Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To-do Lists

[Photo: wish i could see you... by jaanikas]

We all have never ending to-do lists of routine chores: Clean the house. Do the laundry. Finish the presentation. Pick up the kids. Make dinner.

We keep these to-do lists in plain sight -- on the refrigerator, in our PDA's -- so that we won't forget to complete a task. These lists most often consist of activities that we are required to complete, as they enable our lives, and that of those who depend on us, to run smoothly. Far less often do these to-do lists consist of activities that are meant to bring us joy, fulfill our passions, and nourish our souls.

These "non-essential" activities are most often itemized on a second to-do list that we keep hidden -- tucked away in a drawer or the recesses of our minds. We tend to practice the bad habits of continually adding to the list, but rarely completing items on it. As we move through different phases of our lives, we often review the list -- our unfinished business -- and find fuel for regret.

All too often we become jaded and overwhelmed by our day-to-day routines that we never take steps to accomplish the items on our hidden to-do list. We become too comfortable in our current state of being that the achievement of these goals becomes conditional. We make excuses for ourselves so that we don't have to step out of our confort zones. We tell oursleves that we'll start checking items off our list when...we have more money...we lose the weight...the kids go to's not so busy at work.

Why put off something that will bring us happiness and pleasure? Why not start taking steps, no matter how small, to achieving an item on our lists today?

What are some of the items on your hidden to-do list?

What is one thing you can do today which will make progress towards completing one item on your list?

Just a note. We all have dreams big and small. Some dreams are not necessarily achievable or realistic given our own unique circumstances. However, in this post, I am referring to achievable and realistic goals -- learn a new language, take a dance class, travel to Spain. I may wish I was a ballet dancer, but my physical capabilities and stature make that an unrealistic goal for me. However, I can take an adult ballet class which would allow me to express that interest.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


[Photo: Hurricane Katrina by nikaboyce]

Tuesday, August 29 is the one year anniversary of the US landfall of hurricane Katrina. Please take a moment to remember all who lost their lives one year ago in such a tragic manner.

I firmly believe in collective thought and its inherent power to bring about change. Therefore, I also ask that you take a few more moments to reflect on and/or remember the following:

The survivors of the storm, especially those who are still trying to piece together the remnants of the lives they led prior to the disaster.

Those that are giving selflessly of themsleves to help the survivors put their lives back together and revitalize the devastated areas of the Gulf Coast.

The social, political, and economic issues brought to light by the storm, its immediate aftermath, and the manner in which the ongoing recovery effort is being conducted.

The ways in which humans are potentially orchestrating their own demise by disrupting ecological systems and disrespecting the environment, creatng ripe conditions for massive "natural" disasters.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006


[Photo: Interpretation: Emotions by kwerfeldein]

I just had a conversation with a friend, and something he said disturbed me. I realized that his words had bothered me because I couldn't decide if there was any truth in what he said. So, I thought I would ask for you opinions and thoughts on the matter.

In a nutshell, he said that "emotions" are uselss because they are not real, and are dynamic and fleeting. He said that "emotions" are tricks that your mind plays on you. In his opinion, "feelings" and "emotions" are not one in the same as "feelings" are more permanent and can be turned into actions while "emotions" can't -- he coined "emotions" as mental noise.

What bothers me about his views is that it seems that a person with no emotions is much like a brick wall -- unable to empathize and relate, lacking in dynamic energy. I do believe that emotions can reach an unhealthy level if we are not able throw some reason into the mix and view them objectively. However, it seems to me that emotions are what make us human. And I truly don't understand his differentiation between feelings and emotions -- seems to me they are the same.

What is your opinion? Are emotions useless? How do you define a feeling and an emotion? Can they be differentiated from one another? Are humans just robots without emotions? Can a person that does not feel emotions relate to and empathize with others? Is a person who wants to deny emotions only running away from them?

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Earth School

[Photo: Life is pink...sometimes by Arqstein]

The Daily Om sends inspirational thoughts via email. The following is an excerpt from the August 21 reflection which was titled, A Life of Learning:

Earth school provides us with an education of the heart and the soul, as well as the intellect. The scope of our instruction is dependent on our ability and readiness to accept the lesson laid out before us in the circumstances we face. When we find ourselves blindsided by life, we are free to choose to close our minds or to view the inbuilt lesson in a narrow-minded way. The notion that existence is a never-ending lesson can be dismaying at times. The courses we undertake in earth school can be painful as well as pleasurable, and as taxing as they are eventually rewarding. However, in every situation, relationship, or encounter, a range of lessons can be unearthed. When we choose to consciously take advantage of each of the lessons we are confronted with, we gradually discover that our previous ideas about love, compassion, resilience, grief, fear, trust, and generosity could have been half-formed.
I often struggle with remembering that each of my experiences, both positive and negative, is an opportunity to grow and advance emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This Daily Om reminds us that we must strive to view our experiences objectively so that we are able to recognize opportunities to learn when they present themselves -- which is arguably every experience that we have. Often times we are blind-sided by our emotional interpretations of situations. These are often learned responses that inhibit us from moving out of our comfort zones and growing into a higher, but scarily unfamilar, mode of being!

