Let’s Talk About Telling Stories

We’ve all done it.  Sitting around the campfire with friends, we find ourselves telling a story about some crazy thing we did or some weird thing that happened to us.  It doesn’t even have to be a recent story, but even one that happened years ago.  The tradition of oral storytelling is one that goes back to ancient times.  But why is there this fascination with telling other people stories?  What purpose does it serve?

 

Campfire

Telling stories around a campfire is something that has been around probably almost as long as campfires themselves.

 

On the most basic level, telling each other stories is just fun.  I’ve recently been listening to these videos by a Youtube channel known as “Let’s Read”.  It’s essentially a podcast primarily focused around spooky, scary stories shared via Reddit, an online forum.  I’ve taken to listening to these in the background as I play a game or whatever.  It’s strangely soothing, even with the spooky subject matter.

It’s not just the storyteller that gets something out of it.  It’s fun to listen to other people’s stories as well.

Which brings us to another reason for storytelling: to connect to other people.  Storytelling isn’t just a fun little thing that people do for the sheer sake of it.  It serves an important social purpose by allowing people to come together and find some common ground through the lens of stories.  Going back to that Youtube channel I mentioned earlier, a decent amount of the people who submit stories are doing so in the hopes that others have had similar experiences or will be able to help shed some light on the strange occurrences within their story.  Stories give us a way to reach out and become a part of another person’s life, even if just in a small way.

But there are other, more selfish reasons for storytelling as well.  One of these is for us to sharpen our oral skills.  By telling stories, we as human beings become more proficient in conversation.  We also become better at telling the stories as well, which is a very useful skill if you’re, say, a writer.

There can also be a generational purpose for stories.  For example, if the father tells the son a story about the grandfather he never met, the son can feel more connected to the grandfather even if that person is no longer with us.  Stories can be a way to pass down experiences and skills, as well as just keeping someone’s memories alive.

In any case, oral storytelling has been around a very, very long time.  And it hasn’t changed much since the ancient times.  So the next time you’re sitting around the fire with a bunch of friends, it’s only a matter of time before one of them regales the group with a story, true or not.  Because after all, some of our favorite stories are the ones that have been embellished or even outright made up.

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50 Years Ago

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been fifty years since those words were uttered.  Yesterday, five decades ago, the Apollo 11 rocket was launched, carrying the first men to ever land on the moon.

Fifty years…over half a lifetime for most people.  And yet, compared to the deep time of the universe, it is insignificant…a mere speck of time.  Less than a cosmic blink.

In the face of such a stark reality, why then does it matter what we did half a century ago?  All of our achievements will eventually be dust and ruins.  Why bother?

It’s all about perspective.  And from the perspective of a being descended from ancient primates, it’s pretty damn impressive that we managed to break gravity’s hold and make our way out into the great, unknown expanse of blackness.

And space travel is still important today.  Many of the things we enjoy or the advancements we have made in technology are owed to work on space exploration.

Here is just a small sampling of things that came from NASA:

  • Artificial limbs
  • Memory foam
  • Cordless vacuum cleaners
  • Freeze Drying
  • Scratch-resistant lenses
  • LASIK eye surgery
  • Water purification

The list could go on.  So many things we have in modern times came about because someone at NASA had to solve a problem for the astronauts up in space.  It can be difficult to comprehend just how much easier and convenient our lives have become simply because of NASA and space exploration.

 

Astronaut

 

It’s easy to forget that with all the political drama going on these days.  But it’s something we really should remember.  Because, if anything, landing on the moon taught us that reaching for the stars isn’t impossible.  Determination, hard work, and diligence will win the day, whether your dream is to fly to the moon or to simply finish a project: be that a painting, book, computer program, or something else.  You fail only if you stop trying.

A lot of humanity’s achievements came about simply because someone said to themselves “hey, I wonder if we could do that”.  And then they did.

Spotlight: Ultraviolet

POTF Ultraviolet Cover

 

I don’t usually talk much about my music tastes on this blog.  I guess I’m still trying to get over my self-consciousness when it comes to that.  For a long time, I preferred not to mention my preferences when it came to music at all because of how snooty people can be.

But nowadays?  Screw that crap.  They can go learn to pull their heads out of their rear ends and step down off their hipster pedestals.

You wouldn’t think it would take until you’re almost thirty to realize that it doesn’t matter what other people think.  But you’d be wrong.

