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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Post # 59 – Commonalities

To put it bluntly, commonalities are essentially the similarities between two or more people. It is something that we all share in common and is usually a characteristic or feature that we have. In essence, every single person on this planet shares a commonality with one another and that is that we are all human. It is a unique bond that groups us together that distinguishes us from other creatures of this earth like animals and plants. It plays a huge role in creating classifications that separates objects and beings apart from one another. This can have many different uses that I will describe in this post.
One of the main things that commonalities and similarities are useful for is to build networks. If you think about it, since the beginning of time humans have been forming networks with one another based off commonalities. All cultures are formed on the basis of some type of common value or beliefs. It is very useful because is organizes and unites people together under certain values and principles. No matter what your beliefs are, out of the almost 7 billion people on the planet, there is bound to be at least one who shares a common view and perspective as you. Religion is a great example of this. It has united people since the beginning of recorded history. Once a group of people start becoming established based off a set of commonalities, they form civilizations that feed off these principles and put them to practice.
The one problem that is associated with similarities is the fact that not everyone else shares the same values and principles that you do. This has caused many conflicts over the years as almost every war has been started because of conflicts of interest between two different groups of people. Each set of belief systems have different moral guidelines and rules that they abide by as a basis for being a member of that particular group. Because not every group is dictated by the same rules, if any rules seem to hinder another set of rules from existing and being practiced there will be problems associated with it. Whether it is beliefs on how resources to use or what God to praise, history has been riddled with such campaigns to show that one specific group is better than another or at the very least, that one group’s ideals will be carried out over another’s. World War II was started on the basis that Hitler believed that anyone who shared blonde hair and blue eyes in common were genetically superior to everyone else so that justified his belief that everyone else deserved to be wiped out and his people were entitled to world domination.
This brings me to my next point about discrimination because of differences. Since not everyone shares the same set of common beliefs, there used to be a huge resistance to diversity. Whether it was the Crusades, Jim Crow laws, or another other example you could cite from the history books, if you were different in any shape or form from the established authoritative group, you usually were in trouble. Segregation, genocides, and slavery all resulted from being different than those who were in charge and had the power. If you don’t possess a commonality with those who are in control, you were usually at the very least ostracized from their organized body and would lose any benefits associated with being a part of that group. If you weren’t the right race, religion, gender, or another other distinguishing factor, you would be severely limited on the opportunities available to you in life and most likely be stuck with a life of hardships and barriers.
Luckily, as society becomes more advanced and civilized, these distinctions that once separated are now viewed as vital. Society is placing a bigger importance on the commonality that I mentioned in the beginning, we are all humans and all deserve to be treated as such. Diversity is now advertised at all colleges and it is something that administrators strive to achieve and maintain. We have realized that despite our commonalities, it is through our differences that we gain strength. Everyone has a different perspective and story to share that provides vital insight to our knowledge of the universe. The spread of silk from Asia gave rise to better forms of clothing and the proliferation of the internet has only connected us even more. I personally would hate to live in a society where everyone was just like me. It is really eye opening and reveals new ways of looking at life that can provide me with valuable acumen that I can directly apply to my life. Each individual is unique in their own way and through that we all share a common bond. Crazy huh?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Blog # 58 – Evolution of a College Student

As I get closer to the end of my first semester as a freshman here at the University of Maryland, I have realized a lot about my life has changed to an extreme degree, that being an understatement. I no longer have my mom as my alarm clock and instead of my mom and dad I have Andrew and Kyle, my two roommates. I don’t have home cooked meals but now I have dining halls. In high school there was a recognizable small niche community while now I am one in a crowd of 38,000 people. With these changes, I have had to transition into a completely new way of life. For those of you reading right now that have yet become a student of a university, nothing that I can say can truly prepare you for the change of pace associated with being a college kid. It is truly one of the biggest examples of things you must experience first-hand in order to truly understand. While after reading this, you may think that college is a scary time and I won’t lie to you and pretend that it isn’t. It all depends on how you transition into your new lifestyle and that will determine how much you are able to enjoy it and how much success you will have as well. By the end of this semester I can proudly say that I have established this university as my new home and have made many new friends and adjusted my habits to hopefully ensure that I will have success in my remaining years of college.

In order to have these changes in my life, I must also go through the transition period where I adapt from the old to the new. Adapting is a necessary and vital skill to have in order to be a successful person in life. You don’t need such a blatant example like going to college to know that every day we are faced with situations that require us to adapt and change. It could be anything from adjusting your plan to your entire philosophy and perspective on life. Sometimes these changes are voluntary and others are forced but regardless, making a transition will almost always yield positive results in the long term. It is necessary to assimilate into whatever culture or society you associate with in order to fit in and be afforded opportunities. If you are completely too stubborn to change at all, time will pass you by and you will be stuck with old ways of thinking that may no longer be applicable to the current situation at hand. With this being said, it is still important to retain some of your original ideals and values. These are what make you who you are as an individual and if you lose focus on them then you can really harm your own well being and cause confusion and identity problems. Keeping reminders and memories of where you have come from is a great way to exhibit everything you have accomplished so far in life and will allow you to look forward and focus on achieving so much more.

