Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hope? More like J-Hope :)

Hope. Something so small that can create something huge. For some, hope is brought on by a certain object, person or memory. I like to think that hope is a feeling that motivates you to keep going, even if there are obstacles in the way. However, according to Google, it is "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen."

But let's not focus on that.

Instead, let's think about where hope comes from. No, not the drug and alcohol treatment center, but rather, where it comes from in a person. Hope is a shadow hanging over you, helping you when you need it most, or at least sometimes. It helps you to fulfill your dreams, and while many of your goals may not come true, it allows you to be okay with that.

That's the thing with hope. As with many other feelings, it isn't there forever. It may linger on for a while, but it flees, even at the most desperate times. The good thing is, you can restore hope. There isn't a button for it, or an off or on switch. But with optimism, strength, or perseverance, your hope can be restored. At least, that's what people like to say. We all know that isn't true, though. Hope is really hard to get, especially in my generation where most of have had mental illnesses or traumatic experiences. A lot of things can threaten hope- fear, violence, negativity. Anything, really. It's much easier to see the bad than feel the good. Although, hope is supposed to help that, isn't it?

My hope, however, relies on the little things. It isn't derived from huge expensive vacations or a whole jar of good positive vibes. No, my hope is the things that bring me happiness. Dogs, family, friends, my favorite song, a good old snack, or just life itself. There's a beauty in life that people fail to realize. It's that moment, that wondrous moment, where a leaf falls off a tree or the clouds let the sun breathe, where everything just feels okay. Like in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, "and in that moment, I feel infinite." It's as if the world is patting you on the back and telling you it's all going to be alright. I've had quite a few instances like that this past spring break. Like when the sun was slowly setting as the ocean waves brazed my feet and wind blew through my hair- something you see in a Disney movie before the princess sets off for her adventure. Or when I was sitting around a table with my family and everyone was crying from laughter. Nothing can top the truck rides, though. Oh, there's nothing like riding in the back of a truck. I could just see everything- the trees, the cars, the people, all these lives I will never know, just passing before me. The wind's blowing hard, the sun shining bright, and it just feels so right. Through everything I've been through, there I am. I survived. That right there is my small but infinite feeling of hope.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Those Who Walk Away

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is a story that is quite peculiar. Its tales describe a utopian world, with whatever you could ever wish for. However, there is a catch; for all this happiness, the misery of the world is put onto one thing- a child. While everyone knows the child exists, most believe that the child deserves to be in misery. Those who don't think this way leave the grand city of Omelas, and never come back.

The society described in this story is, as mentioned before, utopian. Everyone is happy, living near the ocean and in harmony. There are a few who go against their blissful ways, the ones who visit the child. Most of the visitors go back to their old ways, and forget all about the child. Nothing can ruin this utopian view, and everyone wants to exist in it.

The significance of the child is that it's what ruins, so to speak, the utopia that is Omelas. A utopia is an imagined society that possesses nearly perfect qualities, and the child is what makes it "nearly." This child is all the misery, distress, and pain of Omelas' inhabitants. It's what people choose to ignore, what they don't want to hear about. Instead, the citizens of Omelas think it deserves to be treated terribly. This sort of thinking makes Omelas seem more as a dystopia, because the child is isolated for their own justice. See, the child most likely represents the cost of justice, of what we think is right. As long as everyone else is happy, it seems fine to have the child in jail and filth. Much like in today's society, where we believe that as long as you have money, you'll be fine; more importantly, if you don't, that's your own fault. In the city of Omelas, it's as if the people want to think that the child deserves to be there, that it wants to be. This child is a symbol of morality- helping yourself before anyone else, even at the cost of others.

The ones who walk away are the ones who seek justice, but know they cannot achieve it. Although they know the child deserves to be free, they know most of the citizens in Omelas would agree. After all, if the child was freed, Omelas would no longer be perfect. The ones who walk away know that they cannot change the minds of the other citizens, and since they cannot bare to live there after seeing what they did, they leave. They cannot ignore the problem, nor help it, so the only thing they can do is escape.

In Omelas, most of the citizens believe that the child deserves to be punished, even though no clear reason is stated. The parallels between this society and our own are many, all of which have both sides to the argument. We could relate this to immigrants, how they are "criminals," when many come to escape death, poverty, and war in their own country. Not to mention, anyone who isn't indigenous descent is an immigrant in the U.S. because, you guess it, we weren't here first. Or this could be compared to women affected by sexual assault, and the idea that they "ask for it" when in reality, women should be able to wear and say what they want without living in fear that they'll get raped for it. Overall, there are many comparisons between Omelas and our society, but we refuse to see it, much like the citizens of Omelas.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To Exist Is To Resist

KimberlĂ© Crenshaw's TedTalk called "The Urgency of Intersectionality," discusses a problem that most people tend to ignore: race and gender bias. By themselves, they can receive a huge amount of attention. However, when they are combined, people don't give it enough awareness. She calls this phenomenon "intersectionality," a position where multiple forces attack an individual. Examples of these forces are sexism, racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia. Many times, women of color are attacked for their race and gender, yet it is not reported on social media or the news. She uses this platform to bring awareness about intersectionality, and how people standing up for it can help solve the problem.

