Circle Synthes(es)

Well here we are again. As I described in my first document of learning one year ago, everything in life recurs, it comes back to us, happens again. So here is the recurrence of my TALONS Social Studies processes and learning. Now I can utilize that plural version of the word ‘synthesis’.  

In my leadoff post last year in, what was, Social Studies 10, I started off by explaining what synthesis meant, and why I had chosen it as the title for my first blog post, along with the word ‘circle’. The main description I gave to the former word is that it is the culmination of many parts and what you could call building blocks to create a whole. In this case I am taking pieces of the world, pieces of skills, and pieces of learning, and bringing them together to create who I am. So, of course, I will be continuing that journey this year. I added the word ‘circle’ because, as I previously mentioned, it all happens again and we go through those same synthesizing process multiple times in our different journeys.

In that first post, just to remind all of you, we were meant to discuss the questions that were brought up in class, “Where are we going?” and “Where have we been?” As I explained then, “There is an infinite number of ways to answer the questions…” however, I have a slightly better idea how to do so now, now that I’ve seen a bit of my future that is. I’ve seen what TALONS Social Studies looks like, I’ve seen more of what my life looks like, and I’ve seen more of what the world looks like. I made my way through “Social Studies 10” developing a better understanding of what is important to me in this world. One of the ways that helped me significantly in this process was the roleplay of Laura Secord in the Canadian Confederation studies, as well as the fictional character I created for my final presentation, John O’Callaghan. I used these characters to help myself see other perspectives in historical events and it gave me a lot of insight into what they would have felt, as well as what I would have felt in those situations.  This is something that I would like to do more of this year, possibly with the French Revolution, which I am very interested in learning about. I’m also excited for other major events in history like the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. These are all parts of history that I don’t know much about so I would love to delve deeper into some of the backstories of these and the impacts they had on the world.

A key message that I finished off the year with in my Final presentation, was to appreciate what you have and not to get too hung up on the past. I think this is important as I move forward, just keeping my eyes up and on the world around me as it is so special. Additionally, this is going to be my last official TALONS semester, so there’s some reason right there for enjoying the present. I would also like to take this into my learning this year, if at all possible, and try to look at not only how we changed from negative events in the past, but also how we developed from some positive ones. I completely agree that we must see how we got here, the good, the bad, AND the ugly, but I find that we do often sway more towards the latter portion of that phrase in our modern world, and possibly past, but I think it’s crucial that we appreciate the good too. It will also help us find light in times of trouble today in current issues and problems.

Another way I’d like to utilise different perspectives in my learning, other than a direct roleplay, is through our class discussions and also our many readings. I very much enjoy both of these activities and I want to make sure that I continue to participate in them enthusiastically like last year as that was a lot of fun. More so, on the note of gaining a piece to my whole, I want to particularly try to hear, value, and understand the different perspectives of the authors that we read as well as my fellow classmates. In this way I will be working towards the Curricular Competency “Explain different perspectives on past or present people, places, issues, and events by considering prevailing norms, values, worldviews, and beliefs(perspective).” I will also be working towards the Competency “Use Social Studies inquiry processes and skills to: ask questions; gather, interpret, and analyze ideas; and communicate findings and decisions.”

Much of this, was thoroughly achieved or closely attempted this week in our classes, for example. I spent a lot of time annotating the reading on Columbus that was assigned, from which I gained a lot of new ideas on various different topics, not just Columbus specifically or how the world’s view of history in general is sometimes tinted a certain shade.

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Here you can see some of my highlightings and notes in the margins of key ideas I found throughout the reading. I hope to continue this with all readings this semester.

I hope to devote more time to these readings as well as other elements of the Philosophy Pop Quiz this year as those are all things that I am passionate about and enjoy doing and they will also benefit my learning in Social Studies and in general as well.

I also gained a lot of new viewpoints through our discussions as a class and with Mr. Jackson. I think it will be very useful this semester to hear the unique perspectives of my classmates on some of the key events in the history that we will be studying, as well as on the topic of some current events, *wink *cough *the United States Election*.

Another core competency that I would like to focus on is “Asses how prevailing conditions and actions of individuals and groups affect events, decisions, and developments (cause and consequence).” This is something that I hope to look at as we move forward more this semester in major events.

I found the above also relates a lot to what I looked at this week in the Columbus package relating to the big Idea I chose, “The physical environment influences the nature of political, social, and economic change.” This was an area that I also found very intriguing in our class discussion as Mr. Jackson brought up specifically the idea that all civilizations were “developed” and “civilized” just in their own ways and to their own individual environments. This is again something that I hope to focus on as we discuss other occurrences in history and why they occurred. This is the epitome of taking a different perspective at things, as, even as the often progressive-minded-citizens that we are, this is likely a new way to see things. How might life have been for us if we accepted the ways of those people? Did they need the technology Europeans brought? Why didn’t they take over the rest of the world like Europeans did? Bringing it back to that original idea of ‘circle synthesis’, you can see how this Big Idea connects infinitely to the fourth one, “Collective identity is constructed and can change over time.”