As I mentioned, fitting in and getting comfortable are the main reasons why you want to make a transition as smooth as possible and why you ultimately modify your actions or thinking. It is natural to not enjoy the feeling of anxiety and restlessness accompanied by being outside your comfort zone so we attempt to make a place feel like home. This is why many dorm rooms are decorated with posters from home or interests that you have in order to increase this home feeling. It is vital that we in some shape or form get this homey feeling because without it, our productivity and efficiency will most likely be hindered. Most people can’t get work done let alone function without feeling comfortable in their current environment. While there are those people who are exceptions to the rule and feed off the adrenaline that uncomfortable situations give them, for the most part I believe people would rather live in an environment that makes them feel safe and secure rather than scared and vulnerable.

This transitionary period can vary in duration depending on who you are. Everybody has different comfort zones and their ability to adjust these boundaries of comfortability will directly correlate to how quickly a person will be done transitioning. Going back to the college example, the quicker you can make new friends, get used to your classes, and deal with being completely responsible for yourself, the quicker you will be able to feel at home. I have made this university my home and if you keep yourself open-minded, transitions present an opportunity to try new things and are necessary for growth and advancement.


Philosophy is Phun Blog # 57 – Sacrifice

With Thanksgiving’s passing, it is important to realize how fortunate we are and we need to make sure we pass on this blessing by sacrificing for others. I have in the past done a video on sacrifices where Tommy and I discussed the decision making process in regards to sacrifices. I ultimately believe the concept of altruism is nonexistent. I believe that every action is motivated with some sense of selfishness because every action you take has a direct implication on your life and well being. While you can say that sacrificing your time to help out someone else, you are still getting something out of that. You are bettering your relationship with that individual you sacrificed for because they respect you for being there to support them. They could also potentially owe you a favor or you are returning the favor for a past deed. Regardless of the scenario, you can almost always find something that you will benefit from if you sacrifice something else. That being said, sacrificing for others is an important part of life because you are helping others achieve success and opportunities that they probably wouldn’t be given otherwise.

This brings me to another point about opportunity costs. As I mentioned in the podcast a long time ago, sacrifices are essentially opportunity costs because you are giving up one thing in favor of another. There isn’t enough time in the day to be able to do everything that you could possibly want to do regardless of if you were to sacrifice or not. Sacrifices also don’t have to just be done externally onto other individuals. In fact, most of your sacrifices in life will be done to better yourself in some form. Think about it this way, there are different priorities and goals that we all have in life and depending on their importance, we will most likely give up or make adjustments that will allow us to better complete said goals. I get the feeling that most of the times sacrifice gets a negative connotation because when you hear the word sacrifice, most people automatically assume you must give up something you enjoy to make way for something that is important but may not necessarily make you happy. This is a reasonable assumption however because why would you be doing something unenjoyable in the first place way before it came time to give it up as a part of a sacrifice. The example I used in the podcast before was giving up videogames in order to study or do homework. You sacrifice the entertainment that videogames provide you in order to become better educated and better prepared for your next exam and thus a better grade.

It doesn’t always have to be like this scenario (what many people would call a win-lose situation) and there can be possible benefits for making a sacrifice that are unforeseen. There are literally unlimited amount of events that sacrifices are applicable to but one sacrifice you could think of that provides win-win benefits is breaking a drug addiction. While you may think initially that the withdrawal side effects of ending an addiction are a negative, you save your health, time, money, and relationships in the long run that continuing to do drugs would have never afforded you.

This brings me to my next point about the difference between long term and short term implications and consequences of a sacrifice. The results of a particular sacrifice may never be seen for years to come while in other situations you can potentially see immediate results. I believe that the quicker you can visibly and clearly see the difference that your sacrifice is making, the more likely you will be willing to make that sacrifice, depending on the benefits of course. We live in an age where immediate satisfaction has become a necessity with the proliferation of things like the internet. We need to see the effects of what we’re doing right here and right now or else we get antsy and impatient. If we can’t see the results of the sacrifices we’ve made within a short duration of time, people can get the feeling that their sacrifice is useless and they could potentially be giving up something they really enjoy for no reason at all. This is why many people can’t finish diets. They give up tasty but fatty foods in order to get a healthier palette but it takes a while to lose weight and get in shape so in the short term they perceive themselves as only giving up something they cherish while getting nothing in return. I ultimately believe that sacrifices are a necessity in life because they allow us to prioritize our actions and goals more effectively through a focused lens and really allows us to direct our lives down the most desirable path.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Blog # 56 – Exams

As college finals start to roll around in the next couple weeks I wanted to dedicate this next post to the exams in our lives. We all know what exams are but to define it I would say that exams are the tests that are utilized to determine the amount of knowledge or skills you have acquired through learning on a particular subject.

If you have ever gone through the educational system you have no doubt been tested in some shape or form. These tests supposedly used to measure your intelligence on certain material to make sure that you know what the Board of Education has determined you need to know to be successful in the working world and life in general. The way that these educational institutions have put an incentive to make sure we perform to the best of our abilities is through grades. These grades play such an influential role in determining what you can achieve in the future. If you don’t do well in high school then you won’t get into a good college and then you can pretty much count your chances of having a good life goodbye is essentially what we were taught when we grow up.