 

Poets of the Fall is a band that I first ran into, of all places, in a video game.  Their song was featured in the end credits of Max Payne 2, a gritty noir-themed stylish shooter game.  But it wasn’t until much later that I decided to actually look them up.  Guess I was still trying to come out of my shell.

Long story short, they became one of my favorite bands.

Their latest album, Ultraviolet, is shades of things new and old.  It definitely still sounds like them, albeit with a bit more electronic music influences in there.  One review summed it up as them sounding a little like an “80’s throwback band”.  Which, if you listen to the original “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, doesn’t seem like too far of a stretch.

Another review I read called it “sad” that they moved more towards electronic stuff and less “real instruments”, which I don’t really get.  If it still sounds good, who cares?  I understand that personal preference plays a factor here, but what does using “real instruments” even mean?  A computer can be considered an instrument, if you choose to use it in that way.

In any case, Ultraviolet is what I would say is a very good album.  It’s not mind-blowing or life-changing, but it doesn’t need to be.  It sounds good, and that’s all that should really matter.  It opens with an up-tempo song, much like their previous albums, and gradually the songs become more and more subdued, with their final song “Choir of Cicadas” almost sounding like a song you’d hear at church, complete with a distorted sounding organ.

There’s definitely a slight shift in the way they sound with this album.  If I had to pin it down, I would say that it sounds more…”theatrical” in nature.  In fact, some of it really reminds me of “Queen”, which is not a bad thing at all.

“My Dark Disquiet” is definitely my favorite out of the album.  It’s got an up-tempo beat and a chorus that flows together extremely well.  It also stands out to me lyrically as one of their best written songs.

I think that’s a big part of the reason I like this band so much: their lyrics are often abstract, forcing you to really think about them if you want to truly understand the song (probably where the “poets” part of their name came from).

It’s definitely more interesting than “BABY BABY BABY, OHHHHHH”, that’s for sure (sorry Justin Bieber).

I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is don’t be ashamed of your musical taste, wherever it comes from and whatever it happens to be.  I’ve known people who say they don’t like music simply because they couldn’t stand the elitist nature of the culture that surrounds it.

I say to hell with that.  These days, with the preponderance of music streaming services, the sheer breadth and depth of music is dizzying to think about.  There’s something out there for literally everyone, regardless of taste.

It doesn’t have to be mind-blowing.  It doesn’t have to be innovative.  You just have to enjoy it.  That’s all.

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a great month.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

 

Let’s Talk About the Generational Divide

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the constant battle between the generations.  You know what I mean, the age old “back in my day” and “kids these days”.  Every generation seems to think they’re the only ones with their heads on straight and all the others after them are just doing it wrong.  It even goes the other way, with younger generations being bitter towards the older because of a perceived lack of forethought on their part, with their past actions affecting the younger generations in a wide variety of ways, not all of them good.  It’s no secret (or at least it shouldn’t be) that the situation of millennials is a bit screwed, with the cost of living continually going up but wages not keeping the same pace.  All of this leads to a lot of back and forth between young and old, and a lot of resentful feelings.

 

 

“I’m gonna get those dang kids…”

 

I remember when I was younger, video games were often the target of politicians and activists, with both claiming that they warped kid’s brains and made them violent.  Of course, the science never truly backed that up, but it didn’t stop them nonetheless.  It was a new thing that the older folks didn’t understand, and therefore it was dangerous.  They didn’t have video games when they were growing up, so it must just be some fad thing that the kids are into these days.  And as time went on and it became more apparent that video games were here to stay, they drew more and more criticism from people who probably never played a single game in their lives.

It’s the same with tablets and smart phones in today’s world.  I can’t count the amount of times I’ve rolled my eyes when someone says something like “kids these days don’t get outside anymore…they just sit in front of their computer screens and waste away”.  Yeah because clearly your generation was the only one that got it right.  Everyone else is just stupid.

Wait, which generation thought spanking was an acceptable idea again?  I forget.

 

 

The thing is, it also goes the other way.  Often we of the younger generations are bitter towards our elders because we see them as the root cause for a lot of the issues facing us: climate change, student debt, the rising cost of living, and so on.  We felt like we were dealt a bad hand, and that older people just don’t understand that.  So we’re bitter, resentful, and grumpy about our lot in life.

“You ruined the planet, and now we have to pick up the pieces,” we often say.

But here’s the kicker: neither side is technically wrong in this.

