Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hampstead Heath

I had wanted to go to Kew Gardens today but there were massive issues with the Underground today, so I revised my plan and went to this park called Hampstead Heath in North London. The scenery along the walk from the Tube station to the park was how I pictured London and England to look: windy streets, tall gates, lots of shrubs and brick. Very pretty.

The park itself is massive and the view of the city from Parliament Hill was wonderful! It was a nice fall, day, too. Perfect for a bit of a walk. I stumbled upon an area in the park called Kenwood which really felt like an English wood! Very dark and mysterious, which made it hard to take pictures.

Tate Modern

Apparently this is London's most popular attraction for tourists and it's a great collection of modern art. If you're into that sort of thing, it's a great place to go. Since I am (mostly), I was quite impressed by a few things.

Getting there was a massive pain in my ass, though, as the signs that pointed the way were extremely unhelpful, which made me laugh a bit.

Some pieces impressed me and one room actually made me blush as it had wall sized pictures of some artist and his porn star wife having sex. And then there was a clay sculpture of them having sex in the middle of the room with a glass table-sized sculpture of them having sex towards the front. Now why these things would make ME blush, I have no idea, but I found them pretty funny. I also realized that if Andy Warhol were alive today, I most likely would want to punch him in the face and hopefully break his glasses.

Chelsea Physic Garden

This place was amazing. It's London's oldest Botanical Garden and was founded in 1673. It's a small little area behind a high brick wall very close to the Thames, and if I hadn't known what I was looking for, I most likely would've walked by without noticing it. Apparently, most Londoners have no idea that it exists, which is a shame.

At first, I wasn't too impressed as it looks very small but it's quite quaint and by the time I knew it, I had spent 2.5 hours here listening to the audio tour while walking around and marveling at the insane amount of plant species. My favorite part of the day was watching a huge bumblebee look for pollen in a strange blue flower.

It's funny, the birds here either sound terrifying and scary (the seagulls) or have beautiful songs (many of the birds in the Garden). There were a few little ponds and the one in the picture is one of the first to greet you in the middle of the Garden.

Hyde Park

The day I went to Hyde Park could've gone a lot worse as my original plans were messed up, but considering the way it turned out, I'm way more than happy.

Hyde Park is gorgeous and gives Regent's Park a run for its money. While Regents is very regal and ornate and looks like what you'd expect out of an English Garden, Hyde Park is a bit more wild but still very sculpted. I've also noticed here that everyone seems to hate the pigeons, but I love them! They're cute and they make me smile. A lot of 'em are even pretty as I've seen ones that looked like marble, ones with green in their feathers, and some purple and brown ones.

Also, the seagulls here don't so much as squawk as scream like people at each other. It's a bit scary.

Westminster and Trafalgar Square

Walked around a bit of Central London and finally gave the building of Parliament a decent amount of time instead of trying to snap pictures of it while walking. This picture was taken on a bridge (I have not yet developed the ability to fly, sadly) behind the building and there was a guy with bagpipes! Awesome!

I also got to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery and its collection is massive. Most of it is old art, though. Very Christian and very classic. There were a few really great pieces by Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet, too!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Thames Path and London Bridge

See that? That's London Bridge. Yup, that shitty ass boring bridge is London Bridge. I walked along the Thames Path a bit and wanted to cross this thing... eh just so I could have bragging rights. I did! It was anticlimactic.

I do love the Thames, though. The area around it is amazing. I'm in love with this city and all it has to offer and I'm a bit sad that I have to leave REALLY soon, but I'm getting more and more excited for the rest of this adventure.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tower of London

Got to see the infamous Tower of London today and had a HILARIOUS yeoman tour guide / beefeater. The Brits and their terms confuse me, but my god this man was hysterical. Very Eddie Izzard-esque.

Lots of history there, obviously, and this picture is of Traitor's Gate. Lots of ominous history there, actually... but that's kind of how most of London is, it seems!

Saw the Crown Jewels. Quite sparkly. Seems kinda silly to have these insanely valuable diamonds locked in glass boxes for decades only to be used to reign in a new Sovereign. Crazy Brits and your monarchy!!

Walked back along the Tower Bridge, which is gorgeous and is NOT London Bridge itself, actually.

The City and Along the Thames

Met a really nice guy named Matthew and he gave me a great tour throughout the oldest part of the city. I'm not sure what the name of the area is called, but it's what most tourists would call "London," as Westminster Abbey's there, Parliament, Big Ben and other impressive attractions. He's quite the history buff and he knew a lot of really interesting things! It was great.

We also walked along the River Thames that runs through the city and grabbed chicken at Nando's. Mmm mashed sweet potatoes..

This city's absolutely ridiculous and I love it here. I definitely wouldn't mind coming back here to live for a few years.

Buckingham Palace

God damn this place was opulent.

Apparently the State rooms are only open while the queen is on Holiday during August and September in Scotland, so that's what we got to see! The palace is filled to the brim with stuff. Stuff's just everywhere. And most of it has some sort of gold on it in some form or another. There were also lots of paintings places but they were all just stately things. Nothing interesting to me 'cause it was all pre-Impressionism, but it's all there for a reason!

I suppose the Queen seems pretty cool. Not that I've met her or anything, but from what I've seen in some of the videos they had showing and from some of the humanitarian work she's done, she seems to be a good monarch. Good for her.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Victoria Park

So I've been to quite a few parks here in London thus far and I can now check Victoria Park off of my list. Sadly, it was the least impressive out of all the parks I've seen as there wasn't really anything that caught my eye and made me stand there in awe. The English Garden was tiny and mostly dug up while the rest of the park was just grass and trees. Regent's Park is definitely my favorite so far.