This is true to an extent. While you shouldn’t necessarily blow off your grades in an attempt to always get 4.0’s I have definitely felt there were times when I worked harder than necessary and I could have achieved sufficient if not the exact same grade. This is where artful strategies come into play. Life is a game and you need to know how to play in order to be successful. You can think of exams as milestone markers to test what you know or you can do to see what you’ve accomplished so far but you need to know how to budget your time and effort effectively in order to be as successful as possible. Studying and reviewing is a vital part in being successful on your exams but you need to budget your time with other activities in order to maximize your chances of success.

The idea of an exam is not exclusive to school however, and can be applied to almost all facets of life. Life will inevitably throw difficult obstacles at you which can be thought of as tests. You ultimately everyday are applying your knowledge and what you’ve learned to the world and if you know your stuff you will prosper.

With each test you face in life you need to approach it with a specific tactic. Like I mentioned earlier, Life is a game and with each game you play there is a different strategy you need to take. You wouldn’t play a game of Monopoly the same way you would play a game of chess. They have different rules that you need to play by and there’s no way you could even pose a threat to your opponent if you attempt to checkmate Mr. Moneybags. This is why you need to make sure that you do enough research ahead of time (or studying in the case of classes) to be successful for when it is actually time to be tested.

Even after we graduate from school and never have to take another math or history class again, we will still continue to be tested until the day that we die. In our jobs, we will be given tasks that need to get completed with a certain budget and a deadline. The great thing about tests though is that they give us an opportunity to demonstrate our aptitude for whatever area the test focuses on. We can showcase our abilities and each test ultimately has a final goal that will be achieved if you perform well on the test. There is almost always a benefit associated with doing well on an exam whether it is a good grade in school or get a promotion for doing a great job on an assignment your boss gave to you. Tests can be nerve-wracking, especially if you aren’t prepared for them, but if you manage to succeed on a test then there is no doubt you are on the right track to succeeding in life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Blog # 55 – Holidays

Earlier this week I got an email from one of the Vice Presidents here at the University of Maryland about the traditional University Holiday Card and it made me start to think about how important holidays are to not only the America public but to the whole world as well. This is the special time of the year where everyone comes together to take time to celebrate family, friendships, and life as a whole. I personally love this time of the year because it brings people together and there is a certain feeling in the air. It first starts with Thanksgiving that was originally started to celebrate a great harvest of the fall and to hold a feast for everything that it has produced. As time has progressed, it has given us the opportunity to show our love and proves that family and friends are of great importance in a healthy live, just as much as a great food is. As we all get busy with school and work, it is really easy to forget what it really important in your life. Coming next week when we all have the opportunity to go home I hope that you all will show your family and friends just how important they are in your lives.

But that is just the start of the holiday season! Once the end of October and Halloween comes around you can almost feel a different vibe in the air. There are so many emotions attached to this time of the year. Just like Thanksgiving represents a strong communal bond, the holiday season only accentuates this after November ends too. Whether you’re watching the 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family or hear some holiday music blaring, you can feel the holiday spirit in the air. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or Christmahanakwanzika, we all can agree that December is a very special month. Everyone is happy and it provides college kids the opportunity to head home and relive parts of their life that used to seem like distant memories. Unless you are Mr. Scrooge, it is obvious how much more friendly everyone is because that is a huge side effect of the holidays.

Holidays in modern society have come to mean a lot of different things and have changed from their original purposes. One of the biggest things that have become attached with the holiday season today is materialism. Black Friday is one of the biggest days for retailers and most stores often open at 4 a.m. with tons of promotional deals encouraging consumers to make the treks to their local shopping malls. Capitalism and commercialism really benefit from the holiday season, probably something that jolly ol’ St. Nick didn’t intend to happen.

If you didn’t get that reference that I made then you probably don’t know the origins of popular holiday traditions. Most people have completely forgotten the religious aspects of the holiday season. I’m not going to even pretend to you that I know beyond the basics. Just google Christmas origins and you’ll find out so many things that you had no idea were even true. It is important to find out the roots of these traditions that are so deeply rooted in modern society because they played a role in making Santa Claus the plump man with the beard he is today.

As the end of December comes around, New Year’s wraps up the holiday season. New Year’s essentially marks a brand new beginning. Besides the obvious fact that it is a brand new year, it holds with it the idea that you are given a clean slate to make your life the way you want to. You approach the coming year with personal goals and resolutions that you want to carry out that will better your life. Whether it’s losing weight, making new friends, or something entirely different, it is a common tradition to enter the new year with a purpose of improving your current lifestyle.

