Our Many Faces

“We try to find those people or at least one person who we can share ourselves with and how to open up our ‘little weird worlds’ to them without being judged or criticized or made fun of.”

There is a touching scene in one of my favorite movies, ‘Good Will Hunting’, which focuses on Sean (played by Robin Williams), a former prodigious mathematician turned psychologist, who is mentoring Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) but also providing guidance to a young man going through a tough time. Will is gifted but also has suffered physical abuse and mental trauma having lived with different foster families who did not treat him well. Sean notices Will not really sharing who he is fully and that is not just the case with Sean at first in their sessions but also with Will’s new girlfriend, Skylar.

Will is afraid to let his guard down and shows there are different levels or facets to he is but given his personal history, is afraid to let others into his world because he is worried that he’ll be hurt or abandoned again like his foster parents did to him. Sean tries to get through to Will on multiple occasions and so does Jerry, Sean’s old friend, who believes Will has great mathematical talent but is unwilling to work with him on his personal issues, which came to a forefront when Will got into a street fight with his friends and ended up assaulting a police officer.

In order to get Will to open up to him more, Sean attempts to tell Will why it is so important to show our true self or as I would like to call it here, our true face when we can because deep down that’s who we really are and it’s special to let someone in when we are vulnerable to get to know our full personality and who we are as individuals. Sean, in his personal anecdote, relays the story of how his dearly departed wife would fart when she was nervous and that only he as her husband would know that about her. Sean would sometimes hide the truth from her by saying it was him who farted even when it was so loud that it would wake the dog up when they were all sleeping in bed together.

“It’s the little things like that, that I miss the most.” Sean doesn’t reminisce primarily about their wedding, how they met perhaps, or about what they would do together on a date night. He would think about the things that made her his wife that no other person would know. In other words, Sean would see his wife’s true face or self because of how intimate of a relationship they had as husband and wife. Those little ‘idiosyncrasies or tics or habits that Sean knew about his wife is what made it such a special relationship even when she had passed away. Sean was encouraging Will to open up more to Skylar because it’s no use going through life without showing somebody you love your true self or face, which you likely hide from other people.

Will has friends, has his Mathematician mentor, Jerry, and his psychologist turned confidant, Sean, but these are different faces he presents to all of them, and the one true face Sean is encouraging him to show is with his girlfriend, Skylar. While Will can drink, talk construction, and reminisce with his buddies, he can’t show him his whole personality or face. In addition, Will can solve complicated Math problems and challenge himself intellectually with Jerry, he can’t do that with his friends. While Sean is a friend to Will and they can talk about sports and relationships and life, Will has a hard time confiding in Sean about his past and what he wants from himself.

I think all of us can relate to a movie like Good Will Hunting and a Character like Will Hunting. We try to find those people or at least one person who we can share ourselves with and how to open up our ‘little weird worlds’ to them without being judged or criticized or made fun of. It’s why we show different faces to our loved ones and our friends than we would with our work colleagues or a stranger. It’s hard to open up but we must do our best to be vulnerable with those we trust and whose relationship matters to us most. We can go days, weeks, months, or even longer without connecting with someone on a deep level, which is why it becomes even more special when we can share our peculiarities, our oddities, or the ‘good stuff’ as Sean would call it with someone we truly love and care about.

Similar to the character of Will Hunting, each of us can be hardened by life and find it difficult especially as we age to be vulnerable, to let people in to see the real ‘you’ without holding back, and to be accepted for it. A lot of times, we may be pretending with our other faces to please our boss, to support a colleague, to crack jokes with a friend, and even help a stranger out. It’s good to have those faces in public but it’s who we are in private with someone we care about or love that is our true face.

Thinking of the expression, ‘to put on a good face’, we often must withhold part of who we are at school, at an office, or at the local restaurant or bar, to hold back from showing 100% of what makes ‘you’ you. It’s not easy as Will and Sean illustrate in scenes from ‘Good Will Hunting’ how to show your real face and real personality to someone fully, especially if you have been burned before in the past and been hurt physically or mentally as a result.

We strive to be perfect and to not make mistakes in our daily dealings with others in both professional and personal interactions. However, it can be easy to forget in our lives to not be afraid to let our true face or our true self shine through as we each have our own flaws and our own ‘peccadillos’ that we set us apart from one another. The key challenge or opportunity in life, depending on how you look at it, is finding someone that we can be truly open and vulnerable with without putting on a different face.

