Monday, December 27, 2010

mirror, mirror.

they always looked so lonely to me, and i never understood how people could be so cruel as to keep them in such a small bowl, floating in one place for, well... for the rest of their lives. siamese fighting fish, or betta fish, live solitary lives not because it is cruel as i had thought growing up, but because in most situations they will attack or kill any other betta fish they are near, as they are very territorial.

i recently visited my brother tim in washington, dc, and he had one such amazing fish. it had a beautiful long tail, multi colored in purple and blue's. we began to talk about it and he was telling me random facts and behaviors of this 'lonely' fish and mentioned its aversion to mirrors. i had never heard about this and so tim showed me, the 'trick' is to hold a mirror up to the tank of the siamese fighting fish and it will puff up to more than twice its size because it thinks that in the mirror is another betta fish and must now defend its territory. it worked, the fish grew exponentially and it was fascinating to see. we tried it a few more times but i soon felt cruel myself because even after the mirror was gone the fish would swim in circles looking for its attacker.

mirror. the enemy was a mirror.

i am a betta fish. i would assume if were honest with ourselves that most of us are. it is so easy to see others flaws, we can judge at ease, and mocking silently is a sad habit for most of us. we can see easily the problems and map out the obvious solutions in others but when it comes to us, we maintain that 'though we are not perfect, others are worse'. and then comes the mirror.

not to many of us have true mirrors in our lives, they are a very few HONEST select friends, loved ones, or lovers that show us exactly who we are or what we are doing. they inform us that we are failing, that we have a personality flaw, or we are not living up to our potential. and what do we do? we blow up, we circle, and then look to attack. most of us cannot handle the truth when we come face to face with the honesty in the mirror. i know i can't, i want to believe that i have it sorted, that i have come to a place in my life where i am 'good' or have most things figured out. but i don't and it was idiotic to think that i have anything figured out.

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
- William Shakespeare

for those who are blessed (like me) to have a mirror, make sure the next time they are honest with you that your first reaction is NOT to blow up or attack, because from observation that seems to lead to a very enclosed and lonely life. we can all change, we can all reach far beyond what we ever thought possible in our own lives but it is going to take working through those areas in life that are lacking.

'The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.'
Proverbs 12:15

there is someone reading this who thinks they have it figured out or is pretending that they can't relate to this post... and for those people i have a challenge. find your mirror, and ask. thats it. just ask. ask them what areas they feel you can change, or from the outside what do they see in your life is holding you down. most of us don't want to hear the answer... i know i don't. but we have too if we hope to keep from an isolation and stagnation. don't fight your mirror, just stare.


'we have found the enemy, and he is us.'

Friday, September 10, 2010

the aints

i think i was more excited about getting the used and dented helmet than actually what i was going to use it for. i lined up in a single file line, filled with anticipation, that wrapped around the small shed-like brick building. all boys were right around my age, no older than 12. i was asked my last name, crossed off the list, and then handed a green mesh shirt which i proudly wore around the house for the rest of the day, and most of the next. the helmets were white with a police sticker on the side of it, it looked like a badge but to me the whole outfit was a trophy itself.

pee wee football, in my mind, was close to the NFL and spending many sundays sitting next to my dad watching him cheer for the cowboys, i felt it was my turn on the 'gridiron'. there was one small problem though, literally. i was actually develop more like a cheerleader, and not so much a cowboy. i was stick like and more than once my mother worried i had some virus or parasite living in me, keeping my weight to an all time minimum.

that didn't matter to me, i was more focused on the upcoming mouthguard that i needed to purchase than on my weight, the other players, or the game itself. you see, sometimes we as humans work up our expectations so much that when the event finally arrives it (or they) could never come close to what we have seen on television or the dramatic love-inspired-final-second-90-yard-drive ending of the movie scene. i was set out to earn the uniform and the pride that ensued on opening day of pee wee football pre-season.

i sat on the sideline most of the first half but right before the whistle my number was finally called. for those who do not know football i will try my best to explain in terms even i had yet to learn while entering that grassy field at sertoma park in winter haven, florida that day. i was supposed to be on the defensive line, a position put aside for the biggest, car axel bench pressing, boys that look more like grown men with facial hair type of position. i was no such thing. not even close.

it took me a second to figure that out but it dawned on me as i looked around beside me to the left and right in a three point stance (something i had learned not by being taught but by looking around). then was the moment of truth, "down, set...."