An interesting point that arose in our final discussion this week was the concept of “young” and “old” civilizations. An example of “young” being The United States of America and an example of “old” being Germany. I found the different points of this concept interesting when looking at the reasoning behind these countries’ actions in history and in the modern world. It was very a very intriguing point to think about and made me wonder, if Europe is old, what happens when they get older? What happens when we get older, will they become our grandparents? And then the inevitable, or is it, can a civilization die? How will we be affected by that? Does our civilization have emotions? Will we grieve?

Overall I think this will shape up to be a very unique and unpredictable semester. I am sure I will learn endless new things about myself and about the world, and I don’t know exactly where it will take me, or us, but one thing is for certain, it will all come around again in the end.

When In Doubt, Ponder About

When told to consider a post on pondering, I immediately thought, “Why this is exactly in my realm of expertise!” For I practically weed out situations and people I can have these seemingly arbitrary discussions with, as it’s the simple thought of thinking about something bigger than myself or those around me that excites me the most about the whole concept. Now, I generally question existence (i.e. have an existential crisis) on my own fairly frequently in my everyday life anyways, so I thought I’d steer clear of that ultimate question of “Why do we exist?” for now (just merely for now) and give my heart some rest.

“Just as a painter paints,

and a ponderer ponders,

a writer writes,

and a wanderer wanders.”

– Roman Payne

How does anyone know that the “reality” we all perceive and live in isn’t just a figment of our imaginations?

No one currently, and no one probably ever, could prove that what everyone knows as reality, from the people we speak to to the places we go to the air we breathe, is anything real other than a construct created by your own imagination. I myself don’t know if this is being read by an actual person, and you don’t know if you just created me in your imagination to write this. None of us know anything!

 

Why do some people try and stop other people from pursuing their beliefs and choices when it doesn’t hurt or affect them in any way?

Specifically, why do some (definitely not all, but some) religious people stop people from identifying with certain sexualities or genders? And not just religious people but people who just think it’s “wrong”? It doesn’t affect them in any way, so why dictate what someone you have no authority over can do? And why get so offended and disgusted when they are something or do something that doesn’t really affect you? Is there any point? Do people just need to force their own beliefs on others to make their own consciousness think that they are widening their comfort zone?

 

Why is our world run by social norms and labels?

The idea that everyone is either male or female; that you are either masculine or feminine; that if you are of a certain race you are smarter than others or sing well or follow a certain religion; that because someone’s 10 years old they’re “immature and clueless” and because someone’s 20 years old they’re automatically ready to take on heavy responsibilities; that boys are stronger than girls; that because you dress a certain way or act a certain way you have to be interested in certain things; why are people so obsessed with sticking people in boxes and labeling people and basing everything off of stereotypes and expectations of character? Why can’t we all just live as humans, doing whatever we please? Is it because having a label for everything makes our world easier to understand?

 

Would it be better living without hardships in a complete utopia, or is it better to have pain to give happiness and pleasure a meaning?

No pain, no gain, right? Or can this be challenged? Obviously, depending on person to person, everyone experiences a different amount and variety of positive and negative situations, but is it fair to justify that a world without suffering would be ideal? Do we truly need suffering to give happiness and pleasure a value? Or would the difference between the two even matter in the utopian world?

 

Is it better to fear the unknown or know something you wish you didn’t?

Is it the guilt of knowing something unforgivable that haunts more, like knowing how you’ll die, or the black hole of not knowing what’s going to happen or what something means, like the fear not knowing what happens after death? Which is worse? Can we really judge which is worse; is it really like trying to dictate which task is harder to do out of two tasks which are both relatively hard?

 

Why is it that sometimes, the authority of being an adult has double standards towards children?

Why is it that if an adult screams at their child or insults their child, or doesn’t let their child express their opinion or doesn’t listen to their child, it’s justified by the “adult authority” construct, whereas if a child were to do the same back to the adult it’s considered “disrespectful”? There’s no respect in the first place; shouldn’t respect be a mutual thing in all cases? If not, does it really count as respect, or manipulation?

 


 

 

The first – perhaps obvious – assumption is the most frightening and unsettling questions would be the ones where no one can truly answer them… ever. Like first mentioned, my mind tends to wander to unexplained places when questioning existence. I felt a similar uneasy feeling when I first thought up the concept of in fact, not being able to prove the actual existence of anything beyond our imaginations (which I realized I promised to try and stray away from originally, however, it is me we’re talking about, and I can never convince myself to stay away from things I’m intrigued by, despite how scary.) This kind of lends a bit of content to my question on fearing the unknown, which I believe will be an interesting one to pick apart and analyze as I grow older and collect so many different experiences, and probably going through situations of similar description.

