“This is Your Life…Right?”

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes;
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now;
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have;
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?

 ~ This is Your Life performed by Switchfoot

THIS PAST THURSDAY NIGHT, September 29, 2011, is a night I will definitely have to remember for quite a long time—at least for the rest of my
college career, I sure will. The event was Acts2 Fellowship’s Welcome Night, and the moment I sat down, said hi to a neighbor, and simultaneously kicked back to see a great hilarious but thought-provoking skit, I was already developing this pre-conceived notion in my mind that this night was going to turn out great; and my predictions were all correct.

But one of the major highlights of the night, besides another serving of Korean BBQ, was Steve Kim’s investigative and deep-probing talk on the worth of a human soul and what it really means to live life to the fullest.

For just a moment if you will, let’s discard everything else in life that distracts us, like technology, food and sex. Why not ask the question, “If life was devoid of the necessities that people like Abraham Maslow would point out, like food, water, shelter, sleep and sex, what then, really makes a human life valuable?”

The logical answer most people would probably say intuitively is, “Not much” and I agree.

Steve at one point emphasized a verse from the Book of Mark:

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

~ Mark 8:36 (NIV)

Just hearing Steve say that verse…now that really struck me a few times because that point right there reminded me to do a reality check on well, myself.

I’ve always tried to be an exhibitionist, to say the very least, and over time, I’ve been immersing myself in this crazy teenage world of pop culture, but there were indeed intervals of time when I stopped to ask myself, “How am I doing with God? Am I really falling away from Him?”, and yes, there were times when I just started feeling immensely guilty reflecting on those kinds of thoughts.

But as I’ve said before, I’m also one of those people who has not only taken the time to think about life’s very deep and significant questions, but also has been on a “mission” to reconcile the world, with all of its problems and issues as well as its pop culture, with a very superficial taste of the supernatural, of that spiritual realm outside of this one.

The key to doing this is really, to sit back and think about life. I’m no real philosopher, but I really do think life, in all of its complexity, would be too difficult to boil it down to just a single sentence, a single line in a page of history.

This is because all of our lives, each and every human being on the face of the Earth, paint a unique visual picture, with all of our achievements and setbacks, laughter and tears, joy and sadness: they all tell this story of what the human race is meant to strive for, and even as Toni Morrison has stated, it is not for mere happiness—it should be for something even greater than that.

So what is “it” then? Psychologist Martin Seligman calls it ‘gratification’, an intuitive pleasure you can feel when you do something you love.

My high school teacher Jaime Richards emphasizes the doing part very greatly. He says that “work is good” and that work of any kind will produce that gratifying sensation, that rewarding sensation you feel as a result of working on something, especially something you really enjoy doing.

If – and it’s a big if – I can convince kids to work hard at something they think is ‘worth doing,’ I’m confident that they will eventually realize that hard work really is the secret of happiness.

The second answer is simple and clear. Of course we should figure out what work is worth doing! Doing that, though, is an enormous challenge. Starting in kindergarten (preschool?) we’ve been encouraged to work hard, but that’s the problem. Working hard isn’t enough. We have to work hard at the right things. Merely working hard gives us a false sense of security. ‘I’m working hard. So, eventually, it will pay off.’

~ Jaime Richards in an excerpt from Finding the Right Work (2011)

So, truth be told, we have to find ways to make work gratifying, not just satisfying, and learn how to work smarter, not just harder. It’s obviously hard to find a great or even “perfect” method, but maybe there’s a solution out there somewhere. Still it needs a lot of investigation.

With that being said, going back to Steve’s message, we have to constantly find ways to make life meaningful, not just say that it is and completely blow off the message the next second.

Take a snapshot from anyone’s life, even my own, and ask yourself the question from Switchfoot’s song, “Are you who you want to be?”

If not, find the key aspects you’d like to improve on and make small changes every single day.

In time, you might even be surprised that you’ll feeling more confident than a few weeks ago or even a few months ago, when life just seemed cruddy.

As Jaime would assure me as well, “Don’t worry Josh, the day will get better.”

Now I look back and I think, “You’re right Jaime, my teach. The day is getting better. Somehow I still have to hold on to a genuine hope from deep within.”

Hope all you people out there will too.

Enough said.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.


Combating Criticism and Overcoming Homesickness…

A little longer, I’m thinking
Give me my space so I can face it alone.
I’ve always been one for sober reality
Can’t find the pieces for the increasing unknown.

I sigh,
Just try to convince me I’m not entirely sold;
Well I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ till the sun comes up,
I’m slippin’ into gravity’s hold

He said it’s fun for the moment;
When I grow up, I’ll give it up later on.
One day he’ll snap back to sober reality
Leave it to fate, look it’s too late and he’s gone.

What if one day I fall away
And I believe what the Pharisees say?
What if I pray just to find it’s all fake?

I’m fallin’ up, I’m fallin up, I’m fallin up and I…

I’ll fly,
Fall into grace, don’t have to face it alone;
Well I’m laughin’ and I’m dancin’ till the sun comes up
I’m slippin out of gravity’s hold.

~ Gravity’s Hold (New Version) performed by Tim Be Told

AS I leave home and venture to new places and see even newer faces, I often pause to take the time to reflect and discover parts of myself I may have never even searched before. I mean, I’ve always been known to dig deep, but there’s always been many sorts of unresolved conflicts and perhaps subconscious thoughts this heart and mind of mine have long been seeking to put to rest, but will there ever really come a time when this will truly happen? At this very moment, even I am not certain—but this much I am certain: I am not going to give up.

Throughout the vast course of my life I have encountered many acquaintances—several of whom have become my closest friends—and mentors—and best of all, family. There are people whom I’ve encountered on this journey who patiently took the time and effort to voice their thoughts, their honest opinions and most of all their stories to me—some of whom I’ve dearly taken to heart; while others not so enlightening or encouraging.

But in another sense, I feel as though an hour-long sentimental story can have as much impact on a person as a few minutes, or possibly, even a few short seconds, of harsh, yet constructive criticism.

Whether I would like it or not, I in time have taught myself to gain an acceptance of both of these almost extreme opposites I guess you could say.

But then again, I’ve always heard the almost-cliché statement that it’s a large part of the learning process of life.

Often times as a kid growing up, I’d have dreams and wild imaginative fantasies—dreams as large and vast as the sun, or maybe even the Milky Way in my naïve and more innocent mind—dreams about excelling in school (I’m sorry if that does sound cliché), going to some prestigious university like Stanford, earning some fancy scholarship, obtaining some dream job, and most of all, really wowing my parents.

As time went by, some of those dreams were realistically fulfilled, but I never ended up excelling with some 4.0 GPA or enrolling at Stanford, but now that I am indeed in college, I look back and develop this bittersweet perspective on all of those childhood dreams—even those very out-of-there dreams, like having an opportunity to meet some of my most favorite celebrities, and practically idolizing over them.

Surprisingly I look back and recount a conversation I had with my dad in the car while he was driving me over to college not too long ago. The most important advice he continues to emphasize to me to this very day is that although it is great to dream, two things must be considered: 1) dreams don’t come true in an instant (at least not always), and 2) most dreams are achieved with lots of individual effort and time and that they can be fulfilled in steps.

