Monthly Archives: August 2012

54th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s birth

I thought that, today, it would be fitting to somehow acknowledge Michael Jackson on the anniversary of his birth, his 54th birthday. Though he may not be here in physical form anymore, being that he had the public following which he did, there is much that he left behind, from his creations to the perceptions of others as well as what you may call his teachings or ideas on life. He had the ability to show these ideas through the creation of music, performance, and short films throughout his life (as well as the occasional book and/or interview/speech).  In looking at things that he and others have said I found the following:

The media first turned the trial into a freak-show by emphasizing Jackson’s peculiarities rather than his humanity, and stoked the ratings with constant, trivializing coverage while other, far more important stories went under-reported or completely ignored in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Washington, D.C. The press might respond by saying, ”We gave the people what they wanted.” My response would be, ”My job is to give them what they want. When he steps into a recording studio, it’s Michael Jackson’s job to give them what they want. Your job is to give the people what they need.”

Stephen King, in “The Sideshow Has Left Town” (14 June 2005)

What an interesting excerpt from a piece written by Stephen King around Michael Jackson and his trial to fight off allegations of child abuse!  It looks to me like it really sets the record straight on what goals belong to which professional in the public arena.  Those who are intended to entertain, strive to give the public (to which they are entertaining) what that public wishes to see.  Those who are intended to bring forth world events on a regular basis (such as news media) are intended to give the people facts and news about the events going on around the world.

One could argue that the facts were being presented by news media as necessary pursuant to their roles.  However, my impression was often that there was some level of suggestion in many reports that had some implication of guilt on the part of Michael Jackson, long before the jury had any say in the matter.  Kind of unfortunate for it to be that way; what sells is what’s news, apparently.

From my perspective, Michael Jackson had the right idea:

Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s the gospel.

He even had a song about it, Tabloid Junkie.  Anything can be said or written; the more bizarre, sensational or just plain “out there” the better it sometimes seems as far as sales and public interest.  I was rather shocked to see one particular story reported on CNN, as it was quite clearly to me the kind of thing of tabloids.  The idea of him having a voodoo curse put on people such as Stephen Spielberg among others, bathing in sheep blood, and ceremonially having cows slaughtered in relation to the curses is really bizarre.  At the time, I thought that CNN was a source for news, and I could never actually believe that story to be news no matter how much anyone might pay me or how much of a sales and marketing job was enforced upon me.  To give them the benefit of the doubt, they must have just momentarily confused the character Wacko Jacko with the man who is Michael Jackson.  They really seem like two completely different people.

This individual who may have put curses on people to get back at them for things, and slaughtering animals in the process seems nothing like Michael Jackson reacting the following way to an insect on stage (at about 2 minutes into the video):

It might stand out as different, unique, but with a completely different intent than the above.

Then there’s something Gotham Chopra, wrote, “Michael Jackson and Kim Jong Il” in The Huffington Post (5 July 2009) which speaks of Lisa Ling, and Euna Lee being detained in North Korea.  He spoke to Gotham about whether there might be anything that could be done.  Michael Jackson thought that maybe if Kim Jong II were a fan of his, that might enable him to sway the North Korean leader to free these two individuals.  He also said the following:

Gotham writes: “I explained to Michael that there were larger geo-politics involved, nuclear programs, a new administration trying to assert its foreign policy strategy (Obama), and another one in NK possibly going through some sort of transference of power.” Which might be a typical response from most people, but here’s a different and I would say a rather touching response:

“Yeah,” Michael said wistfully, “but if someone wants to do something good, they just can. They don’t really need to worry about all that other stuff.”

It might not always work to just out of the blue be able to do something good, but if it doesn’t I would like to pose the question:  Did we really believe we could accomplish that good thing and let that belief surpass any fear or uncertainty we felt about accomplishing the good act?

From Gotham Chopra’s account, it seems as though Michael Jackson goes beyond the role that Stephen King suggests is his role.  He not only gave the people what they wanted, through his skill and ability as an entertainer, but he wanted to give so much more.

As can be seen through the lyrics of such songs as Heal the World, Black or White, Man in the Mirror, Will you be There, Earth song, and others; Michael Jackson, or the power that used him as a vessel through which to communicate, had a vision of humankind living in community with one another, regardless of race or creed or other differences.  His music, his way of living seems to show humankind as best lived in communion with one another and with a Higher power (regardless of whether this Higher power might be a higher self within us, or something completely outside of us; perhaps a combination therein which is the Creator).  It can be argued that how he lived was strange and bizarre, but is that argument using sensationalism as a basis to prove its point, or does it take into account all sides including the good?  You can decide.

