The Sky’s The Limit

I want to go to Mars.

Someday, quite possibly in my lifetime, humans will set down on the surface of Mars. I want to be one of the pioneers. To sail across that untouched sea and set foot on a new, unblemished terrain, I can’t imagine a greater achievement or experience. I dream about leaving Earth and exploring a virgin world.

So, you know, if any of you crazed billionaires are reading this, hit me up.

I was discussing this subject with my friend, Maria, and she had a hard time getting on board with my desire to rocket from this planet on a trip that would take decades. It would be a permanent relocation, after all.

“But you would never come back.” She said incredulously.

“I know,” I answered, relishing the thought. It seems we had very different feelings on that possibility.

Making Moves

There is a study that’s been making headlines for the last week, which, to be succinct, reports that Americans aren’t moving, and Millennials are a major reason for that statistical decline, with only 20% of the generation (my generation) having moved from their address (let alone city) in the last year. Now, I’ve previously written about how I hate the way Millennials are grouped and stereotyped, but this statistic is worth analyzing briefly.

The main contributing factor for the lack of mobility among the 25- to 35-year-old set is apparently the job market (thanks Baby Boomers!), which certainly makes sense. Other factors that have historically limited movement – home ownership, having a spouse, having a child – aren’t really pertinent to most Millennials who are, statistically, not settling down behind a white picket fence.

To say I’m an outlier in this research is the understatement of the decade. Since I turned 20, I’ve only stayed at the same address for more than 12 months twice, and I’ve only renewed a lease once. Yes, I’ve lived an unusual life, but my ability to move wasn’t based on any particularly unique circumstances. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, I was affected as much as anyone. I went months without work, in multiple cities, and when I did find work, it paid the bare minimum. I’d argue I’m still facing the effects of the recession.

It didn’t stop me from moving back then, and it’s not going to stop me now.

Not everybody needs to move, I realize that. But everybody should move.

I’m reminded of this Louis C.K. bit on marriage and divorce:

If you stay put, you might have a happy life, you may avoid hardships. Your life very well may avoid all the road blocks and problems that come with relocation. But if you never move, you will remain an incomplete person.

I know I just insulted a wide swath of people; I’m okay with that. Until you place yourself in a new situation, until you physically relocate, your understanding of yourself remains incomplete.

Maybe you’d make the same argument about marriage or owning a home (debatable), but it’s easier to get married and buy a home after you’ve moved than to move after you’ve married or bought a house. If you’re in your 20s or 30s and still living in your hometown, you owe it to yourself to make a move. If you’re married or own a house, get a divorce and sell that money pit (kidding; sort of).

giphy

See The World

No matter how far away it might feel, relocating to a new city, state, or even country isn’t a trip to Mars. You can always go back. Technological advancements make that truer every year, which is why it’s so bizarre that I live among such an immobile people.

Now this isn’t discussed in the study, so call it mere speculation, but I am confident another contributing factor to our decreased movement is technology. We all have the ability to see pictures from distant lands on our phones and become friends with people on the other side of the planet. It’s easy to convince ourselves, “Oh, I know what that place is like, I’ve seen it.” Our interconnectedness creates the illusion that all places are essentially the same.

Let me be obnoxiously clear: THEY ARE NOT.

You cannot experience a place through a screen. I don’t care how advanced technology gets, how realistic virtual reality becomes, you will never experience somewhere unless you go there in person. We are not our avatars.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about making a relocation, if you’ve been creating a “Pros & Cons” list, asking friends and family, or even praying about it, let me be the still small voice: It’s time to go.

us-diversity

In our current historical moment, moving to a new country is important so that we can increase our empathy and understanding across borders. But you don’t have to make such a drastic move to still gain a new perspective. One of the many great things about the United States is that it offers unparalleled variety. You can spend years exploring this country and not see it all. I know; I did.

You have to choose your own path; it’s yours and yours alone to take. I’ll just end with this: If every morning you wake up in the same bed and grit your teeth for another day of routine, why are you staying?

Mars awaits.

Cynicism & the Death of a Celebrity

“The talk of the ignorant is like the rumblings which issue from the belly.” ~ Demetrius the Cynic

This weekend, as we all know by now, Amy Winehouse died.  Likely an overdose, though from what I’ve read, cause of death hasn’t been confirmed.  As a very public drug addict, death by addiction has the feeling of inevitability; even  more so now that she joins the 27 club.

In response to the news, I posted this comment on my Facebook:

Amy Winehouse is dead. Now it's time for the usual FB cycle: 
24 hours of "So sad" posts followed by a week of cynical jokes mocking her.


Probably inevitably, the responses to this comment mostly missed my point.  The misinterpretation was that I found grief ridiculous and that cynicism was the rational response to this famously trainwrecked celebrity’s death.  In fact, what I meant was that 24 hours of grief followed by immediate derision is a horrific response to the passing of someone, famous or not.  We, as a culture, seem incapable of sustaining a genuine emotion and we mock and deride any outpouring of it.

