A fleeting romance!

I’m in love with a butterfly,

A flying flower that forever eludes my grasp.

She’s the light of my life and the fire of my loins,

But I am the chasing shadow,

The smoke that proceeds but never precedes.

*

Like a handful of sand, she slips away with every tighter grasp.

Though her transient love is everything to me,

it’s anything but solid ground.

She’s the stardust of yesterday, today’s ghost,           

and the dream of tomorrow.

Now I see her, now I don’t. Now I have her, now I don’t.

*

My darling Madame Butterfly is like a desert mirage,

A mirror image of what my mind plans for, my heart yearns for,

and my soul needs but will never have.

Like a child with a snowflake in hand I giggle with glee,

But when I open my hand, it is water only that I see.

Still, I will seek her day and night though it feels like Déjà vu,

For I am in love with this priceless butterfly, and her name is Time.

 

Bonding with Batman makes you stronger!!!

It is 9pm in Madeira, Portugal, and 8year old Atílio (Portuguese for strong and manly) is making his way back to the orphanage after a late night street soccer game with his neighborhood pals. As is his daily routine, he stops by the 11 feet and 1,700 pound statue of Portuguese international soccer star, Cristiano Ronaldo, the son of Madeira and his imaginary father. Atílio tells him how well he played today, promises to score tomorrow, and to make Cristiano and Madeira proud of him one day. In the pale of the moonlight, an African American teenage boy performs Lebron James’ pre-game ritual of blowing chalk dust into the grey, as his team prepares for an epic pickup game of basketball on the streets of Akron, Ohio. Elsewhere, mere mortals are planted in front of their television sets, watching their favorite science fiction television show or the latest superhero movie. Parents dress up their toddlers and preschoolers in their favorite superhero onesies and read to them tales of Batman, Spiderman, Iron man and none other than Captain America, inserting valuable life lessons as they go along, hitting two birds with one stone. As these experiences mould our perceptions of self and the society which we are a part of, it begs the question, what is the influence of science fiction figures on the male body image, and what are the consequences that follow?

Despite the media and corporate world’s early big time realization of the profit goldmine that lies in science fiction literature and related products, as well as athlete endorsement advertising, sociological and psychological research on these phenomena has only proliferated recently. For the past few decades, superhero characters have become preposterously muscular with body dimensions that are simply unattainable for most, if not all, men. In response, an assortment of research studies, such as Charlotte A. Jirousek’s Superstars, Superheroes and the Male Body Image: The Visual Implications of Football Uniforms,” have argued that ludicrously muscular science-fiction characters can cause males to be dissatisfied with their own bodies, just as needle-thin supermodels can cause body weight insecurity in females.  However, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in September 2012, researchers at the University at Buffalo have suggested that watching science-fiction figures results in an increase in the self esteem and physical strength of males. According to Ariana F. Young, the principal author and doctoral candidate in psychology, “We thought it would also be important to consider men’s parasocial relationship status with these superheroes. Many people have parasocial bonds (one-sided psychological bonds) with media figures, either real celebrities or fictional characters, and we know from previous research in our lab that identification with these figures can favorably affect how we feel about ourselves.”

 The research study was conducted likewise: Two versions were employed, one with Batman and one with Spider-man, so as to ensure that outcomes were not specific to a particular superhero. A total of 98 undergraduate males were asked to rate how much they liked and/or were familiar with Batman or Spider-Man on a scale of 1 to 5. Responses were scored and averaged. Respondents who scored the highest and lowest proceeded to the next stage, each showed a parasocial relationship or lack of a parasocial relationship, respectively. Those who scored less than 2.5 were put into the control group. They were given a general biography and a full-body picture of the superhero. Half of the respondents were given a muscular photo; the other half were shown a picture that was manipulated to not be muscular. Participants were asked to assess their satisfaction with their own body parts and then had their physical strength assessed (Young, 2013).