What a rollercoaster those 54 years have been!  I’m suddenly reminded of Michael’s “Leave me Alone” music video, which has imagery of the circus atmosphere and also includes a rollercoaster ride.  The song is from his Bad album, which celebrates its 25th anniversary with a release in September of Bad 25, including the first officially released concert from the Bad world tour.

Feel free to watch the “Leave me Alone” video here:

Neil Armstrong: a story of Community & the Power of Positive Thinking

“Neil was among the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation. They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable — that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.” — U.S. President Barack Obama

So I’ve been reading news of Neil Armstrong’s passing, at age 82, on August 25, 2012.  I began to think of what impact that which he did and said had for us still today.  It’s not every day that someone even thinks they’re going to be able to set foot on the moon.  But to actually make it happen, that takes some positive thinking and a little help from a community which can build the craft which enables flight to the moon as well as others involved in such a mission.  I thought this related to some of my other posts in a sense, because it shows both that Neil and those who were working with him never gave up on a dream to ultimately set foot on the moon for the first time in history and it also demonstrates what grand things community can accomplish.

Of course, a lot of focus is currently on Neil himself and his famous quote:  “It’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”  But there had to be others involved in the mission to ensure it was possible, and that it went smoothly as well.  Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were also astronauts that were a part of the moon landing mission.

No doubt, Neil Armstrong, himself, did something spectacular and is admired by many for his mission to the moon; but as Barrack Obama includes in the above quote “he and his fellow crew members” worked together, there was a team effort.  Neil, himself, seems to have understood that his act of stepping out to land on the moon was only a small thing for himself, but an amazing occurrence for humanity or “mankind” as a whole.  He saw it as his mission as a part of a team, and that the team should be acknowledged as opposed to just him.  Thus, he never spoke about it to reporters or the media.  The name and the event of the moon landing is often noted, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in the media or in interviews at all.  He seems to be a very private individual, and by some of the things I’ve read, I’ve questioned if his personality type would be an introvert (to tie this in with one of my other posts about personality).

I never used to think that much of this one mission to the moon, as I was not here when it occurred, and it’s basically common knowledge as far as I’m aware, that it happened.  But maybe my perception also had something to do with having a father who has always said that nothing is impossible, if you believe in it.  What Neil accomplished could only be done by believing in the fact that it was a possible mission to complete, because focusing on the fear of it failing miserably would never be able to cause it to work as well as it did.  If it worked, despite of such a fear, it would be a bit of luck rather than anything else that made it happen; not the power of positive thinking on the part of Neil, as well as his crew and all others involved in making the mission a success.

May he rest in peace now that his time, on earth, as Neil Armstrong is complete.

Community, Society, & Death, Rebirth

This week has brought two first anniversaries that I am familiar with that started last August – the 21st and 22nd to be precise.  The first event was the tornado in Goderich, Ontario.  This was the only tornado I have ever decided to be present for, without my advanced knowledge that it would occur.  I had plans to visit Goderich for a week, and arrived there just 26 hours before the water spout came up from Lake Huron and swirled through Goderich causing much destruction to its buildings, and plenty of shock and other emotions of its community members.  The hydro was out for several days, and citizens had a lot of work ahead of them in the wake of the F3 that tried to mess with the town (with only temporary success; the town has endured and will continue to endure much longer than any Tornado.  It was inspiring to see the community come together and work to rebuild the town, through initial clean up such as clearing away trees and bringing some semblance of order to a disorderly situation to ensuring those who became homeless had the basic necessities available to them.  Still months after, on Thanksgiving weekend (the Canadian one in October 2011), the town was coming together as a community, with the Out of the Storm benefit concert that lasted all day on October 8, 2011 with many entertainers as well as vendors selling food, beverages and souvenirs etc.  The day of the concert was much different weather-wise; it was nice and sunny, warm and peaceful.  About a year after the storm, on Sunday, August 19th, Goderich saw Windstock, another kind of concert/celebration.  This time featuring bands such as local bands Fermented Oranges and Builder Refused who have played local pubs and such together on more than one occasion.  When the music is alive and well, we unite as one and come together for the sake of community; in this case in somewhat of a rebirth of Goderich.

