On Legacy

Why do we fear death? Or is it something else we truly fear: being forgotten and left behind? To be honest, I am okay with death. Hell, it’s inevitable. We all die, so why fear that certainty. No, my fear, and I suspect many others’, is being a blip in the grand play of humanity. Not even a footnote, just nothing.

For most people, their family and children will be the way their name continues in some form. For others, it will be their business ties or something else involving their work. That is fine. It’s expected.

But I guess I am just a little bit selfish. I want more than that. I want my name to last past my life, past my children’s lives, past several generations. I want to still be remembered long after my progeny is dead.

I just have to figure out how to do it. And if it is worth the effort. I hope so because gods know that I will sacrifice a lot to get there.

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Lessons From…Satoru Iwata

If you have not heard, Satoru Iwata, the current President and CEO of Nintendo Corp., died on July 11, 2015 in Kyoto, Japan due to medical complications from a tumor in his bile duct. The next day, word spread of the tragic loss and gamers and game enthusiasts the world over mourned the loss to the industry and the spirit of Iwata and what he represented, not only for Nintendo, but for the entire games industry.

For all the criticisms and complaints lauded at Nintendo over the last few years, it is still an influential force in video games and without the company, it is very likely that the industry would not be the powerhouse of entertainment that it is. While he may not have been there since its inception, Iwata was the man in charge for the last 15 years and responsible for Nintendo’s direction, both good and bad.

He understood this and never faltered under the pressure or attention his actions and decisions would receive. He was an anomaly as far as the concept of CEO’s goes, at least in the U.S. When his company’s projections were low, he took a massive pay cut instead of letting hundreds of employees go. He kept developing and programming even after he became the CEO of Nintendo. And he was always engaging with the fans and audience because he still, after rising so high and so many years, saw himself as simply a gamer.

There is much to learn from this man’s incredible life and mind and it is probably best left up to him to impart his knowledge. So, in this case, I’ll leave you with a collection of this man’s wisdom. And a short tribute:

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…The Last (by Childish Gambino)

So, to be fair, I have posted before about a song from Childish Gambino, but I seem to gravitate toward his music. Maybe it has something to do with my admiration of his multiple talents (comedian, actor, rapper, songwriter, etc.) or how I relate to anyone else who happens to be an awkward, nerdy, POC with seemingly predominantly white friends and colleagues. I honestly don’t know, yet here we find ourselves once more.

Here is the song that has been playing on my computer/iTunes/iPod for the last few days and got me thinking way too much about non-school work related stuff.

Really you should listen to whole song, repeatedly, but what has had particular effect on myself has been the last line:

“I’m here for a good, not a long, time”

Considering this is a rap song, most would probably think this refers to simply living a life of luxury, ease, and excess. However, with the lyrics of the rest of the song, you realize it actually deals more with creating a legacy and presence and how such focus, desire, and work tends to end lives early with not many of the standard items of a typical, “fulfilled” life.

It’s the classic choice between quantity or quality, greatness or simplicity, a raging fire or a long burning candle. Do you want to leave a mark in the world and history if only for a moment or would you prefer a comfortable life filled with friends, family, children, and, hopefully, the standard comforts of modern life? Is there an option where both are obtainable or will there always be a divide among the two?

I think how you answer these questions says more about your personal views of artistry and a creative life than the possibility of a singular, true answer. Either way whether you choose the good time, the long time, or attempt some amalgamation of both, it is simply the first step, and it is up to you to still make the most of it. Perhaps, that is the true key of my fascination and admiration of Childish Gambino because he is certainly an individual working his ass off and trying to make the most of his time alive regardless if it is good, long, or both.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…Vikings (“Born Again”)

To be fair, I have written on the incredible show, Vikings, before. You can read that pretty good post, (no humblebrag) here. While I have discussed the program in the past, I recently saw a new episode that demanded further analysis. Besides, if only a few lessons can be mined from a story at a specific time, it probably was not a good one to begin with. So, I will be analyzing the most recent episode of Vikings, “Born Again”, for possible lessons to be learned. As always SPOILERS ahead.

I know most of you are probably tired of this joke by now, but it still speaks to me for some reason.

I know most of you are probably tired of this joke by now, but it still speaks to me for some reason.

This episode revolves around the concept of faith through the actions and divergent ideologies of various characters, specifically King Ecbert, Floki, and Athelstan with some involvement on Ragnar’s part. (If these names sound like gibberish, go see the show or click the link provided earlier. Seriously though, this is a great program that deserves your viewership). While Floki and Athelstan are having internal struggles over their own faith and desire to please the gods, Ecbert is more concerned with how faith can be used to appease and manipulate the masses which is the first exploration/lesson of the episode: Faith is a powerful tool.

Though not as big a tool as this dude.

Though not as big a tool as this dude.

