, the overall themes, and messages from ‘The Wire’ as well as the institutions that the show focused on for five great seasons have not changed that much.

I could write a thesis on ‘The Wire’ and devote at least 10,000 words on the show in terms of an in-depth breakdown on how it’s the modern equivalent to a Shakespeare tragedy or drama. However, in this ‘Anatomy of a Scene’, I am going to focus on one of my favorite scenes in this classic television show. This scene is the opening one for the entire five-season series and discusses a core tenet of the show not just about what kind of ‘game’ that the characters play, but also the ‘game’ inherent to the setting of Baltimore, Maryland as well as America as a country.

The opening scene, more than any other scene, even if it is the 1st, one pinpoints exactly what ‘The Wire’ is about. In the first shots, you can see a young man lay face down dead on the ground on some dark city street with the police collecting evidence and a main character, who is a detective, questioning a potential witness. The associate of the victim talks about how they were involved with street gambling and how it was not fair that it was not right to kill the victim, non-ironically known as ‘snot boogie’ to the game’s players. The victim of the crime has a real name but is endeared to the rest of the game’s players by that nickname alone.

As the witness explains to Detective Jimmy McNulty of Baltimore Police, ‘Snot Boogie’ was the victim of the crime, but his associate did not expect him to be killed for stealing from the other players of the street game for playing craps. The associate tells McNulty that the victim is known for stealing and grabbing the money to run away but they never want beyond just ‘beating his ass’ up a bit.

While it is a grim description of the dangers of gambling illegally on the streets, the witness to McNulty’s murder case explains that there is an unwritten rule to the ‘game’ of street gambling and that ‘Snot Boogie’ should not have been murdered for stealing from the other players. Nobody ever tried to kill the victim even after he was found guilty of stealing money from the street game players even if they did often catch him and beat him for having done it multiple times.

The witness refuses to tell McNulty who killed his associate in this game and does not want to go to court even though he believes it was disgraceful how ‘Snot Boogie’ was killed because they always let him play even though he would always steal from them.
“I got to ask ya, if every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away…why’d you even let him in the game?”
“…What?”
“If Snot Boogie always stole the money, why did you always let him play?”
“Got to, This America, man.”

McNulty looks incredulously as the witness tells him this reasoning because at its face, it does not make much sense for a guy who steals from folks repeatedly to continue playing a dangerous and illegal craps street game. It’s clear to both characters that life itself, and life in America is far from being fair at the end of the day especially a man got killed, which was against to how the game was being played, according to the witness, even if he was stealing from them.

Even if the game is fair or is rigged to some degree, it occurs to the witness and then McNulty after he sees the guy’s reasoning that even if the game was not meant to be won and the result would always be the same, you still let the game play out. The game may not be fair like life itself in general or in America, but it must be played by everyone. It may not be a fair shot and there is no equal outcome, but there is equal opportunity out there for each player to be involved even if someone cheats, steals, and comes back to play again. The game exists for everyone to be given a shot at it and if they don’t, that’s against the principle of life itself and life in America.

There are tragic consequences to this craps game for Snot Boogie who loses his life senselessly as well as for the men who will go to jail for it or lose all their money, but the game goes on and it’s open to everyone. Like the witness explains, the game deserves to be played by everyone equally although the outcome may not be something everyone will like or even will cost some people dearly. This excellent opening scene opens with the most prominent themes of The Wire perfectly and almost seems like a graphic novel come to life. Its visuals are striking, the characters are who you can relate to on a human level, and there is a lot of foreshadowing about the rest of the show and its messages to the viewers from this tone-setting scene.

‘The Wire’ is a show about the early stages of 21st century America in its first decade of the 2000s but it is as still as relevant about 20 years later. The metaphor of this opening scene for not just a couple of guys in a craps game gone wrong in the street can pair directly too what can happen when capitalism can go off the rails when someone tries to beat the rules or try to gain an advantage when they are put at a disadvantage to begin with. If the game is rigged from the get-go even if you’re given a shot at it, what’s the point in playing by the rules? If you can beat the system even if there are dire consequences, is it not worth trying?

‘Snot Boogie’s associates knew he was a thief and a cheater because they believed that he still deserved a shot at winning like everyone else even though it was likely rigged so he would never make it after multiple tries. As the opening scene of the greatest television show of all-time shows the viewer, everybody can play the game even if they are a cheater in the sense of having equal opportunity, but what happens when no one is held accountable when the odds are stacked against them from the start of the game and there is no other way to win than by cheating the system and facing serious consequences?

The show may not be defined by its iconic opening scene but as you find as you watch the entire series, the metaphor for what that scene represents about the show and about the ethic that binds American society together long after you finish watching each of its five seasons.

