All Your Base Are Belong to Us

Aside

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So a few people have asked me to talk about my experience in Japan and love of it’s culture.  Japan (and speaking Japanese) for me is sort’ve like being awake during a dream; you know you aren’t supposed to be able to breathe underwater or fly, but somehow you find yourself doing it.  You know that you shouldn’t be able to morph into a 5-part giant villian fighting Mecha, but there you are, defending the city from Godzilla.  I’ll keep this short and sweet today; here are my top-ish three things that have made me come to love this amazing place.

*Sidenote – I have spent a large amount of time outside of the major Urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka, so some of mine might seem contradictory to your view of the country*

The Goods

  • In with the Old, In with the New – Japan is one of those places that seems to teeter back and forth between strong tradition and cutting edge modernism.  On one street you can go to the arcades, stay in a capsule hotel, see a group of street dancers practicing, or visit a sprawling electronics district. Very close to it, you’ll find yourself taking part in a green tea ceremony, getting a ride on a (jin) rickshaw, buying delicious fresh food from a street vendor, and tossing coins into a temple box for good luck. If these places sound familiar to you, it’s because they are actual places.  Akihabara and Asakusa near Kaminari-mon.
  • Jack of all Trades? Not here.  Japan is so densely populated and competition in respective areas so high, it’s pretty rare to find people who are specializing in more than one thing.  As a result, you find a culture of people that are focused and completely invested in their area of expertise.  I’ll never forget sitting in on a middle school orchestra performing the end theme to the Pirates of the Caribbean; it gave me chills to hear how good these students were.  Or knowing that my Japanese bboy friends would be practicing on the main street almost every night in Kochi City.  Your group seemed to become your second family, and if you had free time, you were probably spending it with them.  As a guy with as many hobbies and interests as I can shake a stick at, I’ve always admired those that pick one thing and stick with it.
  • The Onsen (ohn-sen)- if you’ve ever talked to me about Japan for more than 3 minutes, there’s a good chance I’ve brought up the Japanese hot springs.  Outside of the friends I’ve made, this has to be my absolute favorite thing about the country.  Obviously the whole bathing around other people naked thing can seem daunting at first, but you quickly realize no one really cares about you and you begin to appreciate the experience.  Particularly for a country whose homes aren’t well insulated, in the winter these are an absolute must.  Imagine spending the entire day with frozen toes, trying to stay warm with countless cups of green tea, only to finally be freed from your prison of cold by sinking into a steaming bath of hot spring water.  Not moved yet?  Imagine that you’re in the mountains, and that it’s snowing.  You think to yourself that you should be cold, but you aren’t, because even though you’re outside, you’re still sitting that warm natural tub of amazingness I just mentioned.

So, these are just a few things that I love about Japan.  Hope that it piqued your interests a bit, and that maybe someday if you have a chance to travel abroad, Japan will be at the top of your list!

Five things you didn’t know about Jesus

willisan:

Very thought provoking!

Originally posted on CNN Belief Blog:

Opinion by the Rev. James Martin , special to CNN

(CNN) — With Easter approaching, and the movie “Son of God” playing in wide release, you’re going to hear a lot about Jesus these days.

You may hear revelations from new books that purport to tell the “real story” about Jesus, opinions from friends who have discovered a “secret” on the Web about the son of God, and airtight arguments from co-workers who can prove he never existed.

Beware of most of these revelations; many are based on pure speculation and wishful thinking. Much of what we know about Jesus has been known for the last 2,000 years.

Still, even for devout Christian there are surprises to be found hidden within the Gospels, and thanks to advances in historical research and archaeological discoveries, more is known about his life and times.

With that in mind, here are five things you…

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5 Simple Ways to Get More Out of Life

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Title says it all.  Let’s jump in:

1.)  Take a bath a couple times a month.  If you’re really adventurous, find a local Japanese/Korean style bathhouse.  I dare you to take a few hours to relax at one of these and it not become a favorite pastime.  And to those who are wary(talking mainly to the dudes here), don’t worry; no one is checkin’ you out.

