Phlebotomic is a blog experiment that seeks to gather multiple perspectives around a common prompt, which is provided weekly.

Last week's prompt was "Beauty"...

This week's prompt is "Path"...

24 March 2009

Path - What Led Me to Here

The Way. The Road less traveled. The Highway (information, usually). Parkway, Interstate, County Road, toll, bridge, trail, track, etc, etc, etc. So many ways to express the method of getting from place to place. Yet, do we even really know where we're going? I started college sure of my destination. I was going to be a pre-med major, with a minor in biology and chemistry, and then I planned to attend medical school and become one of the world's foremost physicians. Yet, after barely more than a semester, I realized that I was studying to make others happy, and not myself. So, I had a period of introspection, and thought, "Hey, I am good at arguing and defending a point or position. Law School it is." Paul Reed, Esquire had a nice ring to it. I could defend the rights of the oppressed, defend the Constitution, and help uphold the law. However, after a conversation with my sister and brother-in-law, both attorneys, both cynical and trapped, and also both of whom fervently advised, pleaded, threatened, cajoled me not to stay in the pre-law path. Thankfully, I listened. Seeing where their path has led makes me happy my stubbornness has bounds. But I digress. So, I am now a sophomore in college, taking business classes, because I reasoned that they would be useful regardless of my eventual career. Along the way, I was taking Spanish classes basically just because I liked it (still do, ;)). I was also taking PoliSci classes for my own personal edification (I guess I am extremely stubborn). But, there was something about those language classes. I just couldn't get enough, couldn't stop. I decided to go to Venezuela after graduation to continue with the Spanish. I went, had the trip of a lifetime, and my path was getting clearer. I had unsheathed my metaphorical machete and cleared it up somewhat. So, Spanish. Well, I wanted to continue, and that meant grad school. I had met this beautiful brunette in college, and become rather enamoured. So, where to go, where to go. She was going to Memphis, TN, and that city happened to have a MA program in Romance Languages and Literatures. Beale Street, Elvis, and barbeque (easy Texans, pork bbq, not beef, not brisket, REAL BBQ!!!) beckoned. Two years, lots of Spanish, lots of papers, the addition of Portuguese, the finding of my true calling, Linguistics, and great friends and a church that helped me grow is what I found in the Bluff City.

Fast forward a bit. Here I am, a professor at a great school, in a great city, surrounded by awesome friends. I have a wonderful wife whom I adore, and I have recently been accepted into a doctorate program. God truly blessed my broken road, my path less traveled.

If I would've continued in what I wanted, I would probably be a resident in a program, hating life, lonely, and wondering, "Where did I go wrong?" Yet, God was there with me in those anxious days, nervous about choices I was about to make. He led me where He wanted me, and I thank Him daily for it.

Where is your path? Is it yours, or are you guided by the Creator? Interesting thought............I welcome responses, or other path stories.

Sorry for no picture, I couldn't find one that went with the entire story. Google maps maybe, with the detour function on?

19 March 2009

Path: fighting our way, stumbling along, trying to find the right one

There is this intrinsic sense of destiny within us. We grow up just knowing that there must be a way, a path, a secret means of achieving...something. Much of our life and energy is spent spinning wheels to find it, hurrying to achieve a prominent place along it, and get to...somewhere. Those with faith and those without faith moorings desire to find this mysterious path to destiny.

There just seems to be no formula for consistently succeeding at this drive. There are too many path-finding dynamics to juggle. Is it 1 path or are their optional trails along a larger path system? Do you cut your own path or stumble into it? Is it a good but not best or right path? Is "the" path permanent? Does leaving a path mean it was the wrong one? Who chooses? Does the path find you, do you scurry around the woods until you find something looking remotely like a path? Are signs good?
It would be easier if it was a flip-a-coin type of impasse between 2 roads, but too often I've faced "forks" with 10 prongs...8 of which look really good. That's just cruel. Then, I've exited pleasant paths for foggy side trails only to discover I inadvertently avoided destruction.
What makes it a good path? How do you find this path? What path are you looking for? What path are you walking on and how did you choose it? Does it have an expiration point or discernible destination?

