Peace of the Ocean

“Some folks prefer the mountains, others prefer the river, but I prefer the ocean. As the saying goes, “The ocean has no memory.” It doesn’t care who we are or where we come from, it’s just glad that we are there.”

Witness the waves splashing down on the sand, hear the wind swirling throughout the beach, feel the coolness of the water lapping up against your feet, and experience the solitude that you gain from being by yourself at dusk or dawn with a full view of the brilliant ocean. These are just a few ways that the peace of the ocean can captivate us and keep us coming back for more tranquility. Some folks prefer the mountains, others prefer the river, but I prefer the ocean. As the saying goes, “The ocean has no memory.” It doesn’t care who we are or where we come from, it’s just glad that we are there.

In this increasingly fast-paced world based around complex technology that can be both addictive and time consuming, it’s truly peaceful to get away from it all if only for a short while by taking time to go to the ocean. You don’t even have to get in the ocean but by being near it, I believe it refreshes us, it calms us, and allows us to be left with our thoughts and our memories.

Some folks like to swim, some like to surf, others like to fish, while some enjoy lounging on the beach; in all, there are dozens of options on how to interact with the ocean allowing us to find our own peace by being in the ocean or nearby it. The beauty of the ocean is that every time is a little bit different for the person who goes there. The setting may be the same, but you’ve changed as a person and so do your thoughts, feelings, and desires upon coming to the ocean. You grow older, you change jobs, you move places, you bring new people with you, but the ocean and its bounty never truly changes.

How you interact with the ocean may change too and what you decide to get from it will also adapt but nothing that ever changes is that we all seek peace of our own from this beautiful locale. Regardless of the activity involved, the ocean recharges our batteries, lets us relax, keeps us honest, and allows us to leave our troubles behind for a little while. Because of its restorative powers, it is no wonder why millions of people live by the ocean and why billions around the planet seek to visit it year in and year out.

The ocean is such a powerful part of human nature that we bury our dead there at times, that we memorialize people who made a living from it, and that we honor those who preserved peace when wars were fought over access to it. Humanity is always linked to the ocean and if we do not protect and preserve the ocean, a part of our humanity would be lost in the process. The ocean is a living and breathing thing providing us with the oxygen, nutrients, and food that we need to survive each day.

In return for the calm, tranquility, and overall peace that it brings us, we must do our part to keep it clean, keep its inhabitants from becoming endangered, and making sure that it is around for future generations. When we can no longer fish the waters, swim in the waves, or relax ourselves at pristine beaches, we will lose a piece of ourselves, and we will lose our own inner peace that the ocean cultivates in those of us who go there to rejuvenate and restore ourselves each time.

The ocean gives us peace of mind, peace of body, and peace of spirit. It’s only fair that we strive to give back as best as we can by taking care of it and letting it be enjoyed far into the future. Acidification, pollution, loss of natural habits and pockets of floating trash threaten not only the ocean but the rest of the planet too. We will not be able to have as much as peace if the ocean is dying. When we can no longer fish the waters responsibly, swim in clean waves, or go boating with clean energy, we will suffer a true lack of peace. Our minds and our bodies won’t be at ease if the ocean is not at ease.

The climate change crisis is not just about preserving the planet, but it is also about preserving our own mental peace of mind. The ocean allows us to feel better about ourselves, improve our social relationships, and spend quality time away from work or other commitments. If we lose the chance to enjoy the ocean, that lack of peace will hurt us as human beings. If we can no longer enjoy one of our best natural environments, we will lose a great way to relax, rejuvenate, and recharge ourselves to deal with life’s challenges and opportunities. I hope we can do better in the future to keep the ocean beautiful, clean, and vibrant because I enjoy the peace that it brings me in return.

Great Falls National Park

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Great Falls Park; McLean, Virginia, USA

Whitehaven Trails

Camera: iPhone 8

Location: Whitehaven Trails and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal; Washington, District of Columbia, United States

The End of Daily Social Interactions?

“One consequence of the pandemic that has accelerated in terms of being an option for our lives is how the easiness and convenience of going a day or more without seeing or speaking to another human being.”

One consequence of the pandemic that has accelerated in terms of being an option for our lives is how the easiness and convenience of going a day or more without seeing or speaking to another human being. Obviously, if you’re counting virtual meetings on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you’re interacting with plenty of people on a daily basis but to me, it’s not the same and shouldn’t be considered a real replacement for face-to-face interactions. Whereas ten or twenty years ago, you would need to leave the house or apartment to get pretty much anything done, you now have the chance to do everything from the comfort of your own domicile, for better or for worse.