 

One question out of this selection that I’m particularly excited – well, I’m not quite sure if excited is the right word; intrigued; inspired? – to pursue and explore is the investigation of societal labels. From birth, everyone is categorized: male or female. We are branded with clothings of pink or blue, nurtured towards a certain model of a young boy or girl, and taught, perhaps not directly, that if you are category X you act this way, say these things, like these things, don’t do this, don’t do that, and if you are category Y you follow rules a, b, and c. We grow up only to be further labeled by race; by gifted or not gifted; by masculine or feminine; by gay or by straight; smart or dumb; rich or poor; and even that’s not narrow enough. We are further expected to act certain ways and do certain things. We categorize things like clothing into genders, that females can wear things like dresses and skirts and heels and sparkles, and males can wear button-ups and blazers and shirts that are “men’s tees.” We make assumptions about people, about what they are, what they do, what kind of person they are, based on the colour of their skin or the length of their hair, and everything in between. But why? What is the true point of sticking people in boxes and limiting who we can be as people? Is it really so important as to be able to comprehend someone better if you label them and follow stereotypes of those labels? Ultimately, I have a dare for society. Yes, a dare, to stop, even for just a week, caring about what someone is labeled as, and to simply treat them as an all in all human being. And this is the reason why I’m so inspired to explore this question, as it’s after understanding it later life that will give me the better chance at answering it, and defying it. My goal is to live a life with no restrictions on what I can do. I mean, when we were younger they told us we could be whatever we wanted, and I don’t believe that has to apply to just careers (or just to dreams about being a superhero or a fairy princess.) Humans limit so many things and create these unwarranted constructs that are supposed to make life “easier,” when a lot of what these systems do are limit us as people.

 

The center of the solar system…. In-depth #6

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats

White hat = information

Red hat = feelings and intuition

Black hat = critical thinking

Yellow hat = values and benefits

Green hat = new ideas/alternatives

Blue hat = organizes other hats; moderator

In the last two weeks of in-depth, I’ve had the chance to further develop my two main art pieces: the jellyfish and the space junk mobile. I’ve had a lot of conversations with my mentor exploring different possibilities for each one, and deciding when to come back to a problem later. For example, we were having  a discussion about how to represent the sun (arguable one of the most important parts) in my solar system. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “So, my biggest problem so far has been trying to figure out what the sun is going to look like. It can’t be the proper size in relation to the other planets, obviously, but I’d like to make it stand out in some way that obviously designates it as ‘The Sun’. “

Ms. Kirkwood: “Yes. Well, we can definitely make the sun a bit larger than the other planets. To give it a round shape, I could use some of my circles and cross them over each other, to give it more depth. I also think it would be good to show some movement for the sun.”

Me: “That sounds good. I definitely think movement is a good thing, because the sun is always burning and giving off solar flares and radiation, right? It would be nice to have a little globe or sphere for the sun, because most of the other planets are 2D. That would set it apart for sure. What were you thinking of with the circles?

Ms. Kirkwood: “I have some old guitar strings that are really nice, they have this bouncy-ness to them that makes them really fun to work with. (Gets them out and arranges them like so) What if we wrapped a shiny clear material, like this cellophane, around it to reflect light?

guitar string sun, courtesy of me

Me: “Oh, yes I really like the guitar strings like that. Especially how the rings that make it look like the skeleton of a globe aren’t entirely lined up, so they make these great little crescents. The cellophane….I’m not sure. I like how it reflects the light, and it’s plastic, so it’s reusing garbage material, but it’s a little bit too green and pink. It doesn’t remind me of the sun that much. I almost feel like we would want something fluffier and lighter, because the sun is full of gas, and it’s always burning and releasing energy. It would be cool if we found a way to make the material be releasing, or expanding. Hmmm…..I’m not sure about the cellophane, but I really love the guitar strings. How can I attach them to make them stay in that shape?

Ms. Kirkwood: “I usually just tape them together using strong crafting tape. It works well because you can easily take it off if you don’t like it or need to make changes, and because it’s easy to put on and holds very well. If you tape it like this, crossing over one way and then the opposite direction, it makes it more difficult for the tape to get pulled apart.

Me: “Oh yeah, because now it is held together in a way that by trying to undo one piece of tape, the other piece will stop it from moving. Cool! It’s just coincidence that the tape is bright yellow, but I really like how that colour contrasts with the more copper-y guitar strings. (puts pieces together with tape) The two overlapping points are at the top and bottom of the sun if you hold it this way. It’s kind of cool, because it looks like two “poles” on the top and bottom of the sun.”

