Monday, March 23, 2015

Deciphering the Darkness

I was thinking of moments from my past earlier today, moments that have frightened and confused me for a long time. Once, a person who I thought was my friend cornered me to a wall and stuck a knife to my neck, another time I was driving and a friend put their hands over my eyes and would not let go, and another time I was riding in the back seat of a car and my friend almost ran over someone and then started laughing and joking about it.

These moments in time were horrible, and it all boils down to people with no consideration for life making stupid choices. I would hope that anyone looking into their heart would realize that all of these choices were terrible decisions to make. Sticking a knife to someone's neck is traumatizing and in no way normal or okay. Covering a person's eyes who is driving could easily get everyone in the car killed. Also, neglecting to yield to a pedestrian, and then laughing about that person running out of the way for their life is completely insensitive beyond belief. In each of these situations afterwards I could never understand why they happened. Why do people do these things? These people I called my friends, why did they show such disregard for life?

In those single moments my perception of these people changed forever. All respect and trust of these people disappeared immediately. These people who I thought I knew, I realized I didn't know at all. My friendships with them gradually faded. I think subconsciously I knew I did not want people in my life who seemed to hate life so much.

Thinking about the past I know in my heart these people are not evil. Deep down they try to be good people. They just made extremely stupid decisions that make me angry just thinking about. Part of me feels sorry for them, for being so ignorant, but ignorance is not an excuse. I'm not sure there is an excuse for pretending to harm someone, risking harm on someone, or almost harming someone and not even caring.

So where do we go from here? I think it's important to realize that we cannot predict any of these things actually happening. Each one of these instances happened out of the blue, when my guard was down. They were moments when I was comfortable around a friend or friends, and we were laughing and having a good time. I know it's not feasible to constantly be on guard around friends in fear these things might happen in the future. Sure, it could protect us when these moments arise, but personally, a life of back-of-the-mind fear is not a life I want to live.

What I do know is to live a life full of life. I feel like this is the way to heal from dark, traumatic events. When we are afraid and untrusting of the world around us, one way to heal is to take a risk by going out into the world without fear. I definitely do not mean to put yourself in a dangerous situation. I mean simply to take some chances, do things you've never done, put yourself in situations you've never experienced because life has so much to offer, and we can't be afraid to experience that life. Of course you as an individual have to be ready, and that moment might not be now. What's important is to be open for that moment in the future. Be open to strange and new opportunities.

There is one other image I want to leave you with, a tree. When you are in your darkest moment and feeling lost, envision a strong tree with roots that go deep into the earth that keep it standing tall and sturdy. When you are feeling weak or unsteady, envision that tree inside you and allow it to grow as you envision yourself growing as a person. Life is about that growth, which allows us to become bigger and stronger versions of ourselves. Be like that big, strong tree, capable of withstanding almost anything.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Importance of Winter

It's been a harsh winter. Snowvember was devastating with folks getting over 6 feet of snow in a week. This is typically how much we get in snow in an entire year! We had record low temperatures. I heard people say it was the coldest February on record and the coldest winter since 1920. Compound this with the fact that the snow and ice hasn't had a chance to melt, so we really have had no break for the past 4 months, and it's really affecting people.

Even people who love the winter are saying how tired they are of the cold. Sure, the snow is pretty, and the ice is nice if you like outdoor ice skating, but the winter has also been dangerous. Many folks aren't shoveling their sidewalk so many pedestrians are forced to walk in the street. Who knows how many elderly have fallen and hurt themselves on the ice? I know of one wonderful woman who slipped on the ice, and has been out of work for months. It's a painful thing to experience, financially, physically, and even emotionally.

People are sick of winter. People are threatening to move to a warmer climate and I get that. During my last winter in Milwaukee, I slipped on ice 3 times. I was in chronic pain. I was miserable. I hated my job. It was stressful, and I was overworked and paid menially. I sometimes felt so bad I would physically throw up, a common symptom of stress. I decided after that winter I would pack my bags and move, and so I applied for grad school in San Francisco, and I was gone by the following August, happy that I would not have to face another brutal winter, happy for what the future held.

I loved San Francisco, and it was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life. I believe I changed more in those three years than any other part of my life. SF offered me so much, and I just soaked it all up like a sponge. I learned more about myself than I even knew was possible. It was the time of enlightenment.

Of course one of the niceties of San Francisco was the lack of winter. People in California didn't even know what seasons were. I made a polite observation to an acquaintance that San Francisco lacked seasons, and I remember his shocking assertion that the city did. I asked how so, and he said, "Well in the fall you see the autumn displays in the store windows. In the winter you see the holiday displays." My jaw dropped to the floor. Is this how Californians viewed seasons? Did they even know what autumn leaves or snowy fields were? I suppose not.

As my life took an exciting new turn, I found myself leaving San Francisco, a city I love so much, and settling in Buffalo. It was always fun seeing people's reactions when they found out I left San Francisco to come to Buffalo. Of course, in my mind, the sacrifice was worth it because I was able to move in with the love of my life.

