You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2009.

Again, I stumbled upon this Website that produces short films about God’s love: www.deidox.com

I came across this video from tangle.com, which, I’m guessing, was formerly godtube.com. It’s a short clip featuring Ravi Zaccharias, which highlights one of the greatest questions of humankind: Where did I come from? Click to watch.

At the end of the video clip, he raises the idea that there are four fundamental, grand questions that humans contemplate: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. He concludes by stating that only GOd is big enough to explain and answer these four fundamental questions.

I just came across an interesting Website called “TED” which showcases inspired talks from world thinkers and leaders. I haven’t fully explored the Website, but I happened across the site from a YouTube video from a comedian/poet. It’s a poem about what the comedian would do if he owned the Internet: the ideas are not only funny, they’re partly illuminating.

I’m not sure if this is a real video or not, but it sure looks real. It’s a YouTube video of a famous surfer named Laird Hamilton, who is famous for surfing huge waves. When I watch this, I think of how neat it is that he never gets taken under by the wave, that he begins at the bottom of the wave, and as the wave accelerates, he gets right up to the crest on high, but then comes down and tunnels through the wave….when you think he’s been swallowed by this monster wave, he appears out of the mist like a ghost rider, and your heart just leaps out of victory.

Figuratively speaking, are you riding a wave right now, or are you just about to be swallowed up by one killer wave? Keep your head up, eyes on above! You’ll pull through!

If you’ve never seen a sandstorm, I found a clip on YouTube that is absolutely phenomenal. Click on the link to watch, or search under “Broken Hill Sandstorm.” Basically, there’s a passenger car that drives along a road heading towards (not away!) a massive sandstorm in the Australian outback. The red sand looks like a moving mountain, and it’s an incredible sight to witness. Yet, what’s even more amazing is how the car films all the way into the sandstorm, moving from light to darkness.

Ever feel like you’re in the middle of a storm? How about a sandstorm where all the lights go out and you’re left wondering where you’re heading, and how you’re going to get out of it? I’m sure a lot of visitors to this site are in the midst of a storm, though I’m not sure how severe.

The main thing to remember is that there is light at the end of the storm; storms will pass, and you will see the light of day. You might go through some serious changes and transformations, but you’ll get through it.

I’m in the midst of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderfully written book called, “Outliers,” which argues that a person’s pathway to success isn’t always what it seems. For example, Gladwell illustrates how elite hockey players don’t necessarily rise to elite status beased on their own merits or abilities. They happen to rise to elite status because of a peculiar combination of birthdate and age-cut-off dates set by the organizing officials.

What really interested me was Gladwell’s (based on work by sociologist Annette Lareau) description of “concerted cultivation,” and the role it plays in determining successful (or unsuccessful) outcomes. The idea of concerted cultivation is, in one sense, the idea of intentionally grooming or cultivating a child’s practical and social communicative intelligence. When Gladwell speaks of practical intelligence, he draws a stunning comparison, one that couldn’t be more opposite,  between the lives of nuclear physicist Carl Oppenheimer and a humble genius, Chris Lanagan. Practical intelligence allowed Oppenheimer to win over people in power, to convince or persuade them, even apparently after he had attempted to poison his tutor. Gladwell superbly unravels the tale of Oppenheimer as a truly polar opposite to Chris Lanagan, someone who had a genius’ mind (IQ beyond Einstein’s). Yet, Lanagan would never be evidentially successful, at least not on a public stage, because he lacked concerted cultivation. He didn’t have the parental or familial care that is demanded of, or expected of, successful people. 

I found this level of parental intentionality so engaging, not only because of the way Gladwell unpacks the whole story, but by the way the very concept explains some of the successes we see around us.  It really does show us how there’s a story behind the success, and it’s never a conclusion we’d make upon first glance.

I found these entries from The Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Blogging. They’re awards for bloggers or blogs, which gives you an idea of what others are doing around the world.

The Webby Awards

The Bloggies

Blogger’s Choice Awards

The Blooker Prize

The Best of Blog Awards

Like many things in my life, I happened to stumble upon a book while browsing the shelves of a library: 20 Something Manifesto: Quarter-Lifers Speak Out about Who They Are, What They Want, and How to Get It, by Christine Hassler. As I’ve been fascinated with my own life, I now have complete evidence that people around the world face an uncanny, similar sense of bewilderment over where their lives are going, identifying what it is that they actually want, and how they’re going to get whatever it is that they’ve identified.

I asked myself if this searching and questioning is different in our thirties, and whether or not this particular decade of one’s life offers any different wisdom or questions. I would argue it does.

In our thirties, we might have met our life partner, and to that, might have had children together. These two life occasions tend to stabilize a lot of the confusion that we felt in our twenties: who will I marry, will I have kids, where will we live. I certainly don’t mean to say that marriage and family are immediate stabilizers in our lives; rather, I am suggesting that our questioning turns to something else. (My last posting about Chinese Gen X’ers makes this point: as we mature, our search pattern changes.)

