" "

I usually like writing my own thoughts but I have a few that I read recently that have been really inspirational. These quotations (along with a bunch more) have been bouncing around my head the past few weeks. Heeeere they are:

"Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."George Bernard Shaw

How good is this quotation? I've been thinking about this one many times a day. I hope 2009 is about personal revolutions. And who is this George Bernard Shaw? Did he really say all this amazing stuff? Coolio must have said some of it.

“Stop thinking so much” proved to be the mantra of my subsequent weird career. People ask me all the time how I wound up with my own talk show or how I managed to make it last nine years. The truth is I don’t know. It’s like asking someone “So how did you get hit by a meteor?” My Late Night career has largely been the result of reacting honestly and spontaneously to people and problems around me. I don’t know how I got here and I certainly don’t know where I’m going. This is the essence of my philosophy and coincidentally, the words to most Jimmy Buffet songs. Which reminds me of one last piece of wisdom I heard a running back say about football. He said that despite the best planning and blocking, “the hole is never where it’s supposed to be.” What this man was saying is that real life is about reacting quickly to the opportunity at hand, not the opportunity you envisioned. Not thinking and scheming for the future, but letting it happen and reacting. In this way, life is a lot like football, right down to the part where you pat the ass of the man next to you.” Conan O'Brien 

Most of us over analyze and think situations in our life (at least I do!). I love the idea of preparing for the things coming your way, but expecting to adjust on the fly. Prepare but don't expect.

"The mark of greatness is when everything before you is obsolete and everything after you bears your mark."

This reminds me to be an individual. Put your essence into everything you touch. Not that essence Jay.

The next post is going to be about personal goals and I've been marinating on it for a long ass time. I hope you throw up from excitement when you read it.

The Elephant and the Veil

One of the things I miss the most about teaching is the conversations we used to have after class. Me and the other teachers would sit around and talk about our lives. One of the tutors, Matt and I would have these long religious discussions that would always leave me in a more enlightened state. Matt majored in Religious Studies at Stanford and I loved hearing his unbiased view on every religion, whether it be Judaism or Hinduism or any other religion. He had and still has a way of drawing on the parallels across religions, in a world where most people stress the differences.

The hours of discussion and debate we had came to mind this weekend when I was trying to make sense of everything that was happening in Mumbai. At first, I was in shock. I found out in the afternoon at work and couldn't really work the rest of the day. I was supposed to meet up with people that night and instead went to a buddy's place that grew up in Mumbai. As I tried to make sense of everything, I remembered a conversation Matt and I had a few years ago. I asked him why he thought religions focus so much on the differences when there are obviously way more similarities. He eloquently answered something like this: "Think of religion as a huge elephant that is running straight ahead. Each of us is holding onto a small part of the elephant. We see and feel the people that have similar views to us because they are next to us. But we can't see the people on the other side of the animal. We have been told and believe that the small space we occupy is the entire animal. We don't take the time to step back and realize we're all going in the same direction." I totally just paraphrased that whole thing, so sorry Matt but your sentiment was very insightful. That was initially how I made sense of extremists in my head. As the dust settled though, the situation because a little more clear. Terrorism really has nothing to do with religion nor does most things we hear about in the news. Everything is about power. There's war going on all over the world. In India, in Africa, and even on the streets in America. Those in power are fighting to keep those under their power in the dark about opportunity, about hope, about truth.

Shamans in Zimbabwe telling men to rape virgin girls to rid themselves of AIDs, the Rwandan genocide, Hindus practicing widow burning in India, and terror cells recruiting displaced youth in the far reaching corners of the Earth all gained power under the guise of religion but really have nothing more to do than men wanting to keep their power over the masses. They use religion as a veil because in most parts of the world people are much less likely to question religious leaders or those posing as religious leaders. The stuff going on in Mumbai really bothered me because I felt like there was nothing I could do about it but the more I thought about it, the more I felt empowered.

I read someone's facebook away message that said something like, "Time for India to step up and take care of business and kick some ass" or something to that extent. After reading that, one line kept playing in my head over the weekend, "You can kill people but you can't kill ideas." We can go after bad people in this world but their ideas will just be carried on by those around them. This is not a war between good people and bad people. This is a war of ideas. The only way we can solve the problems we're facing is to offer hope and opportunity to those in need. Offer the young of the world positive outlets. The people carrying out these missions are young people like you and me. Their entire moral structure and outlook on life is hijacked at a young age by corrupt people around them. They're never given a chance to make something of themselves. They become "evil" and "soul-less" as one victim described them.