Psychologically, I was prepared for Buffalo winter. I was used to winter in Wisconsin, so I was all set. People think Buffalo has horrible blizzards, but in actuality it's no worse than the winters I experienced in the Midwest. I actually love the snow, and find it extremely pretty, so it's not all a sacrifice. Winters went by, and I got through them. I got remarkably better at walking on ice. I learned to dress warm. Cover your face. Wear two pairs of gloves. I bought thick winter socks, Waterproof boots. I'm basically impervious to the cold. It's really about multiple layers. Wear 10 if you have to! :)

Still, I'm noticing winter's effect on others. People complaining. People miserable. Sad. Wanting to move. People depressed...I can feel it off people, something that I've learned in the past few years, the ability to feel other people's emotions. I want things to be better for these people. I know where they're coming from. I've been there. I lived it during that horrible last winter in Milwaukee. Look at me. I fled Wisconsin and moved to California, but by doing so I learned something about myself, which made me stronger and better able to face the cold climate.

I learned the importance of winter.

The most important aspect of winter is its magical ability to cause people to look inward. It's darker, it's colder, we stay inside longer, nights are longer, all of these things cause us to spend more time alone, and when you have time alone you are forced to look inside whether you want to or not. If what we see is good and pure and positive, we can withstand anything. If what we see is unhappiness, things we dislike about ourselves, blame, despair, dissatisfaction, that's when we're affected by winter depression.

I wouldn't be surprised if most people experience this to some degree. Some experience it a lot harsher than others. But instead of being depressed, I ask people to:

See the benefits of winter.

  1. By looking inward we can face the things we were afraid to look at before. We can identify the aspects of our lives we wish to change, and we can work to change them.
  2. Winter is a slower time of year for most people. You're inside more. You have more time to yourself. Use that time to do all the things you couldn't do during the summer. Plan your life. Invest time in fixing the things that need to be fixed, whether that's working towards improving your communication, improving your spiritual well-being, or improving your career. Use this time to reorganize your life.
  3. I say embrace winter. There are a lot of fun things to do in the winter depending on where you life. One of my most favorite things is to go to the Botanical Gardens because it's warm, the plants give you energy, and the oxygen levels help clear your mind. Skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing can also be fun outdoor exercises that can give you enjoyment and help work out your body.
  4. Recognize the external benefits. You may have noticed that crime is lower in the winter. This is probably because thugs don't really want to be outside any more than anyone else. It's also because heat tends to cause people to act crazy. When it's the hottest months, I've noticed that's when murders, rapes, and robberies occur the most. Be grateful for the winter months where we can feel safer.
  5. You can save more money. When it's winter we tend to go out a lot less because it can be brutal outside. This can lead to saving more money, which you can use to do any number of things you would like to do, singing lessons, dancing lessons, martial arts, travel, the possibilities are endless.
  6. Although small, but important nonetheless: apples. This probably sounds strange, but apples need the cold in order to produce delicious apples. This is why apples don't taste as good in warmer climates. If you're not an apple fan, it may be because you've never had a real autumn apple that grew in a cold climate. It's literally 1000x better than any other apple.
All of these things are important reminders of how we can truly benefit from winter. In a way, I even feel sorry for folks who don't experience cold winters because they don't get to reap these benefits as much. Sorry, Californians.

I think the best way to look at it is like the apple tree. There is something about the cold that causes the apple tree to thrive. It needs that break. It needs that hibernation period. Much the same way, we need that break. We need to take time alone to recoup, reorganize, and restructure our lives. Be grateful for that break. Utilize that break. Because if you do, you improve your life.

Winter isn't so bad if you are able to adjust to its nature. You can't do the same things you are used to in the summer. Where summer is very active and external, winter life is slower and more internal.

If you still can't see the benefits of winter, imagine the Native Americans. They lived in teepees and survived the same brutal winters we face today. Only they did it without electricity. It's pretty incredible, huh? The things we take for granted. Appreciate what life has to offer you, and use those things to transform your life for the better. This takes hard work and dedication, but the rewards last a lifetime. It's worth the effort.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Something has changed within me

So much has changed within me this past year that I think it's time to finally put that change into words.

I am 29 years old. I have a wonderful partner. I have two wonderful kitties. I have a great job. And I have a wonderful house. Because my life is so full it has allowed me to really focus on shaping myself.

One of the things I've learned this past year is how difficult I find myself sticking to a habit I want to develop in myself. There are so many things I want to do, but only so many hours to do them. That's why it's so important for me to plan my week of what I want to do. If I don't. I will procrastinate, put it off, and not achieve my goals.

Lately I have been spending my free time playing video games, watching TV, hanging out with Rahdne, or playing with the kitties. I probably spend 90% of my time doing those things, and I realize now that the video games and watching TV parts are preventing me from doing the things I really want to do.

What do I really want to do?

