Category Archives: Scribbles

Various writing samples including opinions, reviews, and intrepretations

“Most of us make at least three important decisions in our lives: where to live, what to do, and with whom to do it…”

pg-259-quote

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September 14, 2016 · 7:45 pm

Stumbling on Happiness

The second book in the Transformative Journey series for September is Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness.

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This book was also mentioned in the TED Talk series  “Talks to watch when you don’t know what to do with your life”. It’s an easy-to-read overview of all the little quirks and psychological tricks that your mind plays on you when interpreting reality around you.

Engaging and thought-provoking, it’s “a fascinating new book that explores our sometimes misguided attempts to find happiness.” – Time

Stay tuned!

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THE SURRENDER EXPERIMENT: MY JOURNEY INTO LIFE’S PERFECTION (Michael A. Singer, 2015)

 

Michael A. Singer’s book, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection, blew my mind wide open when I first read it. Having been recommended to me by a similarly wonderful TED Talk in the series TED Talks to Watch When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, I had high hopes. In this memoir of sorts, Michael talks us through his journey to self-realization (an admirable endeavor, although still an ongoing, evolving, and challenging process for most of us).

To break decades of self-discovery and learning down into a digestible format, he divides the book into nine sections: I: Waking Up, II: The Great Experiment Begins, III: From Solitude to Service, IV: The Business of Surrender, V: Something Priceless Is Born, VI: The Forces of Natural Growth, VII: When Dark Clouds Become Rainbows, VIII: Embracing Explosive Expansion, and IX: Total Surrender. As you might guess from such titles, the road to self-realization was not paved or immediately obvious to Michael along the way.

In the first section, he introduces us to why and how exactly he decided to start this course of moving beyond “mental chatter” and surrendering to “life’s perfection”:

“I was gradually learning that life was not as fragile as that voice in my head would have me believe” (pg. 28).

He began this journey “not with a shout – but with a whisper” (pg. 7). One evening, he was sitting with his wife’s brother, Ronnie. They had been chatting when Michael noticed that there was a lull in conversation. He immediately started to worry about what to say next, trying to think up topics for conversation, when he stopped himself and actually observed himself being uncomfortable:

“For the first time in my life, my mind and emotions were something I was watching instead of being” (pg. 8).

This simple realization soon blossomed into a constant and vivid awareness of the voice inside his head – what it was saying, how it was feeling, and how it affected every decision and every moment of his life. He started exploring meditation and yoga as methods of quieting the voice inside and, slowly but surely, he was learning how to disconnect “the panic button” (pg. 30) – he was learning how to be completely at peace with any outcome.

In section two, he thus begins the “experiment of a lifetime” (pg. 53). An experiment in which he was attempting to free himself from “all the mental chatter”:

“I clearly remember deciding that from now on if life was unfolding in a certain way, and the only reason I was resisting it was because of a personal preference, I would let go of my preference and let life be in charge…

The rules of the experiment were very simple: If life brought events in front of me, I would treat them as if they came to take me beyond myself” (pg. 54).

Throughout this process of surrendering, he ends up (through no intention of his own) completing his doctorate, founding a construction company, building a world-renown meditation center, creating “the first Buddhist group in the history of a North Florida prison” (pg. 79), and developing a billion-dollar public software company – all by refusing to let his personal preferences of like and dislike determine the course of his life.

“Time and time again” he saw that if he “could handle the winds of the current storm, they would end up blowing in some great gift”:

“I was beginning to view these storms as a harbinger to transformation. Perhaps change only takes place when there is sufficient reason to overcome the inertia of everyday life. Challenging situations create the force needed to bring about change. The problem is that we generally use all the stirred-up energy intended to bring about change, to resist change. I was learning to sit quietly in the midst of the howling winds and wait to see what constructive action was being asked of me” (pg. 160).

This journey of Michael’s is utterly inspiring, thought-provoking, and existentially challenging from start to finish (if anyone ever really “finishes” this type of journey). The reader experiences a rollercoaster of emotions as they follow him on this path – between sadness and elation to stress and absolute peace. As a result, this book is a great read for everyone in a wide variety of life stages.

Whether you’re having a quarter-, mid-, or finale-crisis – or whether you’re just searching for a fascinating, influential read – I think you’ll enjoy Michael’s odyssey as much as I have.