I think an overarching commonality that connects all of these holidays is celebration. As a college, student partying is important to relieve stress but the holidays provide an opportunity to party with purpose. We celebrate our families, our health and wealth, and overall, our life. Not many people are as blessed as we are so holidays represent a chance for us to say thanks and really appreciate all that is afforded to us.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Blog # 54 – Strangers

Hey guys! If you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, I have uploaded two new podcasts on the so go watch them! This post is dedicated to a recent thought I had about how everyone is in some way connected to one another even if they don’t realize it. We have probably all heard about the Six Degrees of Separation theory where everyone can be connected to anyone else in the world through a maximum of 6 people (i.e. you know someone who knows someone who knows someone etc). I saw this one documentary that put this theory to the test. The filmmakers dropped off a package at a random village in Africa and told the person that they have 6 degrees of separation (i.e. six people) to get it to another random person in New York City. Obviously the villager didn’t know the person but they did know someone who would come through the village dropping off supplies who was from America. The next time the villager saw the American, he gave the package to the guy who then proceed to bring it back to America and then somehow it eventually ended up to the person it was supposed to. Now with globalization increasing at a rapid rate thanks to technologies like social networks, it becomes even easier to expand you network to encompass people from all around the world.
Bringing up the social network concept, sites like Facebook have completely changed what we consider to be a “friend” and who is a stranger. I feel like Facebook has turned the term friends to essentially mean that if you make eye contact with someone you automatically become Facebook friends. I think this applies to everyone because I believe that if you have over 500 “friends” on Facebook one of them is bound to be a stranger to you. I guess since I have been talking about them for a while, it is pretty important to get a general definition of what a stranger is. According to Google, a stranger is defined as “a person who does not know, or is not known in, a particular place or community.” This lack of knowledge is essential what makes the difference between friendship and being strangers. It is a pretty basic idea but it defines all relationships in our lives. In order to have a relationship with someone it requires past experiences or memories of those experiences and some knowledge of that individual. It helps you form an identity with that individual allowing you to recognize them from a crowd and creates distinctions that set them apart from everyone else. If you’ve been hanging out with a friend for a while you will be able to tell things like how they talk, how they walk, what type of humor they have, and other factors that make friendship so special.
Another important topic is the scenarios that we get put into with other people that allow us to potentially make acquaintances with those people who would otherwise remain strangers forever. Whether it is a class in school, a brand new job, or a random occurrence these events lay the foundation for developing new relationships that would never exist without them. This goes back to my very first philosophy podcast where I talk about the chance vs. fate debate. Is it strictly by chance that you will one day be in the right place at the right time to start a relationship with a person? Is it really like the movies where you save the person of your dreams from almost getting hit by a car and then you are soon married after that? If that’s the case do you have to thank that driver for almost running over your future spouse or is it just dumb luck that you were close enough to rescue them. Another perspective you could have on this situation was that you and your future spouse were meant for each other since the beginning of time and it is all part of some master plan of life that you were going to save them. Is it possible to control who is a stranger in your life or is it just meant to be? There are also all those what if questions like you could say to yourself “what if I decided to take a different road that day then I may have never met my wife.” I don’t think we will ever know the answer to that but I don’t think you have to wait for someone to almost get hit with a car to start talking to them. I believe it is ultimately up to you who is a stranger in your life regardless of whether it was meant to be or not.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Blog # 53 – Productivity

I recently went to a workshop on how to become the most efficient person that you could be. It was a great experience because it taught me some very important things about how to manage your time productively. Time is the most value currency in our lifetimes. You have heard the expression time is money and I just want to restate how much of an understatement that really is. Benjamin Franklin was even quoted as saying “Time is the stuff life is made of.” The man who gave this workshop on efficiency, named Joel Oppenheimer, really opened my eyes on just how valuable time really is. He talked to us about how time is such a unique resource in the fact that it can’t be accumulated, stored, or replaced. It is always being spent at a constant rate of 60 seconds per minute and everything that you do or could hope to achieve has a certain cost of time.
It is common knowledge that life isn’t fair and every human isn’t born on an equal playing field. For a financial standpoint, some people are born with a silver spoon while others are born with just the clothes on their backs (i.e. nothing). Similarly, not everyone is given the same amount of time here on earth. That’s the problem with time; we never know when it is going to end. That’s why it is so important to make sure that you get everything that you want to get done within the unpredictable amount of time allotted to you. In order to do this you need to know exactly what you want to achieve. This leads me to my next point about goal setting. One of the greatest tips Joel told me was to write my goals down. He presented us some statistics from a study that discovered everyday people like you and I would only follow through with their New Year’s resolution at a rate of 4% while those who recorded their resolutions into a journal would have a completion rate of 49%.
It isn’t just good enough to have a goal though, as you must also develop S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timing. Specific is pretty self-explanatory. Your goals need to be explicitly clear so that you obviously know what you are aiming for. Measurable factors into your goals by making sure that you can clearly see the progress you’ve made so far and can see at the end of the goal how you have improved or reached that goal in a particular way. Action-Oriented refers to including verbs into the wording of your goals to make sure that you actually complete tasks to accomplish your goals. Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. You also need to be realistic when constructing your goals to make sure that your goals are attainable within a reasonable amount of time and effort. Finally and most importantly is timing. You need to make sure that your goals have deadlines in order to push you towards completing them. Goals without deadlines are essentially just dreams with no hope of actually making them a reality.
Now that you’ve made your S.M.A.R.T. goals it is important to prioritize the goals you’ve made. After going to this talk I have started constructing lists of goals that I would like to achieve every week starting Monday morning. Some of my goals have continued to appear over multiple weeks because they are important to me and I really hope I achieve them someday. For instance, my ultimate goal in life is to make my own design consulting firm and innovation incubator. I may not have the resources or connections to do such a thing yet but it remains one of my ultimate goals and that doesn’t mean that I can’t do things every week to make my goal more achievable. For instance, I have started to create business plans and will soon try to find funding for my company. Of course goals will vary from person to person but this is where you must decide for yourself what you consider important and what you want to achieve in your own life. Some goals, like my company, are long term but others can be accomplished in one day. Priorities are very important because they allow you to make sure you are spending your limited resources like time and money on things that will help you reach your goals based on order of importance. The ultimate reason why we have goals is to make ourselves happy because it feels good when we get something that matters to us done. Using the 24 hours we have each day, you need to make sure you budget your time and money effective in order to be more productive. The more productive you are the more you can get done thus the happier you will be.