 The results of the study showed that respondents who viewed the pictures of Batman and Spider-Man and who were ambivalent about the superheroes felt dissatisfied with their own bodies. On the contrary, men who had a strong parasocial bond with the superheroes and viewed the muscular superhero photos recorded higher body esteem than those who did not have a parasocial bond with the character. Men who had a parasocial bond but who viewed scrawny super hero images scored a low mood rating but a high body esteem rating. Lastly, the strength test showed that the respondents who had a parasocial bond with superheroes proved to be physically stronger than those without (Young, 2013).

The results of the study show correlation and probable causation between body image satisfaction and superior physical strength, and an existing parasocial bond with one or more superheroes. In addition, the results show correlation and probable causation between body image dissatisfaction and inferior physical strength, and a non-existent parasocial bond with one or more superheroes. Possible explanations for these results could be the fact that parasocial bonds with superheroes (science-fiction characters and professional athletes) stimulate and interest and foster a commitment to athletic activities such as cycling, swimming, weight lifting, and other sports. This explanation accounts for the general body image satisfaction and superior physical strength. Young says, “The thing that I find most interesting … is the idea that these media figures have real psychological effects on the self. It’s not just mind-numbing entertainment. The bonds that we form –- and we do form real bonds – they affect how we feel about ourselves. And it’s not always in a bad way.”

 On the 3rd of February, 2015, the British Parliament passed a bill that could make England the first country in the world to legalize the creation of IVF babies with DNA from three different individuals through mitochondrial donations. Science and ethics committees have expressed support for this bill and even though the regulations are still to pass the House of Lords, a favorable ruling is expected, thus passing the bill into law (Mason, 2015). The progression of science over centuries has proved to be coupled with other unintended uses and consequences. For instance, the discovery of dynamite by Alfred Nobel for use in construction yielded the intended benefits but also resulted in the atomic bomb. Therefore, one tends to wonder how liberal the uses of these scientific technologies will become. Perhaps, as argued by Philip Reilly in his book, ‘The Strongest Boy in the World: How Genetic Information is Reshaping Our Lives’, we could reach a time when parents select for desired traits in their children, traits such as a specific eye color, intelligence, and athleticism. Will children be selected to exhibit traits of their parents’ favorite superheroes? Will professional athletes sell their precious genes to those who would like their children to become the next Michael Jordan? The future is never crystal clear, but we can certainly make links between the progression of genetic science and the male body image.

 In précis, perception is the reality of the mind, and the mind is a mirror of what we become. Thus, as young boys and men idolize professional athletes for their mesmerizing excellence and superhuman abilities, as they draw inspiration from their favorite superheroes and stick their posters on their bedroom walls, it is important that they maintain their identity in the face of all these magnetic forces. For despite the well researched and documented psychological and physical benefits of parasocial bonds between males and superheroes, a loss of the concept of self will reduce one to chaff, which different winds, such as genetic science, will drive away in unintended and random directions. So, in the words of Theodore Roethke, “Be sure that what you are is you.”

  

                                                        Work Cited 

-Charlotte A. Jirousek. “Superstars, Superheroes and the Male Body Image: The Visual Implications of Football Uniforms.” Journal of American Culture vol. 19, no. 2; Summer      (1996). Page 5-8. Print

-Makini, B. (2012, September 17). Holy Psychology, Batman! Fans’ Body Image Improved by Superheroes. Medical Daily.

-Wilson, J. (2012, September 17). Bonding with Batman will make you stronger. The chart.

-Young, A.F; Gabriel, S; Hollar, J.L. “Batman to the rescue! The protective effects of parasocial relationships with muscular superheroes on men’s body image.” Journal of Experimental    social psychology vol. 49 n.o. 1; (2013). Page 173-177. Print

-Mason, R; Devlin, H. (2015, February 3). MPs vote in favour of ‘three-person embryo’ law. The Guardian

 

 

 

“New Year New Me” :D!!