Exercise every day.
Learn Vietnamese.
Go on more adventures (learn more, explore more, discover more).
Read more books.

I also have professional goals:
Become a better decision-maker.
Learn how to be a better provider in bridging the gap of poverty.
Go to graduate school for Mental Health Counseling.

This list might seem small, but it will take a lot of time to achieve. Also, it took me a long time to even narrow down this list, because there are so many other things I would also like to do. However, I've learned that I need to focus on just a few things, or I'll bounce from one thing to another and not achieve anything.

Why do I have to achieve these things? I suppose I don't really, but it's just something I want to do. It's for me, but it's really not just for me. By being the person I want to be, I am better able to give the world all I can offer.

The most important thing I've decided was not to hold this off as a New Year's Resolution. Those never seem to last. These things are important for me, so I'm going to start doing them now. December is the new January. Who else is on board with me? :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Deciding your Job / Class in FFXIV

If you're anything like me, choosing a class in an MMO can be really difficult, especially if you work a lot and have very little time to try out every class. Here are some ways to help you decide.

Please leave comments and feedback with what you ended up deciding and why. :)
*small note just for simplicity sake I'm using the job names and not the class names.
Gladiator=Paladin, Marauder=Warrior, Thaumaturge=Black Mage, Arcanist=Summoner or Scholar, Rogue=Ninja, Pugilist=Monk, Lancer=Dragoon, Archer=Bard, and Conjurer=White Mage.

1) Picking a class based on your personality:
This one is pretty simple. What do you want to be really good at?
  • Staying alive, killing enemies, or healing your allies
If you want to be really good at staying alive, you really only have two options
  • Paladin or Warrior 
And choosing between the two is even easier because you need to level both anyway to gain each other's cross skills. If you really want to decide now though, choose Paladin if you want to use a sword and shield and choose Warrior if you want to use a greataxe. Both can tank equally well, so in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter.

If you want to be really good at killing things you have way more options: 
  • Black Mage, Summoner, Ninja, Monk, Dragoon, or Bard
Choosing from these options is harder because they can all kill things well, but they all have different battle mechanics. Ask yourself: How do you want to do your damage?
  • By magic?
    • Black Mage (big damage, big aoes, standing still a lot)
    • Summoner (lots of dots, pets, more movement)
  • Up close and personal?
    • Ninja (melee damage with elemental attacks)
    • Monk (melee damage with constant movement between rear and flank and juggling dots and self-buffs)
    • Dragoon (similar to Monk but less movement)
      • I'd say choose Monk if you prefer difficulty and choose Dragoon if you prefer less difficulty.
      • In actuality you'll level both to get each other's cross class abilities so you can see which you prefer by playing.
  • At range but not with magic?
    • Bard
If you want to heal your allies you have two options: 
  • White Mage or Scholar
Same as Paladin/Warrior, you need to level both to gain each other's cross abilities, so you can see which you prefer more. If you really want to decide now though, choose White Mage if you don't want to have to manage a pet, and choose Scholar if you do. Just so you know, your Scholar pet is a *Spoilers* fairy, so if you really hate fairies, I guess you would want White Mage. :) Another note, if you choose Scholar the game won't let you queue as a healer in dungeons until level 30. Oh well!

2) Picking a class based on usefulness
If you just want to choose the class that is the most useful, you most definitely want to choose a tank or healer class. Not that DPS is useless, but there are just too fricking many of them.

Since each Tank and Healer class can tank and heal equally well, it doesn't really matter which you choose. Each one has their own abilities they bring to the table, which is carefully balanced by the developers.

If you really want to be a jack of all trades, level one class of each role (Tank, DPS, and Healer). This is super time consuming, however, especially since you need to level cross classes also to maximize your potential. The plus of doing this however, is you always have a way of helping a friend. Also, by recognizing how each class works, it actually helps you with your main class. For example, knowing how important boss positioning can be for melee DPS will allow you to better position a boss as a tank.

I mapped out two setups that helps fulfill the one of each job role while requiring the least amount of grinding. Of course you don't have to follow these set ups, but these are just basic suggestions.

Option 1

  • Your Main Tank: Paladin Lvl 50
  • Your Main DPS: Black Mage Lvl 50
  • Your Main Healer: White Mage Lvl 50
  • Also level Scholar to Lvl 34, Bard to level 34, and Warrior to level 26 to gain your main classes cross skills.

Option 2

  • Your Main Tank: Warrior Lvl 50
  • Your Main DPS: Monk Lvl 50
  • Your Main Healer: Scholar Lvl 50
  • Also level Dragoon to Lvl 34, White Mage to Lvl 34, and Black Mage to Lvl 26.

3) Picking a class based on looks
Some may argue this is a more superficial reason to pick a class, but hey! Who am I to knock this one down? I'd say most people want a character that looks super cool in their eyes.

If you want to go this route, I recommending checking out the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn 'Job Actions Trailer'.

