Random acts of senseless kindness.
I love it!
It’s nearly surreal to try to reconcile these horrors with my own comparatively idyllic life. What did I do this weekend? Volleyball in the sunshine. Beer and celebration at Mary’s party. Eating my way through Little Italy and the Village with my family. Putting off doing laundry in favor of a nap…
I read the suicide article last. Reading it started to tie the stories together for me somehow. Elizabeth Shin, the student, isn’t so far removed from my existence that I can leave the story with a label of “surreal” in my head. She was an over-achieving raised-in-suburbia college student. I’ve been there. (Alright, so I wasn’t exactly over-achieving in college… But I was in high school.)
Could I then, leave the story of “Tiny,” the teenaged hitman, in the surreal bucket? I certainly couldn’t not try to understand Meera Nair’s story of living as a Hindu in a majority-Muslim neighborhood in Hyderabad.
I guess the way to combat the dismissed-as-horrible-and-surreal tendency, is to accept that these people are simply human beings who made their conclusions, created their beliefs and ultimately acted. The people in these articles (as well as the Palestinian suicide bombers, the Israeli residents of the Gaza settlements, the neighborhood drunk, the list goes on and on) are basically like me.
It’s scary to think about suicide as something that could naturally occur. But it clearly can. Despite the labels we put on “abnormal” mental issues “disorders,” these “abnormalities” are “normal” enough that they are a constant part of our world, year in and year out.
The article about Elizabeth makes the point that the young woman’s death has created a blame game between her folks and MIT. This is sad in a way, but when you start to think about her suicide as the result of a natural sequence of events and interpretations, that’s exactly what you want to know. How do you get to that condition?
How does a child decide that being a murderer is an OK existence? How does the watchman in Meera Nair’s story justify his inaction in the face of a hate-fueled murder?
The younger the person, the easier it should be to figure out the path.
Tiny, in Columbia, effectively has no father. His male role models are gang leaders and he discovered that he could gain approval from those role models and from his peers by killing people. His mother effectively encourages those relationships. Kids everywhere do a lot to secure the approval of their parental figures. How else do you know as a child if you’re heading in even remotely the right direction without some nods and assurances from people who have been around the block?
Elizabeth’s achievements are as superlatively impressive as Tiny’s are horrible. Nineteen years of experiences are too many for me to unravel, if I even knew all of them. I can’t say that I understand how she moved from those achievements to the thoughts of death and self-mutilation. It was under pressure, mostly self-applied. I wonder about the influence of being raised in a Korean family — which seems like it can be somehow impersonal and discouraging of emotional expression.
I guess Elizabeth sometimes felt like a failure despite her successes. My mom lessened some of the pressures I put on myself as a teen by telling me that “life isn’t fair.” She told me it frequently in response to my lamentations “it’s not fair!” I hated that fact at the time. But I think it’s helped me to see the world as shades of gray, and not as black and white. If the world’s not fair, not only do I not have a shot to be perfect, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because people wouldn’t treat me as perfect anyway.
Meera’s story makes me recall my time living in Bangalore. Along with my girlfriend at the time, Meeta, I sublet an apartment in an upscale commercial and entertainment district of the South Indian city. We were an unmarried interracial couple living easily on the strength of the dollar. Tensions with Pakistan were growing again. Their were some nationalistic marches and demonstrations in the intersection our balcony overlooked.
I thankfully had no firsthand experience with issues and fear described by Meera. If I had been an American of Middle Eastern heritage rather than European, I wonder how it might have been different.
In the circle of friends we developed there, I’m sure we wouldn’t have had any problems. It was a multi-ethnic, gay-friendly group of relatively privileged people, mostly college students. In our building, though, I don’t know. Would the overly curious and presumably gossipy electrician would have had the same perspective?
Trying to understand the issues of race relations from a personal psychological perspective seems far more challenging than trying to understand Tiny as murderer or Elizabeth as suicide. It’s much easier to decipher the historical, political and socioeconomic factors that create tension between Hindus and Muslims (yet more fallout from Britain’s colonialism — amazing how racism manifests itself in the those discriminated against…) than the mind of one person who thinks a Muslim life is worthless, or vice versa.
