All posts by Jarred

Jarred has been blogging for roughly ten years now and loves to ponder both life's great questions and the completely inane and surreal things that randomly pop into his head. When he's working to get paid, he's a software engineer. In his spare time, he likes to write, hang out with friends, go for long walks, and watch movies and cartoons.

Inform, Don’t Insult

On a message board, I watched someone come in and complain about the poor treatment she had gotten on another message board for a post she left. She went on about how someone accused her of being insulting and got a bit rude with her. After all, she was just trying to be helpful.

Now, I’m about to say something that would probably get me called a cynic. But if there’s one thing that life has taught me, it’s that people can be downright unkind and disrespectful when they’re “trying to be helpful.” “Helpful people” — especially the ones that offer unsolicited help, tend to have an ego thing going, themselves. At least that’s been my experience.

So a couple of us asked for further details before we told this would-be good samaritan how terrible her experience was. So she gave us a link to the conversation under discussion. Well, it didn’t take long for some of us to find why the poor guy was offended. One simply had to read the paragraph he quoted during his protest.

The board this woman posted to was a discussion forum for a law enforcement resource and networking site, as near as I can tell. And she was posting information about “Wicca” (I will have to explain why I put that in quotes someday, I think) and Paganism. Basically, she wanted to inform the police officers there so that they would be better able to handle situations involving Pagans or crimes that looked ritualistic. A noble gesture, indeed. But there are just a couple of things that I would’ve avoided personally. Let me point out the first one by quoting a statement from her post:

You will also become better by not jumping to conclusions when you are at a crime scene or an alleged crime scene with evidence of “ritualistic crime.”

Now, it seems to me that the underlying assumption our “educator” is making here is that these police officers currently jump to conclusions. Now, call me crazy, but I’m sure that these nice officers have gone through rigorous training on how to properly investigate a crime. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that one of the first lessons of investigating a crime — whether there are ritualistic elements or not — is probably don’t jump to conclusions. So I can understand someone getting a wee bit bent out of shape when a perfect stranger suggests they’d do such a stupid thing. Whatever happened to giving people credit.

The second statement is of a similar nature. Allow me to quote it:

And, PLEASE, above all – if you have a question just ask a member of the pagan community or do some research for yourself.

Once again, our “educator” jumps to a rather insulting conclusion. I’m sure that police who investigate crimes are well aware of the value of research. In fact, I’m sure that they spend a good portion of their time both researching and consulting with experts in whatever subject becomes central to their investigation. To imply otherwise — as this “educator” has done — is to basically call these police stupid.

I’m sorry, but whatever happened to assuming that people were intelligent? Whatever happened to the bit of common sense that said that treating someone as if they were a fool is a good way to get off on a bad foot? Whatever happened to actually showing the people you’re trying to “inform” a bit of dignity and respect!

Sure, I’m sure there are some bad cops out there. I’m sure that if one looks hard enough, you can find someone who does jump to conclusion. I’m sure you can find one who does skimp on the research. But to actually face a group of officers and assume that the ones you are addressing would do any such thing is a good way to show what an ass you are, in my opinion. And quite frankly, I think you should expect to be treated like an ass.

Honestly, if this is the kind of person that’s handling “Pagan relations” with our valuable “boys in blue,” I think we’d be better off not being represented at all.

About Mike

Reading this book on journaling, I thought I’d try one of the techniques it described. I figured I’d do a bit of a character sketch of Mike. I figure this will be a good way for me to think about him and remember all the wonderful things I love about him, since I’ve been missing him lately and been a bit bummed about how long it’s been since I’ve seen him.

When I first looked at Mike, there wasn’t that moment of immediate attraction there. To be honest, at first glance, I think it would be easy to take him as quite plain. It’s until you look into his gorgeous eyes — which can be steel blue on one day and almost an emerald green the next — and see them set above his subtle smile he’s unconsciously mastered until you start to see his real beauty and charm. That smile provides the first hint to his quiet, almost shy nature. It fades in and out of existence, mimicking the glimpses of deeper personality that lives under the mask of serenity and his unassuming nature.

The eyes, on the other hand, are the key to seeing his more fiery nature, which is always there, but generally kept to himself. Once he begins to talk about anything that truly matters to him — be it his nephew, his annual vacation to an amusement park, or an argument he’s had with someone who crossed his family — the eyes show the raw and pure fire that fuels his words. His words themselves, are powerful. Whereas I am generally seen as the eloquent speaker, Mike’s way with simple, yet emotion-filled speech has a power behind it I can’t help but admire. As one listens to him speak of such powerful topics, one cannot help but get swept up in his passion.

