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Wiley Wandering

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Wandering While Dressed Differently…Thinking Differently

I wandered into a few different thoughts and conversations lately that I thought I would share with you to see what you thought. Perhaps it was the fact that this is graduation week for many colleges around the country (including SUNY Plattsburgh). Perhaps it was an easing of tremendous tension from having approximately seven significant weights lifted from my shoulders over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps it is just my nature! Anyway, let’s get this party started….

Finally, the summer has arrived (okay, I know technically that it’s spring, but after our long winters up here in the North Country of NY, any hint of sun has me putting on suntan lotion, and I’m Black). So, I am ready to wear less clothes and tighten up the body. Am I alone in struggling with exactly how much I celebrate the change in the weather with how much I can actually reveal? I look at women in the workforce wearing shoes that show their toes, sundresses that allow their bodies to benefit from fewer constraints, blouses that do the same. Yes, if I wear shoes that show my toes, clothing that allows my body to benefit from fewer constraints, etc. I feel like I am doing something wrong. Am I tripping? Is this a double standard? Is this sexism in some form that we just don’t discuss? Should I settle for the rationalization that women have been oppressed in such a sundry of ways within our society that they deserve these little societal perks that are off limits to men? Or, should I wear my plaid shorts, sandals, and open collar shirts and get over my anxiety that people won’t take me seriously because men just don’t show their toes in the workplace. What are your thoughts?

When is the last time you considered your mortality? I remember first considering mine when I read an article in the Los Angeles Sentinel (a Black owned newspaper that addressed Black folks’ reality). The article stated something about a Black male youth having more of a chance of surviving on the front of WWII than reaching the age of 21 in South Central L.A. From that point on, I became somewhat fixated on this thing called “death.” Then I became preoccupied with the fact that my father, who had been murdered, died at 37 years of age. His father died young, and his grandfather died young. All of their deaths were violent. Couple that with a dream I had that I was never able to shake which had me dying at age 27. Well, suffice it to say as I approached 27 I was freaking out, paranoid, essentially immobilized in fear that if I ventured too far from the safety of my residence I would be increasing the possibility of something drastic occurring. I got through that period then really didn’t think about it again until I was about 36 looking at 37. Yes, there I went again. Suffice it to say, I experienced my 37th birthday with no major incidents and as Elton John once sang in a song, I’m still standing. Have any of you ever experienced these types of thoughts before. Did you experience your thoughts as a result of your life situation(s)? Do you think our diverse realities contribute to our sense of awareness of our fragile mortality? I wonder if younger men and women look down the road and engage, at any level, the fact that the road ends at some point, at least in the context of life as we know it. It would seem apparent that poverty might contribute to someone asking themselves one of those big questions “is it worth it all?” I’m curious though does wealth breed the same thoughts, albeit for different reasons? Do you think thoughts about our mortality might differ along ability and racial lines? It might seem like a far-fetched question, but if you look around you and see most of the adults in your life who reflect a reality similar to yours, dying at 45-50 from ill health, even though some of it may appear to be self-imposed (though the reasons we drink alcohol, eat the foods we eat, etc. may be worthy of discussion themselves) or genetic, it may have an effect on your perspective on mortality.

Lastly, as I wander away to enjoy this beautiful summer day (I know, I know, its spring) is it okay if I play my way if it doesn’t get in your way in any way? Whose to say your morality should keep me at bay. Should I allow other’s shortsightedness to prevent me from entering the fray, undercutting the pay I can receive from life if I dare to see it my way and muster the energy to not succumb or stay locked into what could be for me a dysfunctional mode of behavior. Or, should I listen to what they say because it actually might sway J (W that is) if he takes the time to contextualize what they say, after all, it just may make sense, if I’m not dense! I know, this was too immense, perhaps too intense, made no sense, and you read it all with no recompense. What can I say, this is what you get sometimes when you wander with J (W that is). Hey, I'm human and prone to bouts of silliness as well!