After having my fill of the park, I walked back to the Underground via the Canal and got some pretty cool pictures and I thought that was more interesting than the park. Some of the graffiti was interesting and the writing on the white barriers I encountered at the end made me stop and smile. I LOVE finding little random things like that. "Little by little.. "

Thursday, September 24, 2009

High Tea

Went to the Orangery at Kensington Palace for High Tea with a few people from class and we had a great time! It sounds super fancy, but really, it was just like going to a restaurant and ordering food. I expected things to be brought out in crystal and to see Victorian dresses and super stuffy English women with monocles and that was most certainly not the case. The sounds were interesting, though, as it consisted of English chatter and lots of china and dishes and things clinking together.

We ordered tea (I had cinnamon and I needed to put like 6 freaking sugar cubes in it to make it delicious.. damned sweet tooth will be the death of me via diabetes, I swear), sandwiches and desserts. The sandwiches were little triangles with the crust cut off and were fairly tasty and light and the desserts for the most part were delicious. Scones and little cakey and tarty things. Very good stuff, indeed.

London's filled with a lot of parks and Kensington Park is one of the many. The gardens behind the palace were quite beautiful and very English indeed. Also, right outside of the Orangery, there were these really tall bushes that reminded me of the background of Mario Brothers, which is cool. My sister said that everything looks like it's straight out of Alice in Wonderland and yanno what!? It does! No walking cards or rabbits with stopwatches, though, but I'm definitely keeping an eye out..

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Highgate Cemetery

This cemetery is insane.. I've never seen such a densely packed graveyard. Graves were literally falling apart and were placed on top of each other.

It seems really old, but a lot of the dates on the headstones I saw were within the last century or so, but then again, I wasn't reading all of them and a lot were faded out. There were creepy but quaint little paths leading off of the main roads that led you through thick areas of plants and headstones which I thought was quite interesting because it felt like I was discovering all these crazy areas as they'd open up into each other. It's pretty small, too, but I only saw the East End of it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More Regent's Park

Holland Park

Lots o' London

Random shots from around London.. the Imperial War Museum was AMAZING.. I literally spent almost SIX HOURS there and forewent food and water.. incredible.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Notting Hill Carnival

Ya might want to check out the rest of my website at because I've been abroad for a week and a half and I've uploaded buttloads of pictures.. I just haven't gotten a chance to upload any yet! This is the Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest street carnival in Europe, and it's fucking huge.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

An attempt to change the mind of my NY State Senator on Gay Marriage

The gay marriage debate is heating up across the country and New York State is no exception. Currently, there is a Marriage Equality Bill being debated in our State Senate. It has already passed through our Assembly, but is floundering in the Senate. I recently called my State Senator and was informed that he plans to vote no on the bill because he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. Here is my attempt to change his mind:

June 8, 2009

Dear Senator Stachowski:

First of all, I would like to point out that I understand that this letter to you is massive, but it is because this issue affects me personally and I care deeply about it. If you would prefer to have a face-to-face meeting, I would absolutely love to. I spoke to someone in your Buffalo office who said you read your email regularly and are happy to hear from your constituents, so I figured this would be a good first step, so onward with the email!

I am a gay man and a constituent of yours who is fairly concerned about your plan to vote "no" on the Marriage Equality bill. I have voted for you twice and would love to continue to do so, mainly because I am very grateful that your voting record supports many progressive ideals, such as protecting the environment and supporting unions. However, I feel that voting against the Marriage Equality would be a sharp contrast to many of the things you promote.

As I'm sure you're well aware, the majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama last year because he promised us hope and change along the Democratic platform. He has been firing on all cylinders since he took office and has accomplished many great things in his first few months, and he serves as a constant inspiration to us citizens. One of our great President's most valuable assets is his belief that compassion must play a role in our government, and this issue requires compassion and empathy on your part.

I appreciate that you support Civil Unions, and I understand that you believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, there are distinct differences between marriages and Civil Unions that demonstrate the inequality between the two. For instance, if I met the love of my life overseas, I would not be able to sponsor him to immigrate to the US as my husband if New York only offered Civil Unions, and since I will be traveling overseas for a year to earn my Master's Degree, this scenario is actually possible for me. Also, Civil Unions aren't recognized by the federal government and thus, my husband and I wouldn't be able to receive any tax breaks or file a joint tax return, which would deny us the economic rights that all heterosexual couples have.

As citizens, homosexuals have the right to equal protection under the law, which was set in place by the 14th Amendment. Taking this further, granting us only Civil Unions would violate the concept that separate is not equal. There is precedent for this in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. While I don't mean to compare the centuries of repression forced upon the African American community and the hardships of the Civil Rights Movement to the struggle for recognition and equality by homosexuals, the effort is similar. Due to the inherent inequality between the two, Civil Unions will eventually be converted into marriages because they are separate and not equal, even if it takes a century to do so, although it may take even less time. People my age overwhelmingly support their gay friends and find it to be an acceptable lifestyle deserving of equal treatment. Once we become old enough to exert more voice within the government and are a more unified voting bloc, I'm sure my generation will grant people like me equal rights. It's really only a matter of time. While this opportunity for basic equality is in front of us, I am hoping that the Marriage Equality Bill will pass with your support.