I sometimes think that this is why he tends to dart his eyes about. His unique blend of passionate feeling and sense of insecurity seem to play off one another. As he becomes self-aware of his own fervor, he begins to look away, almost getting distracted. It’s as if he fears that his own intensity of feeling will chase people away, so he tries to divert it or reign it in as best he can. Of course, by the time that he has done this, I’m usually so enraptured that I hardly notice. Or I find myself yearning for more.

He also has such a tender, caring side. He’s a worrier, always being concerned about the comfort and well-being of those who he loves so deeply. In fact, showing that concern seems to be one of his favorite expressions of love. It’s nothing for him to spend the entire time we’re together worried about whether I’m having “enough fun” and whatnot, despite the wide smile and dreamy look in my face.

Awareness

I finished “reading” (even after a year, it still seems strange to call it “reading” when I’m actually listening to the book on audio) Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men for the second time. I really wish that Harper Audio would get around and put more of Pratchett’s books on audio. The man’s writing is absolutely incredible.

Personally, what amazes me about this book is the almost fairy tale “tone” to it. I don’t remember quite the same tone in Small Gods (which I read the “old fashioned way”) or Monstrous Regiment. Indeed, it makes me wonder if the man has a wide range of writing styles and “tones” at his disposal. Considering the number of books that he’s written, I can’t say as that would surprise me.

It’s easy to get lost in this particular book, in my opinion. The Pictsies and young Tiffany are such great characters. They grow on you, and in a good way. And the interraction between them is absolutely incredible. When you look at the way that the Pictsies appraoch which suggests that a good head butt to be a proper and effective resolution to any problem to Tiffany’s incredible tendency to over-intellectualize and analyze every little detail — especially for a nine year old girl — you end up with a curious interplay between them. It makes for a humorous part of the story.

And just for fun, Pratchett seems to like to throw in some legitimate spirituality. I find myself almost wondering if he does it just to see if anyone notices. For example, when Tiffany and the Queen have their final confrontation, Tiffany “wakes up.” Pratchett describes the effects of this awakening as being a sort of hyper-awareness. Every scent, every sound, every pattern becomes blindingly clear to to Tiffany. And in this sense of awareness, Tiffany is able to both defeat the Queen and realize that she has to “go back to sleep.” During this time, she acknowledges that no one could maintain this state of hyper-awareness indefinitely. She comments to herself that it would prevent them from getting anything done. To paraphrase her, “you could spend all day studying a rose, but the cheese would go unmade.”

It seems to me that there is a real truth that applies to witchcraft in this. Witches seek a sort of heightened awareness, themselves. In her book, Witchcraft: Theory and Practice, De Angeles suggests an exercise that requires one to go about their routine for an hour each day taking note of as many details around them as they can, to become “fully aware” of everything. As part of this excercise, she also recommends sitting down sometime after the hour and writing down everything your mind recorded during the exercise. The idea behind doing this for a number of days is that it will stretch your awareness, enabling you to note more and more details.

But, as Tiffany says, this has to serve more purpose than creating a situation in which “we spend all day studying a rose and allow the cheese to go unmade.” After all, witches are (in theory, at least) a practical bunch. So what is the purpose of such an exercise?

It seems to me that the point of becoming “more aware” is so that we can better control what it is we’re aware of in the first place. By “waking up” — to use Pratchett’s term — we give ourselves a chance to “go back to sleep,” but to control how we “sleep.” We have a greater control of what we’re aware of. We’re more able to filter out those details that are unimportant while not missing the ones that are — even if they are rather subtle.

And perhaps the other part of this exercise is just to make sure we do realize we’re “asleep.” Perhaps a large part of this exercise is to bring us to the point that we understand that no matter how “aware” we think we are, there are still those little details, those subtle nuances, that slip past us without notice. Perhaps this is to help keep us humble and to remind us to question our “facts” on a situation from time to time.

A bit of housecleaning, maybe?

Today is one of those peaceful, quiet days. I have absolutely no plans. I was originally going to see Susan, but she had to cancel her trip up this way. And while I’m sad that I don’t get to see her this weekend, I’m also glad to have the weekend to myself. I need the break. I think I needed the downtime to get some really good relaxation in.

