Monday, September 24, 2007

Walking in Passion Daily

This is the last of my many posts for today. Thanks for being patient with all of them. The final post relates to passion, or more importantly, to that deep burning desire found within all of us.

I firmly believe that God has placed within each of us a desire that is truly unique to who we are. If you don't believe me, how many of us lie awake at night thinking there's got to be something more, or we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing? Too many of us, sadly. As children we are dreamers. We want to be different things. When I was younger I wanted to be a comedian, then an astronaut, and finally a doctor. As we grow up our dreams change, or to be more correct, we push aside that dreamer's voice. That voice that says it's ok to want to fly jets, or walk on the moon, or paint a masterpiece. We push it aside because we believe we have to do the responsible thing, the adult thing. Abadoning reason for passion is looked upon as weird, wrong, and unbalanced, and yet, those people are the ones who really understand what the world, what we, ourselves, are all about.

As I commute into work each day I constantly see people with sad, tired, lackluster faces. No joy, no life, no desire can be seen. It's another day of monotany. What's wrong with this picture? Why are we all afraid to walk daily in our passion? It relates to fear. We're afraid to take that step, to truly explore that desire that God has burned within each of us. It becomes fainter and fainter as we get older, or perhaps, more truthfully, we learn to ignore it better. We're often afraid to delve into it because of what else we may discover about ourselves. That, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what God wants. He wants us to grab hold of that unquenching fire and never let go. He wants us to explore the depths of ourselves that He's changing to fulfill that passion. In short, He wants us to live in that passion.

Now some of you may have no idea what I'm talking about, others, I personally know you do. Either way here's help. Sit down, close your eyes, relax, and let everything fall away. Ignore the phones, the computer, the tv. Let peace and quiet envelop you. Now, ask yourself, what is your greatest wish. What is your deepest desire? What would you do right now if you could?Is is to become a writer, a teacher, to fly? That answer is just the surface of the true passion God has placed within you. It's not hocus pocus. It's the truth, and a truth I'd forgotten lately.

I have a passion, too, just like us all but like so many people had pushed it aside, ignored it while I went pursing other things. I told myself what I had once believed about me wasn't right and that I had misinterpreted my path. Well, I understand and know differently now. The path I've walked thus far has been all about God using this passion in me. He has great plans for it and I need to be willing to step forth and go. I'm sure you're all itching to know what my desire is but, ha ha, not today. Today, God is calling for you to seek. To hold onto to it and to be willing to overcome that fear and embrace it and truly live. Life may get interesting and paths may be dark, but letting that fire burn freely and truly is the greatest in the world.

I am Special

"I am Special" is a term often heard today. It's told to children at home, in school, and engrained into our heads. However, as I was told this weekend, it's the reason why the 1982-2006 generation is the most narcassitic in history. It's all about us. Me, me, me. I count myself in this group, if not because of age, but because of mentality. This "me" attitude stems from the self-esteem movement that occurred in '80's. Unfortunately, it's gone too far. How many times do you hear," I want this, or I want that, or I need this?" We don't often hear, "How can I help you, what can I do for you, what can I get you?" You can see it in the eyes of young people. It's a greedy, self-absorded, indivdualistic, I'm the most important in the world look.

I'm guilty of it. Too many times I think I need this or I should do that or I want to go see that just because I want to. It's about entertaining me, keeping me happy, watching out for me. What fools we are! If we're not careful we're going to become so self-absorbed that we won't know how to ask for help when we need it. Service towards others has become forgotten. Helping the less fortunate has been replaced with helping ourselves to the next best thing. We crave the newest gadget, hottest movies, coolest cars. Others aren't given a second glance. Praise for others is rarely heard, and we relish in hearing our work praised.

Now, I'm not saying parents shouldn't say, "I'm proud of you," or "You did well." Every person needs self-esteem. They need to be able to stand up tall and know that they are special but not at the expense of others. Not in a way that they only think of themselves, only look out for themselves. We are special because each of us is unique, gifted, and priceless, but part of that is due to our interactions with others. We are best when we share with others, then our individual characteristics shine. Only while serving others do we truly serve ourselves and find the truth and hope inside us. Looking towards others is what really makes us special. That's why God calls us to serve others. Jesus knew that living and interacting with others made him special in God's eyes. The Pharisees were all about "me" and God couldn't stand them. It's not easy to throw away this "I am special" mentality. It's become ingrained into society and a natural way of life, but it's a life that isn't making us special. On the contrary, turning outward truly is special.

Death brings Life?

