On Belief

So, I have sort of addressed this topic before, but there is enough of a variance that I am comfortable making this post. Especially since this is not directly dealing with religion and faith; at least not in the popular opinion of what these concepts are and mean.

After conversing with a few friends, I realized something: I have particular beliefs about the supernatural. Bear with me for a moment. I basically question every form of organized religion, spirituality, and thought. Seriously. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Wicca, Buddhism, and practically every other form of a faith with history seems questionable to me. As in, I will do research and question the validity, function, and purpose of said dogma. If someone tries to sell me on sage or the “Secret” or some other new age bullshit, I will laugh and possibly turn violent.

However, for all my skepticism, if an old Hispanic woman were to go up to me and tell me que alguien me puso el ojo, I would follow her to her curanderia so she could ward off any evil she saw. No joke. I may have actually done that before. Okay, I have done that before. Repeatedly. Same thing for Indigenous/Native people. I don’t know if my own background/ethnicity influences that decision, but I genuinely believe that certain myths, stories, and practices/rituals of these people have actual power behind them.

The rational, scientific, inquisitive part of my brain knows that there really should not be any difference between the practices of Native/Indigenous people and modern new age beliefs (other than age, culture, and history). So why does one make me believe and the other scoff at perceived absurdity?

I have no answer to this. I am legitimately asking the Internet void what you all think. Are there any particular things you adhere to or believe in? Any you find odd, silly, or just a variant of superstition? If so, why do you think that might be?

Lessons From…UFC’s Top 5 Greatest Fights

Much like the appearance of my fascination with Star Wars and all things geeky/nerdy, I am not sure where or when my interest in mixed martial arts began. I used to watch cheesy “B-movie” quality kung fu and karate flicks when I was younger (and admittedly still do), but I knew, even then, that they were heavily produced and not real. Still didn’t stop from trying to emulate some of the more complicated techniques and scenes.

So while I am not clear as to how/why I began watching fighting sports, I have not been deterred by this confusion in seeking them out. I am particularly looking forward to the long awaited Pacquiao v Mayweather boxing match this weekend. Seriously, I will be glued to a screen watching that fight…possibly in Spanish. Because of this new found interest, I have been watching as much boxing and mma as I can find. This led to a spiral of several hours of UFC viewing, one program being the Top Five Greatest Fights

It was actually a pretty good rundown and made me want to see more. Now, obviously many people believe that boxing and mma are nothing more than two grown men, and now women, beating the crap out of each other for the amusement of the masses. They would argue that it is a barbaric, uncivilized sport that should be done away with. Frankly, I fully disagree with this notion and seeing the aired special only further demonstrates the absurdity of this false belief along with some lessons to take to heart. As always SPOILERS ahead.

One of the fighters may or may not end up looking like this after a fight...just saying.

One of the fighters may or may not end up looking like this after a fight…just saying.

The first fight on the list (aka #5) between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan Henderson demonstrates the true importance of going the distance and keeping on until the final bell. Seriously it sounds cliche, but it is still true. This fight was the first time in UFC history that a non title fight went for more than three rounds. They were going to fight for five full rounds, and they did. For the first three rounds, Rua takes one of the worst beatings a human can possibly take. He is a bloodied mess of cuts and hits to the face. Had the fight been the standard 3 rounds, Shogun would have basically been a footnote. Instead, he survives the onslaught and makes a formidable rally against Henderson. This fight was not for a belt or title; it was solely for pride. And that was enough to keep Rua going until the fight had its natural end. Sometimes knowing we were not knocked down is enough of a victory.

Those shorts were white when the fight started.

Those shorts were white when the fight started.

The next fight, Edgar vs Maynard (#4), shows that redemption can be a great motivator. Frankie Edgar had a stellar professional record. In fact he was undefeated, except for one loss to Gray Maynard. It was the blemish on his past. A constant reminder of the one misstep Edgar had taken in his storied career. I don’t know if you have ever met an athlete, or even just a competitive person, but they don’t bask in the glory of their victories. They remember and live in their losses, analyzing them for errors, and trying to figure out what they could have done differently to win. It is an inherent trait in people to want to change their mistakes. Most will never get the chance, but when it is offered, we pounce on the opportunity. Edgar was no different. He knew what was at stake and he left nothing to chance; bleeding and fighting his way to an incredible bout. It may have ended in a decision, but Edgar still earned his redemption; a fact further proven in their next match.