If you’re an introvert, you may be welcoming this kind of societal shift, but I do worry how we are sacrificing convenience for social awareness and better interpersonal relations. Even if you consider yourself pretty comfortable on your own, I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to be cooped up all the time even in a pandemic. Of course, we have to be socially distant, stay home according to what guidelines may be in place, and keep washing our hands but that shouldn’t prevent us from saying ‘hello’ to a stranger or asking a cashier that’s not a robot or automated computer the common courtesy of ‘how you are doing?’

Right now, it’s acceptable to minimize human to human contact especially if you’re elderly, vulnerable, or with a preexisting condition but the rest of us should still make time to interact with someone outside of our ‘COVID bubble’ even if it’s in a limited way. I do believe that companies have made it way too easy for us to subsidize our usual running of errands by keeping us at home. While it does help people, who can’t leave due to concerns for their health, I think it does a disservice in making things a little too convenient and then perhaps keeping our reliance on applications, e-commerce, and delivery services to meet our every need.

Running errands to go to the grocery store or to pick up stamps or to pick up medical prescriptions may end up going the way of the Dodo bird and while some of us may be holdouts even after the pandemic, this is a huge societal shift that will affect our way to socialize and build shared communities with other people. The 2020s may have us needing to go out of our way and building our willpower up in terms of seeking out social connections rather than them happening organically. In order to meet new people, it may not happen as much if your university is online or you are a remote worker, you’re going to have to put it upon yourself to find a way to meet people again which will take some creativity.

The good news is that clubs, organizations, sports teams, and language groups aren’t going to die out even if some of them remain online in some capacity. You will have to seek out those groups that are similar to your hobbies and interests especially if you’re in a new city or a new country, but they are going to be out there, but you have to take the initiative to find those groups, attend those meetings, get involved, and also give back to that group when you can. Volunteering your time and effort in person will also be a boost to communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and even after it is finally over, if you find yourself isolated and needing to be social more, volunteering with others is a great way to do it and will be sorely needed due to economic and health needs that people will need help with.

What you need to avoid is getting too comfortable with the increasing automation of our society, which will make it harder to deal with anyone face to face, for better or worse. Even if you do leave the house, it’s becoming likelier that you’ll deal with an automated register at a convenience store or supermarket, an ATM at a bank, and with a touchscreen to order food. With just a smartphone alone, you can order groceries delivered to your door, get dry cleaning picked up for you, have prescriptions delivered, food for lunch and dinner, and also most consumer items with a conglomerate like Amazon or Alibaba. The eCommerce industry is set to grow exponentially in this young decade to suit consumer needs and with the rise of Internet of Things, your home will become more adjustable to your comforts too making it harder to leave your place.

Whether it is UberEats, HelloFresh, Amazon’s prescription service (coming soon), online banking, or Zoom for teleconferencing, the pandemic has accelerated wide shifts in society and one that becomes more evident each day is how much easier it is getting to stay at home 24 / 7. Again, after the pandemic, this may let up a bit as people socialize again but the automation of jobs will continue, remote working will become the norm, and online education will become cheaper and of better quality to suit those who want to be virtual for at least part of their higher learning.

I don’t encourage people to become hermits, recluses, or to avoid human contact with anyone who is not a family member or a friend even if it’s during a pandemic with safety precautions in mind. However, the societal shift to convenience at any cost and becoming an island to oneself does have a cost. While you may love your dog Fido or your cat Fifi, they are not substituting for other people. With increased convenience comes a cost like anything else and in this case, it’s our ability to socialize and be around others.

In a post-COVID world where automation, eCommerce, and the Internet of Things will make it harder to leave your home, you are going to need to be more proactive in seeking out activities, events, and groups where you can be free to meet new people and have new friends. We will all be socially awkward after the pandemic but at least we’ll be social again and I promise it will be worth the effort.

While you’re not going to be friends with most of the people we meet, it is important to be open to the possibility and to put yourself out there again. Staying at home with your delivered food, groceries, and prescriptions may be really appealing and easy to get used to but I promise after a while, you’ll miss the feeling of going to a physical store or a pharmacy and just being in a public place again and away from your screen(s). That’s a unique feeling that I hope never truly goes away because our daily interactions, somewhat mundane but potentially unique too, can help make our life that much fuller and richer.

Taughannock Falls

Camera: iPhone 8

Location: Taughannock Falls State Park; Ithaca, New York

Cornell Botanical Gardens

Camera: iPhone 8

Location: Cornell University; Ithaca, New York

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Camera: iPhone 8

Location: Buttermilk Falls State Park; Ithaca, New York

Rio from the Water

Camera: Samsung Galaxy J2 Core

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

See the Stars

“If you are going through troubles in your life, I believe it can be comforting to see the stars not only to realize that while our problems are serious and need to be dealt with, it is also good to realize the beauty in things and nothing is perhaps more beautiful than a clear, night sky where you can see the constellations, the full moon, and even a shooting star if you are lucky.”

