Be Kind

Being kind isn’t the same as being nice. It isn’t about superficial praise. It doesn’t mean dulling your opinions. And it shouldn’t diminish the passion with which you present them.

Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.

This article hits a little close to home.

Martin Luther King Jr. on Riots

Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Full Speech

Sources for Positiveness

Sometimes I just need some positiveness in my life. Sometimes it’s for affirmation and motivation. Sometimes it’s for inspiration. Here are three that I like:

  • NEDA Feeding Hope (tumblr). I’ve been supporting NEDA for several years now, but only discovered this blog in the last year or so. I don’t know when it was launched. Since it is focused on helping people with Eating Disorders, those issues are prevalent there, but there is more general positiveness as well.
  • Daily Pep Talk from a Best Friend. I heard about this on the Stuff You Should Know podcast. Every day something to get you going
  • /r/GetMotivated. One must be careful with Reddit. You’re going to see both the best and worse humanity has to offer there. /r/GetMotivated is one of the good places on reddit (for the most part)

And here is a piece of positiveness from me to you:

This is Sahalie Falls.  It has been cutting through hardened rock for thousands of years to create something beautiful.  It is a force of nature. You are also a force of nature.

Meetings

It’s Tuesday morning, and I have a two hour meeting.  This is a horrible meeting, but it’s not because of the length. It’s because of the people in it.  Two hour meetings can be productive.  If you’re in sync with the other people, and things are happening, two hours can fly by.

This meeting is never like that.  People show up unprepared.  They talk about irrelevant things.  They show up late and have people go back over what’s already been discussed. The same decisions are rehashed and remade every time. People go over their task list in detail.  In short, nearly every rule you’ve read about “how to have a good meeting” is broken.  The only thing we really do right, as far as I can tell, is end the meeting on time (mostly).

I don’t run this meeting. I don’t really have any power in this meeting other than sharing the information that’s needed.  The only thing I can do is set an example.  I’m there a few minutes early.  I have an information sheet handout for all the participants that contains only the information that they need to know.  When it’s my turn to speak, I don’t wander off on tangents or bring in unrelated things. My parts of the meeting tend to go very smoothly and quickly.

So off I go, to waste two hours of my life in a meeting that could be conducted in half an hour because people can’t be bothered to care.

100th Post Kind of…

According to WordPress, this will be my one hundredth published post on this blog. This is not my hundredth post though. Not by bar. Saved on this instance of WordPress alone is over a hundred and seventy posts. It’s just seventy of them are unpublished.

Most of those have previously been published, and then retracted. About two years ago, I went though an unpublished a whole lot. Most of the ones I unpublished had to deal with my deconversion from Christianity to Atheism. It was a tough experience, I wrote about it extensively, mainly very negative things about Christianity. I don’t feel the need to talk about my religion publicly any more, so I unpublished them. It’s just easier.

My political beliefs have gone through a similar radical transition, from conservative, to ayn rand libertarian, to liberalism now. I don’t feel the need to really talk about those things publicly. I just don’t see much point. Most people are unwilling to change their minds on it, and I find that very frustrating, especially given how much I’ve changed my own. I can talk about it in small groups under careful circumstances, but it really doesn’t come up that much.

There are some other things. Silliness that made sense to me in the moment, but doesn’t any more. Moments of uncomfortable introspection and self-reference. I love self-reference a lot, but I’m beginning to think that too much self-reference is kind of dangerous.

Part of me things I should just own all these things. For good or bad(mostly bad), they are a part of my history. They are a reminder of where I’ve come from, and documentation of what I thought. But you don’t need those things. Only me. So there they’ll stay.

Happy 100th Post!

Me Versus Depression

Popcorn, M&M's, and Coca Cola

I tried relaxing tonight with some M&M’s, popcorn, and a movie.  This week has been a long one, and I thought I would take the time to unwind a bit. I thought I would watch a movie I thought was brilliant the first time, The Fifth Element.  But I didn’t make it very far.  I just wasn’t feeling it tonight.

I’m experiencing what I would call a mild depression.  I’ve been trying to figure out whether I should say anything about it publicly.

I shared this story with a friend yesterday, but I’ll share it with you now.  I was watching a short video a few days ago where Leonard Bernstein was talking about what it takes to compose music.  He said there is a falsehood many people believe that a composer writes what they’re feeling.  He gave an example of a sad piece, and said that people believe that the composer wrote it when we was very depressed, but that they’re wrong.  If you’re depressed, he said, you’re in bed.  You’re not composing music.

This really struck a chord with me.  I’m a creative person.  There are things inside of me that I need to get set free.  It might be music, or a computer program, or some writing, maybe a poetry.  But when I’m feeling depressed, those things are more distant.  They take more effort to bring forth.  Depression silences my inner muse, if I can call it that.

Recognizing that, it makes me angry.  This last week, most mornings I’d rather stay in bed than go to work. I’m not excited to go out and explore.  If I’m completely honest, I just want to lay down and sleep for a month. I don’t want to do things that I normally find fun.

In other words, I’m not me.  When I think about that, I feel defiant, and I’m hoping that’s a good thing.  I have things to say, I have things to write, I have things to create.  And I need to push through it and keep going.

