Growth, Idealism, Philosophy

Gandhi Nation

Graduate School makes this blog extremely difficult to keep up. Nonetheless, I will try to at least post a thought or two each week. Ya’ know, something to chew on to tide you over until I can start blogging with a bit more abandon.

With that said, I was listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast and the conversation he was having with his guest, a Canadian with a French sounding name Stefan Molyneux, gave me a thought…

There IS no Canada like FRENCH Canada. I've never had this, but I'm highly interested.

There IS no Canada like FRENCH Canada. I’ve never had this (Poutine), but I’m highly interested.

My blog is mostly about self-improvement, but with the angle that enough self-improved individuals can in fact get the world to change into a better place. I call it selfless-self-improvement. 😉 I’m just kidding!

But, in all seriousness.

Gandhi is often paraphrased as saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

[His actual words were: If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.]

Either way, it is an interesting statement, right? It’s the basic idea that fuels this blog.

Well, what if governments ran by those rules? Do they already and it just so happens that the change they want to see is selfish? But, even selfish intentions can benefit everyone. In order to thrive and prosper, the people living in the world must thrive and prosper as well. Economies only work when everyone contributes, not just a select few. So, I again postulate; what if governments applied the rule of inward change for outward progress to themselves?

Just think about it…

I know one thing, nations would be a LOT cuter if they became more Gandhi-esque

Just look at that punim!

Just look at that punim!

Much Love,

-Brandon Holly-

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Idealism, Life, peace corps, Philosophy

Losing A Whole Year

You (readers) are funny. I checked my blog stats and even though I haven’t really been updating, I still have quite a few visitors. I couldn’t figure out why. I proceeded to look at what search terms people were using to stumble upon my little piece of the interwebs. The winners are: “Lizard Poop” and “Danielle Fishel hot”

How embarrassing. Were people interested in my writing? No. Were people interested in what I meant by “change the world”? No. Were people interested in new ideas? No. Were they at least interested in The Peace Corps? No. The people want to see hot pictures of Topanga and gross pictures of Lizard Feces. Ridiculous.

I have lived in a developing nation for over a year now. Foreign development work is hard. There are cultural differences, difficulty motivating people, burnout, political obstacles, money issues, etc. However, these are not the highest hurdles a development worker must learn to jump.

One of the most difficult aspects of “the hardest job you’ll ever love”, is the crippling loneliness.

I don’t necessarily mean relational loneliness (not having family around and what not), though there is that as well. I mean, feeling isolated. You would think that being different wouldn’t be so hard for me. I mean, I grew up often being “The Black Guy” in the group. I’ve been into things that isolate me. I like obscure music and movies. I was one of the gifted students when I was younger. All of my relationships have been interracial. I could go on and on. The point is, standing out isn’t something new to me.

Me

Me (Photo courtesy of IronRodArt via Flickr)

But, apparently it is.

Don’t get me wrong. Almost everyone I interact with makes me feel welcomed. I have plenty of friends. It is a cliché, but yes, most everytime I’ve entered the house of a Filipino, they have been very hospitable. That’s not really the issue. The problem is in my mind.

Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. I hear other volunteers and foreigners complain about asinine issues. I often find that the biggest complaints about The Phillies are no different than complaints about any country.

Case in point – I was lying in my bed trying to take a nap one quiet Saturday afternoon, and suddenly I was audibly assaulted by the squeals and giggles of several teenaged girls. They think I don’t understand them. They were comparing my attractiveness to celebrities’ attractiveness. I am apparently just as attractive as someone from High School Musical, but Justin Bieber is cuter than I am. I was getting annoyed and I could have easily thought, “Teenaged Filipinas are boy crazy!” However, that’s not the case. I am equally annoyed by boy crazy teenaged American girls.

Lame

Really Ladies? This Guy? (Photo courtesy of BiebersPartyUSA via Flickr

It is my belief that most of the time our complaints about others are the same things we don’t like about ourselves. For instance, I often become annoyed at people who argue semantics, but I find myself doing that all of the time (Me: “Technically a killer whale is a dolphin” Friend: “But dolphins are whales” Me: “Yes, but this whale is in the family of dolphins” Friend: “But it’s still a-” Me: “Shut up!”). I often become annoyed at people who think their taste in music/movies/etc. is the end all. Yet, I find myself slightly elevated when someone finds a work of literature boring, when I found it stimulating.* I often become exasperated when people act overly demure. Yet, just compliment my blog and watch me become quite hypocritical. (Friend: “That was a nice blog post” Me: “Oh? You think I’m a decent writer? Me? Oh, maybe you’re reading someone else’s blog. Mine is drivel.”)**

In any case, even though life can be tough over here. I must reiterate, I have nothing to complain about. I suppose I always feel the most alone during “holidays”, you see, my birthday is this Sunday. I will turn 24 years old. I don’t attach anything to the number. I don’t feel old. Not even older. Yet, the passage of another year of my life always holds with it some form of fabricated significance.