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This blog is, as you might say, "a trip". I exit it, with a smile on my face as I picture you running off- or skipping off if you are brave, into the north country sun, wearing your plaid shorts, (plaid, really?), sandals and T-shirt, reciting the poetry of your last paragraph. Or- maybe, defying society and wearing even less!!!

It must be the relief of all that stress (7 significant weights), coupled with the mild weather and happy events ahead.. that make you want to shed the winter burdens and run off. Or the desire to run away from the heaviness of your second paragraph and the thoughts of of mortality that I think we all wrestle with - especially after that 40th birthday or approaching the next decade, even if you have successfully made it past 37! That said, you raise an interesting point about diverse perspectives on mortality as a reflection of other aspects of diversity. I will need to think about this one.. Part of the perspective for me is the circumstances around me now- the recent death of a young relative, the fact that 3 of my friends currently have breast cancer, and the fact that the newest member of my household is 97 years old! (That, however, makes me feel young!) Had I grown up with the constant spector of early death by violence in my community, I don't know how I might feel. Or- if my peers and I were sick with illnesses that could have been prevented by better access to health care... those early deaths would make me angry...

But, it is a beautiful spring day today and, if spring is about renewal - new life, etc then I don't want to linger on death, but rather skip forward. As a woman, my newly painted toenails are there for all to see. I am now unrestrained by the pantihose that bound and restricted me all winter and in the space of a few weeks and higher temperatures, I will bare more. The freedom of my body will invariably lead to a desire for other freedoms including freedom from some of those rules imposed by society. I will want to bust loose.... And, given my desire for a just society, I wholly support you, as a male, in doing the same. Bare your toes, JW, and whatever else you care to reveal.

I remember not thinking it was fair women seemed to be able to get away with wearing what appeared t be shorts to work. But when a man wore a pair of shorts the attire suddenly was pointed out as inappropriate.
Not too worried about that one as I'd rather see the women in shorts. Now how's that for workplace political correctedness?!?!?!?!

I used to consider my mortality often when I was young, wondering over the many ways my life could be extinguished and then worrying that certain pains or bumps meant I was terminally ill. And of course then I never dared mention anything. I mean, as long as you don't discover it, it doesn't exist, right?
I imagine someone faced with a terminal illness would have little sympathy for my imaginary concerns, and rightfully so.
I don't worry too much about death now, although I've never had to deal with a significant loss in my life yet. My grandmother passed when I was in eighth grade, and my grandfather passed recently, but I saw them maybe once a year and hadn't seen my grandfather in a few years. It's a loss, but I shudder to think of the other losses I could experience in life.
Doctors wondered if my son would survive childbirth, and he had open-heart surgery in Boston last summer, and while taht was scary and nothing I care to repeat, ultimately, he's still here.

As far as how you play, go ahead, make the world your sandbox and ahve at it.
I don't have any mythological deity I pray to, and considering morality is a social construct and MANMADE, who's to say what is ultimately right and wrong. I guess we can play as we'd like, although one would be wise to consider the consequences of their actions before taking out their toys...

The dressing issue is a complex discussion if i may say. Personally, i think men showing their toes in the workplace is informal compared to women. Women may do so because we all know there are varieties of shoes that women can wear. But men majorly have most footwear close-toed. I need not say how awkward it would look if a man wears sandals with his suit...eww! There is absolutely nothing wrong if a man or woman shows more skin as the weather heatens up. It is only right you feel comfortable in an attire you wear. Exclusions are perhaps when in a formal occasion.
Regarding my perspective on mortality, i fear death no longer. I was raised in South Side Chicago (Wild 100's). Growing up there, i have encountered/been through so many unfortunate experiences. I have been held at gunpoint countless times, shot at few times, attacked by gangbangers, etc. but hey, im here, still whole and hearty! I never chose such life but living in such hoods, your choices are limited. Thoughts about our mortality differ along racial lines. If i lived in North side Chicago, where it's predominatntly whites, i won't have gone through such. I recall an incidence when i over-heard a friend say "we have to leave the southside before it gets dark." The individual was planning on running back to "safety" (Northside) whereas i live at southside and im accustomed to the neighborhood. An African-American and a white individual can't possibly think about mortality the same way.