at the word 'hike' the quarter back snapped the ball and dropped back, at that second the double-sized of me offensive player lining up across the line jumped at me with his hands raised high to block me, i lunged at him but at the last possible second i spun to the right side and with my powerful left arm i shoved him to the ground using his momentum to plant his face like a michigan farmers seed right into the ground. at the look of tenacity on my face and the fact that i was screaming a warpath chant carried down for generations from my indian heritage the quarterback scrambled away from me as fast as he could flee trying to make it around the pile of bearded boys into the open space to run down the field. but he had no such luck, because as the quarterback was running around the side another of my mustached friend was waiting for him, so he turned around, but as he did i was already in full stride, and like a F-16 fighter jet taking off i, i took off flying parallel at a high speed heading on a crash collision course for the quarterbacks hips. i landed with my shoulder pads so squarely into his body that i felt his undeveloped bones rattle around in that one-size-to-big local eatery uniform of his and he let go of the ball to protect what was left of his face as he abruptly slammed into the ground.

the ball bounced around here, then there, then here again and i dove on the ball, and because we were so close to the end zone i stood up to find that i was in fact there, in the end zone, and had just scored a touchdown. the crowd went wild, my mother wept, and my father looked around and yelled "thats my boy" to whomever would look in the direction of his more than audible tenor yell.

as the ambulance was called and what was left of the other player (don't worry he was fine) was hauled off the field i was hoisted on the other man-childs arms and carried around the field in a impromptu parade held in the honor of that victorious moment. ok thats what should of happened. or something like it. but it didn't.

what really happened was this... i lined up on the defensive line and on the word 'hike' instead of running straight ahead toward the quarterback and ball i thought it would be better to run around the pile of man-children. so at 'hike' i stepped back, ran to my left, around the pile and seeing other people on the ground i decided to jump on them to make sure that the ball handler was really down. the thing is the play was already over, the whistle had already been blown, and the players were getting up to begin the next play, and it wasn't until that point that i tackled them. the referee called a penalty, and my coach was was yelling at me so loud the people in the next field wondered what the commotion was all about. as i approached the bench the coach couldn't help but reiterate everything i had heard him scream while on the ground moments ago.

'what is wrong with you? have you ever even played football before?'

'well coach, no. i've never played football before, but i've watched it on tv!'

in life we have so many expectations. we think we know what a family trip, friendship, committed relationship, or career is going to be like because we have built up this huge story line with an amazing ending in our heads. we may have seen it on TV, or in a movie, or read it in a book, or just our wild daydreams, but reality is much different then our imagination shows it to be. even 'reality television' is scripted.

we need to become a blank canvas, or a film not yet shot, to truly enjoy what we have later in life. we should not attempt to paint a picture of the eiffel tower before we have been there, it only leads to disappointment and heartache. what we have and hold dear in our head is just that, its in our head. when we project and fantasize how we want our boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife to be or act before we even meet them we have already ensnared them into a jail or box that they may never want to be caged in. allow them to be who they are, and fall in love with them for them. the more expectations that you thrust on them to be who you want the more disappointment you will live with day in and day out.

my football career and that season of pee wee football was all but over even before it began, it was a tough pill to swallow, but i later found a career that didn't need or want me to be 6'7 and 285 pounds. if i had painted my canvas that day with the expectation to play professional football i would be greatly disappointed. but instead i let life be, and take me where it wanted and i am much happier for it today.

let life be, and one day you will look back on a fulfilled life, try to take control and set lofty guidelines and you are only setting yourself up for what if's and could-have-beens.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

we are all going to die.
just a heads up.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


i was driving home one night, hours from home and my favorite passenger was fast asleep. i rarely turn on music when i drive, most bands i listen to our not good for 3 AM dark, long stretches of highway anyway. i usually listen to some sort of talk radio, (you hear the most random and borderline insane theories on backwoods talk stations). i stopped on a story about an all to familiar character, but this was not about his headlines, but about the low points of his life.

when it comes to the past we often hear of the success, but rarely ever of the failure. if you think about it you never hear anyone at a funeral walk on stage and belittle the deceased or question publicly their character, you only hear the positive even if there is very little to speak of. in the same light i had heard more positive stories than negatives of this american man. i had listened to the speeches, envisioned his dreams, read books, and even wrote several papers on his influence in my own life.

but this radio program was different, it delved into the psyche of a man who, near the end of his life, felt defeated. he even said in a few different speaking engagements how he felt that his dream may never come to pass, he even predicted that he wouldn't be around for long, and that they (the movement) should continue without him. and that is where we pick up.

