Kleshas and Tanhas

ethics morals faiths ideals

Why Be A Line When You Can Be A Circle

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Excerpts taken from Rachel Naomi Remen’s In the Service of Life found in Noetic Sciences Review Spring 1996.
 “I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”
This sentence captures Remen’s main point. I think it’s genius to address one of the major factors in service. Most especially, to give a name to this issue; within its nomenclature, the problem itself can be found. Helping. The word is thrown around a lot, both in and out of service-talk. Nevertheless, the word has the same meaning in both contexts.
“A server knows that he or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown.” 
This “major factor,” as I’ve put it, is dealing with cognizance; the server has to be aware of the consequences of his actions. The issue begins when someone is performing an action for someone else, and lacks an awareness for the essence of their action. Its quality, intent, and recipient are all factors of this essence. For example, if a waiter’s quality of work is sub par, he walks away with no tip at the end of the night. When Jimmy Rollins hits a foul ball and it hits someone in the stands, he had no intent of harming that fan. Finally, the passive individual -the recipient of the action- also has to be aware of the action. When you put a dollar bill into the soda machine, it has to recognize the paper before it processes the transaction.
“The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.
I would like to point out that Remen’s idea of solidarity is not linear or hierarchical. Not to put words in anyone’s mouth, but somewhere down the line, when I was developing an initial definition of solidarity, I must have heard the words “meeting the passive individual on their level.” In my mind, this would require a higher individual to lower him/herself to a lower level. And in Remen’s concept of service, this would be no different from helping. The ego would be lowered, not the soul.
“In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance.
My simple solution is that Western thought of linear paths (e.g. Hell-Earth-Heaven stacked vertically) isn’t suited for solidarity. If one can take a flat circle ‘O’ and place it horizontally so that it’s flat, you get an even plane. The same thing would happen if you cut planet Earth like a guacamole; the insides of the two halves would be flat planes. It’s from this model that I think a more appropriate definition of solidarity would derive. Servers and those being served exist on this one plane. Equals. There would be no lowering to serve others; just crossing the circle-plane to reach them.
“When you serve, you see life as whole.”
In terms of my time at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, one of the earlier realities I struggled with was that we were exempt from helping. Sure, from time to time, we helped open milk cartons for clients whose gnarled fingers couldn’t do the trick without spilling it, but there was no constant physical activity that would boost my ego (as Remen put it.) In this sense, I did feel some sort of internal reaction to the actual service I performed. After the crashing and burning of my ego that resulted from the deficit of help I was able to dish out, there was nothing to do but be refilled with Remen’s concept of wholeness.

Written by Jack Viere

April 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

“Dishes thou art, to dishes returnest”

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Recommended to listen to while reading

There ain’t never been a more patriotic act for volunteers than dishwashing. The whole history of dish washing is simple and easy for anyone and everyone to comprehend. From the Dawn of time, cavemen ate off of bone plates and drank from seashells. Apparently, legend has it, there were no recycling bins; the term “renewable resource” wasn’t the buzzword it is now. There were no bone or shell recycling plants yet for little Jimmy Grotto to partake in school-wide recycling challenges. And so, the origin of dishwashing came about from the lack environmental awareness of our monkey-ancestors.

               To this day, the art of dishwashing has been passed from some of the field’s greatest. Jesus Christ is most notable; the Bible botched the account of whose feet, or rather what chalice, he was washing that one Passover night. (You can’t say that Jesus didn’t help clean up after the Sadr Supper; it wasn’t kosher to eat and run.) Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was really a call for the laborers to become more in touch with their roots, that is, dishwashing. Back in the day, supply and demand had obviously not existed, and there was no need for clean dishes. But during the second week of Genesis’ creation story, Adam had to address a more serious issue than original sin; the huge stack of dishes on their kitchen sink.

In his Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet must’ve had quite a few empty glasses to clean up after that extravaganza. We can only infer that this lyrical genius was pointing to something greater in his songs. That is, the consequences of drinking out of glassware meant that glasses needed to be cleaned. In a not so similar way, Ghandi was known for his fasting. However, this did not mean he was exempt from cleaning up after others if not himself. Taoism’s unknown founder was a dishwasher. And on that note, anyone who has ever eaten a meal at some point in their life has encountered the dish dilemma: Do I clean these dishes or do I slip out the back and run?

