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Book of the Month: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

First of all, the fact that the book of this month came early is a testimony in and of itself ha.

This is an unusual book because while I like nonfiction, self-help books are not always my jam. But this one is actually pretty interesting. Now I had heard a lot about the book and the author, Mark Manson, from my brother and just everyone, but right of the bat, I was hooked. It takes a matter of fact approach to actually argue against typical self-help books that preach a culture of mindless positivity. He uses his own personal experiences to show that life's struggles are a necessary component to living and that we should learn to embrace it instead of trying so hard to be positive all the time. It is a surprisingly great book and quite hilarious too.

Basically, it tells us to stop trying to be positive all the darn time, and for us to get true, genuine happiness, we need to stop giving too many f*cks. So really, what are you giving an eff about? Simply put, what are your values? Because he argues, and rightfully so, that your values drive everything. What are you choosing to care about? As someone who gives too many f*cks, I feel like I needed this book as a not-so-gentle reminder. You probably do too. Let's recap some interesting points, shall we? And hopefully in the process I can get you to become interested in the book, despite being somewhat of a self-help type book. Now the sentences in bold fonts are the opinions I formed from reading the book. Is it possible that you would read it and leave with completely different opinions? Perhaps. And that's fine too.

Stop trying too hard.
There is too much fixation on being happier and being positive, but what that really does is remind us over and over what we lack. And if you are really happy, you would not need to tell yourself or tell everyone [in yet another Instagram post] just how happy you are.  You would just be...happy.  Same goes for being wealthy. You just are or you aren't. The obsession to be more: happier, richer, thinner, prettier is unhealthy. Might I add, same goes for being great: people who are great don't make noise everyday about being great; they are too busy working hard.

"The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it's giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important." - Mark Manson

Having negative experiences in life is fine.
Social media (YES, the mother devil haha), and everyone and their mama would have you believing that experiencing negative things like guilt, fear, anxiety is totally not okay. I mean, the flood of pictures and tweets from other people enjoying their lives is enough to convince you that your life sucks. So now you feel bad about feeling bad, and feel guilty about feeling guilty. Manson calls this the feedback loop from hell.

"The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. and paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience." - Mark Manson

The one thing that he doesn't really say and I wish he said was, suffering through some emotions are good. Sometimes it's okay to be anxious, nervous, and you don't have to get rid of it. Live through it and experience all of it. BUT, like Manson says in the book, don't base your entire life on your emotions:

I dropped out of school and moved to Alaska just because it felt right.

No honey. Like Manson again mentions in the book, only three year olds and dogs should base their entire lives on emotions. This is because emotions seldom last. What makes you happy today will not necessarily make you happy tomorrow.

You are not that special.
When we have a problem, we have a tendency to think it's just us. We think we are special. But this book points out that many others have most likely had the same problem, are having it, or will have it. The fact that you are going through something bad does not mean you deserve special treatment. It's just life, mon ami.

Along those lines, if you want to be truly exceptional at something, you have to keep working at it. You have to become obsessed with improvements. People who are like this are certainly not entitled. If someone tells you every person can be extraordinary, they are lying. The vast majority  of your life will be boring  and most of your actions will not matter in the grand scheme of things. Accepting this fact is the "ticket to emotional health".

The author gave five counterintuitive values that are beneficial to adopt. One of them is taking responsibility for everything that occurs in your life, regardless of who is at fault. This was such a brilliant point: distinguishing between taking responsibility and being at fault. The second is uncertainty. The third is failure and the willingness to discover your own flaws. The fourth is rejection: the ability to both say and hear no. And the fifth is contemplation of one's own mortality. His expansion of these points were the core aspects of the book and what made it worth reading.

In a nutshell, the book is telling you to find something meaningful and important in your life: this is a much more productive use of your time, instead of choosing to care about every and any thing. You can also check out his post here for an abbreviated version of the entire book.



Friday Reflections

1.) Please read this devastating story about this adjunct to understand the systemic injustice that happens in academia and America's shitty healthcare system. But even more, I hated how that woman died alone. Her life was so sad, but her death broke my heart. I mean her friends who she had not heard from in months had to create a gofundme for her funeral, because there was no one else. She just had no one.

2.) Nipsey Hussle's death was extremely tragic, but his life was very inspiring, especially in the ways he gave back to his community. Here are ways you can honor his memory and give back in your own community.

3.) Fake healthy foods to avoid.

