Managing editor shares personal ideals, anecdotes

Mindfulness: why it matters to balance awareness and outreach, logic and emotion

I was scared to write this notebook. I was afraid it would seem like I’m not chill, or like I have a sociopolitically charged opinion (I promise I’m not a social justice warrior). In the end, I decided to write it as part of a personal endeavor to speak up when it matters to me. I like to think I’m pretty good at being ambivalent, so I’ve done my best to write it in a way that balances emotional investment in culture and appeal to logic. Here’s my case for mindfulness: two anecdotes and three dualities.

This summer, a friend visited me in San Jose. We went to the park, because I thought that was a perfectly good way to spend time. When I got home, however, my mother presented me with another perspective: when someone visits a place, they want to know what makes it unique and what it has to offer. A better idea, she suggested, would have been to go on a hike or take him to try food that he wouldn’t see in his neighborhood. That made me realize that I had never considered genuinely getting to know my surroundings or sharing it with others. And I felt bad.

This past Friday, I stumbled across a Facebook event called Lantern Fest being hosted by Sack Lunch Productions—a for-profit company that runs the ‘fun’ events that you see in Facebook viral videos. But, intentionally or not, they’d appropriated two cultural phenomena: Holi (their Color Me Rad event), the Indian spring festival of colors, and sky lanterns (their Lantern Fest event), a tradition in both Asian and Latin American countries. The events were advertised for surface-level aesthetic and entertainment, with no mention of the cultural inspirations in the FAQs; I don’t expect each individual to be culturally aware, but a public influence like Sack Lunch Productions should be held accountable. Combined with the global dominance of western culture, which can selectively include parts of other cultures (explanation at https://poly.rpi.edu/s/cm8ra), I believe these events qualify as appropriation. This organization was making money from these events. And I felt angry.

These anecdotes hint at something everyone can continually improve in: being mindful. There are two parts to that—coming into awareness of differences, and reaching out to communicate those differences and work with them. For example, I could’ve learned about my neighborhood, and that would’ve enabled me to share it with my friend. Sack Lunch Productions could take steps to research the background of the events they host. Reflecting that on their websites would allow these pop culture phenomena to help celebrate other diverse cultures, instead of stripping away identity.

When I told my friends about the appropriated event, some reacted with apathy, and some with anger. This brings me to a second duality: logic and emotion. My friends came to the conclusion that these events only produced positive results (happy people) and not negative ones (tangible harm), whereas my angry friends couldn’t excuse the appropriation. Each has its reasons, but I’d like to argue for both. Emotion is the essence of the human experience—everyone feels, and being able to understand where others are coming from is important. But they also get really messy. So, in order to handle them appropriately, it’s necessary to stop and logically step through the reasons for those emotions and the actions that should be taken to address them. This way, we can all constructively work with the things we care about and find compromise for all parties involved.

That brings me to my third duality: passion and productivity (a job you love or a job that pays?), because it’s that emotional spark that brings people together and effects change. Honestly, when I say passion, I mean a combination of logic and emotion. If you’re trying to accomplish something, you need a motivation that has a sound purpose and strategy; but it’s not enough to just daydream. When you find a vision you need to, as a friend once told me, hit the ground running. Whether that’s hours of planning or grunt work, what matters is that your conviction is being transformed into real change. Otherwise, your dream deferred “just sags/like a heavy load.”

These anecdotes also show that I’m still growing. They delineate my carelessness and passion regarding culture, and that’s how I’ve always thought of myself: I care, but I don’t put in the necessary effort. That needs to change, and that’s what I’m making now all about. (If you read my past notebooks, throwback! It’s time to leave ProcrastinatoRex in the past.) These are some of my most valued personal ideals and endeavors for a reason, and I’d like to share them in the hopes that others will consider them as well.

So TL;DR: I believe that everyone has to care—that’s the first step. And then we need to move forward with that by being aware of differences, and reaching out with a balance of logic and emotion in order to communicate with a wider range of people, and then channeling that motivation into productive work. I think that keeping these key concepts in consideration can resolve a majority of our problems, whether in relationships, the workplace, or internationally. I know that’s heavy—but the start of a new school year is the perfect time to think about how I’m moving forward. And if you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll join me.