Who Am I

By: Aaron

Do you ever look at yourself? Sure, you see yourself in the mirror a handful of times a day when you go to the bathroom to take a leak and all that, but usually I find that when I look into the mirror I’m looking at all of the things that aren’t me. “Is there something on my face?”. Lately, however, I don’t really know why, but I have been making a concentrated effort to look myself in the eyes when I find myself facing a mirror. Sometimes I can hold a gaze longer than others.

In mid to late August of 2009 I shipped off to Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri to go to basic training for the Army. Most soldiers in the Army have a 10-week basic training and move on to train for the job that they signed up for in dorm-room style barracks with relative freedom, at least as far as nights and weekends were concerned. However, because of the fact that I chose Military Police as my job, and we were held to a higher standard, I was to live under the strict rules of a basic training during MP school as well, a cumulative total of 6 months. I can remember being driven to the recruiting station in Warwick, Rhode Island by the father of my best friend who I joined with. It was like 4 in the morning that day in August when we met up with the recruiter who was going to bring us to Boston and send us on our way to Missouri. I knew I didn’t want to be in the Army, and 10 days before I left, my roommates best friend who lived in the downstairs apartment had committed suicide. As it turns out, suicide is an often talked about subject in the Army.

I guess it wasn’t long before you learn what your options are to try and somehow get sent home from basic training. Not everyone partook in fantasizing about tearing their ACL at the obstacle course so that they could go back on the contract they signed and go back to their normal life. It really wasn’t uncommon to hear that kind of talk at all, but who wanted to have to suffer the pain of an injury like that? As it turns out, the easiest way to get kicked out of the Army is to say you feel suicidal. It was faster than a medical discharge, but as soon as you said you felt suicidal, the drill sergeants would take away your belt, your shoelaces, your sheets, blankets, blunt objects, shaving razors, and the like, for reasons that I’m sure you can figure out. Furthermore, the private on suicide watch would then have to be watched by 2 recruits at all times, including pulling watch on them overnight. Over the course of the first 5 months, a few individuals went through the process of cutting themselves up a bit so they could go to the drill sergeant and say they were suicidal, and within 2 weeks or so they’d usually be back on a plane to the comfort of their old lives.

It was in the last month before graduation that my company was called into the classroom in the barracks to be spoken to by the drill sergeants. A few months earlier they had told all of the active duty soldiers where they would be stationed after graduation, but that fateful day in January, at least a third of the active-duty soldiers were reassigned to all go to the same duty station. In a moment of honesty, one of the drill sergeants addressed the reason behind these changes.

“Privates, if you just had your duty station changed, that mean you should plan on having your boots in the sand within 3 months of graduating here. You’ll be going to Afghanistan”.

This must have freaked out some of them. Over the course of the next month, I’d say we probably had about 8 privates who were a part of the reassigned group give threats of suicide so they to could be sent home. Here is something that I bet you didn’t know; if your unit’s training period overlaps with Christmas, you now get sent home to be with your family, because there were too many recruits ACTUALLY committing suicide on Christmas day when they were stuck in the barracks instead of being with their families. There are already fireguard shifts to wake up for when you’re living the barracks life, but for every private on suicide watch, 2 privates still in training to wake up per hour for a shift. When we had 8 or so privates on suicide watch, they all slept on their sheet-less and blanket-less mattresses in the downstairs classroom. Each mattress with 2 chairs next to it, where the people in charge of watching them could sit and make sure they don’t do anything crazy.

Roughly 40 privates would have to wake up an hour to take a shift of either fireguard or suicide watch. Sleep became scarce to come by because instead of us only having to pull one shift a night, we’d each have to wake up for an hour at a time 2-3 times every night for those last couple weeks. It wasn’t long before me and my battle buddy would sit for our suicide watch shifts, with our flashlight pointed towards the eyes of who we were in charge of watching while kicking the side of their mattress. My boot would hit first, then my buddy’s. Boom-boom. In the cadence of a heartbeat. We’d say, “if we don’t get to sleep, let’s make sure they don’t either”. I know we’d say some really mean stuff too, while we kicked away.

