Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year & What to Look Out For

The time has come to close the book on 2011 and say hello to 2012. Before giving you my New Year's wishes, a couple things:

It's been an interesting year for yours truly. Some personal matters aside, some great memories came about in 2011:

Hooligans in Wondaland-5/11/11, 5/27/11

The picture above? 'Nuff said.

Thrivals 4.0-Louisville ROCKS!!! By the way, if you aren't familiar with Thrivals, check out and RUN, not walk, to Louisville September 2012 for Thrivals 5.0. Also, read the post on Martin Luther King's dream and thrivals.  Links to Dr. Nathaniel Irvin's definition are there. For information about places to stay in Louisville, check out the September about Central Park B&B about the experience there.

9/29/11-My third decade commences

10/20/11-Campus Consciousness Tour!!! F.A.N.D.R.O.I.D.S. know the deal.

It has been the year of Monae: performances at the Grammys and Nobel Peace Prize concert, multiple magazine cameos, Tightrope appearances in HP and KMart commercials AND Happy Feet 2, AND she announced she'll be releasing not 1 but 2 albums in 2012.

As for life lessons this year: many events occur in life for a reason. That reason may not reveal itself at all or after some time passes. The key is to take it one day at a time, which will not be easy. At all.

What's Happening in 2012
Expect some more words from the mad mind that is moi, including the return of Rita Barbour in the continuation of her adventures. (She's been nagging me for months about it)

My sincere hope and prayer is that the year to come is a most blessed, prosperous, and joyous one for you and yours.

Ms. Rana Dee

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"...and we PAINT!"

I am by no means an artist, but I have stepped into the creative side a bit.  Here are some works by yours truly(For more info, leave a comment):

A Figure in Black (2009)


Balancing Act Series

Balancing Act
Balancing Act Pt.2/Ode to Jane

La La Land-For the 2010 Detroit Artists Market Box Show

Gifts and giving (in the spirit of the Season)

In attempts to deal with this moment of being under-the-weather, I decided to put the tea set that my good friend gave to me. Using the set immediatly brought thoughts about that friend and the blessing to have someone to share common interests with. In this season where giving (and shopping) is at the forefront, it's nice to pause to reflect on the point of the giving-the people we're sharing them with.  Getting caught up in the details of shopping and budgets can easily veer us away from that fact. Giving  is about the human connection more so than the actual items in themselves. They're meant to be reminders of what lies beneath-the love between family, friends, and others as members of the human species. What's more, gifts and giving are purposed to recall the value of each person given their shared humanity. It's a blessing to be to able to share with someone other than oneself. To be able to receive is a blessing as well considering nothing in life is guaranteed. THAT is the heart of gifts and giving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Foot-In-Mouth: A musing

Everyone has a moment (or two, or three) in their life where they said or did something that caused them to look at  themself  and go"What was I thinking?". For purposes of this entry, it shall be referred to as foot-in-mouth disease. For some, it's curable. For others, well, there may not exactly be a cure. The key is in how it's managed. In such instances, it's easy for demoralization to set in. As the moral of the first poem in the previous entry suggests, there is the risk for the aforementioned to turn into inaction. Instead of being proactive or productive, one who improperly manages their foot-in-mouth end up in a cycle of defeat. On the other hand, proper management (i.e. using "foot-in-mouth" moments as catalysts for positive change) can initiate a cure or an effective means to work around the issue. Like the majority of life's issues, mindset is at the core. It's not easy, but a change in thinking is necessary to address this epedimic.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Some Poems

(Inspired by my mom)

Dwelt upon wishes
Right through

The Scatterbrain

with the facade of wanting to be found
Daydreams pound
Where's the filter
when you need one?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

For the 7 Pearls

89 years strong
We proundly wear royal blue and gold
as "Greater Service, Greater Progress" guides our steps.
We honor you
Mary Lou
and Bessie Mae
for your illustrious legacy
we're honored  to carry to this day
that is

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Musings on Violet Stars, Happy Hunting!

