One word to describe me

Flag

A harbinger of hope – the image of the flag standing on Okinawa symboled a coming victory amidst the destructive war.

A rallying cry for others – they say that we are weak by ourselves, but a flag can turn one image, one person, into an unstoppable force for change.

A steady rock among the storm – when the winds blow strong, I stand stronger.

Hope’s Down Guns Out

No country is optimistic about its growth prospects anymore. China is becoming increasingly nationalistic, a distraction for the masses from its slowing GDP growth. France, the UK, and Germany are becoming increasingly xenophobic, blaming ills on the newcomers instead of the stagnant establishment. And the United State is becoming increasingly isolationist, with leaders promoting the erection of both physical walls and social ones for electoral victory.

The maintenance of peace is through optimism – when everyone can work together for a brighter future, the focus is on a collective mission rather than individual differences. The world order of 1980s through the early 2000’s represented this dynamic. Even the evil communists were welcomed into this vision for the 21st century – 1978 marked the start of China’s marketization under Deng Xiaoping and 1991 marked the end of the Soviet Union through Gorbachev.

There seemed to be a new era ahead – one that could be used to pursue human rights, freedom, and democracy. These are great pursuits, and many may take these as the mission in their life. But the end goal of much of humanity is ultimately prosperity – monetarily, intellectually, or spiritually. But when such good liberal values lead no more to prosperity, people search for an alternative. (see the UK’s revised economic outlook, the NYT’s account of the loss in intellectual freedoms, the Christianity Today’s blistering report on moral decay) This loss of prosperity (and further, hope for prosperity) has led to the belief that a radical, even anarchical, overthrow of the current institutions may lead to a better outcome for their lives.

Yet such beliefs divide nations and peoples. But most of the developed world’s political institutions guarantee a singular entity to govern and lead the country. Ultimately, it is in the leader’s interest to unite rather than divide the constituency they represent. In order for leaders to unite a divided nation, they must search for a common pursuit. In the era of growth and prosperity, this common pursuit are social and economic values. But when people lose faith in the very values that brought them the prosperity in the first place, leaders must find something else to unite a divided people. This makes a common enemy the most appealing alternative.

When people focus on the enemy rather than their own internal growth, true growth continues to be stifled. This leads to increased resentment of their own condition, and creates further animosity towards the enemy. The momentum that this cycle builds up amounts to a freight train that barrels towards war. Unless a superman-esque person or innovation manages to stop the imminent collision, war is inevitable. But war does not mean all is lost.

War is like a forest fire – it burns down the tall trees that impede growth and allow the undergrowth to flourish. The bureaucracy, regulations, and legalities that had formed structure and protective covering also impede new innovations to take root. If it takes either three months of regulatory paperwork or a number of bribes to get things done, burning it all down and starting afresh may be the necessary action .Otherwise, regulations only continue to accumulate, and barriers to entry only increase.

War burns down frameworks that debilitate rather than aid growth. Fresh industries are able to develop when such a when a country is united on a common enemy, and there is little room for bureaucratic plodding. In the midst of war, it may seem like hopeless loss, but when the ashes settle and dust clears, I may finally see the sun shining on me without the stifling canopies.

I am not for a forest fire that obliterates everything in its path. But many institutions and people are riled up beyond the capacity for controlled tree trimming. If I understand that such a fire would pave the way for a brighter future, I may enter the inescapably bleak now with an attitude of hope and courage.

The Walls We Build

Fragile masculinity impedes us from forming deeper relationships and understanding each other on a deeper level. The walls of masculinity creates an artificial border between us and deeper feelings that we may not trespass into. When we don’t understand each other, rather than tearing down these walls, we build them up even stronger, to avoid the feelings that we know are waiting for us on the other side. Yet, these feelings will only continue to build, and when the pressure becomes too strong, it’ll eventually break through the wall.

We respond to this approaching disaster in two ways – one is evacuating from this relationship, running away from the pressure at the wall. We don’t wait for the flood, but we lose everything we built.

The second is staying. Too often, we stay, in a desperate attempt to make the relationship “work out.” We tell ourselves that we’ve already made a place for ourselves in this relationship. While we stay and wait, the pressure builds. When the feeling overwhelm the wall, a messy tidal wave of frustration breaks through.

The alternative is allow the feelings to be released as they come. To not fear the water, but embrace it. Build a ship and sail into it. Explore our deep insecurities and grievances. Build a lighthouse for a way back. Find similar passions to build the relationship on land.

The Kanye in Me

Kanye had conquered every single thing in this world – girls and sex, drugs and alcohol, fame and wealth. He took pursuing his passions to his heart, making a life out of rap. These passions are the exact things that society tells us will bring us endless joy and satisfy us.

