For Sale

Black metal box

Staked on the lawn

Big red letters

“For Sale”

 

The old trunks

Back of closets

Rafters in the garage

“No more memories to discover”

 

Family and friends

Not enough chairs

Standing with a plate

“No more Christmas dinners”

 

Empty fridge

Empty cupboards

Empty recliner

“No more visits”

 

New color

New furniture

New window silhouettes

“No more memories to be made”

Sit, Stay

Sit, Stay

On My Hands

OnMyHands

Hollow

Hollow
White charcoal on black paper

Why You Should Be Open About Your Religion

DSCN0175(2)

Everyone has secrets and some things are better left private. Sharing your thoughts on taboo topics or standpoints can be damaging to your character and it is understandable that one might be reluctant to open up. However, if you have the courage and opportunity to be honest about your religious beliefs, you can make a huge difference at a major crossroads for mankind. Whether you relate to a specific sect of faith or atheism, here are a few good reasons to “come out”.

Challenge Yourself

It is important to challenge your own beliefs more meticulously than anyone else’s. By being open about where you stand, you give others the opportunity to approach you and question why you think the way you do. This will force you to really think about your reasoning. Spend time arming yourself for those difficult conversations. Make sure you are confident in supporting your stance and comfortable with explaining yourself. If you aren’t, then perhaps you haven’t quite made up your mind. By truly understanding the things you believe (or don’t believe) and why, you will be less likely to go on the defensive when someone questions you aggressively. People will find you more credible and respect your opinions if they can tell you have truly put time and effort into reaching those conclusions. Being certain about your religious stance gives you the confidence to challenge others as well.

Support Those Who Share Your Opinion

More people are open about their faith or atheism than ever before. However, there are many who are still afraid of losing their job, being outcast by their friends and families or even being physically harmed because of the things they believe. Giving someone who is frightened of who they are an excuse to be honest and open can be rewarding for you and extremely comforting for them. Set an example for those around you who lack the courage to be transparent about their beliefs, and you can have a major positive impact on their lives.

Oppose Those With Harmful Religious Views

There are countless issues plaguing the world right now which, at their core, stem from some form of religious motivation. There are individuals and groups who have simply molded their religion to brainwash others into supporting the atrocities they commit (though certainly not all religions behave this way). By using your own experiences as a base for your argument against these tyrannical zealots, you can gain support from like-minded people. A group that is motivated by a common goal and united through having aligning beliefs that each individual has decided upon independently, is much more effective than one founded on fear, propaganda and misinterpreted hokum.

Truly Be You

How can you truly feel like you if such a major part of your life is always kept secret? Liberate yourself by telling the world who you really are. I don’t suggest running around wearing a “god isn’t real” t-shirt. People can’t help but get defensive when they feel as if you are coming at them from an aggressive standpoint. Start by asking others what they believe and show genuine interest. You’ll be surprised by some of the responses you get. Even if a friend or family member disagrees with you, they will likely appreciate your honesty. You may find something in common with some of them that you would not have otherwise known about. Not only could you become closer to your friends, but your romantic relationships will be much stronger if your stances on religion are aligned. Seeing the world in the same fundamental way, makes it easier to respect someone and value their opinions. That type of connection is almost certain to increase your compatibility and attraction to a significant other.

Practice What You Preach

Personally, I identify with secular humanism. I believe that humans are inherently good in their disposition and that religion should not replace logic and reason when solving problems or creating government policy.  I think our ethics should evolve based on the needs of our species and should not be derived from religious text. I do not believe in the supernatural or any sort of god, but instead rely on scientific discovery to explain existence and mankind’s role in the universe. I have the utmost respect for those who are religious and truly believe what they say and do. Unfortunately, our world contains a scary amount of hypocrisy and apathy. My hope is that, when it comes to the great unanswered questions of our world, people make up their own minds by researching, debating and discovering things for themselves rather than blindly accepting what they are told is the truth.