I begin to ask myself questions. Am I the person I thought I would be? Is my life headed in the direction I want it to go? Do those questions even hold any weight?

I have been listening to an undergrad lecture series on iTunes U*** about literary theory by professor Paul H. Fry from Yale. He touches on New Criticism in his introduction. New Criticism finds the author’s opinions, goals, and motivations concerning his/her text to be no different than anyone else’s. New Criticism focuses on the text itself. Author intention is not to be worried about. I wonder how that applies to life.

If I am indeed the author of my own life as Natasha Bedingfield seems to believe “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten” she sings, then what does that mean? Is my life’s worth judged by the intentions behind my actions, or the actions themselves? Would Wimsatt and Beardsley scoff at my feeble attempts to justify my mistakes? Would they tell me to hush when I told them that; even though, I know my service isn’t always the most influential, there is a lot of heart behind it? When I look at my life and cry, “But at least I tried hard!” Will others see that statement as impertinent?

It’s ok. I know I’ll be surrounded by plenty of pre-20th century critics telling me that I did fine. Ha.

Another year went by, Brandon. Did you change the world yet?

What does that even mean? Change can be anything. Hitler changed the world. 9/11 changed the world. Slavery changed the world. Then again, America’s entry into WWII changed the world also. Then again, American cooperation in times of hardship changed the world. Then again, the abolishment of slavery changed the world. (This was very America-centric, wasn’t it?)

So, what does change mean for you, Brandon? Do you merely want to be influential? If that’s the case, then job done. Not because of anything you’ve specifically or personally done, but because everyone is influential in one way or another.

When I titled my blog, I wanted it to sound terribly idealistic. I wanted people to roll their eyes at me. I knew they would. However, that’s exactly what I expected. I am an idealist. And I believe real POSITIVE change is possible.

I suppose you could call me a modern day Kant. The change I want to see is Perpetual Peace. A type of peace in which everyone is autonomous and content in their autonomy. I haven’t read all of the literature Kant has written on the subject, but I do know that this is what I would like to see happen. I could care less if it happens through all nations becoming republics or through all nations becoming anarchies.****

Besides, I don’t only mean political peace. I mean personal, spiritual, communal peace. Maybe I’ll write another blog post on that.

Peace

Peace, Bro (Photo courtesy of nadiaknows via Flickr

When I say I want to “change the world” I don’t really mean something as lofty and abstract as that. I just mean, that I have a lot of dreams. I mean, that I am an idealist. I mean, that people are able to grow. I mean, that we can turn our backs on our backwards systems and our self-mutilation.

Well, when this Sunday rolls around, I will change from 23 to 24. Does it really mean anything? I don’t know, I DO know that I can no longer sing the words of Gangster’s Paradise honestly anymore.

“I’m 23 now, but will I live to see 24?”

I think I can survive 6 more days.

But…

Coolio

The Way Things Is Goin' I Don't Know.

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

*Because, you see, this means I am more intelligent than them.
**While inside I’m more like, “Oh yeah! Uh huh! I’m the best writer alive!”
***If you aren’t doing this, you are missing out.
****Though, I have a lot of reservations when it comes to the idea of Anarchy.

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peace corps, Philosophy

Theory and Action

A friend, in his blog, wrote about how Peace Corps. tells us upfront that this journey has a lot of peaks and valleys. He wrote that he used to think that it’s weird that anyone would feel down after being in a country for an entire year.

Well, next month I will be in this country for an entire year. And yeah, I am definitely in a valley. It’s partially because even though everyone says 2-years, it’s actually 27-Months. This means that after one year, you aren’t over that hill yet. You aren’t halfway finished. You just sort of feel like you should be. This last Christmas was a really depressing time for me. In fact, arguably, one of the worst times of my life. Nonetheless, “right now” is giving Christmas a run for it’s money.

