Posts Tagged With: inspiration

Systemic Epiphany

It just hit me in the shower.  I know what I’m interested in.  Not all those hobby-interests like dance, or reading, or even the career-interests like international studies, or medicine.  No, now I finally know what holds all of those little things together.  The overall component that piques my curiosity no matter the subject, the driving force behind every search for understanding within my multifarious passions:


It sounds so simple doesn’t it?

Forget the details behind each country’s foreign policy or the historical events that led to Bashar Al-Assad’s control over Syria.  Forget languages or the intricate anatomy of the human body and mind.  All of those details, all of those huge undertakings of research and the quest for understanding were just manifestations of one larger interest: systems.  I want to know how each piece fits into the puzzle.   How individual elements come together to create something greater.   How the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and what makes those parts fit into the whole; what makes the whole tick, and how does it operate independent of its components?

This holds true for every major interest I have ever pursued:

I grew up wanting to go into medicine.  I was fascinated by the body, how each organ did it’s part to promote the health of the whole.  How billions of individual cells came together to create a person.  How the brain directed each action, both consciously and unconsciously.  How surgeons could take things apart and put people together again.

This morphed into Cognitive Science.  What is consciousness?  How do cells come together to create a body that has a mind and a personality?  How does the brain/person control all of that?

Linguistics was a big part of that as well.  How does the brain comprehend sounds as meaning?  How do languages form?  How do the individual components of language come together to form words which form sentences which can be rearranged to create different meanings?  How do societies collectively attribute specific meaning to a string of sounds?

This bled further into Anthropology and International Studies.  How do societies form?  What holds them together?  How do individual people form groups that form nation-states and governments that can align with or against each other in greater organizations (such as the UN) and ultimately make up the world?

Lately I’ve been working at an insurance company.  While the work isn’t particularly inspiring, the company does offer several opportunities for education which I am trying to make the most of.  I have no interest at staying with this company forever but I’ve recently realized a budding interest in business.  Particularly in high-level business systems.  I want to understand how the company works.  How individuals form small departments that form big divisions that make up different branches of one over-arching company.  How money from one branch fuels the activities of another and a separate bucket is held in reserve.  How assets differ from cash flow and what business decisions affect one or the other.

Now, I’ve finally realized what my underlying interest has always been.   I want to know how systems work together to create a larger whole.

What are you interested in?  What drives your passions?  Leave a note in the comments.

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Bird Rock

Written 1 February 2013Bird Rock

The waves lap gently against the rocks, whispering secrets beyond my grasp. The pelicans perch proudly on Bird Rock as the sun sinks slowly behind a cloud on the horizon, scattering sunlight across the still-blue sky into rays of yellow above and hints of burnt gold beneath the purpling clouds.

The smaller birds grow restless as the day drifts closer to its end, smattering over the last scraps of food in the rocks and flying low over the water to head for a place to roost.

The ebbing tide soothes my own restlessness as the salty air fills my lungs. I still haven’t made a decision but the swirling clouds that fan from the day’s descending sun, swirling around like question marks in the pool of my mind, remind me that life is always uncertain.

I’m nearing the end of this day, of this chapter in my life. But the ocean will always be there, waves lapping soothingly or crashing vehemently over the rocks depending on the tide. And as the sun sinks hidden below a cloud, my future remains shrouded in mystery, with just a few golden glimmers of possibility shining through.

I may not know what the future holds but I do know that tomorrow the sun will shine, the waves will continue, and the world will greet another day.

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I came across this poem today and was struck by how appropriate it is for any journey, striving to reach any goal.  Of course, since I love both travel and Greek mythology, that just makes it even better, but the message is the most important:

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty,
if a fine emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

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A Different Home

To most people, home is a warm bed, a house on the hill, shade under a favorite tree, or a familiar street.   To me, home is all of these and more.  Most importantly, however, my home exists in my heart, no matter where I am.  My home is more than a specific location; it is a set of ideals that influences the way I live.

In winter, my home is a house in the rural town of West Point, the foothills of the grand Sierras.  But growing up, summertime meant home was the whole of California: the roads leading to every fairground and festival site in the state. This is where my life began. Not in the hospital where I was born or the small town where I went to school; for though my house rested on the dirt and pine needles of West Point, I grew up on the sun-baked asphalt of the fairgrounds.

As a young girl I had plenty of curiosity and creativity to spare.  These qualities thrived at the fairs.  As my parents and I moved from one venue to the next, the variety of people and constant change of surroundings thrilled me.  I met so many different people during those years: fairgoers, performers, exhibitors, and concessionaires.  People of all ages, backgrounds, races, and cultures went to the fairs.  Many of these people traveled extensively throughout the state, the country, and the world.  For instance, Tom (aka. “The Giant”), the airbrush artist spent winters painting for car shows in Japan.  Jimmy, the “Corn Dog King” wintered in Florida before retiring to a remote lake in Canada.  Dwayne, the ear-piercer/lawyer had studied all over the world, learning medicine in Croatia and gemology inThailand, while vacationing in Argentina and Cuba.  I listened avidly to these people’s stories, which sparked my curiosity and made me eager to learn more.  As my parents and I moved from one fair to the next, I looked forward to meeting new people and hearing new stories.