        At the ushering in of the New Year, fireworks light up the blue and echo in the distance. The revitalizing scent of change garnishes the atmosphere like the fragrance after the rain. For Ernest Hemingway and those who seek the change of self-improvement, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Per contra, for the classicists, the naïve frogs in a well, and the self defeating narcissists, there has never been, there isn’t, and there never will be a need for self-improvement. The sluggards desire self-improvement but expect to reap its bounties from “New Year New Me” social media statuses. By failing to plan, they plan to fail. Next are the paper tigers, whose goal for 2015 is to accomplish those for 2014, which they should have executed in 2013 because they made a promise to themselves in 2012, and planned in 2011. These folks have million dollar plans and nickel executions, they are all foam no beer, all bark no bite. Next in line are the pusillanimous one-hit wonders, who plan well, execute somewhat, but crumble when little or nothing goes to plan.  But, for the perennial champions, planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal. These malleable all weather warriors plan well, execute, adapt to challenges and sustain success. They are evergreen winners and hard-nosed clutch conquerors who are as consistent as the sunrise. 

          In the words of J.P. Morgan, a renowned American financier and philanthropist, “The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where his is to where he wants to go.” On the contrary, the foolish man plans poorly or does not plan at all; his house is built upon the sand and it will crumble when the rain falls. The wise man’s plan is positive, aggressive, realistic, specific, and systematic. Also, it’s dynamic, it specifies what he intends to execute and achieve, not what he intends to desist from doing. For instance, it states, “I shall always be 10 minutes ahead of schedule,” not, “I shall not be late.” The wise man realizes that the journey of self-improvement is that of a thousand miles; thus, he paces himself by compartmentalizing his strategy into a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly plan etc, or process, achievement, and ultimate goals. Process goals are administrative, such as documenting one’s plan. Achievement goals are milestones during the self-improvement journey, such as managing to consistently be 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Ultimate goals represent an element of finality and a broader vision. One example would be graduating with a doctorate in a specific number of years. With regards to specificity and aggression, the wise man’s plan has clarity and high standards. For instance, his annual blog count, sales or GPA achievement goal will be a specific value, one which is personally attainable and most challenging to achieve.

       For perennial champions, planning without execution is hallucination. In principle, their staggering consistency in execution stems from a clarity in strategy or plan, a means of tracking and measuring their progress, and a means of accountability or adjustment to possible outcomes. In addition, they are as ruthless as a black mamba in their pursuit of success. Their drive, discipline, tenacity, and ambition are second to none. Defeat is one word these all weather warriors don’t use, for “they run when they can’t fly, they walk when they can’t run, they crawl when they can’t walk,” and do everything humanly possible to stay right at it. Like the great Michael Jordan, they may miss over 9000 shots, lose almost 300 games, miss 26 game winning shots, but they never quit because they know that faint heart never won fair lady. These clutch warriors measure twice but cut once, and in the words of one George Bernard Shaw, they know that if they cannot change their minds, they cannot change anything. Unlike the sticks in the mud stuck in their ways, slothful idle loiterers who are lazy to plan, paper tigers, and one-trick ponies, evergreen conquerors make the most of themselves, for they know, that is all there is of them.

 

The ‘Bucket List’ baby

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(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

    Charles Darwin once said, “A man who dares to waste one hour has not discovered the value of time,” indubitably, parents Jenna Gassew and Dan Haley of Delco, PA exhibited the most intimate appreciation and consciousness of this principle. After learning that their unborn son Shane had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a rare  and terminal neural defect, they decided to consolidate a lifetime’s worth of bucket list activities into nine months. “Most families wait until their baby is born to start making memories and traveling to places with them,” Dan said. “We understood what it was and knew that our time with our son could be very limited, so we wanted to make the most of the time that we had with him.”