17 March 2009

Path: The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

-Robert Frost, 1920

i first heard this robert frost poem years ago...back before i had a clue of who i was or what was to come of me...but even then, i felt like it was saying something to me. and i think for years, i took the popular path...and it led me nowhere. (not that i didn't try the same path over and over again.) then, something changed. i realized that the path i was on led to nowhere. i stopped believing that i could do things all on my own.

this has become even more apparent to me over the past couple days. thanks to an ongoing medical condition of someone very dear and close to me, i've been reminded that my path doesn't end with me. in fact, it's not even my path. so often we think that we reach a summit, and that's it...we've arrived at where we need to be. but in reality, it's only a small peak on the side of that endless mountain. that path didn't start with me, and i'm not alone on it. it's simply a continuation from so many people that shared their lives and stories, that molded and formed who i currently am and who i am to become. they're on that path with me...and from that, i'll be one of many that will hopefully influence others in a great way, in order to keep adding numbers, and to keep that path heading upward.

so, in a sense, the one less traveled leads to nowhere. i'm sharing the same path with so many other people, and that has indeed made all the difference.

"trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." -Proverbs 3:5-6

thanks kyle

love you dad

13 March 2009

Beauty: Sex, Lies and Photoshop (Bonus Links)

i know i've already written my blog for the week, but i keep stumbling upon online articles, advertisements and videos that seem to dwell back to what our cultures view of beauty seems to be.

for example, click this link for an online article from displaying the amount of photoshop enhancements that take place in hollywood in regards to actors & actresses, and their appearance on screen.

or click here to see an ad ran in the san antonio express news for an upcoming makeover event in dallas, fittingly entitled 'beauty live'

also, click here to see a video from the new york times documenting the amount of 'touch-up' that goes into practically every photograph that we see in magazines and on billboards, and the effects it can have on an individuals self esteem.

it's no wonder we live in a culture obsessed with outward appearance, and with very few people actually satisfied with what they look like. when the people we're trying to emulate don't even look in real life how we see them in photographs and movies, what chance do we have?

12 March 2009

Beauty: A Ray of Compassion

I love the ABC series "What Would you Do?", partially because it does quasi-experiments that psychologists can't do anymore, and because it inevitably moves me each time I watch a scenario where someone breaks the social norms that often prevent us from helping one another. I love seeing someone standing up and committing an act of kindness amidst the social pressures not to stick your neck out. 

A recent episode revealed an actor portraying a man who is collapsed on a crowded sidewalk. The cameras roll to see how long it takes for people to help him or call for help. I saw beauty in Linda who helped the man (who was holding a beer can) while others strolled by in apathy or contempt. Click the link below and watch the last 4:30 to see the beauty. 

What Would you Do? video clip

Beauty: elusively abundant refractions of glory

Pulchritude. Pleasing. Positively stimulating. Lovely. Delightful. Sensational ecstasy from mere exposure. Terrifying delight. Tsunami's of the senses. Spectres of a hidden Glory.

The object is subjectively determined as qualified or unqualified to evoke these universal sentiments within the human heart...often swelling to the point of causing a pain in the breast that is nearly unbearable.

Some have said we are created as hedonists, with much of life being a battle for the object of fulfillment. Self, sex, substances, success, simulated realities, sensational highs and a myriad of things compete for stage time. The ugly composite of things we allow to possess our hedonistic heart greatly shape the sources of experiences we associated with beauty. Yet, beauty cries out to something cosmically timeless, intrinsically ethereal, a vapor that in one sense is touchless and in another so weighty that it threatens to destroy us if fully experienced.

What things awaken you to the core of your being like an ancient echo in your ear?

What objects stir you to secretly want to abandon all pursuits and

What moments represent a bouquet of overwhelming beauty scents permanently embedded within your memory?

