Superficial Commitment

This post is sort of a part two of my last one.

disclaimer: I’m sure there are many sociological studies that are nicely complemented with psychological studies to explain this phenomenon. I have none of these expertise to offer, except for my own personal experience and studies.

One of my informal research method go-to’s has been YouTube. There are endless channels to choose from and join like a cult gathering. These channels range from educational to beauty to everything else in between and around. I love YouTube for this very reason. If I want something mentally stimulating, I am able to search a topic of my interest and tune in, instantly. If I need more information on how to cut men’s hair, I can easily look that up, too. One of my latest (mini) research obsessions has been skin care. As I enter into my mid-twenties, I feel that it is time to really start investing and preventing those wrinkles that kindly await me in my forties.

While procrastinating, I found that few channels talk exclusively about skincare, and instead will consist of make up and skincare, together. I am not much of a makeup wearer so naturally I don’t know much about it. As a byproduct of skincare research, I have also become more informed about makeup products. Almost overnight, I started to want to incorporate foundation, highlighter, bronzer, blush, primers, etc. into my daily routine. I have never owned any of these products, but suddenly now I needed them. This startling urge is what triggered a cascade of my thoughts on superficiality. I am pretty sure that once I start incorporating all this makeup into my life, a handful of people will really notice or even care. As a matter of fact, I am sure that if you take those handful of people in my life and make a ratio with the world’s population, it won’t even be a blimp. So why do I have an urge that is seemingly only satisfied if I make a visit to Sephora and clear out a whole section? Honestly, do we need more things to complicate our already complicated lives?

It simply goes back to those fields I’ve mentioned in my disclaimer: psychology and sociology. We as humans are extremely conforming (whether or not Western cultures sometimes like to admit). When we see people do something, it becomes a necessity. When we see a norm, we have to be a part of it. Deviating from it comes at much too high of a social cost. Another great example of this is Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast on the underhand free throw. (I highly recommend you listen to this. I guarantee it will make your brain stir for a few days.) Gladwell talks about a phenomenon of how the entire basketball world seems to shoot free throws overhand when physics proves that shooting underhand has a much higher success rate. It all comes down to our need to fit in. We don’t want to be ridiculed.

If there was one word to describe humanity, it is that we are social. Even evil dictators, operate with a squad (a conforming one at that). So next time we have sudden urges that match everyone else’s way of life, maybe we should really do even more research incorporating these conforming behaviors. What are the benefits? Is it really something we truly need? Most likely not. Instead of accepting conforming behaviors that only benefit us, maybe we can put this social conformity phenomenon of humanity into good use. Maybe we can start setting trends on kindness and generosity. Maybe we can make it “cool” to help our neighbors and love our enemies. Now that’s something worth conforming to.

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bad news for women

Lately it seems that many of my friends are getting engaged or married. I have finally hit that time period of life where weddings are everywhere around me. Added on to that, with the new digital age of social media, people’s engagements have become accessible, even if you weren’t invited to the physical event. I don’t know how many of my friends would really consider themselves to be feminists, but the classic engagement question did come to my mind: why do women wear engagement rings when men do not? This question is easily google-able so I will save you the trouble of regurgitating an answer and just dive into my own opinion.

Whether I like it or not, I think women wearing engagement rings is quite sexist. It would not be sexist if men had to wear one, too. As a woman who loves jewelry (especially rings), I clearly don’t want to be the one to point this out. Whether I like it or not, it simply is playing into a patriarchal narrative.

To give a little back story, I grew up and went to college in Seattle—a fairly liberal city. While many people do not outright label themselves as feminists, I believe that many people have the mentality that equality is for all people. This is why it’s ironic to me that one of the most sexist, patriarchal concepts has not been challenged by anyone I personally know. Of course social media also adds to bolstering up this tradition by adding filters and glitter to glorify engagements.

Obviously I wish it weren’t this way. But no matter what angle I look at this, it seems that engagements are pretty sexist. What I think metaphorically raises my eyebrow is that no one I know challenges it. It’s really upsetting to me that we live so passively in our society, accepting things that maybe don’t align with our moral compass. It’s like we live and breathe cognitive dissonance. We don’t care to challenge society anymore. Then when a few people do happen to challenge society, we secretly think “social justice freaks” in a passing thought. Maybe a lot of women don’t challenge the patriarchal concept of engagement because they want a flashy piece of jewelry that they don’t have to pay for. Maybe women have been brainwashed to believe that you need a band with a huge rock on it to be deemed “loved.” Who really knows. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should challenge society at every angle, challenge the status quo, tip the scales. Social norms are implemented by generations before our time and they often don’t apply to the present. So why do we blindly follow them as if they align perfectly with our morals? Chances are, they stir up more cognitive dissonance than anything. Let us take more moments in our lives to reflect on what can and should change in our society. Then let’s go out and do it! On a small or big scale, every action towards change counts. Even if that means giving up a nice ring that we all secretly want. 

being so dang rich

What is the point of being obscenely rich? I have thought about the concept of being extremely wealthy a few times. How can you not? It’s plastered around our world in the form of Forbe’s World’s Richest People list, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donations, Jeff Bezos surpassing Bill Gates for the Richest Man on earth for half a day, etc. While many people are philanthropists, there are many billionaires that do not spread their wealth. I saw a passing statistic on the internet that said if America’s wealth was evenly distributed, every family would have $700,000 / year. I’m sure there are parts of this statistic that are exaggerated and simply untrue, but the sentiment behind this statistic really got me thinking hard: why is there such a splitting income gap in our country????