Ecbert is establishing his legacy and reign over Wessex and, he hopes, all of England. However, he is not simply some power hungry idiot. Ecbert knows that his throne and success depends upon the people he rules over. He needs them to unequivocally follow him and his plans, whatever they may be. So he manipulates those around him, particularly Athelstan and Judith, his son’s wife. He pushes these two individuals to act upon their mutual attraction resulting in a pregnancy. Once this affair, and the resulting child, are found out, Ecbert makes a big show of how it is an act of divine intervention since Athelstan faith and religious devotion is above question. Accordingly, his child must be blessed by God (for some reason) and thus Ecbert’s family, reign, and legacy are intrinsically tied to God’s divine plane. At least, that is what he convinces his subjects of as they all praise the birth of the child and Ecbert’s mercy in his treatment of Judith. It is never really established if Ecbert is a man of faith or religion, but the audience is fully aware of his ambition and drive to achieve his goals regardless of the consequences or methods (much like Ragnar’s own amibitions). He sees faith, and the fervor it creates, as a means to an end and little more unlike Athelstan or Floki.

Athelstan and Floki are at odds because of their differing faiths. Athelstan is a Christian at his core and Floki is a devoted follower of the Norse gods. Furthermore, Floki sees the rise of the Christian god as the inevitable downfall of his own gods. He cannot allow this to happen, yet he knows that Athelstan is loved by Ragnar who is seemingly favored by the gods. If this is so, how can Floki act against Athelstan. He cannot. At best he sows discontent among the Vikings. That is until he is given a sign, or at least something he interprets as a sign.

Granted this guy is not operating with a full set of of marbles to begin with.

Granted this guy is not operating with a full set of of marbles to begin with.

Blood pours out of a statue Floki is building and he recognizes this as the message he has been waiting for. He immediately leaves his home to go kill Athelstan as he believes this is his duty in service to his gods. Which brings us to the next lesson/examination on faith: True faith is spurred by devotion. This is not an excuse for the horrible atrocities done throughout history in the name of religion but more for the fervor and intensity that has helped religion and ideologies spread. Floki’s actions are not done out of spite or malice (at least not entirely). He genuinely believes that his deeds are in the service of his gods and faith. He even treats Athelstan’s body with a sense of reverence and purpose.

Floki, however, is not alone in this scenario as Athelstan is a willing sacrifice for Floki’s axe. At this point in the series, Athelstan has finally chosen a path for himself. Before this episode, he was still having an internal struggle over faith; whether he was a Christian or a follower of his adopted family/home’s gods. Here, Athelstan is newly devoted after having had a personal religious experience. There no longer exists any doubt in the man and he understands the consequences of such a choice. Athelstan’s end comes at Floki’s hand, but he is willing to go peacefully because he is finally at peace.

Ironically, he somehow has the "Jesus" abs which I find annoying.

Ironically, he somehow has the “Jesus” abs which I find annoying.

This is the last lesson from the episode: Faith can provide a sense of self and peace. Again, not intended to excuse the several negative instances of religion and faith being misused. However, for many people faith gives them hope, presence, and peace of mind. There is a great scene in the show Scrubs that relates such an idea or message. (Also another great show to watch when you have the chance). Athelstan was unsure of who he was or what he was meant to do until he found his core which for him was in his faith. Obviously, for others faith will be replaced with some other idea, force, object, or passion, but the same principle holds. You need something to hold onto and believe in to gain a modicum of true peace.

Thus endeth today’s lessons.

On Intelligence

So after seeing Chappie and Big Hero 6, nearly back to back, this past weekend, I immediately started thinking about the possibility of artificial intelligence and the consequences of creating a true A.I. Obviously, I am not a computer engineer/scientist, so my understanding is limited to a basic understanding. Thus, I am not fully aware of all the limitations that the development of artificial intelligence currently has. However, considering the progression of humanity and our willingness to continue to seek answers and solutions, I believe that we will eventually achieve the capability to create some form of artificial intelligence, assuming there is not some natural obstacle that impedes the capability of such creation.

I wonder though what the ramifications of our desire to create intelligent life will be. Honestly, by all accounts if we were to somehow create a machine capable of individual thought and progression, it would be smarter than its creators within days. Not to mention that a machine could function without the limits that a human brain has. What would such a creation be? Would it be alive? What rights would it have once it has achieved sentience? What rights or responsibilities do we as humans have concerning this new form of intelligent life? At that point, do we as humans become obsolete? I mean in theory as long as it has power (most likely in the form of electricity or some other fuel source) this machine life would be immortal.

Furthermore, could we integrate this type of immortality into ourselves? As in, could we achieve immortality through the use of machines? We would no longer have biological bodies, but our minds and consciousness would transfer to a robotic body of sorts. We would still be us; just no longer squishy or flesh. What would this ability to transfer conscious from one body to another do to our concepts of life and death?

I don’t have the answers to these philosophical queries but am interested in the conversations revolving around them. What do you all think? What will the creation of artificial intelligence do to society/humanity?

On Mortality

Two things happened this past week that made me consider the rather morbid topics of death and mortality. First, Monty Oum sadly passed away. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but I admired his work and was immensely entertained by his creative efforts. The most recent was his work on RoosterTeeth, specifically his RWBY series. However, his talent, drive, and work ethic were apparent from even his earliest works like Haloid.

