Not Meant to Be

I can’t be your guy,
I’m not that naive,
A romance that we found
Isn’t meant to be.

I’m just a man
I don’t have a plan
I would have been good to you
As best I can

But it’s not meant to be.

I’m sure that you’ll cry
Don’t fall to your knees
I never meant any harm to you
So listen to me please

It might sound absurd
It’s hard to conceive
I don’t want to come across as just a tease.
You’re worth more than this.
You’re worth more than me.
You’re worth more than a fantasy or a summer dream.

It’s just not meant to be.

Don’t be feeling bad
I don’t want you the slight bit sad
It’s just not easy,
when it isn’t meant to be.

I don’t want to break a heart,
As fragile as it may be.
But it seems that I’ll just be,
Another distant summer dream.

I won’t forget your smile,
Just don’t forget me.
I don’t want to be a forgotten man
of what just couldn’t be.

I’ll let it live on,
if only in song,
And I’ll never forget
What wasn’t meant to be.

I’m only a man,
I’m only a dream
A simple vision of
What could have been

The summer passed by
Like clouds in a sky
The metaphoric rain of all
the tears you cried

I won’t forget you,
Just don’t forget me,
And we’ll both smile when we think of
What wasn’t meant to be.

My Camping Weekend

Sit down and let me tell you a tale that started in tragedy and ended in triumph…

This weekend my family and I packed up a Ford Taurus with kayaks, tents, sleeping bags and various other camping accoutrements and we headed off into the Maine wilderness.

Right about here.

Now, it should be pointed out that the Asalone family is not a traditional camping family. My dad hated camping up until about five years ago when we first started camping at Natanis. Before that his camping experiences included mosquitoes, black flies, and a mosquito-black fly mutation that has evolved for the sole purpose of defending the wilderness from young Italian-American campers. My mom enjoyed camping with her family when she was young but she mentioned that they invariably chose the rainiest weekends to camp every single year. One year it rained so hard that the lake they were camping on overflowed and the flood encroached upon their tent. Frantic, they uprooted the tent and moved it further from the edge of the lake. After a little while the flooding lake had caught up to them and they called it quits.

My sister and I had some prior camping experience before we went to Natanis for the first time. Both she and I went on our respective 8th grade camping trips. Both trips were mired by constant rain, and Katie’s trip ended with her bus skidding off the road and crashing into a tree. No one was injured.

So, before the summer of my sophomore year in high school, the likelihood of my family going off into the wilderness and camping for a weekend was slim. Yet off we went, and we had a great time, and I’ve digressed so allow me to get back to the point…

We reach the camp site, we set everything up, we had a great dinner, then we sat around the the camp fire eating delicious hot shmoes.

They’re called “smores” Buzz.

Then I decided to pick up a fishing rod and see if I could catch a fish or two. Fishing is a wonderful thing. I’ve loved fishing for a couple years now and Natanis is one of my favorite places to fish. As the sun went down I cast out my line for the first time that weekend. It was a perfect cast. It was just seconds after my bob hit the water that I got a bite. I reeled it in quickly. I had dreams of catching a 12-foot sturgeon that weighed over a thousand pounds. …Instead I pulled up a tiny 5-inch perch.

As I pulled up the line, the little guy looked up to me frightfully. “Don’t worry,” I said to Nemo, “I’ll get this hook right out of you!”

Well, it was a lot easier said than done. Nemo struggled and I desperately twisted the hook around to get it out of his mouth, but he kept slipping! Finally he calmed down and I was able to get the hook out of his mouth. I immediately put him back in the water.

Be free Nemo. I thought as I let him go. A little tear would have run down my face at the sight of his freedom…

…If he hadn’t immediately turned over and floated lifeless to the surface…

I killed it. The first cast  of the weekend, first fish I’ve gotten this summer, and I killed it.

The next two nights I would have nightmares of little Nemo flopping up on shore and fish-slapping me to death.

The next morning I was desperate to get Nemo out of my mind. I proposed to my cousin that we go canoeing down-river as far as we could go. About halfway through the day we could turn around and canoe back upstream and make it home in time for dinner! I packed up some sandwiches and snacks, my cousin grabbed a compass and we were off.

We canoed down river for an hour and a half or so. There were dark clouds over the mountains to our left and we were beginning to get a bit worried that we might encounter some bad weather. We were in the middle of a lake when we heard our first clap of thunder. He and I both began scanning the shore for a good place to land. That’s when I saw this:

Specifically the top right hand corner.

“Let’s climb to the top of that!” I exclaimed to my cousin.

