Directionally Challenged

A trip to the gym, while potentially beneficial to one's health, poses a host of traumas for the socially-anxious.

Take rowing machines, for example. My local YMCA has two of them, right next to each other. There is the problem of which one to use – do I take the one that has a better view of the televisions, even if it is next to an occupied treadmill? And what happens if I accidentally sync with another rower?


On one particular visit, I successfully navigated this minefield only to be faced with a far greater dilemma.

I had just spent forty minutes battling a new foe: the setting sun, which was overpowering the insufficient shades.

I was planning on ending my time there with a jog on the track, which is elevated and rings the fitness center. Now that the sun had finally set, I could stop squinting and glance up to see how crowded things were.

It was a scene of mad disorder: three joggers, each defying the arrow-ordained direction by moving counterclockwise.

I contemplated the situation. I could join in their heresy, or I could follow the correct path... at the risk that the joggers would believe me to be incorrect.

As far as I was concerned, there was only one good answer.

I chose an unoccupied lane and began my jog. No one was moving particularly fast (especially me), so I was able to pass the others safely. Whenever I approached someone else, I invited her to join me in orthodoxy.

I did this by maintaining a pleasantly neutral smile and avoiding eye contact.

A few minutes later, another person arrived on the track.

As it turned out, none of the current joggers had begun this trend – the first one had simply adopted the incorrect direction set by two elderly gentlemen, and the others had followed suit upon their arrivals.

All it took to correct the situation was a little communication... and that's a lesson that I ought to take to heart. As much as I dislike approaching people, perhaps I should use my words, just as I teach my children to do.

Or maybe not.

Support My Service Trip to Westeros

I'm not usually one to get involved in world affairs, but lately I've been feeling convicted to do so.  The world has always been a dark place, but some places are even darker than others, and I've been  looking into where I could best be a blessing to those in need. I did some research on the internet, and at last I determined where I should go.

And that's why I'm proud to announce my service trip to Westeros. I know people can get overwhelmed by long paragraphs of text, so I've decided to do the rest of this in FAQ form.

Q: Where is Westeros?

A: I'm having trouble finding it on a map, but the "West" part makes me think it's somewhere in Europe, which is nice because I can follow up the service trip with a tour of Venice and Tuscany.

Q: What other destinations did you consider?

A: At first I thought about visiting the great country of Africa. It's a classic short-term service destination, where I could take photos with smiling orphans to put on my Instagram and my online dating profile.

I also thought about digging a well in Belize, but I worried about embarrassing myself because I didn't take Spanish in high school.

Q: Why did you eventually pick Westeros?

I've heard people talking about it for years, and there are tons of articles about it online -- sites like The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes... you name it, they cover it, so it must be a really big deal.

Q: What will you be doing there?

A: As far as I know, I'm the first volunteer to take a service trip to Westeros, so I'll be working to develop it as a missions field. Specifically, I'll be interviewing people to see what they need most. Aloe? Winter coats? Ipecac?

My main goal, though, regards human narrative. A great man (Gandhi, perhaps?) said that one person's death is a tragedy, but one million is a statistic. That's exactly why no one is doing anything about Westeros. I tried to read the official account of how they got into this mess, but I was overwhelmed by all the names.

Because we feel more empathy when it's an individual, I'll be looking for that ideal story to share. I'll find the right person, and then I'll make sure they stay alive to tell their tale.

Q: How will you be funding the trip?

A: I'm looking into a GoFundMe campaign, where you can donate to the service and/or tour part of my trip. Although the service is more important (of course), the tour will give me experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

Q: How can I support this trip without giving you actual money?

A: Thoughts and prayers are always appreciated!

Don't Be a Cyclops

Despite his famed cunning, Odysseus could be remarkably foolhardy. Sure, he escaped peril after peril on his voyage home, but he hemorrhaged crew members in the process.

In all of this, Odysseus was the very essence of compassion.

In fact, he was often the one who got them into trouble in the first place.

Such was the case when they reached the land of the Cyclops.

Odysseus' crew had no real need to investigate this locale.

When they reached the cave belonging to Polyphemus, the massive size of the tools set off alarm bells in everyone but the leader.

Polyphemus' return went exactly as one might expect.

Odysseus quickly formulated a plan.

At Polyphemus' howls of pain, the other Cyclopes came running.

Then some Cyclopes tended to Polyphemus' wound while others rounded up Odysseus' crew.

Just kidding.

Literature is full of examples to emulate. The Cyclopes are not one of them.

"Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you."
  -- attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2834