Now if I was listening to this kind of advice back when I was a mere elementary school and junior high student, I would listen with an attentive ear but not with a very attentive heart. There were countless times when I attempted to honestly heed both my father and mother’s advice but end up failing to do so because I wasn’t emotionally ready to take their criticism word-by-word or because I could never seem to fully comprehend the reasoning behind what I had perceived to be degrading to my own self-value. Indeed, it has taken me many years for me to emotionally heal some deep, scarring wounds I’ve “collected” inside of me, but even now as a college freshman, some words, gestures and actions will always haunt me no matter what, and I believe this must hold true for nearly everyone.

There are just some events that occur in one’s past memories that will never be fully healed or resolved, no matter how long time ticks on.

But we all must learn to either deal with it or accept it, no matter what the circumstance or situation.

If you don’t learn to combat your own memories of hurt and pain, they will unfortunately plague your mind and seduce you into believing your own harsh self-criticism.

Because more often than not, more people attempt to run away from their problems than to confront them head-on with full force.

If at this point, you’re thinking, “Yeah I know exactly what you mean Josh, but wouldn’t you agree that confronting my issues is like too difficult for me to tackle?” I would probably respond with, “Yes it is hard but as Tom Hanks said in the film A League of Their Own, ‘The hard is what makes it great.’ ”

I had to overcome cerebral palsy, and it wasn’t easy either. It took a lot of work and both mental and, at times, strenuous physical effort to be able to do the things that I can do now as a maturing eighteen-year-old as comparing it to when I was an infant.

Criticism in this light also takes time and effort to overcome as well. But here is how I view the matter. Some constructive criticism will appear to be harsh to the person receiving it but in an almost ironic sense, is meant to guide you along the way. The people that usually say those remarks may not necessarily intend to be so judgmental, but there are times when kids can perceive it to be that way. An example would be like, one day you go to class and the teacher’s passing out last week’s exams. As the student you might be cringing in your seat, hoping that you didn’t score too badly—and then when you take one peek at your test paper your heart drops. You end up with a C.

Any high-achiever would then resort to the old-fashioned routine of “I’ll just hide my test from my parents and lie that I received a satisfactory grade on the test. They won’t know, I hope.”

Unfortunately, if you can predict what probably will happen next, you will know that lying right away may only seem to get you off the hook for the moment, but in the end spell even larger consequences.

Still we squirm at authoritarian criticism. I know I sure do.

But it’s still up to you to be the judge. It’s time you call the shots. Deep down in your heart, you know that you have to be honest with your folks, no matter what. So you end up telling them and showing them your test…

But a word of advice to older adults: yelling at your children and screaming, “You’re stupid! That’s why you didn’t do well on the test!” will only make them feel more insecure and hurt and want to shy away from you, the parent. This is why most teen-parent relationships first show signs of cracking, and later, completely breaking and snapping.

You, meaning both the parent and the kid, definitely do not want to get to the snapping part. That’s where mere criticism can turn into a series of fights.

So let’s try to prevent that here.

I will admit that it might be a first gut reaction to yell back and start a raging argument (it’s in our innate pessimistic natures unfortunately) but whenever I find myself in these sorts of situations I always recall a verse from the Book of Ephesians:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that  comes from the Lord.

~ Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)

Many years later my father now tells me to talk things out in a healthy, understanding and communicable manner with him (after he has learned himself to cope with his anger as well), and I can accept that; because that’s how I’ve always pictured how things should work out.

Discuss potential issues ahead of time if need be, so there won’t be any chances of a misunderstanding and probable backlash.

With that being said, I am now also coping with overwhelming feelings of homesickness, which although I’ve heard is very natural for nearly everyone to go through, is also not just as easy to fully accomplish. Being away from home obviously has a few perks—but I know that deep down, it’s this fear-of-the-unknown sensation that perhaps scares me the most, although I know I’m not alone on this one either.

Combating homesickness is similar to the methods of combating criticism I’ve already described in that they both take time and effort to work things out and they both require a lot of adjusting.

So as I gradually adjust myself to the college environment, the real world starts to feel pretty overwhelming, as I expect it would be. But I do come prepared.

I am here at the University of California Riverside to brace those challenges, cause I know I’ve braced similar challenges before over the years. I find small pockets of support groups—right now, frankly, my old classmates I’ve befriended in high school—to feel comfortable with as we all start to blaze our own trails in every aspect of college life—academically, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

And who knows? The choices I make right now, as I have also made in the past, will impact me in ways I may never even conceive of before.

But one thing’s for sure: this time, I hope and I pray, with all the strength I can muster in my body, soul and mind, I will not slip into gravity’s hold again—at least not for a long, long time from this very moment.

I will bounce back, and you can bet on it.

Enough said.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

What It Means to be “Human” Again.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world….We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute, we read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life, but  poetry, beauty, romance, love. These are what we stay alive for.

~ John Keating (Robin Williams) in Dead Poets’ Society (1989)

PERHAPS NO WORDS uttered in film history, or even in real-life history for that matter, have moved me as intensely and vibrantly as the words that an exceptional actor as Robin Williams utters. I have praised Williams’ portrayals of his characters for many years and even to this day he is still one of my many idols in Hollywood history and I think I can say this statement as confidently as I can, knowing that Robin himself is proud of the efforts he strives to perform through his each and every one of his characters.

But don’t let my exuberant praise of Mr. Williams deceive you. In some cases I feel that seeing a person take the stage really does mean to truly believe that that person whom you know in real life becomes a specific character the next split-minute—right down to the humorous jokes, enticing wit, and warm personality; and if you have any wonderful memories of being in a performing arts class at any institution you probably feel what I’m feeling right now at this precise moment.

But there should come a time in everyone’s lives I believe when you are so moved by a certain character you strive to let yourself be that character; those moments when you almost senselessly embody the very body and spirit of a character, and for that I would like to mention a certain Mr. Keating.

Now I’ll be completely honest here. I originally was going to write this column as a Father Day’s tribute for those patriarchal role models in my life, but sensing how that time has passed, I will instead discuss how these role models, both in film and in the real world, have in a sense “rocked me to my core”, to quote Peter O’ Toole in his portrayal of Anton Ego, the usual cynical critic in Disney’s Ratatouille.

We have seen great role models experience both triumph and a looming sense of defeat before. John Keating right after he hears the news of Neil Perry’s suicide comes to mind in Dead Poets’. So does Tung-Tung (Dong Dong) in A Summer at Grandpa’s when he hears that his mom is sick in a Taipei hospital and he and his sister Ting-Ting have to spend their summer vacation in the Taiwanese countryside. So does Fang Qiangqiang in Little Red Flowers when he is almost instantaneously labeled a rebel and a freak in the tightly conforming world of a post-1949 Beijing kindergarten center. So does Jesus when he earnestly prays in the Garden of Gethsemane as he sweats drops of blood in both the Passion film as well as in recorded Scripture.

Needless to say these are all classic examples of humans experiencing the sting of human life—when you are caught right in the middle of agony and an almost endless sense of futile frustration, when things don’t go according to plan and when most people are on the edge of giving up.

But here’s the key.

Most of us here would willingly give up in situations like these and surrender ourselves to some impending doom that we all want to foresee. But here’s what I’ve learned in the grand scheme of life: do exactly the opposite.

One of the most motivating teachers I’ve dearly befriended in my high school career, Mr. Jaime Richards, has shown me how to be a rare example or “to be a scarcity” as he puts it in order to resist the temptations of following the herd.