Ms. Kirkwood: “Yes, it does. Do you have any more ideas about the fabric we could use for the sun? If you want plastic, or garbage-y material, I could give you some kind of plastic-y wrapping paper I had…just let me go look for it…(15 minutes and a messy storage room later) Huh, I thought I had something, but I guess not. None of those more napkin-y tissue papers stood out to you?”

Me: “No, not really…. I don’t know, I can’t really think of anything that seems to fit with the mobile.The rest of it is coppery wire, wood and red plastic.

Ms. Kirkwood: “Do you want to come back on it? We can always work on something else, and come back to it with new ideas later.

Me: “Sure…maybe let’s work on the jellyfish for a bit.

(We make our way back to the space where we do most of our work. After about 30 minutes working on the jellyfish, my leg brushes a piece of cellophane and causes it to shift and expand, falling a little more flat).

Me: ” Wait, what if we crumpled up a material and put it inside the sun, instead of overtop of the guitar string fame?

Ms. Kirkwood: “Why don’t you show me?

Me: (crumples the cellophane and holds inside of frame) “It would be cool if I could suspend the material in the center of the frame…but I still don’t really like the cellophane. It just doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the project. (…) Could I use those yellow bags you get from No Frill’s instead? They’re a bit fluffier and match with the yellow tape really well.

Ms. Kirkwood: “Sure! That might work out well, because its always good to make objects kind of relate to each other. Then they look more like they fit together.

After that conversation, we didn’t actually get around to suspending the bag in midair. But I, for one, kind of like the way the bag flip and curls on itself like solar flares are protruding in plastic strips, and the reflective, somewhat luminous nature if plastic. I can see that in this conversation, we had a lot of ideas being tossed around. Since art is pretty subjective, most of our decisions about what to do were based off of emotions and intuition, the red hat, or the resources we had available (the white hat). Blue and black hats occured the least, but we often talked about what looked or felt good (yellow hat) when trying out new ideas. Now, off to Cuba, where I’m sure I’ll see some sun that isn’t made out of plastics and guitar strings!

wow... do those sun spots spell out No Frills, or is it just me?
wow… do those sun spots spell out No Frills, or is it just me?

Mapping Out (British North) America

I really like historical maps. Especially the one that Fiona added to the resource library, where you can click on different dates to see the changes in state or country boundary lines.

Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps
Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps

 “After the war of 1812, immigration to British North America led to a more diversified economy, with lumbering, farming and shipbuilding growing in both the Maritimes and in the Canadas. But by the 1830s there was a great deal of unrest, partly because of economic distress, partly because of the cultural prejudice against the French-speaking Canadiens in Lower Canada, and partly due to the system of government, which gave relatively little power to the elected assembly. In November 1837, Louis-Joseph Papineau and his radical Parti Patriote led a rebellion against this unfair government structure, but the rebels were not well organized and were readily defeated by British forces. Similarly, in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie, a newspaper editor and member of the elected assembly, led a rebellion that was also quashed. But two uprisings made British officials realize they had to reform the government system.”

– Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps

I chose this map/timeline to blog about because it gives a great visual representation of what exactly is going in Canada from 1700 – 1999. We can see how our country changed from being basically two European colonies in the east to the structured provinces we have now. When viewing the Canadian geographical map/timeline, it’s amazing to see how young our country really is. Canada is still evolving and “growing up” so to speak. Our last edit to our geography was making Nunavut a territory, and happened in 1999. That’s sixteen years ago! Not long at all, compared to other places. For example, the United Kingdom’s last change in borders was in 1922, when Southern Ireland gained independence.

To me, it seems that as Europeans explored westward, they discovered all the different resources Canada had to offer. Growing, harvesting, and exporting wheat from the prairies gave Canada’s economy a boost, enabling people to explore further. When the government encouraged Canadians to explore further, offering “…free land to anyone who would clear and work it.” (Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps). In Alberta, BC, and the Yukon they  found precious minerals and oil. Remember the Klondike gold rush? Caused by the exploration of European settlers. The Aboriginals didn’t really need the gold for any reason other than decoration or ceremony – but I think they should have gotten a say in what happened (remember, it was their land) before a bunch of people bring up their pickaxes and gold pans to set up roads, supply routes, and buildings. Once the gold is gone, the deserted remains of the town make the land unsuitable for farming or animal life, so the land has to be left to be reclaimed by nature, which can take many years. Worse yet, mines that are no longer operating can still pollute the surrounding environment.

There are several differences in how Europeans mapped out this country in comparison to the indigenous people, the First Nations. The First Nations people had many different groups spread throughout Canada, with not much visual or text records of their land. Other than knowing where different language groups generally lived, most knowledge about the land was passed down through oral tradition. The whole idea of “your land” and “my land” didn’t really exist with the First Nations, which lead to problems when Europeans colonized Canada.

Map of First Nations populations and languages. Data used for this map is from 1996. Image taken from “Canada’s First Peoples” website.