     Anencephaly is a congenital disorder in which babies are born with missing or underdeveloped parts of the brain and the skull, resulting in death soon after birth. Be that as it may, to the Haley’s, Shane’s life and the limited space of time they had together was priceless. Some of the 29 items on their bucket list included attending sports games, concerts, visiting New York City, and classic Philadelphia landmarks such as Geno’s Steaks, all of which they concluded on September 6, about a month before Shane was due. On October 9th, the family released a statement saying, “Today at 6:15AM, after meeting his entire family and being baptized into the Catholic faith, baby Shane died peacefully in his Mother’s arms .. we are so grateful for the time that we were blessed to hold and hug our son .. the support and prayers we have received from all of you have been amazing and we want to thank each of you with all our hearts .. Shane spent his entire life in the arms of people that loved him unconditionally and I don’t think you could ask for a more beautiful life then that .. he is home now with the Lord and will forever be our little miracle!”

    In the United States alone, 1.06 million abortions are estimated to have taken place in 2011 and 53 million legal abortions have been recorded from 1973 through 2011. Since 21% of all pregnancies in the U.S. (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion, it is estimated that one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45. In Europe, roughly 30% of all pregnancies end in abortion, a statistic that can be broken down to 17 abortions per 1,000 women in Northern Europe, 12 abortions per 1,000 women in Western Europe, and 43 abortions per 1,000 women in Eastern Europe. Other subcontinent abortion statistics include 15 per 1,000 women in Southern Africa, 38 in East Africa, 36 in Central Africa, 28 in West Africa, and 18 in North Africa. Latin America has an abortion rate of 32 and sub-regional rates ranging from 29-39. Lastly, Asia  abortion rates range from 26 per 1,000 in South Central Asia and Western Asia to 36 per 1,000 in Southeastern Asia.

     More often than not, a debate on abortion between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice factions turns into a paradigm of the chicken or egg mystery so I shall not indulge. Per contra, the bigger picture in the Haleys’ experience that we should all zoom in our wisdom lenses on, is their emphasis on the paramount importance and value of life. As abortion becomes more acceptable in our fluid global society and our socially constructed reality takes different shapes and forms, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the intrinsic value of life in every form that it presents  itself. For as J.K. Rowling once said, “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

(Facebook, Prayers for Shane)

A Zimbabwean St. Lawrence Senior Wins Writing Contest Award

Tatenda Pasipanodya, a St. Lawrence University senior from Zimbabwe, has won a statewide writing prize for his research paper on the rise of democracy in China. Tatenda (Tate) Pasipanodya ’15 has been selected as the winner of the New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS) 2014 Marleigh Grayer Ryan Undergraduate Writing Prize. He will travel to Long Island, New York, in September to attend the NYCAS conference and claim his prize.
Tate received a University Fellowship during the summer of 2014 so he could work on a research project titled “Political Economy and the Prospects for Democracy in China: A Comparative Study with Taiwan.” That project served as the foundation for the research paper that won him the award. “I am looking into implementing all the research I have done on Asian countries in my study of development in Sub-Saharan African states, particularly my own country of origin, Zimbabwe,” Tate said.
Grace C. Huang, associate professor and chair of the Department of Government, served as Tate’s University Fellow faculty advisor during his summer research project. She said his work to date has laid the foundation for further scholarship, such as an honors thesis that will explore whether the political and economic development in Asia might have lessons for his home country of Zimbabwe. “(Tate) won a SLU fellowship to continue researching this overall question of whether China will democratize, but the bigger question behind this is whether we would continue seeing democracy expand in the world,” she said. “This summer, under my guidance, he has explored international factors, domestic factors and leadership factors to examine more deeply whether China will democratize. He is answering bigger and bigger questions, but he is building a solid foundation to do so.”
A NYCAS evaluator commented, “This paper probes the research question of whether the middle class and the upper-middle class in China propel China into the path of democracy. It provides a historical background of the Chinese growing middle class, and critically examines the two opposite schools of thought.”
Here is a link to his award-winning paper:   MGR2014__[Tatenda Pasipanodya] 
 

A house divided against itself will not stand!