Unfortunately, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996, and repealing this law would be a huge victory for gays nationwide. Obviously, this lies outside of your jurisdiction. However, the passage of the Marriage Equality Bill will override this law for our state, making New York a beacon of freedom, equality, love, and justice. The homosexual community has gained much acceptance since DOMA was passed, but right now, the fight is being waged state by state. As New Yorkers, we have a chance to lead the nation in the fight for equality and I sincerely hope that you will fight for us.

Let me give you a little back-story about myself. I'm a 25-year-old guy who was born and raised here in Buffalo. I live in Cheektowaga and am about to attend graduate school in Europe and Asia and will receive my Master of Arts in International Relations. I may be currently single, but once I come home form my adventure, I would love to have the option to marry available to me. My political views are fairly progressive, and I am simply a product of my environment. I have seen how society can neglect people and I believe that compassion is the most important value a person can have. I happily pay my taxes because I know that without them, civilization as we know it would cease to exist. I give to charities and causes and I am proud to vote and I vote often. Currently, I work for People Inc, which is one of our county's largest employers where I am a manager of a program that allows college-aged individuals with minor disabilities to receive the typical college experience. I love my job and I've learned to love giving back to my community. One of my students who is 22 is currently engaged and plans to marry his fiancé next month. He is a wonderful guy, but he has no job and receives funding through the State (Medicaid) to attend my program. He also still thinks that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually exist in our subway system and that the shark from Jaws might come through his showerhead and attack him one day. Even though he doesn't pay many taxes, doesn't work, and believes that cartoon characters are real, he has the right to get married. I've worked very hard to come as far as I have, and I have given much back to the community and yet I am deprived of that right simply because I am attracted to other men. Some of my students who are heterosexual who, because of one reason or another, may not be functioning members of society have more rights than I do, and I find that frustrating. To watch my student get married next month will be joyous, but I will be thinking in the back of my mind that it is not currently possible for me and for many others, even though gays and lesbians are wonderful contributors to our societal structure.

Of course, the reason I am writing to you today is because I am gay, although being gay is not the largest part of me. In fact, it's a fairly small part. When I tell people who have just met me that I'm gay, they are often fairly surprised. I choose not to flaunt it but I am not ashamed of who I am. This attitude takes a lot of confidence to uphold because homosexuals are apparently considered the epitome of evil and sin by many conservatives these days, and anything less than full equality under the law will give them more fuel with which to condemn us as unnatural second class citizens. Seeing that the government would only recognize our love with Civil Unions while their love is allowed to flourish under typical marriage laws would give more reason for them to attack us, to think that we are not equal, and to assume many more incorrect and often hateful things about us as normal people.

Being gay is also not a choice. If it were a choice, trust me, I might've considered choosing otherwise because being gay can be a struggle. I have met some amazing people, however, and would never change that, but this lifestyle is not easy. Meeting people can be a challenge and coming out is pretty rough. I also feel self-conscious holding my boyfriend's hand or kissing him in public while heterosexual couples are free to express their love without fear of causing a raucous or being mocked or attacked. Watching my straight friends display affection without a care in the world makes me envious, but I am glad to be a part of this fight for basic civil rights. I am also looking forward to having children one day, and I want to be able to tell my kids that their dads are married, their love is just the same as other married couples, and that they are respected like heterosexual parents, but I fear that only having a Civil Union would make explaining this point to my kids difficult.

The benefits of legalizing marriages for same-sex couples are plentiful. First and foremost, we gays would single-handedly save the economy because of the amount of money we'd spend on our overtly garish weddings! In all seriousness, however, legalizing gay marriages would deliver more money into the economy due to the increase in net income after the tax benefits we'd receive. It would also be a great way to demonstrate to our children that hate should never dictate law and that being different is okay. Also, once gay marriage is legalized, gays would be able to move into the role of parents more easily, and would create loving and supportive households for more children who may not have the best opportunities otherwise because we would most likely adopt our kids. The more well-loved and well-supported children we have as a society, the better we stand as a whole, as these children will grow up to become strong citizens.

I would also like to address the issue of religion and faith that dominates this discussion. I was raised Catholic like you, but have since left the faith because it condemns homosexuality. It is a strange feeling to know that the faith I grew up with doesn't approve of something I had no choice in. Much of my family remains Catholic, like much of the area, and I respect that, of course. As gay man, I am not concerned about being acknowledged by any of the various faiths around the country as I have found solace in other places. Thankfully, this country was founded on the preservation of differences between people by keeping church and state separate, yet this issue cannot seem to keep the two isolated. I understand how religion can affect one's decisions, however it should not affect decisions that will affect others. I find it extremely unfair that so many people are trying to push their religious beliefs onto me when I want nothing more than to be happy and live my own life, and that is basically what this issue comes down to. I am not looking to force someone into a gay marriage; I am simply looking to have that option available to me. If someone doesn’t support homosexuals being married, then they shouldn’t marry a homosexual, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the state should be deprived of that right. Marriage was first a religious institution that was, and still is, steeped in tradition, and homosexuals are not looking to change these traditions inside of religion. Each church will be able to marry whom they want to marry, and because church and state are to be kept separate, we cannot change that. Some religions do support gay marriage and allow us to hold commitment ceremonies in their place of worship but that is not the point of this bill, as it has nothing to do with religion. We are simply looking for equal treatment under the law since marriage is no longer strictly a religious institution. There are obvious governmental and societal benefits that we do not have that are entirely separate from the religious part of marriage. Because the government is involved in issuing marriage licenses and offers differences under the law for married versus single people, homosexual couples deserve to be treated as equals. The Marriage Equality Bill isn’t about homosexuals desiring equal treatment in churches, it’s about desiring equal treatment under the government of New York State, which is to be kept separate from religious concepts in the first place.