 

It’s true, the actions of older generations did have a lot to do with the current climate we live in today, economically and otherwise.  But at the same time, there was likely no good way to predict the effects their choices would have thirty or so years down the line.  However, there is something to be said about self-awareness, about accepting the fact that choices were made which directly led to the predicament the younger generations are in now.

And the older generations aren’t wrong in the idea that new and popular things should be approached with at least a modicum of caution.  Until we know for certain what the effects can be, it might not be wise to simply adopt some new thing or idea without really understanding the ramifications.  But again, immediately assuming that it is bad and rallying against it isn’t the answer either.

It all has to do with understanding.  Understanding goes a long way toward solving our issues.  We should understand that different life situations lead to different mindsets, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other.  We should understand that, for us as human beings, it’s difficult to chart what effect our choices and actions will have decades later.  Sitting down and actually coming together to work on the problems facing us would go a long way.

But instead, it seems most people just want to turn it into a generational pissing contest.

“I was spanked all the time as a kid, and I turned out fine!”

“You voted in people who drove up the price of living, and now we have to deal with it!”

“You young people are so spoiled!  You want everything handed to you!”

“You old farts don’t realize how easy you had it compared to us!”

It just goes on and on with no end.  And it solves nothing.

Every generation has their faults and successes, their pros and cons.  No one is perfect.  It’s the human condition.  So instead of assuming that one size fits all, maybe we would be better served with a multi-faceted approach to our problems.

Words are just words.  Actions are progress.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a wonderful month!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s Talk About Black Holes

A week ago today, scientists released this image of a black hole:

 

 

And while the image itself might not look too impressive, the context behind it is.  This is the first ever actual photograph of a real black hole.  Not just a conceptual image.  Not an artist’s rendering.  Not a computer generated simulation, but an actual, physical picture of a black hole out there in the universe.  It took a team of over 200 scientists, including Katie Bouman, whose Twitter post showing the image being processed was retweeted by MIT:

 

 

This simple image inadvertently made Bouman the face of the project, turning her into a magnet for praise and a target for criticism from right-wing trolls.  But to talk at length about those types of people would simply lend credence to their opinions and give them the attention they crave.  Besides (and I think Bouman would agree), the achievement itself is more important than whoever was behind it.

The first real image of a black hole…can you imagine that?  Black holes are something science has recognized as existing for many decades, but until now we never had a way of seeing them visually.  We could only tell where they were via their effects on nearby celestial objects.

But just what is a black hole exactly?  Let’s get down to some science.

 

At a basic level, black holes are intense gravitational anomalies in space that are so strong, theoretically not even light can escape once it passes the event horizon.  They are the remains of massive stars that became so big, they collapsed in on themselves.  All stars eventually use up their nuclear fuel, and in a sense, die.  But it is their mass that determines their final fate.  Smaller stars will simply use up their fuel and die a quiet death, often becoming what is known as a planetary nebula and leaving a small “white dwarf”, what remains of the star’s core.

 

A planetary nebula.

 

However, if the star is large enough, it will manage to fuse heavier elements such as helium and carbon once its supply of hydrogen runs out.  But once it finally runs out of fuel, the star will collapse in what is known as a “supernova”.  Think of it as a massive explosion, larger and more powerful than any bomb you’ve ever seen by billions of trillions of times.  These explosions are so powerful that it’s pretty much impossible to wrap your mind around it.  The aftermath of a supernova can take the form of two things: a neutron star, which is the collapsed core of the former star, or a black hole.  It all depends on how large the star is.  And once the star has collapsed, the black hole can get even bigger by consuming the matter around it.

Black holes, simply put, are the most destructive force in the known universe.  And there is a supermassive black hole at the heart of nearly every galaxy in the universe, including the Milky Way.  But don’t worry, we’re not in any danger of being eaten by it anytime soon.  They mostly just serve as a gravitational anchor, keeping planets and stars in their orbits.  Besides, our Sun will run out of fuel eons before there’s any reason to worry about the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

The vast time of the universe…kinda makes your head hurt doesn’t it?

 

Check back on the third Wednesday of May for another post, and as always, thanks for reading.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Let’s Talk About Joe Biden

It’s no secret that the political climate has…changed in recent years, to put it lightly.  Five years ago, few would have thought a man like Donald Trump would stand a chance at becoming president.  And yet, here we are.  The political divide and the wealth gap have only deepened in this country, and with the 2020 election cycle right around the corner it stands to reason that it’s only going to become more prevalent.  Health care and economic disparities are going to be huge talking points once again.