While I was aware that women of color get hugely impacted by their race and gender, I never knew there was a word for it. Crenshaw's definition brings more clarification to this problem. Now more than ever, the world has brought to light the social injustices that occur, but we identify these predicaments by themselves. In some ways, we overlook the fact that people can associate with many of these injustices. The fact is, these injustices affect many people that we fail to recognize.

To me, it is incredibly important to value social justice. With all achievements that humans have accomplished, we have also done some immensely terrible deeds. We have persecuted, abused, and murdered people based on their race, gender, sexuality, religion, class, and so much more. However, with the new generations, it's become more difficult to continue doing this. I think this is the reason why more issues have been brought to light. People are noticing how terrible people are living, have lived, and want to do something to change it. If we didn't have social justice, there would be tons of genocides, persecutions, and possibly extinctions of certain cultures.

Some prevalent issues today are antisemitism/Islamophobia, sexism, and racism. Though we have made some change in the past, there is way more to go, especially with our new president. In the past few years, antisemitism and Islamophobia has hugely grown. People who are Islamic or Jewish have had their communities destroyed, been threatened, and have been accused of many violent acts. The persecution of Jews and Muslims has happened before, and we can't allow it to happen again. Sexism is also a vast issue right now. No matter where you are, you can see sexism playing out. We are so accustomed to sexism being a part of our lives that we teach it to our peers as if it's a lesson to be learned instead of a way of putting other genders down. This goes along with racism. Racial violence has occurred so much over the recent years, both to men and women of color. People refuse to see how wrong it is, and mistreat us as if we're animals instead of human beings. Laws have been made to prevent these religious/sexist/racist bias, but more action needs to be taken if we want to make equality happen.

Truthfully, all of these issues I take personally. I know people who have been the joke of antisemitism and Islamophobia. I, along with many friends, have dealt with sexism and racism. I've seen homophobia in its true form. I can't choose one when I and many people I am close to have been affected by mostly all. My culture itself is an example of all of this; I'm Salvadoran and while I love my country, I hate what has happened in it. It is not a vacation island where people can surf the waters and enjoy the food. No, it is disgustingly worse. Men are forced to join gangs or the corrupt police force. Women are raped, abused, and killed without anyone caring. Bodies of people from the LGBT community are constantly being found on street corners. Children and elders are murdered in cold blood. People are forced into prostitution or sex trafficking in order to survive. Over half the country is poor and starving, while the rich prosper in their homes, not caring about those who are suffering. The entire country is disease-ridden. My people are dying. So yes, all these issues I take personally. Social justice is crucial to me, because the culture I'm from desperately needs it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Birthmark," a short story by Miranda July, explains how a woman getting rid of something she hated ends up as something she misses and loves. When it comes back, she is terrified, but accepts it. Her husband, on the other hand, is in love with it and wants her to keep it.

The narrator regrets her decision to remove her "stain" because she realizes it's a part of her.
Without it, she isn't the same person. This mark represented her identity, with flaws and imperfections but entirely her. She wanted to hide it from others, but nobody minded it. It just made them notice others things once it was gone.When it reappears, her husband believe she'll finally want a child with him because she'll be able to act like herself and let him truly love her. It's a whole "no one can love you if you don't love yourself" sort of thing, which I believe to be false in many cases. However, it seems to be true in this character. The analysis of this story adds to an understanding of happiness because if you cannot love yourself, flaws and all, you can never be content with life. It'll feel like you're missing something.

The biggest theme is to love yourself even with your flaws. In today's society, with photoshop and filters, it's so easy for people to realize that we're all imperfect. We become self-conscious and wonder what people will say about us, when in reality, they don't really mind at all. Humans, both men and women, can be beautiful and flawed at the same time. The author develops this idea by adding on to the character's criticism of herself. At first, she hates her birthmark, but when it comes back, she begins to appreciate it as part of herself We see that her friends and close family don't judge her for it at all, and this enhances the reader's understanding of life and human nature. Humans and nature have flaws. They weren't made to be perfect, just to be adored and understood. If nature can be imperfect, so can living beings.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Healing

Eve Ensler in the Ted Talk, "Happiness in body and soul," establishes that searching for happiness won't be as productive as doing things that make you happy, or others happy for that matter. Ensler supports her assertion by talking about her work, The Vagina Monologues. She explains about how her journey of talking about vaginas led her to understand happiness better. Furthermore, she acknowledges that her vagina journey allowed her to meet courageous women who fought for liberation and the right for their lives. She justifies that meeting these women gave her a better understanding on how to be happy. Ensler states that the three qualities of happiness are seeing what it's in front of you, serving the world better, and knowing happiness exists in actions. She ends her talk by emphasizing that giving to the world, or just giving in general, can give you as much as happiness as you want. The author's purpose is to point out that actions can create opportunities for yourself and others to be happy, in order to promote the idea that people can help each other to stop injustices in the world.

