You, Me, And The Universe

travel, nature, reflection

Month: February, 2014

Day 20

The Holocaust Museum makes a horror story more vivid than history books. One thing stands out: After the concentration camps were cleaned, after the war, shoes of prisoners were collected. In one room of the museum, there lies about 2ft of raddy shoes (if you can ever call them shoes), all identical in style and in quality. The room is approximately 30ft x 15ft I’d say. They represent a small portion of people murdered for their belief in a certain god. The Germans killed those who were not even Jews— those who simply had Jewish parents or grandparents. A Jewish name or Jewish wife.  Like what?? Also: those with handicaps– such as deafness, blindness, autism…etc. These people were killed too…as means of “cleansing” the population.

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Lincoln Memorial

If my mom happened to live in Germany around 75 years ago, they would have sent her to a concentration camp to be killed not based on how she treats other people but because certain nerve cells are damaged in her ear. Oh ya, only logical. Some nerve cells die–>can’t hear–> deserves to be shot. It disgusts me that so many people managed to deify a horrific idea, an ideal based on such obvious inaccuracies of judgment.

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Standing on the step of Lincoln Memorial, facing the Washington Monument. This is were MLK gave his famous speech.

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The Capital

 

But then I had this dream last night: I was watching the Laker game and simultaneously explaining to someone why I like Kobe Bryant. I woke up and in an intense moment of clarity, at 3 a.m, I asked myself if I would continue to idolize Kobe if he did something that went against my beliefs of right/ wrong. Then I realized he already has: he cheated on his wife and blah blah blah. But I choose to ignore this, and almost excuse this, because I like the way he plays basketball. Everything that he says or does is filtered by my admiration  of him– and I put him on a pedestal because watching him makes me feel empowered and inspired. He could kill someone and I’d still make an argument for his kindness. How crazy is that? Almost as crazy as the Germans’ loyalty towards a man who slaughters innocent people but who also makes the citizens of Germany feel empowered and hopeful. It’s easy to demarcate good and bad behavior when you’ve never been forced to redefine morality.  So that was in Washington D.C.

Also went to: White house, all Smithsonian Museums (amazing, AND free), Lincoln Memorial (more epic in person than in photographs), Washington Monument, World War 2 Memorial.

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Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

 

Day 18

On the train. Should be in D.C within the hour. Maryland is beautiful; we’ve been traveling along the river for more than a couple hours. Thin, naked trees surrounding the riverbed and Imagepiles of dead leaves covering the earth. The sun is shining, illuminating the white rapids. Where the water is calm, almost completely still, it mirrors the bare forest above. How do I feel about my trip? I feel it’s important to press on. I have no idea what awaits me.

Day 16

Today: John Hancock Observatory. Beyond beautiful. It’s weird to think about all the different forms of beauty–and the countless ways in which we can discover beautiful things…things that make my heart smile and bring my soul peace…things that essentially breathe life into me and spark passion, wonder, and gratitude. What could be more beautiful than this moment I am in? A completely spotless portion of existence with endless possibilities. Society Imagecan tell me whatever it wants, but I’m in control–and I live with my decisions. I suffer the consequences of listening an abiding by what others tell me is right. I’m learning how to be nice to myself so that I might be able to give the world all that I have. I don’t search for good feeling; I create it right now and allow it to sweep over me. Image

Also in Chicago:

  • Museum of Science and Industry = amazing.
  • Watched Arrested Development three nights in a row with my Couchsurfing host, Adam.
  • Went to a yummy Senegalese restaurant, came home and had an awesome talk about philosophy and relationships. He speaks with so much intelligence and fore-though. I hope we are friends for a long time. A book on Adam’s coffee table: Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Day 15

In Chicago, went to:

  • Lincoln Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Hyde Park, Chapel Tour, Little Italy, Greek Town, Lake Michigan, Obama’s house, Michigan Ave., Water Tower ( wasn’t destroyed by ImageChicago fire), Tribune Building, Cultural Center, Chicago Temple, Chicago Theater, Rock& Roll McDonalds (mansion looking), Comedy show at IO Theater

My host, Adam, is 25 years old and has a graduate degree in music. He’s been to Tanzania ( pictures= amazing).  Such a great person to talk to. So considerate and nice. Something about him is very pleasant to be around. I feel relaxed and confident when I’m with him.  I felt rewarded for my efforts in blindingly trusting a stranger. It’s a good feeling– knowing my host won’t come up and stab me in the middle of the night–and, instead, will enrich my life, will breathe life into me. I haven’t been raped, mugged, or attacked yet. Never been so happy to say that. The world is a beautiful place if I choose to acknowledge its generosity. It will give me everything I want if I choose to accept it, if I choose to work for it. Adam makes me want to work for it.