This question was raised after reading a study protocol that we were asked to review. Basically, human embryonic tissue was going to be used to determine the toxic effects of certain pesticides on babies. As I'm reading this proposed study I wondered where exactly this tissue was coming from. Twenty pages later I read my answer... from aborted embryos. Now this is not going to be a blog about abortion and women's rights regarding that issue. Instead it's going to deal with the question I posted... does death bring life?

The researchers engaging in this study are using tissue that has already been collected. They are not asking women to have abortions simply for this study. Also, they are looking at what happens to fetuses when they are exposed to harmful chemicals early in life in hopes of better stopping adverse effects on babies. On paper it sounds all good, but yet, I still can't help but wonder does the end justify the means. Should we as moral human beings use aborted babies for research? I think the thing that really struck me is that the women who have the abortions all sign consent forms stating that their aborted tissue can be used for research. So that means a couple things. 1. they do in fact care for the fetus and want to see something good come out of the situation (a benefit to society as it's called) or 2. they have no problem with the experimentation and don't care what happens.

Along those same lines are experiments with the elderly. New Alzheimer's drugs, cancer drugs, and various other drugs are constantly being tried out on this population in hopes of helping those that are younger, helathier. Is this ok? Can we consciously allow death to bring life to so many? Now I know death is a part of life and it is a continous circle. Birth=death, but where does the line between nature and man get crossed? When is enough truly enough? How far do we search for that fountain of youth?

Genetic testing, embryonic testing are new and vastly growing fields, and I believe, that if done correctly and following specific guidelines, that these tests can be beneficial and good. What I'm concerned about is the means for acquiring this life. Are we to become propenents of death in order to see another live or do we let death rule? Conversely some say that using the aborted fetuses provides a sense of moral rightness. They say the fetuses are being used to help a baby live that is wanted. Again, the societal benefit concept.

This is a controversial and hot topic and will become more so as we approach the upcoming elections. I don't have any answers. I have personal beliefs regarding the issue but also understand both sides. But this isn't about who's right and who's wrong, it's about asking ourselves how far do we let death=life?


First off let me say I will be posting multiple posts today. I have several topics I wish to discuss and they all occurred to me within the last few days. So I hope you all are ready to read. Firstly, I'll discuss a nice, lighthearted trip I took on my day off to Baltimore, MD.

I took two buses to Baltimore and then hopped onto their light rail service (ah, reminisence of St. Louis) before stopping off in their famous Inner Harbor area. But before I saw all the various ships, shops, and seagulls I went to see some baseball. I saw Camden Yards, home of the Orioles! Woohoo! I'm a big baseball fan and seeing their park was cool. At first I was not impressed with it. It looked like a big brick wall that you walked through to get inside. Boy was I wrong. The "brick wall" was an outer area the lead into the stadium itself. This area between the "yards" and the stadium was home to the team store, various baseball theamed restaurants and nice alleyways. It was a rather nice surprise to walk from a gloomy brick wall into an open, bright, baseball field. I now, partly, understand why many people out here in DC cheer for the Orioles instead of for the Nationals, the hometown team. I saw a statue of Babe Ruth at the entrance of the park and viewed a lovely baseball museum.

From Camden Yards I headed down to Inner Harbor. Many tourists visit this spot and it is beautiful. It's home to various ships and condos and shops and lighthouses. I enjoyed feeling the wind whip off the water and blow through my hair. I took my trusty 35mm camera with me and used an entire role. It felt wonderful to use that camera again, as I'm so often using my digital. I saw sailboats, which I think are amazing, and a coast guard sail ship, which will soon be retiring, and even a boat that was used in WWII. I visited a lighthouse, although, not your typical kind. It was much lower to the ground, circular instead of cylindrical, and red. I cracked up at it. I saw a Barnes and Noble literally ten feet from the shoreline and a Hard Rock in an old factory. It was pretty cool actually.

As I meanered down the Inner Harbor area I walked into Little Italy. It was a place I'd been wanting to visit and had been constinuously checking my trusty internet map to make sure I was going in the right direction. Walking through this neighborhood gave the distinct feeling of walking through Europe. The houses were built side by side with no room inbetween. There were the narrow, crooked alleyways, staggering staircases, lofts built one on top of the other, and my favorite, rooftop gardens. Ah it was bliss. I thought of my friend who lived in Italy, and wondered how authentic it all was. I smelled the food, saw the Itlalian flags, and understood why I loved Europe. Homes were brick, stone, bright, and European. You could tell that the residents wanted their new lives here in America to be a tribute to what they left behind. I took picture after picture and enjoyed it all.