-Allan Nicholas

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Philosophy is Phun Blog # 52 – Values

Hey guys! Now that the podcast has been up and running for the second week in a row and we are getting back into the swing of things I decided to bring back the blog too. The schedule for this new philosophy content will be on a weekly basis. Tommy and I will be recording a new episode of the podcast every Friday which will be uploaded during the weekend. During each weekend as well I will be typing up a blog post just like this one. I will also be actively trying to aggregate content on my Human Powered Podcasts site and build it into a media network. My next step is to culminate all the great philosophical content on the web from other bloggers and podcasters and showcase it on my site. I’ll keep you guys posted on how that effort is going.

What I wanted to talk about this week were the inherent values that we all have. This will relate pretty closely with the most recent podcast I did with Tommy but more in depth with my personal values and what I’ve taken from them. I went to a meeting for the Terrapin Leadership Institute and it was very informative and helped me realize a couple things. They made us do an exercise where they gave us a list of words for values and we had to pick our top ten and then gradually reduce the list until we got one final value. In retrospect the list was restricting because there are essentially countless values that one could have and there are more values than words used to describe them. There were a few that did resonate with me though when I was looking at list and these words included Achievement, Challenge, Creativity, Optimism, Innovation, Leadership, Personal Growth, Pioneer Spirit, Recognition, and Success.

Something that I noticed about these words is that they are completely open for interpretation. As with many things in our world, everything is relative to a degree and so is the way that we interpret words. We each have a different perspective on what counts for success or what is considered a challenge so even if two people were to have the same values they would no doubt have different ideas or views on what they mean exactly. These values also don’t have a permanent definition. For me the word successful has a different meaning depending on the situation it is applied to. If I’m in class, being successful means doing well on the exam or getting my homework done. If I’m playing in a soccer game being successful could mean making a good pass, scoring a goal, or ultimately winning the game.

I think it is very important to try and assess what your own personal values are as well. If you have an idea of what you cherish in the world it will definitely help you know what you need to do in order to reach happiness. You’re probably thinking “Oh I know what my values are. It’s easy!” Well I said the exact same thing when we were being briefed on the activity at the Leadership meeting and then I drew a blank. If I didn’t have the list to look at I definitely wouldn’t be able to come up with a comprehensive list of my own. I definitely recommend you do some introspection and try to find out what really makes you tick and what you are really passionate about. If you can do that, you are more likely able to reach your values and by doing so you can find ways to make your life happier. Because pioneer spirit was one of my important values, I know that if I act as a trailblazer and take the initiative in the events of my life I will more likely be happier than if I just sit back and watch life pass me by. Plain and simple, if you know your values, you have the ability to make your life better.

-Allan Nicholas

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Philosophy on Facebook # 51 – Presence and Awareness

This philosophy post I thought up on my way up to the University of Pennsylvania when I was thinking about why people feel inspired when they listen to a speech from Obama or some other influential figurehead. I started realizing that it doesn’t just have to be inspiration from a prominent leader but you can feel many other emotions just because another person is within your immediate radius. I think that this presence factor of life makes emotions contagious and is an instinctual way to share and transfer feelings with others. For instance, see someone laughing or feeling happy, you will normally crack a smile and be uplifted even though you may have no idea why they are happy. I feel like this normally works for almost the whole spectrum of feelings from sadness to anger unless you are in a strong predisposition before the emotion becomes publically revealed. I wouldn’t laugh when the other person was laughing if I was angry beforehand. I feel like this is an important part of life because it requires social proficiency in determining how to appropriately manipulate someone’s emotions like if your friend was sad, you would probably try figure out how to cheer them up. I’ve noticed another scenario is when I’m driving and I see a cop, even if I’m not speeding or doing anything wrong, I still get nervous. The mere fact that I saw a cop made me worry and get nervous for no particular reason other than his presence. For people with phobias, being anywhere near whatever you are afraid of can cause people to scream and faint even though they aren’t in any actual danger (those of you afraid of spiders can attest to this). When I’m riding a roller coaster, I can feel this kind of personal bubble that comes into play when I’m riding the coaster with my hands up and think that they are going to hit part of the track even when they aren’t even close. Just think how you would feel going over a bridge with no railings and even though rarely if at all do people hit the sides, you still will feel nervous and be extra careful. My thinking on this is that peace of mind comes into play when you are talking about presence because when you notice something’s presence, it is your immediate instinct, even subconsciously, to think how it will affect your life, especially in your survival like the fight or flight response. In pressure situations you may make heat of the moment gut reactions but you usually always take into consideration your environment and what is currently in your presence whether you realize it or not.