The current 50 languages of Canada’s indigenous peoples belong to 11 major language families – ten First Nations and Inuktitut. Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. This map shows the major aboriginal language families by community in Canada for the year 1996.”

Canada’s First Peoples

My personal interests lie in First Nations rights and fairness, so it is eye-opening to see how the land originally inhabited by the First Nations people was signed away (or just outright taken, as is the case in the majority of BC) to the European settlers. “Because the Royal Proclamation of 1763 stated that the Crown must negotiate and sign treaties with the indigenous people before land could be ceded to a colony, the Numbered Treaties were negotiated in most parts of the Prairie Provinces. The Government of the Colony of British Columbia, however, failed to negotiate many treaties and as a result, most of the province’s land is not covered by treaties.” (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process). In BC, we currently have a six-step plan that First Nations groups can take to try to settle the issue of land rights.

  1. Statement of Intent to Negotiate: A First Nation submits a Statement Of Intent (SOI) stating among other things who is claiming, proof that the negotiating party is supported by the community and where the claim will be made.
  2. Readiness To Negotiate: Within 45 days of submitting the SOI the parties must sit down and show that all parties have the will and resources to negotiate a treaty.
  3. Negotiation Of a Framework Agreement: The “table of contents” of a comprehensive treaty. The three parties agree on the subjects to be negotiated and an estimated time frame for stage four agreement-in-principle negotiations.
  4. Negotiation Of An Agreement In Principle: The negotiating parties examine in detail the elements outlined in their framework agreement with the goal of solving the all problems and creating a working treaty.
  5. Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty: The treaty for all intents and purposes is finished at this stage the treaty has to be approved by all parties of the negotiating team.
  6. Implementation of the Treaty: Applying and running the First Nation as set out by the treaty.

However, I’m not entirely sure if this is fair to the First Nations peoples. For example, in July 2007, the Tsawwassen First Nation members voted in favour of their treaty. The treaty more than doubles the size of the Tsawwassen reserve, and has several financial compensations:  a one-time capital transfer of $13.9 million, $2 million for relinquishing mineral rights under English bluff, $13.5 million for startup and transition costs, $7.3 million for resource management and economic development, and $2.6 annually for ongoing programs and services. It also reserves a portion of the Fraser River salmon catch to the Tsawwassen. In return, the Tsawwassen will abandon other land claims and will eventually pay taxes. (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process)But can we really translate the First Nations way of thinking, where the people belong to the land, not the other way around, into numbers like area and money? It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Whichever way our treaty system works, the First nations will never end up being able to fully reclaim their land, because then the other 96% of Canadians would have nowhere else to live. In fact, when negotiating, only crown-owned land is even on the table for the First Nations to regain. Any land that is owned by private companies is unavailable unless the owners are willing to sell it. Instead, it’s a very tricky process of trying to re-compensate the First Nations for something we will never be able to give back to them. It makes it worse that in the past, signing a treaty was analogous to signing away the rest of your rights as an Aboriginal, and losing rights to your culture, land, and traditions except for what was explicitly stated in the treaty. Although now treaties try to modify and define Aboriginal rights instead of “cede, release, and surrender” your rights, some people think it still limits the rights of Aboriginals even more than not having a treaty. For more information, check out: http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/land-rights/aboriginal-rights.html

Some of the prescribed learning outcomes this covers are:

  • Interactions between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans
  • Canada’s physiographic regions
  • Geographical factors in the development of Canada
  • Resource development in BC and Canada
  • Western Expansion
  • Technological development and settlement
  • Contributions to the development of Canada

On a brighter note, Happy 1st of March!

An Original Title

Where have we been?

Where are we going?

These questions really change depending on who I define “we” as. It could be the universe, or a specific group of people, like the TALONS class. For the sake of brevity and my sanity, I will set “we” to mean the human species for now. Aside from where we’ve literally been as a species (the Earth, Moon and nearby areas of outer space), we have been in a lot of good places and many bad ones. As a species, it seems like we often go through bad events to get to good events. For example, we had to go through a World War to get the funding and resources necessary to understand more about how atoms worked (this was, of course, to build the atomic bomb, but we learned lots of new information in the process). What does it say about our species that we prioritize scientific research most when it can help us build weapons?

When I consider where we are going, I found wonder about the differences between where we are going, and where we should be going. I was talking to Vanessa Felice yesterday about this, and I told her how I felt about humans in general.

“Sometimes, I really like people, and all the potential for goodness and growth they have. Look at all of the new technologies and discoveries we’ve made! We surely must be doing some good for this planet, and if not, we have the ability to do good eventually. But sometimes, I look at the human race and all I see is the war, destruction, and pollution we’ve caused. And then I just think, get rid of them all. Get rid of ALL the humans. Even me. This place doesn’t need this. Humans should just get out.”

So sometimes, where humanity is going and where humanity should be going is a bit of a conundrum to me. On one hand, I think the human species has a lot potential good that we strive for. Humans are on the track to better technology, faster communication, and more exploration of places like the deep ocean and outer space. We’re also quite far down the path of Global Warming, en route to the extinction of several more plant and animal species, and seem to have no intention of stopping warfare for good. Is the human race worth keeping around, when you consider all the negative effects we’ve had on our planet and our own species?  Will we keep going in this direction? Should we?

I don’t know where humanity is going for sure, but as a member of the human race, I will be striving to reduce the negative effects our species brings, and bring into action the potential for good we have.

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How Far Can We Go?

We all remember sitting in our grade 5 social studies classrooms listening to our teachers lecture us about the evolution of humans. Most of us likely remember the physical evolution that the human race underwent thousands of years ago. However, the questions Where have we been?” and Where are we going?” dig deeper into the intellectual development of the human race.

So where have we been exactly? Well, I know that I was just eating a fabulous meal with my family in the dining room a few hours ago. But to move beyond the literal aspect of this question, where have we been?” deals with humankind as a whole (represented by the word “we”). I believe that we have been constantly searching for ways to heighten our intellect, improve the technology we use, and widen the connections and interactions we make with others. Some of the most famous discoveries have been made by using the root idea from another individual, therefore it is important to notice how one person’s ideas can be used to create a more advanced idea/theory in a new generation. Do you think Niels Bohr would have been able to discover the atom and its orbits without the original discoveries of John Dalton, JJ Thompson, or Ernest Rutherford? (just to name an example) In short, our individual intelligence is just as valuable as who we share it with. This explains how we have gotten so far. Not only intellectually, but mentally as well. As the human race developed, our values and acceptance for others began to rise. We live in a society where people that are seen as “different” are accepted as “not different”. The interaction and connections we make with others can help forward this movement to future generations.

Despite the plethora of discoveries, investigations, and movements being made, can we be doing better? Where are we going? By observing our society in the twenty-first century, I predict that humankind will continue to look for strategies to improve its technology, economy, intellect, and values. The third question becomes, then, How far can we go?

One step forwards, Infinity and Beyond Tomorrow

Where have we been? To be honest, none of us truly can say where it first started, but we can very quickly pick up on the progression of humanity, our development. We go from creating languages and telling stories, building small civilizations, to the birth of extensive rulership over more than just the few huts near ours.

The white man would greatly enjoy thinking he was the very original, but he wasn’t the only one to exist of course. Slowly our cultures and blood mixed, in both pleasant and brutal ways. Wars upon wars sprouted from the soil of this Earth we have claimed as our own.  With our need to create, destroy, and question, humanity began testing the perimeters of our own capabilities, pushing the boundaries past the breaking point despite- no, because of the consequences. The adrenaline of doing the impossible by getting into that plane and soaring like the birds we had seen for many years. Reaching out and up as we continued to mould ourselves into something strange.

 

But where are we going? Even if we were to know the projection from today, would it be the same as our trajectory from tomorrow? Will we burn out before the sun rains down on Earth? How far can the tendrils of humanity reach out into the universe before they stub against the foot of the corner of nothingness and infinity? Are we truly alone? These questions and so many others have and will continue to plague humanity each day it moves forwards, even those who asked this 50 years ago are still asking it today, more curious now than before. With our rapid advancement in technology, anything seems possible; however, we’re running out of the resources to take too many steps before we fall and scrape our knee on the bottom of the barrel.  Predictions will only take us so far, I guess I’ll just wake up tomorrow and see how far we’ve gone.

On Playing Guitar

Brian and Bryan Jam

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

As a sort of follow-up to my last post, I wanted to share some responses I had for a few questions one of the TALONS asked me as part of his own In-Depth Study Research.

1. How long have you been playing the guitar?

About thirteen years… I think.

2.At what age did you first start playing?

I first borrowed a friend’s guitar in the spring of 2003, I guess. So I would have been 22, or thereabouts.

3. Do you believe learning to play the guitar has benefited your life socially / physically / mentally?

Absolutely socially and mentally.

There are probably physical benefits – better hand-eye coordination or dexterity with my fingers and such – though I don’t know if these are beneficial other than in playing guitar.

As for socially, I’ve made a lot of great friends and shared a lot of interesting experiences with people I wouldn’t have found myself connected to if not for having been what can be called in some ways a musician. Beyond personalities, or senses of humour, or our unique interests, upbringings, or even the music we like, I’ve always found people who play music – whatever kind of music it is – easy to talk to, hang out with, and – naturally – play music with. I’ve played music with strangers on the street in Cuba, Croatia, and France, talked for hours about favourite guitars with friends of my parents, and spent weekends improvising with people I’d just met without so much as a word having to be spoken.

