Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shameless Plug for World Cancer Day

            Today is World Cancer Day. Yesterday our chapter of National Honor Society that I co-sponsor began its campaign to support the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Tampa Bay. Our goal this year is raise $5,000 to support local children who are afflicted with blood cancers, diseases which have a high curability rate in the young.

            Today I am shamelessly asking you to support us in our efforts. Not only with a pledge of support, but in assisting with spreading the word. Cancer is so prevalent in developed nations that I doubt hardly anyone who reads this doesn’t have their own cancer story, whether from battling it themselves or helping other family members cope with the disease during treatment.

            If you can support our cause monetarily, please do so. If you are reading this far away and don’t necessarily feel a connection to local children here in the Tampa Bay region, then please consider making a donation to your local chapter. If money is not an option, you could always volunteer your time at facilities that are local to you or simply spread awareness by passing this message along or creating your own.

            All of this has had my mind on charity the last few days. What does it mean to be charitable? Charity by definition has to do with offering financial assistance to those who are in need, but how do we prioritize “who” is in need? Does a poor family with a child who has cancer need money more than a friend who wants to borrow a dollar to buy chips? How much can we afford to give away? What carries weight in such a calculus?

Please consider making a donation

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who Are You?

            Today’s question is simple, straightforward, and nearly impossible to answer:

Who are you?

            Beyond being a great song by The Who, I think this is one of those questions that forces us to plumb the depths of our minds but really never come up with an answer that can suffice to explain us in our totality. Many of the students with whom I spoke today typically began with their names, which had me explaining that our names do not define who we are. Names are placeholders, convenient designations for us to grasp onto, but certainly don’t convey the essence of who we are. No label can do this. Sure I can say that my name is Ryan and claim to be a husband, brother, son, uncle, friend, teacher, mentor, philosopher, weirdo and a whole lot of other things in between, but none of them will ever get to the root of what it means to be me (or you).

            One of the best answers I received today mentioned how we are the sum total of our dreams, memories, and experiences. We may be closer to the truth with this idea, this notion of being an aggregate of many pieces, yet we must recognize the shifting sands upon which all of these pieces of our totality are constructed. Change is fundamental to living and growing, especially when it comes to wisdom. Are we the same person who experienced X at age 12 when we have a similar experience at age 38? Probably not (Heraclitus would offer a firm "No").

            I don’t have any other questions for you other than the one asked earlier. Who are you? To be completely candid, my answer is “I don’t know.” It’s tremendously difficult to put into words, as are all phenomena that defy linguistic limitations (a profound religious experience comes to mind—completely ineffable, inexplicable), but that doesn’t let us off the hook as philosophers. We must still contend, grapple, wrestle with this question…and all good questions.

Please leave your comments below and feel free to share with others.

            P.S. – If you’ve never taken a Briggs-Meyer Personality test and want to find out who you are (in whatever limited psychological sense these tests can convey), please click here to take one. It only takes a few minutes and is—admittedly—frighteningly accurate. If you want to know more about me and my results, click the link below:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

For Your Consideration - 3

If you’re like me, you probably think about technology a lot. I often wonder about the future: how technological advancements will continue to change our lives for both the better and worse, and how the more we integrate technology into our lives the more it fundamentally changes what it means to be a human being. The rapidly accelerating pace at which we’ve made these vast leaps in technological progress is both fascinating and terrifying simultaneously.

With that in mind, I am asking you to watch this really old TED talk from 20 years ago and think about what he predicts versus where we are in 2014. Think about the premise of his entire argument, which may challenge those who are close-minded (and surely no burgeoning philosophers are). It is both fascinating and terrifying.

Oh, and if you don’t know who Danny Hillis is, he’s one of the guys who helped build the original internet back in the 1970s. Makes his perspective that much more interesting.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


            Today I was back out in the courtyard, strolling through the sunshine and brisk air. The word I had on my board was SUCCESS along with a few associated questions soliciting students to tell me their general ideas/definitions of success and how we can recognize it in ourselves and others. The response was overwhelming.
            The first few students to say anything to me mentioned being millionaires (shocking). I turned it around on them by asking is it okay to be a millionaire no matter how you got the money? They immediately recognized the difference between starting your own small business and living a life of crime. Then they went on to mention how it would be important to raise a family, live a good life, get an education, et cetera.
            The best reaction I had today started with one student. He told me—of course—that he had to have: 1) a huge mansion; 2) be a billionaire (I guess millionaire is not enough for him); 3) be famous; 4) have a model wife. I would have pressed him to explain what he meant by “model,” but I figured he meant one who displays the latest fashions rather than some notion of perfection insofar as who or what a wife is supposed to be. After he loudly proclaimed these to practically everyone within earshot, I asked him where he got such notions and was about to ask if reality television and American popular culture have distorted his (or our) views of success before his friends all started chiming in. They told him that that is not the only form of success; they mentioned accomplishing personal goals and dreams, living to the best of one’s abilities, and exceeding the expectations of ourselves and others. By the time I left, 5 or 6 students were discussing success with each other. And that certainly made today a success for me.

            How about you? How would you define success? Are there certain universal forms of success that people might agree upon regardless of culture and context? Why or why not? How do you recognize success in yourself? In others? Do you try to promote success by the way you live? Why is success important? Do we have to be successful at everything, or is it okay to succeed in only certain endeavors?

Please leave your comments and questions for others.