Tomorrow I’m going to go to the beach.  I actually don’t want to, which I can’t believe, but it’s true.  I don’t want to do anything tomorrow.  But I’m not going to let myself do that.  I’ve got to push.  I’m going to go.

It will be sunny and bright, and with the breeze on my face, the sun on my back, and my feet in the sand, life will look better.  Life will be better.  Tomorrow I’m going to the beach, and after that, I’m going to push through the next thing, whatever that is.

And maybe talk to my doctor.

My Personal Site

html

I’ve had some form of personal website since 8th grade.  I started it as one of my ‘personal projects’ in a computer class in school.  We needed two.  One of mine was playing Zork Zero, which I absolutely loved.  The other was creating my own simple webpage.  The instructor would push out my updates to the library web server, and I could pull it up from home!  It even has a CGI counter that I copied from somewhere.

Not long after that, I learned about tripod and geocities and quickly moved my page to one of those.  I really regret that I don’t have a copy of those sites any more.  I don’t remember much about the site except that I spent hours searching for midi files that I could put up, and javascript games, once that was a thing.

In college, I gained access to free web server space, and so I started over.  I called it JMCNET, and I had it looking very stylish:

JMCNET - reconstructed

JMCNET – reconstructed

I still have the content and the markup for most of this site. Unfortunately, UMKC ran windows servers, and FrontPage was their thing, so that’s what I used to create the site. I don’t think there is a server anywhere that can run this site.  The earliest blog posts on this site were first published here.

Not long after that, I learned about using photoshop to create templates for websites.  This blew my mind, so I set about to redesign jmcnet again:

jmcnet2 in photoshop

jmcnet2 in photoshop

Got to love those gradients!  I was quite proud of this at the time.  The mixture of “flat” and gradients, maybe we’ll see this type of thing return in the future, right?  Right…

In 2004, there was a web hosting company that was giving away two years of hosting for some reason, and I jumped on that opportunity.  That’s when I moved over to linux hosting and started learning php.  Those early sites iterated fast.  I bought the domain joshuamcharles.com.  This was the coolest thing ever for me.

But over time, the technology became very repetitive, and I didn’t want to spend as much time building the site.  I started using wordpress, and then moved to another hosting provider, buying the sudolife.org domain.  I still used a separate “home page” though, and it began to reflect my appreciation of minimalism:

Early sudolife.org.  It hung around for four or five years.

Early sudolife.org. It hung around for four or five years.

And now we’re to the present.  Having a personal site has always been an intersection between learning, playing, and experimentation.   It’s been a blast, but I don’t really think of my personal site as a project any more.  It’s not that interesting to me.  Now it’s a place to talk about my personal projects.  It’s a place where I document my thoughts, my progress, my ideas.  It’s my life, but not really.  It’s my pseudo life.

11 Years

Looking at the side bar, the first post to this blog is from November 2003.  I don’t know how much ‘blogging’ was a thing back then.  Mainly I loved to write, and I wrote a lot.  I put them all on a personal website I created, which was a continuation of a website I had started in the 90’s.  I recently found a copy of my website that was running in 2001.  It’s really great to have this digital archive, and it’s fun for me to go back and see how the site is changed.  Programming my personal site is not really a hobby of mine any more.  I focus on working on other personal projects.  I write a lot, but it’s mainly in letters to other people.

But this November, I’m going to go for a change.  I’m going to try writing something public to put up here everyday.  I don’t know how well it will go.  I may miss a few days.  But let’s get this going again!

 

Relationships

A little over a month ago, I was sitting in a diner, eating some breakfast, and a few older ladies sat down in the table behind me. I was thinking about other things, but for some reason, their voices drifted into my mind, and I listened to what they were saying. They were thanking god for the friendship that they shared.

That’s fine for them, but it doesn’t make much sense for me. I can’t pray.  I have friends that I really appeciate though, and so I started wondering, ‘who would I thank?’ The answer came pretty quickly: each other. It’s pretty obvious, so this little journey lasted just a few moments, but it reminded me of this excellent “secular sermon” that really moved me:

I’m not ready to talk about everything that’s happened in the last month and a half, but relationships have been so important. My father had a massive heart attack and pulmonary hemorrhage. He was in the ICU for 12 days. During that time, I experienced the incredible power of relationships. My parents, my sisters, my family, my friends, and even people who I didn’t know that well were all there, supporting, helping, and showing love.

I’ve been struggling to put into words exactly what that means.  I’ve been staring at this screen for days now, trying to find the words that will describe what all this support and love means, and failing.  But then I realized what the problem was.  I was trying to put all of this in some larger context, and I don’t think that actually exists.  Relationships aren’t there in some larger narrative.  A relationship is between two people, and that’s where it’s power resides.  Two lives sharing, building, exploring the world together, a synergy that states emphatically: you are not alone.

My dad is recovering well.  Now that the crisis has passed, I find myself appreciating my relationships more than over.  I find myself saying thank-you a lot.  I write many letters, I have hugged more people in the last month than I have in the previous years.  Most importantly, I’m reminded to show love and understanding to everyone.  Empathy is a skill that takes practice, but that practice is so rewarding.  In the end it comes down to a simple fact: together we are better.