One nightly ritual that should make a comeback is to see the stars. A simple yet effective way to remember our place in the universe and how small we really are when it comes to the cosmos. If you are going through troubles in your life, I believe it can be comforting to see the stars not only to realize that while our problems are serious and need to be dealt with, it is also good to realize the beauty in things and nothing is perhaps more beautiful than a clear, night sky where you can see the constellations, the full moon, and even a shooting star if you are lucky.

While not likely under the traditional definition for a ‘meditation experience’, I think that you can definitely get lost in your own thoughts or perhaps stop thinking for a while as you concentrate on the brightest stars or the allure of the full moon. Instead of thinking about your problems and your worries, you can try to map the ‘Big Dipper’ or ‘Orion’s Belt’, which can be a fun activity not just for you but for your loved one as well.

In our modern, fast-paced world, it is increasingly difficult to find places or open spaces where light pollution has not clouded the stars or has kept us from fully appreciating the sheer number of stars, galaxies, and planets out there in the universe. If you live in a major city or even a big town, light pollution as well as other forms of pollution have likely kept you from appreciating the stars in their full capacity. I honestly believe that shutting off the city lights or the town’s lights for just a few minutes for some simple star gazing would ease a lot of people’s anxieties, stresses, and worries as they look to the heavens to see the possibilities of what lies beyond humanity’s reach.

In my opinion, looking at the stars is more humbling than scary, more illuminating than disturbing, and more beautiful than dark. A clear sky on a full night is a precious gift and one for which we should all appreciate in those little moments of peace that we can make for ourselves in our daily lives. Not only is it healthy for you to relax, to grab a chair, and even make a snack over the fireplace while you appreciate the stars above, it’s a great way to bond with your family and your friends.

Sadly, you may need to take a vacation to a rural country home or to a mountain chalet in order to be able to immerse yourself in stargazing. Most of us around the world live in densely populated communities and cities where finding the stars is as difficult sometimes as finding the sky during the day due to the various forms of pollution. However, it’s good in general to go to quiet spots from time to time where the air is fresh, the water is clean to drink, and the stars are bright to enjoy nature in its fullest.

From open country fields to the mountain tops, there are still places out there in the world that are isolated from civilization and where you can really appreciate the stars at night. It may take effort and money to do so but it’s worth it to be introspective and to think about what could be out there, what it could be like to explore those different planets that may be habitable to man, and how cool it would be to be up in space where gravity is non-existent and where you can see how small and unique our little blue planet really is.

One tip that you should consider using to fully appreciate the stars is a really good telescope that can zoom in to see certain constellations and planets at a really high resolution and for which you can eventually become good at making a map over a week or a month of where they are located at in the night sky. Telescopes are the best tool for also seeing shooting stars or seeing what stage the moon is in during its monthly cycle. It can be a worthwhile investment if you live in a rural or unpopulated area where the night sky is always clear, and the stars are abundant to see.

Being able to appreciate the stars is a simple joy and one which is overlooked in a fast-paced world. However, I believe it is good for the soul and for our peace of mind. Looking at a full night sky has different meanings for different people but for me, it is reassuring. It’s nice to know what what we consider astronomical problems here on Earth are actually not that big in the grand scheme of the universe.

We should try to keep our small place in the universe in mind when we consider the scale of our own Earth-based problems. While it’s a definite fact that we must make our own planet more livable, freer, more just, and cleaner, we also have to acknowledge that we are most likely not alone in its great expanse. Our place in the universe and even in our own Milky Way galaxy is so tiny that we can’t help but appreciate what could lie beyond our planet and that maybe one day we will finally be able to find out what’s out there and to reach further for the stars than we did before to find out, once and for all, if we are truly alone in the universe and also what Earth-like planets would be there for us to discover and perhaps live on?  

The Why of Doing Mundane Tasks

“When the famous American inventor and politician, Benjamin Franklin, indicated that the two certainties in life were ‘death and taxes’, I think he forgot to mention an overlooked third one that we all experience at one point or another: mundane tasks.”

How much of our lives are made up of dull and repetitive tasks that we would rather not do? How often during the day, the week, the month, or the year are made of things that we have to do out of lack of choice but also an obligation? Whether it is an obligation based on our work, our homes, our hobbies, or our businesses; mundane tasks are simply part of life’s overall equation. When the famous American inventor and politician, Benjamin Franklin, indicated that the two certainties in life were ‘death and taxes’, I think he forgot to mention an overlooked third one that we all experience at one point or another: mundane tasks.