So yes, things have changed.  Which is why I think Joe Biden running for president might end up being a terrible idea.

 

 

Let me be clear: I have nothing against Biden personally.  I don’t know enough about the man in all honesty.  But from what little I have seen from him, I know that he will, much like Hillary Clinton in 2016, have a lot of trouble attracting younger voters.  Voter turnout may have been higher in the 2016 election than in previous years (roughly 58% of eligible voters showed up), but there was lower turnout in key areas that ultimately led to Clinton losing those electoral college votes.  And a big part of that likely had to do with younger voters’ apathy towards the Clinton campaign.  She just simply couldn’t engage them on the same level that Obama had during his run.

And I’m afraid the same thing will happen if Biden wins the nomination.  Not because he’s old or a man.  Because he’s simply…familiar.

He’s too similar to the politicians that younger generations have been railing against for years.  He claims to be a middle-class American (Middle-Class Joe), but his net worth is still probably near a million dollars.  Not to mention that since leaving office, he’s made plenty of money off of speaking gigs as signed a book deal that’s likely to bring him an even heftier sum of money.  All of these things don’t necessarily doom him, but they damage his attempt to position himself as relatable to blue-collar individuals.

And some of the things he’s said could come back to haunt him.  Last year on Trump he said he would “take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him” if they were in high school.  It may have just been a joke, but in the world of politics perception is everything.  And then there’s what he said on income inequality: “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys. But this gap is yawning, and it’s having the effect of pulling us apart. You see the politics of it.” It’s like he’s trying to juggle having a stance on the issue while not ruffling the feathers of the big money donors that back him.  By contrast, someone like Bernie Sanders has a consistent stance on those kind of issues and isn’t held back by big, corporate money donors.

As of this writing, Biden hasn’t officially announced his campaign yet.  But he still holds a considerable margin over the other democratic candidates according to at least one poll. And maybe I’m just missing something, but he seems like just more of the same.  If he wins the nomination, Republicans will have a field day tearing down his “Middle-Class Joe” image and painting him as a stodgy, out of touch political insider.

Because this election isn’t just about defeating Trump.  It’s about breaking the cycle of politics that has been dominant for decades.  It’s about future generations finding a reason to be hopeful again.  It’s about once and for all changing things for the better.

Those that come after us deserve a chance to have a good life, rather than deal with the consequences of our excess, don’t you think?

Love Yourself

Love Yourself

Being an adult isn’t easy.  You have bills to pay.  You have to go to work.  You have to deal with every little stupid thing life throws your way.  But one of the hardest things to do as an adult might not be something you would expect:

Learning to love yourself.

And I’m not talking in a narcissistic ego-maniac type of way.  I mean in the sense that you’re comfortable in your own skin.  It might seem obvious to people out there reading this, but you’d be surprised how many people truly don’t know how to do it.  There are those that think they know how, but really all they’re doing is hiding the insecurities beneath a mask.

It’s not the type of thing you learn right away.  Oh no…it’s the type of thing that takes you right through hell and back again.  It’s the type of thing that puts you through the wringer.  But sometimes it takes your darkest hour to realize where the light shines.

Some never figure it out.  And those are usually the ones who take their own lives.

I’ve had my fair share of rough patches in the last few years.  It never got to the point that it has for some out there, but there was a decent amount of self-loathing involved.  And the thing is, I didn’t really come to an understanding on it until fairly recently.

I wrote last year about how I got to the point where I really burned out on writing.  And it took nearly another year before I realized that I took it as me somehow being a failure, rather than just a natural part of life.  Because that’s the thing: oftentimes self-loathing magnifies the insignificant things, making them seem like world-ending catastrophes.

But facing your worst self is what helps you become your best self.

 

self-worth

If self-worth were a street or some other tangible location, life would be a whole lot easier wouldn’t it?

 

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your feelings don’t matter.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your problems don’t matter because other people have it worse.  That’s bullshit.  Your feelings matter.  Your problems matter.  You matter.  If you can’t take care of yourself, then how are you going to make the world a better place?

This isn’t about ego-soothing.  It’s not about being self-aggrandizing.  It’s about waking up in the morning, being able to look at yourself in the mirror, and say “hey you…you look good.  You’re doing good.  And you are good.”

 

Mirror Demon

Not you though. You’re a demon.

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a wonderful month.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.