Humanity is a Puzzle, and We are the Pieces

In my humble opinion, a good analogy to describe humanity is a puzzle. When put together, a puzzle becomes one; it forms an image that cannot be gathered from any individual piece of the puzzle. The end goal of course is to have one complete puzzle, but what makes it a puzzle? If it were a photograph or a painting, it would be one cohesive entity. The unique thing about a puzzle is that it is made up of individual pieces that must fit together in order to form the larger image.

And that makes us, each individual, a puzzle piece. As pieces, we are not whole when the puzzle lies apart, deconstructed. We desire to fit in seamlessly with the pieces around us. But we need not host the entire image, we are only each a small piece that makes up the entire image. Do not confuse being an individual piece, however, with being expendable.

You see, every puzzle piece is unique. No other piece can take its place and still form the proper larger image. A puzzle is incomplete if even one of the pieces is lost or destroyed. This makes the individual pieces as important as the larger image. The larger image cannot exist without the individuals that make it up.

The reason I am explaining this is that some seem to view individuals as unimportant and worthless. I wholeheartedly disagree. Without individuals, there is no humanity, so how can you say that the pieces which make up the whole are unimportant? What many mean is that any one piece is not important for the larger structure to come together.

Again, I disagree. Something will be missing in the larger picture if we do not treat each individual as the important, unique puzzle piece they are. We are all connected, or at least the potential for us to all be connected exists. As individual puzzle pieces, our ultimate desire is to become one.

This is akin to what many religions believe happens after death. The reason we cannot imagine paradise, heaven, or perpetual bliss is because we are coming from the perspective of a puzzle piece, and the ultimate reward is to exist as a puzzle, all put together with no missing pieces.

I see this as the source of hate, jealousy, fear, regret, doubt, and insecurity. We are uncomfortable existing as puzzle pieces when we know our ultimate and complete state is as one puzzle. But we are comforted when we connect to other puzzle pieces around us. It feels right to love. It feels right to be connected to those people around you with whom you fit.

We desire to be part of a group, but the group needs the right pieces in order to exist. The parts must not be random, there are specific pieces that fit into other pieces. This is what our lives are about, understanding our own shape as a puzzle piece so that we may find the pieces with which we seemlessly fit, doing our part to complete the puzzle, and become whole.

And when you are a part of a group, a loving family, a tight knit cluster of friends, you feel a glimpse of that joy that comes from being whole. Of course the entire puzzle may not be constructed, but we relax and feel in control when our own section starts to form. And darkness overcomes us when we try to force two pieces to fit together, when they are not meant to.

So remember, do not destroy or damage other pieces, as the whole picture will then be unable to come together. Each puzzle piece is important, including yourself. Connect with those that you fit with, but do not force a connection when it is wrong. In time you will all be one, but the puzzle must be naturally constructed.

And when all the pieces fall tightly into place and we exist as a puzzle, as one, we will all forget what it felt like to be a piece of a puzzle, and live on endlessly as one, unfathomably content because we are complete.

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Do It For The Perspective: Money Isn’t the Only Valuable

I’m back! As in, vacation me which is my natural state of happy existence. Even my cousin could tell the change in tone from when I started this blog in July, and as of late. But there is something about getting out there, seeing new things, and talking to new people that breaks down this mundane and lethargic shell. The shell that says it is not that important to enjoy every minute of life, the shell that convinces us money is more important than living life to the fullest.

[By the way I’m going to mix in pictures of Barrow throughout this post for no apparent reason other than it makes me happy.]

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Being a relatively responsible person, I was a bit stressed about money before this trip. And it helped that I spent about $70 fewer dollars on gas on the way down. But really at the end of the day, I know I am not going to go into crippling debt. So why would I let a few hundred dollars make or break a vacation?