I have to weigh in on the mortality question. This may seem obsurd given my age, but I had a straight up freak out last year when I turned 24.

It was for strange reasons-- it was my last year of eligibility in the Miss America Organization. After I competed at Miss NY last year and did not become Miss NY, I had to realize that I was never going to be Miss America. Now, did I really think I was going to be Miss America? No, of course not, but reaching the end of the 17 to 24 age bracket caused me to do (a little too much) self-reflection.

I also freaked about 24 because I had always thought I would go from undergrad straight into a Masters. I thought I'd have a Masters completed by 24, but I hadn't even made an effort to start one.

Anyway, I guess these questions and endings (like a college graduation) help us (or at least help me) to move in new directions. So now, here I am a mere 3 days before my 25th birthday feeling like "bring it 25, bring it." I'm glad I'm no longer doing beauty pageants, I got my act togther in order to start grad school in August, and am just in a better place in general than I was a year ago.

Sometimes thinking about an end helps me to find a new beginning.

It's interesting to read a post poising questions about mortality. I recently just had my 24th birthday and for some reason I have been pondering and perhaps obessing with the idea that I'm growing older. As this inevitable phenomenon of life takes place I assess my body, my mind, and all the ways I have altered both as a result of my own actions. Some alterations for worse and some for better, I am now appreciating more than ever the body I have been predisposed to and the mind that accompanies it. I think that our own mortality can be indicative of a paradoxical conundrum. That is, if one chooses to evolve phsysically, mentally, and spiritually, one may in fact advance their life to something more than it previously was at any given moment, something greater than. However, as this acheivement of a higher greatness or good is attained, our biological clock ensures a mortal devolution. Our death could be defined as a time constraint for our ability to redeem, to prevail, to strive, to learn, to care, to love, and ultamitely to live, as living entails all of these actions and countless more. So in our mortality lies the paradox; while will may choose to evolve, we are constantly devolving. Even to the point where one no longer has the ability or even the choice to evolve further. I immediately have to ask the question; what is more meaningful? Perhaps the life that we live before we die overshadows our fate. To be concerned with how we live is more important than how we die. To be evolving on some level is more important then devolving bioligcally. Shakespeare once wrote, "We know what we are, but not what we may be." We know we must die but what may become of us during existence is up to us. In mortality there must be a certain level of beauty because Mortality puts a higher price on morality, on our behavior. It allows us to judge our own actions in a way that provides immense meaning to them given they are limited, constrained by the perils of time. I think we must take advantage of what little bioligcal life we have in order to elevate our plateau of culmination. To be as high as one can get before one no longer has the choice to ascend further. Furthermore it must be important to take into consideration the factors that speed up the process of death and eventually inhibit our ability to expand our reality. One has a greater chance at mastery if one masters those things that create longevity. Then again, people die at all ages, in the womb, at 2, at 10, at 20 at 50.... does a life that has not evolved to become more that it was have any less value than 90 year old saint who has become a pillar of a community? What makes your life more important than mine? Is one life more valuable than the next? Is it arrogant to say yes and naive to say no? Don't we all think our life is inherently more valuable than everyone elses? Is this a reflection of our culture which boasts individuality and gets off on financial success? Have we forgot just how important death is?

I became somewhat fixated on this thing called “death.”

You began to think! To think about the meaningless of it, or, the meaning that you might give it. This brings me to Camus' Life is Absurd idea, and the quote you taught me, (well, I first heard it in your class) "Beginning to think, is beginning to be undermined."

And some people, don't have to think--they haven't encountered death. I remember in the film American Beauty, when the two youngsters are walking home together, the male asks the female if she ever knew anybody who died, and she says no. It's a sign of her innocence--of course, by the end of the film its torn away, but that is life.

Death is one thing that unites us. It's one facet of human nature--we are all going to die, and save the notion of an afterlife (which is of questionable validity) its something that we all must come to grips with.