It is sad and tragic when a life is ended before it should, especially so young. I know the worth of a person should not be measured as life is precious in and of itself, but I genuinely believe that a life is more fulfilled and greater the more impact and connections it had. Thus, if a life is considered worthy depending on the number of people it impacted and affected then Monty will leave a vast void in this world. Considering the responses and post on social media and within the RoosterTeeth community, I know he will be sorely missed.

The second thing was I went to a doctor for the first time in several years. Nothing serious. Simply a check up since I now have insurance (one of the few benefits I appreciate from my job) and can actually afford to visit a medical professional without going bankrupt. Anyhow I had all the routine test and then went for blood work afterwards. Again, not sure what the tests will be, but so far the doctor has not told me anything I was not aware of. Mainly she focused on my weight which admittedly I could stand to lose a few pounds but funny enough there was no indication of poor health during her initial tests other than I am overweight. Weird how that may be.

Wish this had been my doctor's office!

Wish this had been my doctor’s office!

Still hearing a medical professional tell me the vast health problems I should or will have kind of tends to scare a person a bit (even so had perfect blood pressure). As she continued to drab on, I began to think of dying. Seriously, I think I might have a symptomatic thing where when people start talking about physical illness or disease I begin to feel uneasy and hyper aware of my own body. Same thing happens when people talk about blood. I can look at blood all day with no reaction, but the discussion of it makes me uneasy for some weird reason.

Anyhow, I began to think about death and mortality because eventually we are all going to die. It is the natural order of things currently even though most wish to avoid it. Honestly, I truly believe that life is only worth a damn because it will eventually end. There is no reset button, that I am aware of, so we kind of have to make the most of our short time here. We will all disappear someday. Though that is no longer fully true either.

We all have a small bit of immortality. No, really. It might not be on the scale of the great artists we may admire, but technically speaking if you use social media, your thoughts, words, ideas, feelings, etc. will live on. Most of us will leave a digital footprint that can make a sort of quilt or composite of who we were that will continue on assuming the Internet continues to be a thing in the world. This is both a terrifying and heartening thought, to me at least. It’s kind of hopeful that we will live on in some way.

Although I am not completely sure if I want others, particularly family, knowing all my internet history…yeah beginning to see some issue with this. So what do you think? How do you deal with the idea of mortality and death and possibly immortality?

Lessons From…Robin Williams

I do not really follow or keep up with celebrity news. I am not saying this as a matter of pride or superiority simply as a statement of fact. Don’t get me wrong, I keep up with the projects (films, shows, books. etc.) of individuals that I find entertaining or intriguing, but I always considered their personal lives to be just that-their personal lives.

Today was a bit different, however. Today, Robin Williams was found dead in his home. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man personally. I only had the delight of experiencing his art. I continue to be surprised with the ease in which great comedians are able to vacillate between making people laugh and drawing out deep emotions from a crowd. Robin Williams was one of the best at this.

As great and funny as he was, he also had an incredible talent for drama and exploration of human emotion and empathy. Hell, here is proof:

Dead Poet’s Society was one of the first “real movies” that I watched and that had a profound effect on me. It was not a simple flick you could watch in an afternoon. It merited multiple viewings and actual consideration to truly appreciate it. A large part of that was William’s performance. You actually believed he had been passionately teaching for years. In a way he had.

Every performance he did was a lesson in acting, comedy, and/or life in and of itself. I remember watching his Live on Broadway special in the middle of the night in my room with the audio barely audible. My family was (honestly still is) not a fan of certain type of humor which is basically every type that I love. Once Robin got to the “Scots and Golf” bit, I pretty much died laughing not caring if someone crashed through my door or not. The man was a comedic genius.

If the value and meaning of a man’s life can be measured by the impact he had on his fellow humanity, then Robin Williams lived one of the fullest and most worthwhile lives imaginable. I do not know the details of his death, and I do not need to know them. I do know that he had a long battle with addiction and depression, both horrific diseases that are too often treated as character flaws, that seemingly resulted in his death. I do not know if he sought  help or how effective it would have been because depression is a lifetime struggle that you can never fully measure or understand. It is a lying bastard that has to be respected but never submitted to. (If you are going through something similar, please seek help.)

The world feels a little darker with the loss of this man. The sun will still rise tomorrow, the earth will continue to spin, and life will, as always, move on, but somehow it just will not be the same. This is usually the part where I would mention the lesson(s) we should derive from a piece of media, but Robin Williams entire library of performances could be used to impart wisdom. Frankly, it should.

In fact, what better way to celebrate the man’s life than to remember him through is art. Seriously, at some point this day, week, month, or rest of the year go and see his films, comedy, television shows/appearances. You’ll find something noteworthy, entertaining, and realize you probably have a favorite performance. I suggest you start with Dead Poet’s Society, Good Will Hunting, World’s Greatest Dad, or Live on Broadway.

There is no direct lesson to extrapolate, but if there is something to learn from this great man’s life it is simple Laugh, CryCreate, Seek Help, Live. Go hug someone today. Watch a funny movie and have a good laugh or a sad one and a needed cry. Live your life as best you can and get help whenever it becomes too much, but no matter what LIVE. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this:

Thus endeth today’s lesson.