There was a brief moment in college when I believed in the ideals of communism. I didn’t label it as that, but when my ideals were broken down, that’s what it essentially came out to be. Just for a bit of background, I was born and raised in the land of democracy: the good ‘ole U.S. of A. Personally, I think my country (specifically Southern Texas, where I grew up) does a great job of making sure every child grows up thinking that communism is truest form of evil and sharing is never going to teach those lazy bums to work hard. It wasn’t until college that I began to critically think about the massive income inequality that plagues our country, yet alone the world. Oh, the injustice has such a dirty aroma, doesn’t it? I began to think in the complete opposite way of how I was raised. Why don’t we share more? Why don’t we give people more economic and financial opportunities? Why are the rich people hoarding all of their money? Who needs 3 houses anyway?

So, do you really think Jeff Bezos deserves to be worth $90 billion? Is the value of that homeless woman down the street less than his, because she has no net worth? Why should Bill Gates own practically a house on every continent when there are millions of people without homes in this world? I’m not sure actually. While I would love to praise Bill Gates and his family for donating so much of their wealth and giving back to their communities, I can’t help but also wonder why they don’t do more with their money. Like seriously, can’t you end world hunger in a sustainable fashion with a couple billion? I have reached the conclusion that money has an iron grip on our hearts as humans. We are naturally greedy people who have an extreme affinity for lavishness and comfort. We do everything we can to be as comfortable as possible. While I would love to blame the world’s problems on the billionaires of my country, we are all at fault. We are all at fault for secretly placing the love of money at the top of our priorities. We are all at fault for being greedy and selfish, billionaires just have their greed more publicized. I mean how many of us regularly buy a meal for a homeless person and really sit down to hear their story? Exactly. So whether we make billions or hundreds of thousands, we are all the same: human. Maybe instead of pointing fingers, we can encourage an environment of genuine selflessness. Maybe we will sit down to hear how they were born and raised in a less affluent neighborhood that didn’t have as many opportunities. Maybe they were taught that joining gangs is the way to success. Maybe their mom was a drug addict, and they were born with an addiction to heroin. Maybe we should be slow to judge, and quick to listen. Maybe this way we can have a genuine, deep compassion for those who don’t have as much as us. Maybe we can learn. Maybe we can change. That is my hope for my generation and those yet to come.

 

losing motivation

So why do we lose motivation? Speaking from personal experience, losing motivation seems to happen to me when I don’t reflect enough. I would consider myself to be someone who has a lot of ambition, goals, and curiosity. These traits often motivate me to accomplish my goals regardless of how hard the task at hand may become. Recently though, I’ve lost sight of reflecting periodically and have fallen into the daily routine of simply doing tasks. I think the act of doing things without intentionality can become very dangerous because it becomes mindless. When things are mindless, they also become directionless. Ultimately, I lost motivation behind why I want to accomplish what I want to accomplish. If we take the time to daily reflect bit by bit why we do what we do, I believe that motivation can be well-paced throughout the journey of struggles that often accompany the process of accomplishing a goal. When we take the time to pause from our addiction to simply do, and take a moment to think about why we are pursuing our goals, our mindset is focused on our goals. This makes the distractions around us have a harder time inching onto our path to success. I hope that as a society, a community, a person, we can strive to accomplish many goals in this manner that ultimately bring productivity and good into this world 🙂

Finding (too much) Meaning in Things

Recently I went on a trip to Upstate New York with my best friend. On this trip we stopped by Dia:Beacon, a contemporary art museum. There are few notable artist’s work here, including Dan Flavin. On each piece, there is a brief description of the work, and also a blurb about the artist. On Dan Flavin’s card, it stated that he does not attach any particular meaning to his work. What we see at face value is what he meant it to be: minimalistic, aesthetic, neon lights. Upon reading this, I told my friend that I do not think anything in this world can inherently be meaningless. She disagreed, and thus began the start of a debate on meaninglessness.

Meaning is such an interesting concept. Meaning is something that can matter so much to humanity–even to the point that people sometimes fool themselves into thinking that meaning doesn’t matter. People search the depths of their souls for a lifetime so that they can find meaning or purpose in their life. We are so peculiar in that we hold so much value to meaning. There are so many books centered around the idea of the purpose of life.