Even when I was just starting out, I’ve found that once you have enough skill to participate in communal music-making (even if it’s just plucking the same note or strumming the same chord along with a few friends), you have been allowed into some other plane of conversation with people – a conversation without words, but also a conversation without distinct points of view. In a verbal conversation, one person talks, then another, then the other again, and in doing so their unique perspectives are shared; but in music, the two ‘perspectives’ are essential components of the other, if that makes sense? My guitar solo cannot exist without the underlying chords, whose pacing and volume are reacting moment-by-moment to the energy, tones and volume of the solo. And that’s just with two people: as drums, or bass, or vocals or other instruments are added to the fray, this sense of a collective voice only becomes richer.

I think this sense of communication I’m trying to describe benefits both the social and the mental, though, because these experiences not only forge deep connections with the folks I’ve shared them with, but also have opened my mind to what it means to listen, and interact, and communicate with other people. Once you’ve experienced these sorts of things – an epic jam session, or a memorable performance, or just creating something out of nothing, even by yourself with your guitar – it is impossible to go back to having ‘un-experienced’ them; each leaves you fundamentally changed, however minimally, and changes the course you might take going into the future. I’ve left a lot of different sessions of playing with people thinking, “Why don’t I do *that* more?” And I always rededicate myself to finding more places and people to play with – it never stops.

4. What are some of the skills developed from playing guitar?

Listening is a big one, whether it’s to the people you’re playing with, or even songs you’re hearing for the first time or the millionth. It’s fun when you start to realize what’s going on ‘inside’ some of your favourite songs, and why it is you like them – a chord change, perhaps, or the way the lyrics fall across the rhythm of the song; and similarly, sometimes songs you thought were catchy fall apart when you learn how to play them, which can be disappointing, but leads you to other, more interesting music hopefully.

Beyond listening, I am also able to hear better, which is actually different than listening. I can hear subtle differences between notes and chords, can tell when things are out of tune – and even which string it is, generally – which I couldn’t do back when I began. I’m also able to distinguish what singers are saying now that I know how to breathe and sing and strum as the same time, and how the different instruments are interacting in ensembles.

5. How do these skills/benefits benefit/apply to your everyday life?

I think quite a few of these skills transfer over to everyday life, both in tangible, specific ways: I know a lot about different songs, how they are put together, and the people that made them, for instance, which finds its way into a lot of my work at school (and not just in guitar class); and my relationship with language has changed I think, as well, and I unconsciously try to make things more musical, direct, or poetic when I write or speak, perhaps.

But I think the benefit of playing music that most broadly transfers over into ‘real’ life is the sensibility that goes along with many different aspects of music. In looking over my answer to your third question, I like to think that this constructive sense of conversation or working with others influences every aspect of my life and relation to other people: everything one does with other people is an opportunity to build something – a conversation, a relationship, a professional project, or piece of art. And so because I know that these types of interactions are possible, I find myself approaching almost everything I do with the same sense of experimentation and expression.

6. Any other habits/effects that came from guitar?

The guitar is a dangerous tool for relaxation and procrastination, so not all of the habits and effects it yields are necessarily positive! I’m sure there are plenty of things I could or should have done some days than play guitar for half an hour (or three hours), and that’s not always the best thing to do. But I am glad every day that I stuck out those first few months (or years, if you ask my roommates or family members who heard me back then), until guitar became the thing I wanted to do when I got home from school or work. Once it became The Thing I wanted to do to unwind, or have fun, or challenge myself, I don’t think I could have ever gone back to being someone who doesn’t play guitar.

Hopefully you find the same soon enough.

Leadership: Challenges Q’s

CHALLENGE 1: Tension

In the past, I feel like I was horrible when dealing with tension, since my patience was dreadful. Now, I have realized that I need to calm down! My strategy to deal with stress would be just to award myself from doing all the work. I would plan a day, or just have a moment each day when I reward myself with something that makes me relieved and happy. Whether that would be going for a run, a hike, making/eating amazing food, watching a movie, listening to music, journaling, doodling, crafting, or whatever I love doing. Going for a run or a hike while listening to music alone is probably my favourite thing to do because it is so calming. It’s a beautiful moment just between you and your thoughts.

CHALLENGE 2: Frustration

When I find myself following a leader whom I think is ineffective to the team/committee, I will try appreciating the good things about the leader. It could be that the leader has extremely creative and well thought out ideas or maybe just because the leader is really funny. I will also try pointing out resources on how to be a good leader so if he/she is determined enough to learn how to be a good leader, they can learn from there.

CHALLENGE 3: Multi-Hat

I think I react to change well, at most small situations. Big situations, on the other hand, I am terrible. Big changes such as, moving, changing schools, and joining different kinds of clubs can be my weakness. I think I have been doing better than before because I tell myself all those EXTREMELY corny and cheesy quotes (ex: if you never try you’ll never know, and etc). Even though those are the corniest quotes ever, they do work in a way. I tell myself that this is a positive change and that it might even be the best time of my life and all that kind of corny stuff.

