2013-02-28

Pearl Jam - Do The Evolution

Who we are.

As much as we like the romantic notion that our body is not 'who we are,' but that it's only 'what's inside that counts' - I don't really believe this is true.

Let me explain.

I'm not saying that we should suddenly rush to the 'hot body = everything ok' mindset. I'm saying that our body is as much a part of us as whatever else makes us up. They are all equal pieces. None of them is solely us, and we are not complete without any one of them.

2013-02-25

Nice Things

New Boots.

Over the last number of years, as I've spent less and less time going places in a car, and more and more time going places by walking or riding a bike, shoes have become a totally different kind of issue for me. If you mostly get around by car, shoes can just be something to keep your feet more-or-less covered. They don't have to be particularly water-proof, they don't have to be all that durable, or fit perfectly well, because you just aren't putting that much stress on them and you aren't getting them very wet or wearing on them much in the distances you're walking.

But being out in the weather and spending a lot of time walking and riding, it wasn't long before I discovered that, in Portland's year-round rainy climate, cloth sneakers are not going to cut it. You end up soaking wet right quick. Besides that, cheap sneakers wear out quickly if you're wearing them everyday and getting them wet and walking some distance on them. They also don't support your feet very well, and they become uncomfortable quickly, your feet get sore, and it's just a bad situation all around.

Finally, we decided to get me some leather boots from Aldo for riding during the winters. This was a big step up, but we still compromised and got cheap ones, and they only lasted me a year before they had holes and were leaking. Because of the cheap construction, there was really no way to repair them, and they basically just had to be thrown away.

New Boots

The next time we upgraded a bit, and got some slightly sturdier boots from Rocket Dog, but still compromised on price, and while these ones lasted me about 2 years, twice as long, they had the same problem with the construction of the boot, which meant again that they were essentially unable to be repaired, and had to just be thrown out.

Rocket Dog

Finally, we decided we were not going to make the same mistake. We were going to get some boots that were both made well enough that, with some regular care, would last many years, and also ones that were constructed in such a way that the insoles and outer soles could be repaired or replaced if they were to wear out eventually.

We looked at a few brands, and I wound up with a pair of Frye boots (pictured at the top). They cost more than twice as much as the Rocket Dog boots. However, they already feel worlds apart. The leather is better quality, and they are more waterproof. They feel exceptionally solid, they are extremely comfortable, and they fit very nicely. They look and feel really great - you can tell that they were made with good materials, and with some care. They are also constructed in such a way that if parts wear out, they can be repaired or replaced.

So, I won't have to replace the boots for many years.

Which means that, over their lifetime, they probably will be considerably cheaper than buying a pair of Rocket Dog boots every two years. They will wear well, and develop a nice patina of use, and if parts of them wear out, they can be repaired for considerably less than the price of new boots. And, in the meantime, they feel much sturdier and more comfortable.

Well worth the extra investment up front, I'd say.

2013-02-09

History

Through looking at the cycles in the history of the human race, it should be obvious that humans do not learn life concepts academically, but must experience things in order for them to take root.

2013-02-07

Sexuality, categories, and reality.

07
There are many facets that make up a human being, and one of those is sexuality, sexual preference, who you find yourself attracted to (in a general sense). This is one of those things that, in our culture, gets generalized and labeled overmuch, and then misused (both by the person in question, and by others) to categorize the person, often with ulterior motives. This all again serves to cloud over what is really going on, to mystify things that should be simpler, and to allow a lot of people to damage themselves, to damage others and to be damaged by others.

We tend to view sexuality or sexual preference as a very cut-and-dry, simple thing. We also tend to tie sexual preference with love, and assume that if you, for instance, prefer having sex with men, you only fall in love with men. Here's why both of these things get really tricky.

First off, having sex with someone of the same sex does not necessarily make you gay or lesbian, any more than eating a meal with no meat makes you a vegetarian. Having sex with someone of the opposite sex doesn't necessarily make you straight, either. Having sex with either someone of the opposite or same sex may simply make you confused, curious, or really into sex, depending on who you are and your particular circumstances. There are also in-betweens, as many people find themselves attracted to both men and women, regardless of their own sex, and there are many complicated combinations and absences of sex and gender that would make for an exhaustive post just in and of themselves.

Secondly, there is the issue of love, which I think is separate from the issue of sex. It seems to be clear that, no matter who you like having sex with, the question of who you will fall in love with can never be taken for granted. For instance, a person may, in terms of sexual preference, be attracted to only females (as a general rule). This person may, however, fall in love with one particular man, get married, and live monogamously. Said person may still generally only find women attractive, except for the one man she fell in love with. So, how do you categorize that? It's important to think carefully about these things, because they get all muddled up in our culture, and we can then have a really hard time defining them for ourselves.