great men, or women, with great visions, who rebel against the social norm usually end up in a coffin, in a prison, or even a cross. but then what? what happens when the shepherd is struck, do the sheep always scatter? i believe that when the vision, belief, theology, or philosophy is noble and just then it stands the test of time.

the principal of change through non-violence is nothing new to our system, though it goes against everything we as humans feel is in our human nature. it is easier to to punch then to be punched. it is more convenient to shoot than to be shot at. it is in our core to survive. yet look at mohatma ghandi? an entire government was overthrown through such peaceable means.

i have no desire to overthrow the government but i do desire change, not in a system but in 'we the people'. we have to continue to fight to create or more civil union not in a political party but amongst us the diverse races of this world. we owe it to ourselves to end racism in our generation, to see the good in people, to fight against segregation, and to become a more just and non-judgmental global community.

since when did bullets
start to sing
it didnt have to end like this
is this the end of everything
it didnt have to end like this
i feel i feel we can't stop
it doesn't have to end like this
we owe this to ourselves
we can't just let this go
if every man became a king
we could start it off with this
we could do more than just dream
we could start it off with this
i feel i feel the change is here
we owe this to ourselves
to fight to lead
we can't just let this go

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the root of opportunity

the slogan 'stay in school' is not just grossly overplayed, it really doesn't explain anything. it is more like a command, 'here is what you must do. why you ask? don't ask just stay'. this revelation hit me as i walked the halls of my mothers K-6 school in Haines City, Florida (probably because it was plastered on a few walls). I was there for a 'release party' my mother called it, not a record. butterflies. we gathered the children around, songs were sung, lessons were given, and i had the duty of releasing them into the 'wild'. These kids were asked to stay but i wondered if they truly had any idea why.

that night i spoke at the community college i attended. afterwards i was asked to give a brief interview for the schools newspaper and one of the questions was 'do you think your education has had an impact on your career'. that's when my thoughts started flowing and i realized that it had not only everything to do with my career but with life.

education is the root of opportunity. the more education we receive the more doors that will be opened. its not about 'stay in school' or 'be cool stay in school'; i honestly think were selling it to ourselves all wrong! if you really want to see eyes opened and imaginations soaring then try explaining the numerous benefits of what higher education can do! try asking them to imagine the limitless empowerment that the future could hold. try explaining that they do not have to live out their parents lives, if only they would absorb and continue. its a daunting task, but its reality.

its not just about opportunity either, it has other lifetime implications as well. its about the ultimate defeat of racism. we as humanity 'fear the unknown,' and if we do not know or understand other races, cultures, religions, ideas, etc. then by NATURE we fear it. if we fear it then we mentally make an enemy of it, we avoid it, we label it so we feel in control or superior to it. want to end racism in your community? fight for better education. i would love to see statistics of non-high school graduates and then master degree students in percentage of those with racist tendencies. i think we would be floored by the fact that opening your mind and gaining an understanding of the world around us allows us to accept and even embrace others.

its not just about racism either... just yesterday i read an article in 'the week' stating the fact that people with higher education are less likely to get a divorce. relationally effects us.

its not just about opportunity, divorce, racism, etc. its about the development of you. its about reaching your potential as a human being. its about not having the questions of who could have i become if only i...

and i know what some of you are thinking, i don't think i am smart enough!: you are reading an online journal from the patron saint of middle school dropouts. honestly my grade point average hovers on a good day right around the number two. i worked so hard to get so little it felt. i was so jealous of my two younger brothers who never had to study and still made A's, meanwhile my ADHD brain was to busy thinking about some random etching in my desk about who loves who to even attempt to concentrate on what PIE equaled. in high school the guidance counselor took me in her office and asked me what vocational school i would like to sign up for (side note: there is NOTHING wrong with trade school!) and i even questioned myself if i could do that!

so after high school i did what most people who don't believe in themselves do, i got a job at the bottom rung of the ladder picking weeds at an amusement park. and i did this for awhile! day after day i would wake up at 5AM and run lawn mowers, or plant bulbs, or blow off sidewalks. but after a few months i realized that this couldn't be it, i looked at the men who had been working at this job for years and years and i knew i didn't want to be like them. this couldn't be it. this is not what i was meant to be.

i didn't gamble on the lottery, i didn't hope for someone to see my raw leadership talent and move me up to corporate amusement park management, i didn't even put in my resume in the food service part of the park... i applied for community college.