By the time I was just about a complete zombie from lack of consistent sleep, struggling and resentful from the fact that I couldn’t be there more for my roommate after what had happened in the summer prior, and I was tired of hearing the word “suicide” in training, we had another private threaten suicide. I remember being on the detail to watch and restrain him, one that took 5 people at first because he kept going through fits of wanting to fight us and throw elbows. After over an hour of struggling, he was finally calm without restraint and was sitting against the wall in front of our companies HQ office. The drill sergeant walked out of the, looked at us 5 privates who were on watch, and said, “Privates, I need to go upstairs to make copies, if anyone gets any bruises where I can’t see them, then as far as I’m concerned they aren’t there”. Once the drill sergeant walked off, one of us looked at the rest of the group and said, “does that mean what I think it means?”.

I spill this story out of my guts because it’s the memory that made me realize how powerful the mind is. You see, I blocked that memory out of my head for years. Totally deleted it. Then it crept up on me one day back in 2013, 4 years later. It hit me like a ton of bricks. “Who the hell was that person?” I asked myself, “I don’t know him, that’s not the version of me that I think of myself as. What a monster. Am I even who I think I am”.

I know from the sources that those people didn’t want to kill themselves. They were just 18-year-olds who were in over their heads when they signed their lives aways for 4 years. They just wanted to go home, just like I did. I shouldn’t have punished them for that. I learned about myself. That I’m not solely in control. That my mind is a strong force, and that it can manipulate my perception in the interest of trading truth for comfort. By learning how nasty I could be, I learned how to never have to be like that again. To be able to fight is to be able to hurt. And to be able to hurt is to have the capacity for evil. However it is he who is tough who has to fight the least, so even though I know my capacities, I’m somewhat happy to have them so that I hopefully never have to exercise them again.

The Mastering of Perspective

By: Taylor and Aaron

 

Perspective is a thing that’s not easily mastered, yet it is so necessary in life. You hear it all too often: change your perspective, change your life. But is it really that easy? Can you just decide to have a different outlook at any given moment, regardless of your emotions? Logic and reason differ slightly here in that one says no while the other says yes- one says stop, one says go. Okay, enough of the cheese-ball rhymes. We get it, it’s more complex than that. If you have a really bad day, the last thing you want to hear is “cheer up” to get an attitude adjustment or a perspective shift. To take it as a message from the universe to shift your perspective on the experience and/or the outcome and you’ll automatically become a ray of sunshine. Well, guess what? Perspectives don’t change overnight and it’s a skill that takes lots of practice, and it is something that must be consciously noticed and articulated, just like anything else.

Work diligently at it, and perspective shifting is a skill that you too can have, but you must be willing to work for it. If you’re inclined to use you pessimistic perspective as some kind of justification to mope around and cry victim-hood to your adversity. Listen, we’re no better than anybody else at shifting perspective, so we won’t preach in a way as if we’re not as flawed as any other human, but we have some insight on the subject. We have moments where we can’t shake the negativity that’s surrounding us, where we know that if we could take a simple shift in perspective everything would be different- but it’s hard. This isn’t something easily perfected overnight. That’s not to say that you can’t make leaps and bounds of progress in one sitting of a perspective shift, and you might actually be surprised by how drastically you can change your mindset, but to do so, you must first acknowledge that it needs to be shifted.

The first perspective shift after this acknowledgement is possibly the most difficult to wrap your head around, but it is the groundwork from which the rest of your positive perspective changes will grow from. The first thing you must do to become a master of your own perspective is to change your perspective on how easy it is to change your perspective.

This is the first and hardest step on your journey to perspective mastery is the hardest one for a reason, and one reason only; because you have to TRULY believe that changing your perspective is something you can do by merely making the decision to do so.