What makes up your hedonistic buffet line - because you are a hedonist...the question is what is supplying satisfaction to your engine of desire!

11 March 2009

Beauty: One Step Closer

beauty is a feeling, an emotion
when all is as it seems, as it should be
when competing forces are at peace
when breaths are caught, when shoulders are relaxed

beauty is a tingling sensation, the goose bumps
a moment to be captured, stored in your memory
a thought not soon to be forgotten
an image of heart, a counterpart of love

beauty is all around, constantly overlooked
it lives on city highways, it’s found in suburban shopping malls
it’s one step closer to reality
what we all possess, what keeps us going

09 March 2009

Beauty: Sounds in my life

I feel like Beauty gets pigeonholed into a very tight definition. Vision becomes the principal vehicle for beauty and other senses get pushed out. I love a sunset just as much as the next guy, but there have been some that were a 4 of 5 on the sense meter. The early fall warm breeze and cicada chorus, with the smell of burning leaves and the most luminous color pallet available. The beauty could be the cool sheets and the warmth of your lover, or the taste of that regional favorite that has been out of reach for so long.

I am a sucker for beauty. My poison of choice is sound. Don't get me wrong, it's not just the vibrations my ears pick up, but the message of the words and the mixing of the tones. There are a few people who can convey more with a few notes than others will in an album. I can only hope that sharing a few of these with you could bring a little joy to your lives.

The Swell Season
Martin Sexton
The Avett Brothers
Paper Route
Bon Iver
David Bazan
Josh Ritter

Beauty: As defined by...

Beauty is relative to the eye...

To some it is a vehicle, to others some it is detail, to another, grandiose...and so on...

Mostly, beauty speaks to the creator...insert small or large "c" here...

Maybe it is just an over sensitive emotional fibre hidden within the "f" of my Myers Briggs profile...but I find it dangerous to judge beauty, and inviting to appreciate more widely...

I also have found that what appears beautiful at first, can be full of else...

So...nothing new here...maybe just a reminder...or a nudge...

Do not Pass Go, Do not Collect $200 - The Language Game

Sorry for the delay in this post

As most of you know, I am a linguist. (yes, I speak several languages, but that is not all a linguist does, I also study language scientifically). One of the seminal moments in my life, in this regard, was a book entitled, "Word Play," by author Peter Farb. It is a book about language, and about how it is like a game, both metaphorically and literally. We, the speakers, are the players, and we subconsciously and sometimes consciously know the rules of our "game." We "play" and the other players "play." This book opened up language, and its study, in a manner that changed my whole perspective.

Thinking of language as a game is an interesting idea. Like Monopoly, certain people add their own twists to the "rules." In my house, we put $500 in the middle, and also from payments of Community Chest and Chance cards. The income tax space funds went there too. To get the cash, all you had to do was land on Free Parking. When I would play at a friend's house, they would always look at me crazily and say,"That's not in the rules!!"

Language is the same way. People hear an accent, or a dialect (variation, NOT SUBSTANDARD), and they want to say, "That's not in the rules!!" Yet, the goal is the same, and we understand what is said, and we understand it completely. So, is it against the rules? If someone says, "I ain't got none." Are they breaking the rules? Do we understand? Do we judge?

I'll show that they are not. In English, we are a SVO language. That means the subject goes first, followed by the verb, and the the object comes last. So, in our sentence, "I" is the subject, and our verb (in this case a verb with a negative marker) is next. Finally, the direct object, that which receives the direct action of the verb, is last. A completely grammatical sentence by the constitutive rules of English.

Wait, you are probably thinking. What about double negatives? What about the word "ain't?" Aren't they wrong?!?!?!? The answer, NO!!!!!!! Shakespeare used both, and we hold him as the pinnacle of English. First off, the idea that double negation is actually positive is ludicrous. Language isn't math (by the way, Bishop Robert Lowth, a mathematician, came up with that rule in the 18th century, and it stuck because of the desire for maintaining social class distinctions) . Many languages use double negation as the standard. Are they not logical? French, Spanish, and hundreds more use such formations as standard, so unless billions of speakers are totally illogical in their speech, that argument falls flat. "Ain't" is a holdover from an older term for negation, so that argument falls too.

