Updates! Yay!

•16 June, 2009 • 6 Comments

So, some fun list-style updates of my life… Here we go!

  • I got an article published here on the blog to one of the top 3 Buddhist glossy publications in the U.S.–and on my first try nonetheless!  It is slightly geeky and philosophy-ey, but it’s still good!  Thanks go to Shaba and Copilot for helping me edit.
  • Speaking of Copilot, after 3 months of apartment-finding drama (for her) and a lack of finding anything even remotely affordable (for me), we have decided that we are going to stay put in our apartment for another year.  The bad news is that I have another year full of hunching and awkward showers ahead of me.  The good news is that we don’t have to deal with the hassle of moving.  Plus, I have a reputation to live up to–this will be 3 years in a row that I have had amazingly strange living arrangements.  Hooray for air mattresses and pull out couches!
  • I am pretty sure that grad school and I have finally had our last fight and have broken up.  I have had a lot of time to think about this and I don’t think I was going to do it for the right reasons.  My main motivation was because I wanted to teach, not necessarily because I wanted to teach philosophy.  At this point I am looking to get a job doing non-profit management, a field that I think I would absolutely love.
  • I am really starting to like the business side of things, not necessarily budgets and finances and that stuff but negotiation and management and relationship building.  It’s pretty cool stuff.  Hence the last bullet point.

My cousin is getting married this weekend so I will be going home for the wedding.  My mom asked if I was going to bring anyone and I told her that I hadn’t planned on it.  She proceeded to tell me, “Oh.  I just wasn’t sure if you had met someone down there yet or not.  But don’t worry–there will be plenty of single girls at this wedding for you to meet.”

Is it bad that my mom is telling me that I should stop wasting time and get my pimp on Wedding Crashers style?

Advertisements

My Top 5 Most Influencial Books

•29 May, 2009 • 3 Comments

Browsing through some other sites this morning, I found the following question:

Envision the 5 books that have most impacted your life. How would your life be different if you’d never read them?

I began to think about all the books that I have read throughout my life and have come up with an answer to this question.  Here is the list of the 5 most life-changing books that I have read, given in chronological order.

Ghost Beach (Goosebumps #22) by R. L. Stein

I know what you are thinking.  How does a children’s book make it on the list of the most life-changing books that I have read?  No, it was not life changing content.  No, it did not open my mind to a new style of writing.  To be completely honest, the entire series isn’t even that well written.   To my 7 year old mind, however, this was the coolest book that I had ever read.  I think that it is safe to say that the entire Goosebumps series is what helped to develop both my love for reading as well as my extremely creative imagination.  I remember days when I would wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday and go in to work with my dad just so that I could use a computer and try to write my own scary stories.  For years, I was determined to be a botanist after reading Stay Out Of The Basement.  The first time that I was not yelled at for staying up until 3 a.m. on a school night (I was probably about 9 years old, mind you) was when I read Why I Am Afraid Of Bees. If I had not refused to swim at YMCA camp that summer, forcing my mom to find something else for me to do while I sat by the poolside for 2 hours, I think I would be a much different person that I am today.

1984 by George Orwell

This is a much more typical example of a book that one would expect to find on this kind of list.  I believe I first read this when I was a sophomore in high school and have reread it many times since then.  Orwell’s mastery of language and insight was extremely influential to my 16 year old mind.  I was still in my “FTW” stage, complete with combat boots, dirty clothes and a pack of Camel Turkish Jades.  1984 was the first legitimate book that I had read which resonated with my convoluted and still undeveloped political outlook.  Like I said, I have reread this book at least 8 times, each time finding a new connection or insight.  As many have said before me, Orwell had to have been a genius to put together these ideas and present a distopia of this magnitude while still allowing it to be an extremely quick read.  Without reading this book, I doubt that I would have taken as many poli sci classes in college that I had.