Yet there is another side of this coin, where some people really don’t seem to care and attach meaning to anything. They live their entire life in a mundane bubble of what is at hand. This sort of reminds me of Dan Flavin’s work. It is simply there to exist and to be pretty. But then come around the people who attach meaning to everything and try to find a depth in all things. These people label Dan Flavin’s work and then it creates meaning in his art. Maybe sometimes we attach too much meaning to things instead of enjoying what they are originally, simply designed to be. It’s a fine line, just like anything in life. I am a firm believer in balance. It’s not simply black and white, but there is always a gray line. The width of the gray line that separates the black and white side may vary, but nonetheless it exists. If we fall to one extreme side, it becomes harder to see that there are other perspectives that still exist. So, to conclude the idea of meaning or lack of meaning in things, I think there is a balance. There will be people and times that there isn’t any deeper meaning in “something.” But as time passes, as other people are introduced to this “something,” they can attach their own meaning to this “something.” So who are we to point fingers and act with an unnecessary fastidious demeanor.

emptiness inside?

Today I went out on a “relational homeless feeding event” with an organization called Babysteps. In Seattle, there are many progressive people and policies that allow homeless individuals get back on their feet and try to become an integrated member of society. Unfortunately, the broken-ness of humanity spans too vast for this to all be a simple process. Every single time I’ve gone out to a homeless outreach event, spirituality has been naturally brought up. It’s so interesting that the homeless population that I have encountered so far have all seem to be in touch with a spiritual realm. These homeless individuals who really have nothing in terms of monetary assets are more comfortable sharing or talking about God and Jesus than those who have grown up within the comfortable confines of the Church. From these observations, I have formed a hypothesis on spirituality and the lifestyle many of us Americans live. When all of the material and worldly distractions are stripped away, one thing that remains seems to be our spirit, our soul. This is the reason I believe many homeless individuals have a lot to say in regards to faith and their own spirituality.

It seems that our spirit is within our most inner being, and the lifestyle we live tends to mask many layers of other things on top of our spirit. This causes us to deny our spiritual needs or to be out of touch completely. I wonder how much our souls could benefit if we are to step back outside of the comforts of our riches from time to time and address some of soul’s needs. As these times increase, I believe that we will see that there is a far greater purpose to life than living simply to attain things for ourselves. Unfortunately, our culture and world do not enforce these ideals. However, that should not and cannot stop us from continuing to search within ourselves to learn from our spiritual selves.

food waste: the greed of humanity

I am currently taking a nutrition class that is described as “food studies”. It looks at the harvest of food and how it impacts health. This class has taught me so much in a short five weeks. One of the biggest take aways I had from this class is how ignorance is not bliss. “Ignorance is bliss” has brought us to wreak havoc on our planet, and our own bodies. “Ignorance is bliss” has detached us from a basic human need that was once enjoyed as a social and communal practice. “Ignorance is bliss” has created a generation of people who are unaware that there are different species of tomatoes. So what’s next?

The film that created the most angst in me so far is called Dive! This documentary film talks about one man’s journey of dumpster diving. He finds meat that is still in its packaging, bundles of bananas, cartons of eggs, crates of strawberries piled up in dumpers. All of these items are thrown out due to a nearing expiration date, a few dark spots on a peel, a cracked shell, or one bad berry. This produce can be donated, but often is not because it takes too much effort. This documentary is relatively short, with a running time of 55min. I recommend everyone go see it. It leaves you thinking a lot about food waste and small ways that even we can make a difference; it can really start at our own homes. Small things such as planning out meals so no food goes to waste or educating ourselves on food so we stop throwing out produce that is still good to eat will go a long way. 

All of this led me to think about the greediness of American culture and the wasteful aspects that permeate every corner of our culture, media, social actions, thoughts, and more. This culture is a stark contrast to other cultures of this world and it saddens me. I don’t blame the American people as much as I blame the culture that continues to take over us like a silent monster. Culture is something that is carelessly tossed left and right as an excuse card. “Oh it’s just how the culture is here” we say. “That’s just how I grew up” we claim. “Everyone else thinks like this” we believe. Culture can really become debilitating–to the point we don’t act against the current even when we know it’s wrong. I think waste has become a key example of this aspect of American culture. We waste because we do not see the value in the things we consume. There’s fast food, fast fashion, fast services, fast everything. For pete’s sake we have Amazon delivering anything we want to our doorstep. This kind of culture is so convenient, yet it is fueling a silent monster that continues to embed the idea that “ignorance is bliss” into our brains. How can we fight against this monster and continue to support the innovations of convenience that new technology brings? That is something we should all ponder on and act in order to bring forth change. It is harmful to think that we have to achieve our goals overnight because in this case, slow and steady will win the race.