In case you didn't know, Eve Ensler is extraordinary. She has brought awareness about rape and femininity across the entire world. She has helped thousands of people escape their violence-ridden homes and spouses, all while inspiring others to do the same. So when I saw she had published a Ted Talk about happiness, I knew I had to watch. While her talk doesn't sound similar to what Mill and McMahon said, all their points are the same: just live your life and you'll be happy. However, hers is slightly different because she emphasizes the need to help others. McMahon and Mill discuss how not trying to be happy will make you happy, but Ensler gets deeper. She illustrates how making others happy can make you happy as well. In a world where there's terrorism, violence, rape, and so much more, it's so important that the people help the people. As human beings on the same planet, we can't just stand by and watch as others suffer. Her elaborations on this topic is why I agree more with her than Mill or McMahon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reasons Why

Dan Gilbert in the Ted Talk, "The Surprising Science of Happiness," substantiates that people can make themselves happy without having to search for happiness. Gilbert supports his assertion by introducing data about how happiness registers in the mind when it's synthesized. Synthesized happiness is the ability for humans to make themselves happy in unlucky situations or limited conditions. He explains how synthesized happiness can make a person as happy, or even happier, than the regular person. Gilbert then debates why people can be happier with less options than having free will. With our psychological immune system, individuals can synthesize their happiness easily when there aren't that many options to take. Gilbert concludes by establishing that humans have the capacity to make their own happiness, with the help of limitations.

These findings are definitely eye-opening, to say the least. What can be taken away from this is the fact that the human drive for happiness seems completely unnecessary. Humans have been searching to make life better and happier, when it's actually been right within us. It's distressing to know that synthesized happiness isn't talked about as much because it isn't profitable. However, it's incredibly significant to know that people can make their own happiness because it'll help them in the future when they are down or stressed. It'll also help if some of their dreams or hopes aren't as great as they expected, since they can synthesize their happiness to move on. With synthesized happiness, people can actually be content with their lives.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

You Make Me Happy

I think that we're always searching for happiness. It's sort of our life goal; we're always looking for our true happiness. Of course, life isn't that easy, so our search can be rocky. Happiness itself is a touchy subject, what with our different opinions on what makes us happy. Yet, it's the biggest thing we have in common.

What is happy? According to google, it means "feeling or showing pleasure or contentment." But I don't want to be literal. When you talk about happiness, it has to be a bit more personal, so it can be understood. Happiness is a fleeting, innocent moment where you feel blissful and connected with what's happening at that time. Happiness isn't based off materialistic things, as many seem to think, but how you feel in that instant.

Picture yourself at a family dinner. You're gathered around the table with your loving family while eating a delicious meal. You're happy. Now, the question at stake is whether you're happy because of the food or your family. Honestly, the answer is both. See, whenever you're a certain feeling, such as sad or happy, it's because you are connected with that moment. You were sad when you were little because your parents yelled at you, and not necessarily because you didn't get the toy you wanted. You were excited about starting high school, not because you are moving to a new school, but of the curiosity of what is to come while you were there. We mistake happiness with the things around us instead of the entire environment.

I think that's the biggest fault that we as humans have. We get so caught up with the materialistic things that we end up lost once we're done chasing them. I mean, sure, the human race has advanced, but at what cost? Millions of people have died building the future we have now. People have been enslaved and exploited without a second thought just because we wanted some more crops or a new railroad. The earth is literally dying because we have dug into it and taken out all of its glorious insides. As disgusting as that sounds, it is what we have come to. I can't even count the many times people I know have been so obsessed with physical things when there's so much more happening around us. It really is sad to how we have gotten here.

But in the end, even with the earth draining and people dying, we all still want to be happy. There isn't a secret to finding happiness, and you can't buy it. We just have to embrace the periods of happiness that we get in our life and hope we get to spend it with the people we love as long as we can. Because the world is tough, and we will never be truly happy until we aren't here anymore. Being happy isn't some sort of game. You just do the things you love, hopefully not bad ones, and be connected with yourself and the world around you. It's so important to just be happy, because we don't how much time we'll be on this planet.

As for me, well, there's a lot of things that make me happy: my friends, my dog, those amazing pepperoni pretzels they sell at the mall. I just let myself breathe while I take in what's happening, and that's enough for me. It's amazing to feel connected to the world and just let everything happen. That's my happiness.