The day after this event, on August 22, 2011, Jack Layton passed away from cancer.  He was the leader of the NDP party of Canada, during the election that brought the party to Official Opposition status in the current parliament.  The fact that the party went from generally a third place win in an election to second place, being Official Opposition, says something about his leadership and his ability to draw the public toward him—his charisma.  Some may not have liked him, and others may not have liked his party, still others may disagree with both.  But many people came together in community during the 2011 Canadian Federal Election to try and bring the NDP into power as a voice for change.  They elected 103 seats, in what was dubbed “the orange wave.”  His final message through his letter is very inspiring to remember, and also seems as though it fosters community growth/development:  “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

These qualities are crucial to building stronger community and a more positive society I would say.  If we’re always angry at each other, how will we ever be at peace?  If we’re always fearful, how will we ever do so much as approach anyone, for fear that they will hate or reject us?  If we’re living in despair, where is the hope of a better tomorrow?  Thus, it is best to “be loving, hopeful and optimistic” to make the world a better place to live.  Perhaps there is something in this about why I prefer not to label myself politically or otherwise for that matter.  There are connotations that go along with labels, things that separate me from you.  Instead I have some values/beliefs that may or may not fit within any particular political boundaries.  I do believe it is the right thing to vote, because we can only get the best representation of what the country wants through as much participation as possible, but to me it is more about who I believe would make a good candidate than about which party they stand for (or not, since theoretically a person requiring the use of a wheelchair could be the best candidate and they wouldn’t necessarily stand at all—but they may still use the language of “standing for” something.)

I believe that we should all be independent and strive to achieve all that we want in our lives.  When we run into tough times, after working hard and not quite getting where we are yet, those around us should realize our efforts and stick by us in times of need.  I get caught up in the (ultimate) brain debate of money vs. happiness whereby I confront the concept of working for money or working for enjoyment and achieving money on the side.  I think of all the expenses that exist in modern day Western society and think a high paying job may just be the answer to everything.  But wait, there’s my mental health–my happiness, joy, and genuine satisfaction in life.  Where would that be, if I had that high paying job to pay for all the perks of the Western world in the 21st century?  It would be probably non-existent, or severely lacking is my guess.  I’m starting to ponder what community would have been like back in other civilizations of the past, or even different cultures.  I also ponder whether the technological advances that may have brought the civilization of Atlantis to an end were anything connected to community and the coming together or lack thereof in the civilization.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this post, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thought of money vs. happiness, or been in situations where this competition arises in life.  I’m also probably not the only one that has an interest in, or ponders life in ancient civilizations.  I’ve read some about them but not a whole lot at this point, so there may be more answers I just have not stumbled upon yet.

Personality: a look at Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that Can’t stop Talking”

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is filled with a variety of research about introversion vs. extroversion, different applications of these in the real world, and implications for societal situations based on this information of what is known about the personality types. Cain’s writing comes around the idea that there is an ideal way for a person to be in our society that is primarily extroverted more than introverted. She argues that there is, indeed, a valuable place for introverts within society; and does so very well I would say! There are a few themes I noted as I was reading the book that jumped out at me:

  • Shyness vs. introversion: The two are different ideas, but can easily be misconstrued as one in the same. It is possible for both to exist at once, but shyness involves more of a fear whereas introversion is simply becoming overwhelmed by stimulation thus seeming shy in social situations. This distinction helps me understand myself better and how I am in social situations.  The perceived pressure to be more extroverted in public can cause me to feel more shy because I get the idea that others might want me to be something that I naturally am not; an extrovert.  In a talk that is recorded in a video on TED.com’s website she gives an interesting example from her own life that demonstrates her own introversion. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could be misunderstood as shyness though

    Also in this video, she discusses how it is growing more common for classrooms to be designed such that they are in groups or “pods” whereas they used to be more often in rows. My experience is a combination of these things, based on teachers’ decisions. Often in elementary school there would be changes in the organization of the classroom once in awhile. Sometimes there would be grouped desks, other times there would be rows. In high school, I remember more rows with the occasional “pod” setup occurred as well. The group design ended up being a bit too much for some of the quiet or “shy” individuals at times, as there was sometimes more of an overstimulation of these individuals who value time by themselves or with one or two close friends. Maybe this happened by coincidence, or maybe the teachers that allowed for both types of interaction had some understanding of personalities and the types of situations appropriate for the differing personalities of individuals.
  • Introvert-Extrovert relationships: They say opposites attract, but can they work together in the long run when it comes to the introversion and extroversion personality types?  You can read more about this subject in the book, but the way it was written drew my attention and caused me to think of relationships I see and how the two parts of these relationships interact along with the issues they face.  It might seem straightforward once you start to consider it, but you don’t necessarily consider it unless someone brings it to your attention.
  • Nature vs. Nurture:  The idea of whether the personality traits are related to nature or nurture is an interesting topic. Some might argue that personality traits are inborn whereas others might argue that the environment that surrounds a child affects that child’s personality development. I wonder if my own personality would differ if I had circumstances different from those which I have grown up with regularly. Perhaps if I had different differences from others I would be a completely unique individual from the unique individual I am today.
  • Persona/Identity/masks:  Public personas, masks, and identities are all things which interest me and are more or less connected. I had this realization a few years ago that life really isn’t (or does not have to be) as serious as it seems to be at times. Upon strolling through the halls at a postsecondary school I was attending at the time, I observed people and their behavior. Somehow through this observation, I had this realization that it isn’t necessary or realistic to take life completely and utterly serious a lot of the time. There are times that it is serious, and you at least have to respect that certain moments are serious for others if you don’t feel they are serious for yourself.But to get back on point here, I saw this posted on twitter the other day which really rang true to me, while also connecting with my thoughts about Quiet.