That actually looks painful.

That actually looks painful.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so for the final lesson let’s focus on the Mark Hunt vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (#2). These are two huge heavyweights who had never truly been tested or challenged before. They had simply been waiting for each other. A true and worthy opponent will test you beyond your limits, show what you are made of, and improve your performance and competitiveness overall. A true rival is the greatest gift you can be given. Cherish it. These two fighters forced each other to dig deep and take a fight further than either had. They beat and bloodied each other. They build to a beautiful crescendo of blows and strikes. And they were better for it. In one another, they found the truth of their abilities and potential. Their gratitude was apparent as they met and shook hands before the final round of their incredible match.

I assume their blows were like mini seismic shifts.

I assume their blows were like mini seismic shifts.

Fighting is a physical, painful, and at times deadly sport. However, these traits do not deny or devalue the beauty, honor, intelligence, and pure artistry of the sport and performances. There is a reason that martial arts have been passed down and practiced for generations. Beyond its physical benefits, there lies a plethora of lessons and morals to draw from.

Thus endeth today’s lessons. Also, go watch the entire special if you get the chance because it is worth the investment.

On Substances & Inspiration

Over the weekend, I watched the stellar film, Top Five. I had heard and read good things about the movie, and I have been a fan of Chris Rock for many years, so I decided to finally check out his latest project. Top Five is an incredibly simple but entertaining movie. There’s no big elements, action, or traditional deep dramatic moments. In fact, the whole movie basically revolves around a conversation between Andre Allen (Chris Rock’s character) and Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson’s character).

 

As you can see, their conversation is the movie. No big fuss or effects or forced narrative. The premise of the film is that Brown is interviewing Allen about his new upcoming serious movie. She continues to ask about his comedic past and why he no longer does “funny.” He tactfully avoids the question until in a moment of utter truth and desperation he finally reveals… (SPOILER!)

…that he no longer does comedy because he is afraid. Allen admits that whenever he performed in his past, he was under the influence of something. Alcohol, cocaine, weed, whatever his dealer and friends would provide he took. Because of this, Allen does not want to try be funny. Simply put, he believes that the drugs and alcohol and excess fueled his humor, and he is unsure of what he will be without them.

It is not a new premise. After all, history is riddled with the tales of excess and debauchery that some of the greatest artists ever known went through, and at times reveled in, to find their muse and talent. As someone who enjoys a bit of drink and recreational substance use, I am not really one to judge or make aspersions against anyone (without good reason).

That being said, I have never known anyone who was a better talent under the influence over performing sober. In reality, we just feel like we are better, funnier, wittier, more charming, more inspired, etc. when under the influence of our preferred drug. At best, it is a “safety blanket” of sorts to hold onto to give us a sense of courage and means of overcoming our insecurities and fears. Of course, this is a vastly different experience when addiction comes into play, but that is a whole another conversation.

To be fair, drugs are not the only method of inspiration or safety artist use, but it is among the more common ones; usually with dire eventual consequences. So, knowing their potential for harm, why do artists use them? What is it about substances that seem to call to creative types? Why do we feel that sense of inspiration and creative burst under the influence? Why do we fear that we will not be as good without our buffer and safety blankets? Better yet, how do we get over this soul crushing anxiety?

In the film, Allen eventually overcomes his fear by finally jumping up on stage again and biting the bullet. The thrill of being in front of the crowd and just doing and saying what comes naturally is his cure, his salvation, his life. I suppose that is the key. We just have to forget about whatever chains we place on ourselves and just do the thing that we are driven to do. Without the aid of drugs, if possible.

Lessons From…Mortal Kombat (Game Series. Not the sub-par movies)

I remember playing Mortal Kombat for the first time at my friend’s house across the street. Neither one of us had ever been big Sega, so we played the watered down Super Nintendo version. Even without the blood and violent finishing moves, it was still a spectacular experience playing through the tower of increasingly difficult opponents. While I have never been a die hard fighting game fanatic, Mortal Kombat holds a special place in my game roster, and I usually at least pay attention to any new developments the series tries.