As Keating fluidly describes, numerous high school and college students annually enter a plethora of academic institutions to pursue some dream of going into medicine or law or engineering. But see here’s the thing. Most students tend to dismiss the rather “romanticized” disciplines of English, History, Theology, Art, Drama or Film in order to pursue the more “realist” disciplines of Science or Math, all in the extraneous attempt to first take home a Bachelor’s, and maybe later, a Master’s Degree as well.

Now the ultimate question arises simply, “Why?”

Certainly there are a large combination of factors in giving this answer including money, job security and stability and the political influences that are going on around us, but still, in the grand scheme of things, our academic institutions are producing a whole lot of future doctors, lawyers, engineers, businesspeople and scientists; and needless to say they are important social positions. But unfortunately there’s a flaw in the educational system. We don’t have enough philosophers or writers or artists. No one these days would say being an artist is definitely going to get you anywhere, and in this world, these pursuits have become an exponential taboo of sorts.

I am very sure Mr. Keating would say this is wrong, and very wrong indeed. We aren’t here to make robots or clones. We’re here to build people up, not tear them down. No one I believe should be publicly disgraced because of a noble pursuit. They are uniquely yours and yours alone. This is why I senselessly live by Keating’s, my father’s and Richards’ words.

The world is yours, so go out there and make something out of it.

Too often we forget that everybody dreams a dream and too often do we, “the herd”, dismiss those dreams as rubbish.

Fortunately, I think I’ve found a compromise, and I know that I am not the only individual on planet Earth who’s thought of this I hope. Whether it’d be in the academic field or otherwise pursue that dream and keep it alive, but also keep in mind of those subjects and majors you are required to study for, like math and science; and believe me, math is actually not one of my most favorite subjects.

But my father and Jaime have both expressed similar trains of thought: even if you don’t like something, sometimes those things are still necessary to work at. A strong work ethic comes to mind and of course is required of nearly all students.

The second lesson I’ve picked up from these two men is how we “must constantly look at things in a different way”, and if you’re wondering, yes Keating said that as well. But I can see why it is so vitally important in doing so.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t and won’t experience life in all of its fullness until you take a stroll in someone else’s shoes. If many of you can recall the expression, “walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins” you’ll know exactly what I mean here.

Let us strive to look at life from multiple vantage points because one just isn’t enough. That way you know exactly how and what each and every student in a classroom think and beyond this very point, how to improve their lives subjectively and majestically, as Keating has demonstrated with his students.

Perhaps most of us won’t stand on our desks as Todd Anderson would have when we see our beloved teacher leave the classroom. But I do believe that someone out there will initiate the change and will stand upon their desk as a signal to show that we humans are not just merely animals born to conform by hunting and killing and following the pack. No we are not merely wolves. We are thinkers and dreamers and inspirers.

If there’s one value I place my faith in humanity in, it’s that we are beings who can create and improve on things, and surprisingly enough, we do so all the time.

Therefore, if the adage “to err is to be human”, then aren’t we all indeed human?

Who’s to say we aren’t?

Yes, there will be bumps in the road as anyone would expect, but I realize that one of the most important goals in anyone’s life is to overcome, to the best of our abilities, any hurdle that life will present to us, and secondly, to firmly take a stand for the values that you put your utmost die-hard beliefs in no matter what others think.

That’s what it means to be human…again: to fight our innate pessimistic natures and to be the leading role models for the rest of the world to look upon.

I believe that there’s a Keating buried inside each of us.

Enough said.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

“I Can Only Imagine…”

Remember all the things we wanted
Now all our memories, they’re haunted
We were always meant to say goodbye.
Even with our fists held high
It never would have worked out right, yeah
We were never meant for do or die.
I didn’t want us to burn out
I didn’t come here to hurt you now I can’t stop

I want you to know
That it doesn’t matter
Where we take this road
omeone’s gotta go.
And I want you to know
You couldn’t have loved me better
But I want you to move on
So I’m already gone.

“Perfect” couldn’t keep this love alive.
You know that I love you so
I love you enough to let you go.

You can’t make it feel right
When you know that it’s wrong.
I’m already gone, already gone
There’s no moving on
So I’m already gone.

~ Already Gone performed by Kelly Clarkson

“I CAN only imagine.”

That was what a close friend of mine, Nathan Cheng, had spoken to me countless times over the phone during these past two years I have come to know him. As such, his words have touched me very deeply—deeply enough to write a special column dedicated to this simple sentence.

As I can vividly recall most of our conversations ran the course of touching on life and how it has affected the two of us, coming from different backgrounds and families but sharing similarities all the same. Through our talks, whether brief or enormously long, Nathan I believe has come to know me as the person I truly am—a person with scars and pains but simultaneously, a person who is continuously learning to work on himself. I know that I am still a work in progress but I also humbly thank Nathan for lending an ear to hear my stories and I vice versa.

We have not only grown as close friends over time but I also believe in my heart we’ve come to understand each other a lot more than most people would perhaps comprehend at a mere first glance.

It is true that friendships take time to grow and mature, as with so many other things in this world but its rewards in the long run are so cherishable as well.

Looking back and looking forward though, Nathan is just one out of the large circle of friends, acquaintances and classmates I have not only taken the time to befriend but also to understand as another human being.

Recently this past Thursday afternoon I went shopping at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Palm Desert, California. I told one of the attendants I was looking for a specific shirt to pick out but eventually I settled for a jacket instead. It’s a black Russell Athletic Men Fusion Tech Fleece Zip Cadet Jacket by the way. Very stylish indeed.

Despite the looks though I later on recalled that another friend of mine—or rather acquaintance—used to wear a similar kind of jacket whenever I’d see and greet him at school. He unfortunately passed away six months ago shortly before his nineteenth birthday due to a medical condition called aplastic anemia. His name was Max Horng.

I met Max as I’d meet most of my classmates and schoolmates—through brief, casual conversation. Our first meet wasn’t anything too special but it was very memorable as I can remember it. We introduced ourselves and had a few exchanges here and there but that was about it.

I’d see Max every now and then in school and whenever I did I was never too hesitant to say a quick “Hi” and get a quick hug while I was at it. But that was what most of our meets were like, and for many months we’ve stopped talking to each other. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to converse with Max. It was because we never really took the time to have a deep and meaningful conversation together, in sharp contrast to the talks I’ve had with ol’ Nate.

But hearing Max pass suddenly on January 5th was a tremendous shocker to me. I literally broke down and cried for a few weeks after hearing the news and even now I still have my spiritual talks with him in Heaven and memories of him on Earth. Just last Saturday on the 9th he told me that he was doing great and he looked much taller and stronger than I could really envision him in the flesh. It was great to “catch up with him” though when I had the opportunity to.

Now that I have the jacket I think of him too. I think of the all the memories I’ve experienced with him and the years ahead when I get to see him in Heaven again too. It just sucks that he seemingly had to go so soon. That’s always the heart-wrenching part.

I just didn’t know he had aplastic anemia. I never would have even guessed he would have had it in the first place.

But that’s where I’m always taken aback.

I never expected anything like this to happen so soon or that Max had the condition.

But as time progresses and as I get a little older every single day I still take away two very vital lessons about people and about life. First off I’ve learned that everyone has problems whether visibly shown or hidden.