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So of course my advice to you all is go do it. Whatever it may be for you. Catch up with college friends, family members; this week will hopefully be full of that (as long as you don’t get snowed in). The more often I change my scenery, the easier it is for me to understand that it is far more important to live than exist. But it is a good thing I planned this trip far off, because when I am out of real-me-mode, it does seem a lot easier and cheaper to just stay home. If I had waited until last week to make a decision on this trip, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. Kind of like my New York City trip, where I was on the edge until the night before: “It is going to be such a hassle!”

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Yea, you know what, it is a hassle. And everything in the world is a cost benefit balance. The benefits of enjoying myself and growing as a person far outweigh the monetary, time, and energy costs of taking these trips. I don’t see the family that is down here super often, so having the chance to connect over the last few days (and the next) has been amazing. What if I had forgone this trip, and not spent time with my relatives, reconnecting, and getting to know each other more? Well maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable on the outside, but really it would be another crack in the pillar of happiness. Instead, I threw down some mortar, and popped another block on top of that pillar.

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Perspective is valuable.

In a material society it is hard to place value on things that you can’t hold in your hand, or buy for $300. But maybe we should stop thinking of our lives as separated: the family self, the friend self, the work self. Maybe it is time to think of skills and knowledge as something that will make us whole. Life experiences should grow you as a person, not separate you into different people. It could help to think less of, “How will this increase my earning potential?” or “Is this the most I could gain during my only 6 hours off this week?”

I used to only read non-fiction political books. I wanted to go into politics (what was wrong with me?!) so I didn’t want to waste my time reading non-fiction. This is especially ironic since I am now writing fiction books; turns out all that fiction wasn’t a waste of time! But even if I didn’t want to write, it would not have been a waste of my time. That is because A, it was enjoyable, and enjoying your time is not a waste, and B, perspective!

How can you think you know what is up with the world if you have only viewed it from one angle? How can you think you know yourself if you have only viewed you from one angle. I’m finding I like vacation me best. I’m more positive and I have more fun. It is a struggle to keep that attitude while not on vacation, but at least I have a marker, a goal. When do you like yourself the most? That is the real you. You do you.

Perspective makes you less judgmental.

Yesterday I stopped by an outdoor bar on the Gulf of Mexico. I ordered a Yuengling which just so happened to help strike up a conversation with the grey goateed man with a Harley hat named Eric sitting next to me. He was from Philadelphia, where one of the breweries is based, and my bartender was asking me if I noticed a difference between southern and northern Yuengling because of the different brewing locations (I didn’t).

So anyway we get to talking and he is telling me about all the redneck guys in the area. Sure, there was some poking fun at them, but the crux of the story was that they were some of the nicest guys he has met. One big burly man walked up to Eric while Eric was with his friends. “Is that Eric?” The friends tensed up, was trouble brewing? “JOE!!” Yells Eric and jumps to his feet to give Joe a big bear hug, because that is how they greet each other whenever they cross paths.

At a local bar Eric once walked in, and some ZZ Top looking fellas said (or maybe it was their beer that said it), “Who’s this f**ing guy?” Eric just laughed, “How you doing boys”, and bought them each a round of beer ($2.50 for a PBR, not bad). The rest of the night, they were like old friends. Now THAT is how to diffuse a situation. Eric had perspective, and was not going to be brought down. Turns out he was a Sociology major, just like me.

Perspective makes you less stressed out.

It could be so much worse. I could have been left alone from 15 up raising a younger sibling while Dad just dropped off groceries once a week. Maybe that is why he can’t read so well. I could be called weekly by a parent’s neighbors to come round them up. Maybe that is where his stress comes from. Those are real people I met: awesome people who are productive, nice, and don’t complain.

I’m not immune, I still complain. But the more perspective you get, the more pathetic you feel for complaining that you had to wait 30 minutes to get picked up from CCD (you like the plug Mom and Dad?). Oh right, and I have a Mom and Dad who care enough to encourage me with what I want to do (even though it doesn’t make me money yet), and read my work. Thanks 🙂

I could break down on the drive home halfway back. But you know what? I wouldn’t be alone. Yea, physically I would. But it would not rest solely on my shoulders to get me out of there, and that is priceless. How can I be stressed out when I think of the worst that could happen, and it really isn’t that bad.