so i have a new slogans i would like to pitch and implement in the global educational community.

it is the only thing that separates you from where you want to be in 10 years.

do you really want to end up exactly like them? i mean really? exactly?

because people on the other side of the world don't all hate you.

because picking weeds really sucks at 5AM.


post script: my sister and i have always struggled with good grades, but she fought and fought. now she is enrolled in Florida State getting her Masters in Psychology, and i couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

one safe couch.

i really despise and adore estate sales. i guess its rather a love and hate relationship, i never really buy anything but just to be able to walk through someones house is almost like being able to read their journals or something. you can see what is in important to them, the pictures, the books, the organization, or lack there of.

estate sales are basically a garage sale of, well everything. you can walk through a persons house who has probably died, which explains the reason why i hate them so much. its just creepy, i mean less than a month ago this piece of art was probably someones prized possession but now its for sale, tomorrow if its not sold it will probably have a big red slash through the ticket on discount, and if its still not sold it will most likely be in the dumpster or goodwill by the end of the week. someone LOVED that piece of art!

at an estate sale a few days ago i walked through someones treasures and sifted through memories and prized moments buried in fifty cent picture frames and dollar tea sets. while i was there the thought hit me how disparaging it is to think that someone will one day do the same to me and my possessions. future grandkids will look through my records take what they want, sell what they don't. my future children will have no idea what that bible meant to me, and that i literally took it around the world. those notes on the side of the pages in that book were pure catharsis to me, but to someone else it will mean that the book will be worth less because of the writing in the margins. into the 25 cent box it goes.

here is what i am getting at... while entering this estate sale i walked in the front door and saw a couch that had a cover on it, like most people enjoy to do to prolong the life of the couch. out of curiosity i asked if i could take the stiff milky cover off the couch to see what it looked like. as i suspected the couch was perfect, not a tear or stain on the couch whatsoever. sure it was not my style, and looked like it was bought new in the 70's, but it was in perfect dark maroon flowery condition.

the thing is that the person who bought this couch loved it, when they saw this in the store it was their 'ideal' and would match _______ perfectly. they took special care to bring it home and sat on it and smiled. then they went to the store and found the thickest stiffest ugly creamy clear plastic cover to ensure that their amazing couch would not be hurt.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE COUCH??? if your just going to put a giant shrink wrap on it why don't you just get a few cinder blocks and some boards and put a sheet on it? years later this person is dead and the couch is in perfect condition selling for '25$ or best offer'. years of sitting on an uncomfortable couch, hiding the style, color, and texture of the couch and for what? so that someone has a good deal on a well kept piece of furniture well after your gone?

how many of us do this every day of our lives? we hide who we are or what we are made of under layers and layers of walls and coordinated trust issues. we preserve ourselves for some future nostalgia when in all reality this is going to lead us to being old with tons of regrets. why not venture out of our shell? why not befriend and entrust those around us? why not allow who we are to peer out of the safe?

if we continue to put up a thick plastic shield between us and the world around us then we will end up like the couch, a perfect track record of uselessness. an uncomfortable life with only our deflective shields to comfort us. no one can afford to be safe anymore.



Thursday, February 04, 2010

remembering the current past...