Many people who support banning gay marriage believe that the institution needs to be "protected," but when the divorce rate in this country is over 50% and people like Britney Spears are able to get annulments after a weekend of marriage, does this institution need protection or revision? It is hypocritical of heterosexual couples to demand that something they consider so precious be denied to us when they have done a terrible job of protecting it themselves.

As the State Senator of this district, I don't believe that a "no" vote represents the best interest of your constituents, however I love politics and I understand how the game is played. I understand that this issue is extremely divisive and that the population of your district is fairly elderly, blue-collar, and not necessarily progressive. A vote in support of this bill could potentially jeopardize your re-election. However, there are more gay citizens in your district than you might think, and many more straight people who support their homosexual citizens. Supporting us would earn you more support from them. Your record is fantastic in supporting issues that matter to this area, and in this issue, you have the opportunity to be progressive and compassionate to your constituents and fellow citizens. Simply put, I am requesting that you please change your planned vote to "yes." I greatly appreciate your time reading this email, and I would enjoy having a face-to-face conversation to convey my passion about this issue.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Edward M Cichon

(PS.. please let me know what you think! I have yet to send this to my Senator and would love any suggestions and criticisms. If you notice any errors, please let me know, as well!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Threat of Leaving.

So the countdown has begun. August 18th will be my last day living in Buffalo and this day has been coming for years. The summer before 8th grade when I was 12, I took a vacation to visit family in the Bay area and came back wanting to jump and scream and run the fuck away from Buffalo as fast as I could. So I've spent the past 13 years in one way or another trying to get the hell out of here. College kept me here because I was too afraid to spend the ridiculous amount of money to dorm (which I'm spending now instead) and after graduation, I didn't quite know how to find a job and just jump ship, so I stayed here.

In the interim, I traveled a decent amount considering my situation: New York City, Phoenix, Toronto a lot, New Orleans, back to San Francisco, a large part of Italy, and a small part of Switzerland. All this traveling has taught me that there are places far worse than Buffalo *cough*NEW ORLEANS*cough*, but then there are some places where I'd much rather prefer to live. All the while, I've always come back home.

Growing up, Buffalo felt like the worst place to live. It truly is a dying city with not too much opportunity, and I sincerely hope that changes. The winters are terrible, the job market sucks, and as a teenager, it seemed like there was absolutely nothing to do here. In the past couple of years, with my complete overhaul in personality and outlook, I've learned to love this city and I've come to really appreciate it and what it has to offer. While the winters may suck, the summers are fantastic, and easily make up for the 8 month-long grip of near-permafrost. There are so many parks and natural areas that it makes it really easy to connect to the planet. The people can be a lot of fun and there is a thriving cultural underbelly if you care to look for it. Some of the neighborhoods (Allentown, Elmwood, etc) are GREAT places to live and show how great this place really is. Buffalo really has a lot to speak of and could be a wonderful place to live and raise a family. If I hadn't been stuck / stayed here for as long as I have, I probably would have trashed home as often as I could have, but now that I've come to love it, I will always speak (mostly) fondly of Buffalo while abroad.

The fact that I'm leaving has put a very grounding and immediate touch on this summer, and right now, it looks to be the most packed summer I've ever experienced. Thus far, it's been phenomenal. I'm trying to be as present as possible, and I've noticed that I'm remaining very open to a lot of things I may not have considered previously due to lack of confidence or simple preference. I've got a lot of amazing things going on right now, and they're making Buffalo so much better than it ever has been.

The threat of me leaving in 2 months has certainly made me appreciate my relationships and my time with people much more. In fact, I really don't know how I'm going to do with leaving literally everyone and everything so far behind. It's something I've worked for since I was a kid, and now that it's within reach, it's pretty terrifying. A lot of people got the opportunity to do that when they left for college at 18, but I stayed here in Buffalo despite my inner voice practically screaming at me not to, so this whole thing is entirely new for me. My last major transition I guess would've been graduating from High School since college wasn't any sort of grand experience for me, and I handled it really really well. I'm not really worried about leaving, I think it's just going to be a lot harder than I had ever anticipated simply because up until maybe a year or two ago, I was pretty bitter for having been stuck here for so long. Now that I have an attachment to home, flying away from it won't be as fun as it might have been years ago.

Obviously, I'm still looking forward to this incredible opportunity and I am extremely proud of myself for accomplishing what I have so far. All of this is just making me understand, and I have for a while, that my current life is actually pretty spectacular. I have great friends, good family, and I'm an amazing person with a stunning personality with a lot to offer everyone he has in his life. I'm very excited for the next chapter, but I'm getting attached to the current one and after all of the pain, work, and hardship, I've set myself up with something awesome.

Life is good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2 for Tuesday take TWO!! SO much alliteration!

This week's assignment was MAGIC.

Grace's thoughts are as follows: "telephones have always been magical to me because I do not understand how they work. and numbers? entirely magical!"

Ha.. I think the same about a lot of things actually! When I originally came up with the idea of MAGIC, I thought of trying to capture electricity somehow because it boggles my mind how something so primal changed everything and is basically magic to our modern day minds because so little of us understand it and hope that things cooperate on faith. However, I couldn't think of a way to make "electricity" visually appealing. I didn't get it as much thought as I should have.

Instead, I went down the route of light and reflection. My image was taken in Losson Park (of course, that place is magical and very important to me obviously) and it is a reflection of a tree in a silvery puddle. I found it magical how there appears to be a depth of field to the branches and leaves when in fact the reflection takes place on the surface of a nearly flat puddle. I've always been drawn to light and color, and I love the way they interact with things, especially in this image. It looks almost ethereal and seems to mix the aesthetic of old photographic techniques with modern day digital photography.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2 for Tuesdays!