A post on Janelle Monae's MySpace page posed a challenge to unveil the hidden meanings within "Violet Stars, Happy Hunting!  After much reflection, here's my contribution:

 “ I’m an alien from outer space”
Those who aren’t part of the majority are “alien”, “foreign”, or the “other”

“I’m a cybergirl without a face, a heart, or a mind”
In context of the story, this is Cindi’s description of how she is seen as an android-a bunch of metal and wires with no uniqueness, thought, or soul.

Metaphorically, this lyric can be a veiled description of the human identity in relation to technology.  In many instances, we “recreate our identities” when we interact with technology- ex: twitter/facebook profiles, e-mail addresses, etc.  Simultaneously, however, each individual in the digital world is just one of literally millions.

“I’m a slave girl without a race”
As demonstrated throughout history, slavery has occurred in various forms throughout the world and across racial lines. In many instances, especially in America, slaves were considered property.  In addition, women throughout history all over the world had the status of property-belonging to the father during youth and to the husband in older years.  Even in contemporary society, many women are beholden to behavioral and cultural norms.  This lyric is an expression of solidarity with all women-past and present-who are enslaved in any way, shape, or form.

“On the run cause they’re here to erase and chase out my kind”
The meaning of this line for the story goes without saying.  In another context, it alludes to the countless instances in history of systematic attempts to eliminate the “other” and those within such groups who literally (and figuratively) ran in order to survive in such circumstances.  Examples like Anne Frank and Immaculee Illibagiza come to mind.

“And I think to myself: ‘Wait, it’s impossible, that they’re gunning for me-and now they’re after you’”
Given Cindi’s precocious nature, this line suggests an inner sense of the injustice of the attempt on her life by Droid Control and a sense that right will prevail.  That this trait has been seen in every heroic figure-figurative and literal-needs no further explanation.  It could also imply a naiveté on Cindi’s part due to the fact she’s a celebrity. 
This also may allude to the trials endured by those who aided underprivileged and oppressed groups.

“And all the sirens go doo-doo…”
On the surface, this is another lyric with an obvious meaning. Underneath, however is a sense of allusion to the warning signs that go before times of distress. When hasn’t there been a moment where something indicated trouble was coming?

“You know the rules”
The story depicts androids being beholden to “The Rules” where, above all, they are forbidden to fall in love, especially with the human. In this context, this line could refer prevailing view of Metropolitan society that Cindi and Anthony have to face.  It could also be considered a metaphor to the internalization and/or challenging of societal norms. How many times do we internalize or question what is seen as “de rigeur”? When hasn’t “the hero”, or anyone else for that matter, come to the point where they question the status quo before realizing their destiny?  

“I love you, and I won’t take no for an answer”
Beneath the obvious reference, I saw this line as describing the persistent nature of love-not just romantic love, but love in all its forms.

“They say that violet stars will set you free, when your running lost and alone, up
Neon Valley Street
The first metaphor that came to mind when exploring this verse is the use of the North Star during slavery years to point the way to freedom, or the common usage of it to provide direction when navigating. An interesting explanation of the phenomenon of the violet star comes from physics, which explains it as the spectrum of light waves from the star when the distance between the star and the earth is decreasing (“Doppler Effect”). The closer the light of the star becomes in relation to the earth, then, the more violet it becomes. This can suggest a metaphoric correlation between gaining direction in life and getting closer to “the light”. In addition, given the common association of royalty with colors within the purple spectrum, this line could refer to the gaining of a royal nature the more heavenward one goes. In light of the tale, this could be a prediction of Cindi’s special calling..