2.) Look at things through a child’s eyes once in a while.  Most likely you’ll come away with some great insight.

3.) Take the scenic route once in a while.  In the spring and summer when the daylight lasts a bit longer, try avoiding the highway and drive through town to get home.  Better yet, park the car and take a stroll.  You’ll find the neighborhood has loads more to offer when you aren’t cruising by at 70mph.

4.) Spend a day or weekend as a visitor in the city you live in.  Shame on us who can tour another place better than where we reside.  Unfortunately though, it happens.  Whether you come away with a good story or a new favorite spot, it’s a win.

5.) Get in bed 2 hours before you normally do. Then close your eyes.  Then don’t open them until you have to get up in the morning.  That’s it.  I know, you’re thinking about all of the things you’ll miss out on.  They’ll be there tomorrow.  You can even wake up early and do them if you want, and you’ll feel like a new person.

Try these out from time to time and let me know how it works for ya.  Might even help you get over that writer’s block/sales slump/relationship funk that you’re in.  And if you have any good ones to share, I’m all ears.

Peace.

Gut Check

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I don’t know if it was finally being able to catch my breath after Christmas and all of the holiday parties, or the quiet, rainy Sunday that followed, but I found myself in a pensive mood yesterday; a nagging something in the back of my mind that refused to fully let me realize my aggressive goal of doing nothing.

I’m 29, and while my body is beginning to gently (sometimes) let me know I can’t be as hard on it as I used to, for the majority of the time I still am under the guise that life will never really change, and that I’ll never really get old.  But I know, and you do too, that this isn’t the way the world works.  Ironically enough, even pop culture reminds us of this truth.  Turn on top 40 radio and at any given time you’re reminded that “tonight won’t last forever” or that your youth is fleeting so live it up.  Granted this is usually to get you out on the dance floor or to have that last drink or to get that girl’s/guy’s number (not necessarily bad ideas), but these things are typically short-lived.  Do they matter long-term?

I slightly blame Office Space being on, because while being brilliant and hilarious it does subtly ask the question “What’s really important here?”.  Is it having a significant other?  Is it where you live, or what you drive?  Is it your vocation, or what you get from your job?  Surely the list here is endless; do you know what is most important to you?

Different people answer tough questions differently.  My mental processing power seems to increase about three-fold just before a nap.  My thinking bed if you will.  It just so happens that it’s also my sleeping bed, avoiding waking up for work bed, and my reading books-bed; a generally happy place.  So off I went, to tackle this ever-so-slightly bothersome thing in my mind.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to what’s going on this inside.  Some call it your ‘gut’, others your conscience, maybe others something else, but I’ve found it’s usually a pretty good compass in navigating the internal waters of emotion.

For a moment, I was able to pause long enough to put down the subconscious striving, things I needed to do, and negative thinking.  Sometimes, it can be surprising how far away you are from a sincere, truthful assessment of yourself.  I don’t have a list of things that you should hold dear, or what types of goals you should be setting.  Those things have their time and place.  I think for now, what may be more important is learning for yourself how you can get into the mindset of answering the question, whatever it may be, clearly.  For me, depending on how crazy life is or how long I’ve had a gutcheck, I might have to go to a quiet place and work through some of the internal noise.  Asking the advice of a trusted friend or mentor can be a great option as well.  If you can handle it, honest friends can be like a mirror, helping you to see some things you may not have wanted to, but needed to see.

In the end, I was able to find out what it was that had been bothering me, and deal with it.  To be the type of people we all want to be, these moments are crucial to how we live our lives.  That is how great legacies are established.  Don’t ever feel like it is too late to start being honest with yourself, and it doesn’t mean you end up suffering in silence while you’re trying to figure things out.  We all hit roadblocks in life and need the helping hands of friends and family to get us out of them.  I’ve had absolute strangers show me more about myself in a few minutes than acquaintances I’ve had have done in years.  But it takes being open to listening, and being honest.