For reasons I still don’t fully understand, he agreed, and we climbed.

We had to scramble up a sharp embankment and then we crossed a road. We then started up what can only be described as a rock wall. I felt vaguely like Spiderman as we climbed up the first part of the cliff face. Eventually the rocks became more flat so that we could stand upright and get a look at where we were.

About halfway up we could see for miles.

We continued the ascent and it only became more difficult. The path we decided to forge was through thick under-brush and low branches. Both he and I dealt with slipping and scarring. At one point we climbed past an outcropping of rocks that held a sleeping snake. Like most young men with a love and respect for nature, we took turns poking the snake with a stick. Then we continued.

Admittedly, the path that we created was not the only way up the mountain. While we dealt with some seriously slowing branches and thorn bushes, we could have take the route that was a little more rocky. Albeit, that path looked a little more treacherous.

A very quick and violent short cut to the bottom.

It took us a long while (the whole time dark clouds approaching) but we reached the peak. We figured that we were the only people nutty enough to try to cut through to the top of that cliff without the slightest bit of a trail, but we soon found that we were not alone in our pursuit of cliff-conquest.

At the top of the highest cliff were three cairn (piles of rocks erected by hikers) one was nearly as tall as myself. I felt an interesting connection with those that had gone before me. Maine has a natural tendency to present a challenge to those willing to recognize it. My cousin and I recognized this challenge, we accepted the challenge, and we succeeded.

As he and I descended off the peak of what we decided to name Mt. Sleeping Snake, I thought back to the little fish that I had accidently ended. The skies opened up as rain came crashing down around us and I couldn’t help but think of the end of The Lion King with the metaphoric new beginning brought on by the rains. (watch that clip in it’s entirety to understand what I was feeling)  A camping weekend that began in tragedy was replaced by triumph on a mountain top.

“Well, here I am.”

Why God and Free Will can’t Technically Co-exist

Definition of FREE WILL

1: voluntary choice or decision <I do this of my own free will>
2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention
It was about 1534 when a guy by the name of John Calvin started writing of a “correct” version of Christian theology. Calvin believed that, contrary to previous teachings on Christianity, all men were not meant to love God, but instead were meant to love themselves. The few people that truly believed in Christ and worked for him did not do so of their own choice but because God had chosen them to be saved as opposed to the rest of us wretches. Calvinism has risen and fallen in popularity since John first introduced his ideas. The fall from high public opinion can be attributed, in part, to the fact that Calvin said (in essence) that God favored people of wealth to be saved whereas he had chosen poor people to suffer and then burn after that.
However, Calvin introduced a legitimate idea that has been debated by many philosophers but has been avoided by the masses for the most part: If there is an all-powerful, omnipotent and omniscient God; how can free will exist? Calvin’s answer: It doesn’t.
…And he is absolutely right.

Oh crap, here we go…

Firstly, I want everyone to know that I actually haven’t had a Facebook conversation with the almighty, so I’m not qualified to say this is how it is. However, I’m looking at a classic philosophical question as an if-then statement, and here is the logical conclusion…

If the God in question has the power to do anything he wants to and nobody else has power to rival that, then he can easily control every single decision that we make.

“But Ryan, wouldn’t we know if we didn’t have free will?” you ask me thoughtfully.

No we wouldn’t, if free will doesn’t exist, then we have no tangible way of telling the difference between having free will or not. The thought that there is a possibility that we have never experienced free will is kind of heavy, so I’ll toss the load on you later. For now let’s consider a different argument:

“Ryan, God just doesn’t dictate our every decision, even if he does have the power to.”

It sure feels that way, doesn’t it? Here’s the rub (“Problem” in Shakespeare speak): If God is omniscient, then he knows every decision we are going to make. There is no point in eternity that God hasn’t known that you were going to read this article. Because he has omnipotent powers, he could have stopped you from reading this article, but he didn’t. If God demonstrates a restraint of control, that does not mean that you have free will either. In theory, God created everything at the start. Even if that was his only influence in the history of time, since he knows exactly how everything is going to play out after that, you are already pre-destined and you have no free will.

This guy knows a thing or two about destiny.

This is not to say that God can’t exist when free will can. God must be different than our expectations. Either he is not all-powerful, or he is not omniscient. If you remove either of those two factors, free will can exist, but if God possesses both of those traits together, then it cannot.

So when a little kid decides to run on a slippery floor and falls and hurts himself, then either God caused him to slip or God knew he was going to slip and let him do it anyway, either way, there is no free will for the child.

