Recently I joked with my mom that the title of this piece could be my debut album title if I decided to begin to play music. One of my favorite musicians, Marilyn Manson, always impresses me with the depth of emotion and societal commentary that he layers into his music. Songs like Antichrist Superstar, The Beautiful People, and Disposable Teens are anthems of honesty. The titles, lyrics, and performances of Marilyn Manson may seem counterintuitive to my morals of pacifism, love, and peace, but they're not. I listen to Marilyn Manson not because I am an angsty teen who wishes to rebel, I listen to Marilyn Manson because he speaks truthfully about the state that our society is in. He comments on the hypocrisy, vices, evil, lies, weaknesses, and other issues that our society transgresses. His music, and other music like it, has been a vital piece of my evolution.

One of the cornerstones of my personal philosophy is honest positivity. What is honest positivity? Honest positivity is remaining confident within challenges while also remaining honest with yourself about what needs to be done. Instead of blind optimism that forces you to hide the truth from yourself, adopting a mindset of remaining honestly optimistic will allow yourself to have hope in the positive aspects and accept the negative ones so that you can overcome them. Being simultaneously honest and positive with yourself allows you to peacefully acknowledge, accept, and overcome challenges.

This mindset is one that has taken me far. It has taken me through high school and through running 100 miles, amongst other things. One of the main attributes of this mindset as opposed to blind optimism is that this mindset benefits you in the happy moments also. If you are simply optimistic then that will largely only apply to challenges. If you are both honest and optimistic you can apply that ethos to the positive moments as well by having a present head amongst the fun, yet still acknowledging how you can better yourself. These complimentary skills are vital in all aspects of life, because they provide a supportive platform during the peaks and valleys of emotion and mindset.

Having been at college for only a short while, I am still in the heat of the transition. Thankfully, by employing this mindset I have been able to live much happier here at Cal Poly. Instead of sinking into dread, because of the fact that my family and I are separate, I can be honestly positive. I can have trust in the fact that this grand adventure will positively impact my journey, I can know that each moment is a positive gift, and yet I can be honest with myself to the fact that to truly be happy I still have some things to work on. I can still build my body back up through running with intent, I can manage my time even better, and I can get out of my comfort zone to meet new people. This mindset has helped me in the past few weeks and I believe that it will help me in the years to come.

This mindset is one that can be applied to all aspects of life, as stated above, yet most of our society partakes in neither aspects of this mindset. The reason that Marilyn Manson's music speaks so deeply to me is because he is not afraid to comment on the state that our society is in. To often in our culture those who speak the truth are ridiculed for being inappropriate, rude, or cruel. However, there are negative and positive ways to state the truth, I am calling for a positive statement of the truth. Just as in the mindset I examined above, positivity and truth (honesty) go hand in hand. Our society needs both.

As I grow older I notice more and more aspects of what our society is, specifically what it portrays itself to be and what it truly is. I pride myself on my ability to see the truth behind what is presented to me, whether that be in school, friendship, daily life, or anything else. The truth that I see in our society is that we are afraid of ourselves. We run from who we truly are. From birth we are conditioned to build a wall around who we truly are, instead focusing on the material. Our truth becomes wrapped up in the lies of career, wealth, property, food, sex, alcohol, drugs, and immediate gratification.

Roughly 2,600 years ago the Buddha outlined these same points in his Second Noble Truth, that the root causes of suffering are desire and ignorance. Throughout history society as a whole has always been an exemplification of that truth, but with the interconnectedness and immediacy that our global culture has brought that truth has never been more exemplified and poignant to our collective current situation. You can browse social media, look at the news, or even look at our current President to easily see that both desire and ignorance run deep.

To often, though, those of us who want to enact change fall into the trap of desire and ignorance also. Our judgment is clouded by our desire for change and our ignorance of how to enact it. This cycle exacerbates itself until we become no better than the very same people that we are trying to enact change from. How far would Ghandi have gotten if he had raised an army against the British empire instead of raising compassion?

Throughout our lives we have all heard some form of Ghandi's statement, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." This statements is one that has been bandied around on social media and T-shirts for many years, but it nonetheless rings true. Countless studies have shown that what you believe manifests itself in reality. That you are what you think. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." So whether it is a leader, science, or scripture this message has been repeated throughout history and yet no one seems to remember it.

Now you might be wondering where I am going with my writing today, you might also be wondering where in the world I have been on the blog recently. Well, transitioning into college I decided to give this a break and focus on the podcast and college. Now that I am much more settled, and have had a lot of time to think, I am ready to return to this medium. Now that I am at college I have realized even more so how much my contemporaries are obsessed with the material. Cal Poly is not a party school, but you still hear the conversations about and see the connections to alcohol, drugs, sex, and partying. I hold very high moral standards which contribute to my overall well being and peace, those standards include not drinking, not doing drugs, and not having sex. The partying is a slightly different matter, because I know that you could go to a party and still have "fun" without drinking. But, to me a party is not my definition of fun. I don't like the crowds of people and conventionality of conversation inherent in a college party. I know that it is all about perspective, to most of those around me a party is fun, but my kind of fun, which would be running for hours on end in mountains, is crazy.