My problem isn’t with those who feel sad for the passing of Amy Winehouse (or any celebrity), my criticism is for the kneejerk cynicism that must immediately turn every public death into an attempt to one-up each other’s blasé attitude.

Pessimist/Optimist

I think my atheism and penchant for dark, at times even morbid humor has given people the impression that I am a cynic.  The assumption being, since I have rejected the ‘feel good’ story of Christianity and enjoy a healthy dose of perversity I must think everything is stupid and worth mocking.

Well, that assumption is stupid and worth mocking.

Let’s set something straight:  I’m a realist, and I balance my innate personal pessimism with my general societal optimism.  I am always planning for the worst case scenario in my own life, expecting misfortune just around the corner.  It’s the rational approach to life’s uncertainties.  It is better to be prepared for a downturn that may never come than to depend on a lucky turn that will likely never materialize.

But when it comes to the overall evolution and progress of our society and species, I’m an eternal optimist.  I don’t buy into anybody’s apocalyptic predictions, whether they be religious or political, conservative or liberal.  Dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels and movies always ring hollow to me. 

In the wake of a Great Depression, Adolf Hitler, the Cold War and other great scares of the 20th century, writers predicted a variety of nightmarish futures.  Futures that never came to pass.

We live in hard times now, so naturally there is an abundance of doomsayers proclaiming the end of our society, but all I can do is look at the historical context of the hysteria and remain unmoved.  We will overcome.

But you’d be hard pressed to hear that kind of optimism coming from your television personalities.  Cynicism is the de rigueur attitude of talking heads and tastemakers (maybe it always has been?), and I have no use for it.

You Non-Contributing Zero

Cynicism is a useless stance.  It creates nothing, adds nothing, offers no solutions.

A cynic looks at problems (or potential problems) and merely points them out, almost gleefully.  It’s like a guy sticking his finger into your bullet wound just to poke and prod. The cynic would rather tear down than build up, and relishes the failures of others.  The cynic looks at Amy Winehouse and says, “Eh, saw that coming.”  Well, congratulations Miss Cleo, that astute observation (after the fact) was worth the price of admission.

Cynicism Masquerading as Critique

The cynic appears in many forms these days.  Perhaps most annoying to me is the cynicism that tries to pass itself off as the aged and wizened critic of artistry.  Maybe you’ll recognize this particular form of cynicism:

“Music today is terrible!”  Or, “Kids television is crap compared to what we had!” 

This ignores the fact that most of us are only a decade or so out from being ‘kids’ and that people said the same thing about our music and television.  You know why you don’t like kids television?  Because you’re not a kid.  You shouldn’t like it.  Stop trying to remain  a child and grow up.  And stop fetishizing your youth as if it was the best time of your life and nothing will ever be better.  If that’s really your outlook, I feel sad for you.  Try living with the belief that the best years of your life are still ahead of you.

The creation of art is going to keep happening, whether you appreciate it or not.

Cynicism is only interested in criticizing, never appreciating.  There is certainly a place for intelligent criticism in this world.  Reading articulate art criticism, for instance, is how one becomes an informed and well-rounded consumer of art.

An unfortunate drawback of the internet, though, is that in its democracy it has given voice to a million ignorant critics and very few educated or informed art lovers.

Personally, while I could talk about bands or movies I hate, I’d much rather and more enthusiastically talk to you about gorgeous songs and awe-inspiring films.  When you can intelligently discuss the merits of art, then you can legitimately discern when they are lacking.  But our age of cynics would rather shit on everything indiscriminately, as if the sole mark of being a critic is the ability to hate on things.  (My favorite film critic is the New York Times A.O. Scott, partially because we have similar film tastes, but mostly because his enthusiasm and love for the medium shines out of everything he writes.)

Ironically, no one is more cynical than early 20-somethings who have just had their first taste of freedom from high school and their parents.  They think because they’ve done a few drugs and had a few fucks, maybe even backpacked Europe (on their parent’s dime), that they’ve seen it all, and it all sucks compared to some Platonic ideal that never existed.  Their voice of disdain pervades the internet, and thus our culture.

Good riddance.

Another odd strain of cynicism that I’ve seen rising lately is the Christian Cynic.  This is probably a reaction against the Naive Christian, the easily ridiculed punching bag for rationalists and cynics alike.  The Christian Cynic is indistinguishable from most of the negativity of the world (usually with a Right Wing bent), a kind of chameleon of faith who wants to hold onto the keys to the kingdom while getting to join in with the fearmongering.