A Roll of The Dice

“There is always going to be a risk involved when rolling the dice or making the choice in life as there is when it comes to choosing one of two possible decision or even one of multiple decisions.”

When many of us think about versus chance, the English expression, “A roll of the dice” comes to mind. When you are faced with two or more choices and you must act, it’s like rolling the dice and hoping to get lucky in a table game at a casino. There is always going to be a risk involved when rolling the dice or making the choice in life as there is when it comes to choosing one of two possible decision or even one of multiple decisions.

Life involves a lot of non-linear choices to make and that inevitably involves taking chances on it. There’s no bigger example for me of taking a chance metaphorically than the rolling of a dice like at a craps table. Dice can have multiple choices on them or two choices only, one of which that it will land on, the other it will miss, but there is only one outcome without any alternative once the dice stops rolling.

Many of our day-to-day decisions involve choosing, taking that action, and going in one and only direction after the decision is made like the dice being rolled. While we would like to choose both options to see where they lead us, the chances of doing so are unrealistic and impossible. Like the dice that we roll, in life, we only can choose one of two or more possibilities. Dice can have more than two choices and while your standard dice has six sides to it, life usually has us choose between more than a few options as well with only one possible choice being the outcome to follow.

The metaphor of rolling the dice is apt when you consider that for the average person, choice overload leads to indecision or no decision at all. The most stressful part of a person’s day is not making the choice itself but rather when they are not given a choice or if they have too many choices to choose from. There is real fear and anxiety in people thinking they made the wrong decision and if they have multiple choices, the likelihood of feeling stress goes up because the choice is not simplified, and they must weigh different outcomes rather than just two or a few of them.

When the choices we have in front of us are two or four or six, we suffer less from ‘analysis paralysis’ or from indecision itself. While you can still second guess yourself later, if you are still able to think your decisions through and make an educated guess or choice, you won’t feel as stressed or anxious. I think that’s why the adage of ‘flipping a coin’ or ‘rolling the dice’ appeals to people because sometimes, the randomness and leaving it up to chance is better than putting actual effort into our decisions.

That’s partly why gambling is such an intrinsic part of most cultures in that you can still act by flipping the coin, rolling the dice, pulling the lever, but you don’t have any real choice to make because you’re leaving the choice up to someone else like an algorithm, a card dealer, or fate itself. People like autonomy over their decisions but they also enjoy leaving things out of their hands and letting ‘fate’ decide what happens next.

Of course, ‘fate’ usually has its outside influence on the choice that is made whether that’s the wind gust blowing the coin on a different side you expected, the casino letting the algorithm or computer decide who wins or who loses, or more generally, the environment around you that has an impact on the outcome. Fate itself is not without its own influence on the outcome so if you think that there is anything in this world that is truly impartial or just unbiased to the core, I tend to disagree and believe that whether it’s leaving things up to ‘chance’ or ‘fate’ itself, nothing is ever truly random in its consequence and that no outcome is without its own chance of interference.

You may have rolled the dice, pulled the lever, tossed the coin, picked a card from a deck, but there are other factors at play that keep ‘fate’ from being truly blind in its outcome. Even when leaving things up to ‘chance’, you still acted up until that point and the fact that you put yourself in that situation means the outcome itself afterwards even if you call it ‘fate’ was a consequence of your actions only but it is rather true instead that the immediate environment, the people around you, and a number of other external factors that had an influence on the ‘fate’ of that outcome.

Rolling dice, playing cards, and gambling give people a thrill because your action can lead to random winnings or losings but that’s basically the illusion of it all. Fate in life like a rolling of the dice may seem random but there are outside factors in place that may seem like it was ‘destiny’, ‘fate’ or ‘random luck’ but involved several actions, decisions, beliefs that led to the present moment.

Instead of trusting in ‘fate’ to guide us or for our choices to always be led to pure ‘chance’, we lose the power of our choices and the education of our decisions. We cannot always leave things to ‘chance’ and must look beyond picking randomly or choosing out of a hat to guide us in life. While I disagree with taking on too many choices or nitpicking every decision you make, you must always be thinking things through, educating yourself, and being willing to learn from your mistakes.

Choices inevitably cause consequences, both good and bad, and we cannot foresee where our choices may lead. However, if we leave too much up to ‘fate’ or ‘luck’ as we call it, then we will never really mature or grow as people. People should do their best to have autonomy over their decisions and to not take them lightly. Yes, it can be fun to roll a dice or flip a coin to make our choices, but life is too serious to be gambling on our choices like that. Rolling the dice may seem like an easy way to go through life like picking random numbers out of a hat but that’s not how the real-world works. When we evaluate our choices, think through decisions that have big consequences, and trust in our believes to guide us through the consequences of those decisions, we will be better off as individuals for having taken control of our lives rather than leave it all up to ‘chance.’