As I explored the world through others’ words, I also began to explore my own ingenuity. I was five years old when I started my first business.  I set my young entrepreneurial spirit and creativity to work, setting up a milk crate and a cardboard box next to my parent’s stand.  With twist-ties, Styrofoam cups, and a pen I created animals, rings, and decorations that I sold to anyone who gave me a second glance.  I greeted people’s surprise with a smile and asked everyone who passed if they would like to buy something. They could not say no.  The success of this business helped make me the confident, forward thinking person I am today.

The environment on the fairgrounds allowed my creativity and curiosity to flourish.  The nomadic life of working fairs meant I was never tied to one particular place.  I was at home wherever I could explore, learn, and engage in the world around me.  I knew life had no limits.  As I grew, my curiosity about other people and places evolved into an insatiable desire to travel.  I realized that as long as I could exercise my creativity and curiosity, as long as I could learn and stretch the parameters of my understanding, I would be home.

For me, home is not a certain place, but rather a state of being, doing, and learning.  As a child I roamed the fairgrounds: young, impressionable, and willing to learn; now I aspire to wander the world: still young, still impressionable, and yearning to discover more places to call my home.

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Clinton Global Initiative

Today has led to several interesting conclusions:  about life,  innovation, and initiative, as well as the state of the world in which we live and the people we share it with.   I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego.   From my experience, UCSD has a reputation for being “socially dead”, for lacking school spirit, and for being somewhat self-absorbed and removed from the community.   I’m not usually one to succumb to such blatant stereotyping, though I do take them into account (usually with heavy amounts of salt), but UCSD has surprised me this year.  We have continually moved up in rankings and made significant innovations and contributions to the world in various fields (though in my opinion our excellence as an institution of rigorous study and learning was never in question), but in just the past week everything has been taken to a new level.  I have never felt so much pride for my university as I have in the past two days.

One saying UCSD likes to throw around is “Six colleges, one great university”.  This statement is true, but rarely is the solidarity it implies really seen on campus.  Students stick to their own niches in their own colleges, which keep up a gentle competition with each other similar to sibling rivalry.  Tonight, however, no one was asked what college they were from.  The student body was proud to be part of something much larger than itself.  UCSD was one.  It was both united and part of a larger whole.  UCSD wanted collaboration and cooperation: not just within the student body, between colleges or individuals, but with students from other universities and other countries, with former presidents and current inventors, and in some sense, with all of humanity.

The excitement was palpable.  The arena was bright with lit up faces and excited chatter.  President Clinton was the star of the show, at least from the students’ perspective, but he soon turned the crowd toward a greater purpose.   You could feel the minds racing in the room as inspiration struck.  Soon awe gave way to contemplation and a critical approach not just to the speakers’ message but to the world of possibility.  Tonight, we joined together with hope: that the youth of our nation would provide innovative solutions to the world’s problems; that the university would serve as a diving board stabilizing, raising, and propelling students forward into the depths of change so that progress could be made; and that a simple idea could better the world.

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Poem: Books We Haven’t Touched in Years

(A poem inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye)

The person who wrote Yes!
in margins

Someone else
tempers her enthusiasms,
makes a small “v”
on its side
for lines
worth returning to.

A farmer
stares deeply
at a winter field,
rich rows of corn.

In the mild tone
of farmers, says
Well, good luck

What happened to us?

He doesn’t dance
beside the road

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Poem: Existence


In a gilded cage

of blue skies and sunshine.

This sky’s out of reach

and its sun hammers down,

seeking to evaporate the soul

leaving a dried out husk of being


unattainable eternity

stretched on the horizon

every possibility behind


Poised on the moment

the Shadow between thought and action

the Space between movement and stillness

teetering on the brink

of deliberate existence.

One move

to make the chains dissolve

One choice

to attain true freedom

One thought

to break free


And all it is

to be.

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My [past-]Midnight Creation


Motion from a single touch

creation in a finger’s tip

from whomever holds the brush

or from immortal water sips.

While others laugh,

this mind doth drink

to make the means

and art, to THINK.

The Muses play but can’t perform

when artists of their ears are shorn.

The story behind it:

I went to bed exhausted but couldn’t sleep.  Around 2am, rubbing lotion into my hands gave me inspiration and I quickly grabbed a notebook and pencil. I wrote this the first time through, finally actually CREATING something.  This made me happy, but at the same time sad.

I miss creativity, and art, and literature, and Shakespeare, and poetry, and critical analysis, and all of those often annoying but absolutely wonderful things my crazy schedule no longer allows time/energy/inspiration for.  I’m doing a lot at once this quarter, but I feel like art is missing (dance has been replaced by fencing, classes on Shakespeare replaced by computer programming, reading for pleasure replaced by studying for midterms, analyzing interesting literature replaced by writing three essays on the same dry and poorly-written historical article).  I’m enjoying what I do (it is college after all and there are so many fascinating things one can learn here) but I’m too artistic a person to go without some form of creative expression and analysis.  Perhaps I will try to fit in time dedicated to some form of art on a regular basis, ita.

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