Second, I’ve learned that at the appropriate times it’s best to ease your way into a conversation about someone else’s problems, or even my own problems. Never assume that everything is always a-ok with someone else because most of the time, it might be not.

Find time to discuss critical issues when need be. Someone will be there listening to you. All you have to do is to find someone trustworthy to discuss these personal issues with even though it can be hard to.

We all need to have this time to have a catharsis but I unfortunately did not get to have one with Max while he was still here on planet Earth. Regardless I still pray for him though and he pops up in my head from time to time—whether I’m asleep or awake.

I guess it just goes to show that I not only care about Max and Nate and all my other friends but a lot of people do say that I have a big caring heart.

Now I want the rest of the great big world to do exactly the same.

Reach out to people. Care for them. Treat them well and they’ll treat you well.

But here’s Step Two in this multi-step process: Know people on a charismatic subjective level. It’s the only way to get to really know others as you know yourself.

The Golden Rule already spells it out very clearly in black and white. That’s why it’s “Golden” in the first place.

Finally I am also reminded of a short verse in the book of Hebrews:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. ~ Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

Never forget that. Seriously.

I’m pretty sure the people around you will notice and maybe later on compliment you for what you are doing and are continuing to achieve. Actions are usually very noticeable and memorable. It’s very true.

Enough said.

Until next time…

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

P.S. Max Horng’s obituary can be found at http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Max-Horng&lc=2463&pid=147646381&mid=4505653.

Thank you for your time and your condolences.

Self-Reliant or Just Being Selfish?

I listen with attention to the judgement of all men; but so far as I can remember, I have followed none but my own.

~ Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes…we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones.

~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-)

I RECENTLY have been experiencing a reoccurring thought about the balancing act between trying to be self-reliant and just being plain selfish as an individual after hearing my dad suddenly remark to a NPR news report we both heard on the radio Monday afternoon and from recalling numerous lessons my dad has taught me over the years—lessons that still resonate and reverberate to me loud and clear in my mind.

Now before I continue, I’d like to address the main difference between the two because believe it or not, although at first they may sound like two opposing personality traits, they both share one archetype in common: the self.

Universally speaking, we humans are both blessed and cursed with the gift of self-reliance.

On the positive, self-reliance has been the one human virtue that carries us forward as individuals. In a sense, it is the towering virtue associated with this concept called individualism. Now this obviously isn’t a new idea. It’s been reflected throughout the ages. We humans have been self-reliant of ourselves for as long as humans have been around.

But here’s the downside: once someone reaches a stage in their life where they assume full responsibility and independence for their actions they might start to develop a rather selfish mindset. That is, someone might gradually assume that since they’re so independent they won’t lean on the support of others and vice versa.

This person will, in time, start to think that the world has to revolve around them “or else.”

Now how do I know this? Because I’ve met and known people firsthand who are extremely greedy and selfish of a lot of things, though I won’t go into all the details for now.

The point I really want to address here though is, how can we humans become less selfish and more selfless in a society that’s as corrupt and selfish as it already is?

Well if I wanted to be straightforward and blunt about the matter I would suggest the first step to fighting one’s selfishness is to just admit that you are selfish straight up front—no ifs, ands or buts about it; because as Dr. Laurence J. Peter says, “There are two kinds of egotists: Those who admit it, and the rest of us.”

Now, in order to further clarify I am not trying to state that being self-reliant will inevitably make you selfish. I am in fact stating just the very opposite. It’s good to be self-reliant. It’s in fact great to take charge of yourself, to make your own decisions growing up, to call your own shots, and to direct your own path. This is all great, but as an old adage forewarns, “With great power comes great responsibility” and here is where we plot our own downfalls, literally and metaphorically.

I myself have been advised by numerous people and have firsthand bared witness to this kind of tragedy before in my life. I have seen it occur among relatives, friends, classmates, other adults and even myself at times as a matter of fact.

But I can tell you all that it’s not a very pleasant experience. It’s not pleasant to know that you can get so stuck-up and haughty that you look down upon others and treat them as inferior to you or worse, when you are completely blind to the whole affair.

Because the truth of the matter is, the world is still experiencing corrupt times—and the ones who try their very best to be the humanitarians of this world are constantly caught in the crossfire.

In a world that’s not getting any more pleasant (and in some ways, less environmentally sustainable as well) people seem to be turning more and more selfish and greedy than ever before.

Now I hate to sound like a hypocrite here and say this but I’m not a large supporter of charities in general either. Money’s very tight these days as it already is and the American (and world) economy in general is on a slow rugged road to recovery.

Still my heart echoes that message to get out there and be a humanitarian to those hurting, hungry and homeless around the world. Mozambique is one such example.

As part of NPR’s program called All Things Considered a new series called ‘Beginnings’ is airing all summer long covering extensive news reports on efforts to call to attention crucial issues happening around the globe.

In Mozambique it’s all about lowering the maternal and infant death rates and providing health care workers to those regions who could use a helping hand in handling newborns.

This is where my dad gawked. “Why help those people now? The world’s already overpopulating as it is and if we continue to help them [Africans] we’re actually creating more problems for the future. More wars etc.”

Unfortunately, my dad’s remark came across to me as being more of a selfish comment above anything else. It’s true that the world is rapidly overpopulating and industrialized, developed nations have a lot of problems on their hands as well. I’m not going to neglect that for the moment.

But I think the heart of the matter here is to provide solutions to helping out third-world countries. A practical goal could be that once these nations start developing a sustainable economy for its people industry and jobs would come shortly after, or at least that’s the dream I guess.

But it’s not going to be an easy goal that’s for sure.

Political and economic corruption is still afoot nearly everywhere in the world.

(Not to mention Dad also reminds me that most African governments weed out money from charities and organizations, and that’s just a sad and cruel tidbit to even think about.)

Aside from all the corruption though, many second and third-world countries are slowly becoming more self-reliant. Let’s just hope it will continue that way. Then, the governments and economies of those nations will gradually climb as well.

At the end of the whole matter, it’s still a huge balancing act to follow through on behalf of all of us—on behalf of a global community.

I’m just trying to even out the scales a little bit more. I hope you will do too.

Think about it and make the right choice. It’s all about balance here.

Enough said.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

P.S. If you are interested in reading more about the situation in Mozambique go to http://www.npr.org/2011/06/27/137404439/in-mozambique-grim-prospects-for-mother-and-child.

Where Loyalties and Rivalries Dissolve…

Me not working hard?
Yea right picture that with a Kodak
Or better yet, go to Times Square
Take a picture of me with a Kodak.
Took my life from negative to a positive
I just want y’all know that
And tonight, let’s enjoy life.

Pitbull, Nayer, Ne-Yo
That’s right.

Tonight I will love love you tonight
Give me everything tonight
For all we know we might not get tomorrow
Let’s do it tonight.

Give Me Everything performed by Pitbull featuring Afrojack, Nayer and Ne-Yo

LAST WEEKEND, another weekly column subscription popped up in my Gmail inbox. My fellow teacher and columnist Jaime Richards had proposed to write a column on how “blind” loyalties can be destructive to people, how they can lead people to follow a sports team, a cause, a philosophy, a religion, or an organization just because other people around an individual do (usually without giving the very idea much thought in the first place). I agree with Jaime’s stance. People can be genuinely loyal, and people can also be capable of being blindly loyal as well.