“A pretty day makes a pretty picture”
What comes to mind here is holding on to the beautiful or positive.  With the prevalence of cameras these days, who wouldn’t want to take a permanent image of pretty things, especially a pretty day? Our minds can also be seen as cameras that hold on to images in the same manner as the ones we commonly carry. Implied here, then, is a message of uplifting minds. At this stage of the saga, it is love that Cindi holds on to. Her time with Anthony is the “pretty day” that “makes a pretty picture”

“…but fall in love and they’re coming to get ya”
Aside from the evident reference to what’s happening to Cindi, this line can easily describe the moments people have in life when they pursue their passion.  There will always be obstacles, nay-sayers, and doubts that come after people when they fall in love with something or someone.

“Who knew ten men with guns were at the door-the Droid Control”
 The explanation of the aforementioned line can be applied here.

“All my cyboys, and cybergirls, get up if you’re gon’ get down”
This could allude to a call to all those in the oppressed to build courage within themselves to fight for their freedom, in whatever form it may be.

“Citizens pull your pants up, and cyborgs pull your pants down-down your ankles and show your rust. Shake your tank, you know it’s a must”
In the story, Metropolis is described as being plagued with decadence. This line, then, would infer a call to refrain from such behavior. For the cyborg-the “other”, it is a call to be not be shy about voicing the injustices against them. Don’t sugar-coat what’s going on, in other words.

“Now where’s Cindi Mayweather? Get on up there, and let…me see you squeak”
I see this as, apart from the obvious, a veiled reference to view of Cindi as a leader and a foreshadowing of the particular leadership role she would take.

“ I love my baby so…and he loves me too…”
More than a declaration of love, this describes the mutual nature of the love between Cindi and Anthony and true love in general.  Also suggested here is that anything one is sincerely passionate about will work out to one’s benefit.

Doppler Effect."Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: The M.I.L.K. EP/Golden Age of The Apocalypse

Ok-this HAD to be written because the gauntlet has been thrown. 2011 isn't over yet but these two albums are easily the tops of indy releases of this year-All Cows Eat Grass' (ACEG) "The M.I.L.K. EP" and Thundercat's "Golden Age of the Apocalypse".  These two artists are unadulterated geniuses with their respective instruments: keyboard for ACEG and bass guitar for Thundercat.  Both albums feature the aforementioned very well amid a plethora of genre-bending sounds.  There are literally no words to describe the sounds of these albums-they would do no kind of justice.  On the surface they could be electronica, but they're more than that. These are new sounds, the sounds of the future. They are guaranteed to make you move your feet and bob your head. Now, for the standouts: "SMH" on M.I.L.K. and "Jamboree" for Apocalypse. Check them out:

(ACEG image courtesy of, Thundercat image courtesy of

Thursday, October 6, 2011

About a Ball

Everything seems to be used as a metaphor nowadays. At the very least, a lot of people try to create profundity out of the most mundane (cf. Nephew Tommy's "That's Not Deep...That's Stupid").  Then again, there may be some truth to said attempts.  For yours truly, it came in the form of a beach ball at Thrivals 4.0 two weeks ago.

At the beginning of the conference, everyone was handed beach balls to inflate.  Within minutes, myriads of beach balls made their way through the audience onto the stage-except for mine. It seemed as if my lung capacity was non existent. Despondency set in a little bit within a short period of time. At the same time, there was a dogged determination to inflate that beach ball. Throuhout the sessions, I snuck in blows to get that ball to blow up.  Luckily, I was seated towards the back.

Then came intermission.

Like a miracle, my blows into the ball gained headway. Gradually, the mass of plastic took the shape of an actual air-filled ball worthy of using at the beach.  As to how my tries at blowing up the ball had more success in the middle of the day in comparison to the beginning is beyond me.  However, once achieved, a feeling of accomplishment blended in with the already present feeling of inspiration from the conference speakers.

And herein lies the profundity-and irony. A recurrent theme throughout the conference was perseverance, no matter what the odds, especially for work that will change the world for good.  In an odd way, the attempts to blow up the beach ball paralleled the stories of children in impoverished areas of India learning English in order to learn how to use the computers in Dr. Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" Project and Al Letson's journey from dyslexia to performing spoken word and writing plays-subjects of some of the sessions at Thrivals.