Little Italy was the farthest I went into Baltimore. There were still a few other places I wanted to visit, one being Lexington Square- a fun place to eat, so I've been told. It'll have to wait until a return trip. After being up there for about four hours and being by myself I decided it was time to head home. So two bus rides later, home I arrived. Tired, taned, and delighted.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 11th in the Nation's Capitol

Yesterday was the six anniversary of Sept. 11th. This is the first time I've been in one of the impacted cities, Washington D.C. The day was definitely remembered and caused me some serious contemplation.

The first way I knew it was Sept. 11th was due to a mass email that had been sent out the day before by our Agency Administrator. He stated that there would be a rememberance service held in morning in the plaza for anyone who wanted to come. Well as I don't arrive to work until 9 am the service was just about over, so I did not attend. Then I noticed throughout the day the larger number of police officiers that were around the downtown area. They were out and about more and seemed more on the alert. Finally, the culmination occurred. The presidential motorcage zipped past me. There were the police men on motorcycles, the policmen on bikes, the mulitple SUVs and finally the motorcage itself. The roads were blocked along Pennyslvania Ave and several of us were standing around in the rain watching. One man was on his cell phone telling a friend that the entourage was heading their way, that was until the local police moved us along. Anyways, it was quite exciting and amusing at the same time.

However, later I began to realize that we are one of the rare countries that celebrates attrocities. We have remembrances and memorials for Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Why? Why do we as Americans do this? Why when most of the rest of the world deals with bombings, threats, guns, and terror everyday. It is such a part of life in much of the world. Bombings occur daily, lives are lost on a continual basis, and fear is evident. Yet, they don't have remembrances of horrible attrocities. Shrines decidated to those lost. They go on. They live. Why do we have such a hard time? Do we think we're better than the rest of the world and they shouldn't be remembered? Do their daily struggles not mean the same as the ours? Or does the fact they live in it regularly diminish the treat and fear of terror?

I don't have any answers. I'm also not saying that we shouldn't remember what occurred that fateful day. I do think though we must not forget that millions live in that kind of world on a daily basis. They have lives marked with fear, and with hope. They have learned how to survive and carry on. We must think about the global implications of actions that occur from terror. We not only affect those who did the damage but those innocents as well. We should not make their lives harder, instead try to alleviate their pain. Again, September 11th is a horrible day for Americans, but many around the world have those days every day. Are they being remembered?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Geeky Surprise

I have every other Friday off so I will usually do all my errands then while everyone else is at work. Usually after my errands I'll go do something, usually something new to explore. Well this Friday I fed the geeky scientist in me. Washington D.C. has a small science museum that is run by the National Academy of Sciences (the most prestigous science advisory board in this country). It's small because it's only one floor and only has three exhibits; it's also very inexpensive. Five dolloars for a general adult admission, not too bad if I say so. Anyways, the reason I wanted to visit it is because the exhibits are updated frequentlybased on the current science issues that the Academy is dealing with. So that's the basis of my story.

I arrived at the museum around 1pm, after a morning of grocery and department store shopping. I had a coupon for a dollar off my admission and handed it to the workers. Well this coupon was good for four people, and unfortunately I didn't have four people. First off, it was Friday and people were at work, and secondly, of all my friends, including those here in DC and scattered all across this world, I am the true geek. I am the one who gets excited about plants, diseases, and chemistry. I'm the weird person who at age 24 asks for an astronomy book for Christmas, and am a hugh science fiction fan. Yeah, an ultimate geek. Ergo I told them that was the geek among my friends and so decided to come on my own. The workers then laughed and the manager asked laughingly was I truly a geek. I then replied, with a smile, I'm a huge geek and I have no problem admitting it. I then, thusly, proceeded into the museum.

For any normal person they would have probably got through the museum in about an hour to an hour and a half. I spent about two and half hours in there, and there were only three exhibits to see. However, they were three amazing exhibits. The first was called "The Wonders of Science" and showed a video clip of various different things in nature that we're learning about and discovering. Science, astronomy, nature, biology were all encompassed and discussed. It was nice to watch it. The next exhibit was a new and controversial one. This was the global warming exhibit. It was objectively done, which is a rare feat, and discussed the issue, possible solutions, how it has occured, and human's role in it. There were many visual interactions, videos, and personal responses that engaged the visitor. For such a major issue, they did a great job with it, plus it fed into my environmentalist role. The final exhibit is a very public health one and had that written all over it. This was the infectious disease exhibit. The exhibit discussed how vaccines first came about, why they work on certain diseses and not on others. It then talked about emerging disease problems such as drug resistance and virsus and went into heavy detail about the two major ones: HIV and malaria. Again it was a nice exhibit with pictures, videos, pictures, and personal interaction.

