Family

gramsIn all the bustle of my daily life, I wanted to take a moment to remember my Grandmother, Mary Pennisi.  It was just two years ago that we lost her, and her birthday is just a few weeks away.

My grandmother was born in 1919 and she died in 2011.  And though its been two years since her passing, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could just see her once more.

She was much more than a grandmother to me.  Being from a big Italian family, she was the matriarch of her children and grandchildren.  She possessed wisdom that one could never gain from college or formal education.  She lived through the Great Depression, and she embodied everything that Rosie the Riveter stood for.  “We Can Do It!”.  And that is how she lived her life.

2012-04-23T17-35-34_15When my grandfather, Frederick, was diagnosed with brain cancer, she did not give up as most would.  She took care of him in the home they built together as poor Italian/Sicilian immigrants, despite his ever worsening condition.  She refused to put him in a home, determined to care for him by herself, rather than allow him to be away from his family and friends. She cared for him in their house until his passing in 1995.  And she stayed there with all those memories until she was unable to live with her own growing dementia, when it was her daughter’s turn, my Aunt Maryann, to take care of her.

My grandmother’s funeral taught me many things.  The most important is that I should never give a eulogy.  I was barely into the first two lines of it, when both myself and my cousin Kelly began to cry uncontrollably.  It took us 20 minutes to get through a eulogy that should have lasted less than 10 minutes.

She taught us all so much during her 92 years.  She taught us how to be strong, she taught us to follow our dreams, and she taught us that family is always the most important thing.  She taught us all the things we never would have learned in school, because she put value on family greater than most people did.

I just wanted everyone to know that she is with me in this time of my greatest success, and she has always been there in my times of sorrow.  And as her birthday approaches, I wanted to make sure that she’s never forgotten.  Though I mourn her death every day, I know we will be together at some other place and time, and we’ll laugh and talk as we used to, when I was just a boy.

What Rough Beast?

 “Do every act of your life as if it were your last.” – Marcus Aurelius

I am not at all politically inclined — to save my sanity.  I simply do not understand the machinations of the modern political system.  On my 30 minute drive home each day, I listen to NPR, mostly for the Arts value, and rarely for commentary on the state of things.  There have been quite a few pieces about the Occupy Wall Street Protestors, and the people fighting for and against it.  Everyone is making this matter far worse than it has to be.  It is our right, as Americans, to protest injustice in our system.  This is the very thing that our country was built on, the very thing our constitution was written to protect.  We must be allowed to speak, we must be allowed to ask for equality in all things, we must coexist here.  However, we must understand what exactly we are protesting.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a very important movement because it represents a microscopic look at the macroscopic problem we are faced with, not only in America but in the world as a whole.  Mathematically we would call this “self-similarity” — something exhibited in the structure of fractals.  Recently this has been applied to many things to show that the whole is represented by examining a small part of the entire object or system.

From the global population to each individual household, we can gauge the success of the whole by looking at the part.  When we are looking at the state of America, we can see that individual households are struggling, localities are struggling, on up to state then country.  And then these problems can be propagated down from the world to the individual. So what does this all mean?

The answers to our global problems must begin in each household.  There is no way to sugar coat these issues, or redirect blame to others.  We as citizens must fix ourselves before we can hope to fix the world. 

Protests are important because they shed light on the systemic problems we all face.  And while the Occupy Wall Street protest is focused on the “haves” and the “have-nots” [yes, it really is that simple, no matter how you couch it], it will force us to look at what has caused this chasm between the classes.  Both sides in this, the 1% and the 99% have forgotten that we share a dichotomous relationship.  The 1% cannot exist without the 99%, and the way of life desired by the 99% cannot exist without the 1%.  This means that the 1% are people who provide a service that the rest of us require or want — whether it be a software giant like Microsoft, or a media giant like News Corp, or a bank Giant like AIG.  The 99% create the 1% by needs and wants.  I want an iPhone, so I will give $200 to Apple, and $75  a month to Verizon.   We are not being forced to buy these products.  We want to buy these products. 

The banks failed because we wanted houses bigger than we needed or could afford.  Does a family of three need a 5000 square foot house?  Probably not.  But we live in America where that is possible, but we cannot blame everyone else when we can’t make our house payment.  We have built this empire of wants and needs all on our own.  We need Coach purses, SUVs, LED TVs, Laptops, iPads, Xboxes and Smart Phones.  All these things we think we need, but we really actually just want it.  Blaming the banks for giving us large mortgages we can’t possibly pay is like blaming the bartender for giving you too many drinks that made you sick.  We must have personal accountability. 

I have spent time evaluating my own purchases and how I use them.  I’ve bought things that were fairly costly, only to let them sit in a drawer somewhere, because I “might” need it at some point.  Did I need a smart phone? Not really, I just got it because everyone else had one.  Do I need an SUV? No, I need a compact car for my commute.  But, all these things I bought under my own volition, and as such I have gladly supported the rise of the 1% to suit my own desires.  And this is the rub in it all.  If we feel that the rich are too rich, then we need to stop buying their products that making them richer — otherwise, we need to cherish the things we have and stop complaining.  It’s just that simple.

I understand that people are frustrated that the 1% are so much more well off than the 99%, but we have to accept the fact that we have done all this to ourselves.  We bought the things that made them rich.  We buy these things because we think we need them.  If we want to change this, it has to start with each of us.  Its been said many times before, but we must be accountable for ourselves, and the outcomes of our actions.  We have to evaluate our lives, and only then can we change the world.

Occupy Wall Street has opened my eyes, not only to the perceived injustice, but to the frivolity of my own life.  I want to change the world.  I just thought I would share my opinion, in case you feel the same way.