Another option is to look at the different jobs' Tier 1 armor and weapon and see if there is one that you're leaning towards more. You can see them in my Let's Play Final Fantasy XIV: A Ream Reborn. 001: Tails of the City video. You can skip ahead to 2:52.

4) Picking a class based on randomness
This might seem really strange to you, but it's a decision making tool I've used in the past that I've become more and more interested in. This is a really good option if you really can't decide. Maybe you're the type of person that has a really hard time deciding on something. You end up having 100 alts. You spend hours and hours simply designing how your character looks, and in the end, you're never completely satisfied with your character even though you spent hours deciding.

Here are a few options: Simply roll the dice with a random number generator. Not sure what race to choose? Roll 1-5 and assign each race to a different number. Not sure what class to choose initially? Roll 1-9 and assign each starter class to a different number.

The perks to this is you don't have to feel bad making the wrong decision because you can choose to simply accept what fate has bestowed upon you. Maybe fate decided you will be a Lalafell Archer. Instead of questioning this decision, simply accept it and just focus on being the best damn Lalafell Archer you can possibly be. :)

I also used this method for choosing the look of my main character, which you'll see in my videos. I just knew I wanted to be a Male Mi'qote, and I just closed my eyes, clicked random, and that's what I got. No more spending hours deciding. You can also get some fun, creative looks. I don't think I ever would have chosen a pink tattoo on my character's nose, but I've grown to quite like it. :)

I've also come up with a more interesting method in choosing a class based on the month you were born. In Final Fantasy XIV there are 12 main gods and goddesses, each relating to a different month. Each god and goddess has their own depiction, element, symbol, etc. that can lead you to a certain class. It works out really well, and if you're into this sort of thing you can really feel like your class belongs to you. It's like fate, but a more personal fate than simply rolling a number.

Here's a breakdown of the different months, their qualities, and the class it most leans towards. Find your month in the list and see what class you get.

January - Halone - A warrioress armed with a bronze greatshield. Paladin and Armorer. Paladins wield shields and Armorers can make them.

February - Menphina - A maid carrying a round skillet. Also goddess of the moon. Ninja and Culinarian. Ninja because they stalk around in the darkness and Culinarian because of the skillet.

March - Thaliak - A scholar holding an ashen staff. Scholar and Alchemist. Scholar because the god is a scholar and Alchemist because Thaliek is god of knowledge which comes from books, which Alchemists craft.

April - Nymeia - A weaver wearing a white silken veil. White Mage and Weaver. White Mage from the white veil, and weaver because Nymeia is a weaver.

May - Llymlaen - A fisherwoman yielding a long harpoon. Dragoon and Fisher. Dragoon because they can wield harpoons, and fisher because Llymlaen is a fisherwoman.

June - Oschon - A ranger holding a yew bow. Bard and Carpenter. Bard because they use bows and Carpenter because they can make them.

July - Byregot - An ardent smith with a two headed hammer. Monk and Miner. Monk because they do hand-to-hand combat and Byregot's symbol is a hand. Blacksmith because they use hammers and are also a smith.

August - Rhalgr - A magus carrying a bronze staff. Black Mage and Goldsmith. Black Mage because Rhalgr is god of destruction and Goldsmith because they can make mage staves.

September - Azeyma - A noble lady holding a golden fan. Paladin and Goldsmith. Paladin because they follow the Light and Azeyma is goddess of the sun. Goldsmith because of the golden fan.

October - Nald'thal - A merchant holding a balance. Black Mage and Goldsmith. Black Mage because their guild worships Nald'thal, god of the underworld. Goldsmith because it's the most tied to currency. This might later be Agent (if that is the mystery class in the next expansion). Agent because because currency reminds me of casinos and James Bond is an Agent who likes to hang out in casinos.

November - Nophica - A farmer holding a steel scythe. White Mage and Botany. White Mage because they control the earth and Nophica is goddess of the earth. Botany because they use scythes. *Once Dark Knights are released, I would say they fit more because Dark Knights can wield scythes in Final Fantasy XI.

December - Althyk - An emperor wielding a mythril greataxe. Warrior and Blacksmith. Warrior because they wield greataxes and Blacksmith because they can make them.

So yeah, whatever month you were born in, you can choose the corresponding class. It's not coincidental that I was born in August and I am playing a Black Mage and Goldsmith. If you really can't decide, why not decide by your birth month? If you do choose by your birth month, let me know how it turns out in the comments below. :) I'm curious how others feel about choosing based on your patron god or goddess.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Travel Behavior Change and New Social Justice Issues

I just participated in a super interesting webconference: Travel Behavior Change and New Social Justice Issues

Daniel Kaempff spoke on the history and change in Portland, OR. Portland like most US cities in the early 20th century, took down a lot of historic buildings, with amazing architecture, to place parking lots in its downtown corridor to help with the influx of suburban dwellers get to their large department stores. Such a shame, but Portland now, has recognized the importance of having a vibrant community based on walkability and biking.

