Archive for January, 2009

The Purpose of Life

What is the meaning of life?
I find it hard to believe that in three and a half years I haven’t written specifically about this subject yet.
So, here goes:
First of all, I think that this is a poorly phrased question. "What is the meaning of life?" is a question better suited for a biologist, or perhaps an etymologist, depending on how "meaning" is used within that question.
The real question that we want to know is "What is the purpose of life?". In other words, "How should we spend our lives?"
The answer to this question varies from person to person.
A good chunk of the population will tell you that the purpose of life is to enjoy it while it lasts.
You’ll also frequently be told that the purpose of life is to try everything and anything at least once.
The more religious among us will say that the purpose of life is to get into heaven.
Personally, I disagree with all three of those. The first one is far too vague. The second one sounds dangerous to me. And the third one is too pessimistic (If life is just a race to get to heaven, it makes the things that we do here seem a lot less important in the grand scheme of things).
I’ll tell you what my idea is, but I will need to make use of an analogy to do it.
Have you ever heard the phrase "No man is an island"?
Wise words, yes. But also crap.
On the contrary, every man is an island. The world is made up of some 6.5 billion tiny islands.
But think for a second: A tiny island cannot possibly fare well on its own. Being such a small piece of geography, it will likely lack some of the necessities of life. Even if it does survive, the quality of life on that island will be very poor indeed. That makes sense, right?
What must our tiny island do if it wants to survive? It must build bridges.
It must interact with other islands. It must trade, giving what it has in excess in order to gain what it lacks. The more islands it has friendly relations with, the more resources it will have access to, and the better it will fare.
That is the purpose of life. To build as many bridges as possible, and to make those bridges as strong as possible.
Building bridges to other people isn’t at all difficult. In fact, some bridges are constructed for you. Unless you have grown up in a very unfortunate situation or are just a complete prick, you have strong ties to much of your family: Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the like. Connections with family are seldom broken, unless Something Very Bad happens. With these bridges built, your odds of surviving in this world are much greater.
But why settle for just surviving?
In order to truly live, you need to get out there and build some bridges yourself. As many as possible. Find people. Speak to them. Know them. Be known. Teach them. Be taught. You can learn something from anyone on this planet if you put in the time and energy.
Some of the bridges you build will be stronger than others, but you should strive to make them all as strong as possible. Some will be crossed once and then never again. Some will be crossed every day of your life. But friendships all have one thing in common: They require maintenance.
If you neglect to speak to a certain friend for a year or two at a time, you might find that your bridge has rusted over and become unsafe in your absence. Not all bridges can rust like this, but many can, and you should guard against it.
While corrosion is common, the complete destruction of a bridge is far less so. In my life, I have only had two of my bridges destroyed. One was burnt down from both ends about four years back. The other was entirely my doing, but you all know that story. Under no circumstances should you let your bridges be destroyed. It is not worth it to gain two friends at the cost of one.
This above all, then:
The purpose of life is to know and be known by as many people as possible. Celebrate their joys, mourn for their sorrows. Listen to them. Learn of their likes and dislikes, of their victories and defeats, of their dreams and aspirations and fears. Make them happier, and by doing so make yourself happy. Serve them, and by doing so serve yourself. Enrich their lives, and by doing so enrich your own.

And Now… I Can Rest

That’s it. I quit.
I quit worrying about Harvard and Yale and Mr. Blaik and marks and which university to go to. At least until March, I quit.
I’ve done all that I can to get into Harvard and Yale. There is no way on earth for me to increase my slim odds of getting in, nor is there any way to decrease those odds. So, why worry? What’s done is done. I’ll know if I’m in or not by March.
As for the Canadian universities, I know that I’m in already. They can still see anything and everything that I do up until mid February, but looking at my December report card, it would take an anti-miracle for me to be rejected. I’d have to drop a combined 42 percent across seven subjects in the next four weeks. Impossible.
Mr. Blaik? Without English dragging me down, my average would be 1.5% higher. My English mark is a full 8% lower than any other mark. But you know what? I don’t need to prove anything to him. I can write. I know that I can write. Those who are close to me know that I can write. That’s all that matters. He doesn’t deserve to know that I can write.
And where will I go for university? I have no clue, and even if I sat down for hours on end and thought about it (which I have), I would still have no clue. So, what’s the point in trying? I’m putting this completely out of my mind. I’ll let it come back to haunt me in April.
So yeah. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy myself. And finish my Cuba blog. And look into publishing options. And bring back s3c0ndh4nd and Kakunaman. And rest.