What does this reflection bring to mind for you? How have your unique life experiences shaped the lessons you have learned thus far? What lessons has life presented you with?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You win!

[Photo: board games on a rainy day by LizMarie]

So, hi. :) I'm Loki, guest-posting today. :)

Growing up, I used to play board games constantly with my friends. Each of us had "our game".. the one that the strong majority of the time, we'd tend to win more often. But we'd still play each others' games, day after day, even though we knew what the outcome would be. Why?

On a much grander scale, there are wars being fought right now, in countries scattered across the globe. Wars between nations that have played the same games with each other (and themselves?) for countless generations. Each mostly understands the strengths and weaknesses, tactics and blunders, of their enemy. But they still fight, just the same. For what?

The board games were pretty clear. They had objectives that were laid out on an easy to understand, single slab of cardboard. There were rules (if we bothered to read them), but more often than not, the formula for success was the same: get your piece from here to there, first. How you got there was what made each game unique; different questions, different strategies.. but always a definable goal to reach.

These wars that go on for decades just boggle me... does either side know what their goal is? Is it even defined? Is our (US) spin on each truly legitimate, or have we gotten so used a certain winner that we justify our choice through selective truth-telling?

Anyway, that said: Two questions for this small talk post:

1. What game were you good at? Did you play because you liked to win, or because it was fun to play the game?

2. Is a world not at war realistic? Do you think folks are fighting for a defined reason/goal, or just continuing to fight because they haven't won yet?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Digital Isolation?

[Photo: Isolate It by N.R.]

Does anyone ever wonder why, in this age of high technology and globalization, we seem to be more isolated from each other than ever? We crave instant gratification. We're becoming disinterested. We are unhappy, emotionally starved. We have little to no attention span. We have so much to capture our attention -- ipods, cell phones, Blackberrys, email, computer games, 500 TV channels, TiVo -- and yet we are still distracted, bored and misinformed. We are often so caught up in the details of our own isolated reality that we forget that as individuals we play only a small role in a much larger plot. Do you say "good morning" to your coworkers? When you are in the checkout line at the store, do you take time to interact with the cashier -- to say hello and thank you? Or are you more interested in your cell call or your favorite song playing on your ipod?

I feel that as a sociey we are rapidly forgetting that we are interconnected beings, that our thoughts and actions have effects -- both positive and negative -- on the people around us. It maddens and scares me that we are letting these basic principles slip from our collective conscience.

Think about the wreckless manner in which people drive. Or the way people go out of their way to avoid eye contact with each other. When you walk down the street where do you focus your attention? On the ground? Do you look people in the eye and the greet them? When riding public transportation, I am always astounded at the lengths to which people will go in order to avoid having to sit next to another person! A single seat becomes available and people fight to get it -- even those who already have a seat!

I just don't get it. What's going on? Does it frustrate and sadden you?

When did we stop craving interaction with each other? Why do we now seem to be afraid of these interactions? Has digital stimulation replaced our need for human interaction? Can digitial stimulation fulfill our emotional needs?

What effect will these trends have on our communication skills? Our emotional development? Our children? Our future?

Modern Day Inconvenience

[Photo: Fading from black to sunshine by Martin Kimeldorf]

In keeping with the theme of this week's contemplation...

What is something that most people consider a modern day convenience that you consider a pain in the neck?1

I would have to say the cell phone. I appreciate the need to have one for emergencies, but I have become frustrated with people expecting me to be available at all times. I feel that this infringes on my right to "me" time -- alone time. Although turning the phone off, or not answering the phone, seems to be a logical solution, it seems that the expectation that a person should always be able to be reached has also bred increased worry. Surely something must be wrong if she isn't answering her phone...if she isn't available for an hour....

1Question selected from The Conversation Piece by Nicholaus and Lowrie

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Looking Forward

[Picture: Looking Forward by Alex Clark]

We've had a pretty warm summer here in Chicago (I suppose that is true for most of the country), and as the end of August quickly approaches, I am beginning to detect a hint of fall in the air. I was surprised to find myself happily anticipating the arrival of autumn. Usually I am mourning the loss of summer and the sun's regular appearances! However, I am looking forward to turning off the air-conditioning and letting fresh air flood the house, great sleeping weather, falling leaves, comfy sweaters, and Halloween -- just to name a few!