I’m happy, I’m grateful, I’m energetic, and I want you all to be too! I love positive people. Be positive. It is not always a competition, you can encourage others without feeling less about yourself. Do what you love, when possible don’t stress. Set goals, big and small. But most important, don’t just exist, live.

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The Shortest Friendship of My Life

Do what makes you happy today (assuming you’re not a serial killer or something) because you never know if you will be here tomorrow. Yes, I am trying to be all bright and happy, but everyone gets a reminder of their mortality from time to time. My most recent reminder happens to be linked to the very event that sparked this blog, and this attempt to enjoy every second of life. It makes it all the more important to love life, enjoy yourself, and cherish the time you have with friends and loved ones.

I went to something called the Porcupine Freedom Festival the last week in June. It is about politics to some degree, but the community at this week long event is really where the fun comes in. I left having made new friends, spent one of the best weeks of my life with them, and adopted this positive attitude to bring back to my everyday life, in order to have fun with the otherwise mundane.

Unfortunately upon returning home, last Monday I found out that a new friend of mine who had attended the event for 3 days and sang for a half hour slot on that Wednesday, had died in a car accident on that Friday, once back home in Wisconsin. His name was Drew, and he was 20 years old, and truly one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. He was into music, had a great indie style, made some of his own songs, and covered others—I liked a cover he did of Lady Gaga. We hung out by the campfire for two nights with a few other new friends, and caught up after his set on Wednesday before he headed back home with his dad.

It was the shortest friendship I’ve ever had in my life, and I fully expected to see him again. He was talking about coming back to the coast within a few months and attending PorcFest again in 2015. I intended to keep up with his music; already I was encouraging him to do some open mic nights in Milwaukee, maybe throw another Lady Gaga cover in there, and keep practicing his unique style. It was such a shock, and a very strange feeling to hear that he died just two days after I had last saw, just 5 days after first meeting him. I didn’t know him extremely well or very long—there was simply not enough time, but there was something very pointed about the situation.

I don’t want to make someone’s death all about me, but I want to explain the impact Drew had on me in the short time I knew him. Here was an event we attended, that had such a positive impact on me, influenced me to create a new blog, and take home a whole new enthusiastic attitude on life, partly because of Drew and people like him who I had become friends with at the festival. And then, one of those very people I became close with, part of what made the festival so great, who was inextricably linked to that week, and the impact it had on me, died immediately following the event. There was a piece of that week that I was not going to be reacquainted with, a piece that I couldn’t experience again, that I would never have back, no matter what situation I found myself in.

It was as devastating as it was symbolic. It serves as a reminder, and an influence as I start on this new journey (with this blog as my breadcrumbs) to have a positive attitude, and enjoy every moment in life. I’m so glad I spent those hours with Drew, and was able to have him in my life for what little time was possible. You never know when you, or someone you love, will leave this world; don’t spend the time you have second guessing yourself, or sulking. Drew didn’t: he drove from Milwaukee to play his homemade music in front of strangers, some of whom, like myself, were lucky enough to become his friends. He took a chance, he did what he loved, he put himself out there, he emanated radiant vibes, and he had fun doing it.

I am so grateful I got to meet Drew before he died, and spend some of his last days on earth with him. He may be gone as a person, but the influence he had on me in the very short time I knew him will not fade, and will live on as a piece of me. The positive, funny, warm hearted person that I knew him as would be proud at the opportunity to help others realize their potential, step out of their comfort zones, and live their lives chalk full of energy and passion. Be like Drew, and do this life for you, enjoying every second of it; you may never know how far the ripples you create in this world will spread. Drew jumped into the pool of life doing a cannonball.