4.) Still on academia, this Ph.D. student discusses some ways she is dealing with depression in grad school.

5.) Michelle Obama gives advice on changing your path.

6.) What a world renowned cancer researcher eats in a day to beat the disease.

7.) Should you date outside your race?

8.) How come I just found Aaron Sorkin's 2012 commencement speech at Syracuse? Pretty dope.

9.) Happy Good Friday. Don't forget, no matter what the situation in your life currently is, SUNDAY IS COMING.

How Provision is Central to Who God Is

Many people know God or know about God, but do we really know God? Often, the bulk of God's character is surmised as this invisible being who can cause destruction if we piss him off, or the author of the incredibly long list of what we ought not to do. Now however you view God is really between you and God. Personally, I think it's important to have a better understanding of God's character. After all, to love someone is to know that person. When you love someone, you want to know all about them. And what better way to know God that seeing how He dealt with people. So in this post, I want to tell a story about an important character trait of God: provision. Previously, I wrote about his compassion, which when you think about it provision or generosity is an aspect of compassion. Isn't it?

Today's story can be traced back to Exodus 31 in the Bible, when God was instructing his people on how to build certain necessary tools for worshipping him. When that chapter begins, God is telling Moses He had chosen some dude named Bezalel, and filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with knowledge, with understanding, and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze; to cut and set gemstones etc. I really liked the fact that God chose him, and THEN He gave him all sorts of expertise and abilities and in all kinds of crafts. Now, if you go to the preceding chapters, you would see that God had some elaborate and intricate requests about designs of  the tabernacle, garments for priests, the ark of the covenant, and the incense altar. You would also realize that even with contemporary technological advancements, some of those requests sounded incredibly hard to make. But then in this chapter, God is saying He has made provisions and in fact given special skills to craftsmen so they can make ALL the things He had commanded Moses to make. So now they had all the needed to make it happen.

Let's back up. When God first called Moses, He was sending him on what looked like (and eventually turned out to be) an overwhelming mission with difficult challenges. So of course, Moses was afraid like any sane human being would be.  He worried about his inadequacies. So God empowered him: He gave Moses every single thing he would need for that mission. If God has given us a task, He would see us through. It's just who He is; that's just his nature. He told Moses what exactly to say; He also provided Aaron to help; in fact, He even gave him sample miracles to use if he needed to. What a good father, huh? One who sees and anticipates our needs and then does something about them. Here again, God chose Moses. Nothing Moses or even Bezalel above did that prepared them for their individual responsibilities and jobs. No amount of networking, practicing, doing the most, or being extra could have prepared them for the job. God just ordained them. There is a sense of relief that comes from this, to be honest. In this world we live in, the pressure to be what you aren't is way too much. All of that greatness from Moses and Belezal and and it had everything to do with God.

I know we like to think of provision only in terms of money or a new car or what not. But God's provision is much more encompassing and the breadth of it is in fact more amazing that we often realize. God's provision looks like a myriad of things: it looks like providing the zeal and enthusiasm to do your job; it looks like provision of excellence and knowledge to excel; it looks like provision of wisdom and discernment to deal with difficult people; it looks like provision of gifts and talents, and the list goes on.

Hopefully, we are more cognizant of the seemingly little ways God comes through and the ways in which he provides in our daily lives.



How To Spend a Weekend In Chicago And Still Enjoy It; Chicago, 2019

I visited Chicago this past weekend to present my work. I remember the last time I went, I was so sick I couldn't walk for two minutes without crouching. It was a disaster. Because of that I was barely able to do anything. So I was happy to be back, and just felt very grateful to God for being alive. Chicago was still cold but not as cold as last year. I also realized I quite like staycations. Let's just say I like the good life of being in a hotel and getting someone else to bring your food right up to you. I was at Club Quarters at the Central Loop. This was good because The Loop is in downtown Chicago and pretty close to many interesting things: lots of businesses, hotels, fun stores to shop at, and touristy sight attractions. So if you can, definitely stay somewhere around here cos then you can walk everywhere and save cost on cabs, but also really get a feel of the city.
As nice as this breakfast looks, it wasn't as memorable
I was only there for two nights, so when I was done with my work I decided to do some sightseeing. Solo vacations are not particularly bad at all. I had some time to clear my head and think about what I want for my life (for real!) while walking. And since I burned some calories and got some exercise in, it was a double win. In fact when it started raining, I chose not to be bothered. For the first time, I sort of understood while leaving your regular routine or just going away (even for a brief period) by yourself can be helpful. Because of that walk, I came to certain realization about myself, which I might not have if I didn't travel. Or that's just some BS, and you can have a self-retrospection literally anywhere.  The one problem though, was there was no one to take pictures of me! And I didn't feel like asking a stranger to take pictures of me. Nah.  I eventually had to hurry up though as it was almost time for my flight back, which was a whole other story entirely. Goodness! I'm so glad to be back. So enjoy a few pictures; I couldn't take as many pictures because I was trying to preserve my phone's battery.