It’s important to try to understand the personal, because that’s the way out. Problems of hate aren’t going to be successfully addressed by arms or money, but by love, fostered and facilitated at the right points of individuals’ lives.
I guess that’s all I have to write tonight. I’m grateful for my nearly-idyllic weekend. I’m sorry about Elizabeth, about Tiny, and about those less lucky than Meera.
A few friends have contacted me wondering if I was affected by the explosion in New York on Thursday. Fortunately, I wasn’t. The accident was in my neighborhood but far enough away that my entire experience of it has strangely been through the news media. Investigators have tracked the cause of the explosion back to volatile chemicals being improperly stored in the basement of the building. Scary stuff.
I was at work when it happened, along with my sister Monica, who was attending Take Our Daughters to Work Day at my office. She was oblivious to the happenings and had a great time touring the different departments at the company and learning how to put a computer together from its parts.
Later she came with us to our volleyball game, where we lost all three games. I worry that I rubbed people the wrong way with critical (meant to be constructive) comments during play. A frustrating match. Monica served to temper the frustration though, with hand-made signs of encouragement (“Nice Serve”, “Go 61″, etc.). She’s convinced that we just need to focus.
James hosted a barbeque last night, where I learned that John D. is an even better BBQ chef than he is a systems administrator! It was relaxed and fun, and good veggies, guacamole, and garden burgers made for a good early summer dinner.
Afterwards, I went downtown to meet Dylan and his dad at The Living Room, where an Atlanta band fronted by Jennifer Nettles was playing. The show was great, impressing me far beyond the recordings I’d listened to. Dylan and I calculated that we hadn’t seen each other since my high school graduation, which seems unlikely but true. It had been way too long, and it was great to see both of them.
I’ve stayed up late the last two nights recording stuff. On Wednesday night, actually, Monica and I recorded a song that she wrote. I’ll post just as soon as my DSL is fixed. [grumble] Now I’m working on “Hang On Blue Skies” as a project, but not really to move towards a finished product, just to experiment at this point. I’m learning my software, playing with bass lines, and getting better at playing with a click track. And having a good time — it’s a great way to end the day.
Lots of guitar and perl last night with Alec. I slept very soundly. Unlike Moby.
Dad’s back on the road. I had a brief but nice visit with him, and look forward to his next stop in NYC in a few weeks. He’s back together with his girlfriend and they’re committed to making it work. It seems to have brought about some wonderful changes in him. Nothing like watching people change their lives…
At work today, I had some trouble getting expat 1.95.2 to compile on Mac OS X 10.13. These instructions did the trick.
In non-geek news… Thursday is Take Our Daughters to work day, and my little sisters are coming to work with me! Woo hoo!
I started off the day in a wicked funk. Fortunately, it got better as the day wore on. Work was a little rocky today. Negative article in the New York Times, and oodles of problems with a critical (and annoying) piece of enterprise software.
I went for a walk at lunchtime to the natural foods store and that helped me put things in perspective. After work, I went for a workout and volleyball clinic at my gym. The natural endorphins finished the job of waashing away the funk.
Speaking ofgoing to the gym, an iPod update. I’m 34% along the way to my goal.
My dad’s staying with me right now for a couple of days. We’ve been playing guitar (He just got a beautiful Ovation!) and hanging out. Haven’t seen him since the fall. Hard to believe how fast time seems to move now. We went for Japanese for dinner (I had sansai soba, a buckwheat noodle soup made with mountain vegetables… yum!).
What else? The weekend in 26 words: Chinatown lunch and parking, hanging with Mom and the girls, business brainstorms at a Brooklyn diner, volleyball in the park, dinner with Ilio and Cher in Brooklyn.
I met a Miss America tonight. But my DSL isn’t working and I’m a bit tipsy and it’s four in the morning, so I can’t say much more about that, now can I?
I went to see “Y Tu Mama Tambien” last night. I haven’t seen that much sex in a movie since a college gathering a friend hosted creatively titled “Pornos and 40s.” Not exactly a family film. It’s a great flick, though. Interesting cinematography, good pacing, fantastic acting on the parts of the male leads, and it leaves you stuff to think about. A prodigious of male nudity in it, too, which somehow made the female nudity seem more natural than it does in Hollywood films.