why do marketing gurus come up with the most ridiculous names when inventing their latest and greatest internet social networking or other such worldwide website. i mean everyone thought it was humorous in a ‘cutesy’ way when you first heard the name ‘GOOGLE’ but no one thought ‘twitter’ had the same appeal. but here we are a few years later and it stuck.
whatever my next venture is going to be i am going to come up with some ridiculous name so that at first people hate it then later they can’t get rid of it.,, and come to mind, but i’ll get back to you on that.
twitter, 140 characters of shear nonsense scripted out with abbreviated everything’s. one day whole sentences will just look like ‘JEBYO!WBYIFHY?@2LEGIT’ and people will know exactly what the other person is talking about. but i am not one to judge since literally (and sadly) i have to admit that i have 6 twitter accounts for various projects. (@anberlin, @stephenanberlin, @anchorbraille, @facelessint, @modestyguild, and i may or may not have made one for my dogs… i was really bored).
you can follow people, i guess you can lead people, you can even put a pound sign to show, ‘hey i have something to say about that random topic as well!’ right this second such depth inspiring and soul searching topics as #letsbehonest, #theboysareback, and my favorite #fatthoughts are amongst the top 10 trending topics (i could only wish i was making this up).
as you all know there was a devastating earthquake in haiti this past week. it was atrocious and i was floored when watching videos of the damage online. faceless international scrambled to send as much aid as we could, along side many of you and a lot of other americans. it was astonishing to see the world come to the aid of the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, 25 countries have given goods, relief effort, and given donations. here in america we, the citizens, have given an astonishing 275 million dollars!
even now, several days later and they are amazingly pulling victims from the wreckage. they even rescued a 5 year old boy, named monley EIGHT DAYS after the earthquake! even our troops are working tirelessly, 11,000 in all, to help get additional supplies and much need medical aid to these wonderful people.
right after the earthquake, not 48 hours after i noticed something rather peculiar on twitter. in the trending topics i saw that haiti only occupied one of the 10 trending topics where as the previous days all ten were about haiti and the relief efforts.
that got me thinking, if our attention spans as americans wanes after 48 hours what is to become of hatians in 48 days? what about 4 to 8 months? then i wondered what became of the victims of the indian ocean tsunami that killed 200,000 people not so many years ago, it seems we have all but forgotten them.
we need to begin to ‘remember the current past’, realizing that just because they are out of site does not mean they need to stay out of mind. i challenge you to reevaluate yourself in 6 months and see where your thoughts are on the topic of haiti. these earthquake victims lives have changed forever, the rebuilding process might take years if not decades. stay involved, not only financially, but also donate your time as well. haiti is not that distant of a land, flights are usually inexpensive, and they are going to be in dire need of assistance these next few years.
but this isn’t just about haiti, this is about not allowing the little distractions in life to consume the time that we have to work on the bigger picture issues that are colossal in our lives right now. use your time wisely, dedicate your time LONG TERM to those who truly need help, and not just immediately but an ONGOING dedication to the issues that are important to you right now.

Friday, January 08, 2010


‘another bad day miss mary,’ the teacher would say as she shut the car door behind me, ‘another bad day.’ mrs. hodges was a stern woman, never stern to any of the other kids it seemed, just to me. i don’t remember exactly what i did to her to make her not like me, but it just set in. the north carolina christian school blamed it on ADHD, but my mother didn’t want to give me pills. either way it strained my relationship with my teachers and those around me my entire academic career.

my relationship with school was more hate then love, i look back on very few moments of academia with pride or a positive memories of any sort. i was the kid who wore mostly black, not to be cool or even goth, just not to be noticed. i would attempt to keep a low profile, sticking to myself and literally keeping my held hung low while walking through the scores of school peers (hence ‘downcast eyes). in high school i would get my lunch from the cafeteria lady and eat my meal on the way to the library and sit there and read magazines until the bell ring. i was lower than an outcast, i was non-existent. i could go on with the stories but my life is not one about just looking back but seeing the present for what it is now and appreciating what got me here.

since then i have had the opportunity to discover music, and the benefits of such the life. i have gained a new found self confidence which files under the philosophical name ‘i just don’t care what you think’. it may sound rebellious or flippant but i honestly believe that more of us need to take on this approach to life.

we spend so much time (or at least i did) sitting in the shadows to make sure that we don’t trip and fall in front of others; and then we question why we never had the opportunity in life to run. we yell at God or our parents, or even ourselves for never making something of our self; but now if you look back did you ever give yourself a chance to even simply try?
for me i trudge forward, doing what i please, not in an egoistic way, not like godzilla in japan way; but in an adventurous way, like a boy trouncing in the snow in the woods.


i wanted to write a book, so i did. its not that it is perfect, honestly it doesn’t have to even be good. it just has to be something that you have always wanted to do, but been afraid. just this week i received a message on a social network that said my book more or less ‘failed’, but i didn’t do it for him, i did it because i am not scared anymore i don’t want to live in fear of failure. i am not out to win approval of people that i will never meet nor have any say in my life.

i wanted to write a solo record, i wanted to jump out of a plane, i wanted to travel around the world, i wanted to start a non-profit org, i want to start speaking more, i want to write another book, i want to run for office here in Nashville, i want to visit spain, i want to take on the world head on, look it in the face and smile with that ‘i am not scared of whatever you bring my way’ kind of smile. i want to trounce in the snow whether anyone likes it or not.

in case you live in tampa/st. pete and caught us live you may have heard me say something from stage during our set that you didn’t quite understand the meaning of. it usually comes at the pinnacle of the show when i have just sang my lungs out, the crowd is screaming every word, and the floor is alive with moving bodies. i look up at my mom who is usually in the balcony and say ‘another good day miss mary, another good day.’