So, to do this let’s walk through a real life example that we think everybody will be able to relate to. Think back to a time where you were about to leave the house to go to work, or a party, or an otherwise social situation, and think of an instance where right before you left the house to go where you were headed, something made you really, really angry. Anyways, you’re upset.

Now let’s say you leave the house, you’re heading to work and boom! You hit traffic. “Just great”, you mutter, “some asshole must not know how to drive”.

Congratulations! You’ve just added to the snowball of anger that’s been rolling down the slopes of your brain ever since you left the house.

Now you get to work and what do you find? There’s barely any parking left and it looks like you’re gonna have to walk nearly a half a mile just to get to the office from your parking spot. The snowball rolls on.

To top it off, the guy in the spot next to you parked like a jerk and you can barely squeeze yourself out of your car. The snowball knocks against your skull as it grows. “What a prick”, you mumble.

By now you are irate. It’s written in your face and in your posture. By the the time you’re in the office you’re slamming things down, talking to yourself, and aggressively eyeballing anyone who can muster up the courage to attempt to witness your spectacle.

A co-worker is considering coming over to see if you’re okay, when you realize your phone died and you forgot your charger. You open your desk drawer and throw your phone inside of it. Your co-worker decides to leave you alone instead, once he or she notices the snow falling out of your ears by now.

Welp, you’re being negative, and what is worse is that you are force feeding that negativity to everyone else in the room to. That’s what happens when you leave a trail of snow everywhere you walk.

Can you relate to this? Wouldn’t a change in perspective that permits these occurrences less often be nice. Here are a couple practical examples of opportunities from within that scenario where changing your perspective could have laid out a better environment for you. This only makes sense for you to want to do because the more often you are in a better environment, the better life you are likely going to have. So let’s work backwards through the scenario and stop at each main event that grew the anger snowball.

 

1.Phone’s dead, and you have no charger:

Current Perspective: Extremely upset. “What am I going to do without my phone all day”.

Potential Shift: Be optimistic. Say, “I bet someone here has a charger I can borrow”. Or “Maybe I can go grab mine while I’m on my lunch break”

           

2. Traffic, bad parking spot, and a bad parker:

Current Perspective: Quite Angry. “Why is this happening to me”.

Potential Perspective: Be passive. “All of this would have happened regardless of me, and there’s nothing I could have done to change it”.

 *Note: If things you hate happen to you often and you can’t change it, find a way to make it enjoyable. Are you always in traffic? Become a fan of a podcast or listening to audio books so that getting caught in traffic only turns into an excuse to do something else that you like.

3.Whatever made you mad when you left the house:

 Current Perspective: Angry. “Why did that have to happen right before I left to work”.

 Potential Perspective: Be relieved. “That was annoying, but luckily I’ll have some time out of the house to think about it at work”.

          When practicing your perspective changes it’s advisable to start small, allow yourself to fail, and notice your successes. You, and everyone around you will appreciate your effort. This state of being once achieved for the first time, will become easier and easier to attain every time after that. Once you see the literal and figurative results from what you’ve been working towards- a greater perspective full of happiness- you’ll attract more positive energies, giving you a different ground to stand on. You’ll find that this is not only helpful in your own life, but also for the lives of those you surround yourself with. This new, evolved perspective that you will gain, it’ll aid you in understanding not only yourself, but those around you as well.

It doesn’t have to be a direct thing either. The way you feel someone’s negative energy, but you can also feel their positive energies too. Be the type of person who is providing positive energy, you’ll find yourself living a life more full of meaning. To live means you have to die, so you need to take responsibility for the time that you get to spend here. Carrying around negative energy and a “why me” attitude is toxic, and can do much more harm than you’d expect, both physiologically as well as in your relationships. Shift your perspective. Change your life. The power is in your hands, so use it for good. Use it for the positivity and happiness that you know you’re capable of and deserve.

