It was march 24th, 2002. The United States(and the world) were still reeling from the events of September 11th. We'd recently invaded Afghanistan in a hopelessly optimistic attempt to roust the our enemies. The global unity and support for America was already starting to fall apart in the wake of some questionable choices by those in charge, and our country was beginning to divide and polarize in anticipation of conflicts to come. It was in the midst of these troubled times that I sat huddled in the front seat of a 4 door Buick, loudly weighing in with my opinions on the real important business of the day; that Denzel didn't really deserve that Oscar for Training Day.
Don't get me wrong, I think Denzel's a fine enough actor, and it's about time the academy started paying attention to the multitude of outstanding black actors out there, but come on! Training Day?! The performance was really nothing special, amid a year full of interesting and unique actors at the top of their game. It was quite obviously a political move by the academy in response to the increasing amount of criticism for ignoring the African American community. I was happy they had begun listening, but disappointed they allowed the choice to be so obviously swayed by public opinion, and not by the merits of the actor. The entire political move seemed to work against the very importance of the event.
Do you see the problem here? I had remained blissfully unaware until that moment, but suddenly I was aware of a deep character flaw. My priorities were clearly not in the right place.
Albert Einstein once wrote "The health of society depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close social cohesion." His point was that society needed individuals, and individuals needed some small amount of conformity, that the true measure of a man's worth was how much he utilized his own individuality to better the world he lived in. That made an incredible impact on me when I first read it, and it's an ideal I've aspired to live my life by. I never thought I'd run for public office or become a great and wise sage for millions, but I always tried to live my life in an upstanding manner, acting as at least an example of how to make the world a better place.
The problem is, the example I'm giving usually involves sitting on the couch with a box of pop tarts and a cherry coke and watching as many Godzilla movies as I can before my brain dries out. Sure, I follow politics and current events, and I'm always more than happy to share my opinions and beliefs with those that are willing to listen. Unfortunately my political discussions always make reference to Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, or I compare today's world with the Lord of the Rings(hint: George Bush isn't Gandalf).
I was torn... between wanting to live my life as a witty, upright citizen who volunteers and actively works for a better tomorrow, and my real skill which is apparently memorizing the complete works of film directors. In the face of such misery in the world, how could I turn away from it and focus on such trivialities? Luckily for me the personal crisis was short-lived. I began to realize that the solution to my problem lay in the problem itself, and two things became apparent. Firstly; paradox exists in all things, especially people, so who cares if I believe two opposing ideas? Secondly; in all things can be found the Tao.
I've always considered myself a Taoist, if I was forced to actually pick a religion. But that's just a cheat, since I know slightly more about Taoism than I do about whatever religion the cavemen practiced. See, Taoism is all inclusive, it makes allowances for all those paradoxes, hell, the Pope is as much a Taoist as anyone in Asia. And so, no matter what religion I practiced, I could be said to be following the Tao, and that's a great comfort for someone as indecisive as I am.
But more than that, I began to realize that all these pop culture references I was making, all these small behind the scenes stories I was cataloguing, they did amount to something. Pop culture is probably the only culture America has left these days, and I was throwing myself in head first. Pop culture reflects the true face of America, no matter how much we lie and say it's just Hollywood nonsense. It's a giant feedback loop. Hollywood picks up on something America latches onto, and then keeps repeating until we get tired of it and move onto something else. Our true desires, hopes and depravities are reflected up there in a clearer light than they are in the murkiness of politics.
I was liberated! No longer was I a basement dwelling dork, I was an Academic! I was a scholar! I was studying humanity on the grandest scale imaginable! I had found my loophole. Crisis averted. Now, if only I could find some way to share this with the world, and therefore work to better the world we live in.
And so, welcome to my blog. Here, on a semi-regular basis, I will be spouting my wisdom to whoever has the patience to read it. The posts could be rants, little downloads from my brain, or thought out theses, you never know. For that matter neither do I, but we'll take it as it comes, right? I do promise that I won't be using this space, or your time, to moan about my life. In fact, I'll be striving to leave my day to day life out of this, using it only in the manner you've read above. If you're a friend, or a family member, thank you for sticking through this. If you aren't, well, even greater thanks to you! Feel free to stick around, my road to salvation as a human being is dependent on you!