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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Today... I do not understand

I am a life-long scholar. Not in the sense that I keep going back to school to get another degree, but in the sense that I never assume I know enough, so when I discover an area of interest, I find whatever I can about it - books, articles, videos, papers, summaries data, you name it. This includes everything from shoes to quantum theory.

When you learn all the time, you develop the ability to deduce, derive and understand. It's a lot of fun, actually, because sometimes you manage to arrive to a conclusion or a result on your own that other people reached after working in a group for a long time. It's very gratifying - to discover that the good ole brain is still chugging away, even though you might be past your prime learning years.

That said, there continue to be things that defy my comprehension. I can't relate to them, they are as alien to me as the life of a jellyfish.

Persistent ignorance

I do not know when or how the words, "Oh, so you think you are so smart!" became derogatory. Yes, now that you mention it, as a matter of fact I do think I am smart. Not as smart as the folks who landed Curiosity on Mars. Not as smart as Albert Schweitzer or Mikhail Lomonosov, but pretty smart nonetheless. If you don't want to take my word for it, that is totally fine, feel free to seek the second opinion - ask people who read my books, ask my college professors, ask my co-workers, and the triple-niner society. If you wish to conduct research on that subject, I encourage you to do so. I always encourage research.

What I do not encourage is expecting me to dumb myself down because you didn't bother paying attention at school or because you prefer to spend your time watching FOX News instead of reading.

It's one thing, when someone politely asks me to explain an unknown term or to elaborate on a science topic. I am always happy to do that. Live and learn, and if you have learned enough of something to teach something - live and teach too.

But do not get upset with me when I tell you, for example, that the five sets of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday do not happen every 853 years - they happen about every year and a half, so you will not, in fact receive a million dollars if you send the message to fifty people. Be upset with the idiot who send you the message in the first place and at yourself for spreading it before verifying it. But don't start cussing me out as if I, indeed, have deprived you of a million dollars.

Don't mouth off at me for pointing out that 4 + 4 x 4 = 20 and not 32. The order of operations has been around for centuries. It's not my fault that you didn't pay attention in your math class or that your teachers didn't explain it to you properly.

I never challenge a statement unless I have verified, based on numerous sources, that the statement is inaccurate. I will not shut up and leave others to believe something that is just plain wrong. That's no better than giving someone directions that will take them across a broken bridge or through a bad part of town. Leaving people to be ignorant when you know better is a crime.

All or nothing

There appear to be two distinct groups of people.One group routinely posts nothing but bad news. Some cover all of the world, some focus on the United States, but the theme is the same regardless - it's all crap, life sucks and then you die, we are all going to hell in a handbasket.

The second group is usually limited to Americans, who insist that there are no problems, that America is the sole reason the world still exists, that everyone else should be just like the USA, and that no changes are required because we are already perfect.

When I point out to the first group of people that not everything is shit and that it is, in fact, possible to acknowledge and address the problems while also seeing the good, I am accused of being naive, unrealistic, inexperienced and out of touch with the world. Some people - usually total strangers - even go so far as to say that I must be a millionaire's daughter living in an ivory tower, who never held a real job or had to support a family. In other words, they are theorizing about my life in ways that are about as close to the truth as a Texas longhorn is to Jupiter.

It's particularly puzzling to me, because I am actually very easy to look up. There isn't another person with my last name anywhere in the United States. If you want to throw mud at me - at least investigate me first, before you make a total idiot of yourself in public.

The second group's stance is just as confusing to me, because, honestly, how out of touch can one get? I love America. And I love Americans. Why would I live here otherwise? But the fact that I love them doesn't mean that I'll just pretend that everything is perfect and we can just all sit and rest on our laurels.

If you have a loved one who is... oh, I don't know... an alcoholic or a drug addict, will you just let him be? Or will you suck it up and stage an intervention? Or if you were an alcoholic or a drug addict, what would be a better way for your friends and family to show that they care - to let you destroy yourself or whack you upside the head and tell you that you need to get your act together?