Still to do: dye part of my hair a different color, buy a homeless person a meal, play soccer with strangers, leave # on check at restaurant, fall in love (ha), look through a telescope, ride on a motorcycle.  Image

I’m noticing that goals like “pay 5 people compliments in every city” are things I do without thinking about it. I’m here. And my attitude is already “balls out.” I don’t need to remind myself to be adventurous and impulsive and giving. My approach to life in this moment is nothing but adventurous, impulsive and giving. Forgive people who treat me worst on the trip? I’m required to do that. Otherwise I beat myself up and take a train back home. It’s confidence and optimism or it’s nothing.

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Day 13

Jessica, my Couchsurfing host in Minneapolis, grew up in North Dakota (Fargo I think). She made me feel so welcome by insisting I take her food, light rail card, clothes to change into etc… I got to wash my clothes and stock up on grape-nuts and apples (my staple foods throughout the trip).  Without her knowing it, she kept me going, kept me progressing forward.  She gave me hope that I could meet more people like her. When we were eating at “Chatterbox,” her smile gave me the confidence to believe I’m doing the right thing by adventuring. My life has become enriched through meeting her and hearing her stories. And I’m now a better person for having met her. That’s what this trip is all about: opening my eyes.

My other Couchsurfing host, Michael, works at Sea Life. One more person who gives me faith in humanity. The first time I genuinely laughed on my trip was when we played fetch with a sea lion at the zoo. No one there. Except for us. And this animal chucks its toys over the glass, landing at our feet. We throw it back. Repeat five times. Who knew? Not me.

Day 6

In Minneapolis:

  • Went to a Couchsurfing event at a local bar (even though I’m 20 and couldn’t drink).
  • Went to the conservatory (green house, plants from around the world), and recognized a tree from Singapore, as well as sugar cane from Hawaii.
  • Zoo. I still hate seeing animals caged up like that. It was so awesome seeing them close up though. I’m torn, and I hate myself for saying that. Just seeing the Apes was chilling. They’re so powerful and so smart– and yet they don’t even get to utilize their skillsImage in nature. This doesn’t make sense to me. And I don’t even have to look farther than the orangutang grasping a child’s toy to understand how unnatural the circumstance is. Don’t get me started on how IDENTICAL looking they are to humans. I’m looking in the mirror–except my reflection is behind bars, staring back at me.
  • Science Museum. Better than Omsi (in Portland). Visually stunning. And stimulating
  • Mall of America. Uhh huge freaking mall. That’s about it. Visually stunning as well. And the shops/restaurants are just nicer looking than most malls. Mom would love…she’d never leave.
  • Sea Life Aquarium (in mall). Just wow. Never see such unique sea life. Huge and pretty fish, jelly fish  (lit up by rainbow lights– reminded me of Avatar). Rest of the room was dark–and all you could see was the jelly fish bouncing around in clear cylinders illuminated from the bottom by bright colors.  Also at Sea Life– holy sharks! Dude. I have never seen a shark before, let aloneImage like twenty hovering over my head in a narrow tunnel as delicate symphony music is playing in the background. Ya right!! That’s not going to stop my heart from racing. I’m sure there are Aquariums in Portland. It’s funny how I only do some things just because I’m in uncharted territory. However, I didn’t plan on going. My host works there and got me admitted for free. 10/10 would see sharks again.
  • Minnehaha Falls (frozen). We went there at night when it was -20 degrees, not including wind gusts. My host, Micheal’s, beard was frozen with ice crystals after 2 min outside.
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts. After getting lost on buses for an hour in -10 degree weather, I finally made it there. Ya, I made it there alright, with 15 minutes till closing. I saw some cool looking stuff–art isn’t really my thing so I’m not distraught over lost time. As I was walking there, I was approached by an older black man smoking a cigarette. He told me I do a good job of holding up traffic on the sidewalk..lol. He was nice–offered to help with directions that ultimately led me to the right place. He made me smile. This got me thinking, once again, that for every time I’m treated rudely there is a time when someone treats me kindly and warms my heart. There is the bus driver who yells at me for not putting enough money in theImage machine; There is also the lady who goes out of her way to help me on the street when I’m lost, freezing, and gotta pee. There’s also my hosts, who aid me without expecting anything in return. Here is beauty. But would things appear beautiful if there was no ugliness? Is ugliness even ugliness? Or is it a different form of beauty? When someone is rude to me, like the store owner laughing when I ask her where a bathroom is, is this necessarily an ugly thing? It doesn’t have to be. And, essentially, it is not. Broken down into its parts, it is someone’s lips moving…her vocal chords vibrating…and the sound waves  reverberating, crashing into air molecules. And I’m allowing this physics to bring me discomfort. I don’t have to. And would I not perceive beauty if I had no painful experiences to juxtapose it with? Discomfort gives me an opportunity to practice reassessing my surroundings–so that I may be able to deconstruct “negativity” into it’s parts which, if examined closely, are still beautiful.
  • Went to a restaurant called ” The Chatterbox.” ***** Five stars. A board game/ video game themed restaurant. Couches facing TVs; chairs in front of pac man; people playing board games at their booth while eating dinner. And somehow this places still appears classy. Jessica (my host) and I played Chutes and Ladders. I lost 3 in a row. A game purely based on luck and yet I got creamed–3 times. She told me about her boyfriend cheating on her, her parents’ divorce, her hatred of where she works, her Mom getting Alzheimer’s– and yet this girl is the happiest, most positive person I’ve met in a long time. She’s confident and calm and extremely nice. And considerate. Her roommate, Amber, is just the same. These people do exist. And in this moment I’m convince that humanity and goodness will shine down on my life. Because of people like Jessica.
  • Went downtown to explore the Skywalk. Pretty awesome. Like 20 blocks of suspended, indoor sidewalks–all connecting businesses, shops, and food. Although, I spent half the time looking for a bathroom. Kill me. Another half the time, talking to my sister and Mom and feeling homesick. That’s just a feeling I have to get used to. I know it will return.
  • Walked on frozen Mississippi River. I trust nature, but I’ve also Seen “Mr. Deeds” 5,000 times and couldn’t mask my fear of falling through the ice. Jessica, once again, so enthusiastic of wanting me to have a good time. Her boyfriend, Roger, was with us most of the time. The way Jessica interacts with him– so unrestrained, confident, affectionate…I would’ve never guessed she’s been Imagecheated on and has a mother who won’t remember who her daughter is pretty soon. I don’t know how she manages to keep herself available. It is inspiring. The happiness she receives from opening up to people, to Roger, is only achieved through fearlessness.
  • Ate at “The Nook” with Michael (my first host). Popular/ highly recommended burger place. Pretty dang good. Well priced.

And now, NOW, I’m on the train once again headed for Chicago.

What did I expect? Or do my expectations even matter? What actually happened? or does what happened even matter? I can’t imagine anything more important than this moment I am in. My efforts are wasted if I put forth energy in pursuing/ avoiding things; it is also wasted if I concentrate on past experiences. All that I’m required to attend to is this moment, and to maintaining peace and hopefulness. The only person responsible for my happiness is me. Approach and recoil get me no where. Why not just stand still? Let the moment engulf me–its presence asking only for self-discipline and nothing more? Do I receive any benefit from my fear? Or does it drain me… and bring me to my knees? Does it bully  me? Does it give me hallucinations? Is it showing me what’s real? The things I fear will happen–they will only happen if I don’t produce an opposing force: hope, the natural force. There is no acceleration in either direction if those forces are balanced. Why not just stand still–just be here?

Day 2

The sun rising over fields of snow on the train in North Dakota. Or is iImaget just the sun rising that’s beautiful? Is it the scenery accentuating the real event? Which is our earth turning on it’s axis, in turn rotating around a freaking star, a burning hot body of hydrogen converting into helium, its rays extending 93 million miles and ultimately breathing life into me. All suffering aside, this beauty is worth living for.

Day 1 on the train

Is it normal to have this much indifference about the future? Shouldn’t I feel more anxious– being out in the middle of nowhere, by myself? With no plans for the day and no goals for the future? Why do I feel incredibly comfortable when I’m thrown into the unknown? Or do I hope to endure the punishment I think I deserve for being unmotivated in school?

I fear that part of me wants to be kicked around–just so I might feel something…just so I come running back home to appreciate everything I take for granted. I destroyed my life. On purpose. I did this on purpose. Do I like pain? I know I do. But do I like it more that happiness? Who craves suffering? I do. I crave it. And it is an addiction I’m drawn to because it feels good to give up and deem myself intractably helpless. I don’t consciously do this. But in reflection I see the truth.

I’m here and I’m on this train… but do I want to be here?

Or am I punishing myself for not being “normal”?

And by normal I mean robotically putting effort into systematic learning..and getting a degree.. a degree that says what exactly? That I conformed better than you did? You college drop out ?! How much of our conformity is a product of greed? How much is a product of desiring status? How bout, how much of our conformity is attributed to a longing for the idea of greed, or the idea of status? I wonder how much… I guess this is my way of finding out.

Why go to school? And by that I mean, why is it important to get acknowledged for learning? Take away money. Leave the rest. What is left? What part of me sees value in not only learning but in being tested over what I have learned — and in using my knowledge to influence, to make a tiny dent, in my community? Positively influencing my surroundings is a good value. Would I be able to more efficiently influence others if I was tested on my knowledge? What if a degree is needed to accomplish something that affects others in the most positive way I can think of? Do you think the best way I can help others is through sharing my passion? Who am I talking to?