Monday, April 6, 2009

It Becomes.

Since college admissions 2009 are functionally over, I feel a strong desire to share this with the world (and to procrastinate by creating this post in the first place). It is cliche and overly passionate, but who cares anymore? Not Maria.

The following presentation has been formatted to fit your screen (sidenote: man, I miss the nineties).

Note: for those of you who live under a rock and hence don't have a clue what DI is:
First of all, do not fret; nine tenths of the world is in your boat... which probably implies that it's a sunken boat, and in that case I apologize. Not.
Hmm. I switched idioms within a single sentence. Attention spans are overrated.
Second, please take a moment to explore the world.

“WHERE IS THE DUCT TAPE?!” Panicking, I shout to Anna, who at that moment is lost in a tornado of white sheets and obviously doesn’t know where the sticky roll has escaped to in the last thirty seconds since she used it. After precious minutes lost, it is rescued from a cardboard box of ancient afghans, glass test tubes, and carefully drafted scripts. Monique and I frantically assemble a backdrop, hanging six painted panels onto an out-of-place closet rack with zip ties, eye hooks, and the prized blue adhesive. Phoebe stumbles awkwardly around a camping cot, coaching Jackson to scream like a banshee, literally, while Carrie cradles a raw egg, an essential component of our upcoming eight-minute performance, as a mother with a newborn. The clock ticks. Our last hour of time disappears like space in the Star Wars trash compactor. I am claustrophobic. Jackson thrashes about, struggling to simply walk through doors in his mountainous eight-foot harbinger of death costume, and Evan sits tranquilly, the odd one out, creaking in a rocking chair like a grandfather dozing to sleep. Have I lost my marbles? No, really, where are my marbles? I’ve lost the first prop.

Nine days. We have one week and two days to finish—or start—preparing for the regional Destination Imagination competition, the first in the sequence. Nine days. The current draft of the script reads, in full, “The time has come,” the opening line. Well, the time has come—the time to create set, dialogue, costumes, and on-stage chemistry that strikes an audience and authenticates a scene.

“Could you just stop YELLING at each other?” Nine days. We have argued through the past three months, forever disagreeing on everything imaginable pertaining to our skit. Time wanes. It is impossible. We have nothing to showcase except mere ideas. Mere ideas don’t win competitions. Nine days.

Ten minutes to show time. I am ready. This is my element. The last traces of nerves trickle away, butterflies flutter anywhere but my stomach. We wait. Monique jokes about the resemblance between her costumed character, the formulaic, quirky scientist, and our dorky AP Chemistry teacher back in Wisconsin, for we are currently at Destination Imagination Global Finals 2008, performing for the world in moments.

“Hey, what was that for?!” Anna, sparkling head-to-toe in varying shades of green, snaps my red suspenders and flees my wrath, seeking refuge behind the backdrop we will carry onstage. Jackson tries, hilariously unsuccessful, to imitate Evan’s “Banshee Macarena” from practice with the backpack puppet’s exceedingly long arms. We horse around as if rehearsing rather than preparing for the performance of a lifetime until we are escorted to the final backstage area.

“Shhh!” Here, we simply exchange our boisterous clowning for silent laughter characteristic of only the best of friends.

“AUDIENCE, are you ready?” Cheering.

“APPRAISERS, are you ready?” A clever response.

“TEAM, are you READY?” The Michigander announcer clad in a brightly-colored vest and top hat and pinned with a nametag that reads, Hello, my name is NOT DAN, inquires enthusiastically.

“Ceud mìle fáilte,” A Hundred Thousand Welcomes in Gaelic, the seven of us recite, inviting an audience of friends, family, appraisers, and complete strangers to the performance of our Irish tale here on the world’s stage at the Olympics of Creativity.

A verbal explanation of Destination Imagination is devoid of meaning. I robotically recite to those who ask, “DI is a creative problem solving group where teams of up to seven members create an eight-minute skit to solve a challenge,” but both I and the inquirer leave the conversation with a certain uneasiness. One cannot explain DI—one must live DI to comprehend the true essence, and even an eight-year veteran finds new phenomena within the program and within herself each year. A simple sentence does no justice to that which could be—and is—told through thousands of participants’ undocumented scripts, complex memories, and indescribable experiences. What I can do, however, is transmit my own to whomever I know. I cannot define DI, but I can share my experiences and define the results to a friend, intoxicating both a listener and myself with memories while spreading the spirit of DI.