This got me thinking about the second part of this topic which is awareness. Understanding and recognizing how a situation is transpiring around you is an important skill to have as well. Being oblivious to someone’s emotions may mean that you say or do something that makes another person mad and not even realize what you did. Humans are complex beings and figuring out how to act and deal in other’s presence is an essential part of having a successful life, especially socially. If you want to maintain a successful relationship you will need to figure out how they act when they are in a specific mood and thus react accordingly. The saying ignorance is bliss also plays a role when it comes to these situations because it doesn’t require all the thought and effort that normally comes when you plan out how to deal with your surroundings and the people in them even though it can be a huge weakness if what you don’t notice come back to haunt you. Being caught off guard leaves you completely unprepared on how to deal with things that show their presence to you without any warning. If a teacher hints that certain information will be on a test but you don’t pay attention then you will probably fail. There are certain things you should always know about at almost all times that are imperative to a successful life like access to necessities like food and water and contact with emergencies services. You may not consciously think about where your next meal is coming from but you will still realize that there may be a McDonald’s nearby that has food available if you need it. You also need to have some ability to prepare for unexpected events. They will inevitably be times when something comes out of nowhere and hits you and there is nothing you can do about it when it happens. You can however set up safeguards and plan ahead to a certain extent to make whatever damages occur be less painful. You need to be somewhat aware of what is going to be in your presence in the future to avoid utter disaster like realizing that you only have a half tank of gas when wherever you are headed will require more fuel than that. If you don’t prepare you could be stuck in an unknown area and you are essentially setting yourself up for failure.

One thing that I want to talk about that applies to awareness is a scientific theory I heard about a couple years back. I can’t remember the exact name of it but it basically states that once you are observing a situation or trying to become aware of your environment, your very presence can completely change the situation. If you are trying to find the natural way of life in an area, your being there doesn’t make it natural anymore so you need to take into account that your presence can modify the environment to the point where it would be totally different if you weren’t there. For instance, if you are trying to observe elephants in their natural habitat, just your presence in their environment can modify their behavior and make them act differently than if you weren’t there, thus not giving you an accurate depiction of how they would normally live.

Finally there is a pretty neat concept that I’ve been thinking about recently that relates to the idea that certain people have these bubbles around them that can affect other things in their presence. It basically is talking about how what you do can have a huge affect on your surrounding environment like your decisions change the course of existence/life on everything else involved. For instance, funny people can lighten the mood and make everyone around them happier. Even inanimate objects like the latest toy or videogame and produce the same effects on all those who use them. Not only does your presence affect others but others in your presence directly affect you too. It is amazing to think how the lives of your parents would be different without you. You affect your parents lives so much and they monumentally influence you as well. This is why you want to make sure your own aura will positively influence and modify your environment. You want to make sure you are perceived and do help the lives of others around you just by you being in their presence and if you do so you will in turn receive positive influences as well and it will be a positive experience for everyone. On another note you get so much more in your presence thanks to technology because it gives you a whole world at your fingertips and gives you exposure to so many more things. These things can then widen your perspective and give you a more full view on life and the world by increasing the amount of experience you get by increasing everyday what is in your presence. You then begin to recognize such things from your senses which then interpret the environmental stimuli and allow you to have accurate information on how to respond to every situation. Basically, the more you are exposed to, the better you be able to respond appropriately to them. The better you know the world around, you the better you can make your life.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Philosophy on Facebook # 50 – Giving Up and Acceptance

Hey guys. I thought I’d try and get into the grind of churning these philosophy posts out again and not just the Phun-size kind but one similar to when I first started writing these posts over a year ago on January 4th, 2010. Within that year a lot has gone on through my life and while it has provided me with amazing opportunities, it has also unfortunately had moments of tragedy and heartbreak. I think that these tragedies are in a way a blessing in disguise however, because without them I wouldn’t have realized how important it is to cherish what you have before you regret not appreciating them when they’re gone. It also provides a base comparison on how much joy and happiness the rest of my life has been filled with. Tragedy also plays a vital role in teaching us valuable lessons and here is some philosophy that it has taught me.