We talk about 'making love' - and we usually mean having sex. But in reality, making love is so much more encompassing than simply sex. Sex can be one part of it, and sex certainly is intimate, but you can have passionate, intimate conversation with someone, or intense interaction in some other way such as dancing or even cooking and eating together without intending to or in actuality falling in love with them. Making love is a whole-life process, in which you devote a significant chunk of your life to focusing on a person and, as it talks about in The Little Prince, sitting a little closer to them every day. It is an intentional, directed effort - 'husbandry' of a sort. Tilling the soil so that it yields fruit. This can involve sex, and often does, just as it often involves conversation, shared activity, silliness, laughter, tears, hurt, and reconciliation.

The lesson to take away from this is, I think, that you love who you love. Sometimes it might end up being the most unlikely person, but really, that's how life is - what ends up happening is often the thing you would have least expected.

Here is the importance of all of this: we fail to understand so much about people because we generalize. We fail to understand so much about ourselves because we generalize. Because we fail to understand, we fear. Because we fear we get defensive. Because we get defensive, we aim to hurt. This can be aimed either externally or internally.

We can also use these categories and labels to try and make ourselves fit into the 'right' categories as well, so that we aren't attacked by others (or sometimes so we *are* attacked, there's always the person who needs to be a victim), so we seem to be more understandable, or so we seem to be nearer people we admire or want to be like. This doesn't do anyone any favors either, as you then miss out on developing the person you actually are, and finding people in your life who actually relate to you, rather than ones who just appear to on the surface. It may be easier in some ways, as there is perhaps less risk of injury, but there is also much less potential for real enjoyment in life.

There are so many examples of people who simply do not fit the constraints of the boxes we try to put on them (in fact, probably no single person does, unless the category was based on them, in which case one person fits), not only in terms of sexuality, but all of life. People are complicated, diverse, curious, adventurous, clever beings, and it's pretty hard to lump large numbers of them together and say "this is exactly what these people are like, every one of them the same." It is important for our own understanding, sanity, enjoyment, happiness and peace of mind to attempt to understand individual people, to have our understanding of what humanity is expanded, and our fear of the unknown quelled by knowing.

2013-02-06

Stress Avoidance

Foggy Streetcar
This July we moved to NW Portland, to a neighborhood where everything we need for daily life resides within about a 5 block radius of our apartment, it's an easy 10-15 minute walk to downtown or the Pearl District, and so I've found myself walking considerably more often than I ever have before, simply because there is actually a ton of stuff easily accessible by foot. I can do most of a day's errands by foot in this neighborhood in just about the same time it used to take me to just walk one way to the grocery store.

Living on the East side of Portland, I rode my bike everywhere, simply because most distances to things were just too far to walk, unless I just had one destination (like the grocery store), and just needed to come straight back. Riding my bike allowed me to hit several destinations while I was out, and do it in a reasonable amount of time, and I got used to how it felt to ride a bike around Portland and it was ok.

Now having the opportunity to walk for things often, I'm re-realizing that walking around Portland is still so much less stressful than riding a bike. I can walk down to the Pearl District and have it be perfectly relaxed and pleasant. If I ride my bike, I often get honked at, swerved around, passed illegally, occasionally even shouted at. As you can imagine, that really changes the experience of moving around.

As a result of this, I've been taking the streetcar to and from work more often, now that it's a short walk to the streetcar (about 6 blocks) and then a direct ride straight to work. The major motivation? It's just less stressful - I don't have to be as constantly on-guard, and I don't get abused by people. I still ride my bike quite a bit, and I'm still comfortable enough with it to ride all the way across the city, but having this contrast has really changed how I feel about it.

Portland may have done some nice things to accommodate travel by bicycle, but for the most part, people on bicycles are still left completely at the mercy of people driving cars, and many of the people driving cars see them as a nuisance, a waste of time, and even a threat.

This is not an us vs. them comparison, but simply an observation that I often suffer abuse from people in automobiles while I'm riding my bike. It is not a symptom of driving a car specifically (though that can play into it if a person never moves around by other means), but rather a larger cultural problem with how we view roads and public space in general, how we view time and responsibility and entitlement, how our city is laid out and the options we give people for moving around. If we want the average person to be able to ride a bike and not feel frightened, hassled, threatened and abused, we're doing it very wrong.