Chicago (or at least downtown where I was) is really solid with its architecture. Lots of skyscrapers and you can tell lots of thoughts went into designing the city in that sense.

The famous bean
The bean is in Millennium Park, which offers a lot of attraction for tourists. This is also a place you can walk around and just take in the sights.

The Art Institute
So bummer, the Art Institute is not free. But it's also not very expensive if Arts is really your thing. If it's not, then still walk by and take cute pictures of a historic building.

I quite liked this pedestrian bridge. Such a great design!

I always feel very reluctant to post my own pictures here for no reason whatsoever. I am definitely not anonymous nor am I ashamed of how I look (duh!). I think it's just part of being introverted or shy. So as part of "doing it afraid", I will attempt to post more pictures of me.

So yes, this was my first big travel of the year and all the while I was away, I spent every minute wishing I was back in my apartment. What's that about? Although I spend a lot of time criticizing bougie folks who won't shut up about the miraculous powers of traveling (insert rolling eyes emoji), I think traveling is okay if you can afford to. If you can't, stay home, cook yourself a nice meal, and binge-watch your favorite show. I promise you, THAT is the really miraculously powerful thing.

Love, and some adventure,


The Daughters of Zelophehad, Equal Rights, Feminism, And Taking Control

You know how when you love a story, you tell it million times? I feel like that with today's blogpost. I have told it over and over again, and perhaps alluded to it a couple of times on this blog. And will probably allude to it a few million times. However, it's a good story so it gets a pass. It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and it can be very easily overlooked. It's not profound on the surface, until you dig deeper to really rethink the context surrounding it, and the times they lived in centuries ago in Biblical era. So what is this story, you say? Come along with me to the book of Numbers.

It was a dark, dreary night, and the moons roared. No. That's the beginning of a bad story. This one is good. Let's try again. The daughters of Zelophehad were five sisters, who were the children of...you guessed right, Zelophehad. I promise I will start the actual story now, for real. The story of these five sisters—whose names you don't necessarily need to know so you don't get overwhelmed—can be found in Numbers 27. We first met them when they petitioned Moses after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and during the preparation into the new land. Now although it seemed like the Israelites were in limbo, neither in one land or the other, they actually had rules they lived by. There were laws. One of such laws was that only sons could inherit their fathers. Unfortunately for these babes, their father had no son.

Now some other person(s) would take the law for what it was, accept it, and move on. Some other person(s) would say, meh it's the law, what can we do about it anyway since the law is right. Not these babes. They took their case before Moses. You have to understand the amount of boldness it must have taken to do this. Even in the twenty first century, many women don't speak up. Women are less likely to be entitled and certainly less likely to go for what they want, because half the time we worry too much that people would misinterpret our intentions. Many people still believe women should be seen and not heard; that the place of the woman is in the kitchen. And sometimes, when we do speak up, no one listens. Not Moses, but we will come back to him later. Now, if women face so much barriers in the current world we live in, if women are deemed less than men in this century, can you imagine how bad it must have been in that society? Exactly. Whatever it was that fueled them, these girls went to Moses and the entire assembly to make their case. Why should the name of their father disappear from his clan just because he had no son?  See what they did there? The articulated the problem. But they didn't stop there. They knew exactly what they wanted and demanded a solution.

"Give us property along with the rest of our relatives." verse 4B

What I would give to be a fly on the wall in that room. Those men in the assembly would have been gobsmacked. That sort of astounding bravery and boldness from women was not commonplace in that era, and frankly a lot of men still don't know what to do with women like that. It's why people are shocked by Ocasio-Cortez. I mean, how dare she, a first-term congresswoman, be so outspoken? How come she doesn't cower and wait her turn and be generally timid like many women usually are? Ha.

Nevertheless, they persisted. 