I look to places like Kerala as a great example of what India can become someday. I don't know everything about Kerala but from what I've heard the people regardless if they're Muslim or Christian or Hindu have a large sense of pride in their state. The government gives the people opportunity to progress, which has led to one of the highest female literacy rates in the world. Even in Kasargod, where some of my family lives, you have the occasional Hindu-Muslim protest but it never escalates out of control.

I've been thinking about moving to India for years now. Seeing everything that's happened in the last week only strengthens my desire to go there. There are so many countries in this world with so much potential. I happen to be more familiar with India. I've seen the potential that India has and would love help cultivate some of that. It's always been a life goal of mine to make a positive impact on India and I'm hoping the time comes soon.

Yet we can also do our part at home. The other night I heard people talking about how Muslims were behind the attacks. I could tell in their tone of voice that they were trying to generalize across the religion. I could have gone on for a while to them about how Islam is being misused by these people and about how many people believe some ideas expressed in the Quran are symbolic like the war in the Gita. I didn't want to get that crazy but I explained how they were not sure yet who was behind the attacks and to not to generalize across the religion. I think we can all do our part in this war of ideas.

Educate yourself and then the people around you on issues. Have discussions with people that know more than you and then teach people that know less than you. Honestly, this battle is going to continue until we are long gone. While we're here though, I think it's time we not sit idle but lend our hand to bring opportunity to those forgotten in the world, to bring light to those purposely being held captive in the dark, and to do our best to remove the veil placed in front of us. Maybe one day we can realize we're all riding the same elephant together after all.

Hermann Hesse

Before I had turned to look at the guy next to me I had overheard him speaking about his past. He looked a little too clean and professional. I asked him anyway, "I bet you've seen every animal dude but which one do you love the most?" It was an honest question as much as a way for me to see if this guy was for real. "Elephants are quite smart you see," he said. "They will only drink clean water. In one of our Mozambique reserves we have a large watering hole for the animals. All of the park animals drink from the stagnant water in the hole. The elephants though somehow always seek out the source of the water and drink straight from the pipe before it enters the hole. Amazing right? But listen, even ants take care of one another. If only we took care of one another as much ants. Everything from the elephant to the single ant. They are all magnificent. Even the single ant"

In the last month I have had conversations with a lifelong safari leader from South Africa, a "h.o.o.d" guy from Los Angeles (that's what he kept calling himself), and two recent young Gujurati immigrants that work nearby. I ran into each one of them when I really needed an ear to listen to me (I think they did too). I will get back to these random people in a bit.

I feel like I have lived an entire lifetime since the middle of May. One of my friends got married in Texas at the craziest wedding I have ever seen, I saw Stevie Wonder and B.B. King live in Chicago, and spent some time at home (although home is a little weird right now with all the construction on our house). Oh I became Uncle Vaman too and that was all just June! July began with the Konkani convention. My mind was blown after the convention (and still is in a lot of ways). The thoughts I heard young people voice were really fresh and some of the people I met were memorable to say the least. My parents also kind of decided that they should help me along if I decide to start my own business venture. A lifelong family friend got married the following weekend, so I was back in the Bay. Amazingly the summer only got more intense from that point on.

Like I said, it has felt like a lifetime. It's been extraordinary in great ways and in awful ways. Just as any lifetime experiences. From the third week in July on here is a laundry list of the good, the great and the awful.

I went camping in Madison (which reminded me how much I love the outdoors). I went to Madison for a bachelor party. I tried Nepali food for the first time and loved it (it was similar to Chinese food in India). I saw Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco at Lolla. I went on a super health kick cooking all the time. Oh wait, I also went on a eat out every meal kick for some time (still on that one). I met a couple people that may play an important roll in my life later on. My buddy Shawn got married one morning in our neighborhood. That warm and loving morning sun was shining on us. I looked around and felt so fortunate to know the people sitting around me. I got super homesick (which I have never been before). I had six college buddies staying with me for a weekend and an old roommate live with me for a week to give me a piece of home out here in Chicago. I got excited about a girl. I got stressed about little things in life like traffic. I let little everyday battles affect my mood in a negative way. Someone I knew took their own life. He was younger than me and it disturbed me how someone that seemed so happy could be in such pain inside. It made no sense to me and I felt regret for not reaching out to him. I felt ashamed to have been stressed about inconsequential things for so long and letting that affect my interactions with him. I let go of a lot of things that were going on because I needed things to settle down. A group of folks came to visit from the Bay and they probably have no idea how nice it was to see them and feel home for a second time this summer. Football started up again and I enjoyed many a Saturday and Sunday with homies in a bar. We found a bar with a $2 all you can eat tater tot mini bar. Not to mention $2 giant beer drafts. I saw Redbull Flugtag and the Chicago Airshow, which were both super fun. A very kind middle-aged man on my floor passed away. He always said something hip to me on the elevator. He was a huge Cubs fan and I had been meaning to take him out for a drink and catch a game. I hope the Cubs go far in the playoffs this year. Computer programming began to make sense. I taught people on my team at work how to program. I began teaching public speaking. The 8th graders I taught were incredible and inspirational. So many visitors came out to Chicago this summer. I'm very glad people have never been to Chicago and want to visit.