This made me wonder...

What are you looking forward to at this moment, no matter how small?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

One Request

[Photo: Fractal 0001011011 by :::mindgraph:::]

A final question before the weekend...

If you could make one request of people everywhere, what would you ask that they do and/or not do?

Not quite sure what my answer is yet...

Have a great weekend!


[Photo: My parents by aprilandrandy]

Here's a question suggested by LV7:

Do you know the story of how your parents met? If so, how?

My answer isn't that exciting, but my mom's cousins, brother and sister, dated and married my dad's sister and brother, respectively. I am not sure who met who first, but am guessing that two of them must have started dating and the introductions ensued from there!

How about you?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Free Advice

[Photo: Free Advice by ohad*]

Are you the one all your friends seek out for the perfect piece of advice? Do you often find yourself saying, "I told you so?" Or, are you simply confident that you have all the answers? If so, now's the time to share those golden nuggets of knowledge and advice with the rest of us!

What piece of knowledge or advice do you have that you wish you could pass on to everyone else?1

I hold the following quote in very high esteem. I feel that it gives key advice in putting life's ups and downs in persepctive.

"Disappointments have little to do with circumstance and everything to do with perspective." -- TUT

1Question selected from The Conversation Piece by Nicholaus and Lowrie

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Doll Test

[Photo: baby doll eye by zen]

One morning last week while getting ready for work, I was watching CNN's American Morning. Soledad O'Brien conducted an interview with teen, Kiri Davis, and her mentor, Shola Lynch. Davis had been a participant in the Reel Works Teen Filmmaking program and had made a film regarding the standards of beauty imposed on today's black girls, and how these standards affect the girls' self-image. As part of her film, Davis decided to re-create the "doll test" which had been originally conducted in the 1940's by Dr. Kenneth Clark in the desegration case, Brown vs. Board of Education. In the original doll test, Dr. Clark showed 4 dolls, alike except for color, to black children between the ages of 3 and 7 and asked them questions to determine their racial preference and perception.

During the CNN interview, a snippet of Davis' recreation of the test was played. What I saw broke my heart. Davis' entire film, titled "A Girl Like Me," can be found at the Media that Matters Festival site. The film is 7 minutes long and I highly suggest that you watch the entire feature. It was very sad and disheartening to hear the girls in the film express the pressures they experience to look more white -- including altering their hair and even attempting to alter their skin color -- from society, their peers and, in some cases, even their parents!

If you watch the film, I suggest paying particular attention to the segment showing portions of Davis' recreation of the doll test. In her version, 21 black children were presented 2 dolls, one black, one white, alike except for color. 15 children preferred the white doll over the black doll. When asked which doll was "bad" many children chose the black doll, explaining their choice with an explanation as simple as, "because it's black." It was unbelievable to me that such damaging messages of worthlessness were perceptible to these children at such an early age!

The horridness of the preconcieved notions the children experience was hammered home for me by the shame reflected on the face of the last girl shown in the doll test portion of the movie. The sequence of events leading up to this shot was accurately described in an article on the New York Daily News website:

The camera zooms in on a sweet-faced Harlem girl, about 5 years old with her tightly braided hair pulled back, as she's asked to identify "the doll that looks bad."

She examines the white doll and black doll in front of her - identical except for their color - and tentatively chooses the black doll. It's bad, she says, "because this is black."

The "nice" doll is nice "because she's white," the black girl says.

And which doll, she is asked, is the doll that looks like you?

The camera then settles on her young, serious face as she slowly slides the black doll forward.

You must watch the film to truly understand the powerfulness (or should I say powerlessness) of the expression on this girl's face. The look of shame and disappointment that comes across her face when she realizes that she identifies with the "bad" doll on a physical level is heart wrenching. Did the look on her face haunt you as much as it did me?

This film presents a clear reflection of the reults of messages of societal racial preference. But this is just one notion that is drilled into our children on a daily basis. Our children--of all colors and creeds--are exposed to so many prejudices and standards on a daily basis which force them to identify with a specific group -- in both positive and negative ways. These messages create a fear of uniqueness, a fear of standing out in the crowd. Are we squelching the minds of our children by bombarding them with so many preconceived notions? Are creating cookie-cutter children afraid to experiment outside of the box created for them?

I could go on and on about this topic, but I fear I have gone on too long already. Instead, I'd like to know what your thoughts are.