Everything just keeps changing. I’m learning that it is impossible to keep all of those plates spinning with no problems. You know the plates. You spin them too. The plate named Finances. The plate named Work. The plate named Family. The plate named Health. The plate named Friends. And I could go on and on. It’s just that, eventually one’s going to wobble. And when one plate wobbles, they all tend to wobble. Hell, you might even drop one. It might not break, but it will at least be chipped; and you’ll have to put in a lot of time and effort to fix it.

Impressive.

We can't ALL be this guy.

I worry about who I am supposed to be. I think I know what a lot of people want me to be. I think I know how to make the people around me happy. But what if the person they need or just want me to be is directly opposed to the person I’d like to become? What if I’m wrong? What if the person I’m supposed to be is not what I imagine? Somtimes, I feel like the world doesn’t want me to try.

I understand. Trying is a huge risk. You could lose everything by trying. But you have to try, right? Won’t you feel like you never reached your full potential if you don’t try? Won’t you feel regret? Won’t that nagging, aching, feeling that you could’ve been so much more follow you until the day you die? I think it would.

One of my favorite stories is this. I think his life came to a sad end (he ended up committing suicide), but I still find his story inspiring.

There once was a guy named Larry Walters. He always wanted to fly. He made his dream a reality by tying a bunch of balloons to a lawn chair. He thought he’d level off at a height of about 30ft. However, he shot up into the air and reached 16,000ft!

Larry Walters

How's The Weather Up There?

He said, “It was something I had to do . . . if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm. I didn’t think that by fulfilling my goal in life — my dream — that I would create such a stir…”

When asked by a reporter why he did it, he simply answered, “A man can’t just sit around.” That is one of my favorite quotes.

This reminds me of a movie called Waking Life. I won’t get into the details of the movie*, but at one point a group of four young men look up to see a man on a telephone pole.

Waking Life Old Guy

All Action. No Theory.

A conversation begins: (I just call all of any of the four young men “A Young Man” it’s not just one saying all of the lines)

A Young Man: “Hey old man, what are you doing up there?”

Old Man: “Well, I’m not sure.”

A Young Man: “Do you need help getting down, sir?”

Old Man: “No, I don’t think so.”

A Young Man: “Stupid bastard.”

A Young Man: “No worse than us. He’s all action and no theory. We’re all theory and no action.”

I think I am both. I’m Larry Walters/The Flagpole Guy AND The Four Young Men. The young men talk and talk, but don’t actually do anything. Larry Walters and The Flagpole Guy end up doing things, but seemingly for no solid reasons. I feel like I often end up compartmentalizing these two conflicting parts of my personality. I feel like I often act and try to come up with theory later or theorize without taking action.

I believe that someday I can become theory and action. Anne Braden, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Che, Hellen Keller, Huey P. Newton, Abbie Hoffman, etc. I think that’s what separates them from the rest of us. Most of us are too much theory or too much action.

Barack and George

Theory vs. Action

**

Right now, I feel very depressed. I do. However, I try to remember my passions and motivations. I am optimistic. That doesn’t mean life doesn’t hurt sometimes.

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

*Ok, I will. Waking Life is a film about a guy who begins to realize that he has found himself trapped in a series of dreams he seems to be unable to wake up from. In his dreams, he listens to several theories and ideas from professors, artists, lunatics, and a myriad of other people. The film does not have one particular answer or viewpoint, but rather combines them all and kind of lets the viewer decide what to make of everything.

**I am not especially political at all. I’m just playing around.

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Idealism

We Can Be The Ones To Dream This Bright

I was thinking about who I am. I hope to never be able to answer that question. At least not completely. I believe that if I ever think I know who I am while still on planet earth, where every sense is merely an electrical impulse translated by the highly advanced CPU I carry around in my head, I have ceased to grow. My spirit has left and I am merely a shell. A hunk of flesh. Life is like water. Moveable, changeable, capricious, and ultimately beautiful because of these traits.

I suppose that is why I honestly believe that things can be different. That’s why I believe life here on planet earth need not be ruled by modern caste-systems.

There is something better than Capitalism; a system that encourages a certain disregard for your fellow man. There is something better than Socialism; a system that encourages a certain degree of laziness. There is something better than Race; a system that encourages a you and me mentality instead of a “we” mentality. There is something better than Organized Religion*; a system that encourages militancy and anger. There is something better than War. There is something better.