This trip down memory lane in my mind was fueled by news, and videos, of the newest game in the franchise, Mortal Kombat X. As I recalled my experiences playing several iterations of the franchise, thoughts on what lessons the game had imparted flooded my mind. Of course, I had to write a post on what I recollected. As always SPOILERS ahead.

To be fair, if I am spoiling Mortal Kombat for you, it's your own damn fault at this point.

To be fair, if I am spoiling Mortal Kombat for you, it’s your own damn fault at this point.

Video games have been proven to have beneficial elements like increased concentration, increased emotional state, better hand eye coordination (though to be fair, if you do anything with your hands and eyes working in conjunction this would improve), etc. However, for me the potential of electronic entertainment as a means of instruction and education went beyond these simple measures and tests. One thing that Mortal Kombat taught me, and a lesson all should take to heart, is somethings should just be for the pursuit of fun. Personally, I have never been good at fighting games. At best, all I could manage is a series of superb button mashes that resulted in awesomeness on the screen. Of course, this never stopped me from having fun with the game. For all the randomness I employed, the experience of lounging with friends, talking trash, and trying to best one another was the true joy of Mortal Kombat. I don’t recall all the matches I played, but I remember the laughs and the thrill of mindlessly executing a cool maneuver.

This all looks like a giant mess that I could never purposely accomplish.

This all looks like a giant mess that I could never purposely accomplish.

As much fun as button mashing was, the best game play and matches occurred when the two best players would eventually go head to head. Seriously, randomness and talent will always lose out to skill and there is nothing more beautiful or elegant than seeing pure skill on display. I don’t remember the exact players, but I recall their chosen characters. It was always the ninjas: Sub-Zero versus Scorpion. When I played them. it was a flurry of flashes and random moves. But when they played them, it was poetry in motion. Each move flawlessly executed; only to be expertly blocked and countered. It was almost like watching a real fight between two hungry human fighters. Whatever the craft or art, there is perfection in seeing masters perform. If you are lucky enough to see it, treasure the experience.

It's always the ninjas.

It’s always the ninjas.

Obviously, there is far more to learn from this decades long series, but for now, I simply suggest that you go and play the game as soon and as long as you can.

Thus endeth today’s lessons.

On Attachments (To Stories)

So I have discussed my mixed criticisms and opinion of the HBO series Girls in the past. My overall perception has not changed much, but I was given a bit of insight as to the strong connection and advocacy that people have brought to the program.

While I was visiting friends in another state, the topic of the show Girls came up and two friends were discussing how much they liked the show while I was the dissident voice. What I found most odd was that whenever I made any criticism concerning the show, my friends would take it personally. They considered my critiques of the show to be critiques of their experience and lives.

Basically, their emotional attachment and defense of the show came from the program being one of the first, and only pieces of media, that they felt depicted their particular stories and pasts. Obviously, the show is not an exact depiction of their lives and experiences, but it was similar enough for them to make a connection. Thus, any criticism, even possibly valid ones, of the program were critiques of them.

I think this was the most powerful aspect of shows like Girls. The audience and fans don’t see a television program but a friend or a part of themselves, so, of course, they would go to bat for the show regardless of the criticisms. I have had such connections with media myself and will fight to the death defending them (still love you Firefly, The Cape, Carnivale, etc.). I suppose it is important to remember that when discussing even seemingly innocuous subjects like television.

What shows, songs, and/or books do you connect with and love? Which ones would you defend to the death against any ill words? I am curious to see what people like, so please answer below in the comments.

Lessons From…”Marvels” by Jason Chu

I have been reading comics since I was a kid. There was always something about them that caught my attention, even among the unending flood of available books from various libraries. As well, I have, more recently, been listening to randomly found artists on YouTube, Spotify, and other music finding sites. So, I took immediate notice when something found online married two of my favorite things:

Seriously, how great was that music video?! I have been playing it on repeat for the last few days. Naturally, I had to see if there were any bits of message that were worth further analysis. As always, SPOILERS ahead.

