Got this from my friend Billy, who got it from Dumb Little Man, where it was written by Leo Babauta. Please, I implore of you, take a moment to read and consider this. I think it’s really, really important.

“The proper function of man is to live – not to exist.”— Jack London

Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before it.That’s fine, and comfortable, until you have gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life.That’s fine, until you have reached old age and look back on life with regrets.

That’s fine, until you see your kids go off to college and realize that you missed their childhoods.

It’s not fine. If you want to truly live life, to really experience it, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from the mold and drink from life.

What follows is just a list of ideas, obvious ones mostly that you could have thought of yourself, but that I hope are useful reminders. We all need reminders sometimes. If you find this useful, print it out, and start using it. Today.

1. Love. Perhaps the most important. Fall in love, if you aren’t already. If you have, fall in love with your partner all over again. Abandon caution and let your heart be broken. Or love family members, friends, anyone — it doesn’t have to be romantic love. Love all of humanity, one person at a time.

2. Get outside. Don’t let yourself be shut indoors. Go out when it’s raining. Walk on the beach. Hike through the woods. Swim in a freezing lake. Bask in the sun. Play sports, or walk barefoot through grass. Pay close attention to nature.

3. Savor food. Don’t just eat your food, but really enjoy it. Feel the texture, the bursts of flavors. Savor every bite. If you limit your intake of sweets, it will make the small treats you give yourself (berries or dark chocolate are my favorites) even more enjoyable. And when you do have them, really, really savor them. Slowly.

4. Create a morning ritual. Wake early and greet the day. Watch the sun rise. Out loud, tell yourself that you will not waste this day, which is a gift. You will be compassionate to your fellow human beings, and live every moment to its fullest. Stretch or meditate or exercise as part of your ritual. Enjoy some coffee.

5. Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, worried about what might go wrong. Be bold, risk it all. Quit your job and go to business for yourself (plan it out first!), or go up to that girl you’ve liked for a long time and ask her out. What do you have to lose?

Continue reading

To the few people who read this blog, here’s a challenge for you.

As I wrote about in my last entry, I’ve been going out every couple of days and picking up trash off of the streets. It needs to be done, unfortunately, but it’s not that hard to do, and it’s incredibly rewarding. You can get an immense sense of satisfaction from doing the right thing, and if you’re careful enough, you can make a visible impact. I could walk my route and notice the spots that are cleaner– but maybe that just means I have a dirty neighborhood.

Since I can’t clean up the entire Milwaukie area by myself, though, my challenge is thus: In the next week, spend a little bit of time and pick up trash around your neighborhood. It doesn’t need to take long. Half an hour will even make a difference. You don’t need any fancy stuff, either– I wear gardening gloves and take along a black plastic garbage bag, though I’ve done it with a grocery bag and no gloves, as well. The important part of this challenge is that you just do it.

Here are some tips:

  • Gloves are a good idea, but regardless of whether or not you wear them, be mindful of what you’re picking up. Always be sure to wash your hands when you’re done, even if you were wearing gloves.
  • Be mindful of other people’s property. Try not to stray more than five feet from the edge of the road, and less if you can help it.
  • If you might encounter blackberry bushes, long pants are recommended.
  • I also recommend close-toed shoes. I’ve had to step into piles of dry twigs and leaves and kick down renegade blackberry vines– things that aren’t too fun to do with open shoes.
  • Try to pick up everything you see– even cigarette butts or things that are slightly buried. As a rule of thumb, I tell myself that if I see trash, I will pick it up unless it’s too far on someone else’s property or is too dangerous/ridiculous to pick up (such as a bunch of tiny shards of glass).
  • Obviously, do this while it’s light. I really don’t think this town’s a very dangerous place at night, but it is safer to be out during day. Besides, how well can you pick up trash when it’s dark out?

When I was in Japan, my group met with a man named Mr. Imai, who lived on the beach and made salt. He told us that we are all connected by the oceans; what we put in to our seas washes up on someone else’s shores. No one in this world is isolated– the Pepsi cup on the side of the road may wash into a drain, where it may flow to a river. Perhaps that cup will wash up on the banks of a forest. Maybe it will float to sea.

Every little thing counts. If you walk somewhere– to a friend’s house, perhaps, or to the store (becoming less and less likely, I’m aware, as more of us get our licenses and cars)– take a spare grocery bag in your back pocket and pick stuff up as you walk along. The aim of this challenge is twofold; picking up trash cleans the world we live in and helps the environment, but hopefully we’ll help others realize that they can take action and make a difference.

Exclamation point

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Having been home for a week, I figure I ought to actually write something of content. Here it is.

On July 5th, 2007, I left Portland, Oregon at 7:30 am with a group called People to People. I boarded a plane, which ascended above the clouds and flew for an hour before landing at San Francisco International Airport.

After a 4-hour layover, I then got on a bigger plane and took a ten-hour flight… to Japan.