It is hard to distinguish the two since they are both forms of loyalties and well, let’s face facts. There are times when genuine loyalty can be mistaken to be fake loyalty. Genuine loyalty can be disguised under a “phony” guise. It happens. We as human beings are naturally judgmental of everything we observe outside and inside of ourselves. It’s bound to happen whether one likes it or not, even if you try so hard to fight this habit. Believe me, I’m human too. I’ve tried to fight this instinct before and it always comes out as a sheer 50-50 chance of making choices and choosing to either speak out and say something that might harm someone else’s self-esteem or not.

I try extremely hard not to though. I hate being a hypocrite. I dislike trying to say that someone else is a douchebag. Sure you may get on my nerves but I’ll resist the urge to say that you might be one.

The point is just don’t be one.

Unlike most other guys, I have a genuine sympathizing heart, mind and soul. I’ve been through strife, turmoil and pain as well. I know firsthand what it’s like to get hurt.

Perhaps you guys can relate to experiencing pain. If you can, then we’re on the same level here.

In my last column I described what it means to let go of past hurts and pains—perhaps pain that’s been lodged in one’s heart for long durations of time. I know the process can be extremely difficult. It’s easier to hate than to come clean and forgive. It’s easier to scream and rant and dwell with that pain inside of you. It’s easier to scorn at someone whom you dislike for any sort of reason there may be.

It’s easier to do all of those things but it’s also easier to be loyal to your affiliation, your team, your posse.

For the past four years of my high school career I have constantly heard how much ranting and competitive animosity can arise between rival high schools (and rival sports teams). At high school Homecomings and other miscellaneous events, the crowd goes berserk when Mission Man (Mission San Jose’s mascot) loses to Irvington, Kennedy or American high schools. The booing and hissing grows and swells until MSJ’s hero can sneak past its rivals, grab the prize and bring home the gold for Mission San Jose High School. That’s when the crowd cheers. That’s when we feel proud to be Warriors.

I am therefore no stranger to this kind of loyalty. I’m proud to be a Warrior as well.

But would you call this blind loyalty? Perhaps some might, others perhaps not.

Regardless of how you interpret the events and the emotions though, I have over time taught myself to lay down some of my pride even for my school to reunite with old friends and classmates from other high schools in the district.

Tuesday afternoon, I attended Irvington High School’s graduation ceremony for the senior class of 2011. As I witnessed the processions taking place I’ve heard numerous times how the Vikings are proud of their own achievements and goals as a class and as a school collectively.

Now I don’t mean to bash here but I felt no affiliation with Irvington whatsoever. It’s because I realize I’m not a part of that school.

But the good news is I was still friendly enough to embrace old friends I haven’t seen in years.

As soon as I got down to the field I quickly ran to greet friends and classmates I’ve last seen in elementary school.

Fortunately most of them still remembered and was able to recognize my face, my body and my somewhat lumbering gait. I’ll be honest here.

Still the entire moment was such a remarkable experience. Almost instantaneously I felt my Warrior pride subside in my heart and in its place old and seemingly lost and forgotten friendships had rekindled. My fireworks had gone off inside my soul and I smiled, laughed and cheered for my now Irvington buds.

We talked, knowing that we haven’t made contact in so many years. We’ve laughed, knowing that the spirit of our childhood days had been buried over time but the flame never extinguished. At times we’ve even cried, realizing the surreal sensation just hitting all of us.

Finally, we’ve smiled knowing that it was great to be at each other sides’ again, best buds and classmates for life.

Have you ever had that sensation before? That sensation of a good old-fashioned reunion with family and friends?

If you never have, then I’m going to tell you straight up: you are definitely missing out big-time.

If I’d ever have to give a piece of advice on life in general, I’d suggest this: “There are many things in this life on planet Earth that are potentially fleeting. But in order to fully experience and treasure these moments before they’re gone for good, you must experience them firsthand. You’ve got to be the person in the arena.”

Well thank goodness for photography, camcorders, the Internet and social networking sites for capturing all of these jubilant memories. Otherwise we couldn’t remember them all and we can’t relive them twice either.

Fortunately enough for me I’ll always remember the moments when I was standing and strolling out there on the field holding my buddies close to me for a photo, a quick conversation and a quick opportunity to get together once more.

Time is limited. Time is fleeting…we have to make the most of it now while we’re at it.

It’s time to tear down the barriers and loyalties that divide us as people.

It’s time to become a melting pot again.

It’s time to make new memories and rekindle old ones.

It’s time to celebrate!

Congrats to both the MSJ and Irvington Classes of 2011!

We all made it through, I can hardly even believe it!

Hats off to everyone this year! We’ve all deserved this moment!

Just remember carpe diem.

Enough said.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

P.S. Be sure to check out Jaime Richards’ column Balancing Loyalty.


Thanks guys! I LOVE YOU ALL! 😀

It’s Very Hard to Let Go and Move On…

Originally posted on Facebook on May 10, 2011:

Well it’s hard to explain but I’ll try if you let me.
Well it’s hard to sustain,
I’ll cry if you let me.
This doesn’t change the way I feel about you or your place in my life.
(Please don’t cry)
Can’t you see I’m dying here?
A shot of broken heart that is chased with fear.

Angels cry when stars collide
And I can’t eat and I can’t breathe
I wouldn’t want it any other way.

My heart burns through,
My chest to the floor.
Tearing me silently, although abruptly
Words can’t hide as I’m taking you home
And I tried to see,
Tried to understand your words as I’m taking you home.

Angels cry when stars collide,
And I can’t eat and I can’t breathe
I wouldn’t want it any other way.

~ Angels Cry performed by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

WE’VE ALL dealt with pain at some point or another in each of our individual everyday lives. I’d hate to hear anyone trying to deny that they’ve never felt any kind of pain, be it emotional, mental, or physical pain—any kind of pain that is somehow inflicted on people using any kind of medium, is, well, let’s face it…excruciatingly painful.

We all live with some degree of pain and suffering in our everyday lives. Let’s just establish this statement as valid fact right now. It’s not just some willy-nilly opinion. It’s a fact.

It’s true that there are some of us out there in this great big world we call planet Earth that are seemingly more fortunate than others. But that statement aside, we all still live with happiness and sadness, and henceforth, with pleasure and pain as well.

But it’s also rather unfortunate for the multitudes of the broken-hearted to continue to hold onto some sort of pain, even years after the conflict has ended. I also acknowledge that I have not been so easily spared when it comes to dealing with pain either, and I hope and pray that many of you can relate here. Seriously.

I may be just one guy among the crowd, but I also hold onto lots of pain and bitterness here as well.

But this isn’t meant to be a tragic sob story where I’m the ultimate victim and all of you guys have to listen to how depressed I am at the moment.

This is a story about how to overcome years of hurt, years of scars and torment, and years of frustration trying to put up with so much crap in all of our lives.

I still pose the greatest and ultimate question of the universe.

What can each of us, as ordinary human beings, do to stop the pain from hurting us and dragging us down into a deep pit, and is there really a clear-cut solution to this?

I think we all know the answer deep down in our very hearts, minds, and souls that the only way to stop the hurt is to try to let it go. But the process of doing so (or even attempting to do so) is never going to be solved with the rub of a genie lamp, at least not in this reality it won’t. Sorry guys. This isn’t Aladdin. This is the real world, and in the real world, there’s problems to be solved, mysteries to crack and secrets to be revealed.