Being able to let your guard down, share yourself fully with another person without fear, doubt, or anxiety, that can lead to some of the deepest joy or happiness in life as Sean had explained to Will in the film. While we may not be able to fully express ourselves day in and day out to most people we meet or interact with, hopefully, we can find the right person to spend as much time with as possible and for whom we can be 100% of who we are and what we are deep down inside.

Why You Should Take The Initiative

“A lot of times in life, things won’t be handed to you, opportunities won’t just present themselves to you, and relationships or friendships don’t just form out of thin air.”

A lot of times in life, things won’t be handed to you, opportunities won’t just present themselves to you, and relationships or friendships don’t just form out of thin air. You must be making the effort more often than not to take the initiative to do all those things I just mentioned. It is not easy and can cause you rejection, stress, and even heartache, but if you just expect your life to just progress on its own without putting in the work, you will be sorely mistaken.

Making that initial effort will make the difference as you devote 80-90 or even 100% to get the return you were looking for. You may expect others at work, at school, or in your personal life to meet your half-way or 50/50 after a while but you may find that it’s a running theme in that instead of finding it as being equal or meeting them halfway, it’s likely to be more 60-40 or 70-30 in terms of your effort versus theirs. Now, that does not mean you should be taking the initiative all the time to ask for that promotion, or be open to developing a friendship, or seeking a new relationship but you’ll be better off from driving the effort rather than by taking a backseat.

Having more of the effort initially won’t just make an impression on the person but it will also develop your abilities, your relationships, and your professional / educational future more so than if you had made less of the effort. You should be conscious that the initiative you are taking is worth it and that the time you are putting in gets the result(s) that you are looking for. Your hard work, effort, and perseverance should lead to the other party putting in some conscious effort after a while. If it is just a one-way street in terms of that effort months or years later, I think that relationship, job, or friendship is likely to be doomed to fail.

It would not be fair or just for you to be constantly taking the initiative especially when that person isn’t reciprocal at all or even 30-40% of the way in a friendship or relationship. If you are giving all of the effort and feel like you’re not getting anything back from it, you may be dealing with an ‘emotional vampire’, who you may enjoy their company and like them but the fact that you are putting in all the work to keep things going and them not doing anything to reciprocate is not only a form of manipulation but it is also a sign of someone who only wants to take advantage of you.

They may lack certain qualities including introspection or self-awareness so they may not think they are at fault but if you believe that nothing is going to change, your time and efforts aren’t being valued adequately, and you are not getting as much in return from them, you may need to cut them off or just take a break from being with them or working for them. I encourage proactivity, being extroverted, sociable, and wanting to take on new goals, but if it is draining you and the results professionally or the relations personally you get as a result are not satisfying from that 60-40 or 70-30 set up, it may be best to move on to another person or opportunity.

To cite some examples, if you are good at reaching out to friends or acquaintances and just checking in to see how they are doing or even making the effort to see them and spend time together, that’s a positive initiative to take and shows you care about keeping that relationship going even if it had fizzled out a bit. However, if you feel like you are constantly the one making the calls, setting up the plans, or checking in on them, and they are not doing the same to you on that 30-70 or 40-60 balance that I mentioned, then it may be best to cut back on making the initiative there. If they truly cared about you, they would seek to make plans to see you by their own initiative or they would call to check in every now and then to see how you have been doing. Again, you should not be doing that all the time and if you find that it is becoming a pattern with that person, it may be best to stop seeing them so much since it looks like more of a one-sided friendship or relationship rather than a balanced one.

Another example professionally would be if you’re looking to boost your career and would like to learn new skills, then you should take that initiative with a training or a workshop or a conference that can make you more valuable to your employer. Similarly, if you take it upon yourself at work to learn a new skill by taking courses or attending seminars or providing trainings to others, it should be recognized not only to develop your career but to also further yourself in your role with better compensation or to be promoted to a new role because of the skills / abilities you acquired. If you take the time to volunteer, to be trained, to train, and to become a better worker, your employer or company should realize that it is also not a one-way street so there should be a proper recognition of your having taken the initiative to be more valuable to the firm in question.