Dang, and all those English papers with red ink, and all those arguments with English teachers (I welcome all arguments from the other side).............

05 March 2009

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200: Monopolizing thought

Monopolizing thought is a scary thing. Centralizing power is a risky proposition. In the game Monopoly, someone is supposed to win. (Not that anyone has ever seen a game played to the last dollar in the history of ever.) So one person controls all the money and all the property due to a combination of luck and skill. Looking at the games I have played of Monopoly, the most fun is the beginning. Everyone has some money and a shot to build an empire.

I am for a game that teaches personal finance to people, but not one that teaches gain all the power and push everyone else out. The monopoly is a giant threat to a capitalistic society, but we live with them every day. Major League Baseball has a government sanctioned monopoly over top tier professional baseball in the US. There is no alternative equivalent, only the steroid enhanced big league players of the MLB.

You hear about the Wal-Mart's and KKY Zippers of the world, but may not think of "our political heroes" as being a monopoly. I don't propose competing governments (taxes are high as it is), but diversity of ideas. I hope that someday there are more than left and right, or D's & R's, or liberals and conservatives. I would like to hear the third party platforms get a larger/louder voice. Maybe the Socialist movement has a great plan for the FDA that keeps tainted food off our plates. Maybe the Green Party has a plank or two in their platform that could address health care concerns. Maybe we sound take more time to look at who is out there and what they have to say. Free up the political thought market and allow some competition.

DNPG – DNC$200: Circular Living

The game of Monopoly is an interesting reflection of our understanding of life.

We seem to see life as a game of sorts. We hope to have more good luck than bad luck and we intend to make money along the way. Apparently, success or victory can be claimed when we have more than others, although such relativism leads to an unwinnable proposition. After all, someone is always richer, smarter, and better-looking. Still, a great number of us live in such a purposeless haze as to chase the illusion of relative success.

To me, the beauty of Monopoly is in the way that the game board is oriented. The square-ishness makes me smile. No matter how much money one earns or how many properties one acquires, he must still continue on that tedious journey. He must continue making his way around the square.

For all intents and purposes, we could round out that square game board into a circle and the effect would be no different. We would be engaged in circular living, the human equivalent of a dog chasing his tail.

Circular living is a disease that plagues most of us most of the time and all of us some of the time. We chase incremental improvements and relative gains. Just once, I would like to see someone land on Park Place or Boardwalk (or even Marvin Gardens or Baltic Ave) and then refuse to take his next turn. I would love to hear someone say, “I think I’ll stay here awhile and just appreciate the view.”

I would like that very much.

03 March 2009

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200: Free Parking

i’m one that typically tries to find the good that comes from a bad situation, no matter the severity. sometimes it takes me a while to really sit down and look back at an undesired experience, but inevitably, it happens.

the subject of this blog is “Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200”. the previous line to this popular phrase from the game monopoly is: “Go To Jail. Go Directly To Jail”, and in the summer of 2003, that’s exactly what I did.

as a kid, i enjoyed playing this game quite often. (far too frequently i’d end up playing by myself…i would even create imaginary players i’d have to compete against, but naturally, i always made sure that “i” won.) one thing i never understood about this game was that it was a game of real estate and money, of finance and the occasional tax; so what did going to jail have to do with that? perhaps we now see some correlation between that and our society today (ie: enron, madoff, etc.), but that’s for someone else to write about.

here’s my understanding of a greater truth in my life, as taken from that simple family game. i was just going about life, playing the game. rolling the dice and seeing what property i landed on too. i was not concerned about outside forces (besides perhaps the occasional really can’t get away from those). that is, until i found myself in a sticky situation without a ‘get out of jail free’ card. in the summer of 2003, i was living like a king (at least that’s what i tried to portray to everyone else. internally, i knew i was a mess). excessive alcohol intake and partying had become a fairly regular thing in my life. i was not worried about tomorrow, only where i was drinking that night.

on that night, something changed. i was driving home early from a night out with friends, because i had to get up very early the next morning and leave on vacation. about ½ mile from my house, i saw the flashing lights in the rearview mirror. i pulled over, and began to wonder what i had possibly done wrong. turns out, i wasn’t speeding, or swerving, or in violation of any moving offense. the car i was driving (my friends by the way, he was ‘too drunk’ to drive) had expired tags (he was always the procrastinator). so, because of something as silly as an old piece of paper stuck to a windshield, i was now about 10 minutes from taking a ride downtown. the officer could smell alcohol on my breath, so he pulled me out of the car for a field sobriety test. honestly, i thought i did very well, but apparently my vote didn’t count. DWI.

the ironic thing in all of this is that i really wasn’t drunk. to this day, i’m convinced he just didn’t like me…that there was a prejudice involved. after 22 hours in jail, i was released on bond. about 6 months and several thousand dollars later, my case was thrown out, because the prosecutor had no evidence in which to proceed. the video they took showed no signs of inebriation.

i started this post by saying that i typically find the good that comes from a bad situation. the good that could possibly come from this story: well, there are a couple things. first off, did i mention that the case was thrown out on account of me not being drunk?! i can’t even begin to tell you how many times before that night, the outcome could have been severely different. there were nights when i don’t even remember driving home, so i can only imagine what would have progressed from an expired tag then. and secondly, this incident began something in me. it started an awakening, that life wasn’t just a game. that situations are real, and that ‘get out of jail free’ cards really don’t exist. it wasn't a change overnight, but it most definately was an introduction to a different life. one filled with promise and security.

occasionally, you do land on “free parking”.

02 March 2009

DNPG-DNC$200: an efficiency confession

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the most efficient way to get there is to increase speed, right? There is an implied correlary of relationship between those life lessons. I value efficiency (not over quality or end result) in general. This appreciation has contributed to what my wife sometimes refers to as a "lead foot" in driving.

I used to be in a job that involved driving lots of places with jam-packed schedules of appointments. I once got 2 tickets in the same city within an hour - 1 for going 9 over while driving in the slow lane of an interstate. After that experience I bought a radar detector since it was the logically cheaper alternative than paying for another ticket the next time I was in that market (right?). In Chicago you'll get honked at by the cops if you're not going at least 15-20 mph above the speed limit.

So what's the jury think about efficient transit - i.e. "speeding"? Is it relative? This is a confessional inquiry...

01 March 2009

King: Can't Out-Solomon Solomon

Sometimes, when I'm in my car I hit a bit of NPR deadzone - that period of programming where the Lords of NPR just give up and use any piece of oddball radio to fill the gap between All Things Considered and the Marketplace Morning Report.  They should just throw in some more BBC News - you can never go wrong with BBC News.  Instead you get some obscure interview about Austrian Economics, its role in the Cypriot struggle with Turkey and how this affects the modern Latina lesbian family.  There's usually a reference to jazz and a long-dead Hollywood icon too.

Fortunately, for these periods of NPR insanity, there's Catholic Radio.  Last week, when I couldn't take any more NPR deadzone, I jumped terrestrial frequencies and heard the most interesting sermon.  Father so-and-so stated his belief that "You can't out-Solomon Solomon," no matter how hard you try.  His larger point was that the heart of man longs for satisfaction in God, but men mistake this longing for fleshly desires and spend their lives striving to fulfill those desires.  And of course, no man has ever lived who was more able to "succeed" in this striving than Solomon.  Solomon was King after all - he was literally a law unto himself, and there was nothing which limited him from getting what he wanted.  He had an entire kingdom at his disposal.  No day dreaming about building great works or doing great things - just build it, just do it.  No pleasure denied, no experience too costly - all you have to do is command.  Solomon is way ahead of us, he's been there, done that, and realized the meaninglessness of selfish striving.