Interestingly, Portland attempted positive change in a neighborhood, which received some backlash. Apparently, it was a neighborhood in North Portland that was historically black in the 1960s, about 65% of residents were black. 30% white. Currently those numbers are flipped. 65% white, and 30% black due to many African American residents being forced out of their own neighborhoods due to increasing property prices. So when this project came underway to help improve the neighborhood, it made sense that the African American community was a little peeved that this change was happening now. Why weren't there any efforts to better that community 30 years ago? It was a community that had been ignored by those outside the community for much too long, why is money being put in it now that it has become a much wealthier neighborhood?

So the lesson learned, is when projects of community development occur, one really has to look at the historical implications of this change. And not just look to the future moving forward, but being able to look at the past, and respect and recognize that past, while you're moving forward. So the project really had to open it's eyes, and get the community more involved, especially in the African American community. The product was a development that didn't just focus on better air quality, and better health for the community, etc. it also focused on equity, which is so very important for a healthy community.

The second presentations was by Emma R. Pachuta, who discussed a neighborhood program in St. Paul, Minnesota called Smart Trips. The program focused on the Frogtown neighborhood, which is predominantly a refugee/immigrant population. Their program did a marvelous thing right off the bat getting involved with the community to identify if they would be interested in the Smart Trips program, and what would be needed to implement it. What was discovered was the community didn't want this program to come to dictate to them. They wanted the program to come for the community to be involved.

Having affluent government types coming in to encourage bicycling, walking, and public transit wasn't going to work. Instead, they had youths from the Frogtown community become trained and carry out the program. Interestingly 30% of Frogtown is under the age of 21. That's huge! Think of the impact that was made by simply getting youths involved. The youths even designed the program's logo and designed the door hangers for marketing outreach. The youths went door to door knocking, they told their friends, they got the community involved. They also hosted 9 neighborhood block club parties, where there was food, demonstrations, transportation information, and free bike repair stations. It ended up being a real success. What better way to get your community excited about Transportation change than to be right there in the community throwing a block club party?

All in all, I really liked the presentations. They emphasized the importance of Equity and Community Involvement. Too many times programs such as these make minimal outreach to the community. Some even try to keep the community at arms length in the program planning process, which is kind of silly to think about because it doesn't really encourage trust, and it doesn't really give the community what they want. And who better that knows the community than the community itself?

So yeah, if you're into community outreach, I hope you some of what I wrote spoke to you. I know the presentations spoke to me. If you're not into community outreach, maybe think about it...How involved are you with your community? Do you care what happens to your community and why? If so, are you willing to take part in helping your community? Where do you want to see your community? And ask yourself what you can do to help.

There's lots of good stuff happening all over the country, but there's so much more that can be done. I think that we as a people are waking up. We've been asleep for way too long. We know there is a better future for us, and we just need to keep working hard to get there. :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Lesson from the I Ching: What is the most important lesson for the world right now?

These past few weeks have felt disconcerting for me. With the Boston Marathon bombing and the explosion in Waco, TX, the bombings in Iraq and the non-passing of a ban on assault rifles in the United States, I've been feeling disappointed in the year 2013. 2012 was a crazy year with the shootings in Aurora and Newtown, the presidential election, and the fear and craziness concerning the Mayan Apocalypse. Once 2013 hit, I was so relieved because I thought this would be the year we can finally leave all that turmoil behind us and start afresh. That does not seem to be the case at all though unfortunately.

So thinking about all this, I decided to ask the I Ching what is going on in the world right now. Specifically, I asked it What is the most important lesson for the world right now? In other words, what should we, the people of this planet, realize is going on so that we can help make it better in some way. It's a tough question, but the I Ching has never failed me in the past; it has always blessed me with truthful insight.
In case you don't know what the I Ching is an old Chinese book said to be written over 4000 years ago. Basically, it's like a book of fortunes. There are 64 hexagrams written in the book, each representing a different aspect of life and often symbolized by natural elements such as water or thunder. You start off by asking a question. I suppose you don't have to ask a question, but generally there is something you want to find out when you are turning towards the book. Next you either use coins or yarrow stalks to determine which of the 64 hexagrams is the answer to your question. If you're curious how that works, Wikipedia explains it pretty nicely. Once you have the Hexagram, you can look up the answer in the book, and then you simply read and interpret what it means and how it applies to your question.  
Anyway, what's remarkable about the I Ching is its uncanny ability to foretell events or provide insight to a present or past event. I believe the hexagrams that appear are not random because when I read the answer it gives you, it is always spot-on. As soon as I open the book and find out what it says, I just go, Wow! That makes so much sense. It's tough at first, when you are getting used to the book. It was written thousands of years ago, so the text can be hard to discern, but honestly, it can be very worth it, and I often turn to the I Ching when I feel lost and need guidance. It can illuminate an issue one feels unsure about, and this can save the person from a lot of headache in the long run, assuming they follow the books advice.
Hexagram 12

Anyway, sorry for the necessary sidetrack, but here's what I found. The answer I found was Hexagram 12, which looks like three solid lines on top and three broken lines on the bottom. It stands for Stagnation, which can be one of the worst things to be in. Life is about change, and things are supposed to be free-moving and given room for growth. When things are stagnant, it's like being trapped in a swamp.