We departed Knoxville in our borrowed, gas-guzzling Winnebago accepting a respectable fourteenth place in our division of roughly fifty. We had reached our prior-set goal to traverse the ranks to the top fifty percent and had improved from the previous year’s competition. Though I left content, I did so not because we had outscored a competitor from Germantown, our longtime rival in both the state and global divisions, or because I had witnessed Hudson, our state champion counterparts of a different challenge, dash to the front stage during the closing ceremony to claim their first place trophy of world-domination, but because of something bigger and perhaps incomprehensible. During the four days I spent trading pins, the most popular global finals activity; creating synchronized swimming routines with teammates in the University of Tennessee’s Olympic size pool, a favorite pastime; performing under the paradoxically most important and least stressful situation thusfar; and bonding with new and old friends alike, I had transformed.

Somewhere between the formation of the tossed salad of a seven-membered team in September and the unfathomable feeling sitting on the floor of a stadium stacked one hundred tiers high with twenty thousand people all extremely different, crazy, bizarre, and incredibly diverse yet all gathered at Destination Imagination Global Finals, I discovered why I live, why I have come to love these people, why I believe in a higher power, and simply why. I live for the moments that, among my fellows—those who proudly proclaim, “I DO DI,”—I feel alive and radiant, and through this, Destination Imagination becomes an enthralling lifestyle rather than a mere extracurricular activity. I am living DI, and I can—and will—breathe energy, through creativity, into the few corners of the world not yet reached.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inspired by a friend (or two).

There's some famous, cliché quote that reads something like, "Live every day as if it were your last." Theoretically, it's a good philosophy of life. I think we all wish, at some point, that we could forget everything and just do what makes us happy at the present moment. But human nature--and, to some point, nurture--pushes us to set goals for ourselves in life; whether consciously or unknowingly, we're forever striving for something.

While I was in Colorado for a service trip, I briefly met a woman in her late sixties that had not worked an hour of her life. As much as it annoys me that so many people have opportunity and/or ability to work yet don't and live off government aid (that's another issue not to be discussed here), I somehow truly respected her. She wasn't well-off at all, but she was just radiant with pure happiness. Even more amazingly, she was proud of every single thing that she had experienced, accomplished, and undertaken during her lifetime, even if a "normal" person would consider her a failure or an embarrassment to society. She shared with our group that she had been on over one hundred acid trips in the sixties--and we were just kids from Wisconsin that she would never see again. I mean, that's not just something you tell random strangers, but, to her, it was.

What I guess I'm trying to say about this woman is that she just lived; she simply existed. She had no idea what tomorrow would bring, and she didn't care. She lived under the poverty line and yet bought six people ice cream at DQ and cared enough to share her story with them. She really did live her days as if they were her last, even if it's cliché. And I respect that because I, psychologically, am not able to, nor will ever be, live that way, at least to the extent she did.

I can't do that because I can't focus my life on solely the short term. I can't just simply exist, like her, without feeling worthless or empty. I can't be writing this post right now and feel like I've accomplished anything because I have so much left to do, in terms of both petty tasks and life in general. I can't look on the past and feel like I've accomplished everything I've ever wanted to, because I haven't. And she just really could look at her past like that. It's unfathomable, but I guess it's just how some peoples' minds work.

I think the hardest decisions we have had or will ever have to face are difficult because of the internal struggle between short-term and long-term satisfaction. Right now, the decision to finish this post is hard for me because it's 11:11 and I should be sleeping. I know I'll regret it in the morning when my alarm wakes me up to go to work, but I'm going to continue this post right now because I'm inspired and doing so will give me the satisfaction of finally writing again (it's been a while) to share my thoughts with the world. So okay, this seems like a lame example, but it can be applied to the grander scheme, to my life, to yours.

My all-time favorite musical, RENT, proclaims, "There's only us, there's only this; forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way; no day but today," for those of you who aren't familiar with it. After seeing it *mumble mumble* times, I've tried to take its message to heart, but the truth is that I really can't. That woman could, that woman did. But I, I cannot forget what I strive for--an education, a career, a family, some accomplishment to be proud of--and look only at the present moment.

What I, in practice, take from RENT and that woman is to find a balance between short-term and long-term. I need to find something that makes me truly happy every single day but at the same time feel like I'm contributing to the bigger accomplishments of my life.

It's hard for me to put this into words. It's taken me well over a half an hour to write this, and I haven't said much comparable to what's in my head. But I think I'm going to end here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have you heard...? No.

Should I be worried that I'd rather read an article about grammar in the Times rather than one about the Illinois scandal?

Frankly, I'm not. I realize it's not good if I don't know what's going on in the world, but I'd rather read about something toward which I'm passionate rather than something that I couldn't care less about.