However, if you find that after multiple trainings, skills developed, or competencies improved upon, that you are not getting the desired career promotion or compensatory boost, it may be that your initiative, while recognized, is not being formally appreciated. You made the most of the opportunities given but the other party involved doesn’t seem to recognize the new value or abilities you can provide. In this kind of situation, it may be best to start looking elsewhere professionally with those new proficiencies in your work to find a firm, company, or organization who will do their best to meet you halfway or maybe 40-60 so that you know that they care about you staying with them into the future and that your presence is both valued and appreciated, which is actually shown in different ways, a promotion, a raise, or otherwise.

Personally or professionally, you should consistently be looking to take action or initiative to improve your life in either way. However, it should not give the other party free reign to not give anything back in return or to provide their own initiatives or actions for you to take part in after they start it up. If you invite your friend to a barbecue, hopefully they’ll reciprocate in the future by having you over for a birthday party. If you do a skills workshop for a week to improve your competency at work, maybe your company or firm can reward you with a promotion to apply those new skills you picked up. It’s not always 50-50 in life and you may have to do most of the work, especially at the beginning of a new job or friendship. However, if it is you who is giving 100% and them putting in 0% in return on a consistent basis without the other party realizing it, it’s a toxic kind of relationship and you should be cutting ties with that person or entity as soon as possible.

Don’t Rely on Others for Your Happiness

“Happiness is fleeting, comes and goes, and can come from a variety of sources, sometimes unexpectedly. I want you to be sure, dear reader, that you can diversify your happiness as much as possible.”

It’s important that I give my readers a little bit of tough love every now and then. I don’t do it to be negative but to give some advice that may help you out in the future. You can think I am wrong on this one, but I’ll be sure to defend where I’m coming from here. ‘Don’t Rely on Others for Your Happiness’ is what I am wanting to get across to you if nothing else. Happiness is fleeting, comes and goes, and can come from a variety of sources, sometimes unexpectedly. I want you to be sure, dear reader, that you can diversify your happiness as much as possible.

To put it simply, you need to be always cultivating both your internal happiness as well as your external happiness. You cannot have one form of happiness without the other and you should be continually trying to exercise both forms of happiness when you can. Happiness must be experienced, and it can be a futile emotion to pursue. It comes naturally to us, often when we least expect it, and can come from both within us and from those around us. Being happy because someone made you smile, someone made you loved, or even someone made you laugh is just as important as being happy from your own accomplishment(s), your own spirituality, and by being around the right environment.

In my view, happiness should be experienced both internally and externally. It can also be a bit of a balancing act but to neglect your own internal happiness especially or the ability to create your own happiness without others’ input is a key trait that you should always have available to you. If other people can give you happiness and then take it away just as easily without you being able to create that happiness that they took away, then you’re going to be in trouble in terms of your emotional state. Depending on another person or even another thing for all your happiness is a recipe for disaster.

It can be invigorating at first for someone to add on to your happiness by leaps and bounds. You never knew perhaps that you could be that happy or feel as happy as often. You’re basically on ‘cloud nine’ and you owe it to someone else. This can be an emotional kind of apex that gives your life that much more enjoyment and contentedness. While this kind of life event whether it’s a new relationship, a new friendship, or even a new role in society that others rely on you before, it should not take away from your own way to generate happiness internally.

I don’t discourage you from maximizing your happiness but if you rely on someone else such as a lover, a friend, a family member, etc. for all your happiness to be generated then that can lead to a very negative place. You should remember that if someone can give you all your happiness and heighten it to a new level; they can easily take it away just as fast and leave you without any of that emotion left if you let yourself be wrapped up in their adoration, love, or friendship. What I encourage you to remember is that it is good to be happy from what others share with you and what they help you enjoy about life, but don’t let yourself be at the whim of their ability to give you happiness…or not at all.

Always keep some of your own happiness in a personal reserve that cannot be taken away from anyone else regardless of what they mean to you personally. While external validation, love, and warmth is beautiful to enjoy, you should let it be the end all be all your emotional state. It is vital to look within yourself to generate your own happiness even if it comes less often to you or is as not as intense or long-lasting as that external kind of happiness. Internal happiness tends to take discipline, patience, and even action on your own part. It is often not given to you like external happiness but must be done by your own self without any support or encouragement.