Best thing is, this isn’t another New Years Resolution for you to feel about not completing.  I have a good feeling though, that if you try putting this into practice, if and when you do make one, it’ll be something you’re passionate about and have the energy to attain.

Happy New Years!

The Friend Zone

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Just rolled your eyes right? And then pictured ‘that person’?

You hear that phrase and all sorts of awkward, painful, funny, and frustrating memories come flooding into your head I’m sure.  Take a second, breathe, and remember that I’m on your side here.  I’ve been on both sides of this too.  And if you think you’re immune to having ever been the giver of slow death here, well you just hold onto that cloud of innocence for a little bit now.  In Latin the term actually reads as ‘Amicus Zonus’ and oddly enough has been in circulation since St. Valentine joined the church after his love interest rejected his profession for a younger, wealthier man.

Ok I made that up. But you wanted it to be true.  I know you did.

Getting to the point: Why does the zone exist, and which party is really at fault here?  The zoner for not drawing a clearer line, or the zonee for not reading the signs?  I’m a 29 year old dude living in Atlanta with a pretty active social life, and can say that no party is the victor here.  So let’s break it down, and you can be the judge and tell me who deserves to walk the plank.

Zonee

Knee-jerks: WTF. Succubus. Player. Romeo Must Die. Burn down the building.

So you’ve used your wittiest banter, dressed to impress, brought a bottle of trader joe’s finest, and made subtle references to his or her known interests, but you’re stuck in relational purgatory (definitely not me, happened to some other guy).  So was it all an illusion from the start? Did you make a mistake somewhere and involuntarily knock yourself out of the running?  Or maybe were you being led on?

I can only give the best advice I’ve gotten on this one, and it comes from my dad.  You like someone, let them know early on, maybe not “Hi my name is Kris, we should totally go steady” early, but before you start using common likes interests from their Facebook to prove they’re the one.  Guys, humor is your friend here.  Be honest but keep it light.  You don’t want the girl to feel like she’s going to put you on suicide watch if she says passes.  You do however, get massive amounts of points if you actually say ‘go steady’.  Ladies, don’t ever feel like you need dumb yourself down.  Being said, sometimes having a good volley is before the smash is more fun than getting an ace.  And to both parties, try to be honest and ask yourself that if the person you like told you bluntly that they had zero interest in you romantically, could you take it?  If the answer is ‘no’, then you have very little reason to be mad about being zoned.  Most people do it because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

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Knee-jerks: Again? Why doesn’t this happen with someone I like?  Typical.  What am I doing wrong here?

Unless you’re super honest and upfront, or a cold robot-person who enjoys shutting people down, you’ve probably been in the hot seat here.  Nobody wants to not be attracted to someone who wants to be with them, but datgumit things just happen sometimes and you have to do the humane thing and drop the guillotine.  Now there are some horrible people who enjoy playing with the emotions of people whom they know are interested; I’m sure that the deepest circles of the X Factor reruns are reserved for them.  But for the rest of us who may find ourselves in this uncomfortable situation from time to time, you have to ask yourself a few questions: Am I knowingly leading this person on?  Am I throwing the stiff arm for legitimate reasons?  Am I keeping this person close because I feel insecure about myself?

So, who is really at fault here?

This is where you make the drumrolls.

Honestly, I think it’s a mix of both.  I’m all for keeping some mystery in the relationship, but being clear about how you feel and putting a couple of your cards on the table might help everyone out in the long run.  The FZ is a terrible place to live in, even if it has helped produce some of the best art and motivation to be successful in the last 100 years, so lets all do what we can to shrink it.  Of course, I make no claims at being a relationship expert.  This is just one man’s take on things, and I’d love to hear your opinion whether you agree with mine or not.

Peace

Oct 11th

What better celebration of life than two people coming together in marriage?

Today, roughly two years after meeting, and a year-long engagement, my older sister is getting married.  She’s the first one of the siblings to tie the knot, and the last two weeks have essentially been a celebration fest with family, friends, and laughter.  I wish it could last forever; I think we were all made to celebrate, make new friends, eat tons of good food, and dance.

