There's Always Tomorrow

I was doing a bit of journaling at the end of what felt like a long day, noting the list of things that I had completed from my task list. It was a very short list of completed items and I commented in my journal that the list was terrible, that I could've done much better. Then I wrote, there's always tomorrow.

But no, there isn't always tomorrow.

You don't know if tomorrow will come, but that doesn't mean that you should live in fear of tomorrow not coming, or that you should live with the assumption that it's not coming.

Instead, it means that you do your best today. You put in an effort to do the best, to make the day as productive as possible, to live it in such a way that you feel it was a full, complete, and good day, and that if you didn't have tomorrow you would feel content in the realization that you treated today in such a way that it proved you were grateful that you had it.

So when you find yourself saying or thinking, well, there's always tomorrow or there's always another day, realize that there may not be. And that's okay.

An Explosion of Gratitude

I was standing by the open window with a mug of freshly brewed Pu-erh tea in my hands, enjoying the colder than expected breeze blowing in over the sweet sound of chirping birds, underneath a crisp sky with hints of orange beginning to paint the evening with firey colors of the setting sun, when I realized that I needed to run.

It wasn't because I hadn't run in six months, or because the weather was nice. It wasn't because I was finally living in a neighborhood where there were nice running paths or because I had been feeling my fitness level deteriorate ever so slowly.

No, I needed to run because I was so damn lucky to have legs that allowed me to run, to actually still have my feet attached to my body.

A few hours earlier, while I was walking home from the Alewife subway station, I heard a number of sirens in the distance. There was nothing particularly unusal about that, but intuition told me that something big had just happened.

As I walked home, I opened Twitter on my phone and searched for "Cambridge". Someone else had tweeted that something big must have happened because they heard lots of sirens. I then searched Twitter for "Boston" and immediately started seeing photos of what at taken place just minutes earlier.

Two explosions, presumably bombs, exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing several people and injuring dozens, horrifically dismembering people. I was on the subway when it happened, just a few miles away.

When I got home, I began following what was unfolding in Boston. I found a video clip and photos of the blasts online, showing in graphic detail what had just happened (warning: some of these photos are extremely graphic).

It was horrible, but what caught my attention in the videos was the incredible way in which the majority of people rushed, not away from the blasts as you might expect, but towards them. Within seconds of realizing what had happened, people converged on the areas that were affected.

People ripped the shirts off their backs to use them as makeshift tourniquets on those who had just had their legs blown off. Several marathoners who had been running for more than four hours and 26.2-miles continued running straight to the hospital so they could donate blood.

On Twitter, I found a link to something that comedian Patton Oswalt wrote on his Facebook page shortly after the explosions. His words articulate my thoughts quite well:

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

So as I stood there at home by the open window, with a mug of freshly brewed Pu-erh tea in my hands, enjoying the colder than expected breeze blowing in over the sweet sound of chirping birds, underneath a crisp sky with hints of orange beginning to paint the evening with firey colors of the setting sun, I couldn't help but feel an absolute sense of gratitude.

There were humans, only a few miles from where I was, whose lives had been ripped apart today, some quite literally. Others had awoken this morning just as I had, but with the intention of running or watching others run a marathon, who now were lying in a hospital bed somewhere with the knowledge that they will never again wiggle their toes or feel the earth beneath their bare feet.

I needed to run. I needed to run for them.

Travel Notes: Gratitude on Australian Busses

One of the most interesting things I’ve observed on the busses here in Australia is that of gratitude. When the passengers disembark, they always say “Thank you”, or “Cheers”, to the bus driver as they leave. And the bus driver nearly always does the same, making eye contact with each one of them.

This has an amazing effect on the environment of the bus as a whole. 

For example, today there was a young schoolgirl, maybe thirteen or fourteen, who was being rough with a younger boy as she got on the bus. The bus driver scolded her as she passed him and she gave him an attitude and said something under her breath.

Throughout the entire bus ride, I could hear the girl and the younger boy arguing and mocking each other. But when the two kids got off, the bus driver smiled at them and said, “Have a good day!”, and I heard the girls tone suddenly change as she said quietly under her breath, “Thank you.”

Travel Notes: Flying to Australia

"I am in New Zealand... of all the places in the world, I am in New Zealand."

As I sat in the New Zealand International Airport lounge waiting for the departures screen to tell me which gate my flight to Australia was leaving from (in the area where the gate number for my flight should appear, it simply says "Relax"), I look around and feel the need to keep reminding myself that I'm actually here, in New Zealand, that place on the map that, until now, was really just a place on the map.

As my trip to Australia approached, I was asked several times what I was feeling. All I could say was that it didn't feel real. 

It's hard for me to comprehend how my physical body is going to move from one spot on the planet to an entirely different spot, across huge oceans and continents, in the matter of hours. Yes, I simply "fly across", but that doesn't feel simple to me. I'm in absolute awe with how that's even possible. I understand the science, but it feels like reality hasn't caught up with the science.

I look outside the airplane window and marvel at the wings, these giant metal structures that move and expand like a bird when landing, but manufactured by human beings, with materials and chemicals formulated by human beings, parts and pieces engineered, assembled, tested, and finally flown by human beings. 