Discourses of Epictetus

Out of all of the books listed here, this one was by far the most influential.  This was the first true philosophy book that I had ever read.  After “borrowing” it from my high school library,* I quickly worked my way through a large portion of it in a very short time.  His writings instilled in me a love for Stoicism which I still hold to this day.  Little did I know, but it would also influence what has so far been the rest of my life by leading me towards a life of philosophy and contemplation.  Without this book, paired with an amazing experience in Latin IV with one of the most influential people in my life (Scott Hicks), I would never have pursued philosophy.  For all I know, I would be in the Navy on a carrier working on the reactor.  Who knows.

Walking With The Wind by John Lewis

This book is an autobiography of congressman John Lewis who, among other things, was an active participant in the civil rights movement.  I had to read it as a required summer reading assignment for my first semester of college.  I started the semester as a nuclear engineering major.  I ended it as a philosophy and political science major.  This book had a lot to do with it.  It tells the story of how one man (John Lewis) went from being a poor black child in the south to being an influential member of one of the biggest social revolutions in U.S. history.  This story largely instilled me with teenage idealism, fueling my desire to help others and change the world.  While I have calmed down a bit since then, this is still a desire that I hold very close to my heart.  Sure, I don’t do as much volunteering as I did in college (partially because I lack the time and partially because my work schedule makes me unavailable 5 days a week) but, the question of “How should we live to best fulfill ourselves and help others fulfill themselves” lies at the crux of my philosophical work, a fact that I only recently recognized.  The other important thing that this book taught me is that opportunities are found in the most unlikely places.  While I used to be an obsessive planner, I have given this up.  Not only does it not work as plans always fall through, but excessive planning tends to hinder spontaneous opportunity occurrences.  If that makes any sense.

Nonviolence in Theory and Practice edited by Barry L. Gan and Robert L. Holmes

I read this book as part of a Philosophy of Non-Violence course my sophomore year in college.  This was my first in-depth exposure to both Buddhism and the animal rights movement.  Up to this point, Buddhists were just a group of meditators with super-human kung fu abilities and vegetarians were just ex-hippies who loved animals almost as much as they loved weed.  After reading this, though, and having both of these schools of though presented to me in an accurate and logical way, I had an extremely different opinion of both.  If you know me at all this is pretty obvious, since I am now working at a Buddhist school and have been a vegetarian (and an on/off vegan) for about 5 years now.

These are my top five, for better or worse.  This was surprisingly not as difficult as I had anticipated and turned out to be quite enlightening.  I suggest that you try this yourself.  And by you, I mean AlexMac and Shaba.  Since you are the only two that read this.

*When I took this, the year was 2002.  The last time it had been checked out? 1974.  I prefer to think that I liberated it from a long, drawn out death.  And, not surprisingly, no one has ever contacted me for it.

Epically Sporadic.

•27 May, 2009 • 1 Comment

This is how my life is becoming lately.  If not epically sporadic, then at least epically spontaneous.  Either way, though, I’m not complaining.  Aside from spending over 20 hours in the car this past weekend to go up North and visit AlexMac (which was totally worth it, might I add), I had one other interesting experience that deserves mention.

Since my decision to attempt the Philadelphia Marathon this coming fall, I have been running my butt off.  I have been loving every minute of it, even with the fact that my ankle hurts to the point that I often angrily mumble profanities under my breath as I run (Hooray for tarsal coalition!).  Since I had not done my weekly long run yet, and since I enjoy running in non-urban areas, and since I was going home anyway, I decided that I would run the Diamonds Course while I visited my parents.

Or, rather, before I visited them.  ‘Cuz I couldn’t visit them while running.  Our house doesn’t move.  But I digress…

Anyway, as I began the 9 mile run, I caught the temperature reading on one of the bank’s displays, which reported that it was a healthy 83°F.  This clearly had to be wrong, though, because it definitely didn’t feel that warm.  I decided that it was wrong and began my run.