I visited my grandparents today and when talking to the nurse of my grandparent’s retirement center, she told me that over all her years of working in the medical field, she had to rethink her beliefs on the difference between giving up and acceptance. As we go on through life and get older, the adults that we've grown up with who helped us develop and improve our collective beings get older too and it is unfortunately the way of nature that we will all inevitably die. As I was being tutored for the Chem SAT’s, I had a pretty interesting conversation with my tutor on the subject of entropy and how the universe always leans toward disorder. The universe naturally wants all solids to be brought to a state of a gas which means that our bodies are by their very nature meant to die. When tragedy and death come, it is amazing to think about the philosophical concepts behind it, not necessarily just for you personally, but about what must be going through the minds of those who are going through the last stages of their lives. As young children we don’t have any real idea of what the future holds. As teenagers we are more likely to look forward to the great opportunities our lives may have in store for us so much to the point that we probably ignore or don’t have an appropriate perspective on death that the older generation is starting to formulate as they near the end of their lives.

When talking to those who are on the verge of death, it is interesting to see their opinions on life and whether they are optimistic about their futures and remaining time left on earth or have they given up their ambitions or motivations to live life because they know there is nothing that can be done to improve their current state of life and prevent their death. I personally believe there is always something that can be done and you should never give up on a positive outlook to life or else there is nothing to live for. Even if you don't have the physical means to live much longer, if you give up what's the point in trying to hold on to what's left at all. I feel like if you try to make the best of your current health conditions, it makes the remainder of what you've got be memorable. It is also important to realize that what happens to your life doesn’t just affect you yourself, but everyone who is involved in your existence as well. In fact, if you give up on life then you are a selfish person because you aren’t thinking about how your attitude will play a role in the lives of those who care about you, who still have hope looking towards the future. Even if you may not be there with them to see a brighter future, it doesn’t mean you should stop trying to provide them with one. In the case of a parent, it is imperative that you never give up, especially in the presence of your children. Isn’t it the ultimate goal of parents to provide their children with a better life than they ever had? If you give up, you no longer are following through with the basic fundamental commitment a parent owes to their child.

Another aspect that is important to talk about when referring to the attitude on life that people can have are the priorities that go along with that attitude. I believe that whenever you realize your life has the realistic potential of ending soon; you have an almost immediate subconscious shift in your priorities. I think it is an automatic response to death that your priorities change. In the eyes of those who will pass away soon, the worries and everyday tasks that we normal healthy humans encounter everyday may seem meaningless or pointless for them to think about. Your true interests and concerns that you have most likely had all your life seem to take center stage and hold a great importance in your life from then on out. I think it is human nature that these priorities almost always incorporate family or loved ones into the equation because you'd like to spend your final moments with them in order to feel a sense of comfort and satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that priorities are solely exclusive to other people as they can also include things such as your favorite hobbies or prized possessions. This is because these memorabilia are what you put your emotions into and hold great sentimental value thus should be integral parts of the remaining time of your life. There is no shame in blowing the dust off that old blanket from your childhood to relish in those great memories you had growing up.

This brings me to my next point on something else that I believe almost always happens when it comes to the end of a life. Reflections on how you've lived your life are integral parts of bringing closure, which almost always needs to happen if you wish to end life with a sense of comfort knowing there still aren’t any unanswered questions or problems unsolved. When you reflect, you will in a sense relive all the memorable moments in your life but when you do this you have to make sure you go into it with the right mindset or else you can potentially bring unnecessary sadness or depression. You want to make sure you don't regret your previous actions and try and make sure you find justifications for what you chose to do. Even if you can’t, just remember that if things didn't turn out exactly the way they did in the past, you wouldn't have had the great opportunities and life you've had so far. You can always put a "what if" spin on to whatever you do but you'll drive yourself crazy thinking about the possibilities and it isn't worth spending what remaining time you've got worrying or regretting what you didn't do. Don’t regret or mourn but rather cherish and take pride in what you accomplished.

Now I can’t say that these are 100% accurate assumptions of what goes on when lives come to a halt as I have never personally been in a situation like this, but I have had plenty of people in my life go through this endeavor and for this reason I think it is safe to say that all of these factor into your mindset you have going into the final days of your life. Now back to the doctor in the beginning who said that when working with patients like my grandmother she had to rethink her philosophies on the difference between giving up and acceptance of death. Giving up is surrendering all of your hopes, admitting defeat, and not focusing on all the good things that remain and will continue to exist even when you’re gone. While fighting with death can seem like an uphill battle that we are all destined to lose, I wonder why it even has to be a battle to begin with. My personal philosophy on life is that we are all put on this Earth for a reason and we shouldn’t ever stop trying to reach it, no matter what. Accepting the natural expiration date in our lives doesn’t mean you just drop everything you’ve held dear and near to your heart. It means that you don’t attempt to protest death but have gotten to a comfortable point in your life where you feel willing to welcome it. The end of you physically doesn’t mean the end of you in other aspects of life. Your memory will last on and you will continue to affect those people who were in your life for many years to come so you want to make sure it’s a good one. Thank you for teaching this to me Grandma.