I spent two weeks in Japan, traveling all around the country. I saw the unbelievably large megacity of Tōkyō, and experienced the slow life in the little community of Hirado. I discussed world peace with students my age at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum, and walked around downtown Kyōto as preparations for a summer festival were being made. I spent two nights living with generous homestay families. The trip was amazing beyond belief, to the extent that the first word I use to describe it when someone asks is always “life-changing”.

And now I’m back in the United States, and it’s horrendously difficult to readjust, partially because there’s so much that I simply can’t take for granted anymore. Continue reading

Sleep, and dream a troubled dream. Intruders on the property, invisible in the darkness. Sour waves of ill intent ignite the adrenalin powder keg, and you have panic. Call for help, but how do you say it? You’re no longer safe. There is no safety. Your world, your order, your chaos, they crumble; and you have no safety.

Wake, blink it from your mind, and cautiously edge your way back to sleep, ensuring yourself you won’t dream it again.

It’s Day One of a one-and-a-half day-long trip. They’re out of town, looking for a future house. Back tomorrow, of course, but today’s the boys’ day. Dinner comes, a little less gourmet than expected, but it cures hunger. A shower, finish your homework, and dry some dishes, then go upstairs to draw. Cathedral halls in pencil claim the virginity of a new sketchbook, quickly sketched with the illusion of detail.

A sharp crack on the window not three feet from your head scatters your thoughts. What was that? Freak sound of the window, perhaps, or the weather. Before you can relish that calming concept, another sharp crack, the gristly sound of stone on window, at once impacting and scraping and knocking. A third, and now there’s no doubt: someone is throwing stones.

Holler to your brother downstairs, even though you know he’s on the computer: “Are you throwing rocks?” No, of course not, so race downstairs.

Pull the blinds across the glass door before you realize that you’re standing in full view of all three facets of the bay window. Rocks came from the backyard. The bay window faces the backyard. Don’t look out; you might see a face. Oh, god, there’s someone out there.

Brother walks in from computer room, catching the panic. The dog is barking. They could kill the dog. Why isn’t he doing anything? They could be watching you. Do you tell brother to hide upstairs? They can’t reach upstairs unless they enter the house. God, they can’t enter the house.

They’re out of town. Call them for advice? Call for help? You should probably get low to the ground, that way, they can’t see you. You’re in the worst possible point in the house to hide. They can see you. What are they going to do?

Then a warm guitar chord is strummed, and your fears begin, slowly, to melt.



Exclamation point

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

O, my Brothers and Sisters—

What has become of us?

Generations before us strove for excellence. Our great-grandparents lived through two of the most massive wars in history as well as the Great Depression, and still pulled through to keep our nation alive. Our grandparents survived the Vietnam War and launched men into space, a concept never before even conceived of as possible. Our parents saw the rise of ever-increasingly powerful computers. The generations before us faced terrible challenges, yet not only pulled through, but were able to contribute immensely to the building of our modern world today.

I write about this because something is growing increasingly obvious with each passing day. Put simply, our generation is afraid to try.

I see this every day in school, both in myself and in others. We have grown noticeably reluctant to take risks or try things. We all live in our own self-shaped worlds, and rarely actually come out. We are afraid to take risks, because it means stepping out of our safe haven for a moment and risking failure. Continue reading

“Hi, Mom. What? No, about 2. I’m on my way–I’ll be there soon.”

Smack, went the phone, as soon as that last word was out of Michelle’s mouth.

We were driving back from Eastport 16 Cinemas on 82nd. We’d just seen Pan’s Labyrinth, an incredibly brilliant and beautiful movie. I had turned sixteen the previous night. The sky was blue, and even though the traffic had been jammed, we were both feeling great.

Michelle, however, really had to go to the bathroom. And though we had passed countless fast food restaurants and grocery stores that would have had public restrooms, we pulled into the parking lot of the Milwaukie Marketplace and stepped into the Starbucks. I perused the selection of coffee mugs and half-attentively dropped some eaves on what seemed to be a job interview. Michelle came out, and we drove to my house. We kissed in the driveway, then I got out of the car, ready to go inside and relax for a little while, maybe go out and get my new computer case.

And all of a sudden, a dozen of my friends came running across the lawn from behind my house, at the head of the group Floof, Mark, and Nick.

Like that, I fell into shock.

They paraded me indoors. Nick carried me on his shoulders, and I saw that they’d completely decorated my entryway with streamers and balloons. Food covered the kitchen counter.

And there were twelve of my friends hanging around my house, smiling and laughing.

Surprise parties just don’t  happen. They’re things of movies, of television. People don’t actually hold surprise parties; yet, here I was, in the midst of one.

So we laughed. And we ate. And we talked, and I opened gifts, and we played Risk.

It was grand.

To be honest, I haven’t felt nearly as loved by so many people as I did then. To realize that, for the last week, my friends had been planning this surprise party in order to make my happy for my sixteenth birthday… wow. It was spectacular, and I loved it.

My friends: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Due to my remarkable obliviousness, I had no idea anything was going on until you raced across my yard. It was a fantastic day, and an excellent sixteenth birthday party. I really appreciate that you took the time to put this together and then come to it. Thank you so much. You guys don’t know how happy that made me. :)

I’m truly blessed to have friends like you.