The universality of this most sacred (in terms of health) tradition is something to marvel at. In partaking in this elementary act, one gains powerful insight to the greater cosmos of dishwashers. So when I was asked to deviate from my usual service by my superiors to do kitchen duty, I answered the call. Did I know what I was getting into? I sure as hell did! Dishwashing, if it has not been built up already, is the one act that I can string through my past, present, and most-hopefully future acts of service. There’s something rejuvenating about sticking your hands in scalding hot water for the greater glory of sanitization.

And by the way, there’s a reason why there are only men mentioned as some of the mythic heroes of dishwashing. At some point in time, the world became skewed. Somehow, the world’s reflection of itself portrays women performing women work. Today, in a very sexist manner, women are stereotyped as members of Occupy Kitchen. I would like to make a personal testimony that I have bled over dishwashing (quite literally) and find the task to be daunting for the rookies of the trade, male or female.[i] After the first few encounters, one can quickly calculate how many hours x a stack standing at y height will take with z washers.

So there was no surprise on my side when I walked into Mercy Neighborhood Ministries’ kitchen and stared down about an hour’s worth of dishwashing. Ms. Antoinette quickly recognized that I was no newbie when it came to dishwashing. Lessons on how to use an industrial-sized dishwasher are for suckers. By the end of it all, I had those dishes shining like the high-end dishes at the fine dining restaurant I work at back home. It’s inevitable. It’s one’s duty. “Do your dharma” is commonly used phrase in Eastern religions. It means “do your duty.” Do your dishes.

[i] The level of stress a volunteer dishwasher takes on in one load of 2.5 hours’ worth of dishes can take its toll. When I was asked with several other volunteers to do evening dishes in addition to morning dishes, the sight wasn’t pretty. About 30 minutes in, we found ourselves dazed in a mirage of soap n’ bubbles as if we were taking on some task like crossing the Nairobi Desert. In a heroic, maybe more so sporadic, attempt to cheer up one of my fellow volunteers in our grudging work, I blindly grabbed a wet knife fresh from the dishwasher machine. My plan was to emphatically stab the knife into the rubber carton that the cutlery was cleansed in as I shouted a “this is Sparta” line. Let’s just say in this not-so-bright moment, chaos got the better of me as the oddly-shaped cheese knife slid up out of my grip, and through my pinky finger. No cutlery was harmed in this scene. No blood was spilt either, so all health freaks, calm down. (We even ran that batch of silverware back through the washer.)

 

Written by Jack Viere

March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Too Cool For Whites

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“Hey mister,” a young squeaky voice cried out from behind me and to the right. I spun around, not sure that the words had been meant for me-after all, I hardly thought of myself as a mister, being only seventeen-and saw a black kid, perhaps ten, hopping off his bike and coming towards me. “Yea,” I replied. “What’s up?” “I betcha’ dollar I can tell you where you got ‘dem shoes,” the child answered. “I’ll take that bet,” I replied, confident that there was no way this child in front of me could really know where I had purchased my footwear…“You got your shoes on your feet, you got your feet on the street, on Bourbon Street, now give me a dollar.” Tim Wise, White Like Me pages 93-94

One of the subtlest of encounters occurred at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries when I least expected it. During the ins and outs of service, I infrequently come across the other half of the facility’s outreach: the students. MNM offers before and after school programs for a variety of age groups. Kids are the driving factor for me to commit myself to community service on a long term scale. As the initial factor that led me to get involved after my freshman year, Camp Holiday Trails, a summer camp for kids with chronic illnesses, had me hooked on the first day. Even before that instance, volunteer work at the Special Olympics throughout middle school instilled this pull to the youth. There’s considerably more energy in kids in a camp or athletic setting. So if it wasn’t known before, there was a heartbreak when I recognized that that energy would not exist on the other side of Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.

Every time the preschool-aged students trickle by our doors, I wave fervently for no reason other than hoping to receive a reciprocated, equally energetic wave back. Just a quick glimpse of that long lost energy is enough for me. Never have I been disappointed; the over-exaggerated wave has always been answered. Until there was this incident…

It was like any other day at MNM; the sun was either shining through the skylight windows or it was pitch black from the clouds. I could be wrong in claiming normalcy for that day, though, since I distinctly recall that on this day, the clients were dipping pretzel sticks into melted chocolate. I designated myself as the transporter of dipped sticks from the dipping station to the freezer to remove myself from the clients’ prodding to partake in the ecstasy. This could’ve easily been the first time I almost struggled to keep up with the pace of the older clients! Vivacity.