The So-Called Victims of Trump (SCVTs)

By: Aaron

This is a letter to address the amount of people I see claiming they’re somehow a victim because of a trump presidency. I think the victim claimers are wrong, and have something to say to them.

It’s amazing to me, the effect a nicely placed web or news banner, a well worded timed headline, a properly cut video clip, and an easily outraged social environment can have on public ability to formulate rational analysis on an individual, a group, an idea, or an event. I believe that is what we are seeing play out in the social environment in front of us, in regards to all things political, all things “politically correct”, and especially in regards to Donald Trump.

Before the days of internet on our smart-phones, incessant social media use, and the newly formed, trend-setting, nation sweeping hobby of being outraged that has come about as a direct result of this sudden access to widespread, instant communication, you, and none of your friends would have had such a public arena to voice your opinions, and without it, you would have had to voice that opinion in a public place, looking at the faces of real life people. This meant a couple of things, first is that you wouldn’t have the luxuries of a laptop in front of your face where you can just go look up someone else’s opinion and then reform the words to fit onto your own page, you actually would have to have an opinion this isn’t just some fair-weather opinion, it has to committed to your memory.

If you wouldn’t take your opinion out for public debate with a complete stranger, keep it off your social media page, or you risk looking foolish. That’s just my opinion. The second consequence of sole public debate, is that when you were in a heated debate, if you decided to sling out any type of insults that you can see across the social media feeds today, you had to be ready to take a punch right after, because some of us are getting really vicious out there, and that’s no way to talk to people. Anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or laptop, can upload to YouTube within minutes, or post to Facebook within seconds, and it seems like everyone wants to cry out that they’re a victim because of a Trump presidency. But when all of a sudden everyone is crying out about how and why they’re a victim, it then diminishes the value of those who might be speaking up and voicing actual concerns.

Psychologically there’s no difference between receiving glory and receiving pity in regards to the kick of dopamine one gets from receiving glory or pity, and it pains me to say that most of the victim claiming I see looks more like a cry for some of that free dopamine filled pity that’s being dished out. Most of the concerns do not preach concern about outcomes that are in any way rooted in facts, sensibility, or reality. That is why I felt I had something to say, like I could carve out a little corner of fact seeking, and hopefully build some kind of dialogue.

Okay, on to the next order of business, again directed to those I deem as “The So-Called Victim’s of Trump”. Do you really think you have all that much to complain about? The next few ideas I’ll voice roughly similar as I’ve heard them said by Dr Jordan Peterson, someone who also has clearly inspired the formatting of this video and the way it’s being presented. The problem with even the not so heavy portion of left-side ideology, is that it’s orienting the faults of our society and culture towards that of one which is Utopian. While this is noble and with good intention it unfortunately is ill advised. Any one who believes in the idea that history repeats itself should do a brief history recap on what happened to societies past who’ve legislated with a Utopian mindset and one will see that in every single instance it led to mass chaos, mass detainment, and a massive amount of casualties. Maybe we should get rid of the idea that it makes sense to consider legislation based on a Utopian society that’s never existed, and consider that it would make much more sense to base our legislative decisions on moving simply in a direction that is BETTER and not one that is again, based on a Utopian society that’s never existed. One idea one might have for anyone who preaches political correctness is to use ideas that come from types of societies that HAVE existed instead of ideas from a Utopian ideal that’s never been manifested.

If you live in North America you represent roughly 5% of the World’s population. Not very many people move away from North America for a reason. It turns out that it’s a pretty sweet gig to live here, and as far as I’m concerned, I played the lottery and won because I had absolutely no role in my ending up here. My parents just banged and then I was in San Diego Hospital. I think this something that should not be taken for granted. So if we wanted to start the argument where it starts, I would say, hey, you live better than probably 95% of the entire world. Do you really think you’re a victim?