When it comes to creating your own happiness, look to yourself to find joy and pleasure in other ways whether it’s a stroll in nature, a goal you’re seeking to accomplish, a new place to travel to and enjoy, or even being able to manage your life well by cleaning your place or by eating healthy. The better you take care of yourself, the happier you’ll be as a result. It’s important to not neglect yourself in your pursuit of happiness externally. Some of the best gratification and contentedness can come from reaching your own goals, having your own unique experiences, or having your own accomplishments that you achieved through hard work and effort.

If you are not able to generate your own feelings of happiness, it is going to be much harder to have external happiness from others as well. If you are not able to laugh, to dance, to celebrate, to enjoy, etc. without it being done with another person by your side, then that is a slippery slope towards not having any happiness at all. While it is great to having both internal and external happiness come together, if you cannot have your own internal happiness first, there is no way in my view for you to have the external happiness to come next. Forming some internal happiness first is the key step to being able to share in being happy with others.

You also should not look to become a total hermit and only take in happiness internally. It is good to share moments of happiness with other people so make sure to get out there once you have that sense of your own happiness that can be generated on your own to seek that external validation within reason to make your life even more content and joyful. To conclude, it does no good for you to have one without the other when it comes to happiness so make sure you work on cultivating both internal and external happiness but if you can only choose one that comes first, make sure you don’t rely on others for your happiness alone and to start with your internal sense of what it means to be happy first.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Cigarette and The Mask

“Just as I catch my bags and see if I’ve been clipped, I noticed that he’s wearing sunglasses on with his surgical mask pulled down below his chin and has an unlit cigarette in his mouth.”

While I walk back to my apartment with bags full of groceries under my arms, I stop at the cross section waiting for the walking signal to light up, seemingly unaware of the bike screeching by me. “Hey, watch out, man!”, the bicyclist yells as he peddles past me almost knocking into my groceries. He speeds by just narrowly missing oncoming traffic as he heads downtown. Just as I catch my bags and see if I’ve been clipped, I noticed that he’s wearing sunglasses on with his surgical mask pulled down below his chin and has an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

Now, I would hope that he was not getting ready to smoke while biking, but it sure looked like he had smoked a few or more cigarettes. We were both outside at the time, of course, and I could assume that he maybe just likes to wear a mask indoors and would rather smoke a cigarette while he biked or afterwards to enjoy the rush while getting some needed fresh air. The confluence of events of almost getting hit by this biker along with the scene of him having an unlit cigarette in his mouth, a mask under his chin, and no helmet on as he sped through foot traffic without regard for anybody else was so laden with irony that I couldn’t happen to notice all the ironies afoot.

If a commercial could be made about this bicyclist, it would be quite entertaining. “Protect yourself from COVID in the short-term, but don’t forget about the long-term risks to one’s health!” In that commercial, it would show the bicyclist being transformed from having a cigarette in his mouth to having none with a nicotine patch or gum if it’s anti-smoking or if it’s pro-safety to have him properly wearing a biking helmet rather than not having one.

These kind of public health or public safety campaigns are quite common in our culture especially when it comes to the dangers of smoking and the dangers of not wearing a helmet while cycling or biking. Now, after almost two years, we now have quite substantive public health messages around wearing a face mask or adequate face covering, especially while indoors, to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. The same public health messaging was quite prevalent at first when it came to social or physical distancing before the arrival of tested and approved vaccines.

Undoubtedly, these public health messages have saved thousands of lives and done much to further the progress of the current vaccination campaigns. We now know society-wide how masks can help prevent the spread of viruses just as we knew starting in the 1980s and later in the 1990s the harm that smoking can do long-term to one’s health. It took a few decades but now smoking is much less prevalent than it used to be, and the risks are well-known. The same could be said about wearing a protective helmet when biking or riding a motorcycle. It took a while for these messages to be ingrained in our society, but they protect not only our health long-term but also our safety in the short-term.

The advent of mask wearing in a pandemic has not fully set in for some people but for most people, the public health messages had a massive impact and after some initial confusion and the lack of supplies for protective gear, almost two years later, that public health messaging has set in across society. You could argue if the advent of mask wearing in public will have the same longevity or the same need years from now as anti-smoking campaigns would. While virus and diseases can become endemic, they can also possibly burn out much quicker than the long-term health risks that will remain with us after the pandemic such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

While the public health and safety messages around mask wearing, helmet wearing, and not smoking especially near a building have made people healthier and safer, I fear that other health warnings or messaging has been rather lackluster especially during the pandemic. Wearing a mask and not picking up a cigarette are easy enough for society to adopt, but the messaging should not end there.