In these trips, from dipping station to freezer, I had about a forty-five second travel time through the hall, into the kitchen, and back. It must’ve been on the second or third trip that I came across one of the preschoolers, alone. I’m not sure how he got free from the bunch, (nor am I sure if I should be portraying MNM as incapable of keeping track of their students) but there he was in the hall.

Maybe it was the excitement over melted chocolate and the rarely high energy level with the older clients that caused me to wave to him in an uncool manner. Nevertheless, all I got in return was a nod as he swagged on by, evidently on a mission of sorts. I didn’t really digest the rejection of a wave until my next trip to the freezer: “He just nodded me off!” With my slow processing of all the racial lingo and themes that we’re discussing in Race and Racism -which I would have to add, has kept me from producing a reflection worth reading- the word “hegemony” slowly crept into my mind. Something going along with Frederick Douglas’s double consciousness and the veil has formulated in retrospect. The little boy, to my surprise, reacted as a result of some shade of racism.

Let me first explain what the nod signified in my book. A nod typically ranks low on the list of acknowledgements and greetings human beings bestow on one another. Above it comes a smile, maybe then a hello, next a handshake, finally a hug (or kiss.) A nod has no transmission of emotion. It very easily can become a means to look someone off or even denote them as not worthy of a higher greeting. I am making the claim that this young boy was at fault of this as absurd as it might seem. But hear me out!

In staking another claim that hegemony, in other words, the boy’s relationship to me was somehow marred by my race (or more simply, my age,) I am trying to draw out my surprise at how young this black student was. Specifically, someone so young was already viewing the world through Douglas’s veil; this came to me as a shock. This kid was no more than three feet tall, wearing Timberland boots, and had his hair in cornrows.

A third -maybe the most absurd- claim was that this individual’s double consciousness clearly established him as black, me white. He knew he had some sort of power over me in a similar manner that Tim Wise’s encounter with the Tulane native in the passage above. This power, if not apparent in my story, is the same that leads many whites to feel uncomfortable when blacks, and even more so, whites use racial slurs. In reading the word “nigger,” one would think, “You, the white writer, shouldn’t be using that word.” The answer to the question why is the uncomfortable power that blacks possess. Why else is there such a word as “wigger?” There’s some sort of (unattainable) power blacks hold that pop culture easily interchanges with cool, or maybe a more timely word: swag.

So maybe I am reading too much into this two second encounter with a five year old like Tim Wise throughout his narrative. But maybe, just maybe, this is an example of how early hegemony formulates in a young black’s mind. Me on the other hand; I must’ve not come into contact with a black individual who I interacted with frequently enough to deem friend until I was in middle school. So if my three claims are preposterous, at least I can vouch for my own belated awakening to my white ignorance…

Written by Jack Viere

March 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm

A PTSD from Community Service

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Second semester has its unique challenges, none of which a college freshman would anticipate. After a stressful first semester of social, academic, and mental hills that had to be overcome, one would think that second semester would be a breeze. Once adjusted to a new living style, workload, and diet, the second semester was supposed to be just like the first except for new classes. However, the anxiety that I knew would develop at one point or another crept up in an unexpected manner. I think it has something to do with the spring semester’s mindset; there’s no rush to teach students how to become a college student anymore. That being said, the delayed assignments never seemed to be assigned. Without a familiarly dense course load, I grow anxious.

In a similar fashion, service at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries began to take its toll. The routine never changed. A few newcomers have joined the wolf pack that we met with every Tuesday, but I can’t blame any one individual for such a dramatic change in pace. On reentering the tunnel that we call a daily routine, you become familiar with your surroundings. The newness of space and time restraints fades as the tunnel becomes grayer and goes by unchecked as ordinary.

It’s not all that dreary, though. Familiarity allows for my service partners and me to develop deeper relationships with the clients at MNM. This opportunity is great when thinking of service in terms of being “for and with others.” Nevertheless, on the way back from service, my service partner and I simultaneously experienced a jolt of anguish. Oddly enough, she verbalized our shared feeling right after I thought, “This area is like a war zone. These people are fighting the odds here; it’s an uphill battle for them.” I couldn’t help but think of those melodramatic scenes in war films where the company is returning from the front. The troops are battered from what they’ve seen.

Yet, what I’ve seen is not just the neighborhoods in this part of Philadelphia. I am not belittling these people by depicting their environment from my perspective. That’d be cynical. This PTSD, if I may, seems to have been slowly developing like my anxiety for the workload of this second semester. The breaking point, this past Tuesday, came when my service partner and I both realized that at some point on our return trip, our relationships no longer exist with the clients at MNM. We don’t have the luxury to Facebook ‘em or shoot them an email. But we are somehow still expected to develop a relationship, which is becoming increasingly difficult during the time we spend away from them.

Within the restraints of being volunteers, we obviously don’t have access to clients’ personal or medical information. I’m not saying we should either, but it would be nice to know where Mr. Paul has gone. He was something to write about…How are we supposed to ask about him? If they wanted us to know, they would have shared. If we had access to some basic information, we wouldn’t have to ask. The last thing we heard was that he was in the hospital. And not to call out the blatantly obvious, but working with individuals of a certain age inevitably leads one to disregard a certain thought and place in the back of his or her mind.

Still, all the while, we go to service just the same. Our service is about relationships, no doubt, because we aren’t cleaning, cooking, preparing –or any type of physical labor. We found that out last semester. We don’t need to be constructing some physical memorabilia to point at after we have finished it, kicking back to relax saying, “Ah. We’ve done something good today. Check that off the list. Better yet, let’s take a photo.” What my service partners and I are left with, then, is spending time with the individual. On learning that clients at MNM, like Ms. Gladys, spend time all alone until they return to Mercy the next day, we experienced the significance of our time spent with the clients.

But where has Ms. Gladys gone off to? My service partner discovered by indirectly asking around that she hasn’t been able to attend MNM for various reasons. The fluidity of not only the comings and goings of the clients, but our coming and going causes a lot of disruption in developing relationships. I’m not sure what really can be done other than talking about it. The system won’t change for deeper relationships; I think that ranks pretty low, ironically, on the priority list for a company that has to be systematically run. I mean to say that, while idealistically, stronger relationships would be great, the structure of not only service learning would have to change, but MNM would have to somehow give some basic information on the whereabouts of the clients that we year-round volunteers have befriended. I know that may be crossing the line for the volunteer-administration relationship, which is business like, yet, how are we to just cross our fingers and hope that the same individuals will be there next week? We are prohibited from progressing in our relationships. And in that fifteen minute car ride back home, we just sit and hope that the person we just shared a joke with will be there next week.

Written by Jack Viere

February 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

When the Cloud Bursts

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I realized there’s no reason for me to live on the East Coast after my Winter Break. If my interests alone could determine where I’d reside, I would be somewhere along the Pacific Ocean. Yet, as I drank in the 70 degree weather on New Year’s Day, I felt a pull back home. Home exists somewhere between Virginia and Pennsylvania. If our personal entities could be categorized into body, heart, soul, and mind, college has easily captured my mind and body. Heart seems like it will always reside with my family. And soul; I could not figure out where my soul was when I looked out over the ocean as the sun set.

I had an unexpected encounter in the West with something I have placed into my mind and heart; the homeless. It’s quite a luxury when you can devote certain energies to different activities in your life. I hadn’t realized that I assumed my vacation would lead me away from any scenarios that seemed to exist in my college life. My college life, as I said, consists of my mind and body. Through community service, heart finds its way into my personhood. Apparently heart has also found a way out of it as well. Via selfishness.

The several-hour plane ride to vacation-land is boring. Why? Well, our minds are not entertained as thoroughly as we please. And in this momentary lapse of our mind’s functioning, we lose any responsibilities we had hoped to rid as we embarked on our self-indulgent vacation. The jetlag -an indicator of how far you’re willing to escape your duties- dulls us to the point where on entering the new airport, we encounter a sense of adventure. Even among all the pavement, architecture, and pre-existing community, we prepare ourselves to conquer our novel surroundings.

 

Immediately after exam week, I found myself in San Diego as if my work had earned me the right to kick back and relax. And kick back and relax I did; even to the point where I found other people making decisions for me –an oddity for the college student!

 

The sun sets on the West Coast with the same color I witness on the East.

As if I knew something about the homeless, I noticed that San Diego’s distinguishing characteristic was that its homeless were pushed to the water. My dream home would exist on the beach, so why not California? And as I jocularly thought where I’d place my million dollar home, I stumbled upon the homeless. I hate to admit it, but my first (internal) reaction was, “What? I thought I left this back home!”

 

Maybe Philadelphia does a better job of keeping its scenic sights (limited in comparison to San Diego’s –the Pacific is a winner take all!) free from the reach of the homeless. But as soon as I saw rag-tagged camouflage and trash bags, my vacation-illusion snapped. As I handed loose change from my pocket to distanced eyes, Philadelphia flooded my soul.

 

Mercy Neighborhood Ministries

To and from Mercy Neighborhood Ministries I encounter some display of economic evolution. Where do the employees of $7.25 and welfare checks live? When I saw an individual pushing a shopping cart, my soul took me back to the West; my mind painted a beautiful image of the beach; my heart felt the familiarity of my family; my body warmed by the omnipresent, perfect sun.

 

When I recognized the familiar faces as I walked through MNM’s doors, I experienced the same inner tumult from having my vacation-cloud burst. No one here had a vacation. The employees of MNM sure as hell worked hard for a well-deserved vacation. Where did they take it? What kept me from falling into a state of complete guilt were the new faces. That’s where my soul is. The potential. The growth. New faces meant new relationships, new stories. I found myself playing the same Rummy card game from San Diego with Mr. Lee. I still lose, whether I am playing on the East or West Coast.

Written by Jack Viere

January 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm

The Subtlety of Racism’s Pressure

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It’s been too long since my last post.
Something along the lines of San Diego, Winter Break, and the restart of the second semester is to blame.

There’s pressure on what my first post should revolve around; I had several ideas floating around. If there was ever the question why I write, it’s because I write better than I speak.  And nothing triggers my need to speak more than something controversial. Hence, I feel college has been a good fit thus far.

One of my new classes this semester is titled Race and Racism. To say that this class instills heated debates would be to jump the gun; not everyone feels a sense of urgency, or existence for that matter, of the pressing issue at hand: racism. Or at least that’s my perception. Maybe it has something to do with a unilateral student population from the East Coast, the Tri-state region especially. A like-minded people will never argue over anything more than minuscule details.

If anything, I feel that some of my earlier reflections portray my adaption – my integration – into a new lifestyle. This urbanized university living was no surprise to me. In fact, I ran to this idealized environment; history has always depicted specific regions as suitable for universities. The Northeast speaks for itself, boasting those Ivy League institutions of American antiquity. (This isn’t to ignore other universities from that same era, but let’s face it: they’ve been there for awhile and they seem to be doing something right if they’ve retained their prestige.) On a personal note, I felt like the Southern boy headed to the Big City for an education; whatever era that derives from best…

Here I am; writing the contrasts between home and, well, home. (That transition of the baby bird leaving the nest is still playing out to its fullest.) Community service in North Philadelphia makes me want to say things. And when the Tri-state student population is familiar to these findings I see so profound and foreign, the first thing off my tongue might not sound as polished and intriguing as my writing (hopefully) strives to accomplish.

So, what sparked my mind to the point where I had to write? Ah, Race and Racism.

I have never really cared too much about other people’s perceptions of me. For the first time, that has changed. Slightly. Speaking out against the majority in the classroom setting is enjoyable from time to time. You become the catalyst of the conversation; the limelight tastes so sweet. Sometimes your words formulate the opinions of others. (I’m not too sure about that, but anyone who’s been in class knows to steer away from the individual who is adamant about the topic at hand unless you have an equally valid point and wish to defend it wholeheartedly.)

Well, just my luck. The seemingly homogeneous majority of my class (if not everyone – oh, the persecution) must think I am a racist. Arguing about the basis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s justification civil disobedience is a dangerous choice of action. If you don’t know what that concept is, realize that arguing against a venerated (black) man two days after his distinguished holiday is a sure shot for being put on the short list.

I could re-open the discussion, but my initial point I want to make about the debate is that regardless of what I said, I was somewhat shocked that people would take such a fundamental pillar of civil disobedience for granted. Yes, the idea came from the Great and Might MLK Jr. who made incredible strides for the civil rights movement. But hold up. King was arguing for breaking the law. This caught my attention. Whether any of the points I was trying to make about how history does not justify legal wrongs from the past were right or wrong, it was bothersome to see that people would take words from a prolific man at face value.

West Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia

This acceptance of history as the self-declared right is harmful, especially towards today’s racism. How? How is it that accepting MLK’s words at face value harmful? Well, for starters, no one was taking into account the historical context. Breaking the law is wrong. And I agree that King’s argument for when and how to break the law was right in the  1960s and was much needed. But when it was taken out of context and applied to other, non-historically-related contexts by some of my classmates, people began to realize that the justification for civil disobedience was not capable of being universally followed.

That being said, my argument is that this assumption that my classmates were initially making (or at least that’s what it seemed to me as I was standing alone apparently against MLK Jr.) cripples certain people’s views about today’s racism.

Is it nonexistent? No! Of course not! We’re not colorblind! Then how are we to ignore the 1 in every 15 black male who finds himself incarcerated? Why do we turn away from the idea that it’s difficult (for me) to find a middle-class African-American individual back home in the South while here, in Philadelphia, that’s been the way for awhile.

What I am trying to get at is that people like to say that they are 1) not racist, 2) not color blind, and 3) think they understand racism’s harms. (Writing this doesn’t say that I do-hence I am taking the class!) But I fear that if we talk about petty issues of affirmative action and employment issues and ignore the fact that certain socio-economic classes exist in certain areas, and not elsewhere, then we have yet to realize the harm we do to ourselves. We’re not talking about the same racism. The racism I see now, as of coming to Philadelphia, is that there is a gap between the prominent blacks and everyone else of color.  Those that are prominent lead the rally call to prove to those who think they care that blacks succeed in higher realms of employment consequently drowning out the unheard voices of the other socio-economic classes that are more likely to be subjected to discrimination. Especially in the realm of employment opportunities for those who work blue-collared jobs (and below,) no one wants to hear that there are still injustices that result from racial biases. (Facts, like the one above, do suggest that there is an issue at hand. Suggesting that there isn’t a problem is to be colorblind.)

In conclusion, even if my claims about life in Virginia seem exaggerated for effect (which could go unchecked since people seem to take things at face value,) my intent is that if one were to say that there is no racial tension, this will lead him to be passive and noneffective in his discussions or actions taken against racism. Another way of putting it is in closing your eyes, whatever you are shielding your eyes against still exists whether you accept it or not. So in nodding to MLK Jr.’s writings as the final solution that has still be enacted out by everyone is harmful. My classmates already proved that the circumstances of the 60s cannot be applied in every instance.

Thanks to my English course, I learned about an ancient philosopher named Boethius. “One of Boethius’s key ideas was that there is a great God who designs a far better plan for human beings than they could possibly design for themselves…according to Boethius, we should then not resist or fight against the troubles that come our way, but cheerfully accept the, trusting that in the end things will work out for the best.

So whether atrocities are committed against blacks (and other races, especially Hispanics) or not, are we to ignore the 1 in 15 and accept Boethius’s idea? It seems like quite a few of us do as we chide over Obama’s State of the Union Address…

Disneyland: Maybe More Than Just Dreams Come True

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I apologize for the delay  between this post and the previous one. I have been in a daze from the quick transition from hectic finals week to a vacation in San Diego. And I haven’t found the time to post any pieces. Though, I must say that San Diego has given me a lot to write about!

Piglet is my favorite character from The Hundred Acre Woods. Tiger’s bashfulness never caught my attention. Woody was always more original than Buzz. Rapunzel from Tangled has replaced Cinderella as my favorite princess. And Mickey Mouse; I can take him more seriously than Goofy.

You might ask why an eighteen year old is so opinionated over his Disney characters. Well, the real question is: who isn’t opinionated over their childhood’s influential movie stars? The reason I found myself with my extended family in Disneyland was that it was a monumental return trip that paralleled our earlier adventure from years past. Same family members, same place, a new experience. I must confess that the magic never dies as you grow older.

That being said, an eighteen year old’s vision is more likely to detect the extraordinary activities that are not related to the Disney theme. I cannot recall if I blotted out these events when I was younger or if I just didn’t really detect them. Either way, a person’s action has an effect on his or her neighbor’s experience in the “real world.” In Disneyland, where children hug and take pictures of their favorite characters, one would hope that every effort would be made to create the recreation of what one views on the big screen. And, if I might add, Disneyland goes out of their way to cater to this “magical need” that people are paying for more so than another theme park like Busch Gardens or Six Flags.

We encountered a scenario that included several of these rash, disruptive actions that killed Disney’s magic. As we waited in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we commented on how the lines were constantly moving to give the effect that we were not waiting as long as we thought. Before we knew it, we had pulled down the safety bar and were being transported to Tortuga Island. I really enjoyed looking up and seeing stars on the ceiling and gave into the feeling that I was outside passing shipwrecks.

Pirate booty littered the scenes we floated past until we reached a port that was under siege. “Yo ho ho/ A pirate’s life for me” was continuously yodeled as we went by in the dim light. Fake fire flickered. Other boats were lining behind one another up ahead; the end of the ride must be near! I equated that the ride was worth the wait as we bumped into the boat in front of us, letting my mind wander my mind back to the “real world.”

We had yet to clear the tunnel that would transport us back to Disneyland when we realized that there was a traffic jam. We were still in earshot of “Yo ho ho.” A drunk pirate robot character sat above us pouring out whiskey for his befriended feline. An incline was ahead that would most likely lead us to the final descent before we would make port. I thought this was the reason for our traffic jam; rides need that proper spacing so one car doesn’t slam into the next one.

Our boat drifted in line behind another until we were pushed by another. We finally entered the tunnel to escape the loud “Yo ho hoing” when I realized something was amiss. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’ll let my Patience Skills level up,” as if my life was like the Star Wars Game of Life. Maybe it’s the college student’s ability to take a nap anywhere at any time, which I took full advantage of, but freaking out typically does not help any situation. In this scenario, the moral of the story is yelling-power does not propel the boat forward in situations as such.

Upon waking up after dozing for three minutes, the pirates’ singing ceased. And in retrospection, we concluded that this initiated the panic-syndrome that every human being is equipped with at birth. The background music was soothing (I guess) for those who were more likely to panic; the gracious mothers and fathers that paid the pricey admissions fee for their children to experience that savory Disney magic. No one wants that feeling ruined. Yet, that complete sense of control that panic-prone people desire on days like the trip to Disneyland has to be forfeited. Theme parks, especially those like Disneyland that create a magical feel for their audience, need to have control over more than just the rides and attractions. Consequently, you see “Cast Members Only” signs that allow for the in-between-times to be filled with magic. So even when you’re waiting in line for Space Mountain, you still might catch Buzz Lightyear signing autographs.

Most people unknowingly secede their control on entering theme parks. However, when they look to unnecessarily regain control in instances such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, they flail as they try to get a grip.

Hell broke loose after eight minutes and forty-two seconds passed by without the boat moving anywhere. The lights came on and cast members appeared to reassure passengers that everything was alright. The loudspeaker announced, “Arms, legs, and heads should remain in the boat.” At that, I think people commenced to flop around like fish looking for the water. With the theme music paused, the combination of silence and lights on brought out the worst in human beings.

Kids started complaining about the wait. The woman sitting directly in front of me turned to a Cast Member who was quite obviously not the technician solving the technical difficulty and said, “We have been for twenty-five minutes and she (referring to her four-year old daughter) needs to go to the restroom. I will not have her fricking pee in her pants!” That’s appropriate for all other kids to hear, I initially thought. But on reflecting, it exemplifies the lack of control parents do not realize they have forfeited when they were locked into their seats.

Soon thereafter erupted a voice from the boat in front of us. A chilling sound that would make the hairs stand on the back of necks of cut throat killers; “Get me off this boat!” It was as if some poor kid didn’t know what a throat lozenge was combined with a roar of a dragon. All I could think was, “How is this helping the situation? What parent would let their children start this mini-riot…” I felt distanced from the issue at hand, as if I was an observer rather than a part of the equation, when the chanting began. “What is it this, Lord of the Flies?” The dim lighting, impatience, and fear from the lack control were the ingredients for chaos.

These bizarre scenarios are amusing if you can remove yourself from the irrational behavior that we are susceptible to fall in under certain circumstances. This isn’t to say that I enjoy people’s struggles and hardships. But small, unpredictable tests of patience really can bring out the darker side of human nature. Many people turn a blind eye to this quality of the person in the hope to raise their esteem. This not only kills the magic in Disneyland but that spark of life in our everyday world.

Written by Jack Viere

December 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

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