Things that blow my mind about humanity

Sometimes, when things are tedious and saddening and gray, it’s nice to remember all the amazing  things about the Earth.

Like how the water you drank this morning has traversed the oceans and rivers and lakes and glaciers of this planet since it was created. Like how a snowflake you caught on your tongue floated down from a cloud and happened, by chance, to land right in front of you. Like how the Earth itself was created out of stardust, out of outer-space travelers, out of chance and luck. Like how life rose from particles to cells to fish to humans, and how those humans grew to conquer the elements, to flirt with the edges of their understanding and broaden their horizons.

I hate the Ancient Aliens TV show for many reasons, of which this is the most prominent. Why don’t we give our species any credit? Can’t we take credit for being the sole species to imagine, design, and build the pyramids? To create vessels that can transport us through land, sea, and air at remarkable speeds? Can’t we be proud of our species for all it has accomplished? For landing on the moon?

Yes, acknowledging the badness of our species is important, but so is acknowledging the goodness. Humans are amazing. We work together to create things we never could alone. We are amazing thinkers, creators, inventors.

When you’re feeling discouraged, try to remember: it was a group of humans no more special than you that invented photography, and that painted the Sistine Chapel, and that built every monument in the world. Aliens didn’t do that. WE did that.

It’s easy to forget. To take things for granted. To focus on the negative. To see yourself as separate from the thinkers and the doers. But you’re not. You have a universe of potential humming in your fingertips. When that potential is used for good, you become amazing.

If you’re inside, align your vision for a moment so you can’t see any windows. Almost everything in your sight was created by other humans.

I find that inspiring.

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Learning German

I think I’m going to start learning German. I feel like I should know a second language for my Europe trip, and frankly, American Sign Language just isn’t going to be the most helpful thing. I could brush up on my Italian, but I don’t plan on going to Italy, so I don’t know how helpful that would be.

I think German, because I don’t like the silent letters of French and there’s no real reason to learn Dutch, even if I’m spending most of my time in the Netherlands, because apparently everyone there learns English. So, German seems like the most obvious choice. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m lucky enough to be the sort of introvert who isn’t terrified of social interaction, even if I do need time to recharge. It took me a lot of work, but I’m also no longer afraid to talk to strangers. If I didn’t talk to anyone, a second language would be simply unnecessary.

I was asked recently what my favorite things about traveling were, and I said art, history, and food. I could spend hours in museums or just walking around a city. I could eat until I explode out of my pants. I like eating things where they’re famous, like fresh Maine lobsters or Louisiana gumbo, Canadian poutine and Italian pizza—which by the way I didn’t like at all. And I like seeing the local art, the “flavor” of the city, and I like being where history happened.

People came as an afterthought, because I haven’t travelled somewhere where they didn’t speak English in about three years. Connecting with people was something I just did, it wasn’t something I had to work at, and it didn’t seem like a “cultural” experience, or something I could only do on location. I meet new people all the time, it isn’t something unique to traveling…or is it?

After all, why am I trying to learn a language, where English is honestly probably enough? To connect with people on their level. To make friends over the language barrier. To be a traveler, not a tourist.

So, German. I have always loved German history, and the German language is so pretty to me…I may be in the minority with that opinion, though.

We do get to visit Germany, guaranteed, on a class trip—and even if that doesn’t happen for our semester, I’ll definitely spend a weekend there. I heard Berlin is beautiful.

Six months to learn conversational German. I’ve done more in less time…Let’s do it!

Auf Wiedersehen

My Philosophical Musings over Egyptian Jewelry

Today I went to an art museum! It was free with my college ID so I went with a couple of friends. I have only gone to a few art museums in my life, but not out of my own disinterest–rather out of others’ disinterest. I was very excited, especially because of the size of the museum we were going to.

I felt entirely humbled by the age of some of the pieces there, specifically the jewelry. I don’t know much about fashion or jewelry, but some of the pieces, specifically from the ancient Egypt section (some as old as 3000 BCE), were both stunning and ordinary at the same time. Meaning, while beautiful, they seemed just like a necklace a person of today would wear. The stones were bright colors, smoothly sanded and strung on thin string. The beads were intricately carved and the rings had designs I’ve seen at Claire’s–like a snake that wraps around the finger. The necklaces and other bits of jewelry were ancient, but seemed no different from the jewelry of today.

It made me think about how similar and yet how different humans are from one another. While we have enjoyed putting strings of pretty beads around our necks for millennia, and while similar practices have been found in most if not all cultures worldwide, if an ancient Egyptian met a person of today it would be as if they were meeting an alien.

Likewise, if we were to encounter a person from fifty years ago it would be incredibly difficult to communicate. Cultures change so quickly. I am not who I was ten years ago, and in ten years I will be different still, but I will wear necklaces. And I will still like to write, and like music. Some fundamentals won’t change. But maybe I won’t like bananas anymore, and start liking tomatoes.

I think it’s both important to find out what these core values are in ourselves. If we can figure out what about us will (likely) never change, we can get closer to who we really are, beneath all the fluff and stuff. That is, if there is something deeper beneath the fluff and stuff. That is, assuming the core doesn’t change as well.

As I was looking at the beautiful necklaces and trying to imagine how the weight would feel on my shoulders, I found I spent a lot of time wondering about the necklace’s history, specifically it’s past owners. Who were they? Were they women or men? Were they rulers or peasants? And the necklace itself, did it spend years in a box, in an attic? Did it spend some years worn lovingly every day, only to be lost between couch cushions and found years later?

The only permanent things about the necklace are also the only things we know about it: its age, its origin, and the color of its beads. I wonder if the same is true for me.