It's was a packed summer. The sad parts of it left me utterly lost. I walked around my block a lot. The other day I had what we call in design the "AHA" moment. It's was based on advice someone gave me earlier this summer:

"You know when you're doing something and you get that amazing positive feeling? (That great burning feeling in your heart). That's when you know you're doing something inline with your values (true self). Try focusing on those things and cutting out the other stuff."

Her point was that we have the choice of what we want to do (to some extent). Actively focus on the shit you really want to do. Stop going with the flow so much. Yayyuh? Yayyuh!
It's so simple but I had never sat down to think about it. So I did. Hmmmmm. India gives me that feeling. Meeting with a group of people I'm designing something for gives me that feeling. Teaching gives me that feeling. AHA! All of these things have merely been vehicles. I love hearing stories. It's about connection. It's about trying to make that connection with people. Hearing personal stories. It's what their stories say about them. Any story gives you so much more insight into a person than if they described themselves. Lending an ear to the voiceless. Drawing connections between people that would have never seen the connection between themselves.

The South African guide and I talked about the natural world and religion. I heard about how the Subway workers' families are still in Gujurat and felt how hard it must be for them to be alone in America. These are just two random groups of people I ran into on separate nights. Now think of all the people you know. People all around us have stories they want or even need to tell and it took me needing to get things off of my mind to remember that. I hope I get to thank them (and you) for listening. At some point, I would love to hear what feel good things you like doing in your life.


I love having little side projects if you can't tell. I've always loved writing when I'm stressed or when I want to express myself and can't explain my thoughts to the people around me. So here's a little something something Tyrone and I have been kicking back and forth for a while. Basically an outlet for us to write, post pictures, and express ourselves. The idea was to have our friends submit pieces when they wanted too as well. A celebration of life. Don't you feel like we need more of that?

A place "Where souls gather to play while minds kick back and marinate on life."

Welcome to another chapter in the Mind Marinade Movement.

When I Feel So Good....

You know that feeling you get when you're attracted to someone and you graze hands for the first time? Or right before that first kiss, you close your eyes and for a second your heart stops in anticipation? Intoxication. Addiction. Euphoria. So many adjectives could be used to describe this feeling. Well I haven't had that feeling in a long time. I wish I could say that it's for a lady but alas it tis not! =)

I can still remember my first time. I was nervous, having never experienced such things. I walked in and sat down. Without notice the event began. My natural reflex was to close my eyes and take deep breathes. As the music danced around the room it was almost as though I wasn't listening to it but rather I was inhaling it. Like it was entering through each breath and continuing its dance through my body with my soul.

Was that dramatic enough for you? Honestly, I have been obsessed with music my entire life. I used to bring my boombox with me anytime I went to the bathroom, when I played basketball, when I went to sleep, all the time! In the last few years, I think I have turned much more towards music that teaches me something. I guess that means music with good lyrics that mean something to me. I still love the club bangers on Friday and Saturday nights but for the most part, lyrics are what I crave. Blues music moves me in a way that music has not moved me in a long time and I think it's because it offers something pretty special.

In the last few months, I have become a frequent patron at an old blues bar near my house and I'm taking a class on the history of the blues right now too. We began with the influences of blues and every week we travel through time as blues music evolved. The teacher spouts off anecdote after anecdote about guys with "Blind" in front of their name or with names like "Spider" or "Big" something or other. Our only assignment in class is to sit and listen to the lyrics to each song he plays. It's mind blowing. Every song tells the story of the time. Songs about racism in the South, about slavery, about the Vietnam War, about hope, about positivity, and about contagious optimism. It's like the music was born out of despair and the lowest depths of the human soul only to be used to raise the soul to the highest level.