What went through your mind when watching Davis' film? What pressures have you experienced to conform to a specific societal standard?

What will it take for us as a society to accept and celebrate our differences? Why continue to perpetuate such dysfunctional attitudes from generation to generation? Why isn't there a larger uprising to fight the unrealistic and fantastical images that are ingrained in our children's minds?

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Sunday, August 13, 2006


[Photo: eclipse by hodgers]

My belief is that fear is the cause of all suffering. It is the root of all our insecurities, prejudices, and limitations. Our fears hinder us from fully revealing our true selves to others and also inhibit living a joy filled life.

Our challenge during our lifetime is to identify and accept our fears, exposing their roots and weaknesses. It is only then that we can eradicate them from our psyches, giving us emotional and intellectual freedom. It is only then that we will experience unconditional happiness!

What fear do you most want to be rid of forever?1

Personally, I struggle with a fear of not being in control. Trying to be on top of every situation and person in my life can be emotionally exasperating! Learning to go with the flow, instead of manipulating the flow, is definitely a lesson I need to practice much more often!

1Question selected from The Conversation Piece by Nicholaus and Lowrie

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blog Tag: Books

[Photo: book, small aperture by chadmill]

I was tagged on the following blog tag meme from Mike at the Unknowing Mind.

One book that changed your life?
I would have to say The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. I found this book very enlightening during a time when I was questioning the Catholic ideologies and doctrine I was taught while growing up. The book asserts that true happiness comes when one masters "authentic power" -- aligning your personality with your soul -- instead of seeking "external power" by valuing the physical world.

One book that you have read more than once?
I have read The Seat of the Soul numerous times. Unfortunately I don't usually revist an entire book once I've passed through it, but one that I believe I probably will re-read in the future is the Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. Harris makes a very rivoting case that parents play a very minor role in the mental and emotional development of children. Instead, she claims that genetics and peer groups are the dominant contributing factors in a child's development.

One book that you would want on a desert island?
Any book by Jodi Picoult or Chuck Palahniuk. The characters in Picoult's novels are always superbly devloped. Her plot lines always make you re-consider moral and ethical opinions you believed you would question. Additionally, her stories often revolve around synchronicity and the principles that there are no coincidences and everything happens for a reason. Try The Pact or My Sister's Keeper. I really can't describe Palahniuk's novels and creative sense without failing to do him justice. You'll just have to pick up one of his novels, such as Fight Club, and find out for yourself how crazy and wonderful his work is.

One book that made you laugh?
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. This is an excellent satire about the American way of life, and clearly demonstrates the validity of the adage that you should be careful what you wish for. Quite possibly once of the best books I have ever read.

One book that made you cry?
Original Wisdom by Robert Wolff. Wolff's book really makes you wonder if we can ever truly be happy by living the fast-paced, materialistic, external and anti-planet way of life that is America.

One book that you wish you had written?
Second Glance by Jodi Picoult. This book is beautiful. It demonstrates that there are no coincidences, the power and influence of prejudice, and that love is strong enough to defy time and space.

I'd also like to mention, Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino. This is an amazing read, making you contemplate how the human race is a fleeting blip in the history of the planet.

One book that you wish had never been written?
Citizen Girl by McLaughlin and Kraus. This book is an incomprehensible, boring mess. It is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read.

One book that you are currently reading?
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.

One book that you've been meaning to read?
The End of Faith by Sam Harris.


It's always nice to get a first hand recommendation of a great read!

What book(s) would you recommend as a must read? Why?

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Posting FYI

[Photo: Old Woman Cactus by Angel's Lens]

Just a few words about the planned publishing of posts...

I am planning on publishing a post about a more in-depth topic, such as that on Speciesism, approximately once a week. I know that forming and expressing one's opinion on such topics can take more than a few minutes, and that finding the time to participate in a discussion about such topics can be difficult. I therefore hope that the weekly rotation will allow more people time to participate! At the end of the posts, I will generally will put some guide questions to help start the discussion. However, no one should feel obligated to answer some or all of those particular questions -- they are only to serve as a guide. Feel free to make whatever comments you wish, and pose your own questions if you so desire. If the current topic isn't at the top of the post list anymore, one can link to it from the side bar under the 'contemplations' section. The current topic will be linked, as well as a number of previous topics. You can also use these links to go back and check out new comments regarding older topics!