Today also happens to be the day I get the chance to bless a family who recently lost a daughter/sister/friend who was near and dear to everyone she came in contact with.  A few months ago, Julia Tarter suddenly passed away, far younger than anyone expected.  It was a devastating blow to her family and loved ones, and even I, who primarily interacted with Julia from afar, felt the impact that her life had on those around her.

Her church family gathered at Northpoint Community church two months ago for the best memorial service I have ever attended, during which we all received small cards with a date stamped on it; whatever date you received was your day to somehow, in your own way, remind the Tarter family of what a joy and blessing Julia was to you.  So you can imagine what day I got (and how my sister and I chuckled when we saw October 11th was the day).

If you watched or attended the service, you may have heard Clay talk about a guy who possesses nigh-superhuman dancing abilities, and while that may be slight hyperbole, for the purpose of this post I’m willing to let it slide.  My first encounter with Julia was back in 2009, during my first ‘The Walk’ attendance as a high school small group leader.  Having been a bboy (breakdancer) for about 7 years of my life at this point, I found myself in a 100 + person dance competition, and somehow made it down to the final, against none other than (you guessed it) Miss Julia Tarter herself.  

Let me tell you; I’ve danced on stages in front of thousands, at competitions, and halftime performances, but this girl was intimidating.  Some people can memorize a few moves and fewer still some are comfortable being in the spotlight, but Julia was straight groovin all night and I knew the longer this thing went on the more likely I was to come out bruised and emotionally scarred from losing. Don’t let my cool demeanor fool you, I’m ultra competitive ;-).  

A few intense rounds later, I somehow ended up the winner, and to this day I felt like Julia was robbed of her glory.  I actually found her shortly after and told her this, and tried to give her the victor’s crown I had received.  She wouldn’t accept it at first, but finally did after some prodding.  As I remember it, she came up to me about 10 minutes later and gave it back, saying that I should have it.  

If nothing else, that’s the kind of person she was in my eyes, making the people around her better, striving to give the best that they could offer.  I think people like that make us feel truly alive.  And while I plan on sending the crown she gave back to me that night to her family as soon as I find it, all of us at that memorial service those few weeks ago know that she already has a crown much more glorious than the one I tried to give her that night.  1 Corinthians 9:25 says that those who strive and work for the Gospel of Jesus Christ will receive a crown that will last forever, and I know with certainty that Julia is straight flexin her’s 24/7 in heaven right now.

So on the dance floor today at my sister’s wedding, you can bet Julia will get a shout out in my mind for not being afraid to have fun and go all out.  To her family, I hope you know how large an impact she had on this world.

Love,

Kris

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Man in the Mirror

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I was chatting with my girlfriend today and asked her the question, “If your current self saw your 15 year old self, what would they say..and vice-versa?”

Her answer struck a chord with me, and I told her mine. Both of my answers were more revealing than I was prepared for.

Current age (28) to 15 – “You’ll never be a G (gangster).  You’re sincere, loyal, and funky.  People need real and they need it from you, so be yourself.”

This is a 30% hipster/business professional/fitness nut/breakdancer/indie-movie lover/photographer speaking to an insecure, not-as-‘black’-as-he-should-be high school sophomore.  I have in no way, even remotely arrived, but I am MUCH further along than I was at one point, and these are the things I would have benefitted understanding.

My 15 year old self says to current day me – “You have an awesome girlfriend, sweet manual Audi, Samsung flat screen/PS3/iMac, and a cool place to live in?  You made it dude!”

Background being, It was hard for me to even see past high school let alone becoming a live-action adult.  I think it’s official btw; you know, the whole bit about turning into an adult.  Life keeps sending me subtle reminders.  As in the other night I made dinner for my mother at my place, and afterwards as we were cleaning up, she asked me where the cutting board went.

*Power pause*

This may not seem like much to you but believe me when I say I could feel the atoms of the universe splitting at the words.  You’ll be glad to know that I  somehow managed to hold it together however, and just laughed it off as ‘getting older’.

So, what about you?  What would current day you say to 15 year-old you?

Peace