I'm a live-in-the-moment person. I don't do well planning things too far ahead of time. When I do, things fall through because I forget that I planned them. If something doesn't affect me now, I don't have any strong motivation to care. I find out whether I got into my dream college tomorrow, but I don't know right now, so I psychologically cannot deal with it right now. You could say it hasn't hit me yet.

It's like that with current events. Sorry, I don't live in Illinois. I realize that there's something called the Ripple Effect and somehow it could affect me in a crazy, indirect way, but from reading headlines headlines, which exist to draw attention, I decide that I can't relate, so it's off my mental radar.

Grammar is something I really care about. I think it's just plain sad that people can't spell and the like. Sometimes it's funny, yes. English Fail does a good job of pointing out the hilarity in mistakes, but obviously someone was just as annoyed as I was to create that website in the first place (actually I know the person who created it... ha). So yes, just the word "grammar" in a headline draws my attention. I'm proud of that.

It comes from personal experience. I can't tell you the number of times my English teacher has asked our class why a piece is good and the response is "because it's relatable." I'm guilty of saying that myself. But everything written is meant to be relatable, well-written or not. We're communicating through writing. Communication must be relatable to be understood at all. But if someone says it's good because it's relatable, we know, obviously, that it was relatable to the student who said that. Score one for the author: he achieved his goal with one reader. It's not what makes writing good, but it's what makes us like it. Twilight is relatable, but it's not good (personal opinion).

I like headlines that I can instantly relate to. That's why I read the articles to which they belong.

By the way, my spellcheck is telling me that "relatable" isn't a word. I don't care.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I sort of love Great Ideas.

In your opinion, how has man's view of man changed from the time of the Greeks to the Renaissance? Use specific examples from
Much Ado About Nothing to prove your point.

I may be a bit biased, being female (obviously), but I truly believe that the transformation of “man’s view of man” between the Greek era and the Renaissance is due to the dramatic change in the perception of a woman. Females make up half of the population; I’m almost positive that this has not changed whatsoever throughout the ages as males sort of need women to procreate, but how they are treated and looked upon most definitely has. It makes sense that society’s outlook on life in general would change with the shift in reputation of women—fifty percent is a large piece (half, to be exact). But I digress.

Somewhere in two thousand years or so, women became significantly more independent, probably because society allowed them to through acceptance. With this, for the female population, came literacy, intelligence (to be developed into cleverness and wit), and an altogether higher value (in that they were valued more as human beings, not that they were analogous to an item to be bought for a high price). We observe this greatly in women in Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice definitely fits this generalization with her witty remarks to Benedick, such as when she rather bluntly states her independence: “You don’t have to; I do it of my own free will” (Act 4, Scene 1), or, “A dear happiness to women: they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me” (film). Obviously, too, the male population has grown to accept this in their women, for in Greek times, Beatrice would have been immediately dismissed, literally or figuratively, and perhaps exiled, but here, Benedick falls in love with her because of her wit and teasing: “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.”

This ties into the transformation of language throughout the centuries in question. By the time of the Renaissance, language has somehow acquired the characteristics of wit and intelligence as well as poetic romanticism (Beatrice, again: “You have stayed me in a happy hour, I was about to protest I loved you… I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest.”), a great change from the heroic, almost war-like language of the Greek society (though my sampling of Greek literature is perhaps inaccurate because it was not in its original form).

A transformation also occurs within the religions. Roman Catholicism, in comparison to Greek religion, encourages the betterment of oneself (reconciliation, salvation, atonement for sins) which in turn betters the community, whereas the Greeks in a sense skip a step and focus on the community directly (hospitality) while putting self second. We witness this a bit in Much Ado About Nothing, when Benedick and Claudio pursue their own dreams (Beatrice and Hero, respectively), rather than strive to help others first, truly causing much ado about nothing.

Between Ancient Greece and early Renaissance Europe, I have noticed two general trends: the shifts from simplicity to extravagance and from for-the-good-of-the-community mindset and morals to those of more self-centered roots. It’s not unfathomable that women would be the driving force behind these. Observe, the female population of any high school in April in preparation for prom: “I want this $400 dress instead of that $300 dress.” Women like extravagance. Women like to get what they want. As the influence of women changes, society changes. We’re kind of a big deal.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's a sad testament to our society.

Sorry for two posts in a day, but I came across this article.

It amazes me everyday how accurate Brave New World is.

Seriously, outlawing innocent sarcasm?

Edit: If you're really itching for another good one, try this.
I love the Times.


So I feel as if my life is converging to this point right here, right now (Yes I did put both calculus and High School Musical references in that sentence)... or more like 4:00 P.M. on Thursday. It's scary and exciting and nerve-racking and delicious and every other imaginable adjective, basically.