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“In a bold attempt to free myself from all that [mental chatter], I decided to stop listening to all the chatter about my personal preferences…”

pg 64 - quote

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August 24, 2016 · 10:16 pm

“If the natural unfolding of the process of life can create and take care of the entire universe, is it reasonable for us to assume that nothing good will happen unless we force it to?”

pg 5 - quote

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August 11, 2016 · 2:14 am

The Surrender Experiment

The first book in the Transformative Journey series is Michael A. Singer’s The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection.

The+Surrender+Experiment

I first came across this book in the TED Talk series “Talks to watch when you don’t know what to do with your life” and I was instantly hooked.

This book truly blew my mind wide open to the intoxicating possibilities of looking at my life, and my experience of the world around me, in a radically different way – a way in which my own personal assumptions and judgments of the world are irrelevant, unnecessary, and suffocatingly limiting.

So stay tuned to have your mind blown!

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A Transformative Journey

I started 2016 thoroughly and utterly entrenched in a rut – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Life had kicked the shit out of me and here I sat battered and bruised, trying to catch my breath and make some sense of what was swirling around me. I was at (what I thought to be) the end of my Life’s Venture. Things had not turned out the way I thought they would, in fact, nowhere near it.

I had managed to battle my way through the ups and downs of starting my very own First Business and now, as I flew back to Seattle after spending a week with my family for the holidays in the Midwest, my mind was clear and calm for the first time in months. As we soared over clouds and blue sky, I pulled out a notebook and started writing. Writing about what to do next, who to be next, what got me to where I was, and what will get me to where I want to be – I asked myself, “Hey Claire, how’s it going? …So what do you want to do?”

I had come to realize that I had been naive, under-funded, and pretty much entirely on my own (for better or for worse) in the business venture – not the best situation to be in but I sure did learn a lot. And now I had to decide what my next steps were going to look like. I came to the answer as I wrote on; “Put your health and happiness first.” But what exactly did that mean?

“Put your health and happiness first.”

I threw out some suggestions like cooking school, travel, reading, art, knitting – finally opening up that Etsy shop with my mom that we’d been talking about for ages. I had watched some interesting TED Talks while I was home for the holidays, listlessly posted up on my parent’s couch. The playlist had been titled, “Talks to watch when you don’t know what to do with your life”. How appropriate.

The last video in the list was Stefan Sagmeister’s The Power of Time Off. In it, he talks about how he’s created a life in which he takes a few years off of his retirement years and intersperses them into his working years. Every 7 years or so, he says adios to work and takes a year off – a “sabbatical year.” He reads, writes, travels, and dreams. He gives himself mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual space to explore old and new ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Navel-gazing, as some would call it.

I told myself as I wrote, “You don’t need to do anything revolutionary.” Funny thing is, though, it wasn’t until recently did I realize that giving myself the gift of time, the gift of self-attention, and the gift of “navel-gazing” was actually a revolutionary act in itself.

“You don’t need to do anything revolutionary.”

We live in a culture in which it is expected that you embrace and fulfill the expectations of those around you. Especially for those who are coming from poorer backgrounds, we represent the culmination of our parents’ (and our parents’ parents’) hopes, dreams, and struggles. “We went through hell to give you this life of opportunity,” they say. “You better be glad that I’m not my mother,” they insist. “I’ve worked hard to give you this life, so you need to move away, go to a good school, and get a good job to show that all my effort has not been in vain.”

I had never taken a year off, hell, I had not even had a summer off since age 15. I started working that summer between 9th and 10th grade because that was, of course, what was expected of me. I once joked to a friend in college that my time during the school year was my “time off,” not my summers. My summers were when I worked my ass off. One summer in college, I remember working 3 different jobs while also going to German classes at the University of Cincinnati. So much for summer “breaks.”

The question on my mind as I sat writing was, “What do I have to prove?” Why couldn’t I put my health and happiness first? So that’s just what I did: I decided to cleanse and purify my life, reducing it down to the essentials. I needed to consolidate and de-clutter my life. I wanted to get rid of all of the physical, intangible, and emotional baggage that was weighing me down and getting in the way of me being the best version of me.

And so I set out on the journey of a lifetime; learning, reading, and absorbing everything on the way to becoming mindful, self-reliant, and self-sufficient. We are human becomings, not just human beings. I now see everything as a learning opportunity and I am constantly on the look out for new books, people, and ideas. And I would like to share what I’ve found out with you guys.

