Monday, October 5, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

Have you ever taken the road less traveled? I like to think I have. I like to think that I've been making my decisions based on that which will make my life fulfilled and being me satisfaction as well as do the same for others. However, I know this is not always the case.

The obvious reference my title makes is to Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken but I won't be referencing it any more than that. I think a more appropriate reference for this post is Emerson's Self-Reliance and Thoreau's Walden. Both of these works talk about the necessity to be free in one's thoughts and subsequent actions. Emerson incites his readers to become non-conformist. He says that conformity kills independent thought (it most certainly does). Take a look at a child. Do children care what society tells them? When was the last time a little girl cared about what people thought of her wearing a Snow White dress to the store? How many little boys pretend to be a Ninja Turtle or Spiderman while they are jumping off the garage roof? Kids don't care what other people think. Why do adults care? Conformity. We want to be accepted into society. Why not be a non-conformist? Why not become an art-history major with an emphasis on Victorian era portraiture? Why not think outside the box? I think we are afraid to think outside the box. I think we are afraid to swim upstream or even across the stream. Why don't we get out of the stream altogether?

By stifling independent thought we slowly kill our inner freedom. Why don't we have great thinkers today? Because "whoso would be a man would be a non-conformist". I.e. Whoever wants to be their own person must think outside the box of conformity. But conformity means comfort in today's society. And so we kill independent thought in ourselves and therefore our freedom of thought and expression. We also destroy our happiness.

In Walden Thoreau talks about how he is happy living a simple life. He lives in a cabin on a pond and only works 6 weeks a year in order to survive the whole year. The cabin has only enough in it to keep him alive and comfortable. His happiness is not in his material goods but in himself and in his freedom. If he needs to permanently leave his cabin he can do so because he has little attachment to it. He owes no money on it, it is not filled with priceless goods or high priced goods, and it is only a place that provides him shelter. It is not something that ties him down. It is also not a source of complexity in his life. He has very little in his "home" that requires upkeep and very little that requires his time. He is free to explore his own happiness. We, Americans in particular, are tied to our possessions. We are tied to our houses, our stuff, our jobs. Where has our freedom gone? We have conformed to a standard that is not of our choosing.

The road less traveled becomes the road never traveled and eventually not a road at all...

Friday, September 11, 2009


It's that time of year. My favorite athletes have had their cleats and pads on for a while now. The preseason is over and we (my team) won every game. Our bench is solid and we've got plenty of cash on hand to cover our expensive roster and then some. Our owner is filthy rich and extravagant. Our players are cocky but have earned it and if you have any of them on your fantasy team you are guaranteed points. Oh and we have the best fans and stadium in the world.

If you have picture of an NFL team in your head, perhaps the Dallas Cowboys, you'd be dead wrong. I just described for you, in ambiguous terms, Chelsea Football Club of the English Premiere League and the Champions League. They are one of the most storied and greatest sports clubs in the world. The past decade has been good for The Blues. They won Premier League titles in '05 and '06 and made it to the Champions League final, only to lose out to Manchester United (our most hated rival). Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool are together called "The Big four". These teams are or were the "best" teams in the English Premiere League. They are the powerhouses of the EPL and are often powerhouses in the Champions League as well.

Our owner is Roman Abromovich. He owns a cool boat. He's filthy sinking rich and will do what it takes to get good players to come to Chelsea FC (CFC). We fans are big fans of him.

CFC's pitch (stadium) is called Stamford Bridge and it is located in Fulham, West London. It's huge!

We also have some of the biggest names in Football. John Terry, Deco, Petr Czec, Drogba, Anelka, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, and Michael Ballack. Both Terry and Ballack are the captains of their national teams (England and Germany respectively).

So what who cares? I know, I know, this is America we play American Football NFL style. But that to me is boring. Think about this: In a typical NFL game there is a break in the action every 20 seconds. A play is executed and yards are gained or lost. Then everyone stops, groups up in a huddle to talk strategy, then lines up again to execute another play. Which takes longer? Executing the play or all the stuff in between? And don't get me started on commercials! In a Football (soccer) game there are two 45 minute halves and there is no stopping for strategy or commercials. It's all Football, all the time. Sure the halves may go over 45 minutes but usually only by at most 5 minutes. There is a 20 minute break between the halves where the commentators do their job and the commercials come at you en masse. The final half often has some more stoppage time as well. So the grand total for the game then comes to 120 minutes. When did the last NFL game you see end in 120 minutes (including commercials and half time)?

Football (soccer) gets a bad wrap for it's so called "lack of action". This is not true! How much action is in an NFL game? About 20 seconds at a pop. In Football the action goes all game but the game is nuanced. If you can handle a hockey game you can handle a Football game. Low scoring but high action. Lots of passing and lots of setting up. What a player does 40 yards from the ball makes a huge difference in the way the game plays out. There is blood in almost every game and often there are broken bones or noses. It's an action packed game you just have to learn where to look. Learning about the NFL took time. Take some time to learn about Football.

Here's the best part. ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Soccer Channel, and your local Fox sports affiliate (FSWisconsin, FSN, FS...) are carrying many of the UEFA Champions League, and Premier League games as well as the World Cup. So check it out. Learn a little. Have some patience and read into the nuance of the game. Why did your favorite NFL team choose a nickle D or run a slant route on that play? If you wonder about that or know the answer then you should pay attention to a good Football game. You might just fall in love.