I always envision it as a thought experiment that goes like this: Imagine you are told that you have one hour to live. Some disease that is incurable will take you away. For this is precisely the situation that every single human is in--simply with a different time frame. It's not one hour, or one year, or one decade, but eventually, it *will* be an hour from our death. What will we think then? What will we feel?

Was it all worth while? What regrets are there?

You once commented to me that I'm a "high profile" student, and I realized my wardrobe might have a role in that. I own a shirt, that I proudly wear, that has a picure of a mouse, cought dead in a mouse trap, but it has a speech bubble that says: "I Regret Nothing"

And I truly hope, upon my deathbed, that I too can say that. I regret nothing.

Hello, JW and everyone, I hope all is well. For those of you who do not know I am in beautiful Washington, DC for the summer. During this time I have experienced quite a bit. While here I have been homesick for my school at Plattsburgh and decided yesterday to check back into JW postings. I wanted to make some personal reflection on the issue brought up on mortality and also our “dress code” (with the unique perception of the DC code).

First if I may, mortality. As my friends can attest the past month has been very difficult for me with some personal issues, life, and well growing up. Starting with a few weeks to graduation I realized a lot of my friends and colleagues where moving on with their lives, and with that, I was growing up. Graduation came and went. Then, yet again, a week after I found myself in the sorrows of thinking of the life to come: graduation, friends moving on, work, taxes, and of course death. This scared me, in the back of my mind I realized everyone has seen this (more than once) and as I’m sure with others, I felt all alone in this fear of life.

This fear of life boiled up in me for about two-three weeks. I will say, these where the hardest weeks I can recall in my young life. Then I remember waking up one morning and did my regular routine. After I sat down at my computer and one of my favorite speeches, Robert F. Kennedy’s “Mindless Menace of Violence” was on. A line came up: “Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.” I didn’t realize the importance of this at the time but throughout the day I repeated it five or six times that day. Well waiting and riding on the metro (40min) home, I believe I saw some of humanities most beautiful moments. It would be hard to explain them, so I won’t. But we all have seen thoughs moments that change us, the glimpse if you will into humanity and why we go on. It hit me then, and am still experience it more that we have a gift on the planet. Can we all see that? If we didn’t why go on? Why live?

I don’t know the meaning of life and will never claim I can. But in my own life I have seen something, something I have been missing for a time now. I am starting to give myself the time to see what I want from my short life here, what makes me happy and where I can help in the world. It was good to see that for me.

I feel Brennan summed it up with his analogy to “one hour to live” and how that really compares to life. I think that was an interesting concept, it fits, and really works in any situation.

Second topic (I’ll try to make it short), is our perceived dress code. Again, I am working in the heart of politics, the heart of business, and the heart of this bizarre dress code we have for one another. I find this even more interesting because we where just talking about this in our office last week. First, it started as who designed a dress code for men with a long sleeve shirt, pants, and a coat in the summer in the south? Not to mention who made the fashionable colors black, gray, and blue? And turned into a conversation on men and women and why I, a male, have to wear the above mention attire, and my female colleague wears, well pretty much what ever she wants.

I like how you put it JW, the little perks of being socially oppressed for such a long period of time. This was one of my thought and what one of my other male colleagues said to the group. One of the women responded: heck yes it is, this is my little bit of comfort while you bastards sweat it out. It just so happened to be 102 degrees out at the time, just a side note.

After she said that it hit something inside of my, and I have been thinking since why is this right. Why is it ok that we as a society feel so guilty that we must give perks (and something so very small at that)? I recall pictures in high school and my modern American history courses of women in the 1980’s, the young business women with their full business suite (looking very uncomfortable). Then I recall even further in the early 20th century the huge outrageous dress’ that women wore and the corset (the invention that made women’s hips look bigger, stomach look smaller, and bust look much bigger. What are we doing here? A compensation for years of uncomfortable cloths and not being human (at least until the 19th Amendment)?

These are just some rambling comments I have. I thought it was interesting that both these two topic are affecting my life right now. Good post.

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