I might explode.

I really wish I could suspend time this minute. But I wish I could fast forward to next fall, too.
I thought I knew exactly how I was going to feel come senior year, and I did, but yet I didn't at all.
I want out, but I am psychologically unable to leave.


I hate cats.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Now, I cannot pretend to rival any great philosopher of religion (or any great philosopher in general for that matter), and so the title of this post may not be quite appropriate in that it won't be a commentary on religion in general but rather on my own. I have just always enjoyed the ring of one-word titles.


I sometimes feel like Yann Martel's Pi.
"'What is your son doing going to temple?" asked the priest.
"Your son was seen in church crossing himself," said the imam.
"Your son has gone Muslim," said the pandit.
Obviously, my case is not so extreme in that both of my affiliations are Christian, but still, the adversity that Pi faces is somewhat parallel to what I experience every Sunday and Wednesday.

I suppose some background may be appropriate.

I have been a member of the Catholic Church for my entire life, I attended Catholic school from second to eighth grade, and I was confirmed this past October. I traveled to Longmont, Colorado on a mission trip with a youth group from my local Catholic church, which turned out to be one of the best summer experiences ever. I attend mass every Sunday (sometimes Saturday), theoretically because I want to, but practically, because my parents make me (to be discussed later... that is, if I remember).

Last year, some friends convinced me to go to a youth group at a local Baptist church. I consented because obviously, it was the "cool thing to do," at least among (one of) my circle(s). But later, my incentive for going transformed from my friends themselves to their faith. This spring, all of my closest friends graduated and left, literally or metaphorically, but yet I still attend that youth group religiously (bad pun intended) every Wednesday.

Like Pi, I don't feel like my religions contradict each other (obviously they don't fundamentally, but I'm talking details), but rather complement each other, Catholicism more in that respect than the Baptist faith. The complexity of the Catholic faith paradoxically complements the comparative simplicity of the Baptist faith, and vice versa. True, I don't believe every last tedious detail of both, because that would be contradictory. And perhaps a belief in God is all that both share (definitely not the case, I'm just trying to make a point), but I still feel as if being Catholic makes me a better Baptist and being Baptist makes me a better Catholic.

In reality, everyone I know with both groups totally understands this phenomenon, even if not directly involved, and no one has questioned me (excluding jokes). Yet I feel like, in a sense, they should have. I don't know why. Something to think about in the future, I guess.

But let's shift gears a bit.

Why do I believe in God?
Why do I go to church/youth group?

I think it's a misconception that those are the same, so to address them seperately:

I believe in God because, as Voltaire says, it's practical.
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.
What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason.
Or Kant:
One cannot provide objective reality for any theoretical idea, or prove it, except for the idea of freedom, because this is the condition of the moral law, whose reality is an axiom. The reality of the idea of God can only be proved by means of this idea, and hence only with a practical purpose, i.e., to act as if there is a God, and hence only for this purpose.
But I also believe in God for almost the opposite reason. Again, with a Life of Pi quote (I'm not really into the whole rhetoric, putting thoughts into my own, coherent, words thing tonight, so I'm stealing other peoples'):
I take pen and paper out and write:
"Words of divine consciousness: moral exaltation; lasting feelings of elevation, elation, joy; a quickening of the moral sense, which strikes one as more important than an intellectual understanding of things; an alignment of the universe along moral lines, not intellectual ones; a realization that the founding principle is what we call love, which works itself out sometimes not clearly, not cleanly, not immediately, nonetheless ineluctably."
I pause. What of God's silence? I think it over. I add:
"An intellect confounded yet a trusting sense of presence and ultimate purpose."
I attend church not because of a belief in faith (and yes, I may be reprimanded for that), not that I lack it (obviously), but rather because knowledge of religion, no matter how much we gloat about how tolerant we are, is inescapable in our society, and general knowledge does not suffice. And I think the best way to learn the ways of a religion is to partake, directly, in it. It's similar to learning a language through immersion rather than in a classroom. Backtracking a bit, I think it is in this sense more than others, my religions complement each other.

As I mentioned briefly before, my parents more or less forced Catholicism onto me. I don't disagree that they should have, and I'm grateful to them for it, really. Deep understanding of the roots of Christian faith in the least widens my perspective of the world. Catholicism probably contributed more to history and today, simply because it existed unchallenged (maybe...that could be contested) for so long and tradition endures, than any of the protestant religions, and I'm just really glad that I am a part of it so I can understand fully what our world has come to.

I don't think, however, that belief in God should be forced. Really, is that possible, anyway? Is not the gate into Christianity acceptance of God as redeemer?

Meh, enough ranting.