Although letting go of anything, especially the crappy stuff that life seems to throw at you, can be extremely difficult, I know for a fact that it  must be done. It’s been proven time and time again throughout the course of human history and through personal human experiences that the people who fail to try to let go of past hurts and open wounds eventually end up experiencing high levels of low self-esteem, a major lack of self-confidence and motivation to improve themselves, and in more severe cases, life-long depression and even suicide.

I myself, although at times I’d hate to admit this, deal with struggling to let go of my hurtful past as well, but I’m positive that I’m definitely not alone in combating this very struggle.

The fortunate news is that I have found a strong support group throughout the very course of my life—parents, teachers and even close friends and the closest of trustworthy friends—these guys have motivated me to never give up in trying to succeed, whether it’d be in school, or in charting my future college career.

I have long learned from the days since I was a mere little boy who was even unable to walk independently at all until the age of seven that personal success in anything that you strive for has an extremely heavy price to pay, but that the goals that you strive for and eventually accomplish through days, weeks, months, or even years of persistent determination and hard work will one day pay off completely.

But it still takes so much effort to try to get to the pinnacle of personal success.

The same principle applies with letting go of everything—every single hurtful event that has happened to anyone—letting go takes a lot of persistent work.

Moving on from a traumatic and hurtful event, however, is a whole other topic I could go into on another occasion.

While Step One is letting go, Step Two doesn’t have to necessarily be a principle called “Moving On”, so as much as to call it “Living Life Well.”

I think a lot of people develop a strong misconception that whenever they hear the words “Moving On” from something, they automatically equate that notion in their minds with the statement “Completely disregarding the past and everything that has to deal with it, and starting a new clean slate as if none of the traumas that I have previously experienced had never ever occurred in my life.”

This is a blindly false conception that has obviously persuaded many people to believe that after the danger’s over, you’ll end up living “happily ever ever after” in Andalasia, and that Heaven has finally come to Earth.

While that’s a great ideal to strive for (the very reason we humans have long strived for peaceful utopian societies), sadly, reality is not that kind or sweet.

Sorry to burst your bubbles guys.

But nevertheless, believe it or not, there is still hope in reality.

The hope that we all need to know, tell and grasp so badly primarily emerges from personal experiences and surviving the aftermath of a trauma.

Hope comes from seeing old faded scars on your arms and legs after having a bad fall, and needing immediate medical assistance to help heal your broken arms and legs.

Hope comes from stumbling headfirst into the dirt and gravel, the blood and sweat all dripping drop by drop from your forehead onto the ground, and then getting back up despite getting all bloody and sweaty.

Hope is shown in the soldier who comes home weary from war with bullet wounds in his side, and a prosthetic leg to replace the leg that he lost in combat.

Hope is shown in the bussinessman and businesswoman, whose companies have suffered financially over the past few years, and before almost closing down their businesses, the stock prices rise again and investors are pouring in asking for more shares and investing in them as soon as possible.

Hope is shown in the teacher, who, after trying months or even years of trying to get his or her students to enjoy learning the subject in the class they’re enrolled in, finds an innovative way from other mentors to motivate students to take a different approach to learning and teaching.

Hope is shown in the single parent, who, after divorcing with their ex-husband or ex-wife and is left to take care of the kids, still finds his or her greatest joy in raising kids who will appreciate what they have, even in the absence of another parent.

Hope is shown in the preacher, whose church ministry isn’t doing so well, but finds hope and trust in God to get through the hard times, and many months later, takes on the role of preaching to his congregation again.

Hope is shown in the doctor, who, after spending years of studying medical school and graduating, opens up a small clinic but struggles to find enough patients to get the business going until recently, a new medical breakthrough in research gets his patients to start coming in.

Last but not least, hope is shown in students, including one little boy who at one time struggled to crawl and walk, is now walking, running and studying to the very best of his abilities in order to set an example for his classmates as well his high school and beyond.

From laying to crawling, from crawling to standing up and walking, and from walking to achieving, I have not given up on hope on myself either because I know that there comes a time in my life when I can stand up and face my adversaries and not back down and cower in the shadows.

I no longer pity myself as much as I used to in my past, because looking back and looking forward, I can finally see that for the first time in my life as a young adult, the surgeries and the difficulties were all worth it, even if they did have to involve loads of pain and suffering on myself and my folks.

The scars don’t just remind me of a hurtful past, but serve as an even greater reminder of an even brighter future that’s right there in front of me. All I have to do now is to take the proper steps to travel down that road.

So here’s my last faithful piece of advice: Remember that everything you’ve ever done in your life, no matter how painful and grotesque it is, trust me, it will get better and I’m not kidding here either. I’m dead-on serious.

You are a continuous work in progress, a masterpiece molded by the hands and created in the image of a God who made you for a purpose. Don’t ever forget that.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

I’m not giving up. Instead, I am going to keep striving and work my butt off, all in the pursuit of finding hope amidst the pain.

I have now found motivation, inspiration and maybe even some innovation to improve myself and the lives of others.

Take care guys. Thanks for all the support.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

Striving to Be “Perfect?”

Originally posted on Facebook on February 26, 2011:

Miss ‘knowing it’s all good’
It didn’t slow me down.

Always second guessing
Look, I’m still around

Pretty, pretty please
Don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than
F**king perfect

Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you’re nothing
You’re f**king perfect to me.

~ F**ckin’ Perfect performed by Pink

WE ALL strive to be as “perfect” as we want ourselves as people, as human beings, to be. It’s in our human nature. People will all get self-critical, and sometimes in a negative sense, self-judgmental of our own physical appearances, the way we act, the way we talk and even the way we think things through. This occasionally can be an advantage for every person, since our conscience tells each of us as individuals that sometimes, we may go a bit too far and over-obsess on things or on the other end of the spectrum, we may not care enough about our physical appearances, our state of minds or our emotions and pretend like it’s none of our business to even care about. On one hand, the human conscience, the moral state (i.e. the moral mindset) helps to keep a person’s intrinsic motivation up to speed and we all try to tell ourselves that every once in a while, we all need to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Although we each, as individual people, try to constantly remind ourselves to live “healthy” lifestyles, the reality is, this obviously isn’t always true or factual.

The truth of the matter here is that there is one other determining factor that affects the mentality and emotional state of every human being on the planet: what other people say, do or think about us as individuals. Outside of our own consciences, the external remarks of other people can either do one of two things: boost one’s self-esteem and self-worth up and the said person will in time feel accepted by other people, or the opposite effect can happen here; the same said person can be hurt and forever scarred by someone else’s negative criticism…yes, maybe even just one remark like “You’re ugly. We’ll never let you join our sports team” or “You’re just stupid. You’ll never go to some prestigious school! So dream on jerk!” can start out as just a sad moment, this person may go home and sob into their pillow for a whole night, but the longer these incidents seem to multiply, the sadder this person will mentally and emotionally get, eventually manifesting itself into a life-long depression.

Have you ever felt that way before? Sad or depressed because people judge you based on your looks, your personality, your poor academics, all of the above or even none of the above?

Let me assure you that you are definitely not alone on this one.