“We are human becomings, not just human beings.”

I’ve decided to start writing about my journey and the process of becoming self-aware. I’ve come across so many good books, articles, TED Talks, and the like that I can’t seem to stop talking about with everyone that I run into nowadays. I find myself continually recommending this book or that book, sharing articles on Facebook, or sending emails with links.

I will try to focus on one book (or topic) a month, so please stay tuned for some mind-blowing content. I sincerely hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have.

Love, Claire

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Becoming Better Victims

When rape victims are told that it was their fault, when young women and girls are told that they must cover up their “distracting” skin and curves, when they are told to not walk home alone, when they are given pepper spray as presents for dorm life, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When children are told to stand up to their bullies, when they are told to stop the personal expressions that attract bullies’ attention, when they are taught preventative self-defense, when they are given bullet-proof mats to protect them in a school shooting, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When minimum wage workers, the unemployed, and the homeless are told that they need to use more ingenuity to get by, when they are told to manage their personal budgets better, when they are criticized for not being able to support their children, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When LGBT individuals are told that their sexuality and gender expression is a choice, when they are denied their existence and livelihoods, when they are denied dynamic roles beyond the typical stereotypes in popular culture, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When “minorities” are criticized for having high unwed birth and single mother rates, when they are seen as less capable of academic and financial achievement, when they are seen as dangerous criminals and drug addicts, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When people are encouraged to use guns for self protection, when they keep hidden defenses in their purses and wallets in case they get abducted or kidnapped, when they switch to the other side of the street to avoid walking by dubious-looking others, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

 

Instead of examining why rape, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of arbitrary discrimination exist and why society produces these horrors, we are placing the blame on the victims.

We are saying: it’s your fault you were targeted, it’s your fault that you have big breasts for a 13-year-old, it’s your fault that a multi-million dollar corporation does’t pay you a living wage, it’s your fault that your school district does not teach comprehensive sex education, it’s you fault that you’re gay, it’s your fault that American prisons are for-profit and have capacity quotas to meet, and it’s your fault that you couldn’t defend yourself during a mass shooting, a robbery, or a rape.

We are saying, you are the one who is wrong.

We need to turn around and instead examine why the rapists rape, examine why the bullies bully, examine why the CEOs don’t pay a living wage, examine why the homophobes are homophobic, examine why “minorities” are given unfair treatment in the eyes of the law, examine why the murderers murder, and examine why the kidnappers kidnap.

We need to fully examine an individual’s journey to victimhood and see if it’s actually the fault of the victim as we are often too eager to assume in this society. We are brainwashed into thinking that it’s the victim’s fault that they’re in the position they’re in. I’m arguing for deconstructing that idea and re-examing how they became victims, and then pursuing/punishing those whose fault it actually is. I would argue that, more often than not, it’s not the victim’s fault that they’re a victim.Victim-blaming just perpetuates the cycle and it needs to change, now.

 

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Maya and My Thighs: A Tribute to #MayaAngelou

“…She had that line…that damn line that made me go from high yellow to pink every time I said it:

“Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise? That I dance like I’ve got diamonds/ At the meeting of my thighs?”

I could barely get the word thighs out without hearing snickering. Like I really wanted to bring attention to “down there” in front of the popular eighth-grade boys whose hormones were raging out of control. Damn it Maya Angelou! Why that part? I’m already awkward as hell with big glasses. Now I have to say “diamonds at my thighs” in front of the whole school? Was she trying to kill my eighth-grade career?…”

At first I was extremely wary of entering the debates surrounding the UCSB shooting that occurred recently because there has been so much vitrol thrown around with everyone blaming everyone else. There didn’t seem to be a “right” thing to say about the situation other than to express condolences. But after I read the above article, the quoted text caught my eye and got me thinking about how it relates to the shooting.

As a quick precursor, I’d like to provide some examples of the vitrol I previously mentioned that is rocking the internet at the moment. For instance, many feminists (and others) are using the phrase #yesallmen, while the other side is calling “sexist!” on those who use it. Alternatively, the phrase #yesallwomen is also being used, which is again a bit misguided. Generally speaking, the use of absolute qualifers (i.e. “all,” “none,” “always,” “never”) is unwise due to their inherent ability to exclude outliers and exceptions. While I understand the need for a strong and easy to remember catch-phrase, it perpetuates and widely circulates the exclusive value of the absolute qualifers thus encouraging myopic viewpoints and popular opinions.

That said, I would like to use the above quote as an example of a gendered injustice that is carried out in an arguably non-intentionally-sexualized (i.e. in an “educational setting”) manner that can occur among children, adolescents, and even adults. This is a poignant example of how gendered injustices are seemingly innocent when in actuality they can have long-lasting damaging effects. This more “innocent” example is opposed to the mostly intentionally sexualized encounters (such as bar-hopping/clubbing, etc.) that people involved in the gender rights debate have been using as evidence of gendered injustices. While those are still completely valid injustices, my point is that the encounter does not necessarily need to be inherently tied to sexual expression in order to reflect gendered injustice. Many people are also focusing on “life-threatening” instances as well, when those are often in the minority on the extreme end of the spectrum of gendered injustices.

Take the above encounter, for example. First off, the poem itself assumes a female voice when in actuality the line “diamonds/At the meeting of my thighs” could aptly apply to both genders. Thereby already revealing that pre-conditioned socialized gender politics are at play here: the reader and audience assume that the voice of that line is female (contextually it may still be female, but the reader specifically focuses on that line by itself, thereby raising it outside of its own context). Secondly, the girl reading the poem assumes how the “eighth-grade boys” are going to react. By assuming what their reaction will be, she is perpetuating the socialized stereotype of the “hormonal adolescent boy.” By automatically categorizing the boys in her audience as such, she is assuming their reactions based on age and gender which is unfortunately a very common form of ageism and sexism in our society. Yet it is not necessarily her fault that she thinks that way. She, like many Americans, were socially conditioned from birth to believe, participate in, and perpetuate these unfair age- and gender-based stereotypes.

In other words, it is unfair of us to use the tag #yesallmen and place all men within this “sexist” (“hormonal boy”?) stereotype. In the same vein, it is also unfair to use the tag #yesallwomen to place all women within a gender-based generalization. But it is also unfair of us to expect ourselves and others to automatically disregard the gendered stereotypes that we have been taught since childhood. It’s similar to the chicken vs. the egg debate; which came first? Did the gendered stereotypes come first or did the gendered reactions come first? Where do stereotypes come from?

The solution, moreover, is not to “reform all men” or enact gun restrictions (while I do heavily advocate for gun control, there are other factors at work here and people will continue to use violence to solve their problems with or without guns). Those are bandaid solutions on a gaping wound in our society. We need to look into where these ideas and preconceptions are coming from and why they are perpetuated the way they are. Yes, you can treat cancer with chemo. But wouldn’t you rather look at why they’re getting cancer in the first place?

I’m looking for preventative solutions not reactive solutions. While some reactive solutions (i.e. gun control) are needed immediately, our focus needs to be on preventative measures. Enacting gun control laws (or mental health laws for that matter) is not going to solve these issues like a magic wand.

It’s going to take a lot of hard and strenuous work to fully explore these issues in order to come up with lasting solutions. And many people are not willing to put in that much effort (critical thinking and solution-creating is sadly undervalued in our society and educational systems). People would much rather complain and insult each other than work toward constructive goals.

We have been evolutionarily conditioned to fight against the “other” (i.e. opposing peoples, tribes, cultures, etc.) to affirm our right to live and to achieve our own prominence (and success) in the world. This leads to war, to racism, to sexism, to transphobia, to homophobia, and so on and so forth. In other words, we must put ourselves ahead of others in order to live successfully.

That evolutionary drive is no longer necessary and/or practical. There is virtually no more room on this earth to escape/expand to and now we are faced with the problem of either dealing and cooperating with these “others” or fighting to the death. We can either coexist or submit/prevail, there is no in between. Our fundamental right to live is just as valid as their right to live. Perhaps, now, we must consider and cooperate with others in order to live successfully.

This fundamental truth is often unrealized and/or ignored. The UCSB shooter (and many others) decided that his right to live was more valid than his victims’ rights to live. And that’s the viewpoint that we need to fully examine so that we can come up with lasting, constructive, preventative solutions. Whether this viewpoint comes in the form of sexism or racism (or even within the minimum wage and immigration debates), the underlying drive is more or less the same. Yes, we can give them the death penalty or submit them to psychological treatment but that doesn’t really change/affect the society in which they learned that it was okay to commit the act of violence. That society will keep producing similar byproducts, similar people who will assert their right to live over others’, until we turn the focus on the society itself.