A Belief in Karma

“These ideals play into the belief in karma that can be complex to follow but to myself means that what you put out into the world will often come back to affect you as a result.”

We are all born with our own innate sense of fairness that can develop as we get older. From childhood where we learn to share our toys in the playground with our classmates and friends to adulthood where we share our workspace with colleagues or our kitchen with roommates or our homes with loved ones. People have this innate sense of fairness that ties into larger ideals of justice, equality, and righteousness.

These ideals play into the belief in karma that can be complex to follow but to myself means that what you put out into the world will often come back to affect you as a result. Karma is a belief that how you treat others or how you interact with the world will have an effect of the world giving you what you put out in return.

While karma is not an innate reason why we strive to be fair, just, and equal in our actions towards other people, the belief in it can play our notion of fairness because if we don’t treat someone well or treat them fairly, you have a better chance of them not reciprocating or someone else not treating you fairly, as a result. There is a popular English expression that relates to Karma known as, “what goes around, comes around.”

For children, if you hog all the toys and don’t share, then no one is going to want to play with you or want to be your friend. As adults, if you repel people with your attitude or behavior towards them, it may cause you to suffer in your social relations but in your ability to hold a job or to have a productive life. Believing in Karma is not religious, but it takes a lot of lessons from religious and spiritual belief systems.

What we put out into the universe may not affect us right away, but it may come back in some other form when we least expect it. People fear not just the karma that could come because of their decisions, behaviors, and actions, but also how it affects their conscience and their memories. When you don’t have good karma, you’re likely to suffer other consequences such as bad memories, a muddled conscience, and harmful habits that could cause you to retreat from the world because of poor interactions with it.

While some people don’t believe in karma and don’t think their actions can have a ricochet effect on them, they still have a conscience and emotions that will be negatively affected from their bad behavior. Sometimes, karma is not enough to deter bad behavior, but it can be a motivating factor for people to act better because they don’t want it to come back on them if they have built up bad karma that would backfire.

Karma has its origins in Buddhism and while many people are not Buddhists, they can see the principle of ‘cause and effect’ at work in their lives. Even from a young age, we become aware that if we don’t share toys or listen to the teacher, it will likely lead to negative consequences as a result. We learn subconsciously to be good to not only feel good but to receive what’s good in return. That does not mean that if we only put out good deeds or actions or words into the world, that we will always receive such reciprocity. That is a naïve viewpoint, but we shouldn’t do good just for karma’s sake. We should do good to be good people and to automatically have a positive effect on the world in whatever small and measurable way that can in our lives.

Karma can make us better people but primarily, it would be best to follow our conscience first as well as our sense of right and wrong, which I do believe we innately have as babies but learn to hone more and more as we get older with education in character and conduct. Karma is an important layer that is part of our overall belief system, which allows us to be better people and to try to do as much good in the world as possible in the hopes that not only will it come back to us, but it will ripple out in its effect of leading to other good actions by others to boost other peoples’ karma. We want to spread the good karma around so that’s the only karma that can come back on all of us.

When you think of karma from a societal or global perspective, it makes sense in that good actions have a collective effect in that the planet will be better off as a result if we all do good by it. The karma that comes back on us from recycling, lowering our carbon output, taking care of nature and animal species, and limiting our negative impacts environmentally, that kind of karma leads to a healthier planet and a better existence for all of us.

Karma is not just for the individual but for a society and even the whole planet’s inhabitants. If we put out good into the world through better actions, behavior, and deeds, the karma we receive in return will often be better as a result. If you believe in karma, you believe in a deeper sense of overall fairness and justice. You believe that good begets good and fair begets fair. As the civil rights leader, activist, and visionary Martin Luther King, Jr. would say, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”            

If more of us believe that our good morals and beliefs will lead to greater justice, than the world will likely have more justice as a result. What we put effort into our behaviors, emotions, and deeds will have an impact and an effect on the rest of us. I truly believe in Karma as a guiding principle and although it may not conclude what exactly our impact will be on one another each and every time, how we generally interact with other day by day does lead to karmic consequences, for better or for worse.

San Diego Skyline

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: San Diego, California, United States

The Yearning for Nostalgia

“Whether it is an escape through our popular culture, a preference to revisit the past than to explore what may come in an unknown future, or to enjoy simply what we have been accustomed to, the power of nostalgia should not be underestimated.”