Most of us all deal with issues, but not everyone dares to speak up and voice them. For these people, their reasons for never saying a single word about the issues that they deal with and go through are many, but I think I can perhaps guess some of the more obvious ones:

  • Some people are just very shy and have a more difficult time trying to advocate for themselves. This is especially true in young children, but can also apply to people at nearly any age.
  •  Some people have extremely deep emotional, mental, or spiritual wounds that they keep lodged inside themselves for many years and they never want to bring up the issues that caused them ever again because it might bring back haunting memories of the incident or incidents.
  •  Some are afraid that even if they openly admit their problems to other people, these other people might act like they’re listening to you, but on the inside, they could really care less about the issues that you’re talking about.
  •  Others are afraid that no one else can really relate to the issues that this person goes through.
  •  Still others are afraid to say anything because they’re not sure whether or not the issues that they might bring up will get them into some sort of trouble, and so they would rather keep their mouths shut than speak.

Though these are all understandable reasons, sometimes, it is important to have a catharsis with just maybe even one other person you can wholeheartedly trust, although I will admit that it can be rather difficult to actually find those people that will allow you to cry on their shoulders unwillingly with open arms. But that still doesn’t ignore nor undermine the very fact that you need to have that kind of catharsis, that openness to honestly share what’s on your heart and mind and what honestly bothers you.

As an imperfect person myself, I apparently still remain a strong and enduring inspiration to all of you out there that truly know me and love me for the person that you see. But here’s another shocking truth that even I have learned and have gradually have come to accept: the person that one sees on the outside may not necessarily be the true person on the inside. The only exception to this is when the said person boldly and firmly shows their true inner broken self to other people and these people, for the first time, see the imperfections in a guy or girl that these people thought were “perfect” in every way.

This is the common misconception that society seems to put on individuals, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Hollywood fame and fortune or just glancing at some random person passing by you on the street. Humans tend to have this presumption that when they look at other people, they won’t necessarily think, “That person over there must be going through some hard times too.” Instead, it’s the exact opposite. When you glance at someone else sitting next to you at a lunch table, on the subway, in a library, or even in the classroom, you’ll probably be thinking, “Dang, that person over there must be living the good life right now. He or she isn’t and doesn’t have to deal with all of the crap that I have to deal in my life!”

This is where we create this false image, this false conception that other people have lesser problems or maybe no problems at all to deal with in their everyday lives, and this is what makes them perfect in our eyes. This kind of conception is sadly, also a part of human nature, a human tendency to think that everyone else must be at a better place than you in life.

There is also no denying the fact that everyone does not think this way from time to time. I mean, believe me, I do it too, and I realize that this kind of thinking is one of the essential tenets of being human.

No one can’t and should ever say “No!” to denying this very fact because we all think this way deep down within our very hearts.

But the older I physically get, and the more I see the world—and all the people living in it—through my eyes, the more I notice that we humans are really imperfect creatures disguising ourselves as perfect beings on the outside even though we are very messed up on the inside. I have learned to teach myself to seek an understanding through conversing with my fellow peers and adults alike that I am able to see the problems that they deal with and go through and as I do, I am able to gradually see with both my visible eyes, as well as the eyes of my heart, the imperfections of nearly anybody come out and surface for me to be able to see.

Nowadays, whenever I leave an engaging and intimate conversation with someone, I always leave it with an ever greater understanding that I have just made contact with yet another human being that’s just as imperfect as me. As I have come to accept this newly acquired perspective on people and on life, I see with a brand new pair of eyes how broken others really are. The soft underbellies—the sentimental and emotional side of others—gradually emerge and for the first time, shed a few rays of light and strike a few chords deep within my heart as I can now clearly see with my newfound eyes.

My disillusioned eyes now finally reveal to me that in essence and in truth, the real world demotes our idols, not exalt them. It’s true that we have to learn how to praise our own “heroes” in life, but just remember that your heroes aren’t godly figures, and probably never will be.

They are imperfect people, just as you are.

Reread again the last few verses of Pink’s single that I quote: “Pretty pretty please if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing, you are perfect to me” (the last few lines in the entire song).

Though I acknowledge that Pink uses the f-word quite frequently in the song, I don’t necessarily view it as just random derogatory swearing. I believe that it actually brings out the true message that Pink wants to covey to her fans, that because there is no perfect person on this planet, we are all “f**king perfect”. We are all screwed up on the inside, and so the very idea of human perfection is sadly, a flawed one.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we humans shouldn’t strive for perfection, or ignore it at all for that matter.

Though we can’t necessarily be perfect in every single way possible, the goal here, I humbly believe, is to strive for the highest expectation that you could possibly set for yourself and strive for in life, and this doesn’t just apply to academics alone. It applies to nearly every aspect of human life. You have to know your limitations, so do as much as you can physically and mentally accomplish  and one by one, be proud of every goal and every milestone that you have achieved so far, and then just keep going.

Are you striving for perfection?  If you are, I can assure you that you are definitely not the only one today. I can guess that perhaps thousands of other people out there right now also try their very best and very hardest at being the “over-achievers” in life.

Therefore, I view the idea of total perfection  to be a totally overrated one in every way possible. But that should not ever  undermine the true essence of achieving, striving and most importantly, enduring to be the most successful person that you can be in life. Perseverance is the key to bringing out the very best qualities that you possess.

Now that’s what I can finally call true perfection.

Enough said.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

A Legacy of a Great Teacher: A Birthday Kudos to Jaime Richards (January 6, 2011)!

Originally posted on Facebook on January 6, 2011:

The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.

~ Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

ON CHRISTMAS Day, 2010, I was busy preoccupying myself by randomly surfing the Internet that evening until a particular link instantaneously caught my eye on Yahoo: Mr. Richards had just finished writing another column just in time for the Christmas season, and he appropriately titles this particular one The Greatest Teacher?

Now, why The Greatest Teacher?, you may ask? Well, he certainly isn’t writing about himself as the world’s greatest teacher, that’s for sure, since I’m pretty sure to him that would sound a bit too self-conceited to even say. But no, he isn’t writing about himself as the world’s greatest teacher. He’s writing about Jesus Christ.

Now, whether you are a Christian believer or not, I’m pretty sure that nearly everyone on this planet Earth (that’s right; nearly all 6 billion of us humans) at least respects Jesus in some way as a great healer, teacher, Rabbi, and carpenter. We all can at least say this without trying to dispute the common orthodox beliefs and messages that were either said by Jesus Christ Himself, recorded in the Gospel accounts of the New Testament of the Bible, or portrayed through Christian films like The Passion of the Christ and spoken about in various sermons by pastors everywhere across the globe.

But going back to the teacher lesson here, why do we even call Christ “the world’s greatest teacher”? Why do we even attribute this specific label to only Him? This certainly is a mind-boggling question indeed, and I’m almost certain that it could baffle even the most skeptical people out there. But still the same question remains. Why Jesus Christ?

My answer, in both secular, academic terms, as well as devoutly spiritual terms, is quite simple. Jesus Christ basically said who He really was multiple times as stated in the Gospel accounts, but only a very few really understood what He meant. Who were these few? The answer would be the twelve men that He called to be His most beloved disciples.

These disciples, in everyday terms, were Jesus’ companions, a bunch of men that He regarded to be His best buds, and He surrounded Himself with these men, and He became their teacher, their Rabbi, and they were his “students”; in fact, His only students in the whole wide world.

Now, back in the olden days, there were no such things as classrooms. Classrooms did not even exist in 1st century Palestine. But Jesus did take His disciples, his students on many field trips throughout the area: to mountaintops, to the Sea of Galilee, to Jerusalem, to the Temple in Jerusalem, to the Jordan River, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the wilderness etc. Nearly everywhere that Jesus went, His disciples would humbly tag along and learn many life lessons from this man.