Anyone familiar with the Diamonds course knows that the first 4 miles are the most difficult, 3 of them being very steep uphill climbs.  It was at about mile 2 that I decided it really was as hot as the thermometer indicated and stopped to get my head wet in a creek that runs along the course.  By the time I reached the top, I was sweating like I had just gotten out of a sauna.  Realizing that the rest of the course was more exposed to the sun than this first half, I decided to make a pit stop at my aunt and uncle’s house which lies at the half way point of the 9 miles.

I managed to first scare the hell out of, and then utterly confuse, my uncle who was out back working.  We started chatting and I got a big glass of iced tea to cool myself down.  He offered me beer instead, but having to run the rest of the 9 miles, I refused.  Initially.

My uncle is a very persistent man and clearly wouldn’t rest until I had a beer with him.  I eventually gave in and, since it was some kind of light beer, I figured it would be no big deal.  I drank it rather fast, stayed and bullshitted for another 10 minutes and then was on my way.

The first 1.5 miles of the return trip-I decided to run back the way I came, all down hill-was not particularly bad.  I was expecting to get cramps from having drank so much liquid in such a short time, but I was surprisingly having no pain at all.  A little bit after the 2 mile mark, however, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  No, I did not throw up.  In fact, it wasn’t my stomach that hit me at all.  It was the alcohol.

I was drunk.  From one beer.  WTF?

When I say ‘drunk,’ I don’t mean buzzed or feeling good or giddy, I mean I was drunk to the point that I had to stop running because I was freaking stumbling down the street.  It was ridiculous.  In retrospect, it was probably 50% alcohol and 50% dehydration, but still.  Me?  Drunk off of one beer?  What is the world coming to?

After walking for about 10 minutes, though, everything calmed down and I was fine to run the rest of the way back to my car where I proceeded to hang out and make sure I was ok to drive home without passing out.  I told my parents about this and was promptly laughed at.  All in all, I learned an important lesson though:  If you are going to drink beer while running, be sure that you are running on grass.

Saturday through Monday revisited.

•30 April, 2009 • 2 Comments

This past weekend was spent in epic fashion.  Not only did it involve copious amounts of alcohol, full contact frizbee and more people than I could shake a stick at, but it also lasted 5 days, 4 of which I did not go to sleep before 4 a.m.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Here’s the play-by-play for the first three days:

Saturday

I left work around 3:00 which allowed me to roll into town around 5:45.  It was a wonderfully beautiful day and all I wanted to do was have a big ole fire at my parents house and chill outside drinking beer until the wee hours of the morning with friends.   Clearly I had forgotten one of the reasons I had come home: dance recital.  Had it started at a normal time, like 6 or 7, we would have been golden.  But it started at 8, which destroyed the campfire plans.  Fail.  

Still determined to salvage the evening, I picked up a case of beer that would serve me well and headed over to Stephs.  She was the one dancing and had to leave by 7:30, and true to form, in the 1 1/2 hours that I was there I had already had about 6 beers.  It was going to be a good night.

AlexMac and I met up to go to the dance thing which was awesome.  I have gone to a few down here but always forget how amazing they are at colleges that actually have a dance program.  Included in the program were two well-done dances to Fleetwood Mac songs, a strange dance to CSNY that involved crackheads trying to move chairs around the stage but epically failing and a freaking sweet rendition of Thriller.  Seriously.  The zombies came down the aisles and a middle aged woman in front of me almost had to be rescued by EMTs.  It was fantastic.

By the time we got out of there, it was going on 11 and none of us had eaten.  The girls had to go and get changed, and while we were at the apartment I chugged about 4 more beers.  We called up some friends, grabbed some pizza and headed to someones house to watch Role Models, which was surprisingly a lot better than I thought it was going to be, partly because it looked kinda dumb but mostly because it has Sean Williams Scott in it.  I have to say though, it wasn’t too bad.   I think this had to do with the fact that while watching it, I continued to drink.  And eat lots 0f pizza.

When we were finally kicked out at 3:30, everyone wanted to go home and go to bed.  I, however, did not.  I conned a couple of people to go with me to the greenway of the college campus where they were having their annual Relay for Life so that we could bug some of the walkers that I know.  While it started out innocently enough, it ended with Steph walking me home and saying things like, “Zach, be quiet, people are trying to sleep.”  To which I would respond, screaming “Fuck it! They can wake up! WAKE UP! IT’S MORNING!”  