The image on the left was taken by my dear friend Grace along Rt. 77 while the image on the right was taken by yours truly whilst unwinding in the Niagara Gorge. We were both capturing REFUGE.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grasping Eternity

Currently, I'm reading "The Universe in a Single Atom" by the venerable Dalai Lama, and while I think a lot of it is over my head (my knowledge of science these days pales in comparison to my political mindset), I'm enjoying it mostly. While discussing the impossibility of the concept that the Universe (specifically the Big Bang) was initiated by any sort of "god," my mind quickly slipped away to thoughts of the dense word "eternity" and how paradoxically final and infinite it is. No matter WHAT the final ending is, none of us can escape and we're all stuck in this loop forever or until it ends and everything ceases to exist for all time. Either possibility to me is somewhat terrifying.

Growing up Catholic, I am most familiar with the idea of Eternity as "heaven." Yanno, blissful white clouds, lots of sun, people hanging out in togas with an occasional wingspan, and some incredibly massive dude (maybe with a beard!) hanging out in his jolly way. That seems all well and good, but what the FUCK is there to do in that state for THE ENTIRE REST OF EXISTENCE? I mean, it sounds pretty great and I know it's what many people look forward to, but don't you think that just hanging out for literally billions and trillions of years on some cloud with some douche in the room next to you playing a trumpet would get fairly boring? All the daily challenges we face that make life interesting would be gone. We'd know every answer to every question ever asked and all we would have left to do pretty much is exist. Forever. And ever. At least now, we know we're going to die at some point, so that keeps us on our toes for a bit. I think if I ever got to heaven, I'd be scrambling for the reset button after six months or so.

My current beliefs are more grounded in science and logic, which thusly gravitate me more towards the concept of reincarnation because it simply makes more sense. It is a basic truth that nothing can be created or destroyed because the Universe is the consummate recycler, and I think this applies to the soul. It certainly holds true for the body, or at least it should. Getting buried in an air-tight coffin like most people do these days defeats the entire PURPOSE of your body: to be recycled into worm food or a meal for some grass or a tree. I'm planning on being buried in a wooden box with no chemicals added to me or it because I see far more worth in becoming a part of the planet in a new way than turning into a pile of super gross mush inside some plastic box. Anyway, I've side-tracked myself, as usual.

So, to me, there are two possibilities to reincarnation. The first is that we are stuck in an endless machine that's constantly sucking souls in and spitting them out to be used elsewhere in the Universe, basically like a vacuum with one end tied to another vacuum.. or something. I'm sure there's a better mechanical analogy for this, but that's the best I can think of at the moment. This process would have no end, and we apparently have no control over it. This terrifies me, as well. Think about how long time-wise your life has been. Some may say that theirs has gone by so quickly, and I'd agree, but twenty five years is a long fucking time! Imagine twenty five thousand!! I really couldn't see repeating this kind of stuff over and over and OVER forever. With no true "end game" in sight, what the hell is the point of all of this, really? It's incredibly frightening to think that this will just go on indefinitely, no matter how far I may come in each lifetime.

The other possibility, to which I subscribe, is that reincarnation isn't endless. Everyone is sent to each specific life and situation by their own choice, and is here to accomplish a certain few lessons. Once you die, you have the choice to stay in the next plane or come back to learn more, and once you've learned everything you'd like to, you become a part of what most would consider "god." This option, I feel, is the least frightening because at least things change and there's opportunity to switch things up a bit. It also leaves things open-ended nicely so that it's not just an eternity of one thing. Still, though, it's an eternity of the same process, no matter how many little segments there are, and at one point, it either stops or will have to start all over again. So, basically, we're back to the previous point with this idea of reincarnation: it never stops. Even if all souls become a part of "god" at some point, they will eventually have to break off again, out of sheer boredom if anything. To the Kabbalists and in a few other texts I've read, the reason why we exist and are momentarily "separate" from god is so that god can know himself through us. We are all "god" really, just in separate pieces experiencing separate but similar things simultaneously.

Even if you are a complete and total atheist, the idea that post-kicking-the-bucket, you just cease to be completely has to be ridiculously unsettling. You'll just be blacked out and will never ever feel, experience, or do anything again. Ever. FOR ETERNITY, MAN!

So sit back and think about all of this for second: either you will exist forever, or will be nothing for the entire rest of time. I don't know why this all of a sudden struck me as odd today, maybe because I just can't process large numbers in reference to time. I know that Jesus existed two thousand years ago, but I choose not to think about how fucking long ago that was simply because it makes my head hurt. Let your mind space out for a bit and just contemplate the idea of forever and how ridiculously huge that idea is. I definitely feel something that dwarves me in a weird way and makes me feel helpless in an odd way, like I'm stuck in some sort of prank I can't escape no matter how hard I try.

Of course, all of these points are essentially moot because I really don't know what happens next. None of us do. Heaven could be a giant never-ending party with iridescent streamers and a great DJ that has the magical powers to never get old or boring. Or my points on reincarnation are totally true and we are pretty much just gods hanging out in material forms for a little bit due to the Large God's senses of boredom and curioisty. I'm sure this massive plan will make complete sense once I'm dead, so I'm actually looking forward to dying so I can say, "oohhh!! NOW I get it!" instead of going, "well I think I understand and it all seems fun regardless!"

Now let's go back to the idea of the Big Bang for a second...