Grad Rings

It’s just about time to order grad rings.
It’s a bittersweet experience. The rings themselves look awesome. I don’t usually wear rings, but I would wear one of these in a heartbeat. They’re stunning, for lack of a better word.
At the same time, the rings are a symbol of the end of high school. The end of "life as we know it". The end of everything.
While I really want one of these rings, I want high school to last forever more.
But since it doesn’t look like I’ll succeed in tearing a hole in the space-time continuum anytime soon, I’ll have to settle for a grad ring.
The number of available options is remarkable.
Should I get a silver ring? Or a gold one? What would look better on me?
Should I get a silver M on top of the ring? A white gold M? Or a gold one?
Should the aforementioned M be plain, bolded, or winged?
What do I want to put on the shoulders of the ring? The arch? The statue of St. Michael? The Tower?
Oh, the decisions… I feel like a woman deciding what outfit to wear. Ugh.
But I didn’t decide to write this blog to let you know how cool my school’s grad rings are, or to list the options that the rings come with.
Here’s why I’m writing this blog.
These rings come with one other feature: Engraving on the inside of the ring. The question that I’m posing to anyone reading this is: What should I have engraved there?
Some of my classmates will be boring and put their name there. I’m not one of them.
I’m looking for a quote, perhaps from a song or movie or book, of about three words. Six words maximum, but three is ideal. 
My initial idea was to use something from Dylan Thomas.
There are two problems with these. The first is that they’re both way too long. The second is that they’re on the pessimistic side. I want something a little more positive.
So then I came up with a slew of other ideas:
All of those have some appeal to me. But I’m wondering if maybe there’s something better out there.
So here’s the favour that I’m asking of you:
Help me find me a quote.
You don’t need to go actively searching for one. But if you happen to read something or hear something and think "Hey, this sounds like something Mike could use!", then remember this blog and post a comment. It’d be much appreciated.


I’ve always hated New Year’s. Amongst holidays, it ranks 3rd last, ahead of only my birthday and Hallowe’en. My reasoning for this is simple: New Year’s is a reminder of how time is constantly passing us by, unable to be stopped by anyone for any reason. Why would you want to celebrate that? It should be a lamentation, not a celebration.

2004 was the last truly awesome year I’ve had. There was something magical about that year. It was the last time that I dramatically changed as a person. I went from being this introverted nerd to being an actual human being. I started doing things that normal human beings would do. Like going out with friends, for example. Or listening to music. Crazy, right? Before 2004 I never went out with friends or listened to music. Epic transformation.

And on top of that, the Flames made the finals that year. Heh.

2005 wasn’t all that great. No hockey that year, thanks to the hockey lockout. And with the change from elementary school to high school came the beginning of the end for many close friendships with those elementary school friends. I made a few friends that year, but not nearly enough to balance out the number of friends that I lost.

2006 was a crappy year. It was bad to the point where I don’t even want to remember it. I was the type of person that I now hate. I hated my school. I rooted for opposing teams. I was involved in a total of zero (0) extracurricular activities. I made a few friends within the school, but only one close one, named Camilo. It wasn’t a year entirely without positives, but it was a low point in my high school career.

2007 was a bit better. Early in the year (it was Valentine’s Day, I believe), I had sort of an epiphany. That was the point where the passionate hatred I felt for my school started morphing into something a little less malicious. I started doing extracurriculars, and as a result I met new people, and made new friends. I started writing a novel, too. But it wasn’t a good year, solely because of that one incident in Wrigley Field which caused me to lose one of my best friends. For the rest of 2007 and into the first month or two of 2008, I had trouble sleeping because of how terrible I felt about the whole thing.

2008 was a borefest. Nothing much happened, except for those seven absolutely amazing days in Cuba (which I’ve yet to post a blog about. It’s coming, I swear). For the most part I continued upon the path that I had started in 2007. I finished the novel, I joined a bunch of new extracurriculars, and I strengthened existing friendships, though I didn’t really meet anyone new. Not a terrible year, but not a good one either.
So, I’m on a bit of a losing streak here. Not an epic losing streak, mind you. More like a minor slump. You know that car that’s spinning its wheels in the driveway, mired in snow? That’s me. I’m not completely unhappy, but I’m a little bit frustrated. I’m looking to snap out of this slump in 2009. And 2009 definitely has the potential to be a good year. Or a really bad year. But I know one thing for sure: It won’t be a boring year, like 2008. 2009 is going to be way too eventful for it to be a boring year. 