From James Legge's translation of the I Ching, Hexagram 12 also represents a rift between two classes of people. I suppose one can see this in the solid strong lines being on the top, while the three broken lines are on the bottom. What this is supposed to represent, is the strong lines rise upwards, and the broken lines sink downward, signifying a rift between the two. I suppose it's somewhat like how the rich in the world appear to become richer and the poor tend to become poorer, and that could be one way of reading the hexagram.

What comes to my mind, however, is the huge division between people's beliefs on all sorts of issues from Gun Control to Gay Marriage. The I Ching is also saying the major cause to this division is due to a lack of understanding. It doesn't matter how strongly or logically one side can argue, no good can come from it. No matter how hard you can try to get the other to understand you, no change comes about because of this concept of 'stagnation': This resistance to change.

What's unfortunate of these circumstances is that something needs to be done. Things need to be changed. We can't just sit in this swamp for all of eternity; however, right now...the world is stuck in the swamp. To be honest, the I Ching is saying that change currently is not possible, which causes evil things to begin to come out of the swamp.
The next part of the I Ching reading consists of these small little excerpts that say things like "Six at the beginning" or "Nine at the fourth place." It all seems very confusing to those unfamiliar with the I Ching, but basically when you are throwing your coins or dividing your yarrow stalks, you get either a regular line or a changing line. So if the first line changes, you would read the portion of the text that says, "Six at the beginning," and so forth an so on.
Anyway, in my reading the first (bottom most), second, fourth, and sixth lines change.

The first line describes the image of pulling up grass, and how when you pull it up, you gather a clump because all the roots are connected. I believe what this is saying is when you're pulling out what is wrong in the world, you can't just pick at the pieces, you have to dig and pull up the whole root of the issue. Only then will what you are trying to get to come out, and in it all the other issues come out with it.

The second line describes how we should behave. In a nutshell, the I Ching is telling us to be patient and obedient, and to conduct ourselves in a way that promotes harmony. This is probably tough to want to do. Dealing with the world can be so frustrating, that it is tough to be patient. We want change now. However, like was said before, due to a lack of understanding between two classes of people, this sort of change is not easy. That is why we must not lose our cool. We must be patient, and by 'obedient' I take that to mean to trust in the Universe, and not lose hope. By simply doing what is right, by conducting ourselves in such a way that promotes harmony, we will see change occur, however slowly that may be.

The fourth line seems to mimic the second line. It tells us that the path we must follow is to harmonize with the Universe. It's telling us we should learn to accept the reality of the Universe. That is how we can find happiness. Instead of fighting with the world, we should simply do what is right, and by doing so we will gather friends, and they will share in our happiness.

The sixth line...Wow! This is truly something quite marvelous. It tells of and I quote, "the overthrow (and removal of) the condition of distress and obstruction. Before this there was that condition. Hereafter there will be joy." I don't know if the I Ching can say it any plainer. Provided stronger negative forces don't prevent what is natural from occurring  this year is going to see change be made. Almost like magic we will see the root of our suffering remove itself. Perhaps people will open their eyes and hear the Truth. Some sort of awakening will happen in the people. I have a feeling it has to do with the roots, going back to the first line because that's where it starts. Someone is going to pull up at the roots, which reminds me of grassroots campaigns, and it will be their actions that will plant the seeds of peace and progress, which will naturally take root and grow, but only because the world will try to promote peace and harmony. If we don't do that as a planet, the seeds won't grow. It still counts on us to do what is right, and treat others fairly, for change to occur.

What's interesting about the I Ching is that it not only tells us all of this, it gives a final intriguing glimpse into the future. Once we look at all the lines, we can see a new Hexagram. Simply by switching up the solid lines with broken lines, for the special lines in our reading first, second, fourth, and sixth we get the following Hexagram.

Hexagram 60

Hexagram 60 is the image of water in a lake, and represents the idea of limitation. How water and lake represent limitation seems somewhat strange, but I think the best illustration of this is to think of a glass of water. Water must take the form of whatever container it is in, and it is limited in growth to the size of that container. In other words, there is a limit to the water, and it is limited to the glass. So apply that image to that of a lake, and we receive limitation.

The I Ching is pointing this out, I believe because it's telling the lawmakers of the world that whatever change must be made, that the change be limited in its severity and difficulty. Regulations must be proper and in accordance with the needs of the people. If the regulations are too strict, they will not last. We want lasting change, so we must go far enough, but not so far that it passes the limits of what is necessary.

Applying this, think of gun safety laws. These laws that are created must be made because obviously something is not right with the current laws of today. However, the laws, in order to go into effect, they must not be so severe that they are overly regulating more than is necessary.