If you are Christian and believe that the Big Bang is true, then heaven becomes an impossibility. Every single atom in the entire Universe was contained in a super-condensed, hottest-thing-ever little dot. Now, this was just matter, so essentially the stuff of the physical realm, like our bodies. Because our "souls" are immaterial, they could not have existed within this little dot and must've surrounded it within whatever space surrounded it, and thus we must've been one giant piece of each other. Maybe that's really how heaven is, but many people believe each person has their own individual space in heaven, and I just don't think that's logical. Then again, how many religious belief-systems are based in logic?

Now, if you are Buddhist, the Big Bang throws the concept of karma into question, as well. If all matter emanates from one point, then we are all essentially in debt karmically to the first action (whatever it was) and are merely spending the rest of eternity trying to repay it until everything collapses upon itself randomly.

It boggles my mind to think about what surrounded the Big Bang's dot because obviously there's something on the outside of what we consider "The Universe." It literally goes on PAST forever. Scientists have no idea as to what lies outside of our Universe and our Dot, so I'm not about to try theorizing until I better inform myself. Although, I have the feeling that the outside of our Universe is the residue of the previously destroyed Universe and the space in which our Universe existed will at some point give space to the next incarnation, much like our bodies house our souls and our souls move from body to body. Anything that's broken or destroyed is capable of being completely reassembled in one way or another.

Within one of my recent blogs, I briefly touched upon the potential infinity of space. I think the idea of Eternity and infinity in terms of time is even harder to grasp. Anyway, I could go on forever, and this is one of those topics that help to point out how truly insignificant and yet crucial I am. If I continue, I'm likely to lapse into a meditation-induced coma, so I'll just go back to thinking about my truly trivial life. I think things like wonderful friends, guys that make my heart skip a beat, the goal of grad school, and Indian food exist so that I don't lose myself in these expansive thoughts. HA! Wouldn't it be hilarious if the entire point of existence was to distract us from existing so that we didn't lose ourselves in the contemplation of it all? Oh my, that would be deliciously ironic and almost Simpsons-esque. Truly my kind of Universe!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


There are few things of more importance to a kid than their imagination. All the swords, dolls, and blocks in the world would be pointless if a child didn't possess the ability to make them come to life. Granted, it seems to be used less these days with modern technology, but kids still rely on it for a lot. I can remember pretending I was a crime fighting ninja turtle with sais for gods' sake or a certain hero with a sword who, looking back, was pretty gay if you ask me. The point, though, is that as a kid, I embodied those characters and I became them for a little while each day. My imagination allowed me to suspend my life for the moment and become something else entirely and it didn't really require much effort or anything special. Everyone as a kid is able to do this and we even imagine whole worlds together occasionally. Some kids even have imaginary friends. Their imagination is so strong that they can invent complete personalities outside of their own. It's really kinda fascinating if you stop and think about it.

The frivolous and constant use of imagination stops once we hit puberty. It's point switches from imagining oneself as a king or horseback riding through the countryside to imagining what the person next to you looks like naked. Being a gay guy, though, I'm not sure which use sounds like a better time! The fun and innocence, though, is obviously drained from our imagination upon turning into sexual creatures and never gets replaced, sadly. At that point, we begin to view our imagination as childish and something to outgrow even though our creativity brought us so much joy. We feel pressured by our friends and parents to "grow up" and leave behind something we held so dear for so long. This generally appears to be the point where many people begin to feel negatively towards life, too, so it seems once the imagination is gone, so is the innocence of childhood.

With Easter fast approaching, my mind is often drawn back to my youth in the Catholic Church. Around every major Catholic holiday, there was a definite mystique that surrounded the traditions, and it wasn't just the fictional characters like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. With each Holy Day, there was a palpable magic in the air. This man and this god that seemed larger than life itself re-experienced their story every year and it was incredible, inspiring, and far-fetched. Now that I'm older and no longer believe in the faith, the feeling I get during any holiday is completely different, to which I'm sure many people can relate. Lately, I've noticed that I've slipped into a comfortable numbness related to the holidays now that their magic is drained completely. I'm content with their adult forms, but I dearly miss the magic they used to have. My imagination used to be wrapped around these legends, and it is this that creates a lot of problems for adults. Our imaginations that were once so powerful and innocent come to defend the lore and myths of religion. We accept only these made up stories as truth and deny all else, even the religions of others, and the once pure tool of imagination becomes something extremely dangerous. How probable is it that a man was crucified and rose from the dead three days later? Or that a man parted the Red Sea? Or that the world is held up by a pile of turtles? All of these ideas are believed by people, even though to a different culture from the one in which they were formed, they all sound like the fruits of an overactive imagination.

Before the advent of modern science, adults used their imaginations to explain the wonders of natural phenomena. It takes an extremely creative person to explain away the stars, the sun, the moon, and the weather with such eloquent and inspiring stories. To the Greeks, the Sun was merely the Chariot of Apollo riding across the sky each day, which made complete sense to them at the time. Such a belief was obviously concocted in someone's imagination. We, of course, understand the the sun is actually a massive ball of gas and heat that emanates enough light to give this planet life and we believe the Greek story to be nothing more than that: a silly, childish story. A flower was once a person and thunder was the wrath of the gods. To us, it sounds naive and we often learn these stories as kids to help pepper our own potent imaginations, but are these stories that far from a man raising the dead and walking on water?