Maybe they’ve forgotten what it says in 1 Peter:  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 

We Atheists get blamed for the decline of Christianity (and it is declining), but I think the true answer lies in that verse.  Christians don’t seem to be all that hopeful (certainly not the sect that holds up Glenn Beck as a voice of reason), and those that are hopeful tend to beat that ‘hope’ over our heads by claiming that we non-believers can’t possibly be as happy and content as them.

(Yes, there are exceptions, hopeful Christians who are kind and considerate of other beliefs or non-beliefs.  Sheesh, I have to say this every time.)

The Danger

Cynicism is the destructive force that will undermine our culture.  But your cynicism can’t destroy hope.  Certainly not mine.  I will succeed on my own merits.

The only danger your cynicism poses is to yourself.  You risk living a life devoid of beauty.  You put yourself in a position to miss out on just how amazing the world we live in truly is.  And it also makes you look like a prick, because while you cynically dismiss everything around you, there are people in this world with legitimately dire situations who don’t have access to all the perks that your cushy American life provides.

If you want to waste your life hating on things you know nothing about and whining about a society that is as close to utopia as our species has ever known, than go for it.  Be proud of the absolute nothing that you bring to the table.

I think Louie says it best:

And in memory of Amy Winehouse whose death is a tragedy, even if you’re too cynical to see it, a friend’s genuine tribute:

The Adventures of a White Mexican (in 3D)

I received my anti-Arizona Immigration Law sticker today (from Presente.org who are sadly out of stickers now).

Now, I don’t own a car, and even if I did, I would never put a bumpersticker on it (though, if you are so inclined, may I suggest one of these).  Maybe I’ll find someone with a McCain/Palin ’08 sticker on their car and affix it to theirs.

Look, I know there is nothing I am going to say here that is going to change anyone’s mind.  This is a preaching to the choir kind of post (and what a sexy choir you are).  In fact, I don’t really want to get into the debate, certainly not with some Conservative who thinks I know nothing about real America because I’m a godless Liberal (despite me having lived all over this country).  There are far better educated people out there who can give you all the information you can need to make an informed decision (of, if you’d rather make an uninformed decision, there’s always Fox News).

And really, if you have an interest in this topic, you should be doing the research, not listening to some blowhard rant on about the topic (or any topic), whether it be me or Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann.  We have enough people talking, not enough people researching.

The whole topic just gets me thinking about something I’ve never even brought up on this blog (of course, those that know me personally are well aware of it):  I’m Mexican.  Well, half.

There, I said it.  Such a weight off of my shoulders.

Now, I know what you may be thinking, sexy blog reader (I mean it, dead sexy).  I don’t look particularly… brown.  And it’s true, if you’ve seen the few photos of myself that I’ve posted here on 10 Cities, you’ve seen a rather white looking fellow peering back at you.  And no, it’s not just the flash.

Now, there is the possibility that I’m the milkman’s kid, but until the DNA results come in, I’m gonna keep calling my father ‘padre’ (pretty much the only Spanish I do know).

What did that mean for my upbringing?  Not much.  No racism that I ever witnessed (though I can’t say if that’s true for my browner siblings).  No, other than telling quite a few more ‘spic’ jokes than your average non-Texan family and earning a full-ride scholarship to college (yeah, I know, hate me), being half-Mexican didn’t have any major effect on my life, good or bad.  It’s just who I was, one facet of my existence that was always there, but in no way made me different (as far as I was concerned).

Were there people who didn’t want to be my friend because I was a half-breed?  Maybe, but I highly doubt it.  I assume if anyone doesn’t want to be my friend, it’s for my winning personality.

I would say it’s safe to conclude that I have never experienced any form of racism aimed directly at me.  I’ve lived a fairly charmed life in that way, especially compared to the vast number of people who have historically made up this country, from day one to right now:  Immigrants, legal or otherwise.

Is Arizona’s SB 1070 bill racist?  In legal terms, not inherently.  In intent, most likely.  In practice, most certainly.  If it wasn’t racist, I could go to Arizona and legitimately be concerned that I might be pulled over and need to have proof of citizenship.  After all, I am Mexican.  The color of my skin doesn’t change that fact, and it shouldn’t in the eyes of the law.

But something tells me that if I were in Arizona, carousing late at night with my oldest brother and we happened to end up on el policia’s radar, one of us might spend the night in jail (“until citizenship is confirmed”) and the other would get asked tips on how to keep blond hair so shiny and vibrant.

My point is, being white is great.

No, actually, my point is, whether you love or hate the Arizona law, you have to admit that it does nothing to solve the larger immigration problems in this country.  Just imagine if the law was passed for the entire nation.  We’d all be living in a police state where anyone with the “wrong” skin color, accent or cultural norms would be easy targets for discrimination.

Making ineffective immigration laws stricter and expecting that to fix the problem is like putting grease on a broken bike chain.  It’s, how they say in Spanish, “Fucking stupid-o.”