    We can become as someone who seems to be extroverted, regardless of how introverted we are, if a situation calls for it or vice versa. To take things at face value, and judge the surface, does not do it any justice because you don’t really know more than the mask or covering if you’re just coming into a first contact or even if you’ve encountered it multiple times but from afar. The average citizen cannot claim to truly know any celebrity who they really have not even spoken to at all. You can take what leaks or is consciously placed out into the public by said person and interpret it as you will, but you cannot say you truly know that individual as a result of your interpretation. You have to be willing to admit that there is a possibility that you may be eventually proven to be wrong.Just because you know things about a stereotype that seems to fit who a person is by looking at them from the outside does not mean you truly know and understand who they are inside and out. People don’t necessarily conform to any particular stereotype. A stereotype is a common group of characteristics that can be associated with people who fit somewhat under a certain label (like introverts are shy and/or quiet, extroverts are more outgoing and sociable everyone would probably agree). On the topic of conformity, I found the following tweet by Deepak Chopra intriguing:

    When you can predict a person fully by looking at them on the surface, the individual is less interesting or intriguing because you already feel you know them. It’s more mediocre because it’s expected and understood. When one does not conform, there’s more that is left a mystery to be discovered. There’s more to that individual for others to try and figure out, or simply marvel at over time. It keeps life more interesting and perhaps even entertaining.Susan Cain has demonstrated that personality is one thing, but it is entirely possible to consciously improve upon weak parts of your personality to be able to accomplish things that otherwise might have been unthinkable. She speaks, in the video I posted earlier, about her “year of speaking dangerously” whereby she knew what would be coming with regard to having her book out in the open. She knew that the task of publicizing and promoting the book was going to involve a lot more stimulation in the social arena. This meant she purposely went about practicing public speaking and such to improve her abilities and comfort levels in this area. It goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. Susan Cain’s book is a New York Times Best Seller still, after months of being out for the public to read.

  • Reward Sensitivity:  We all have some instinct toward looking at possible rewards for certain things, such as the lottery.  As of this writing, the Lottomax in Canada’s jackpot is up to $50 million, with 14 possible maxmillion prizes also available for the Friday, August 24, 2012 draw, which means there’s a lot of possible winnings.  Someone who has a high level of reward sensitivity might jump at the chance of possibly earning all of that money, and go for it without thinking of the likelihood of having the cost of the lottery tickets amount to nothing afterward.  Someone with a lower reward sensitivity might stop and consider their financial situation and whether that cost for the tickets could be better spent elsewhere with the risk that is involved in the small chances of big earnings.  It’s true that you cannot win if you don’t buy a ticket, but you can buy $50 million dollars worth of tickets over the years, and still not win even close to $50 million as well.  I’m generally the type that would decide to do without that ticket in favor of saving a few dollars here and there which eventually adds up, than to hope for the big jack pot.  The jackpot does have a certain sense of allure to it though.

One thing that I did not encounter in this book, which seems to be a topic that would fit quite well is personality traits and people with differences (or disabilities, to use a word more commonly used).  Depending on your variation of “differences” you might require some level of assistance which in turn means a certain level of social interaction is necessary to direct and receive said level of assistance.  I would wonder if this dependence on assistance might kind of force people with differences to develop more extroverted skills in order to achieve what they need.  Certainly, Susan would say that people do sometimes wish, or have to, develop skills in areas that their personality does not tend to naturally want to operate.  Her “year of speaking dangerously” speaks for itself, going outside of your comfort zone has its perks because you grow as a person.  You might be able to accomplish things you never thought possible by doing so.  She definitely provides plenty of food for thought, to further the “Quiet Revolution.”

Perhaps Susan sheds some light on the reason I have felt the desire to start a blog. Writing a blog allows me to be within my own head. It allows me to put ideas out there, and to let other people choose to either react to them or not as they please. I can also interact with readers through email or through comments they post on the blog which allows me to interact at my own speed with the text on the screen rather than the more direct human-to-human contact.