    Way back in time, when the whole world had one language and a common speech, the inhabitants of a land called Shinar once said to each other, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” So they did, until one day when God descended to see the works of their hands. He said,If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So he scattered them over the earth, thereby stopping the building of the city. For this reason, it was named Babel – because there God confused the language of the whole world.
    Few instances, such as the above-mentioned, can begin to limn the sheer enormity of the potential, reach, and power of unity, a phenomenon whose influence is far greater than tongue or pen can ever tell. To this effect, another occurrence that comes to mind is the speech that was delivered by Willie Lynch in 1712, on the bank of the James River in Virginia. Lynch, a British slave owner in the West Indies, had been invited to Virginia to teach his methods and practices to slave owners there. The transcript of his speech reads,
   Greetings, gentlemen. I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve. First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies, where I have experimented with some of the newest, and still the oldest, methods for control of slaves. Ancient Rome would envy us if my program is implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we cherish, I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique. While Rome used cords of wood as crosses for standing human bodies along its highways in great numbers, you are here using the tree and the rope on occasions. I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree, a couple miles back. You are not only losing valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, you suffer occasional fires, your animals are killed. Gentlemen, you know what your problems are; I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them. 
    In my bag here, I have a full proof method for controlling your black slaves. I guarantee every one of you that, if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it. I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves; and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little list of differences and think about them. On top of my list is age, but it’s there only because it starts with an “a.” The second is color or shade. There is intelligence, size, sex, sizes of plantations, status on plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine hair, course hair, or is tall or short.
    Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action, but before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy stronger than adulation, respect or admiration. The Black slaves, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Don’t forget, you must pitch the old black male vs. the young black male, and the young black male against the old black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female. You must also have white servants and overseers who distrust all blacks. But it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect, and trust only us! Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful. Thank you gentlemen.”
    Often times, I have wondered and imagined the thoughts that must have been dashing through Nelson Mandela’s mind, as he marched through the prison gates towards freedom on the morning of February 11, 1990. Perhaps he kept muttering to himself saying, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” This ideal, among many, became a part of the fundamentals that brought unity and peace to South Africa, and molded it into the rainbow nation it is today. It is through the power of unity, that Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence through nonviolent civil disobedience, a feat that inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. It is through unity that despite the vastly greater might and valor of the British in war, US forces repulsed sea and land invasions in and around the critical port of Baltimore during the war of 1812, and defended the star spangled banner through glaring rockets and bombs bursting in mid air. It is through unity that the “Miracle on Ice” came to be, when the American men’s hockey national team, composed of amateur and collegiate players, defeated the Soviet Union national team that had won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Olympic games.
    More importantly, the inherent power of unity is a universal principle that does not exercise moral distinctions of any kind. For instance, Hitler unified the Germans against the Jews using techniques such as intimidation, manipulative dogma, and discriminatory philosophies, all of which culminated in the slaying of 6 million plus Jews. During the Rwandan Civil War, the Hutu Power government and Hutu nationalists unified and supported the Hutu majority in the ethnically motivated mass slaughter of 500,000 – 1, 000, 000 Tustis. More recently, Al-Qaeda and several terrorist groups have used the Muslim religion to unify some of its followers under their cause, and to justify, camouflage, and propagate their politically motivated violent initiatives, taking millions of lives around the globe in the process.
    In  précis, unity is a dynamic phenomenon whose power and potency is universal, and can never be overemphasized. For as sure as the strength and protection of the Buffalo is in the unity of the herd, the ruthlessness and power of the lion lies in the unity of its pride. We must always be wary and vigilant of the might of the masses when they unify behind lies, creeds, dogmas, and misguided philosophies. So as we trudge through life paying our dues, we must take heed to the lessons on the unyielding power and unwieldy influence of unity so evidently shown throughout the events in history. Like Joshua and the Israelites, we must all march around the walls of Jericho as one, we must all march in the same direction as one, we must all blow our trumpets simultaneously as one, and let out a deafening shout simultaneously as one. For as J.K. Rowling once said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
                                         Author: Clever Mukori                                                                                               
Work Cited
“Willie Lynch letter: The Making of a Slave.” News Paper. Final Call News. 29 May, 2012. Web. 27 August, 2014.
Genesis 11. Great Britain: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.