The moral of this tale? Keep on going for the good, come what may. Patience and persevearance is key. It's not about WHEN you get to your goal (and/or calling), its THAT you get to your goal (and/or calling). Most importantly, like Janelle Monae pointedly said at Thrivals 4.0, "Don't be afraid to fail".  Now to put it into practice.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

B&Bs From a First-Timer's point of view

This week, yours truly had the opportunity to stay at a B&B (travelspeak for bead & breakfast). In this instance, it was Central Park B&B in Louisville, KY. It was a first time at a B&B-ever. With that in mind, here's my two cents.

Located in the heart of historic Old Louisville, it's safe to say Central Park B&B is the ideal place to stay for a lesson in B&B 101 in the best town to stay in if you're a virgin to B&Bs. The rooms-impeccable. Service-second to none. Bob and Eva Wessels, the owners, know how to treat guests. The whole experience illustrated the perks of staying at a B&B in comparison to a regular hotel:

1)Since breakfast is included, B&Bs are a way for the traveler to reduce food expenses (Plus, one can't go wrong with a little home cooking in the morning)

2)B&Bs enable travelers to interact with other guests in a way that's not as easy for traditional hotels to pull off.  Mornings bring B&B guests literally at the table, creating an atmosphere where people who in any other any other circumstance wouldn't talk to each other engage in dialogue. There's nothing more enriching than getting into conversations with people of backgrounds different of one's own (another lesson from my Louisville experience).

 As for the fact that B&Bs are typically refurbished historical homes, that doesn't mean that it's not for everyone-regardless of demographic. It especially helps if the B&B is a reputable one. That being said, there's no reason not to stay at a B&B at least once in your life.

(For more information on Central Park B&B visit

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Buy of the Moment-Black & White Edition

It's fair to say that when it comes to yours truly, there's NOTHING like random, inexpensive awesome fashion finds-expecially when found locally.  Thanks to local spots Designer Retail Boutique and Rust Belt Market, I picked up two items that were not only hot, but proved to be inspirations for a hot black and white outfit. Why black and white you ask? Because they're basic colors that are anything but (just ask Janelle Monae).

The Buy
black high-waisted skirt with pockets ($10-Designer Retail Boutique, Ferndale, MI)
black and ivory ethnic-style necklace ($15-Rust Belt Market),

About the Look
Pictured Above: The plain white tee gets a black pick-me-up with the skirt, necklace and black Sam Edelman alligator-print pumps

Vendor Info:
Designer Resale Boutique
175 W. 9 Mile Rd.
Ferndale, MI, 48220
Phone: (248) 840-2569

Rust Belt Market
22801 Woodward Ave.
Ferndale, MI  48220

(Check them out on Facebook)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Somewhat Ruined Weekend

So, thanks to Hurricane Irene, the AfroPunk Festival in Brooklyn, New York has been cancelled. Yours truly, unfortunately, was supposed to go. However, as festival favorite Janelle Monae says, "...gotta keep...balance". Though not easy to admit, there were some upsides, namely other opportunities to get out of the house. Such is life, apparently. To those on the eastern seabord affected by Hurricane Irene, stay safe.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Spotlight: Dance by Sol'eil

This post will begin with a caveat: Yes, I know the person that made the song that is the subject of this entry and no, I'm not featuring the song just because I know this person. It's being featured because I like it and the method used to develop the lyrics was quite innovative. Sol'eil posted on the Janelle Monae Fandroids page the other day soliciting help to write a song by describing your day in one word.  The result is "Dance".  Can't you just picture hearing it in a hip lounge or boutique or having it on full blast driving in a convertible with the top down on a late summer evening?