I think I’m going to spend a good portion of the weekend reading. I really need to get started on The Triumph of the Moon. The online discussion group is already on chapter 11, and I haven’t even finished chapter 1 yet. I’ve been so bad about my reading. I’m hoping to manage to get through at least a few chapters this weekend. It’ll help if I can keep my commitment to keep the television off most of the time. I watched television from noon until 2pm today, and I’m going to try to keep it off the rest of the day. I’m thinking aobut doing the same thing tomorrow.

I also started a new book last night before bed. It’s one that I ordered through Amazon.com last week. It’s called Journal to the Self. Yes, I’m reading yet another journal book. What can I say? I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. I guess I’m mostly just looking for more ideas. I’m looking to improve my journal writing.

I guess in a lot of ways, I’m just trying to improve what I get out of my journals. In a lot of ways, I feel like my journal writing has suffered lately. Hell, a lot of things in my life have suffered lately. And I don’t know entirely why. And something tells me that it’s time to look within.

I mean, sure, I’ve blamed it on finding out that Precious has FeLV at one point. I could go on about what work’s been like recently. I could even complain that I haven’t seen Mike lately. But these all feel like excuses to me. They really have nothing to do with it. It has to do with me.

I feel like I’m stagnating. I feel like I’m not doing anything. And I’m not entirely sure why. Is it just a lack of motivation? Where has my motivation gone, anyway? Or is it a matter of a lack of self-discipline. I know I have self-discipline problems, and I’m trying to figure out how to resolve them. But the difficulty there seems to be that improving self-discipline almost requires self-discipline itself. So what’s a guy to do?

And of course, then there’s the fact that I just skimmed over my last paragraph and I’m having trouble resisting the urge to delete it. I read it, and my first reaction is to chide myself for whining and complaining. But maybe that’s what I need right now. Maybe I just need to get a few of these things off my chest. Then maybe, just maybe, I can start looking at myself and my life and get things moving in the right direction again. That’s what I’m hoping for.

It’s a relationship

On one of the message boards I’m on, someone did something that somewhat annoyed me. I don’t think she (I think the person is a woman….) meant it the way I took it, mind you. She was just trying to stir up discussion. There are people who like doing that.

Basically, she started out asking for people’s views on homosexuality and bisexuality. Nothing unusual about that, I grant you. It’s a common topic that pops up semi-frequently on most message boards I frequent. And I really don’t mind it, other than the fact that it gets a bit boring to have the same conversation after about the fifth time. (And bear in mind that I had that conversation for the fifth time almost a decade ago….)

But then she went on to ask if anyone on the message board had a same-sex lover. In reality, I suppose it’s an innocent enough question. I’m sure that the person who asked it didn’t mean anything nefarious by it. But it bothered me, all the same.

I guess what bothers me is that it took the discussion from the hypothetical to the highly personal. She wasn’t looking to find out what people thought about same sex relationships, she was no looking to find out about real same sex relationships. I know she didn’t mean it that way, but it just felt like she was now saying, “does anyone here have a same sex relationship I can examine?”

I’m reminded of a comment made by Ellen DeGeneris (I probably butchered her name, I admit) on her first sitcom during its last season. One of her friends actually “outted” her to a couple of strangers. Afterwards, Ellen scolded him about this. She said that she didn’t like it when strangers found out she was a lesbian, because they often made her feel like she was a tourist attraction once they found out. “Look! The lesbian! Oooh! Get a picture!”

Truth be told, I’ve been there is a sense at times. At my last job — where I was much more public about my sexual orientation — I had a coworker who tended to see me as a curiosity to learn about. He’d often ask rather personal questions about my love life (or lack thereof at the time) and interests. I often felt like I was on display, or part of some sort of science experiment.

I know that this would probably surprise some of my friends — even some of my online friends — considering how plainly and openly I’ll discuss my love life and sexual interests and desires with them. But all I can say to that is that it’s different. With certain friends, you manage to build a certain level of trust and intimacy where you can talk about such things. There’s that sense that you’re sharing with someone who cares. I can easily share many personal things — both seriously and with a cavelier, joking attitude — with those I feel close to.

But I don’t have that with everyone. I don’t have that with my coworkers. And I don’t have it with most people on a message board. So I guess when someone starts asking about my love life — especially as a “matter of curiosity” — in such a public setting, it tends to bother me. Not that I think the person meant any offense by it. In fact, I didn’t take any offense by it. It’s possible to be bothered by something without actually being offended. (As I think about this statement, I realize that a lot of people don’t actually realize that.)

So, I kept quiet.

Passed Another Semester

Yesterday, my mother took her last final for the semester. It was her math class. She thinks she did extremely well on it, which means that she should complete the course with a solid A. Combine that with the B she got in Nursing for the semester, and her semester should be considered nothing less than a smashing success.

I’ve enjoyed listening to her talk about the semester the last few days. Since she found out her final grade for Nursing, she has had this certain sense of pride about her. She realized just how well all her hard work she’s put into her schooling since January has really paid off. And to be honest, I’m more than a little proud of her, too.

I’m looking forward to attending her pinning ceremony next Friday. This is the ceremony where all of the instructors pronounce the first year Nursing students who passed as sophomores. They’re each given a small pin to recognize their success in their first year. And considering the level of difficulty of the course, it’s a success that deserves much celebration.

Of course, I think that Mom’s also more than a little surprised. Along with her pride, I often hear more than a smidgeon of amazement in Mom’s voice. After failing the same semester last year, I think she was truly discouraged and worried about her chances of succeeding. She was afraid she couldn’t make it. And now that she has not only made it, but excelled in the process, she’s amazed.

Of course, that’s the difference between Mom and I. I’m not amazed at all. I’ve known all along she could do it. I know the intelligence and abilities of my parents — probably more than either of them know these things for themselves. Mom’s often talked about how their kids are “smarter” than they are, but I’ve always known better. I’ve known my parents were just as smart as my sister and I. Stephanie and I just happened to have better opportunities to develop our intelligence in the classic, obvious ways. We had opportunities to go to school and get involved in formal programs. I in particular learned to apply my intelligence directly to the academic world.

Before Mom went to school, she’s never had the chance to test or develop her inherent intelligence in that same way, so she always assumed she wasn’t “smart.” Well, now that she’s going through school — and learning to apply her intelligence rather than letting anxiety and self-doubt overcome her –she’s starting to discover that she was wrong all along. And I like seeing her face as she makes that discovery.

There’s something precious about having such an experience when it involves your parent. It’s a sense of turnabout, to be honest with you. I see a woman who has encouraged and supported me all of my life, and now I get the satisfaction of returning that favor to her. It’s nice to see the person who helped you to grow up and fly find her own wings in return. It’s nicer still to have a small part in that process.

Beginnings

Beginning things is usually the hardest part of any endeavor. Finding the “first” is the most tricky. This is mainly because it seems like such a daunting task. Finding the first word in an entry, the first entry of a new blog, or the first thing to say to that cute guy across the room that you’re practially drooling over can seem fearsome.

I think this is mainly because we realize that much of any endeavor is overshadowed and defined by that first step we take. It is that first step which sets us out on a solid path or leads us into the mirky depths of a morass — or worse, the rubble-strewn path that leads to destruction. But perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic with that last part. It’s entirely possible. I’ve never denied my love for a bit of melodrama. (Denying such a thing would be a dangerous thing to do.)

But in this case, my melodrama serves a purpose. I think we often do see things that way, which is why we fear beginning anything. We see those first steps not just as something which will overshadow the further endeavor, but as something which fatalistically determines the final result of the entire endeavor. We tend to see the “false step” as the harbringer of inevitable annihilation. And it is up to us to realize the falsehood in this.

The false step, while it may have some negative and lasting effect, is not the end of the world. Instead, it is merely a step which needs to be corrected for. Once we step into the murky swamp, we must realize it and seek a course that will take us back to more solid ground. But at least we are already moving. Even a brief walk down the supposed “path of destruction,” is better than being frozen at the crossroads unable to make any move out of fear.

It is with these thoughts that I open this new blog. It’s the reason I worked to get it up so quickly. When I originally started looking at setting it up, I started looking for skins and designs to have set up. I almost made the error of letting my search of the “perfect setup” stop me from action. It was only when I got thinking about it that I accepted that instead, I should simply get the blog rolling. Now that I am making this post, I can turn my attention elsewhere. I can now start the research and study I want to do in order to make a more personal design. But I can do this knowing that the real work of the blog — the writing — has already begun.