Whether it is going to pick up the newspaper or taking the mail in or dropping off something at the post office, these little errands or tasks are unavoidable and are not the most stimulating to go through. Other tasks like going to the supermarket, cleaning out a pool or cleaning your pool, doing the laundry, washing the dishes are all repetitive but if you notice how mundane they are, you will likely have a worse time doing them all and forget how important they are.

While we may think that we lack control over these dull tasks, the truth is we often do control our attitude to these mundane tasks and how we go about doing them. We control if we do them at all, how we do them, and how fast it will take us to do them. We can make them fun or enjoyable with the help of some music or even a game to see if you or a friend or a family member can do them faster than you. If you think about these tasks, we often feel better about ourselves for having done them afterwards and feel like our days were more accomplished because we were able to complete these tasks as a habit of ours rather than going out of the way to do them like an abnormal chore.

Tasks are meant to be completed but in many of these cases, without our actions, perhaps our lives will be more disorderly and disorganized without finishing these small tasks first. How can we accomplish great tasks in our day-to-day if we can’t get the little things done first? If we want to tackle issues in our community, our country, or even for the world, should we not start with making our bed first consistently first or being able to cook for ourselves with relative ease?

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This particular excerpt of a great speech by United States Navy Admiral and Former JSOC Commander William H. McRaven puts the utility of these mundane tasks in our daily lives in perspective. The focus of his commencement speech was about how by accomplishing these tiny tasks, preferably at the beginning of our day, you start to gain more momentum to complete bigger and bigger tasks by the end of that day. Making your bed is just one of those many mundane tasks that we are faced with in our lives and that we usually have control over doing or not doing.

If we choose to not do them, this lack of confidence or a lack of accomplishment can carry over to the bigger and more pressing tasks that we have to handle later on, often in the span of minutes or hours, at work or in our relationships. As a former Navy SEAL, McRaven saw the bed-making procedure as key to the rest of his day. While at first, he thought of the task of being forced to make his bed tedious and maybe beneath him as a future SEAL, it later taught him necessary skills such as compliance, confidence, and reinforced habits.

Our mundane tasks that we have to do our based on our autonomy in that no one else can do them for us. By doing these tasks on a consistent basis, we build upon our good habits instead of bad habits. Perhaps most importantly, we learn that we do in fact have some control over our lives. While the big things in life can challenge and thwart us again and again, we know that we can handle basic tasks that make us feel better and give us the confidence to try and try again at the bigger tasks that are more complex and complicated.

            If we cannot handle the small stuff no matter how tedious it is, we likely will not be able to handle the bigger tasks, which may be even more tedious. The mundane tasks are easy, repetitive, and do not take as much time usually. It goes without saying that if you can start to do them once or twice, you can start to build up that habit muscle and then you will be on your way to doing these tasks on a consistent basis making them easier and less daunting.

In a lot of ways, we overlook the little moments in life which tend to be the most endearing and the most special. It’s important to not do that as well with the little tasks such as making your bed, taking out the trash, or paying your bills. The little things are easy to accomplish when you measure them up against the harder tasks like running a marathon, becoming a millionaire, or having a successful business or career. Once you take care of the little things though, you may be in store for a positive ripple effect that could lead to wins or gains in the harder areas. Even if you have bad days or expectations of your day fall short, at least at the end of the day, you will know that you took care of the small stuff and can be proud of those small victories which keep us going during rough times, especially now in this perilous year of 2020.

Lastly, doing different mundane tasks on different days can help us as well give us that continued sense of accomplishment and meaning that we can often lack on certain days if we don’t have anything to do. Spreading out the mundane parts of life instead of saving them all for a weekend or one day in particular will also ease your stress levels and cause you to feel more evened out as you go through your week. You won’t be stressing out about 5 or 7 mundane tasks you have to do at the end of the week if you do one of them each day to balance it all out.

Nobody likes mundane tasks including myself, but they do serve a purpose in making you a more responsible adult and a better human being. You get better at them the more you do them and which also tends to make them less tedious over time. Unfortunately, we all find out in life that it is not all fun and games and part of life has to be drudgery, but it doesn’t always have to be doom and gloom. Throw on some music or your favorite podcast, use a cup of a coffee or a fruit juice to get you going and make your bed first thing in the morning to get the day started. I promise that with a little self-motivation and self-determination, life will look less daunting and your confidence will start to grow the more mundane tasks you accomplish on a daily and weekly basis.