As for sex, you might say that college is a time for experimentation and finding yourself. The fact is, however, that you cannot find yourself within someone else. You must go within yourself and anyone else around you who positively fulfills you is only a benefit, but not the first step. To me, the waste that "sex" is in college is unnecessary. I have never had sex and don't intend to anytime soon, most definitely not until marriage. Now you might believe that the reasoning for my abstinence stems from my Christian upbringing or from fear, but in fact it does not. The best way that abstinence was explained to me is thusly: Imagine that you are walking amongst a farmer's market and you come across two apple vendors. One vendor lets anyone take a bite out of his apples and then still sells them. While the other vendor only lets you eat the apples once you have purchased them. Now let me ask you, would you rather buy the apple that everyone has taken a bite out of or the one that is pure?

The truth is this: failure, emotion, and pain are your teachers; use peace, presence and perseverance to most effectively learn from them. That is my guiding light. To fully follow your truest path and find who you truly are within you, you must realize that alcohol, drugs, and the material are not part of that path. They are not only distractions, but detractors from your dedication.

Part of this dedication is compassion. All of our path's have certain common themes and compassion is one of them. Now to most people compassion is a nebulous concept, but in actuality it is quite simple. Compassion is, at its essence, learning from the good and working with the bad of those around you. It is a constant evolution of connection between you and your best friend or the stranger on the subway. The same mindset of lessons gained from acceptance and challenge that we see in meditation applies to our relationships with those around us. Through meditation, following our truest path, yoga, and treating our body right we are working to transcend the ego, right? Well, selflessness is another tool that we can add to our toolkit of change, because through selflessness we are transcending our own ego and working to better the people and world around us.

The Master has no possessions. / The more he does for others, / the happier he is. / The more he gives to others, / the wealthier he is.
— Verse 81 Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Every religion, philosophy, and taught way of life examines and explains the vitality of selflessness. Throughout history philosophers and wise teachers have examined this philosophy. Why are there such transcendent parallels on the importance of selflessness? Because, it is true. Because, it is a basic component of being the best version of ourselves. A component that we are all capable of realizing, but many of us don't.

Let me ask you a question: Are you kind? A simple enough question with, most likely, a quick answer of 'Yes.' However, that answer is not thought out. You might be reading this today and think, "Yes, well I already know this. I am compassionate and kind and selfless and positive and honest. I'm fine." If you are thinking that, or anything related to that, you are not being honest. There is always room for improvement.

The point that many of us don't usually realize, myself included, is that compassion is a tool not only to be used for those around us who we already like, but also for those around us who we don't like. As humans we make snap judgments on whether or not we like somebody, and I don't mean sexually, I mean whether its your employer or a new friend, it is a snap judgment. That judgment is usually held forever after in the relationship, as such we know it's important to make a good first impression. But, what if there is someone who we just don't like, who we think is annoying, or rude, or mean, or even evil, how can we show compassion towards them?

Let us remember this: life is cyclical. If we are evil, then evil will be shown towards us. If we are mean, then meanness will be shown towards us. If we want to change the world for the better, evil is not part of that recipe. The more we want to make a positive change, the more we tend to look at the world as wrong, as twisted. Thus that shapes our own view, we become negative, and our chances for positive change quickly dissolve. Like I wrote earlier, it is all about your outlook. Your vitriolic outlook, however large or small, shapes you and soon spirals into a cycle of, what seems like, bad magic with how many negative events will transpire around and to you. However, it is hard to always take an honestly positive outlook on the world, especially when faced with such evil that surrounds us.

How can we be compassionate towards a President that would rather insult those around him, than help those around him? How can we be compassionate towards an administration focused more on themselves, than on the country? How can we be compassionate towards industries focused more on taking whatever they can from the Earth, than giving back to it? How can we be compassionate towards "bad" people, when we ourselves are imperfect?

There are so many questions, with one answer: look within. That is how the truth of the answer is found. We have within ourselves the answer to every question, if only we look. Take a peak and see what you find. Take a peak in every moment. I have realized many things by looking within. In terms of what we are talking about today I have realized that the world around us is shaped by choices. Donald Trump chooses to be evil, but we do not have to. We do not have to make the same choices as those that we dislike. I am continually shocked by the fact that people who I look up to and learn from, insult Trump. I see it so often on social media and in conversation, people who proclaim peace, yet turn around and post hate towards Trump, the animal agriculture industry, climate change deniers, the GOP, and more. How can we strive for our betters if we hate those around us?

Now you might say that that vitriol is how you share your opinions, but again let me ask you: How far would Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. have gotten if they hated and ridiculed those around them? By embodying evil, even marginally, within their hearts they would have never found peace from the evil that transgressed upon them and their community. If you want to make change, if you want to see the world be a better place for your children, do not point out the imperfections of others. Instead point out the imperfections within yourself and work with intent to better yourself. The world is not lost because of a president or company or singular individual, in fact the world is not lost at all. People are lost.

Begin the journey of following your truest path, with honesty and positivity, and become the example for those around you. By bettering yourself, you will better the world. For the solution is not to change the President or change people's access to guns or change anyone else, but to change yourself for your better.

Go within,

Jarod Contreras


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