Super Slumber: The Nerdy Way I Put Myself to Sleep

Flying High

Like any other responsible adult, I have lost my fair share of sleep due to stress or worry. I may have tossed and turned well before adulthood, but the point of this article is not to whine about my droopy eyelids and dark circles. An effective method of putting myself to sleep developed out of a particularly stressful time in my life. I managed to slip into an unusually long “funk” after college graduation. Post-vacation blues mixed with unemployment, debt, self-doubt and family trouble added up to a freakishly uncharacteristic gloominess. I replaced sleep with video games, job applications, partying and exercise. Distractions only kept me feeling awake for so long. I would get tired and try to sleep, but stare off while my brain flickered in and out of different scenarios that ranged from hopeful to terrifying. This is when I came up with my delightfully nerdy brain tranquilizer.

All of the situations and scenarios that kept my mind active seemed to be centered on my losing control of different aspects of my life. I was either afraid of or excited by all of the different possibilities. So I decided to start imagining situations that weren’t possible. That way I wouldn’t be afraid of them. I needed to narrow my focus to slow down my thinking and stop it from ping-ponging around in my head. My solution was nerdtastic. I began to imagine that I had one superpower and a specific goal to reach using the ability. It always started with a question like “If I could fly, how would I use it to make money.”

I would choose a different combination of power and goal each night. Sometimes I would even make up something new, like the ability to see from the perspective of any set of eyes on command with the goal of helping the government fight organized crime. The scenarios could be as specific or general as I wanted and my imagination would always find some path to follow to create a story. My focus was always on the next step of the adventure. Expressing my creativity, even if just to myself, made me comfortable and content.

I thought up tales of using time-travel to go back and pick the winning lottery numbers. I imagined being able to commute by way of teleportation. One scenario had me becoming a movie star because of my ability to fly. Studios could save a fortune on special effects. Becoming a successful magician thanks to my telepathy and telekinesis or earning countless commendations as a detective because I could read suspects minds were a few others. There is an enormous number of impossibilities to imagine and some need to be revisited. I have a few favorites that I repeat, but change one detail or decision in the story.

I am happy to say that I quickly grew out of the lull that spawned this tactic. I don’t lose much sleep anymore, but there are nights when my head is rattling. I still use my nerdy brain tranquilizer to ensure I get to sleep quickly. If I can make myself focus on creating a vivid, detailed scenario, I can calm my mind enough to fall asleep through the noise of the city and the stresses of adulthood. So next time you are lying awake, stressing over how unprepared you are for the upcoming rooster’s crow, imagine being able to pause time and sleep as long as you want.

Time Travel and Running from Bulls: The Day I Visited Kilcolman Castle

Spenser's Cattle

My senior year of college, I took a course entitled “England and Ireland in the 16th Century.” With a History professor and an English professor heading the class together, we focused on the historical significance of the relationship between the two countries and the literature that came out of the time period. Little did I know that the class would lead to stories of Irish folk band bar crawls, getting lost in the catacombs of ruined castles, battles with electric fences and running from a herd of bulls. At the end of the semester, the group would travel first to England and then to Ireland for a 3 week study abroad term. While the trip was jammed full of “great story” material, there’s one day in particular that stood out, the day we visited Edmund Spenser’s Kilcolman Castle in County Cork, Ireland.

The day before the trip to Kilcolman Castle our class met with Professor Andrew King of University College Cork (UCC). He is an English professor and expert on English Renaissance poet, Edmund Spenser. The group set out on a walking tour of Cork with the purpose of seeing it as Spenser would have. We walked the city, guided by maps of old town layouts and led by Professor King. It was a truly one-of-a-kind experience usually only offered to UCC students. This adventure assembled the setting for the story of Edmund Spenser in Ireland.