-Allan Nicholas

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Phun-size Philosophy # 75 – Paying Your Dues

If you are reading this right now it is most likely that you live in a very fortunate position compared to a lot of people in the world. We have all been given great gifts and opportunities in life. With such privileges, they usually come with a price that gives back to those that have helped us to get to where we are. Even if they are completely free, we should at least appreciate everything that we have. Something I recently read talking about leadership said that people who have more should give more because they can afford to. It isn’t necessarily that they should be forced to pay more taxes but they should be willing to give more. There’s the saying that you’ve got to eat your vegetables before you can get dessert. This is essentially saying that you have to work your way up the ladder and possibly carry out menial but necessary tasks before you can move on to the more entertaining activities. You have to earn what you are given in my opinion regardless of the situation you are in. If you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth and have been lucky enough to be born to millionaires then you won’t have to earn wealth per say but I still believe you must put effort or return the favor to those less fortunate than you. Giving back is such a vital part of society and with altruism those who follow this ideal are the ones who directly contribute to the success and advancement of society. If you are a person who starts out at the bottom and have to work your way up, your are completing such mundane tasks as a sign of respect to those who have already made their rounds through what you are currently experiencing. You might not always start at the bottom but if you do, you will probably enjoy more success and be more successful over a longer period of time because they have had to learn skills that people who start at the top will probably never recognize. You have to learn a wide variety of talents if you have to work your way up to the position you want to be in life like cooperation. I think almost everyone goes through this process in one shape or form because people will eventually get tired or what they have or want to be or do something different than what they already have but this is a good thing because it shows you are striving for success. It means you are working your way towards a goal. You have to take steps in order to accomplish what you aspire to do because it is a process. Once you do eventually make your way through the process and reached a milestone, you feel a sense of accomplish because you know you have earned whatever you received. It may be nice in life for things to be given to you without much effort and in some cases this is the ideal way to go about doing things but it isn’t always available. The bonafide real ways to improve is by paying your dues for what you have been given so far and strive for success by taking the necessary steps to acquire it.

Phun-size Philosophy # 74 – Dedication

Dedication in my opinion is putting your heart into something that you care a lot about. It is when an individual puts all of their soul and passion into their work. I believe that if you are genuine about such passion you will almost always receive better results in whatever you are attempting to accomplish. You are actively giving you task at hand all of your effort and if you do you will most likely achieve more success because trying harder gives you a greater odd and opportunity for prevailing where you otherwise would have failed. When you do become dedicated to accomplishing a specific goal you’ve set, it is only natural that you will develop an emotional bond and attachment with it. Because you’ve put so much of your own time and resources into that particular thing it means you care for its progression. This can be a good or bad thing depending upon the particular situation. If you care for something it means you are more motivated to see it to completion and will try harder but it also means that such a bond could be potentially exploited as a weakness. Just like how you probably care a lot for your family, people can use that as a way to penetrate your defenses and manipulate you based on the well being of that something they hold hostage. Devastation will most likely occur if your attempts at whatever you goals are fail because of that attachment you naturally form as time progresses. Seeing your pride and joy not achieve the level of excellence you desired it may seem as if you’ve wasted your time trying to reach that point. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a great sense of accomplishment will ensure if the object you put your dedication into succeeds. You get to see the fruits of your labor and all that hard work eventually turns out into a great accomplishment that deserves celebration.

Phun-size Philosophy # 73 – Reality vs. Virtual Reality

The difference between reality and virtual reality is really based upon physical and digital properties. Virtual reality can be used to describe and can cover the sub areas of computer aided realities where it is almost a combination of the two like photoreality and cyberspace. It is important to realize that you can do so much more virtually than you can in real life like computers and technology allow us to shoot zombie Nazis or fight aliens or take over the lives of soccer stars as they attempt to defeat their rivals. I love technology for the simple fact that it extends human capabilities far beyond the normal natural limits that our bodies impose on us. We can instantly zoom through the earth in Google Earth or talk to robots through Technology isn’t just applicable to virtual reality however as it lets us carry out some amazing feats in real life as well. It lets us do things that at one point we never thought possible like flying in jet pack or being able to life hundreds of pounds with an exoskeleton. Technology completely changes the landscapes of our lives and fortunately for us, we live in a time where it is rapidly advancing at an exponential rate. Even 10 years ago we are able to do things that would have never been possible with our restrictive technological abilities. Basically every facet of life has been advanced in some way through technology like entertainment. In recent years, our virtual “lives” have seen enormous growth especially socially through applications like Facebook. If Facebook were a country it would be the third biggest one. With amazing feats like this, it is no surprise that we thousands of hours of video are at our fingertips or that we can instantly chat with people across the world. With all of these great advancements technology can have especially virtually, it is important to realize how vital maintaining a real life is. No I’m not going to tell you that you need to exercise or something like that but there are certain things in real life you can’t do online. Whether it is writing a letter or playing a board game, there are some things that, while they may be replaceable online, I feel like will still be around for a long time. While most of them might seem boring or slow, they are usually more personal because you actually have to take the time to do them. While you can still send an email or play Uno online with friends, it still doesn’t feel the same as sitting down with the family to play games like some may have done during Thanksgiving. I feel that these real world things won’t become obsolete in our generation but I do believe that the future may unfortunately be one in which people never leave their homes because the social norms of today wont have a traditional foundation to follow. Unless we instill the values of today into our kids of tomorrow, they will have no reason to follow in our footsteps, but with new technology being developed at such a high rate is that necessarily a bad thing?