Time that I finally fell asleep: 5:20 a.m.

Total number of drinks: 18 beers and 2 shots of home-made cinnamon liquor.

 

Sunday

Since Sunday technically ran into Saturday night, my real day Sunday started at about noon with a breakfast at Friendly’s.  Only it wasn’t breakfast.  Apparently that ends at like 11.  Fucking Friendly’s.  So instead of an omelette of goodness, I had a “Portabella Fajita Quesadilla.”  It was good, if a bit confusing.  I think I am going to write Friendly’s a letter explaining that you cannot have a fajita quesadilla because they are two different things.  This would be like ordering a large plate of spaghetti lasagna.   Doesn’t work Friendly’s, sorry.  

We got some killer ice cream and chilled on the aforementioned greenway which included a glorious hangover nap before heading to a wind ensemble concert.  It was pretty badass.  I had a banquet for my brother’s high school rifle team and was cutting it close for time, so I had to leave right after the concert.  It was a nice day and I had a little extra time so I decided to take the scenic route home, which was a good choice because about a quarter of the way home I tried to stop and my break pedal just kept…going.  All..the..way..to..the..floor.  Awesome.  I realized when I got home that I had no brake fluid in my car, which was not a good thing because I started the trip with a full reservoir.  

I didn’t let this slow me down, however.  I stole my dads car and went back to the Land O’ Friends for a zombie movie night.  Except two of the people were shopping.  And one was asleep.  So, instead of watching a movie, AlexMac, myself and someone else sat in AlexMac’s car in a parking lot for 45 minutes, making fun of the ghetto-tastic people going to the A Plus across the street, the hookers, and eventually reenacting Resident Evil I and II.

Finally everything was in order, everyone showed up and regained consciousness and we started watching movies.  I made it through the first Resident Evil with no problem.  By the second one, though, I was beat and fell asleep.  Bad choice.  This led to waking up with Utter Butter on my forehead.  Other things probably happened that I don’t know about, and that’s probably for the best.  I ended the night back at AlexMacs and passed out on the couch.

Time I finally fell asleep: 4:00 a.m.

 

The rest of the week-end extravaganza will be updated in the next day or two–I’m still pretty tired and quite honestly tired of typing.  

So there.

 

 

 

My feets is broken. Or just the left one. And its not really broken. But kind of.

•25 April, 2009 • 1 Comment

So for the past few years, every time I run more than a few miles I end up with terrible pain in my left ankle.  At first I thought it was just something that would go away as my legs got stronger.  This never happened.  So, finally getting sick of the pain and thinking that it would make a terrible marathon experience, I decided to finally break down and go see a podiatrist. 

My ankle, it turns out, is fine.  Score!

He thinks it is something called “tarsal coalition.”  Fail.

Tarsal coalition is a cool genetic thing that happens when your feet (or in my case, foot) don’t (doesn’t) properly develop and two or more of the big bones in your feet become connected, either through extra cartilage, fibrous tissue or bone  growth.  And the kicker?  Since I am 23 and my bones have pretty much finished developing, the only real solution is to knock my ass out and cut them apart.  And, if that doesn’t work, they have to fuse my bones which involves, amongst other things, driving a 4″ screw through the bony part of my foot, thus immobilizing it permanently.

Sometimes my life is just too much fun.

Now, it is just a hunch that he has and not an actual diagnosis.  Yet.   I still have to go get another round of xrays as well as a CT scan and another appointment with him.  While he was telling me this all I could think is that this is going to be another day off wasted and $200 that I don’t have.  I guess I’ll be eating a lot of re-fried beans this month.  And if I have to have surgery I’m gonna be completely screwed (Oh!  See what I did there?).  I’ll probably just have them take out my kidney while I’m under so I can sell it on the black market to the highest bidder.  Who needs 2 kidneys anyway? Not me!