(For more information on So'leil, check out

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Musical Experiment

Some songs are just so beautiful they bring you to tears, or close to it. Try listening to the following songs without getting that reaction:

"Say You'll Go"-Janelle Monae
"Smile"-Janelle Monae
"Cindi"-Janelle Monae
"Star"-Janelle Monae
"Bag Lady"-Erykah Badu
"1000 Oceans"-Tori Amos
"Winter"-Tori Amos

Guaranteed or you money back ;)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

About neighborhood

When was the last time you patronized a business in your neighborhood? In this megamall/megamarket world, it seems easy to overlook the store right around the corner.  Though the "mom-and-pop" shop of yesteryear has declined, local businesses remain an integral part to play in the community. Even the much maligned strip mall has its purpose in the local economy and neighborhood. Each business in each neighborhood is bringing money into the area it's in. Every business space that's occupied brings people and dollars that otherwise wouldn't exist to keep the area going. When able, take time out to buy something from at least one business within your immediate vicinity-especially new ones, ones you've never patronized before or haven't been to in a while. It's one way to help your community thrive.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Buy of the Moment


top: Homeslice by Emily Thornhill
price: $30

     Detroit has no shortage of creative minds. Emily Thornhill, owner and designer for Homeslice Clothing can be counted amonge the aforementioned.  One-half of the now defunct Detroit fashion powerhouse Femilia Couture, Thornhill has continued the tradition of stylish, locally made organic clothing.  When I saw the gray ruffled top pictured above hanging at the vendor booth at the Movement Festival, I had to have it.  At $30, it was definitely a buy. For a laid-back-yet-spiced-up look, I paired it black shorts and black Louis Vuitton-style cut out shoes.  It just goes to show that some of the best buys are local. Where else can you find eco-frendly clothing that's both chic and affordable? Check out Homeslice at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Honor of the 1st Anniversary of The ArchAndroid

This is quite last minute, but yours truly would be remiss in not commemorating this day-the day in which one of the best albums to grace the music industry (and human ears in general) was released-The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae.  Unfortunately, this humble blogger didn't have the chance to experience (yes, experience is the appropriate term here) Monae's first full-length work until September 20th, 2010.  However, that first listen was the beginning of a journey of immeasurable proportions which shall be briefly shared here:

On that late summer Monday, I hurriedly made my way to the Royal Oak Music Theater. To say that curiosity was my primary feeling at that moment was an understatement. While waiting for the show to start, someone I was speaking with gave a rave review of Ms. Monae. Little did I know how true their words would be.

Words are inadequate to express how impressed I was with Janelle's performance. I had to hear more of this tuxedo-clad, oxford wearing powerhouse.  After speaking with the merchandise vendor and a little bit of discerning, I decided to buy The ArchAndroid.  Per my usual music-buying routine, I take a listen as soon as I arrived home.

Right off the bat I recognized the album as nowhere near anything I've ever heard before.  It was quite interesting, in the best sense of the word.  Despite the fact it is Suites 2 and 3 of a 4 suite series, it wasn't too hard to get the gist of the story by reading the CD jacket. There were some songs that had to grow on me-in particular, Wondaland and Make the Bus. Grow on me this album definitely did, and after some research did I gain the proper ears to listen to the arrangements and message of the songs. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

To talk about the greatness of The ArchAndroid at this point would seem in bad taste, so I'll spare you that.  However, it is essential to give a proper and pithy description that won't be found in most magazines:

Yes, The ArchAndroid is Sci-Fi themed in that it chronicles the adventures of an android in a future society.  However, the storyline and theme are multi-layred, speaking to deeper issues of self-discovery and unity and life in contemporary society. This is illustrated in many of the lyrics on the album, such as on Dance or Die ("You can pull the trigger or you can build you an ark"), Locked Inside ("The writers and the artists all are paid to tell us lies"), Cold War (" you know what you're fighting for?"), Tightrope ("You either follow or you lead"), and 57821 ("...lead them all back to one..."). It is an album meant to make you think, feel, challenge you, and inspire.