Cork Tour

Our trip to Kilcolman Castle began with an early bus trip out to Doneraile, where we met Professor King. He had mentioned during our Cork tour that the ruins were located on private property and that he had special access granted by the owners. Upon arrival, we expected to see the castle from the road with some sort of gate protecting it. Instead, we saw wire fences surrounding fields that were segmented off by lines of trees and more fences. The distant sound of mooing framed the otherwise silent moment of our arrival. Professor King reminded us that we were on private property owned by local farmers and urged us to be respectful of the crops, fences and animals.

First, our class had to hop over an electric fence that could not be disabled in any way. Some climbed over wooden posts which guided the wires and others carefully squeezed between wires. As a person who is over six feet tall, I didn’t worry about my ability to hop the fence (with a running start of course). However, one of my shorter classmates decided to attempt the feat without hesitation. She backed up a few steps and lunged toward the fence. As her foot caught the top wire, she toppled to the other side and landed in moist soil. Moments after our expert guide asked us to be respectful of the landowner’s property, one of us nearly pulls down a section of electric fence. Thankfully, our guide did not seem too put-off by the display. Surprisingly there were only two or three other people who received small stings from the wires and replied with a quick “ouch.”

Once we were all over the fence, we had to cross a large field. Nothing was planted for the first hundred yards. There was only tall grass that needed to be navigated. We reached another wire fence that ran along a row of trees at the edge of the field and we slowly hurdled this one. The crops were short, but tiptoeing along the path was necessary to avoid crushing any plants. We realized that there were cows in an adjacent field separated by a larger barrier when the mooing (and the smells that accompany them) became more prominent. As we approached the next mingling of trees and wiring, the class got its first glimpse of the castle remains.

Kilcolman

We pushed through the shrubbery of our final obstacle and emerged onto the area surrounding the ruins. Over the crest of the hill we could see the back of the castle and as we climbed more of it became visible. Distracted by the stunning contrast of this manmade stone structure against the brightest-green natural backdrop, I stepped into a large pile of cow feces. It was at this moment that I realized some of the cattle were in this section of the field as well. Professor King pointed out that the cattle were grazing elsewhere so it should be safe to explore the ruins. I fell slightly behind while I cleaned off my shoe, but quickly caught back up as the group reached the castle. It was a great deal smaller than many of the other castles we encountered during our trip. However, it was easily one of the most beautiful. The stone structure seemed to grow right out of the hill just like the trees and bushes nearby. A topping of ivy matched the rich green color of the surrounding grass.

Spenser's Castle

We were encouraged to climb a staircase inside which led to the top of what was left of the building. It had overgrown with ivy and its own patch of grass. The class gathered atop the castle remains accompanied by Professor King. He then read a poignant passage of The Faerie Queene, which Spenser wrote while living in Kilcolman. There were miles of fields in every direction with very little other manmade structure in view. I felt as though we were seeing the Irish countryside as Edmund Spenser himself would have. Connecting with a significant historical figure in such a unique way brought this surreal feeling of being in another time.

Professor King

Professor King finished reading and told us to climb back down and make our way out onto the field. We walked along the bottom of the hill toward the other end of an underground tunnel leading from the castle. Spenser had apparently used the tunnel to escape when unhappy locals attacked the castle. As we approached, Professor King pointed off in one direction and instructed us to quickly head back to the fence. The cattle had begun to move toward us and they all seemed to be bulls. The grunts, moos and pounding of hooves came closer as we retraced our steps. Seeing how close the animals were getting, we rushed along the bottom of the hill and many of us began to run for the closest fence. Luckily, as we reached the edge of the field, the bulls stayed atop the hill and glared down at us. They seemingly guarded the ruins from unwanted visitors.

Bulls

We trudged back through the fields and I helped lift smaller classmates over the electrified fence. A final “thank you” to the professor and we boarded the bus and headed back to Cork. The entire class, amazed that no one was hurt, laughed about the event for the remainder of our trip. I still consider this to be the most interesting of my adventures abroad.

[Check out a short video on the UCC class featuring Professor Andrew King]