In the age of the Internet, social media, and seemingly endless modes of messaging mediums, I have not noticed any uptick in making the public aware about the benefits of exercising daily or multiple times per week. I also have not noticed an effort to educate people on what a well-balanced diet looks like or what foods to avoid that are both addictive and unhealthy. Smoking is a bad habit but so is not having a proper diet. I am not saying that people should be told what to eat and what to drink but I don’t see the harm in sharing more messaging about what a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner looks like or to give examples to adults, especially young people in college or in their 20s.

In addition to a proper diet, bringing to people’s attention the need to exercise has never been a real part of public health messaging. The lack of public and/or outdoor gyms provided by towns and cities has contributed to other health issues that have reared their head during the pandemic. COVID-19 may be with us now but other health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are not going away anytime soon.

For the almost two years of the pandemic, there was a real opportunity that was squandered for the public to hear about other ways to stay healthy and well. Viruses make people fearful and anxious but instead of just saying “wear a mask!” and “be socially distant!”, other messages about sleeping 7-8 hours a night, reducing our time staring at screens, maintaining a healthy diet, and making sure to exercise each day or most days was rarely ever thought of to be entered into public consciousness.

Even something as simple as telling people who were mainly indoors to take their vitamins each day especially both Vitamins C and D, which some people are deficient in especially in wintertime was completely neglected. I usually refrain from commenting on matters of public health but having done all these things for myself as many others do on their own accord, I don’t see why this kind of public health messaging hasn’t caught on. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two to discuss proper habits to build such as having more hours of sleep, what goes into a healthy diet, why exercise is important, or what are the benefits of vitamins.

I am not sure of how much money has been spent on anti-smoking, anti-drunk driving campaigns over the years but I’m sure it’s much more than what could also been address to the public. Now, in addition to the ills of drinking, smoking, we know now why mask wearing is important during a pandemic with an infectious virus that spreads easily. I don’t think that we should stop there and to keep trying to advocate for other commonly known public health matters that sadly still go largely ignored in terms of messaging campaigns.

From the local to the national level, after the pandemic is over, I would strongly recommend investing much more money, time, and even public infrastructure (outdoor gyms, for example) in building awareness of different public health matters that have remained largely unaddressed. From sleep to diet to exercise to even how to manage anxiety and stress properly, these important messages will affect people’s long-term health positively.

We know messages have worked in the past as I mentioned with wearing a helmet, not smoking in public places, and wearing a mask when others are near you. Lives have been saved and society has been improved because of those messages. When it comes to everyone’s long-term health, I would ask us all to think bigger to improve messaging around other public health needs, so we don’t end up only receiving advice on protecting the public’s health during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.

“Get Action”

“Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.”

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, was unlike many of the men who came before him or who came after him who served as President. He was a truly unique individual in how much he was able to do during his life. While Roosevelt only lived to the age of 60 years old, looking at how much he was able to accomplish and what he was able to do with his life, you could easily make the argument that he lived the lives of five men put together. To put it simply, he was a man of action regardless of how strenuous and difficult that action may be.

When you look at Teddy Roosevelt, he wasn’t just President of the United States which is a massive accomplishment in its own right, but he was also Vice President, Governor of New York, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, Leader of the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American war, and a Harvard College graduate. On top of all of that, he was a noteworthy explorer who spent over two years in the Amazonian basin of Brazil, a hunter who herded cattle out in the Dakotas, and a historian who wrote several books including a military history titled, ‘The Naval History of 1812.’ On top of everything that he did, while he was boisterous and a bit cocky to a fault, he backed up his words with actions, and he did his best to maintain his integrity in everything that he did. Roosevelt was not a man who cut corners or looked for shortcuts. Once he committed himself to something, he made sure to give it his best effort.

While Teddy Roosevelt was a member of a wealthy family from Oyster Bay, New York, he struggled with adversity throughout his life. He had severe bouts of asthma and would suffer from attacks that were debilitating. Instead of staying still and not exerting himself, he found that being active, physically and mentally, would actually help to minimize his asthma and improve his spirits. Roosevelt was not a man who would go about and pity for himself ever.

He was home-schooled, naturally curious about the world, and self-educated himself in a number of subjects including taxidermy, geography, French, German, history, etc. Roosevelt to make himself physically stronger would take it upon himself to learn boxing and then rowing in his desire to keep himself fit and active. Roosevelt lost his father at a young age, which was an almost unbearable loss for him, but he used his father as an example of who he should strive to be in life in terms of his father’s morals, career, and his overall character. Also, when he was only 22 years old, Theodore Roosevelt lost both his mother and his first wife within a few hours of each other.

Losing your mother and wife in such a terrible manner would break a lesser man but while Roosevelt grieved in a manner that was natural, he knew that he must go on and that he must live up to the memory of those family members who passed before him. Theodore was not one to sit around and grieve forever but a man who desired to make the most of his life and commit himself to action. Even when he was almost assassinated in 1912 when he was campaigning for the Presidency a second time, he would read his speech and refused medical attention for over ninety minutes before seeking assistance with a bullet lodged in his chest.

What lessons can we draw in our own lives from the energetic and boisterous life of Theodore Roosevelt? There are many lessons to draw upon but the most important one that can just be summed up in two words is to “get action.” Roosevelt believed that man is most content in the pursuit of action whether its’ in the form of academia, physical exertion, public service, and military duty. Roosevelt’s life was made up of numerous actions that fit his various interests and he committed himself to these actions over a long period of time. When we read about Teddy, we admire how much he was able to accomplish and how possibly he could have done of all that. My take on it is that Roosevelt made the most of his time and committed himself to pursuits instead of lazing about and being distracted by idle pleasures.

How many of us can say that we would be able to do ½ or 1/5 of what Theodore Roosevelt was able to do during his life? Not many. In this day and age of Netflix, smartphone, video games, and virtual reality, it’s easier now than ever to not get action but to be lazy. You have to put blinders on and prevent yourself from being distracted from the technologies of today. While Roosevelt may have had a harder time accomplishing everything he did in the early 20th century compared to what he may have done in the early 21st century, his core personality, his priorities, and his spirit would not have changed. Roosevelt’s life is a testament to the power of taking actions in various pursuits and to push both your body and your mind to the limit.

He did not let his setbacks, failures, and limitations hold him back from becoming the great man that we recognize him as being today. He fundamentally knew that he was at his happiest and his most vibrant when he was putting himself to work. His hobbies, interests, and his professional career were his number one priority and he still managed to re-marry, raise six children, and explore the world from Brazil to Egypt. Did he have a leg up in life due to his family name and his wealthy background? Yes, you could argue that fact, but he made the most of the deck of cards he was dealt but still had the common decency and integrity to commit himself to public service and helping out his countrymen and women as well.

Roosevelt could have enjoyed his wealth, spent opulently on material goods and hedonistic pursuits, and sat back for the rest of his days but he was not that kind of man. Not only was he aware that he had one life to live but he knew fundamentally that every day counts and that every day matters. Luckily, he used his mental and physical prowess in the service of others whether that was in the United States Army, the Governorship of New York, or Office of President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt put his energies and his time into productive matters and was able to do amazing things in his life. If Roosevelt were to give anybody a piece of advice today, it would be to simply ‘get action.’ Without action, there is stagnation and with stagnation, there is no future. Even if you are not successful in your actions, don’t ever be so discouraged that you do not try again or try something new.

Whether it was reading, writing, making speeches, hunting, traveling, Roosevelt was a man who embodied the human spirit when it is fully unleashed. He made the most out of this thing we call ‘life.’ If you are feeling down in the dumps and aren’t sure what to do next, just ‘do something.’ By doing something and sticking to it as a routine, you’ll get better at it and it may take you places in life that you never thought was possible to begin with. Taking any kind of action in your day to day life is the natural and healthy thing to do. Sitting in bed, lazing around, letting your mind and body wither away is no way to go through life.

When you commit yourself to getting out in the world in whatever way appeals to you, you move forward as a person and you develop yourself in various ways. You’ll fail, you may get hurt, and you will learn a lesson or two but at least you got yourself out into the arena as Theodore Roosevelt did. ‘Get Action’ are two words that can make a world of difference in one’s life. Make sure you make the most of the time for which you have been given.

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