Whether the response when listening to The ArchAndroid is bliss, confusion, or disgust, one fact is undeniable-its sound, storyline, and theme are singular.  What's more, it's one that can only pulled off by Janelle Monae and the Wondaland Arts Society.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Enjoy the Silence

 To start off, yes, the title is from a Depeche Mode song. Here's why-it is VERY rare for people nowadays to actually enjoy a moment of silence. We're constantly bombarded with noise-television, computers, cell phones, and the like to the point where silence has actually become awkward.  Everyday life has become a noise factory-in every sense of the word.  Where has the silence gone?

     My mom alluded to this one day recently when we were in the car together after having ridden for a while with the radio off and no word spoken.  It wasn't an awkward silence. It was a nice, peaceful silence.  She mentioned that she misses those days when she used to ride in the car with family with the radio off. Occasions like that can actually be quite pleasant.  That occurence had me thinking about the oft missed opportunities to savor quiet and just be.

    Contemporary Western lifestile rarely affords time to get away from the noise.  However, there are ways to fit it in-namely in the form of using TV and radio commercial time to literally unplug. Though it may not be much in the short run, the minutes add up and you still have the chance to fit in all you have to (and want to) accomplish in a day.  Even if you're one of those people that cannot bear the thought of being idle-ever- commercial breaks are ideal for getting things done such as prayer, journaling, meditation, and reading.  Silence is even great to try when heading somewhere or hanging out with friends or loved ones. Times of tranquil quiet, in fact, is usally an indicator of great, long-lasting relationships.

     Everyone has days where they want to shut everything out for a while and just be.  With all of the demands placed on us as human beings in the 21st Century, such moments have become mandatory in order to function properly.  In all honesty, there is no better way to chill than pure quiet time.  Whoever coined the phrase "Silence is golden" knew what they were talking about.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

RIP House of Chants and Other Ferndale Icons

Despite the title, this entry is actually a celebration.  It's a celebration of the best of the two block strip of 9 Mile west of Woodward that is no longer with us.  First and foremost is House of Chants.  There was literally nothing like it in south Oakland County.  Once one set foot in the store with the orange awning, it was another world.  It wasn't just a boutique, it was an experience.  Great house music played on the speakears while one could peruse through a treasure trove of unique pieces from local designers like Wound and Eugenia Paul to national and international labels such as Kitchen Orange, Tulle, Runaway Pony, I Clothing, and BB Dakota.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spotlight: JaDon Davis, Author-Poetry for the Planet

JaDon Davis has a poem for everyone on Earth-seriously.  The 36-year-old Detroiter is currently in the publishing process for his first book, Poetry for the Planet.  A product of almost two years’ worth of writings, Poetry depicts experiences primarily garnered from Davis’ personal life.  The self-proclaimed “full time poet with a full time job” gave Words and Stories a look into the book and the man behind it. 

RI: What interested you in poetry?
JD: [Poetry is] one of the things I’ve been able to do since I’ve been able to write.  God put it in me.

RI: What made you decide to publish a book of poetry?
JD: I’ve been writing poetry for a while and it stacked up. I like writing so I decided to try my hand at being an author.  [A book] was already in the works but got confirmation at the poetry ministry in my church.  I was in the pulpit and people heard me speak and they said I should write a book and put it in print.

RI: Why title the book Poetry for the Planet?
JD: There’s something for everybody around the world in this book.  If you know how to read or want to read, this book is for you.

RI: What was the most challenging part of writing Poetry?
JD: The typing.

RI: There is a strong spiritual theme in Poetry.  How do you feel spirituality has and will impact your writing?
JD: [Spirituality] actually makes the writing accessible to more demographics.  It enhances the words that I choose.  The God theme? That’s where I come from, that’s who I am.

RI: What do you want the reader to gain from reading Poetry?
JD: That’s a good question.  I want [the reader] to be educated and entertained, uplifted and motivated, and I want them to be encouraged and empowered.

