Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Beginning

Years ago, I used to keep an online diary through my band's website. A lot of it was sharing the ups and downs of trying to herd cats, aka, keep a band together. What was interesting about it is it allowed fans of our band to keep in touch with what we(ok, mostly I) was doing. People I didn't know would walk up to me in clubs saying things like, "You ran out of gas on the freeway coming home from band practice? What did you do?" It was unsettling at first to have perfect strangers know so much about me. But in time, I got used to it, and even comforted by the notion.

Well, my band never really got far in the grand scheme of things, and I've since given up on it. I have several interests other than music, but all those interests center around the same thing--creating. Not to get too spiritual here, but I believe all of us should be driven to make a positive impact on the world.

I got my BA in Anthropology this year. For a while, I pictured myself living in some far away civilization, studying a relatively unknown, distant people, and bringing their stories to the world. Of course, Anthropology also includes Archaeology. How amazing would it be to uncover a lost civilization or a distant relative in the chain of human evolution? But as I got closer to graduating, I realized there were no relatively unknown, distant people. Even the most elusive of people have been studied by generations of anthropologists. What new discoveries could I possibly make?

Archaeology is even more disparaging. I overheard two of my fellow students talking about a dig they went on over the summer. One of them was going on about coprolite, and how it proved bats were in the area 200 years before previous data indicated. He, and the team he interned for, had been able to alter previously understood information about a thousand years ago somewhere in a Southern Western desert. He was giddy as he told the story.

Do you know what a coprolite is? It's a fossilized turd. Right then, I decided if I ever got that excited about a turd, I hope someone shoots me. The truth is, Archaeology isn't like Indiana Jones movies. People find a site that they hope has something significant, then they bank the next 30 years of their life digging, hoping they find something. And how do they pay for it? By begging for grant money from corporations and other organizations. And what company wouldn't want to say they contributed to the dig that found Luci or Ardi, that fundamentally, and radically shifted our understanding of human evolution? But for every Luci, Ardi, Turkana boy, and Kennewick Man, there are thousands more archaeologists and interns that find only Diddly and Squat. I figured out that if I wanted to spend the next 30 years sitting in dirt begging for money with nothing to show for it, I could be homeless.

So now what? Well, I did learn an amazing amount of information from the experience. It's been a long time coming too. I mean, I spent 9 years going to American River College, which is a two year, community college. I started off taking music classes, but discovered how much I loved the social sciences. I took nearly every Psychology and Anthropology class ARC offered--lots of Sociology, religious Philosophy, Humanities, and History classes as well. I got my AA degree in Social Science, but I have enough units to get it 3 times over, so it was over kill. Despite having a 2 year head start on a 4 year degree, I spent 4 years at Sac State University, taking more classes than I needed. Although I became disillusioned with the field of Anthropology, I never got tired of studying it. And as I learned more and more about how political, religious, cultural, and environmental forces move and shape a people, I started to see things very differently around me. I know I only have a BA. And really, who cares about a BA? Anyone can get one. But I really feel like I've been changed by my very long educational journey. Of course, that journey will never end. I will always be a student, class room or not.

Ok, I'll give you an example of change. Maybe you've heard the 90% of all people become the same religion of their parents. Now, that's a great statistic to use to convince people of other faiths that they're brain washed, and they should really come over and believe what you believe in. But I think about that. My religious beliefs are similar to my parents too. Am I brain washed? I don't feel like I am. But then again, no one does. Christianity is the most popular religion in the world, but only less than 20% of the world's population believes in it. Some might say, well, religions are all different ways of worshiping the same God. That sounds great if you don't know how radically different religions are from each other. First off, half a billion people are Buddhists; a religion that doesn't even have a God. Another billion are Hindus and have hundreds of Gods. Hinduism has been "christianized" by western influences in modern times to try and push Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva into different faces of one monotheistic God or to claim they're the holy trinity... um, yeah, no. Is Shiva the Destroyer the Holy Ghost in that case?

But think about it, assume that Christianity is the "correct" religion. Also, assume that Mormonism, Catholicism, Protestantism, etc, all fall under the same category, and all of it somehow fits together into one religion that's "right." If Christianity is the right religion, that means that over 80% of the world is wrong. How do we sit, believing so strongly in our religious beliefs "knowing" that we're the right ones and that all those other people are wrong, knowing that they think the exact same thing about us? How can you not question it all?

There's a great line from the Watchman. Rorschach says something like, "We're all puppets. The difference is I can see the strings." I would argue though that there isn't some sinister puppet master out there controlling everything. That puppet master is us. Our lives are not our own because we never make it so. We all drift through life, a product of our upbringing, sort of like self replicating machines. If you're an American, you might be worried about that kind of idea. Us Americans fiercely believe we have free will and individuality. This is part of why no nation in the history of the world admonishes governments that threaten individual choice quite like we do. Remember, our country was founded by slave owners that wanted to find a new place so they could have the freedom to practice a far more restrictive form of religion in peace. Try and wade through all the contradictions in that statement, and you'll begin to understand why America is such a weird place.

The more I started to understand our own culture, the more I started to understand why the rest of the world looks at us so curiously. Now, look at the opposite extreme. The Chinese value harmony more than individuality. Communism, if it could exist positively at all, suits that type of culture the best. China has problems like all countries do, and you could easily make the case that they're communists in name only. They've had a very gradual capitalist revolution. But I sometimes wonder is valuing harmony over individuality such a bad thing? I question everything.

This is essentially my first blog / journal / whateverthehellitscallednow entry in several years. And it's way too philosophical for a first entry. But I've been questioning a lot these last couple years. I think that's part of being a social scientist.

On a less heavy note, other than music, I've had two other big interests in my life. One is computer games and I'm currently working towards a second BA degree in Computer Science in hopes of making games one day. And I'm also I'm writing again. I wrote my first novel when I was 14. It was terrible, but over the years, I've gotten fairly decent at it. There's this fictional world that I've been working on for about a decade now. I finished a novel about it years ago, but I was never really that happy about it. First off, it was sort of like a campy, almost comic book feeling version of a Lord of the Rings kind of story. It didn't have the gritty details of the kind of story that really came alive and really drew in the readers to care about the characters and the world. Since "finishing" it, my break from writing to go to Sac State has done a lot for me to understand my fictional world and the elements of it. I'm really excited about this renewed project.

I'm not entirely sure of what to accomplish with this blog here. Maybe no one will ever read it or maybe this novel becomes a success and this is a chronicle of my journey through it. Time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment