Jason McSheene

An Outlet for Thoughts, Ideas, and Discussion

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Martin Luther King in 2016

I grew up in a town that only sometimes decided to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My mother kept us home on MLK day and, instead of enjoying a full day of “vacation”, brought us to the library to learn more about the heroes of our heritage. After a bit too much introspection, I’m sure it is my mother’s emphasis on equality which really drives the person I am today. When the preacher from Alabama was a man alive, leading millions in a movement across the US and the World, I was not alive. If the preacher from Alabama did not lead millions in a movement across the US and the World, my life would undoubtedly not be as fortunate as it is today.

MLK was driven by an understanding of his Christian faith that meant peace and love. Peace and love… I am not a Christian. I am not Jewish nor Muslim nor Buddhist nor a theist. I don’t think there is much supernatural in our lives, but I am not sure of that. However, I am positive that living my life in the light of peace and love is right. And I am happy that the forces of other faiths and philosophies can help others find peace and love.

Love does not lose to fear. I listened to some popular talk radio personalities recently. What struck me instantly was the complete lack of positive outlook. Without exaggeration, I do not think I heard one single positive statement. Instead, each sentence was forged in negativity, disgust, apathy, and (most notably to me) fear. We are in a time when it is easy to be afraid. There are Scary People in the news with Scary Agendas. They taunt and steal and kill honest, caring people. MLK dealt this directly.  Yet, he chose to act out of peace and love.

The Scary People, of the past and of the future, may have once been honest, caring people themselves until fear skewed their views and hearts.

Love does not fear the unknown or perceptions. Fear drives rash decisions that, on the surface, allow us to feel “safe”. Fear drives Scared People to war, motivates them to build literal and figurative walls, and causes them to hold to the familiar instead of embracing hope.

Love is no stranger to hope. MLK embodied love as a means to success. While he was not a morally perfect human being, he knew he had a mission: His mission was to lead the people of the world on the principle of equality via peaceful demonstration. He was the one who was called ugly names as he was arrested 5… 10… 15… 20… 25… about 30 times. King gave talks in the face of numerous, personalized death threats. He chose not to arm himself. He lived out his message, even when faced by the Scary People, Scary Times, and Scary Circumstances.

It is with this conviction which I try to live my life, in lieu of a solid doctrinal faith. I choose love when others are scared. When the Scared People and the Scary People let fear rule their lives, the world suffers.

Day 23: Recovery

Yesterday I was a bit excited about getting back into my workout routine… it’s easy to over do it. I over did it. Today, I learn how recovery is needed. Importantly, recovery is rest for a purpose besides recreation/relaxation. When losing track of the goal of the rest, you lose track of the period of rest. With that in mind, I’m eager to get back to my workouts.

Day 20: Appreciation

Taking 3 seconds to show appreciation for something you enjoyed could simply change the world. As people link success in one area of their lives to others (for better or worse), a simple “Thank you” could improve somebody’s outlook.

I received a brief thank you note via e-mail this morning and it was such a great start to my day . On another note, I am now more likely to appreciate other people. Thank you.

Day 16: Narrative

Each day I check in on myself, asking “How is Jason’s story playing out?”

Sometimes it is refreshing and motivating. Other times it can bring out my strong inner critic. These days the question brings many mixed emotions which I am charged with facing. As I continue my job search after graduate school, I must remind myself that my value as a person is not a reflection by my monetary value or corporate value.

This time of reflection has been amazing… but I am ready to get to work on some new and interesting problems.

Day 15: Music and Platonic Ideals

Music flows. When the musician creates each note, woven into the previous and foreshadowing the next, it is a beauty.

Whether it be classical concertos that have survived hundreds of years or an improvised jam session which will exist only for a few minutes in a bar on a Saturday night, the music remains intentional. There is a Platonic ideal behind each piece in which it is the musician’s duty to draw out into the real world.

The challenge to myself: What are the Platonic ideals that I am in charge of materializing in this life? What are the tools and arts needed to do this?

Day 13: My Sources

We had a housewarming party this past weekend. With it being the first time we have had company, it was really special having so many loved ones in one space — our space. Our family, our friends, our UU congregation, our coworkers… all there to mix (a little bit) and mingle.

Those are the people who keep me honest and driven. They are the ones who give some context to my life and lay a foundation for my work. Now I can take the energy left here and convert it into meaningful gains in my job search and development.

Day 12: Tempo

I am so used to the pace at which I live my life that I often expect those closest to me to practically read my mind. In professional settings, this is not an issue since I want to make sure the details of my work or projects are clear.

It’s time to change up tempos, to experience life in different ways. Slowing down, speeding up, syncopating, all are important to ensure growth. Which great musical artists ever had songs at the same speed, time signature, or key?

Day 11: Sharing Ideas

As a big political year approaches here in the US, it is interesting to see how the world has changed with social media. I am a Millennial who remembered the days before everyone had a cell phone or even access to the internet. Because of this, I can appreciate that many of my elders are adapting to the same types of communication I have had my entire adult life.

Important, I see the frustrations that result in everyone being able to share thoughts and ideas. Of course this is a good thing, since it promotes dialogue and inclusiveness. But it is also a challenge to those who grew up surrounded by people who only (broadly) had the same ideals.

Soon, only a post-Internet, post-Social Media life will be known. Putting aside the pros and cons, I feel particularly grateful to experience life on both sides of that paradigm shift.

Day 9: Fiction

Reading fiction novels was a major activity in my early teenage years. One series in particular, Young Jedi Knights, took up much of my time. As you could guess, it is about the newest Jedi to be trained under Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars universe. Since then, much of my inner world and attitudes have been inspired by characters in fictional titles. Of course they are not real, and often they are not fleshed out into realistic people, but that is some of the charm. In a way, it is nice to have a character fulfill a very specific role in a larger narrative. We know that Han Solo will have the wit and dislike authority… yet we also know he will come back to help save the day.

I try to take time to acknowledge my inner world. What does it look like? What are the rules? What is the environment? In the anime Bleach, the main character has an inner world composed of horizontal skyscrapers. It is in this world that he discovers himself, where he talks to the forces guiding him, and where he best understands his faults.

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