Yeah, I know there are no actual spoilers, but you knew this image was coming up.

Yeah, I know there are no actual spoilers, but you knew this image was coming up.

The song discusses the narrator’s (most likely Chu himself) relationship with comic books and the heroes he found within the colored pages. Comics have taken the place of myths and legends of the past. They are now the new means of instilling lessons and tales of grandeur that inspire generations to come. Basically, Comics are the new Greek myths. This is no more apparent than in the following lines: Just a boy, barely even into puberty/ these books gave me a vision of the super man I could be. Obviously, no one will obtain super powers from biological or chemical accidents, but these stories that a bunch of “nerds” obsess over are just as much a guide to life as the words and lessons found in any religious text.

They also tend to be more colorful.

They also tend to be more colorful.

Of course, these are still just stories which is just another fancy way to say lies. In a crisis, my defenders left me all alone/No power ring, ringing the bat phone/No SHIELD Agents, my whole world invaded/And heroes were nothing but pictures on paper. The second verse of rap tells the fall of the veil on the narrator’s eyes. He now sees that these comics and stories were false promises. That good guys don’t always win and that most of the world’s problems can’t be solved by a guy or girl in spandex and a cape. It is only after this realization that the narrator can truly become what he is meant to be. Sometimes, we need the dream and ideal image to pass our eyes, so that the truth can be seen. The perils and ideas of childhood must be left in childhood.

However, that does not mean that there are no gems of wisdom in the things of childhood. We tend to move past our pasts thinking that they have nothing to teach or give us. Yet, our pasts usually impart some of the best lessons of our lives. But I’ve learned: a hero isn’t about being super/We become heroes because of what makes us human. In the end, the lessons the narrator learns from his love of comics and their stories help him become who he is meant to be. Also, they impart the understanding that the core of the characters he loved was not found in their powers, but in their adherence to the ideas of service and sacrifice and humanity.

I mean his childhood obsession made for a pretty kick ass song.

I mean his childhood obsession made for a pretty kick ass song and video, so…

Ultimately, this song and video caught my attention for its overall message of hope and purpose and imagination and faith that But one small spark can light the whole night/So one small life can fight the good fight. And isn’t that the message and ideal of comics and stories in general?

Thus endeth today’s lessons.

On One’s Word

I was looking around for an image or quote that could embody the idea of keeping one’s word and the one above kept coming up under a search for “keeping one’s word.” I don’t know if that is more telling of society or my Google search abilities, but it is still rather surprising that the most popular quote on being honest and dutiful is basically saying not to do it. Really? What the fuck, humanity?

I began pondering on the idea of promises and oaths and how those directly relate to and influence a person’s perception in other’s eyes. Oddly enough, this thought process was started by contemplation over an action movie, John Wick, of which further ruminations can be found here. In the film, John Wick is known throughout the criminal world solely by his name. It draws awe and inspires fear and respect. His name alone moves empires. Of course, this reaction is the culmination of years of effort, work, and being true to his word and name. After all, our names are only as good as the association people have to them.

This all got me thinking on my name and word. Not my actual name, obviously, but more how others perceive my fidelity and name. Do people think I am trustworthy? Dependable? Honest? There are not many characteristics or traits that I am overly concerned about, but the idea of being a person of my word is most definitely one. I am not saying I am always perfect when trying to be honest or true, but I try my best. (Also, it should be noted that there is a vast difference between being honest and an asshole)

As much as I try to be honest and dutiful with others, I fail equally when dealing with myself. We all do some extent since we are our worst critics, judges, and liars. Seriously, I lie to myself more than any other person, and I am fairly certain I am not alone in this respect. Why do we do that? Why do we lie to ourselves so much about so many things? What is it about our nature that we choose to deceive ourselves concerning relationships, careers, and many aspects of our lives? At what point do we stop? I am actually asking because I would really love for my brain, soul, and body to get all on the same page and to stop being dickwads to me.

So what are your thoughts? Why do we lie to ourselves or to others? Can we stop? Or am I completely full of it?