Technology and rationality have come to replace imagination in our modern age. Fitting for this time of the year, I watched a documentary today that scientifically and logically explained each plague that Moses brought down against the Egyptians. Most were interconnected and it all required the exact perfect storm, but each one was explainable. We can track storms, predict eclipses, cure an innumerable amount of diseases, talk to another person who lives thousands of miles away and this is all done with technology and rationale. But, let's face it: is that as fun as imagining that fairies exist or that spirits roam the forest? With all of our modern comforts and toys, many of us yearn for a more magical time when the simplest things inspired wonder and awe.

As adults, we generally use our imagination for the most boring and unproductive shit. As kids, our imagination added to our day and brought most of us happiness, while most adults use theirs to worry, me included. We stress creatively and imagine all of the things that could possibly go wrong in every situation, all the time. Most grown ups rarely use their imagination for anything productive and it merely adds to the ego and the mind's constant flow of generally useless thoughts that distract us from the present moment. Part of me questions if the imagination is simply an extension of the ego and the mind or if it's a tool of the soul to bring us closer to the Universe, God, and the Truth. In my current path, I'm trying to re-connect with my imagination in meditation and its power there is pretty respectable and humbling. I've witness a colored spectrum of me's that exist inside my soul and mind and I've had different experiences with each one. I've felt the healing power of a white light and I've been in near-trace states all thanks to my imagination during meditation, and this is what leads me to believe that meditation is the next logical evolution of imagination in adults.

Another part of me wonders if the stories and myths of old have to be replaced and if we need to retire the imagination to the deepest recesses of our minds at all. I keep referring to the stories of Christianity and Judaism to prove a point because people believe these stories today, even though they're pretty fantastic and mythical. Is it such a bad thing to believe that an ordinary guy could heal the sick or affect the weather in a massive way? Or that one's being chased by monsters in the forest or that angels are watching over us? I've noticed that effectively wielding my imagination brings fun into my life fairly easily. It's pretty obvious that even as far as our technology and science have come, we haven't quite figured everything out just yet. Pretending and maybe even thinking and feeling that a creature, whatever it may be, is kneeling next to me while I meditate in the woods makes me feel more connected to it all, and I think that's all that really matters, logic and rationale be damned.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


This is from my Lj, and since I feel like it's really important and perfectly captures my place in life, I'm definitely importing it to this blog:

I've got a few subjects that I've been meaning to write about, and I have a few half-started blogs sitting somewhere on my computer right now. See? I really did intend to start blogging again!

I think the most important blog I need to make right now is this one. It jumps around a lot, and is kind of incredibly massive, but it has a point. I really have come so far in the past year that it's kinda scary. My progression, sadly, isn't well documented here. It is somewhat in youtube and my paper journal, but it's mostly done with my relationships with others and especially myself. My self-confidence is insanely high these days and I'm back to believing that I can accomplish anything. After reading "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle last year, my inner cynic was released in a way I've never experienced before, and since calming it and seeing where it was coming from, I'm semi-considering picking up the book again for a few reasons. For a while, though, I was insanely bored, anxious, and almost depressed. I saw literally everything I did, everything I experienced, and everything in my life as completely and utterly pointless due to my "micro / macro" point of view.

I think I've explained this view a few times, but I'll try to give it a go again now: we are humans hanging out on planet Earth. Our lives seem incredibly important to us, as they should, and we are often plagued by the idea that we are the center of the universe so to speak. In the cold, logical reality that dominated my thinking for a while, nothing could be further from the truth. Time, space, and matter are funny things, and they have a great way of putting everything into perspective.

Let's take time apart first. In my ripe-old-age of 25, I've experienced a lot of things. So many things, actually, that most of those things rarely are thought about again after they happen, thus most of these things don't have much consequence down the line. It's true, though, that everything has its point, and I do believe that. However, it could take years for that point to manifest itself. "Time heals everything," right? That's a cliche for a reason. I encounter many people who are stressing out about the small and simple and my attitude (I hope) rubs off on them in a positive way. I'm constantly reminding people that their reactions, while understandable, are pointless. I always tell people, "what will it matter 5 years from now?" By that time, any sort of rift or mishap or negative situation related to the current problem will most certainly have cleared up, only to be replaced by new "problems." So, then, why bother stressing out about things if the you in 5 years will not care about what happened way back then (meaning now)? Do you care what happened to you 5 years ago? I'm sure there are little situations that dwell inside everyone's memory that bother them or embarrass them, but are they really that big of a deal? 5 years ago, I was in my spring semester of my junior year at UB, and I can't even think of the problems I was experiencing, but I'm sure they were there. If I can't really remember the little things from then NOW, why should I bother stressing about them at the time if they'll just be forgotten down the line anyway? 10 years ago, I was a sophomore in high school and the problems associated with that time seem so silly and remote that I can laugh at them now. I'm sure that 10 years from now when I'm 35 (holy shit), I will say the same of my problems today. Why, then, do I waste all this time, energy, and thought worrying? Why do you? Time, then, is a silly concept that provides us with nice clean slates if we allow it to and, if understood properly, frees us from some of our demons of yesterday and tomorrow today.