I leave every class meeting both saddened about the past of America and uplifted by the outlook of the original blues singers. We learned about JB Lenoir, who sang songs about politics and the plight of people in the South. Another big theme in his music was respect for women. He was in a car accident and his injuries were not taken seriously because he was black. We've already learned of three revolutionary musicians whose lives ended early because they were black. The amazing thing is, for all the sadness of the time, blues singers still seemed to raise the spirits of their listener. It's almost like these women and men addressed the sadness all around them and then told everyone to enjoy the moment and move on. They embraced the feeling of life to the fullest.

I think it's pretty cool that the Blues and music in general can tell us a lot about the past and make us still feel emotion in the present. Another great story was about Skip James, who couldn't afford cancer treatment because he wasn't making any money singing his songs. So Eric Clapton covered one of his songs and donated all the money towards his hospital bills. How cool is that?

I love that we all have our own music tastes. We don't all take time out of busy lives though, to just sit and take in music the way it was supposed to be experienced though. Take some time today, close those eyes, and inhale the notes with each breath. See where it takes you.

Here are a couple J.B. Lenoir videos. He looks a lot like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and actually sang about a lot of the same topics.

This first one is a great example of the way the music tells a story about the times. I like how he hits his guitar between cords (during the second song).

When I feel so good....

The Steps

What what! If any of you are left, I'm back. Sorry about the ridiculous hiatus but the end of the year proved pretty hardcore on my mind. Honestly the entire year was a constant questioning of everything I thought I knew. My beliefs about religion, relationships, family, friendships, food, music, fashion, education, the world, and last but not least, I rounded the year out with a hardcore look at myself. It was one of the last weeks of the year and I've never felt so alone in my life. Shit was awful. It was almost like everyone was at some other stage of their life and no one could hear me. Being someone that's not so upfront about my everyday struggles, I'm usually extremely easy to read but no one was picking that up. It turned out to be a great blessing as I felt like I shed this heavy skin I had been carrying around for years. That's the reason I moved in the first place. To redefine myself and while the way it went down was pretty dark and lonesome, it needed to happen. Soooooo hear I am. Smile on my face and feeling ready for 2008 and life in general. Since I have never written a MEME (what a lame word), I thought I would do that now for your amusement. I plan on writing more frequent short posts this year. Definitely have been missing the blogging world.

1. I am extremely shy around groups of people I don't know. Now people always tell me I'm bullshitting when I say this since they've seen me be social before. But you were there right? And I know you! It's when I don't know anyone. Seriously I wish you could see how awkward I am.

2. I used to be deathly afraid of spiders until I stayed in India for a couple months and strangely enough are kind of fond of them now. I'm not going to go as far as to say I would play with one but from afar they are quite majestic.

3. My musical tastes went through an unbelievable Renaissance last year. A couple of months ago I starting listening to more blues music and I honestly felt like I had never heard music before. Some songs gave me the shivers. I've been going to blues clubs a lot around town too and taking a class on the history of Chicago blues!

4. Being the youngest in my immediate family, one of the youngest in my extended family and having quite a few older friends, I have always expected a lot from other people. I am really good at being dedicated to the wrong people and then being disappointed when they're not dedicated to me. Awesome! =)

5. The dream life would be living in India about a third of the year. Staring a company with an office there would be even better!

6. I was professionally trained in Indian classical dance for most of my life. That's why I am so damn smooth on the dance floor.

7. My biggest fear is being alone. I've come to like it more and more living by myself but those that know me well know that I almost never turn down the chance to hang out with people. You know that feeling when you're in a big group but feel alone? Ah! I can't stand that feeling. I think that's part of the reason I try to talk to people, to prevent that situation.

8. I think following a particular sports team and religious fanaticism have a lot of similarities. That has nothing to do with me but shows you I think about weird things.

9. There's a basketball court in my hometown that me and my friend Dave have been on more than any other humans. Probably even more than most animals too.

10. I would love to teach people to be more confident in the way they speak to people.

Oh and I was not trained in Indian classical dance! This shit is all natural girl. You can't teach these moves. Well friend, here's to 2008. Here's to more posts. Here's to hopeful smiles and here's to being proactive and making moves this year and in life. Like Vaclav Havel said, "Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the steps."