Lunch in the park two days in row now. I could happily make it a habit. It’s so nice to break up the workday with some sun and fresh air.
New volleyball season begins tonight. Go Channel 61!
Glad I got to write about springtime the other night, because it appears to over. Hot and slightly muggy now. Summer in NYC.
Had sushi with Don out in Forest Hills last night. I was surprised to see what a trendy neighborhood Austin Street in Forest Hills is. Besides delicious spicy tuna maki (with black sesame seeds!), it was great to catch up with Don. It’s always nice to catch up with a friend who you’ve known for a long time (almost 15 years, for Don). It’s a different perspective on your stories, problems and goals than you have with newer friends.
Trip plans continue at a leisurely pace. The biggest controversy is that my mom really wants to stay in the Hote Machu Picchu, at $269 a night. I’ve never paid that much for a hotel myself anywhere, and rarely paid over $30 a night the places I’ve traveled. We’ll see what happens….
This is it. The most beautiful evening of the year so far. After work, I drifted home, where I enjoyed a nice phone conversation with my mom and sisters and a dinner of salad, blue corn chips and hummus. (I’m a bachelor, what can I say…) Then I put on some shorts and a tee, grabbed my gym bag, strapped on my skates and rolled off for the gym.
It’s the kind of night in the city where the temperature and air feels just right. Not muggy and not chilly even in workout clothes. Just the city streets, everyone smiling because it’s spring and the fresh freedom of not being bundled up.
I skated yesterday, too. Up to Sam Ash in midtown. Two of the clerks followed me out of the store to ask about my skates. I was worried at first they thought I took the keyboard stand I was carrying without paying! But they were just taken by the sight of me carrying the wheel frames to my Hypnos. We chatted about them for a while. They seemed to be in good moods, too. Maybe it’s the springtime.
It’s been a while since I journaled, so let’s turn back the clock to Thursday. I took the train out to Long Island and hung out with David. Turned out he lost his job that day. He seemed in relatively good spirits about it. Hopefully, it’s one of those disguised blessings. He had been working in a windowless office. Not where you want to be in the spring, or anytime really.
We played guitar. I played his electric, a Telecaster. I haven’t played electric that much in years and it was a lot of fun. It’s almost a completely different instrument. I got too into playing “Tangled Up in Blue” in the manner I’m accustomed to on my acoustic, and ended up breaking his high E string. Whoops.
Dave lent me a drum machine, too. A 1989 model MIDI-capable Alesis HR-16. After the aforementioned trip to Sam Ash on Sunday, I got it hooked up to my computer along with my keyboard and did some recording. Pretty cool stuff. I’m enjoying messing around with the keyboard, dead keys and all! I think tonight, though, I’m just going to sit and play some guitar. Play some other people’s music. Some Grateful Dead, some Dylan. Maybe some Beatles. Seems like there’s a danger in all this technology in getting too far away from the simple stuff.
I had lunch with Snappy the Clam on Friday, over at Veg-City. Had a TLT (Tofu Lettuce and Tomato). I’m still getting a kick out of it! That night, Anthony and I did some volleyball strategy on the white boards at work (Monday morning comment: “Who let John Madden in here over the weekend?”) and had dinner and several margaritas at Benny’s. I had the BBQ Tofu Burrito. It’s such a wonderful place and time to be vegetarian!
Speaking of food, my project of last week (no refined foods) went pretty well. The hardest part was not eating pizza at Lombardi’s and my failing was a white flour pita in my late-night falafel from Mamoun’s.
I feel like I’m a regular brand placement operation tonight. This blog is brought to you by Lombardi’s. Author’s musical instruments provided by Alesis, and transportation for participants provided by Hypno.
Anyways, I’m rambling again and my guitar’s calling. Required updates: Work is good; currently drawing lots of pictures in Visio. Ankle is doing great. Mac OS X is my favorite technology of the moment. Single. Happy. Healthy. I have a new song. I’m not that happy with it yet, but it’s got potential.