Space and matter are inter-related, and my "ah ha" moment in relation to them came from reading "Conversations with God" a few years ago, which I still regard very highly as it had a huge part in formulating my current and very healthy spiritual base. Once again, we are human beings hanging out on planet Earth. Our lives seem extremely important to us, and we often regard ourselves as the center of our respective universe. Small little details appear to nearly destroy that Universe, and we constantly stress about that, when they are just as pointless as we are. As humans, we are made up of many pieces. We are one whole human being first, who is comprised of a series of "systems," which are created by organs, which are made functional through cells, which are made of molecules, which consist of atoms, and so on and so forth. One can continue going down the line, and as matter continues to get smaller, one finds that it's mostly empty space with a few little dots that interact with each other through physics. Now, in the exact opposite direction, we are humans who live in towns and cities, which are a part of countries, which make continents, which make the Earth, which is a planet in the Solar System, which is one of many in the galaxy, which there are an insane amount of in the Universe. One can go up the line, and as matter gets larger and larger, one can find that all it is is mostly empty space with a few gigantic dots interacting with each other through physics. We are just a rung on a ladder, really, and who can really tell how high and how far down it goes? As humans hanging out on planet Earth in this incredibly intricate dance of existence, each one of us is unnervingly insignificant.

This point of view during "A New Earth," and for a few months afterwards, wasn't nearly as healthy sounding and was very toxic to me. The book is meant to inform the reader how important it is to understand the current moment and to not dwell on the past and future, as the are pointless. This made me very cynical, and I'm not even sure how I overcame it, but I am able to use these insanely grand ideas in my every day life now to teach me patience and temper. Nothing gets me upset anymore because I realize that my little life is entirely insignificant and that no matter what I do, things will be okay because in the grand scheme of things (hundreds of thousands of years, infinite amount of space), my little foibles and mistakes won't add up to much at all. It's freeing, actually.

For the past few months, though, I've definitely neglected my spiritual side to focus on my goal of getting into grad school, which I'm not sure is a good thing or a bad thing. Well, I'll go with a good thing because in the end, everything ends up being good one way or another. It's exceptionally easy for me to focus on the negatives of what I'm currently doing and completely ignore the positives, and I won't do that this time. I chose to make grad school insanely important to me, so much so that I've pretty much forgone every other goal in the past couple of years; moving to Italy was placed on the back-burner, finding a new job was ignored, and moving out of my freakin' parents' basement was even placed below it. Luckily, I've accomplished this goal of mine. I also realized that grad school was *MY* first goal that I've accomplished that wasn't expected of me. Getting my bachelor's was pretty much a shoe-in from elementary school, and since it wasn't that important to me because it was expected, I didn't take it that seriously. The entire grad school experience has been completely different. I've known a lot of people who have gone and finished with no problem, but for me, it's been one of the hardest struggles of my life. I think I've been working at it for two and a half years now and the fact that I've gotten accepted to such an amazing program really has yet to hit me.

Last week, I wrote an essay for a scholarship that allowed me to reflect on the past few years of my life, which Ed from even a year ago would've called a massive disappointment and a waste of time. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, though, and even though the past few years of my life have not gone exactly as I planned, I am at the point where I can see how every step, stumble, mistake, and victory have led me to exactly this point. Being accepted into this program is the momentary culmination of all of my hard work and determination, and I am exceptionally excited for what lies ahead. After seeing how life likes to throw massive and unexpected curve balls, I no longer require incredibly specific goals for myself and am more comfortable with thoughts like, "I want to be happy," "I want to travel," and "I want to positively influence the world."

In the past couple of years, I've literally had to re-teach myself confidence and basic social skills. My confidence and anxiety got so bad that I had to completely disassemble my personality and re-construct it from the ground up with nary a person taking notice. I watched people interact and paid intense attention to little pieces of conversation and communication that one usually only notices when one is young. As usual, I was being really hard on myself and would get really angry at myself if I did something awkward or laughable without realizing that it happens to everyone. I'm much more relaxed about things like that again, thankfully. Little things don't really get to me much anymore, and I have my "micro / macro" outlook to thank for that. My confidence is at a great level, and I'm incredibly happy for that. I have my moments of weakness, of course, but then I realize that getting down about stuff does me no good, and that in time (hopefully sooner than later), I'll be back to my old ridiculously bouncy self that everyone loves. Also, I never really realized how much I have to offer and the level of joy and excitement I bring to the lives of others. People are damned lucky to have my awesomness in their lives, and it's taken me quite a bit of time to truly understand that.

I used to resent the responsibility I have and the fact that a lot of people I meet rely in me in large way. First of all, I wouldn't HAVE these responsibilities and all these people relying on me if I weren't able to handle it. Second, I have these responsibilities and people in my life simply because they love me and they think very highly of me. People allow me such responsibility because they know that I can handle it, and there never has been a point in my life when that wasn't true. Granted, I'm not as "successful" at this point in my life as I would have expected, but I'd say I'm happier and an so incredibly well-off outlook wise compared to most other people my age that I think I chose the right path. I've got the rest of my life to accomplish what Westerners would consider "success," but I would never be able to appreciate it if my outlook were to be terrible.

The thing about all of this that bothers me about all this, though, is that this talk of my awesomeness, grad school, and eventual success feeds my ego in a way that hasn't happened in quite some time, and I don't want that. I don't want my confidence to come from external things that put me in competition with others. I'm not sure if that's what's happening now, because I know I'm very happy about what I've accomplished and I'm very happy about the idea of grad school, but at the same time, I know how great of a person I am for the first time in a while. I no longer feel like I'm missing out on things because I'm blazing my own path that people seem to be pretty envious of, and while I'm not happy over their envy, I am proud about the fact that I'm beginning to see what everyone else has for quite some time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Maybe something new?

So I'm not new to this whole blogging deal by any means. In fact, I blogged even before the term "blog" had been created. I'm just that awesome.

My thoughts are (and still will be) at, but I think I've outgrown that place and that audience. I started it in 2001, and I just don't really have the desire to write there anymore. Maybe if I move, I'll be struck by the desire to blog more again, so we'll see.