An entire buildings worth of people, with multiple floors, carrying 100 tons of fuel and, on this particular trip, transporting 10 tons of asparagus from Los Angeles to New Zealand, some 6,200 miles through the air, like a giant, mechanical, human-made bird. And here I am in the air with all this stuff and all these people, 40,000 feet above the Earth, traveling at nearly 600mph, through an atmosphere that would certainly kill me a −57F.

How is any of this possible? And why do I feel like I'm the only one absolutely dumbfounded by it all?

A few hours ago I was in California and a few hours before that I was in New Hampshire. Now I'm in New Zealand, on my way to Australia! I can only imagine what Magellan or Christopher Columbus would've given to have this freedom, and how disheartened by the future they would feel if they had the opportunity to observe how easily people today take such fantastic things for granted. 

This isn't the future. This is the future and the past combined. This is now.

The Annual Placebo Effect

It happens every year. The smiles, the handshakes, and the family get-togethers. The gifts, the goal-setting, the reviews, the time made for deep reflection. We feel a sense of passage, a sense of movement, possibly even a climactic transition from one moment to another.

Sometimes it's a birthday or an anniversary or the remembrance of a historical date. Sometimes it's the transition to a new year.

But what's a date, really? It's a system for tracking time, a system that a group of people agreed to use for communication. There isn't only one system and this isn't just the year 2011.

1460 (Armenian)
6761 (Assyrian)
1418 (Bengali)
2961 (Berber)
2555 (Buddhist)
1373 (Burmese)
7520 (Byzantine)
1728 (Coptic)
2004 (Ethiopian)
5772 (Hebrew)
2068 (Hindu Vikram Samvat)
12011 (Holocene)
1390 (Iranian)
1433 (Islamic)
4344 (Korean)
100 (Minguo)
2554 (Thai solar)
2011 (Gregorian)

Many of us have agreed to use the Gregorian calendar system, but does that really mean today or tomorrow holds anything special? In another calendaring system, today could represent the middle of the year, not the end. On another planet, all of these systems would become meaningless.

One year on Mars is actually 686 days on Earth.

One year on Pluto is 247 years on Earth.

Our entire concept of time only works on this infinitesimal blue dot, in the minds of people who agree to the systems in place. And yet every year billions of people are affected. They're changed, moved, and motivated to act, think, and behave differently. 

By what? A date? A thing that is entirely arbitrary?

No. We're changed, moved, and motivated because we choose to be. The moment we choose is the moment it becomes reality. It has nothing to do with a number.

There's no need to wait for an agreed upon date. You're alive today. Let's recognize today. Let's choose to celebrate today. Let's choose to celebrate now. Seize the moment, every moment. It's new.

This Moment

Close encounters with death are the ultimate reminder that each day, each breath, is indeed a gift, a precious privilege that we must respect and protect, a reminder that each moment is an opportunity to express the qualities we are worthy and responsible for living, qualities of courage, curiosity, compassion, kindness, and creativity; qualities of strength, intelligence, peace, love, and humility.

This isn't an opportunity we can waste. It's not something we can put aside until we have more time. We must use this moment to live with zest, with vigor, and with veracious valor. We must use this moment to express what it means to be a living breathing human being. We must use this moment to live fearlessly responsible for life because the next reminder we get may not leave us with another moment.

Revealing Reality by Considering the Context

A few hours after arriving in the United States, I tried recording a short video to capture the strange feelings and emotions that I was experiencing, but my thoughts felt too incomplete and scattered. Now that I've had two weeks to process everything, I feel like I can articulate what's going on a little better.

On my last day in India I was taking a taxi to the airport when I felt the driver suddenly tap the brakes. I looked out the front window to find a seven-foot bull strolling up the highway into oncoming traffic.

The cars were all traveling at high speeds but they barely slowed down and instead just swerved around the giant creature. It was as if they were simply avoiding a pothole. That's when I realized that I wasn't even surprised by what I had seen. Continue reading

Homesick in a Strange and Privileged Land

I was holding back tears and trying to swallow intense emotions that were bubbling to the surface. The room was dimly lit and the stadium-style seats were the most comfortable chairs I had felt in more than six months. I looked at the cup of coffee in my hand and, closing my eyes, I slowly touched it to my face and felt the warmth of its contents.

Only 24 hours earlier I had been in another country, a place on the opposite side of the world so foreign and so different that it was easy to forget that I didn't just arrive from another planet. Obvious differences stood out, but it was the subtle differences that really made the biggest impact.

The first thing I noticed was the faster pace of life. It's not so much the physical speed of things, but pace at which you're expected to respond to and process information. Simple things like paying for something at the register or answering the telephone felt hurried or rushed. Even conversations seemed needlessly accelerated. It feels as though you're expected to think, act, and operate like a machine. Continue reading

My First $100 in India and a Message of Thanks

It's been almost one month since I arrived in India (26 days to be exact) and I have finally spent my first $100 USD (that's approximately 4,500 Rupees).

In fact, it was less than $100 because I got ripped off twice: The first time was with a $28 currency exchange fee when I changed a $100 bill for rupees during my layover at the Heathrow Airport in London.

The second time was when I stopped in a small town near Mangalore to refill my local Airtel SIM card: I gave the agent Rs.300, but when I was finally able to check the balance, it only showed Rs.1 (as I later learned, my unlocked iPhone didn't work with the local SIM, so I couldn't check the balance until I purchased a basic Nokia phone a few days later).

So, where exactly did those 2,940 Rupees go? Continue reading