Sunday, January 22, 2012

Welcome the Year of the Dragon!

There is excitement in the air. I feel kind of excited about the upcoming year of the Dragon. Learning what I can about lunar calendars, I realize now that they're not all built the same. The Muslim calendar has around 355 days in it. It's holidays take around thirty-six years to get back to the same time and place that they were before. That means that their holidays can find their way into any one of our four seasons here.

That is a little hard for me to wrap my brain around. I am a solar man. Living in the reality of the Gregorian calendar, I just take it for granted that holidays are going to show up at the same time every year, and occur in the same season every year. So, although I know little about the structure of the Chinese calendar-actually the lunar calendar observed by many Asian cultures-I took comfort finding out that the new year occurred on the second new moon after the Winter solstice, except for the rare instance in which it lands on the third new moon after the Winter solstice.

So, I can find this quiet comfort knowing that even though the Chinese lunar calendar may varyin its length, there will always be a one-to-one correspondence between the Chinese lunar calendar and the Gregorian solar calendar. I'm sure that settles your mind also.

Here, in my neighborhood, I'm already smelling the black powder, hearing these firecrackers going nonstop, watching the festive nature building up the little shopping malls. I walk up and down Grand Century Mall, and watch as the bakeries, the gift shops, and the jewelers enjoy increased business, as we build up to the new year holiday. These gift baskets wrapped in pastel colored cellophane make me feel like it's another Easter. Although approaching the mall today, I was holding my ears as hundreds of firecrackers were going off in rapid succession.

(younger children get to play with these caps that you get to throw on the ground that explode. They are nowhere near as noisy as the firecrackers but they do seem to have a lot of entertainment value for them.

I've always wondered about the arbitrary nature of holidays. I realize that enough people getting excited about any one day, kind of makes that day special, whether there's anything new or special about that day at all. I remember a man I used to work with, a self described Jewish atheist once told me," I do all of my drinking on Rosh Hashanah." I've never been very celebratory about any holiday, yet I always love gathering with my family. I also enjoy getting good night sleeps on New Year's Eve (Gregorian calendar).

By that account, I've always been confused by people who think it's especially important that I get my birthday off from work, or that I should have dinner with my family on Christmas Day, or that I should feel compelled to attend mass on the night of Christmas Eve versus attending the morning of Christmas Day. I believe that what makes these days special has nothing to do with the days themselves, so my family celebrates with me when we can. I just have to smile, and accept that some other people don't understand.

So, should you be celebrating right now, I wish you a Happy New Year!

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Striving for Authenticity!

Every day, I see people (usually marketers), that want to promise me some level of experience that is somehow more genuine than experiences I'm already having.I have to be baffled by this. I cannot understand how any experience I'm having can simply be any more genuine than what I'm experiencing at that very moment. My experience is as genuine as it ever needs to be at any time of the day, under any circumstances. Maybe I'm taking this all a little too seriously.

I don't know when this observation about new experiences, genuine experiences, began to wear on me. But, I think there is a conspiracy to convince us, convince me, that there is something inadequate about the world as I perceive it. This makes me a little sad.

I've been known to eat at Taco Bell from time to time, and I'm not ashamed to say that. Still, I have a roommate who says that the food at Taco Bell is not genuine. I'm perplexed by this. My head starts to spend a little bit, and maybe I am drawn into fits of drama. I know that as I consume my nachos bel grande, or chicken chalupas , covered in cheese and Baja sauce, that fast food is bad for me. The experience however, is still extremely genuine. I do not have to ask if this is authentic Mexican food. I just know that the food is authentic. It is what it is. Taco Bell is genuine Taco Bell food. No further authentication is necessary.

Nowadays, people want to suggest that some sugar is more genuine than others. I see cans of Coke now with the phrase "made with real sugar" and I have to ask myself, why is high fructose corn syrup considered any less real than any other sugar. I guarantee you that if I consume any soda with high fructose corn syrup it will elevate my blood glucose as efficiently as any other sugar. What is more real than that?

Every experience of my life is filled with different layers of authenticity. As I once said it is possible to be satisfied drinking coffee, whether it comes from a can of Folgers crystals, Folgers ground coffee, bagged ground coffee from Starbucks, or whole bean coffee that I roast and grind myself. I could spend my entire life trying to find the truest experiences I can find, or I could delight in the nuances of every new experience I have. I never have to ask whether this experience is authentic or not.

I no longer want my view of the world to be sculpted and shaped by its marketers and salespeople. They do what they do to sell things, and as such, have no useful perspective on what the world is like. They only know how they want the world to be.

I love new experiences. I love to learn from new experiences, and as such I suppose my goal was to find that experience that has not been homogenized for broad appeal. I've been led to believe that experiences as simple as reading a book or taking out the garbage could be plumbed for different levels of understanding. Maybe this is why I celebrate ambiguity. Maybe this is why I should continue writing poetry.

For even in this impecunious existence that is been forged for me, I continue to find delight and wonder in the world.

If still you are looking for the ultimate in authentic experiences (I wonder if it becomes like a contest) we could start with something as simple as coffee drinking. Every experience of your life can be brought down to the barest, grittiest details. So, maybe you feel your coffee experience isn't worthy of bragging. Maybe you want some thing that you could really talk about. You've got to the point in your life paying fifty dollars a pound for Jamaican blue Mountain coffee no longer satisfies you. Today I offer you this coffee experience. I've been thinking about getting myself a chance to to offer this as a travel package.

I'll sell you a flight down to Columbia. I will find the genuine Juan Valdez(or someone who looks like him), and you can walk with him as he picks coffee beans by hand, one at a time. Take pictures. Savor the experience. Remember the moments that you spent scraping donkey excrement off your shoes. Then, after a day of collecting coffee beans, you will process those green beans, scrub them, and roast them yourself. Carefully select the perfect grind, and brew your coffee. If you can keep your eyes open long enough to drink the coffee, you'll have a chance to reflect on your efforts to make this possible. You can sip it is you think, " This is a real cup of coffee".

I savor my own experience of heating up eight ounces of water, and ripping open three packets of Cà phê hòa tan, 3 in 1 instant coffee. Delicious!

Thank you for reading.