Moses, being an amazing leader that he was (one of my favorites in the Bible) took their case to God. He didn't rely on his hubris as a prominent leader; as FRIEND of God; one whom God actually trusted. He didn't admonish them for being terrible children of God who just could not stick with the law. He accepted that ultimately God calls the shot. Your favorite pastors and Instagram Christians could never. They think they have the monopoly on the word of God and every other person can kiss their behind. But today is not the day I go in on your narcissistic, self-conceited, vanity filled Instagram pastors :-) That's for another day. Interestingly, but not at all surprising (because God is very pro-women as the Bible shows us in numerous ways), God sees reason in the argument of these sisters and grants them their wish.

"You MUST give them a grant of land along with their father's relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father."- verse 7

The implication of this, if you must know is that, by asking Moses to give them what he would give the male relatives, God was saying those chicks were just as equal and able as the men.

The wildest part of this story is that because of the sisters, God gave a more general rule to the people of Israel.

"And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: if a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters...this is a legal requirement for the people of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses". verses 8, 11

Yeah, the laws were changed because of them. Because they dared to challenge the status-quo. Because they dared to challenge tradition, or y'alls favorite word, "culture". Reminding us again, that cultures do not make us, WE make culture. Reminding us again that a culture that insists on oppressing a segment of the population is not a culture that should remain. To be clear, if these women kept quiet and did nothing, nothing would have changed. But by speaking up, by being so radical, these women made history and broke barriers in women's rights. These women were counter culture. These women are feminist pioneers. They are, to me, my first and foremost feminist icons.

But more than feminism, these women show us the importance of taking action; of taking a hold of our lives. Too often, we just accept what comes to us or what happens to us without pushing back. Too often, we accept defeat too easily, and then go and sulk in a corner. Everybody hates me yen yen. Don't just sit back and let life happen to you. Fight back. Take this literally or metaphorically. Believe me when I say this, because it's been me too. I have lost the will to fight and I just accept whatever comes or is said to me. However, I don't know about you, but I refuse to cower or be subservient. At least not anymore. Push back.  That's my word/phrase for the remainder of this year: PUSH BACK.

Now, a caveat.  These women did not just go to Moses and the rest of the assembly without preparation. No, they armed themselves with knowledge. They knew the law and all the technicalities that came with it. If you must fight a thing, you must first know that thing. You must, excuse my french, know your shit. I don't care how afraid you are. Let that fear propel you. Let that fear push you. I'm now realizing that my fear can often be my greatest strength. Because when I'm afraid of something, that thing better be afraid. I would literally go without sleeping just to prepare for something if that's what it will take.  The result is that the times I have succeeded the most in this life were the times I had been deathly afraid. My point? You can be afraid of what people would say, or failure or whatever, but don't take defeat lying down. Use your agency, because no matter how little, we all have some.

Speak up, fight back, push back, because in this world you and I live in, if you don't, the silence will kill you.

Love, and a little bit of fierceness,


Friday Reflections

1.) Watch this prank on David Beckham to brighten up your day. It's hilarious!

2.) Issa Rae is STUNNING in this cover pictures. But she is also an incredibly brilliant person, so check out the cover story as well.

3.) This girl found out her boyfriend cheated the same week he found out he has cancer. So now she is staying with him out of guilt even though she is pissed as hell and no longer love him. And oh the moron's family knew he was cheating and now they are thanking God she stayed cos God knows the other girl would not have. Either y'all out there are the kindest people ever or the most foolish. I can't figure it out which.

4.) Read this poignant true life story of the woman who is friends with the daughter of her mom's killer. It's quite an intriguing story

5.) Last night's Grey's Anatomy is being tagged as one of the best and most emotional of the show's 15 year history. That's true. It had be bawling. It was such a beautifully written episode about sexual assault.

6.) I was still thinking about last night's Grey's so I went to their FB page. Only to see women in the comments sharing their (sexual assault) stories, and strangers (all women) on the internet standing together & offering hope and comfort to one another. I hate and love this world.

7) Success is a lifestyle not a destination.

8.) Grey's producers on the scene from last night that took our breath away

9.) I have been thinking a lot about how women are conditioned to prioritize their romantic relationships above every other relationship (parents, friends, siblings etc.).

10.) It's why you see girls forgive their male romantic partners for the worst betrayal, but "cancel" their (girl) friends for trivial things.

