Monday, June 24, 2013

"When You Smile To The World, The World Smiles Back"

On Empathy: I Can Relate

Earlier I noticed something about myself. I have been very passionate lately about some organizations. (Good Women ProjectSo Worth LovingMore Love LettersLion HartTWLOHA, and others). They're all exceptional and I would very much like to become more involved in their missions to help others. The thing that ties them all together for me personally, is that I (and millions of others) have dealt with feelings/experiences/negativity which they're all working to combat. 

I wonder if the things we feel most passion for are the things which we first feel empathy toward. In my life, I've felt much deeper about the people or situations with which I've been able to empathize rather than sympathize (which makes sense, since by definition empathy is stemmed from an understanding of another's pain which sympathy cannot possibly match).

It might be that some friendships fail because people sympathize rather than empathize. No, you don't have to have the same life experiences. But it seems like those who empathize with people are much more productive toward healing or help than those who sympathize. 

I did a little googling on the topic of empathy and sympathy and as I read through some of the comments on this article I stumbled upon this:

"Someone has dug a large hole and fallen into it, now unable to get out. The empathizer will understand and retain a healthy ability to help them out of that hole. The sympathizer will run and jump into the hole to console him."

A humorous example, but very true. Although I sometimes feel selfish for focusing on organizations which cater toward my past hurts, I may make more of an impact for others by supporting groups which I relate to best.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Beautiful Reality


Henri Nouwen once said, “Our life is full of brokenness—broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives?”

All the words above come from Relevant Magazine.
Check it out sometime.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Free Time Frenzy

Okay, this summer is a strange one for me. It's the first time that I haven't been super busy in over two years and the first time I'm living at home for more than a couple weeks since before I graduated high school (two years as well). I don't have a social life in this city. I only work part time. The lack of responsibility which is my life overwhelms me sometimes. I enjoy being busy. It bothers me when I go for extended periods of time without thinking or actively doing something.

As I thought about my restless self, I was reminded of a scene in a movie: The Brothers Bloom. Haven't heard of it? Go watch it. Have heard of it? Go watch it. Have seen it? Go watch it again. I'm not saying it's one of my favorite movies, but I just watched a couple clips of it on YouTube that nearly had my tear ducts leaking all over the place.

Anyway. The scene describes this lonely woman who lives alone in this mansion (you'll know who I'm talking about if you watch the clip I linked up in that last paragraph). She dealt with both her own health issues and her mothers, so she was isolated for much of her life from going out in society and so was obviously bored quite a bit. As a result, she has all these expert status talents. She could multiple instruments, do card tricks, and many obscure activities with unusual skill.

And I took three things away from that.

1. I'm like a completely way less awesome version of her. Every week (or even more frequently) since I came home, I've started a new project or resolution for myself. I'll feel like I'm being too unproductive with my life. Today I decided I want to learn some basic German this summer.

2. Be thankful. I'm only home for three months, and then it's back to the busy life at school that I know and love. The woman in this movie spent a good twenty years in almost complete isolation.

3. Growth is continual. I got excited thinking about all of the different hobbies I will have and all of the (fun) studying I'll do in the future. I'm so glad that I won't ever be in a place where I'm done learning!

In a conversation with my mom a few days ago, she pointed out that despite the lack obvious purpose for my life this summer, God does have something in mind for me. She explained that this may be a season of rest. I'm fine with seasons of rest for like a week before I'm ready to move along, but my way of doing things is certainly far from the best. It's been a process accepting and embracing this season of self motivation and leisure, but I'm beginning to understand all the wonderful rewards a time like this can bring.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Observations From An Intense Chocolate Bar

My aunt gave me some chocolate as a late birthday present, which is perfect because I love chocolate. She handed me two of the "Intense Dark" Ghirardelli boxes, and I knew things were about to get real. The "Twilight Delight" is 72% cacao, while the Midnight Reverie is 86% cacao. None of this milk chocolate business (which, by the way, I love). So I break off a square and take a small bite of the bitter delicacy and my taste buds are immediately overwhelmed. They can only take so much of this. So I stop after square one, unsure of the love/hate mixture of feelings toward this treat. I'm sitting here, four days later, working on square two: enjoying it at a slow and respectful pace, tasting all the flavors and savoring the bits of sweetness which are embedded in the harsh delicacy. [Yes, I'm aware of the oxymoron's, but there's no other way to describe these feelings inside of me.]

There are other things which must be enjoyed slowly to be fully enjoyed: red wine, a really good book (with sustenance), a letter, a cake, a view.

I'm not saying that you have to plod through life to enjoy all it's flavors. But bask in the moment. Close your eyes, breathe in deep, and take in all of the different colors of the experience before continuing on.

We've been taught to enjoy the watered down editions of many things. Most people prefer milk chocolate over the more authentic dark (I usually do). And many would rather order a 87% sugar/milk frappe over a cup of legitimate coffee (I always do). It's easier to read a feel-good memoir than a book filled with hard truths (but the latter has so much more to it!!).

We have been conditioned to avoid authenticity and as a result don't enjoy the real stuff nearly as much. It's easier to love the fake. Many times we just gobble up the delicious things in life and forget to notice all of the wonderful details that make up the whole. These observations lead me to question: how does all of this translate into our relationships and who we try to be?

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Wildly Underdeveloped Thoughts On Success

I really like the above quote. Einstein, although almost absurdly brilliant himself, remained grounded enough that he valued those with less "successful" minds. Though he himself was what this world would consider to be a success, he recognizes the variance between success and value. Oscar Wilde gets this too:
Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

This may be a mildly cynical view of mankind, but holds much truth. And I like Einstein's quote a bit better (it's more positive too, which always helps) so I'll focus on that. 

I've compared myself with others on many an occasion. Lately, it's been more in the realm of looking at those with internships/those who appear to know what they're doing with their lives in contrast with my wonderful tragedy of knowing exactly what I want during university and knowing nothing about what I'll do with myself following this stage of my life. Sometimes it brings me down, but at other times I know that I can accomplish more (both to the benefit of myself and others) with my wide array of skills and the plethora of possibilities possible upon entering the so called "real world". My version of being accomplished looks vastly different from many of the future successful business men and women of America (and beyond!). And that's okay.

I don't really know if what I'm saying is making sense. Sorry, inter-webs. 

Anyway, when you look at yourself and see a lack of "success", think about the value that you bring to the table and to the lives of others. Think of the things you truly value and pursue and focus on them. (If you value getting fat and doing nothing but watching Bachelor re-runs, I'll probably judge you, but hey that's your dream.)

And on the flip-side, when you feel like a huge success, be sure to reorient yourself periodically, checking your priorities to ensure that you are living a life of value and sustenance.

You don't need to be perfect, and you don't need to be successful to find joy in life. But if you are successful, hey that's awesome. 

Things that I particularly value at this stage in my life:
  • seeing the world from different perspectives
  • education: not tests and class necessarily, but knowledge
  • relationships, loving each other
Those things may not get me far in life (not the way I use them), but they're important to me.