Christine Hassler uses a particularly clever descriptor of the twenty-something generation: the expectation hangover. In one sense, this is the comparative to an alcohol hangover where the body is physically trying to expel alcohol and replenish cells to a normal state. Our expectation hangovers have a physiological element to it in that we can feel lethargic, irritable, nostalgic, sentimental, resentful, and generally depressed. I find this so clever because I can see the similarities. Clouded thoughts, grey and overcast, thinking of what could have been rather than what will be, sleepy, social avoidance. 

That feeling that we can never pinpoint, that inner struggle of comparing life milestones with peers, and the ensuing let down, is all part of Hassler’s expectations hangover.

I just watched a DVD called Young and Restless in China. It’s a documentary about China’s version of Generation X (or Y) who are facing issues in contemporary China. I loved how the filming took place over four years, and how we could see their lives unfolding. It’s similar to a British longitudinal study and documentary called the “Up Series“, which documents the lives of British citizens from a vast spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds, and follows them for about 40 years.

The main reason I write about Young and Restless in China is that I came across the video by searching the library’s catalogue using the keyword, “restless.” It appears that people around the world, probably of a similar age group to my own, are feeling this sense of restlessness that I’ve felt. A generation in flux, transition, with a sense of urgent movement and procession. I loved how the movie portrayed this sense of longing to do something, this human desire to not simply do what’s in front of you, but to go out and do things that make a difference.

I was astounded by the focus on money, social capital, prestige, and status. Chinese culture is unfortunately money-focused, so although it didn’t surprise me, I still can’t help but wonder how Chinese people redirect their focus on things other than money or power or status. What was even more powerful was how some of the personalities realized that once the money piled up, there was still so much more for them to take in: family, aging parents, broken relationships, environmental health concerns. What I mean to say is that factors other than money play a large part in shaping our world view, and this is what a lot of Gen X’ers are struggling with around the world.

Many parts of the narrative resonated with me because I related with their sense of questioning and searching. Some of the younger characters focused faced emerging issues: issues of identity, belonging, future. I found that the older characters (and I related more with these characters) had similar issues, but they weren’t emergent; instead of emergent, they were facing the issues head on. What’s more, I was fascinated with how some older characters reflected on their past, and how the past made such an impact on their present lives. I think there’s always a sense of nostalgia for the past that we carry, and in concert with that nostalgia is a sense of resentment for failures or unfulfilled expectations. Much of my own explorations in life, my own questioning and curiosity, tend to be generated from this tension between nostalgia and resentment.

So I typed in Google Blog Search the words, “crossroads of life,” and I realized that there are hundreds of bloggers writing on this rich and meaningful topic. I was especially keen on reading some thoughts that resonated very close to my own heart, and that we all reach these decision making crossroads at different points, and more accurately at multiple points, in our lives. I am so fascinated with this idea that we make life decisions, and that we can map backwards, like a logic truth tree, the long string of decisions that we’ve made over the course of our lives. In one sense, it’s like a massive Pachinkogame with divisions and re-directions every step of the way down.

One quote that drew my attention came from Emerson, who said the following:  “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

The blogger who quoted this was surely expressing this longing for something more than simply happiness, even though the pursuit of happiness seems like such a common pursuit. We pursue money, love, fame, popularity, power, thinking that this will complete us.

Decision are often complicated by choices, although sometimes they may complement each other. We make big choices sometimes with a sense of regret or dread, thinking that we’ve missed out on something, or that we’ve been fooled into making the choice. Yet, for some reason, I think that life’s journey tends to prove that the choices aren’t an end in themselves. That is to say, we perhaps focus too much on the choice itself, rather than what’ further down the path. The landscape further down from the crossroads can often be expansive, and although we feel entranced by the big division of paths, perhaps we can look out to what surrounds our decisions.

Sometimes we’re paralyzed with fear, and making the decision turns out to be cyclically indecisive. We’re fearful of deciding so we don’t make a decision at all. In a sense, we stall our  lives by not giving it any gas (or failure to just release the clutch). You see, when we release the clutch, i.e., we release our fearful grip over our lives, we tend to gain momentum and pace. Without that gradual release, we just sit there waiting for things to move along.

I’m not suggesting that we go about life mindlessly. Far from it. What I am suggesting, however, is that I’ve often been unwilling to even mentally make that decision because I try to map out what trajectory the decision will take. Like a chess player who weighs and maps out the permutations of a move, I can often be caught up in that game of permutations. Life amounts to surely more than permutations. Much  joy can be found walking along the paths; the junctures are just the beginning point, not an endpoint.

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What I’m reading now

"Wanderlust: A Social History of Travel," by Laura Byrne Paquet (Fredericton:Goose Lane Editions, 2007) "The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping malls, and the Search for Home," by Pico Iyer (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2000). "Outliers: The Story of Success," by Malcolm Gladwell (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2008).

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