Who's your famous CFC?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My take on Self-Reliance (with a little help from Emerson)

Self-reliance. What does it mean? What does it encompass? Self-reliance, to me, is more than just being able to provide for one's self. Self-Reliance is an ability to negotiate life without an intellectual or emotional dependence upon another person. Everyone has some modicum of reliance upon another person but their primary source of strength, power, determination, & et cetera must come from within. For example if one relies on their parents for support they will be disappointed because parents eventually pass away. Long before that day, reliance upon parents stifles important life lessons such as responsibility and maybe even integrity if the parents "take care" of their child's problems. If one relies on friends they will be let down. Friends come and go. That is the nature of humanity and life. People move, grow, start families, discover new hobbies and leave old hobbies behind. Some friends can be closer than your relatives. They will be able to lend you support but your self-reliance must come from within because they might not always be there. Another person people tend to rely on is their significant other be it a boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, partner, et cetera. This is also dangerous. People can become engrossed in their lives. They can become the center of our life. What happens when they are given that role? Their life becomes your life. You have now lost your sense of self and your self-reliance is weakened. Sure you can handle life but if that person was gone would you fall apart? I'm not talking about being able to do the laundry, sew a button, change the oil in the car, or fix a leaky faucet. If your significant other was gone would you be able to survive life? Are you able to navigate the happenings, milestones, or phenomena of life on your own?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay titled "Self-Reliance" and it begins with this quote: Ne te quaesiveris extra (Do not search outside yourself). It's an amazing essay and should be on your list of things to read and reread. Self-reliance is being able to handle and understand your life without someone dictating to you how to live. Direction and advice should be sought but ultimately it is within you to carry out that action or follow that direction. No one else can live life for you. Self-reliance, therefore, requires that one has the inner strength and fortitude to follow their path.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Art of Silence

Have you ever sat on a bus or train and been bombarded with noise? Of course you have. Whether it was riding the bus to school as a little tyke or riding the train on a daily commute to work, everyone has ridden on a noisy public transportation vehicle. Why all the noise? I have yet to ride anywhere on public transportation and have complete silence on the trip. There is always someone on a cell phone talking way too loud about their drunken escapades the previous night or weekend or there is a friendly businessman who feels the need to talk about sports or the news to the construction worker next to him. Then there is the high school or college student who has the latest and greatest ipod blaring some independent musician through a set of ear-buds while they text everyone the know about their weekend plans.

What is it about having our ear drums vibrated to no end? Why do some crave noise? I think we often create noise because we are afraid of being alone with our thoughts. This fear might arise from some dark secret that we are holding on to or it might be that we've never truly experienced our minds and we are afraid of what we might find. DON'T BE AFRAID! Sorry for yelling. I am of the opinion that great thinkers are all around us they just do not realize it yet. The next Shakespeare, Jung, Freud, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi, or St. Augustine could be sitting next to you on that train.

People are unaware of their inner thoughts. We like to be entertained, we like to be distracted. We do not want to have to think about and understand our lives or who we are. It it much easier to be distracted throughout our entire lives. It is hard to think about one's mistakes or one's shortcomings. It can even be painful. On the other hand it can be enlightening and productive to ponder one's strengths and abilities. When looking inward you can see what needs to be fixed and reflect on what you can do with your strengths and abilities. In order to look inward we need to be silent. We need to silence our crazy brains and the outside world and look inside. When we do that we might find that we have profound thoughts or that the thoughts we have been having are silly.
"In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness." - Gandhi
Sometimes just thinking about nothing is productive. Give your mind a rest. Sit in silence. Block out the world and its distractions. Find a quiet corner or a park and sit for 5 minutes and think about nothing. Sounds hard doesn't it? It can be. It takes practice to just let your mind rest. Try this: sit comfortably (in your car, in a chair, on the couch, on the floor, wherever) just don't sit somewhere you will fall asleep. Close your eyes and stare at a spot between your eyebrows about 8 inches out. Don't cross your eyes. Then take 3 deep breaths and think softly to yourself "in" "out". Just think about your breathing nothing else. Your mind will wander again but when it does just bring it back in and take 3 more breaths. Just notice how you feel, notice the movement of thoughts you have. Our brains are remarkable but also remarkably random. We have an enormous amount of thoughts in a day. Take 5 minutes to relax and breathe. Do that exercise when you feel stressed before a meeting or an exam. It will help calm you down.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A New Beginning

Hello and welcome to the NEW Yorick's Persiflage. For those of you that read the old YP this is NOTHING like it. My political blog has ceased to exist for almost a year now and I say good riddance to it. This new blog (with the name of my old blog) will be more true to its name. This shall be a blog about life; its subtlety, wit, humor, intrigue, moments of love and compassion, and of course the boring stuff too (after all can one really say they have lived a full life if they have not watched paint dry?).

If you think this is going to be a journal you are wrong. If you think it's going to be one man's rants you are also wrong. I plan on expounding on life as I see it. Rants only create disunity and ill feelings. I will not shy away from my beliefs but I won't go on a tirade about Michael Vick's poor treatment of dogs or about the latest bill being pushed through congress. Topics
will include everything from literature to food to beer to thoughts on society and humanity. Perhaps you might see a short story or a poem show up in these meager posts and if you're really lucky you might catch a recipe from my culinary adventures.