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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Can We Evolve?

I got hooked on watching some documentaries tonight on Netflix and came across one dealing with racism in the early 60s and the 1962 Ole Miss football team. Now, I have no love for Ole Miss (back when I was in Mississippi I was Mississippi State all the way) but this documentary was a good one. It did really dive deep into the time there but it didn't surprise me in the least with the things that went on.

I grew up in the South. I've heard all the stories, read all the stories, watched all the stories, talked to people who were there ... the South is and always will be tied to that era and the sins committed in it. But the writer of the documentary said that Ole Miss had "evolved"since then and cited statistics, cited things that had transpired in the time since ... he cited all these things yet I found myself sitting there, skeptical.

I was in Mississippi for a few years in the late 90s, and most of 2000. It wasn't so different then as it was being portrayed in the documentary. Things looked better but that was a function of Mississippi getting better at hiding things.

Which brought to mind a question ... can we evolve?

I don't mean in the sense like higher levels of beings. I don't expect us to get omnipotent powers or gain the ability to fly. I mean, can we grow, as an individual/people, to a point where we qualify as "evolved"?

When I think of evolution I can think only of Pokemon. Pokemon (most of them) evolve. Pikachu evolves in Raichu (though few actually do so because Raichu isn't that cute looking and we're all nostalgic for Pikachu thanks to the animated series). Growlithe evolves in Arcanine (Charizard is still better, IMO).

You get the point. The Pokemon undergo a physical and statistical change that allows them to grow into something more. Evolution allows them to get stronger, to get faster, to learn better moves, and allows you as the trainer to develop a better team.

But can we evolve? Evolution is generally seen as a change that ... well, we can see. I think, for the purposes of this question, we should focus on evolution as it pertains to mindset ... as it pertains to internal composition.

So, speaking on that, I still question whether we can evolve. People change but slowly ... very slowly in some case. I grew up in the South and a lot of the stuff that happened in the 60s still happens today. It's quieter but it's there.

Are people capable of evolving to a point that certain mindsets and ideas are rendered primitive? Will we get to the point where we've grown enough to replace Thundershock with Thunderbolt (to continue the Pokemon thing)?

I don't know. I'm torn on this subject because it seems that I'm a good argument for evolution and against it. Speaking about just myself here, I know that physically I am more "evolved" than I was this time last year. Two years ago I was a completely different looking person.

Mentally and emotionally ... I don't know if I'm "evolved." A lot of the same things that haunted me in the past haunt me today. My ideas are certainly different but by no means are they so different that they can't be related back to previous ideas. I build upon old thoughts and old feelings. I have a tough time forgetting those things.

So, can we evolve? Can I evolve? Are we, as a people in the South, doomed to live out our past sins? It seems that rather than move on or move forward, we relish the past. With every passing year the South seems to idealize the past.

Am I doomed to that fate as well? It seems with every passing year the past looks better and the future more bleak. The future is an unknown quality ... stick with what works. I like sticking with what works, but what works in some respects doesn't in others.

I don't know if we're capable of evolution as it pertains to mindset. At least, not so drastic a one that it will get noticed. Maybe for humans it comes in small clips and it's something that happens over the course of a lifetime, of generations.

We can't all have flashy evolutions. It doesn't happen when we reach a certain level or obtain a certain happiness.

But I question if it does happen and if we have that capability to make it happen for ourselves.

Something to ponder, I guess. Thanks for reading folks. Good night. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Optimism Isn't So Easy Anymore

Recently, I've been called something that not many would call me before ... a realist. I've never been a realist before. I don't usually take that view but I've come to the conclusion that I am becoming more of a realist.

I used to be the eternal optimist, the go to guy for wishful thinking. It was easier in the past because my optimism was fueled by the sure-fire knowledge that I could be as bright, as cheery, and as wishful as I wanted ... it was better to be that for me because it kept reality at bay.

The reality was that, in the past, I was never going to even approach the optimistic dreams I had. I was never going to get there so why focus on that fact ... why not focus on the dream? Sometimes the dream is more important and in the past it was.

In the past I was a severely overweight guy with just optimistic thinking.

In the present I am a much thinner guy with reality staring me in the face and my optimism nowhere to be found.

Now that I'm thinner, now that I'm in a shape that isn't round, I can achieve all kinds of things that before I was optimistic about.

The problem is none of those optimistic dreams had any real meaning. They were placeholders, if you will, there to just keep me focused on the good things that MIGHT happen but likely wouldn't. Now that I'm in a position to achieve some of those optimistic dreams I find them to be ... pathetic. Sad.

No, no ... I find them empty.

Yes, empty is the word.

They weren't dreams that had any long term meaning ... they were like pieces of chewing gum. I sat there and chewed on them, enjoying them, but now that I'm not the fat guy anymore that gum has lost its flavor. It's a rubbery nothing that offends my taste buds.

So, I spit it out.

I'm just not sure what to put in its place.

Optimism was easy when the dreams were just ... dreams. I have plenty of dreams. Some recurring and many brand new. I remember my dreams in the morning and if I find them interesting enough, I put them down in my dream log. It's cool to look back on some of them and use them as inspiration for some creative project.

But I'm finding it harder to do that with the ultimate creative project: myself. I have all these old dreams, these optimistic unachievable dreams that no longer hold any meaning for me ... they were just there to make me feel better before. What do I do with these dreams?

Do I adjust? Do I admit to myself that these dreams weren't real dreams but merely something for me to chase, a mirage? At one time these dreams HAD to mean something to me, if only for a short while, but they've been rendered meaningless now.

Do I remember? Do I chase after these dreams? I feel like that's me reaching back to something familiar.

I like the familiar. I like routine. I like habits. I like predicting things and having them play out as predicted.

I'm slow to change. I'm stubborn and often I find myself coming to a conclusion long after everyone else came to the same conclusion weeks/months/years before.

Reality stares at me. My optimistic dreams are within my grasp if I really desire it but I don't. I don't want to reach out to those old, familiar dreams. They were formed by an individual who wasn't looking to achieve them ... he was looking to use them as comfort. As a crutch.

I need new dreams but I want them to be hopeful, to be optimistic.

I don't want to be a realist gone cynic. It's too easy to be that and I shouldn't be that jaded (as many tell me). I want to be able to think happy thoughts and put those thoughts into a goal.

But happy thoughts are hard to come by to these days.

It's hard being an optimist, hard thinking happy thoughts, when I worry so much. God, I worry a lot. I try not to stress, I try not to worry, but at night I worry ... I have too much time on my hands at night I suppose.

I don't worry about myself. I'm dead last in the worry category ... I can adapt. It might take a while, I might kick and scream, but I will adapt.

I worry about family. I worry about friends. I kick around so many scenarios in my brain about things that could happen I lose sleep. Some nights I don't sleep.

I never had that problem as the eternal optimist. But as a realist? I have problems turning off the "being real" portion of my brain. Often it goes further than reality would actually allow it. My imagination is a powerful ally and enemy.

It's not easy being an optimist anymore. I miss it.

Thanks for reading folks. Have a good night.