It seems this is more of a side note to our question, but it is still an important illustration of what should be thought upon as we are trying to make our world a better place. All in all, we can all agree that change must be won. Things have been stagnant for way too long, and we're feeling it, and thousands, if not millions are suffering from it. Most importantly however, we must always do what's right, and we must be patient for the time being. These things are more important than arguing with others and trying to change people's political persuasions. Simply do what is good and right for the world, and the change will come on its own accord. I suppose what else is necessary is for us to remain faithful that the Universe will take care of us, and things will change as long as we keep believing that change is possible.

Well, that's it for the night. All in all, I am pretty proud of my question. I think it's an important one to ask, and I like the I Ching's answer personally. Maybe because I'm the one who interpreted it, it makes much sense. Hopefully, however, some of you have something to gain from the reading. Perhaps my writing is one of the seeds that needed to be planted to effect change in the world. I'm not sure how many people read my blog. Not many I'd assume, but if at least a few of you out there read this and gained something for it, I feel satisfaction in that alone. The I Ching really is a blessing, and I'm glad for it. It's nice to know there is something reliable out there, that is wise and all knowing that can help us find our way to the light. There is so much truth in this one book, and I believe that's why so many people turn to it, and it has been passed on for so many thousands of years.

Anyway, I should call it a wrap. This is Xavier signing out. Adieu everybody. :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

I May Have Saved a Woman's Life

I may have helped take part in saving a woman's life. That seems like a very strange thing to say. How often is it that we save someone from Death? And to post about it immediately after for all my friends and social network buddies to see, is that bragging? Is it that I'm proud of potentially saving someone's life and I want the whole world to know how wonderful I am? No, that's not the case at all. I'm just amazed at what happened, stupified really, because it's hard to put the whole experience into words. I'm just so amazed by what just happened tonight that I have to share it with you all.

I suppose I should start with the story, but where to begin? I suppose I should start from where I left before the woman almost died.

I was leaving work. It was a little after 5. I usually hop on the bus to go home, but I wanted to stop by my partner's work to give him and his coworkers a pasticiotti. They are these amazing Italian pastries that you can get at a small restaurant on the corner of Delaware and Allen called Panaro's. Panaro's is a hidden gem in Buffalo. It's a place I know exists, I've been there plenty of times, but since it is hidden on the corner of Delaware, a street with almost no restaurants, I almost always forget that it exists. For some reason, I thought of it today. I think it was the pasticiotti. They are so delicious. I wanted to get one for my coworkers and one for my partner and his. Thinking about it now, it seems kind of fitting that such a wonderful restaurant could potentially be the start of saving this woman's life.

I could have hopped on the bus in front of our office. It would have been faster. Everything at the time was saying I should have. It's cold right now in Buffalo. It's January 14th and it's 29 degrees. 29 degrees is actually not that cold for January, but this last weekend it was 60 degrees, maybe thanks to global warming, so the 29 degrees of today seems a tad bit colder than usual. It's also flu season, so I should be staying out of the cold, but for some reason, I wanted to walk down Elmwood all the way home. My coworkers actually thought I was crazy when I told them I was walking. It's a 3 mile walk home, and in the cold it could feel like 6, but something was telling me to walk, and so I did.

I walked down Allen over to Elmwood, and I was going to follow Elmwood all the way down to where I would cut over to my house on Hoyt. Secretly, however, I was going to hop on a bus the first chance I got if one ever did head my way down Elmwood. I knew, a bus would come, because I made this trip before after work, and one usually comes when I'm almost there. So I'm walking, and I'm peaking behind me from time to time. Then finally, one actually did come, but it snuck up behind me. You know, where you pass a bus stop and you look and see nothing, so you cross the street and keep on going. Then suddenly you look again, and a bus comes passing you by. That's what happened, and I could have waved at the bus driver to stop, and he would have because the bus drivers in Buffalo are hella nice. I'm not even kidding. In San Francisco, if you wave at a bus driver to stop, they'll either laugh at you and keep on going, or just shake their head no and think you're crazy. This is totally going by my experience, and maybe you are a bus driver in San Francisco and you're really nice and stop if you see someone in need, but the 3 years I was there, this was not the case that I've seen.

So, living in San Francisco and seeing bus drivers flying by without stopping even though it is obvious you are running and waving for them to stop, I simply learned to stop trying to hail them down. It's the compounding effect of negative reinforcement, so when that bus did come by, I didn't wave. What I did do, however, is run, and luckily when it comes to chasing after public transportation, I am a fast runner. I suppose it comes from being perpetually in the state of lateness, that I'm used to having to make up for lost time. Luckily the bus stopped at a red light, giving me time to run the length of the entire block, and a long block mind you, and of course the bus driver saw me running so he decided to wait the 5 seconds for me. This may seem like a common courtesy for you, but for a bus driver to wait 5 seconds for you in San Francisco, it's like coming across a saint.