The next thing I’d like to attempt to make about to The SCVT’s is that you can not be taken seriously when you subscribe to this awful journalism that you’re often associated with. One headline that I’ve just seen today read something like “A Guide to Trump’s Many Immigration Policy Mistakes”. I’m sorry but anyone who subscribes and supports a headline of this nature is a dimwit as far as I’m concerned because they are doing 2 things with a headline like this (which is most headlines now, by the way). The first is they aren’t reporting here, they are telling you how to think about something. You’re smart enough to figure out how to think for yourself, aren’t you? Secondly, they’re completely neglecting the fact that almost never in history has policy gone into place and been immediately effective. That’s literally never how it works. News sources like these have been trying to warp the way you view Trump since day one.

On many, it appears as if this tactic has worked. I’m not saying the man is perfect or that the legislation is flawless, but I am saying it’s being poorly represented. To clarify, this letter is not in defense to Trump, this letter is in defense to the truth. His words have been twisted and before I end this first rendition of me speaking in front of a camera, I’d like to iron out one giant misconception in regards to the president and one of the things he’s supposedly said, and in my next video I’ll more in depth tackle the specific legislative moves vs misconceptions that Trump has taken since that seems to be the current topic of the week, day and hour.

I’ve been wanting to get this off of my chest for a while because it’s been bothering me since day one of Trump’s campaign. You’ll probably immediately recognize what I’m talking about so I will just address it directly. To all of you who keep standing by the claim that Donald Trump “called all Mexican’s rapists”, you are directly a part of the problem. If you can’t listen to what people are actually saying, you should hold off on your warped opinion forming about that person. He clearly stated that a portion of those who immigrated from Mexico to the United States illegally are sometimes rapists.

Well, we actually happen to know of that fact as true, so I don’t see why it blew up, but also, if you’d actually listen to the guy talk for more than a couple sentences at a time, you would have heard him clarify that it’s not JUST Mexicans who are immigrating here illegally from Mexico, but it’s also people from all over South America, and possibly the Middle East as well. So he wasn’t even just talking about Mexicans. We need to get better at listening to each other speak.
I close this letter with something that will also act as a precursor to the next one. A quote, from a world leader;

“We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered, and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against Jewish people. We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads. Not since the middle ages, have we seen that. They drown people in steel cages. We have not ever seen this, (before). For many, many years all nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it, and to confront it viciously if we have to. So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in it’s power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land. America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure. We have to feel safe and secure. In recent days we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal. Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world, but these are those, and there are those, that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear. We need security. There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing people based on faith, or there lifestyle. Not right. We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation. You look all over the world and you see what’s happening. So in the coming days we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination. We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us, and to love our values, not to hate us and to hate our values.”

Can you guess who said it? Thanks for hearing me out.

Existence is______

By: Taylor

What does it mean to not only exist, but co-exist? Must we co-exist to say we exist on our own? Do others shape our reality more than we’re consciously aware of, and does our sub-conscious hold the keys to the intelligence we pound our heads and crack open books page after page in an attempt to find it?

These are the topics we’re interested in this week. This is what’s making us curious. If you’re curious about them, too, shoot us an E-mail. We’d love to chat with you.

Patience, friends; Podcast to come soon 🙂

Highs and Lows

Question of the day: What makes a high a high, and a low a low? How do we differentiate the two from one another in the grand scope of life? What makes a high a high and not a low, and how can we know if we’ve gotten it wrong?

This goes into the realm of what’s right and real versus what’s wrong and possibly fabricated and. . . not grounded in reality. But is it necessary to be constantly grounded in reality? Let’s chat, shall we?

The Start of it All

Well, here we are. It’s a rainy Saturday, I’m on a tight deadline, yet I can’t seem to focus on that. I can only focus on one thing, this one thing; this. The Curious Conversation. Soon we’ll be throwing multimedia content onto the site on a weekly basis for starters. Why? Because there’s more to the world than our own individual perspectives allow, and it’s time to ask the questions, to stand in someone elses shoes; it’s time to get curious.

Stay tuned! There is oh so much coming your way in the near future.