Book of the Month: Strangers in their Own Land

I will be honest, I was skeptical about this book. I will tell you why. I am sick of think pieces examining America's right and middle America and all the likes, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Blah bla blah. No one cares. They are not that special, I always thought. And poverty is not exclusive to people of a certain ideology or to people in a particular geographical location. Black people are poor too. People on the East Coast are suffering too. People on the left feel left out too. Non-Trump supporters have issues to gripe with as well. So no, no one cares why you voted Trump or frankly why you voted for anyone for that matter. You voted. Okay, and? That doesn't make you special But this book...this book was something. A good something. I actually loved it. I should start by saying, while Hochschild is a renowned academic, she tries her best to not fill the book with academic jargon. It's a book that anyone can read and enjoy. I had a hard time putting the book down from the moment I picked it up.

So yes indeed, the book explains the worldview and emotional underpinning of right wing America and supporters of the Tea Part movement and Donald Trump in Louisiana, the Deep South. Now, she began the research for this book way before the 2016 elections. She was immersed in the community around Lake Charles, Louisiana and centers the book around five (?) people. But instead of just talking about a whole bunch of policies, Hochschild, like most great academics, knew to focus on one major issue: environmental politics. Despite the high concentration of petrochemical plants, the high levels of pollution that was LITERALLY killing people in this community, why were they so vehemently against environmental regulation and voting against their own interests. We come to find out a LOT about people living in this community. Hochschild argues it's because these people hold true certain cultural values that motivate them to oppose environmental regulation. I, on the other hand, see it as people believe what they want to believe...as long as it confirms their bias. Most people do not care for facts and for evidence. Interestingly, the ongoing Jussie Smollet fiasco case confirms this reasoning.

Basically, the Tea Party supporters are angry about the changing face of America that values immigrants, women, blacks, and other racial minorities, who they view as "cutting the line" to achieve the American dream. So ahem in anger, they are voting against their interests. Basically what my people describe as, o n bínú orí ó fi fìlà déèdí. We come to find this out because of the "deep story" of each interviewee which the author uncovers. The deep story is how the conservatives feel about themselves. And she tells us this so that we can both know where they are coming from and show why we need empathy to heal the political divide in the country. The key thing to take away from this book is that no matter our differences we should reach across the line, remove our "empathy walls" and seek to understand people who think differently from us. We need to get out of our bubbles and echo chambers and understand other people to see the humanity in them. Ultimately, this is NEVER a terrible idea.

Before signing off on this post, some things stood out to me in the book that I will share, as I do for most books of the month. The most salient thing in this book is the influence of big oil and pollution: their animals were literally dropping dead. One of the main subjects, every single member of his family had been diagnosed with cancer. This is not an hyperbole: every single one of them had one or two forms of cancer. But they are still so adamant that federal regulation or accepting any form of government help is a stain on them. Yet the party they support favor giving big tax breaks to the same organizations that are responsible for deaths, loss of jobs, and destruction. Even when the evidence were laid in front of them, they chose to twist it.

Across the country, red states are poorer and have more teen mothers, more divorce, worse health, more obesity, more trauma-related deaths, more low-weight babies, and lower school enrollment. On average, people in red states die five years earlier than people in blue states."

A bulk of them kept denigrating people on welfare and insinuating that those on welfare were lazy pieces of trash etc. Yet one of her main subjects randomly hinted that one time while working at one of the plants, he got injured and had to go on disability for a while. Pray tell, what was used to finance that? Some of the richest people in this country benefit significantly from the government. Stockholders in these petrochemicals are not spending their dollars in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Nah, they bought their mansions and pools in Connecticut, California etc.

I also noticed how most of them would not shut up about God. I have found that people tend to use God as a crutch to do the most heinous things. And when it comes down to it, some still idolize country over God. They think their belief in God gives them the audacity to hate others, to lack empathy, or to hurl unkind words at people, as far as they end whatever they say with "God".

"I am going to believe what I believe even if you do give me scientific evidence."

They all kept insisting they were not victims or they were not "poor mes". They are proud to endure the loss of their homes and communities, their drinking water, and even their jobs, but the one thing they were not was victim. But...they are quite literally the textbook meaning of victim.

The amount of fact checking she had to do at the end of the book also tells you everything you need to know. When you do read the book, please read the afterword. Sorry for this lengthy essay on what was an intellectually invigorating book. I hope you read the book because I know you will at the very least find it interesting. And the best possible case scenario is that henceforth, we all bring down our empathy walls, listen to others, and bridge the divide.