I Hate Pickles–The Baseball Game Kind, Not The Sandwich Kind.

•22 April, 2009 • 1 Comment

I need an escape plan.  Apparently,  telling people that I occasionally play trumpet is coworker-speak for “Please oh please let me play for everyone at work but don’t tell me until the day before because prior notice is just not how I roll.”  This is how I got volunteered to play for a company ‘talent show’ tomorrow night.  Awesome.

The other thing that makes it a bit of an awkward situation is that recently, the event “Playing Trumpet” is more accurately described as “making loud noise on a trumpet that is supposed to be an accompaniment to the song blaring on my iPod after the consumption of copious amounts of red wine,” which, of course, would probably result in me having a status change in the employment department.  

I know, “You could just say no.”  Well, if you know me at all, that’s clearly not an option.  In fact, not being able to say no to people is how I have made most of my life decisions.  Or, rather, how I have gotten into situations that most people would respond to with an approperiate “WTF?”  But I digress…

Yes, I could just tell them the truth.  But what’s the fun in that?

I was thinking that I could just tell everyone that I was “real busy,” and hope that they buy it, but they probably wouldn’t.  Because me being “real busy” at work is like George Bush talking like a “sophisticated gentleman.”  Need I say more?

The other option that I have is waiting until 5:00 tomorrow evening to take my lunch break.  While yes, Thursdays are my late-start days (I come in at 11), I think they may call my bluff since I only work until 7.  Though, I could just play it off that I have a clandestine meeting with someone involving a topic about which I could tell them but afterwards I would have to kill them.  Or perhaps I could just use sentences like the previous one in hopes of confusing them to the point where they throw their hands in the air like they just don’t care and let me be.

Funkin’ it up

•20 April, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m in a funk.

I’m not one to complain, but the last week or so have been  miserable for me.  The weather has been nice, work has been going well, I’ve been reading and writing and running often.  I have no real reason to feel as miserable as I do, and yet…I’m still in a funk.  This has caused me to think a whole lot about what I am trying to do with my life.  My career choice.  What I want in a family.  How I spend my free time.  And I’ll tell you what–the answers I have found have not been very reassuring.

Take my career choice, for example.  I want to be a philosophy professor.  I enjoy doing the work, I enjoy the research and from the little bit of teaching I have done, I will enjoy that too.  I have no doubt that I will get into grad school in the next few years and do very well there.  I have no doubt that I will love every minute of it.  And yet…it all seems very hollow.  Sometimes it feels as if all philosophy is doing is building a nice shiny outer wall of words to protect the inner void.  I’ve said this as long as I have been in philosophy: all I do is argue very well for shit that I just made up.  The best philosopher is the one who can convince everyone else that s/he is right.  And I don’t like that.

Now, this isn’t really the crux of the problem.  The problem is that I see any possible career choice as being just as pointless.  I’ve done the hypothetical “I could go back to school.  What would I go for” game and every answer turns out to be faced with the same amount of nihilistic pessimism.  Why should I do x for the rest of my life?  For the good of humanity?  For a paycheck?  To pass the time?  There’s a saying in political science circles: “if your young and republican, you’re heartless; if you old and liberal, you’re stupid.”  I think I am finally growing out of my young, idealistic self and into the self that begrudgingly accepts where I am.  I’m done trying to fool myself that I’m going to revolutionize academia.  I’m done pretending that I can change the world.  But this, in the face of a generation that was told we could do anything, change everything, save everyone?  A generation built on Space Needle sized dreams and high octane ambitions, what are we left with when it all comes crashing down?

Regardless of the fact that I will never change the world through writing about Heidegger, regardless of the fact that my thesis won’t help end child abuse, and regardless of the fact that philosophy is 60% speculation, 20% sophistry, 15% accurate and 5% bullshit, I still enjoy it.  And maybe that’s as close as any of us can get to satisfaction.  The error of our generation isn’t that we can’t save everyone and create world peace; the error is that we think we need to achieve these things to be happy.