JaDon Davis is accepting pre-orders for Poetry for the Planet as well as working on his second book.  For more information, contact him at

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Food, Balance, and Lent

Through the wonders of the Internet, a quote from an article written by James McWilliams for The Atlantic happened to catch my eye today: "Although culinary abstinence might sound downright depressing, if not sanctimonious in its own way, it's actually profoundly empowering...". Interestingly enough, the piece is from March 1st, just before Lenten season got under way. For many, Lent means a time of fasting, sacrifice, and abstinence-mostly in terms of food.  As McWilliams alludes to in the abovementioned quote, abstinence and sacrifice are concepts typically given a negative connotation.  However, there are many aspects of these terms that aren't as bad as they seem.

The object of fasting and abstinence isn't deprivation for it's own sake-it is to bring a balance to one's lifestyle.  According to McWilliams, "for most people food is just food", which is a concept lost on "foodies", whom he depicts as seeing food as more than what it is.  Looking from a different perspective, food is BOTH "just food" as well as something beyond.  It not only sustains our bodies, but reflect how people live.  In many respects, one's personal life and culture can be summed up on a plate. How people prepare food and what they prepare is influenced by their personal and cultural background. Case in point: pizza:-what began as a tradition brought from Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries has become, to use the old cliche, "As American as Apple Pie". It thus is not only food, but a mini history lesson on the impact of Italians in American culture. Many other examples abound that go without saying.  While it's importantant to appreciate the value of food, that appreciation must be tempered with a more practical perspective.

Food is sustenance. It also speaks to where our priorities lie.  As my father used to ask me when I was younger, "Do you eat to live or live to eat"? The problem lies when one leans towards one side or the other.  That's where fasting and abstinence comes in.  In limiting the amount of food taken in and staying away from certian foods for a specific period of time, one gains a new appreciation for the other aspects of life, such as the plight of those less well of than oneself or one's connection with their family and friends. Most importantly, it teaches us about self-control, a value that permeates all areas of human existence. This is the "empowering" that McWilliams alludes to and what Lent hopes to achieve.

It's very easy to think of food as "just food".  However, food also speaks to the comprehensive nature of biology, emotion, culture, and spirit in human existence. While it is ok to enjoy food, it is in limiting its intake through fasting and abstinence where the importance of banance in life is truly learned.


James McWilliams, "B.R. Myers and the Myth of 'Sustainable' Food"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thrivals and Dr. King's Dream

Unfortunately, I was too lazy to participate in my local Martin Luther King Day celebration like I wanted to.  However, as of late, the concept of "thrivals" in relation to Dr. King's dream have been on my mind. In contribution to acknowledging this day, here's a thought I wanted to share: In looking at Dr. King's views, I see similarities with the principles behind "thrivals".  Even more so, I see a responsibility for thrivals to carry on Dr. King's legacy.

By now you're probably wondering who are thrivals.  Janelle Monae puts it best by describing them as people who "don't see race and gender as an obstacle" to their goals (Dr. Nat Irvin II, the man behind the term, elaborates on the subject here:  As the many boundaries that have divided us as a nation and world decrease in significance, it's becoming increasingly inportant-if not necessary-to have a willingness to work with people of diverse backgrounds for the ultimate good.  With such an understanding, as one of my friends recently tweeted, "thrivals will change the world".

So what does this have to do with Dr. King's dream? As he says in the speech, "...we cannot walk alone". This is especially true in our current society. In many ways, the issue of who gets affected by various policies, technologies, and innovations is becoming less affected by race, gender, and nationality. Addressing the problems that accompany this reality requires the recognition that, to quote King's speech again: " inexorably linked".

Yes, there are many examples of division throughout the U.S. and the world.  However, on the whole, there are more features of contemporary civilization that are bringing us together than separating us. This doesn't negate issues of racism and other forms of discrimination as a thing of the past to be disregarded.  They are the impetus in creating a better future. Dr. King recognized that in his lifetime, and thrivals recongize it now. It is thus crucial for thrivals to continue his legacy.