What is it about nostalgia that stirs such powerful emotions in us all? Why do we insist on revisiting, remaking, and reconstructing the past? This innate yearning that is part of being human, I would argue, is a part of gaining back some comfort and familiarity in an increasingly unfamiliar and complex world. Whether it is an escape through our popular culture, a preference to revisit the past than to explore what may come in an unknown future, or to enjoy simply what we have been accustomed to, the power of nostalgia should not be underestimated.

As the new year begins, looking at the popular culture, which reflects trends in our overall society, this yearning for nostalgia has only gotten more prominent in the recent years, especially with the continuing of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple examples in pop culture where nostalgia is the rule rather than the exception. One example would include video games where remakes, sequels, and remastered games from the Halo series to Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty are still the most popular even after being decades long in terms of their original creation.

Another example would be television shows where one of the most popular series released recently is ‘Cobra Kai’ whose origins come from the Karate Kid movies of the 1980s, but for which has had a rebirth with the same actors almost four decades later but also with new characters who compliment the original story. Other popular shows involve those from the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Marvel’ series whose revitalizations include the bounty hunter Boba Fett (also from the 1980s as a character) and popularly known comic book heroes including ‘Loki’, ‘Captain America’, and ‘Hawkeye.’ While these comic book heroes may be new to some viewers, they also date back in their creation back to the 1990s or even earlier allowing their fans to indulge in their own nostalgia in seeing these comic book heroes come to the small screen.

I haven’t even mentioned the plethora of movies from ‘Licorice Pizza’ (1970s), ‘The Power of the Dog’ (1920s Western), ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ (1990s-2000s), released just in the past few months who pay homage to the past from settings we are familiar with or at least recognize. While there are films and TV series that do focus on mankind’s possible future(s), such as ‘Station Eleven’ on HBOMax or ‘The Expanse’ on Amazon Prime, most popular media today focuses on either adapted stories or at least remakes of stories with slight changes or new ideas related to the same characters to keep its popularity going.

In 2022, nostalgia sells the best, which is why new Halo video games, new Spider-Man movies, and new Game of Thrones books still rule the day in terms of our popular media consumption. Now, that does not mean that our appetite for new and original ideas in our popular culture are going extinct, but you can tell that we live in an age of rampant nostalgia, which is the norm rather than taking a chance or a risk on a new story or new ideas.

I believe that this resurgent nostalgia does have its positives to give people some familiarity with what they already know from their own past and for which they have experience in liking already. In addition, it can take more time to warm up to a new story, a new idea, or a new experience when it’s easier to go with something or someone you already know. Stories can change or adapt or get better sometimes over times and just because we are familiar with a character, or a series does not mean that it automatically gets boring after a certain point.

However, it is much easier to rely on nostalgia rather than to forge a new path. In anything in life and not just popular culture, it’s not as challenging to look back on what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or what we’ve experienced than to go forward, challenge oneself, and try new things. The impulse to be comfortable with what’s familiar rather than the unknown is a powerful force and an impulse that can be hard to overcome without pushing yourself. Nostalgia does not create lasting comfort though usually and it can be rather stale to rely on reliving things, experiences, or places rather than to look forward to unknown occurrences in the future.

Sequels, remakes, reshoots, adapted materials are harder to make better than the originals and they also do not break any new ground. Whether it is film, music, art, books, or in general, it may be easier to rely on nostalgia for creation but if it does not work out, it can be harder to bounce back from that failure. If you do something original or unique instead, it will stand out much more currently, and while you may polarize people who have gotten so used to nostalgia everywhere, you can be more wildly successful in your endeavor potentially and create a new cultural touchstone.

One great example from this past year that generated not only a cultural touchstone, but a worldwide phenomenon from Seoul to London to New York was the Netflix original series, ‘Squid Game.’ While the popular show contained elements from other TV series from the past, it had its own flair to it with unique set design, memorable characters, and a compelling and timely plot. It was the #1 TV series on the global streaming platform for over a month or so and generated important conversations in the public sphere regarding capitalism, income inequality, and debt servicing. The creators of the series took a big gamble, and they could have failed but they put their heart and soul into this unique show, and it paid off in more ways than one.

‘Squid Game’ and other original programming are a lesson for us all to not let our imaginations be stymied by what’s familiar and already known. Even in an uncertain world being continually upended by a pandemic and the effects of climate change, people want to be challenged to discover what’s new and what’s important. There is room in this world for both what’s new and what’s nostalgic. I think our problems begin in society when we only crave what’s comfortable or only what’s nostalgic to us. If we only choose to focus on what we already know, we won’t be able to face what’s new or on the horizon for us. It is not good to dwell only on what’s past and to rehash forever and ever what we already like rather than not trying to discover what we may like or embrace in the future that can help us learn more about the world around us.

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