I find sometimes when I consider the prospect of actually finding employment and searching out jobs that seem like something I could do or would want to do, I am drawn to look at what the job posting says for hours and for the income the job provides. To focus on the income is contrary to my inner feelings that money should not matter that much. So it can become somewhat of an internal battle. But as I discussed in my last post, there is a certain key to succeeding that involves continuing to pursue something, to never stop all together. I like the attitude evoked in Michael Jackson’s song “Unbreakable” when it comes to this concept of going for what you want—not let anything or anyone get in the way.

By creating a blog, not only am I fostering my introverted needs, but I am also achieving somewhat of the goal I have: freedom. I can post what I choose and when I choose. My plan is to post weekly, because having a plan and goals helps as a framework to making life most successful.

It’s funny; my siblings were the ones who—both in their own way—told me I should work on writing. I never tended to think they would know me all that well because I’m more of a quiet and reserved individual, but life never ceases to surprise me. Maybe some things, like my siblings who are both younger than me actually knowing me pretty well, should not surprise me that much because of the fact that there’s good evidence to support it. They’ve both grown up around me for around two decades, so they’ve had the chance to observe who I am and what I’m all about—and they’ve taken the opportunity to do so. It was my sister who showed me the video of Susan Cain on TED, and I realized I had bought the book she referred to and hadn’t yet started reading it. Seeing as my sister suggested I start a blog, and thought this video would interest me, it seemed fitting that I actually write a blog post surrounding this topic.

People, Differences & The Twelve

Books that inspire the mind, that provoke thought about life and human nature tend to draw my attention.  Such is the case with The Twelve by William Gladstone, which holds important that long talked about date of December 21, 2012.  What happens on that date?  You’ll have to either wait until the reality of the day hits (which will happen before you know it) or read the book to find out where the story leads!  There are some mixed reviews of the book that I’ve seen through Amazon.com.  I don’t consider the book to be a thriller that’s full of action and excitement, but liked it for its thought-provoking nature, and its ability to keep my attention and follow along with the plot.  It also gives an interesting portrait of human nature to ponder.

One of the reasons I felt inclined to write about this book is because it raises the topic of differences in human beings, a topic that I ponder fairly frequently.  Max, the protagonist, runs into some interesting circumstances resulting from his post-secondary studies.  He is provoked to question whether he’s got mental health issues, or not after even his own parents appear to side with the doctor who sees Max.  There is some history of mental health issues in his family, so Max is provoked to question if he may actually have something wrong with him.

I’m reminded of a phrase my father often says, “If you believe it, it’s true.”  I feel that this can apply to what I’m hoping to get at through this post.  If you hear things from others about yourself enough, you might just start to question whether they are true!  You might start believing that if a number of people around you are saying something, that maybe it’s got some smidgen of truth to it.  This could provoke you to start to change things about yourself for others, or totally change who you are.

There’s no reason to change who you are or what you’re all about by any means.  I find that environmental changes can have a better psychological effect!  If you’re having difficulty where you are in your life, maybe it has something to do with the environment you’re surrounded by rather than anything else.  I don’t mean that it is best to run from things in life to make everything better, if it sounds that way, because I think that things happen to us so we can build the endurance to handle challenges that will make us stronger.

But we can also learn when enough is enough and we’ve gained what we can from the experience already.  Max seems to have known that certain individuals in his life have to be there for a reason so he endures his search for the twelve individuals.  He keeps their contact information so he is able to be in touch with them when necessary with the knowledge that these individuals have some significance.  I’ve subconsciously known this in the past and made changes to my environment, leading to feeling more at ease and ultimately having a bit of a more positive outlook on life.  It is only upon reflection that I discovered it in a conscious way.  There’s no need to necessarily conform, just to find your niche and make life work for you through that niche.

Max tends to move around now and then for various opportunities.  What others try to do to him never stops him, it only causes him to change gears a little bit and reconsider what he keeps to himself and what he allows of himself to be public.  Changing his environment enables him to see the world and all; but it also enables him to make important discoveries about life, and about himself.

The big thing about Max is his capacity to endure regardless of what anyone says about or does to him in his life.  He always finds ways to do what he wants regardless of anyone else.  Sometimes someone comes to his rescue if he’s in danger.  If something doesn’t work, he moves on to try a different angle to attain the same goal such as earning a living.  If he felt he had to be somewhere else to get what he wants to achieve, he’d go elsewhere!  That reminds me of another phrase my father also says, “Never, ever give up!”  And it’s true, regardless of mental or physical differences: if you keep trying you’ll find a way to get what you need or want in life.

You can either post thoughts, reflections, criticisms and the like below, or email magnus.wendler@gmail.com