It’s about learning to become comfortable with the uncertain and often indefinable inbetweeness that surrounds these debates. These issues are not black and white and simple to solve. And there actually may not be one single “right” solution. We like to believe that one solution will fix a problem forever, but it rarely works that way, especially when humans are involved. Just think, we thought we had eradicated numerous diseases with vaccines, and now they’re popping up like crazy again because some people decided that the vaccines were unnecessary. Anything can happen when humanity is involved, but our job is to recognize that and keep consciously and constructively working toward a better world.

We need to start holding accountable those who spread the blatant misinformation that often leads to the above socialized gendered stereotypes, among other things (i.e. vaccines, global warming, creationism, etc.). We need to stop shaming the human body in all its ecstatic wonder. We need to stop teaching our children stereotypical gender roles that revolve around outdated pre-conceptions about physical features in the home and at school. We need to educate our children and our society with verified facts and evidence while encouraging them to think for themselves. Furthermore, we need to continue pushing for, exploring, and critiquing the way we gather these facts and evidence. We need to accept others’ differences of opinions, viewpoints, and cultures that are as valid as our own personal opinions, viewpoints, and cultures. Only then can we advance as a society.

 

“An eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth would lead to a world of the blind and toothless.”

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June 4, 2014 · 10:17 pm

Ohio bill would restrict abortion coverage

After reading the above article, I decided to write a letter to Rep. John Becker. For contact info, please visit http://www.ohiohouse.gov/john-becker.

 

Representative John Becker, District 65

77 S. High St 
12th Floor 
Columbus, OH 43215

 

Mr. Becker,

I recently read an article on House Bill 351 and your intention to ban public employees or those on Medicaid from having coverage for certain forms of birth control. As someone who was born and raised in Cincinnati, I wanted to add my voice to the others who are asking you to rethink your decision.

Firstly, IUDs do not cause abortions, they merely prevent pregnancy like other birth control methods. If you are not a medical doctor, your personal views on the matter are not relevant. You are literally forcing your personal, misinformed views on the Ohioan populace. If you want to rule Ohio effectively, you must use verified facts and evidence to back up your claims.

Secondly, if you’re still convinced that birth control should not be covered, then how do you feel about male-based birth control such as Vasogel? It’s a gel for men that renders sperm immotile and ineffective, thereby preventing the fertilization of an egg and consequent implantation of said egg. Nearly all birth control methods, whether for men or women, prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. If you’re going to ban IUDs, then it would follow logically that you would ban all forms that prevent implantation.

Thirdly, birth control is necessary for many women who have medical conditions like endrometriosis or for lowering the risk of cancer. If you’re so concerned about not wasting taxpayers’ money on prescription drugs relating to sexual activities, then why have penis pumps and other male-oriented sexual prescriptions received millions of dollars of federal funding over the years? Medicare has spent $172 million on penis pumps in the last five years alone. Viagra has also received $819 million and Cyalis (erectile dysfunction medication) more than $782 million. Should taxpayers pay for old men to have erect penises and not for women either to have sex without the risk of getting pregnant, to not get pregnant from sexual assault, or to treat a medical condition?

And, lastly, if rapists should be executed instead of the human products of rape, then it would logically follow that you intend to execute all rapists, including the teenage Steubenville rapists. Out of Ohio’s population of 11,485,910, there were a total of 4,419 reported forcible rape cases in 2008. And, in 2007, the average age of an arrested rapist (both men and women offenders) was 31 years old. The largest age range is 54.6% that were 18 to 29 years old, so you would be executing a significant amount of young men and women who are in the prime of their lives.

Please rethink your decision to pursue this bill. It could have huge, long-lasting consequences on the Ohioan populace. If your focus is “the right to life,” think about what quality of life you’re forcing these children and parents into. Just because they’re simply alive does not mean they are living. You are forcing these parents to forgo further education and to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, leaving no time for attentive and worthwhile child-raising. These children who are products of rape and incest put an enormous emotional and financial strain on their parents, possibly forcing them into a love-less and abusive marriage for the sake of the child. Children from unhappy families tend not to succeed in school or in life, thereby forcing down the success of the state of Ohio. If you were truly invested in their “right to life,” you would understand that it’s the quality of life that matters. Please rethink your decision.

Best Wishes,

Claire Jones

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June 4, 2014 · 7:04 pm