This is achieved, in all actuality, by thrivals being themselves. By becoming engaged in diverse arenas of study and profession, thrivals embody the future King envisioned in which people were "judged by the content of their character.  Also key is informing others about the thrival philosophy. As the word spreads, the easier it is to create change.

Given we're in a new year, this is the perfect opportunity to consider ways in which to impact society for the better.  As we all know, there's still work to be done. Considering the similarity between Dr. King's ideals and that of thrivals, thrivals are in a unique position to take on this challenge.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Feeling Addict

Among the many things that have been on my mind recently has been the idea that people can be addicted to feelings in the same fashion as drugs, food, alcohol, etc. In observing current trends in our culture, especially in terms of behavior (a prime example being that of politicians and pundits), it seems like people have a need to feel some kind of way on a level deserving of its own Intervention episode.  The result of feeding into such needs, can be akin to the worst junkie stories imaginable.

These feeling addictions can be put into two categories-addiction to positivity and addiction to negativity.  At its worst, the positivity addict can be blinded to actual problems that need to be addressed. This can basically be illustrated by many with the "Polyanna" mentality.  We've all been around at least one person like that.  On the other end of the spectrum is the negativity addict, always in need to feel anger, hatred, or see the bad side of everything. Case in point-most of the pundits of a certain cable news network named after an animal.  This too results in disasterous consequences-namely stagnation in life, strife, and even violence. The common thread is that the overwhelming drive adapts the addict to the situation that they're in, leading to fear of any type of change.

Recent decades have seen an increase in people talking about how they feel.  Feelings, after all, are part of what makes us human.  However, there's a difference between feeling and NEEDING to feel.  The question becomes, then, "Do I feel this way at this particular moment because I actually feel this way or do I feel this way because it makes me comfortable?".  Ask yourself that sometime.

In many instances, it's necessary to get to the matter at hand, as opposed to focusing on how you feel about it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On Happiness and Choice

Let me begin this entry by noting the serendipitous nature of how various quotes or sayings come together to speak to a larger theme in life. In this case, it is the role of choice in happiness and its meaning.  It began with a tweet I came across today (well, not exactly came across, but that's another story):

"wishing you more chances to chose(sp) happiness. You deserve it. We all do.:-)"

This tweet resonated with me for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that it made me think about what it meant to choose happiness and being deserving of happiness.  With that, another quote stood out
 to me in the midst of contemplation:

"...the secret of happiness lies in renouncing the right to be happy"

The abovementioned is from The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch.  Though he makes the quote in the context of religion,  it is very much salient to life as a whole.  No matter what anyone's definition of happiness is, it can be agreed that things happen in life that evoke feelings of happiness or unhappiness. In illustrating the act of renunciation as part of being happy, Lacsh indicates that happiness involves choice.  The same concept is more plainly stated in the aforementioned tweet.  Considering the fact that much-if not all-of human existence is about choices, no area of life is exempt from making decisions. The question then becomes, what exactly is meant by choosing happiness?

As suggested by both the tweet and the book quote, it is using your creative abilities to foster a state of happiness. The individual, in these instances, utilizes their free will in how they react to life circumstances. This, it can be argued, has led to a sense of entitlement among people to be happy. Another question then arises: how can "deserving to be happy" be defined?

The tweet and the quote inherently acknowledge that life happens.  They also allude to a significant aspect of reality-nothing in life is guaranteed.  As Thomas a Kempis notes: "But never to feel any dsturbance at all, nor to suffer any grief of heart or body does not belong to this present life..".  Therefore, it is in the letting go of the need for certainty in life and making use of the freedom that comes from it that we, as Lasch demonstrates, unlock "the secret of happiness".  It is also here where that happiness becomes "deserved".

In sum, we have a substantial part to play in our happiness.  It is fulfilled in our utilization of our free will and creative powers.  As we recognize uncertainty as intrinsic to human existance and adjust ourselves accordingly that we find and, in turn, deserve, happiness.

May we bear this in mind as we wish each other a "Happy New Year"