During the time between the contemplation posts, I will publish a few 'small talk' questions, such as the Ice Breaker. These will require much less time to answer, as a short reply should typically be adequate! Again, links to the most recent/popular questions will be maintained in the side bar under the 'small talk' section.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


[Photo: Chimp by Frank Wouters]

My friend writes the Buddhist blog, Unknowing Mind. Recently he has published a series of posts regarding the emotional lives of non-human animals based on his reading of the book When Elephants Weep by J.M. Masson. His posts discuss a number of stories presented in the book which suggest that non-human animals experience feelings and emotions which are typically considered to be exclusive to humans, such as love and grief. Being an animal lover myself, and I think most pet lovers would agree, I have no doubts that animals do experience emotions. I won't claim that these emotions can be compared to human emotions, as it is impossible for me, or any other person, to definitively know. However, as my friend stated in his posts, it is also impossible to claim that human emotions are static from person to person. How do I know that what I intend to express when I say, "I love you," is the same as what you wish to express when you tell someone you love them? It's impossible to ever measure such an intangible entity. Therefore, how is it possible to claim that non-human animals do not experience some form of emotion when we have no reliable method to measure the assertion?

I believe that in many Western cultures, in particular our own, it is a widespread belief that aniamls are not capable of feeling and experiencing emotions. I also believe that this unfortunately successful meme contributes to the lack of respect for non-human life that permeates our society (the lack of respect for human life in our society is a topic for another day...). It seems that our culture favors a view of speciesism when weighting the importance of human life over non-human life. I think the following quote from Richard Dawkin's book, The Selfish Gene, sums up my sentiments very well (page 10):

"The feeling that members of one's own species deserve special moral consideration as compared with members of other species is old and deep. Killing people outside war is the most seriously regarded crime ordinarily committed. The only thing more strongly forbidden by our culture is eating people (even if they are already dead). We enjoy eating members of other species, however. Many of us shrink from judicial execution of even the most horrible human criminals, while we cheerfully countenance the shooting without trial of fairly mild animal pests. Indeed we kill members of other harmless species as a means of recreation and amusement. A human fetus, with no more human feeling than an amoeba, enjoys a reverence and legal protection far in excess of those granted to an adult chimpanzee. Yet the chimp feels and thinks and -- according to recent experimental evidence -- may even be capable of learning a form of human language."

A number of assertions by Dawkins in the above quote may abhor many people. However, I find myself in total agreement with him. Why is it that our culture considers human life, no matter in what form or developmental stage, as superior to that of our non-human co-habitants of the planet? Is it simply because of speciesism? Does our feeling of superiority stem from the fact that many cannot understand nor empathize with non-human life?

What do you think? Do you believe that there is an imbalance in the level of respect our culture holds for human life versus non-human life? Do you believe non-human animals feel emotions? Are human emotions superior to non-human emotions?

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Snap Decisions

[Photo: My first date by Garrette]

I am working on a more involved post for tomorrow but in the meantime, I thought I would throw out a question a co-worker brought up at lunch last week -- thanks, David!

If you had to make an instant decision on whether or not to enter into a serious relationship with someone you just met based on their answer to a single question, what would that question be? What would be your own answer to the question?

The first question that comes to my mind is, "Do you like pets, specifically dogs?" My answer to the question is, most definitely...the more the merrier! I love the below quote as it perfectly describes my sentiments towards non-dog lovers!

"I once decided not to date a guy because he wasn't excited to meet my dog. I mean, this was like not wanting to meet my mother." -- Bonnie Schacter, Founder of the Single Pet Owner's Society Singles Group

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ice Breaker

[Photo: Mother + Child by Sarae]

To get the ball rolling, I thought I would start with a trivial question to break the ice and get this thing started. So, here goes:

What was the most important thing that your mother taught you?

As is probably true for everyone, it is hard to decide what one thing is most important, but the one drop of wisdom I often use is that "it's not what you say, but how you say it." This lesson has definitely carried me through many sticky situations!

How about you?


This is my first venture in the blog arena. My vision for this sight is slightly different than your typical blog. I am hoping to create a forum for discussion of a variety of topics, both serious and fun, via the posting of a question or thought of the day. I am hoping that the post will generate a thoughtful discussion and/or debate.

My inspiration for the site stemmed from the fact that I am a strong-minded and opininated person, as are many of my friends. As you can imagine, we do not always agree. This can make for some lively and passionate debates, which I thoroughly enjoy. Having to validate my beliefs and thought patterns is a challenge I always welcome, as I believe that that is the only way I can continue to expand my awareness and point of view. These interactions have shaped who I am, both emotionally and intellectually, in many ways.

Therefore, my goal is to spark these types of debates within this blog. I am hoping that those that I regularly debate with will actively participate in the discussions, while I also hope that I will have the opportunity and pleasure to hear from many others that I have never met!

Once again, welcome to Bold Contemplations!