I got on the bus, and swiped my card. I thanked the bus driver profusely because I do not take for granted how nice they are in Buffalo. Although his reaction to me was not what I expected. He was perplexed why I didn't wave him down when I saw him coming to begin with. He wanted to know why I ran that entire block. I had to only smile and keep walking because I didn't know how to explain the dozens and dozens of times bus drivers gave me dirty looks for expecting them to stop mid-block for me, and that's where it may have begun, even though I didn't know it at the time. That may have been the 5 seconds it took to save a woman's life.

Due to where I was when I got on the bus, I only had to go 3 more blocks. I actually felt kind of bad at the time, making him wait for me as I ran when I only had to go 3 blocks further, so when he pulled up to my stop, I quickly slunk away to be the first to get off. I was actually that embarrassed, and then I paused to the side of the bus to take a breath and come out of my embarrassment. That's when I noticed a man running towards the bus. He needed to get on too, and he was racing to catch it. I noticed another woman notice him too, and so she and I paused to the side of the bus as he got on, and that was when the light turned red.

When a light turns red, that's when you cross. Nobody in Buffalo waits for the cross walk man to turn green because they don't work half the time, so you'd think she would have just stepped into the road. However, due to whatever collaboration of events, she didn't step into the road as the light turned red. It was a good second after the light turned red, that she did, and as soon as she stepped into the road in front of the bus, the two of us suddenly heard a car whiz right past the bus at 40 miles per hour.

When a bus is up to the crosswalk, you can't see behind it. That's why so many people get hit by cars as they're getting off a bus. With a red light, one would think no one would whip past a bus, but then again this is Buffalo, and I'm sorry to say, but the drivers in this town are terrible. They really are. We had about a dozen pedestrians who were struck and killed by cars last year, and you know what the really tragic thing is? None of those killers ended up in jail even the ones who were drunk. I don't know if you heard of the doctor who struck and killed a girl while he was driving home drunk. Yeah, he was acquitted, and yeah, that happened in Buffalo.

So, seriously, everyday, every single day, I see cars blow through red lights time and time again. It's almost like clockwork. I see a red light, and of course one or two cars go through it. So it's possible the woman would have stopped at the bus, and peeked around the corner to make sure a person wasn't going through a red light. However, it was the end of a day on a Monday, and Monday's are always the most tiring of days, so it's possible that she wouldn't have thought to do that. She was seconds away from being in front of that car going 40 miles per hour. She would have died, and you know what she did? She peeked around the bus to make sure a second car was coming, and then she saw me peeking too and she laughed, and then she commented to me that she was thankful she didn't get hit. And then I laughed, and quickly blurted out, "Yeah, you would have been dead," and I said so in a joking mood, but that's when I killed the laughter because her smile dropped immediately, and just as immediately I realized what I said wasn't funny at all, and neither was the situation, so I quickly tried to save myself by expressing a sense of gravity. "But that's not funny at all," I said. Then she looked at me with a sense of a deeply rooted connection, like two people who have been brought together due to a crisis and only the two of them can understand each other. "No, it's not," she said, and she turned and walked away as the grave sense of mortality slowly seeped in.

I thought about that moment as I walked towards the credit union where my partner works. I actually felt kind of bad for bringing up how she would have died. It seemed kind of insensitive of me, but then I thought that I was just saying the truth. She would have died. That car was going so fast, it would have been a miracle if she survived. It was hard for me to shake that feeling out of me, but I went into my partner's work to deliver their paniciotti. They liked it, which made me glad.

When I made my way home, I started to think again about what happened. It dawned on me then that she was only seconds from death. 2, 3, 4, maybe 5 seconds from being in front of that car. The bus waited 5 seconds for me, but then it could have been that guy getting on the bus at the stop. She and I must have waited at least a second or two for him, and she was only 2 seconds from getting hit. I don't know if I had anything to do with her not dying, but I couldn't help think that it might have been. Had I not decided to walk home tonight, what would have happened? Would she have been hit by a man going through a red light. Most definitely he would not have gone to jail. What happened instead was she was saved, and she even got to laugh about it. It's amazing. I wonder if she's still thinking about it now. I wonder if she's thinking about what it was that saved her.

Maybe she would have looked. Maybe it wasn't me making the bus wait that saved her at all, and that guy running towards the bus would have stopped her, but then again, maybe it was me and had I not delayed the bus 5 seconds, she would have been in front of that reckless driver when the light turned red. I don't know, but it really is an incredible story, and I can't help but see how important each and every decision of our lives are. Every decision we make puts into effect a whole new chain of events. It's just we don't have an inkling of where those chain of events may lead. It's only moments like that moment in front of the bus that we catch a glimpse of possible multiple events occurring at the same time, different dimensions of possibilities stacked on top of each other. What if this happened? What if I had done this? I can only stop and be in awe at how it all comes together. Everything happens for a reason, and when you follow your heart, good things come from it, like when it's telling you to walk home despite all other things telling you otherwise. You just gotta do it. You gotta follow your heart and trust in the Universe that it's all leading to some place good. There's no other way around it. Follow your heart and good things will come.