Now from my perspective, I consider Him to be the Henry David Thoreau of his day, since He seemed to love nature and He traveled constantly around the areas that now comprise the modern state of Israel, and in addition, Christ constantly spoke of an unconditional love that could only come from the Father, and that this kind of love should be practiced among men, among people; hence the whole “Love thy neighbor as thyself” sort of deal, especially with His famous “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” line (Matthew 5:44).

Now, just from this one line alone, most people would think of Christ as a very loving guy, and He was in most cases. Of course, we should remember that He didn’t just speak of love and faith and just let that be. He also showed it to other people too through His actions, like rescuing Peter when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee or feeding the five thousand men who had gathered to hear Him speak or even raising Lazarus from the grave.

His actions conveyed that He had faith, love and hope, and He hoped and prayed that other people could learn this lesson as well.

This was the greatest accomplishment of Christ Jesus: to teach people to love and to hope and seek for salvation, and with it, a brighter future. Now I also believe that Mr. Richards here as a teacher has planned (from the very first day he became one) and continues to plan to do just this: to give some hope and love to all of his students so that they in turn could do the same to him. Mr. Richards’ actions have also proven and inspired me to be a better person as well and that in order to seek a more optimistic future, I must try all that I can to make my dreams a reality, and that in addition, he has a very passionate faith that helps to keep him going and going and going continuously, and best of all, he really doesn’t let anything try to get in his way and stop him from doing what he just loves to do. That’s the best quality that I love about him, really.

He helps to motivate me in ways that I never thought I could, and yet, here I am, making great strides today as a senior in high school to be the best that I can be as one of his students and as a great person in general, and I believe that many of you guys out there also firmly believe in this as well.

My firm philosophical point here: In order to be a great teacher and a great person as Mr. Richards is today, one must have a good, humble heart and a humble soul, and this goodness will eventually appear through one’s actions that he or she is loving, caring and kind, and then little by little, other people will start to notice and appreciate your humble heart and soul for being that Good Samaritan type of person and just showing your unfaltering support for them.

Despite what the world may tell you, one moral always stands the test of time: love always wins (as stated in the Golden Rule). If this is the case, there must be a reason why it’s even called the “Golden Rule” in the first place because it always rings true to all types of people no matter who are you or where you’re from, and Mr. Richards has certainly got this rule down, really down.

Now, the final question is, do we, his students, have this rule memorized in our hearts? I firmly believe that we should, and I thank Mr. Richards for reteaching me this lesson as well.

As my last wish, I wish you an AWESOME HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODAY JAIME! You really are one of my many living and breathing role models, not only as a teacher but also as a great guy as well (and now with over 55 years of life experience under your belt too)! Although I don’t think that I’m the only student that thinks this.

The truth is, we all love you and we all thank you for the kind of teacher that you are. I can see that you definitely live by Christ’s moral example, and well, I am also grateful that you do.

Have an awesome day today and celebrate A LOT! YOU DESERVE IT! 😀

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

P.S. Live by Christ’s moral example: http://www.insidebayarea.com/jaime-richards/ci_16924750 (and God bless you)!

A New Year’s Resolution for 2011: The Importance of the “Immerse Lesson!”

Originally posted on Facebook on January 4, 2011:

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.

~ Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

A FEW months back, I read one of many of Mr. Richards’ (AKA Jaime’s) columns that was appropriately and very amusingly titled, Wasting Time, in which he describes a valuable lesson on time management, and more specifically, time that is spent in doing productive and meaningful things, and learning new and valuable ideas and values which can propel the education of the said average high school or college student many times forward intellectually and spiritually.

In other words, on a simpler understanding, it is better to immerse oneself on learning about how the real world really works (the “real world” meaning the world outside of a school) and discovering a multitude of people who have found ways to not only survive in the real world just to get by and to merely “exist”, but really to LIVE for a change, and if you are asking, yes, there is a HUGE difference between these two words.

Look up the words “exist” and “live” in any modern-day American English language dictionary, and you might find striking similarities between the denotations of these two words and how closely related they might appear to be. For example, in the Webster’s New World Dictionary (Third College Edition), the very first definition for the word “live” says this: to be alive; have life. Now compare this with the very first definition of the word “exist”: to have reality or actual being; be.

While the definitions of the word “exist” and “live” at this point seem to have been swapped, another closer look at the other entries reveals a much different perspective on these mere words. So let’s have a look: the third defintion of the word “exist” says to continue being; live, while the fourth definition of the word “live” says to enjoy a full and varied life.

So there’s my point! While a mere existence on this planet Earth means that you are physically alive, it may not necessarily mean that you are emotionally, mentally, and spiritually alive. In other words, your physical body’s alive and functioning properly, but the heart is cold, the mind is a blank slate or has been dumbed down from years of watching ridiculously mindless television or pointless YouTube videos, and the soul is dead. I ask you, “Is this what being human really  means? To just live a plain and simple life wasting away every precious moment watching some person complain that some food tastes like crap at some kind of restaurant, as Mr. Richards points out with the ‘Man Angry at Subway’ videos that circulate around YouTube?”

I mean, don’t get me wrong here. I’ve seen plenty of those kinds of videos all over YouTube before, but after watching some video with that kind of content involved countless times, it actually starts to lose a lot of meaning and the jokes aren’t even hilarious to laugh at anymore. In some cases, those videos start to feel like they’re sort of a rude, tempting annoyance just waiting to lure you in just so you can see some guy acting in a very stupid manner. At that point, it starts to get very pointless and sadly, I’d hate this to say this, but YouTube is constantly filled with this kind of stuff, a visual junk food  appetizer if you will.

But on the other hand, I’ve also gone on YouTube to discover lots of intuitive and intellectual  videos that stimulate the mind, soften and warm the coldest, bitterest, and saddest heart and recharge the soul, like those TED talks for example:


Now those talks are really what I’m talking about (sometimes even in a literal sense). These kind of videos are truly thought-provoking and the speakers themselves encourage their audience to think not just with their logic-filled brains, but also to think and act on their hearts, which brings to mind a song like True to Your Heart that was featured on Disney’s Mulan, or even Mariah Carey’s Hero, respectively.



So why tie this “existing vs. living” differentiation with the Immerse Lesson? The answer is actually even simpler than you might think. The two are interconnected.

The real point of the “Immerse Lesson” then, is this: If you choose to immerse yourself with the best thought-provoking and creative stuff around, you might be inspired within your own soul to do something similar, to help change the world because of this kind of ideal (I’m pretty sure no one can blame you for these mere ideals, but if someone does, then they need to relearn this vital lesson). These people would really need to, for they would need to believe again that ideas aren’t just simple ideas, but things that can motivate people to really change the world.

I believe in this lesson very strongly, but how about you?

I just hope you guys do too.

So go be immersed in something thought-provoking, something philosophical, and stop merely existing here. The only way to start LIVING is through total immersion of mind, body and spirit. Now, this is all I really have to say. Take care guys and thanks! 😀

This is my New Year’s resolution for 2011: the Immerse Lesson.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

P.S. http://www.insidebayarea.com/jaime-richards/ci_16569173

Just a reminder for everyone to read Mr. Richards’ column! 😀