But lets end on a brighter note than kids getting bruises. In the end, the question of whether you have free will or not is actually irrelevant. You could decide (ironically) that you have free will, or you could decide (ironically) that you don’t. Either way, it does not change anything about your life because it doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong.

If you think you have free will, then you should choose to enjoy every day.

If you think you don’t have free will, then you should enjoy every day.

Hopefully that doesn’t sound too nutty!

Mount Doom

Yesterday I went long boarding down my road. I love long boarding with a passion. The feeling of essentially floating over the ground quickly with little effort exerted makes you feel as if you have a magical power of some sort. To me, it’s like being an air-bender riding a Nimbus 2000.

Google loves me.

However, long boarding is dangerous if you bite off more than you can chew. …And that’s exactly what I did yesterday. I found myself at the top of a very steep hill (hereafter referred to as Mount Doom) looking down over all of Mordor Hampden. I realized it was steep and that I would be moving really fast, but I also figured that I would be able to handle it. Also: I was barefoot and shirtless.

I kicked off down Mt. Doom and I began to pick up speed. The wind was blowing through my hair, I bent my knees slightly for balance and I was flying. Everything seemed perfect. …Then I continued to accelerate (which a long board is wont to do on a long downhill.)

For those of you who don’t know, steering a long board is a simple motion of leaning in the direction that you want the board to turn. Being a lighter individual, and also having a love for sharp corners, I have loosened my board so as to be able to turn with just a little bit of pressure in a lean. This is great help when I am rolling around CNU. This is not a great help when I am approaching thirty-five miles per hour half-way down a long hill.

My board began to shake uncontrollably, and shifting my weight only caused the board to weave back and forth even more violently. If I stopped trying to keep my balance, then I was going to veer off in some random direction or I was going to fall off my board and hit the pavement hard. If I kept trying to keep my balance then the wobble was going to get worse and worse until I wouldn’t be able to stay on the board anymore and I would have hit the pavement hard anyway. being barefoot and shirtless I realized that in a best case scenario I was going to end up with some major road-burns all over. Things looked grim.

 Thinking fast, I leaned toward the side of the road and jumped off the board toward a patch of grass. I hit the ground hard and rolled a few times before coming to a stop, dazed. I watched as my board flew off into a rocky ditch on the opposite side of the road and I breathed a sigh of relief. Other than a handful of bruises, I got away completely unscathed. I collected my board and walked most of the way down the rest of Mount Doom.

Some times I think I’ve grown up quite a bit. I think I’ve gotten past my phase of trying really dumb things for really dumb reasons. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever outgrow my habit for doing dumb things. To my credit, I feel like my dumb choices happen less often than they used to, but now it seems the dumb choices I make are much more painful.

Joe Paterno

Recently, Penn State took down their 900-lb bronze statue of Joe Paterno. The university’s action has been accepted divisively with some folks very much in favor of the removal and some folks very much oppose it. Arguments go back and forth on both sides and emotions run high. On one side you have people calling Paterno a hero and on the other side you have people calling him rather bad things. I don’t claim to be a Penn State football fan, or a family member or friend to one of Sandusky’s victims, so let me explain why, objectively, taking down the statue wasn’t wrong.

Joe Paterno was one of the winningest coaches in the history of any sport. In 2009 he was ranked number 13 on the top 50 coaches of all time in all sports. Over his tenure at Penn State, he led five undefeated teams to major bowl games. To put that in perspective, Bill Belichick has only lead an undefeated team to a Super Bowl one time.

What are you trying to say Ryan?

Sorry coach.

Anyway, Joe Paterno’s record is sterling. The NCAA has never seen anything else like JoePa and it probably never will again. Obviously, it is easy to understand how so many people have fond memories of the legend and it is understandable that they would try to defend the legend. The people he inspired call JoePa a hero.

But can a man truly be called a hero for winning football games? Often when we think of heroes we think of fire fighters, police officers, and military soldiers and veterans. Even superheroes in the comic book universe share one key quality that makes them a hero: they are willing to make self-sacrifices. Self-sacrificing is what makes our heroes into heroes. When did Joe Paterno make sacrifices to help others? I’m sure at some point in time he made some sacrifices that were not motivated by his thirst for winning or advancement of his legacy, but I’m even more sure that self-interest took priority for Joe Paterno over the safety of children that he knew were in danger.

