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Sunday, November 15, 2009


One of my favorite things to read is the New York Times (online) Op-Ed section. Thomas Friedman sat at the top of my favorite columnist list for a while during his Bush-hating, tree hugging, earth-flattening days, but now has dethroned himself from the top seat because of his overly Obama-loving, world saving, irresponsible optimistic perspective. He just not pulling the criticism that I once enjoyed from him. I now eagerly look forward to my other favorites include Nicholas D. Kristof and Roger Cohen. Their perspectives on global issues help me to grasp the realities of worlds far away. But, my most recent favorite columnist has been David Brooks.

Last week he wrote a piece about the shootings at Fort Hood that I just can’t get out of my mind. I don’t know if it because I’ve become every existential and ethereal about my thoughts recently or if I’ve just feel more inclined to acknowledge how little I really know about my existence, the connection between mind/conscious/body, how society constructs who we are and where we go. Nonetheless, Brooks’ piece, “A Rush to Therapy” talks about this very notion of the time and space we are born in and the control we do and do not have over our lives.

This piece focused on the general condition of the human circumstance. He talks about how we humans have little choice in which time, place, or space we are born into. He presents the idea that while we don’t have a choice about our surroundings, we do have a choice about our narrative. He says,

“The stories we select help us, in turn, to interpret the world. They guide us to pay attention to certain things and ignore other things. They lead us to see certain things as sacred and other things as disgusting. They are the frameworks that shape our desires and goals. So while story selection may seem vague and intellectual, it’s actually very powerful. The most important power we have is the power to help select the lens through which we see reality.”

Brooks then transitioned from a very philosophical narration to a specific tragedy that demonstrated the consequences of an individual’s responsibility to the society in which one lives.

The Fort Hood attacker killed 13 people before he was shot and seriously injured. The media tip-toed around his religious affiliation and instead reporting the social circumstances as motive for the attacks. The media was quick to focus the attacker’s loneliness, inability to find a wife, and his struggle to socially fit in. Brooks argues the worst part of the media’s rush to prescribe his motivations as social influences; it removes all responsibility of the attacker. The attacker now had become the victim to the circumstances of which he was participating in. I thought this to be a very interesting conclusion.

I am not so interested in the media’s representation of the Fort Hood attacker’s motives. I am very interested in Brook’s presentation of an individual’s responsibility to tell a narrative and the important power we have to “help select the lens through which we see reality.” What an interesting notion: we have a CHOICE of how we see reality. Then, when all of our realities are different from each other, how do we co-exist with such polarized views. Clearly, the Fort Hood attacker, and all other who chose to take lives as a part of their story, could not co-exist.

How do we coexist? This will be the crux of the future of humanity. Driving around with one of those pretentious “COEXIST” bumper stickers is not advocating coexistence. Simply stating it is not actively living it or advocating for it. So, how do we do it when other’s actions are out of our hands? I just don’t know.

I feel like I often hide behind rosy tinted lens of the world wanting to see the world as a better place than it really is. The danger in seeing the world as too rosy is that you can overlook the opportunities to bring goodness where there is none. If everything is rosy, then nothing needs help. And we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

These past few months I have been balancing in a place of limbo, patiently waiting for a few (major) details to work out so that the next chapter of life can begin. I feel as though I am right on the verge of beginning to telling a really great story. How any notion of reality fits into that story, I’m not quite sure, but I do know that my life will change. More choices, more consequences, more responsibility. But whatever color lens these next couple years may bring, I hope the frames are totally badass.

I’m thinking aviators.


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