CHALLENGE 4: Ego

I tend to focus my energy more on the production because I can’t promote anything until the actually product, assignment, or whatever it is-is done. What if you were too busy promoting the product/assignment that you didn’t get to complete it? Then it would just be a big waste of effort and time. If you don’t know if you product/assignment is going to be complete, don’t start promoting it yet.

CHALLENGE 5: Fulfillment

When you compare your team succeeding to when you, as an individual, is succeeding, it has such different results. When you win as an individual, you are more proud since you won whatever it is by yourself. However, it doesn’t feel like you have exactly won anything because once the moment is over, well, then it’s just another normal day. When you win with your team, your adrenaline is so much more higher since there are so many people feeling the same way you are feeling. Everyone is so intense; jumping up and down, screaming, hugging, and cheering together as a team. That moment lasts for a long time. It will most likely will even last for days. Succeeding with your team feels more like an accomplishment rather than succeeding as an individual.

CHALLENGE 6: Vision

This was a very tricky question to pick what I would rather do, but I think I would rather help others fulfill their vision. I do believe that if you put other people’s happiness before yours too many times, it can be harmful to yourself. However, in this situation, I think it is a win-win. If you help someone else with their vision and they succeed, you can feel their happiness and success within you. It is as if you also succeeded, since you were part of the reason why the other person succeeded. So you both end up happy and proud! :D

CHALLENGE 7: Influence

The qualities of a leader I trust is someone who incorporate everyone, has a good “leader personality”, and can organize well. First of all, being a leader, it is extremely important to incorporate everyone so you don’t leave someone in the dust who might’ve had fantastic ideas. You don’t want to be that leader that is completely selfish and thinks that you have the best ideas out of everyone else. You been to be cooperative and you need to make sure everyone has a say in what is going on. Next of all, a good “leader personality” means someone who is passionate, motivating, welcoming, and never too bossy. It’s a leader everyone loves because of his/her personality. Finally, a leader that I trust has to be amazing at organizing the event/plan and good at organizing everyone else. When people turn chaotic or they just keep goofing around, the leader needs to step up and organize everyone. I personally think that I do incorporate all of these qualities when I have the chance, but I do forget a lot of times.
thanks for reading

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“Ain’t it fun?..Living in the real world!”

“Ain’t it fun?.. Living in the real world…”

     This is a quote from the song ‘Ain’t It Fun’ by Paramore. I thought it would be appropriate as I have been having so much fun with this project. Speaking to the second part of the quote, my interviews for this project are prime examples of real life and real world situations. Both obtaining and completing the interviews were great experiences for the project and for me.

     I had a ton of fun conducting my interviews, and yes, you will notice that ‘interviews’ is plural! I was extremely fortunate so as to get two amazing interviews for the project. The first was with Allison McNeill, former head coach of the women’s national basketball team for 12 years and coached them to Olympics in 2012. Allison has coached and known Teresa for a very long time and has seen her develop over the course of her career, so this was a great perspective and voice to hear on my eminent person. I also did my speech from Allison’s perspective, so this interview was very useful in putting together my speech and the opinions within it, and my speech wouldn’t have been the same without it.

     The second interview, wait for it … Was with Teresa herself! Allison was able to help me get in contact with Teresa and I was fortunate to get an in-person interview with her as well.

    One intangible per-say that I really thought I gained from  this experience, was not only learning about my eminent person for the sake of the project, but also just learning about someone so amazing, who I can really take away my new knowledge of to my own life. Teresa has long been basically my idol in basketball, and it was a truly inspiring experience hearing from both Allison and Teresa about her career and their perspectives on basketball. This being said, I really gained so much more than just conducting the eminent interview. Forming another new connection in the sport, even though I’d met Teresa before, now when I see her at events, the only thing I say to her won’t be “Can I have your autograph?” for the millionth time, cause I totally don’t already have it on like a million things(sarcasm).  And also, just forming another connection, and getting more experience, in the community in general.

     I filmed both the interviews, and put them into a kind of semi-documentary. Unfortunately, I had some technical difficulties and it was not uploaded sooner, so a couple of the narrations are somewhat inaccurate in certain ways. I also had to cut it up into parts so that I could upload the whole video. I apologize for any video glitches or awkward cut-off questions, and I also realize that the video quality isn’t particularly great. However, they are up there for you to see.  These are my first Youtube uploads ever, hopefully they work out! Enjoy!

P.S. Even if you don’t watch the whole thing, as it is quite long, please watch the ending(around the last 3 minutes) as I am really proud of them, and you will get the connection when you see/hear it. But also, please watch these amazing interviews, with these amazing people! Thanks

Thanks again to my amazing interviewees:

Allison McNeill

and

Teresa Gabriele