Kanye married Kim Kardashian, the archetype sexual symbol in this modern day and age. He had conquered the Freudian mountain of the id. He topped the Billboard charts and won Grammys. Of all people, he had the greatest resumé to back his ego. He took a moral upper ground with the entire MAGA thing, and succeeded with Trump’s election win. He attained the superego. To Sigmund Freud, Kanye had all the pleasures of mankind. He stood on the peaks of the world. He had everything that was valued in the eyes of others, yet in his own, he had nothing.

Kanye is a perfect public figure for psychological observations. Most other people hide their internal struggles and changes under multiple layers of pride. But Kanye wears the emperor’s clothing into the limelight, baring it all and letting the light shine through to his core. His personality of extraness does little to hide these traits. We see the core shifts in his life beyond actions on the public stage in the lyrics of Kanye’s music.

In Hell of a Life Kanye writes “Make her knees shake, make a priest faint/ Make a nun come, make her cremate.” His disregard for sanctity and purity, shifts to a recognition that women are more than objects in Violent Crimes – ‘”Til niggas have daughters, now they precautious… ‘Cause now I see women as somethin’ to nurture.” He faces his past wrongs and realizes the saving grace of the Lord in Use This Gospel – “A lot of damaged souls, I done damaged those… Use this gospel for protection. It’s a hard road to Heaven.”

Kanye’s shifts reveal that the human heart is not stagnant. Hope is never lost, and can be re-discovered. Change doesn’t depend on age and life stage. Even for those that are not spiritually inclined, Kanye’s life offers a glimpse of the rewards of spiritual revival. For those that are, his new album offers a confounding moment of introspection.

My own introspection revealed that I haven’t surrendered fully to the Lord because I still hold onto the things of the world. I think that if I can have both what the world values and what the Lord values, I have more than if I just seek the treasures in the Lord. My heart still seeks out the treasures of the world – approval from others, satisfaction from girls, and success in a career. I pray to God that if He could, He would allow me to find the things that matter without suffering the loss of everything in the world. But if I’m praying this prayer, then I know that my heart is in the wrong place holding onto the worldly things.

The things of the world drown out the treasures that matter the most – the treasures in heaven.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

The Lone Star

On the morning of August 3rd, 2019 a man from Allen, Texas walked into a Walmart in El Paso with an AK47, spraying bullets along the grocery aisles and killing 20.

Twenty minutes before, he posted a manifesto online detailing the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Fearing that “the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold,” he opened fire in an act of not just terrorism, but also of political racism.

While national media accused Trump of his racist rhetoric inciting the violence that caused the tragedy, Texan politicians forsake the politics in order to come together in offering support. Rather than turning a tragedy political, our governor used politics to offer support after the tragedy. Greg Abbott’s actions on the ground display exceptional unity in Texas as the city of El Paso is reeling from the shooting that occurred.

He didn’t merely provide financial support for reconciliation – promising an infusion of $5 million in state funds to help with the recovery process, but also provided emotional support that crossed party lines. Through meeting with El Paso’s all-democrat delegation to the state legislature, he demonstrated that support is not divided by a political aisle. Through calling out the shooter as “a white supremacist” he helped the focus remain united on the problem of “dealing with racism.”

The response to this tragedy demonstrates the political resilience of Texas against the recent tendencies towards political stratification. While race becomes increasingly political on the national level, Texas pushes back, recognizing that values are not determined by skin color. As the state railed against the attack that included taking the lives of 6 Mexican nationals, our politicians displayed a unity that symbolized the power that Texas is bigger because we’re unified together.

Perhaps this attitude is recognized as the only way for the Republicans to survive – on a national level the rhetoric has caused the historically conservative Hispanic population to shift left. However, the optimist in me recognizes that we is unique in recognizing that amidst the battle of social values and ideologies surrounding us, the humanity in Texans stands strong.

The increased secrecy and toxic nature of companies like Google will decrease its competitiveness. Internal fractions and a lack of a clear vision outside of profits leads to decreased innovation. However, perhaps this will inspire a new breed of open companies that has moral values rather than profits as the bottom line. Dot-Com 2.0?

peaceful boredom

As we enter a stage in our country’s development where there is more peace than war, where the machinations of evil have been destroyed, where people feel no need for religion, we are left without any enemies, without any guiding principles.

We fail to recognize the history that we left behind, the steady forward progress of man. Instead, we are left to be filled with either existential dread or anxious aggression.

We don’t have a purpose, a goal, and instead, we are led to madness and self destruction.

How does one generate creativity, traditionally fostered through freedom and unhindered creation, while also ensuring conscientiousness and timeliness, often synonymous with deadlines and restrictions?

Society is like a person; when there’s nothing to motivate us, we exhibit self-destructive tendencies.

Cycling

I use that magical time on the bike to question, think, and learn as my body slices through the air.