The report by former FBI director, Louis Freeh found that Joe Paterno was aware of what Jerry Sandusky was doing with the young boys that were entrusted in his care, and that there was much more that he could have done. Boys were being raped by 68-year old Sandusky and Joe Paterno did not contact the police. He knew that the University was going to cover up what was going on and he went along with it to protect himself and his legacy.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

That quote sums up the tarnished Paterno legacy. You can win all the football games in the world, but when it comes to real life, when there are people who need help, when you are in a position to do good, that’s when your worth will really be defined. Joe Paterno succeeded on the football field, he succeeded financially, but he failed where it mattered most: He put his success before the safety of other human beings.

Joe Paterno ought to be a lesson for all of us. The lesson is not about sex abuse or cover ups. The lesson is about duty and obligation to our fellow man. When we are presented with a choice between our success and the protection of those weaker than ourselves, we must understand that our decision will define us for the world to see.

Paradigm Shift

Have you ever heard the phrase “Paradigm shift”? Chances are; you have, and chances are; you think it sounds pretty darn cool. Some random phrases just sound really cool, “apex predator” is among the coolest. So cool in fact, that a movie was produced for the sole purpose of using that phrase.

Without that phrase the movie would only be awesome.

But do you actually know what a “paradigm shift” is?

paradigm shift (or revolutionary science) is, according to Thomas Kuhn, in his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), a change in the basic assumptions, orparadigms, within the ruling theory of science. It is in contrast to his idea of normal science. According to Kuhn, “A paradigm is what members of a scientific community, and they alone, share.”

Yes, that is the start of a Wikipedia entry. You’re welcome.
Basically a paradigm shift is a change of mind on a specific topic. It’s an interesting-sounding phrase to describe what happens when you decide that vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream after all. Besides the sound of it, the most impressive thing about a paradigm shift is that every one is capable of creating one.

So, though it may sound like you are ripping a hole in another dimension with your brain, the truth is that you can have a paradigm shift as easily as you can change your mind about what your plans for the day will look like. …Because that’s what a paradigm shift is.

Babies can have a paradigm shift about what part of their body they prefer sucking on. Toddlers can have a paradigm shift about what article of clothing they would like to get muddiest. Even adults can have a paradigm shift over the “genius” of George Lucas.

I’m going to get more creative with my next movies.

Heck, you may have held strong to the paradigm that a paradigm shift was not worth writing about. After this article, it is my hope that you will have a paradigm shift on paradigm shifts. …Which sounds so much more interesting and complex than it actually is…

 

The Dentist

In about an hour I will be going off to the dentist’s office. As a child I was never afraid of the dentist. I would always look forward to holding long discussions with my dentist while she had two or more tools in my open mouth. I delighted in the squeaky clean feeling of my teeth when I walked out, and I thought the water gun thing she had was pretty neat too.

But now I am older and more aware that, eventually, I will go to the dentist’s office and I will get bad news. The sad truth is that we are all going to lose our teeth eventually. Some lose them earlier than others and in between the tooth-loss we can get cavities and all kinds of other bad mouth stuff. Trust me, I’ve looked at those horrifying posters in the dentist’s office.

Above: Eventuality.

Ever since I got my wisdom teeth removed in my senior year of high school, I have always left the dentist’s office with a sigh of relief. It’s not until you have experienced the worst that a dentist can offer do you realize just what they are capable of. Now I attend the dentist’s office with apprehension. What if I have a toothache? What if I get a cavity? What if they find I have gingivitis?

I already know what will happen if I have something wrong: HORRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN. There’s no escaping the reality that, if anything goes wrong within your mouth, the dentist will have their way with you. They are all diabolical villains. You can tell because they wear white coats and gloves all the time.

Above: Clearly a dentist.

We are talking about a group of people that enjoy sticking their hands in other people’s mouths. They have sharp tools that they use to attempt to replicate the sound of nails on a chalk board on your teeth! They utilize vile chemicals like fluoride which they stuff in your mouth uncomfortably and they laugh after they explain to you that you can’t swallow any of it because it’s poison. …yet your throat is so dry. There is a reason why they hired an ex-dentist to write all the Saw movies (source needed).

I can only imagine what a root canal would look like…

Against my will I would be strapped down to a table. Then the dentist would walk in with a drill laughing maniacally.

“Do you expect me to talk?” I would call defiantly,

“No Mister Asalone, I expect you to cry!”

(The drill turns on with a horrible high-pitched whine. Close up on my terror-stricken face…)

So until the dentist turns to me with that fake smile and says, “Good job Ryan, you are keeping your teeth very clean,” and hands me a free toothbrush, floss and travel-sized toothpaste, I will be on my guard. If she even gets close to me with that drill I’ve already picked out my escape route. …Through the window.

…And then I’ll drive away as fast as I can.