I intend to answer a few burning questions this year:

Will Mike ever speak to Camilo again?
Will Mike become a published author?
Will Mike ever finish that damned Cuba blog?
Where will Mike be typing these blogs from in September 2009? Will it be New Haven, Connecticut? Cambridge, Massachusetts? Kingston, Ontario? Or in nearby Toronto, Ontario?

But there’s a lot more going on in 2009 than just four events. Let’s see what’s on the menu, shall we?

January – Exam marks roll in. These are the final marks that Harvard and Yale are going to see from me, so they’re fairly important. Also, the 29th is parent-teacher interviews. Usually this is an unimportant date, but this year my dad wants to talk to Mr. Blaik. The last time my dad spoke to a teacher, my french mark jumped up 15% within two months. I look forward to watching Mr. Blaik squirm.

February – Marks sent to Ontario universities. These aren’t such a big deal, since unless I manage to somehow drop by 6 percent in every subject within a month and a half, I’m easily into any university in Ontario. Also, the school musical will be going on from the 17th to 20th. I didn’t get an on-stage part, but I’ll sure as hell be going backstage again.

March (a big month) – The 2nd is my 18th birthday, though I’m not looking forward to that in the least. The Flames visit Toronto on the 14th, so obviously I’ll be there. Sometime between the 15th and 26th I’ll probably be having some sort of surgery done as a follow-up to last year’s operation. It should be fun. I’ll receive university acceptances/rejections from Harvard, Yale, Queen’s, UofT, and Western during this month. Finally, since I’ve been accepted into Destination Imagination (that insane problem solving thing that I mentioned once or twice), my March break will likely involve 18 hour shifts at my school. Excellent.

April – During this month, I’ll have to make the decision of where to go for University. Queen’s, UofT, Western, or possibly Harvard/Yale. Since I probably won’t get in to Harvard/Yale, and I don’t want to go to Western, my choice will probably be limited to either UofT or Queen’s. Which is still an impossibly difficult decision. And I’ll try out for baseball during this month, though I probably won’t make the team.

May – The last month of formal high school education. May 29th is the final day of classes, as exams start in the first week of June. I dread this day with all my being. But May isn’t all negative – In all likelihood my Destination Imagination team will make it to the Global Finals, which means a trip to Tennessee for a week. It should be fun.

June – The final set of exams. I don’t know how I’m going to work up the necessary motivation for studying, since these exams mean absolutely nothing. Exams finish on the 12th. If that wasn’t enough reason to dread June 12th, the prom is also on that day. Still not enough? One of my good friends has their birthday on this day, and they’ll probably want to do something. But since I’ll be suffering, I’ll probably completely forget her birthday, and have an angry woman to deal with afterwards. Awesome. Official graduation is on the 25th. Another sad date.

July/August – Summer. The final summer of "life as we know it". After this summer, the way I’ve enjoyed summers for the past 14 years will be gone forever. Since I don’t know where I’ll be heading for university, I don’t know how it will change; only that it will. My dad will again attempt to force me to get a job. It’s not that I’m entirely against getting a job. Last year I put a ton of effort into getting a job at a summer camp. Unfortunately, my dad booked a Cuba vacation during July, and as such I was ineligible for the position. I had really wanted that job, and I held a grudge against my father for causing me to lose out on it. But the Cuba vacation turned out to be so incredibly awesome that I couldn’t help but forgive him (again, a blog on that subject is coming. Chill.). But I digress. I’ll be applying for a job at that same summer camp again. Hopefully I get the job.

September-December – Here’s where I draw a blank. I don’t know where I’ll be. I don’t know what friends (if any) will accompany me. I don’t know what new friends (if any) I’ll make. I don’t know what my workload will be like. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to come home. I just don’t know. So the final third of the year is a big mystery to me. But that’s part of the excitement, right?

And hey, those are just the things that I’m aware of. The biggest and most memorable events of every year are almost always the unexpected ones. The ones that just happen spontaneously, with little to no warning.

To wrap it up, 2009 looks like a year with a ton of potential. It could rank amongst the best years of my life, or it could be the worst. One way or another, it’ll be interesting.