They say my generation is generally optimistic. I like that. So listen up, generation! “All my life I’ve been waiting for, I’ve been praying for for the people to say that, ‘we don’t wanna fight no more’ there’ll be no more wars and our children will play . . . one day” – Matisyahu

One step at a time. Whether the step is as small as a one dollar donation to a charity or as big as starting a grassroots movement. Whether the step is as small as holding a sign or as big as becoming a martyr** Whether the step is as small as a beer summit or as big as a million man march. Each step is significant.

One love, people.

Hope

Sorry about the hippie-ish post today. Just got inspired for some reason.

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

*Organized Religion does not mean I mean G-d or any form of spirituality should be disregarded. In fact, I encourage an embracing of these things, but not to the point of I am right and your are wrong. I have flippantly and seriously studied religions and they all seem to point to the same conclusions. A friend once told me that if there is absolute truth then there can only be one. There cannot be many. (In other words, only one religion can be right) However, I was falling asleep one night and thought of this. The answer to the problem 2+2 can be 4, four, IV, apat, cuatro, etc. The point of this is to illustrate that even though I am EXPRESSING the answer several different ways they are all true and correct.

**I AM IN NO WAY ENDORSING GETTING YOURSELF KILLED!!!

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peace corps

9.5 Months

It has been a long time. I have been very busy these past few weeks. I have been playing with children, teaching teachers, and lately I have been hanging out at one of the biggest tourist spots in The Phillies, Boracay. I have had a lot of fun and a little sleep and I am ready for the school year to start again.

I have been thinking a lot about my impact here. I suppose I always think about it, but I just want to write about it. I had a good conversation with a fellow peace corps volunteer about how real, solid, change happens. It happens slowly. It’s a process. No step, no matter how insignificant is pointless. One of the most damaging things you can say about anything that is a step in the right direction is, “oh it wasn’t enough” Because when change does happen, you will soon realize that it wasn’t enough, but it was pivotal. Like Bill Murray in What About Bob? We have to “baby step” to change.

On a different note. I am exhausted. I need to just sleep for 2 days straight. I am nervous about being at site. I have grown quite accustomed to having large groups of other Americans around. I have a site mate and everything, but living in close quarters with 20+ people that see you as “one of them” and have the same humor, culture, and values (more or less) is a really nice thing.

I guess all good things have to come to an end.

Speaking of things ending. It is amazing how fast this experience is flying by. Roughly 9.5 months have passed since I left Oklahoma for The Phillies. That’s crazy to me.

As I sit here in this Starbucks complete with flushing toilet, air conditioning, internet, and people who speak English as their 1st language; I can’t help, but feel guilty. This. Isn’t. Peace Corps. People call Peace Corps Philippines “posh corps”. I see why. But in less than 24 hours I will be back to my normal life of no air-conditioning, no shower, no solid internet, lots of insects, and so on.

I need to make my service worthwhile.

I don’t want any regrets.

They say life is calling.

I will be the one.

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

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peace corps

My Friend Bob

Warning: If you do not have a facebook account the videos won’t be accessible to you. For that, I am truly sorry. I offer you this. It hits at the heart of the matter, it just happens to have an internet focus.

I was inspired to make this blog post and pay the trike fare of some fellow human beings because . . .

I have a friend named Bob. He did this.

He was inspired to do that because . . .

He watched a video of guy doing this.

Now, what will you do?

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

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peace corps

Change Yourself First

Before I really get into this post I just wanted to point people into the direction of my links page. It’s up at the top near my home and about page. It has a lot of really interesting links and things I find inspirational. Anyway, just check ’em out if you’re feeling stagnant . . . or bored.

“When there’s nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire” – Stars

I confirmed my invitation, making my official status as a PCV even MORE official.

In other news . . .

I have been seriously contemplating the idea of changing things for the better. I make sure I always add “for the better” because just saying that I want to change things could mean anything. In any case, I learned that in Aikido (at least according to a lot of websites) there is a creed. That creed is, “Change yourself first, before looking to change your opponent, and in the process, you might find that your opponent has changed himself”

Thus, I am looking for little ways in which to change myself. My first step was to start exercising more. So far so good on that one. I have run at least 30 minutes 5 days out of the week. Not too bad, right?

My next step is to write everyday. Writing that has nothing to do with this blog. I will try to write in this everyday until I leave, but I also need to do some “extra-curricular” writing.

I hope this works!

Also, I have decided to give lucid dreaming a try. Am I dreaming? *clicks bedroom light on and off* No, I must be awake. I started this yesterday. I haven’t had one, but at least I am remembering my dreams. Which is a huge step for me!

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

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