Face the music, people: America did not single-handedly win World War II, American health care and education systems are not the best in the world, and America's efforts in the environmental area leave much to be desired. Instead of calling me un-American for saying that, or telling me that I couldn't possibly appreciate America because I am a foreigner, go read history books from around the world (not just the ones written by American authors), travel to other countries or at least talk to people who live in other countries (thank you, Facebook!) and look up the latest news outside of America's news networks.

Why? Why does it have to be absolute, people? Why does it have to be all or nothing? America is neither perfect nor a cesspool. It's just like many other countries around the world - better than some in some respects, worse than some in other respects. It has played and continues to play a significant history role, but guess what? So do many other nations. Live with it.

You want to be objective? Share the bad and the good - anything you want, as long as it's true. Balance and accuracy are useful both in martial arts and in information sharing.

Religious and anti-religious mud slinging

I wish there were words to adequately describe just how sick I am of this one, and how incomprehensible it is to me, why people would engage in this sort of activity. And I am not talking about some kind of ignorant goons - I am talking about people who are well-educated and intelligent. All the worse for them, because they really have no excuse to be spouting that sort of ignorant tripe and encouraging other people to repeat it.

I have no patience for extremists of any kind - and I do mean any. Yes, atheists, this includes you. "Religion is a mental illness" is just as offensive as, "All Muslims are terrorists", "All Christians are retarded", "All Buddhists are out of touch" and "All witches are whores". How would you like it if your actions were judged and predicted based upon the behavior of one of the most famous atheists of all times - Joseph Stalin? Hmmm? Would you enjoy that? Didn't think so.

We have recently had a prime example of how quickly an extreme disrespect toward one's faith can escalate - the attack on the US Embassy in Libya. No, I am not justifying the angry crowd that chose to use a YouTube video as an excuse for vandalism an murder. But I am also not justifying the people who posted that video. One group of extremists goaded the other group - and people died. What other prove does anyone need that insulting others based on their religious preferences is a bad idea, no matter how much your views are contrary to theirs?

I shall counter the insults thrown left and right (sometimes with a famous name stuck to them to add credibility) by the following: the real mental illness is insisting on judging people of any group, any faith, any race, any gender, any sexual or religious preference by actions of some representatives of these groups, and insisting that it is your right to do so.

Let me make this perfectly clear. I will not tolerate the bashing of any group based on the distinctions I listed above. Feel free to block me, berate me, unfriend me - whatever, but if I see you demonizing or dismissing people who haven't done anyone any harm solely for what they believe in, I will be upon you like a hawk on a stray chicken, and I will be ruthless. Just as I will not tolerate anyone saying that "Disabled children are God's punishment to women who had abortions", I will not stand for anyone staying that all Muslims want to kill us or all Christians are religious zealots who belong in the Middle Ages.

Think very carefully, before you write off various faiths and people of those faiths - people who were often driven to persevere and succeed by the very beliefs they held. In doing so, you would be dismissing the following, among many others:

Pythagoras (pagan)

Archimedes (pagan)

Homer (pagan)

Phydias (pagan)

Sappho (pagan)

Cicero (pagan)

Socrates (pagan)

Copernicus (Christian)

Galileo (Christian)

Giordano Bruno (not only a Christian but a friar of the Dominican order)

Vivaldi (not only a Christan but also a priest)

Bach (Christian)

Rafael (Christian)

Michelangelo (Christian)

Joan of Arc (Christian)

Omar Khayaam (Muslim)

Rumi (Muslim)

Avicenna (Muslim)

Mohammed Ali (Muslim)

Malcolm X (Muslim)

Bruce Lee (Buddhist)

David Bowie (Buddhist)

Gloria Steinem (Jewish)

Gertrude Stein (Jewish)

Steve Jobs (Buddhist)

Frank Herbert (Buddhist)

Confucius and Valmiki (both founded their own philosophical movements)

Lomonosov (Christian)

Leo Tolstoy (Christian)

Boris Pasternak (Jewish)

Albert Einstein (Jewish)

Elie Wiesel (Jewish)

Nelly Sachs (Jewish)

Susan Sontag (Jewish)

Founding Fathers of America (Christian)

President of the United States Barack Obama and his wife Michelle (Christian)

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