Therefore, overall for a very small museum I was thoroughly surprised and impressed. However, upon leaving I got an even further delight. The manager had his workers give me gift bag of science DVDs since I was such a "geek". The nice bag contained six DVDS on various science issues such as evolution, microbes, DNA, and other issues. I haven't watched them but probably will sometime. In the meantime, I was surprised by their sincerity; it made my day.

So for a geek I had a great day and not just because I fed the scientist in me, but do to generosity and the niceness in people. It's a lesson for all of us.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ode to those Past Fallen

On Saturday I was a tourist. I had planned on visiting the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens but got lost on my way there, so I'll now do that some other time. Instead I decided to be a tourist for a day and go visit those monuments I had yet to see, in particualr the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin. So I set off on a long walk from the metro station to the Lincolm Memorial. This is the monument that is seen from the Washington Memorial, "the pencil" as it's called by locals. This place was very crowded with people but still an amazing site. Lincoln himself was an amazing man and I found it ironic that he's facing the Washington Monument. The reason I found it ironic relates to the history of the Monument. The pencil is two different colors because it was started before the Civil War and then finished after the war. Well when the war commenced the limestone quarry they had used was no longer available and so they had to use a different quarry, thus the different colors. Well I think it's pretty ironic that the man who led this country during one of its most trying times in history stands next to a testment of that fact. President Lincoln is most known for his Gettysburg Speech which was plastered throughout the building. It was an impressive sight.

Then I headed to the Jefferson Memorial. This memorial is also a far walk from any metro station but one I've been wanting to see. It is surrounded by the tidal basin where you can get paddleboats and go along the Potomac. As it was such a beautiful day there were many people out on the boats, although not nearly as busy as the Lincoln Memorial since it was further away from the main National Mall area. I really enjoyed the Jefferson Memorial for several reasons. First, like the Lincoln it has very Romanesque architecture- doric columns, Corinthian doms, archways and sculptures. Secondly, the water. It was so nice to just sit and see the beautiful park surrounding this area, to feel the breeze coming from the water, to be inside the heart of DC yet feel separated from the hustle and bustle of it. I understand why many of the locals like to run or take bike rides around this area. Inside the dome were many of Jefferson's famous writings but the most prominent, and perhaps greatest, is the Declaration of Independence. It was a nice reminder to read it and realize the true genius of the words, the insight he posed into humanity, and his understanding of human rights. It was a spectacular sight to see.

However on my way from Lincoln to Jefferson I visited two other, rather enjoyable, places. The first is the DC World War Memorial. It is a small, single doric pavillion erected from the citizens of DC in remembrance of those who had fought in the World Wars. It is small, and had a slightly neglected feeling to it, as it was tucked away among various bushes and trees. It was hard to see from the major roads, as I saw numerous other people walking right by it, but if you were paying attention then you would notice it. I really liked it. I felt that it had some really geniuness to it. Perhaps because it's only used for concerts or erected specifically by the city's citizens. Perhaps because it reminded of those old pairs of shoes that are so worn they need to be thrown out but you can't bear to get rid off. Whatever it was... I really felt like I had found a jewel. I just sat on the stairs for a few moments listening to the sounds of the forest around it and enjoying the day. It was a nice time.
The other place of noticable significance was the FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) Memorial. This one is on the way to the Jefferson and can be bypassed if you're in a hurry. Well I wasn't so I visited it. I've always been a fan of FDR. He is our only four term president, and helped lead us through two very trying times in our history: the Depression and WWII. He wasn't perfect by any means, I don't condone his adultury or hiding his disability, but I do think he was an extraordinary man. His insights into the nature of the American people, and his view of role we play in society are truly amazing. So I thoroughly enjoyed this place. It was filled with several various types of fountains, which I love. Plus all along the memorial were various quotes. They were all amazing and truly insightful. Two of the ones I like best are shown below.

This one really stuck with me given everything that's going on with the world today and how my generation is being looked to to solve the problems. Hopefully, we can prove FDR right.

I felt this one is particularly important for both human rights of those in the states and aboard but also in terms of public health as well. We must not forget that people are individuals, that they should be treated with respect, love, and kindness. We cannot forget or walk over their cultures, ideas, and beliefs. We need to work with them to help them live.

Therefore, all in all, I had a nice time playing the tourist. I visited those places that everyone sees, and saw some others that are less frequented. It was a truly nice day.